Lee Andrew Privett

Private, Co. I

34th Texas Cavalry

June 5, 1832 - 10 Aug 1896

By Melanie McConnell Klein

10612 Mountain View Road

Whitehouse, Texas 75791

with material from Rick W. Baird

From A Cemetery Marker Dedication At

Gethsemane Cemetery

Caddo, Bryan County, Oklahoma

November 2, 1997

In August of 1896, the Privett, James & McConnell families and a circle of friends gathered in this peaceful place (Caddo, Bryan County, Oklahoma) to lay to rest Lee Andrew Privett. Today, we meet again, as his descendants, to celebrate his life and to unveil the monument that now stands in his memory.

Because we didn't live in his time, we are not sure about many things in his life. Did he hunt and fish? We assume he did. Was fall or spring his favorite time of year? Which way did he cut a watermelon? Were his eyes as blue as Will McConnell's? We don't know if he pronounced his name Privett or Privette, which showed his French heritage, but, however it was said, we stand here now because he was family.

The events of one hundred years ago, when Lee Andrew Privett died, are far removed from times we live in today, but, some things never change. It is certain that Lee Privett was thankful when a good rain came after a long dry spell. He knew the love of a child's embrace and he remembered his mother's cooking. He watched the same stars move across the same sky that we will see tonight. The first light of dawn was as beautiful in 1896 as it is now when, this time of year, honking geese still fly like floating arrows in the sky.

Though public records differ, we believe Lee Andrew Privett was born June 5, 1832 near Springfield, Illinois in a community thought to be called Palmrya. That year, Andrew Jackson was President of the United States and it would be 13 years before Texas became a state. Oklahoma would be Indian Territory for another 75 years. The repeating rifle was not yet invented and it would be 28 years before it became a reality.

Between Lee Privett's birth in Illinois in 1832 and his death in Oklahoma in 1896, he married, fought a war, and raised his family. In that way he was not unlike men standing with us today.

Right now, little is known about Lee Privett's childhood, but on May 7th, 1857, at the age of 24, he married Nancy Ann James in Ladonia, Fannin County, Texas. Her parents were from Bedford County, Virginia and had traveled by wagon train to settle Kentucky Town in Fannin County.

Nancy Ann James Privett was mother to eleven children, six of whom died in Lee's lifetime:

Elizabeth Angeline, born 1859, died 1879

Madison C., born 1861, died 1869

Nettie Lou, born 1863, died 1957

Erasmus Irving, born 1866, died 1953

Ada Melinda, born 1868, died 1896

James, born 1872, died 1891

Nina Lurill, born 1874, died 1896

Walter Joel, born 1877, died 1898

Charley George, born 1879, died 1912

Florence, born 1882, died 1885

Etta Cordelia, born 1884, died 1936

From military records, we know that on July 6th, 1861, Lee Privett enlisted at Ladonia, Texas in the 14th Brigade of General S. A. Roberts' Texas State Troops. From this brigade, the 34th Texas Cavalry, also known as the 2nd Texas Partisan Rangers, was organized in 1862 at Greenville, Hunt Co., Texas and then mustered into Confederate service at Tahlequah, Indian Territory. Privett's Company I and Company E were raised in Fannin County while the remainder were raised in Texas counties to the north and northwest.

The 34th served the Confederate nation in the Army of the Trans-Mississippi which covered all the area west of the Mississippi river. Not all men from Fannin County rushed into service of the Confederacy at the first call. Most joined local militia companies as peaceful farmers reluctant to leave the land and families they loved. Many of them saw no sense in secession. Fannin County and seven other counties in North Texas had voted against leaving the Union. Because many a man had grown up on the frontier, he felt far removed from federal authority. The ties he felt bound him closer to his state than to the federal government.

In reality, the 34th Texas Cavalry was not anything like the Confederate units depicted in today's movies. Lee Privett and the men he served with in the 34th were mounted on plow horses pulled straight from the cotton fields of family farms. These men provided their own arms and fought wearing the same clothes they farmed in. The shotguns they carried had been handed down to them from generations of fathers' before. Still, they rode away as courageous soldiers in service to whatever fate awaited.

By July of 1862, provisions and food were so scarce for men and horses that the 34th Texas Cavalry was ordered dismounted and trained as infantry. This was a terrible blow to the pride of mounted men but they learned to be foot soldiers. History recounts stories of men who walked from Arkansas to Texas just to lead plow horses back to family farms after the army could no longer provide fodder. That tie between man, his horse and their land is still as strong today.

The 34th Cavalry saw action in more than forty engagements with the most famous being the Battle of Mansfield and Sabine Crossroads. General Nathaniel Banks was urged by the East to reopen the Red River campaign. At stake were the wheat fields of North Texas and the foundries, powder mills, clothing factories and cotton warehouses in Shreveport, Marshall, Jefferson, and Tyler.

New York newspapers strongly urged the occupation of Texas to secure eastern merchants with the enormous supply of cotton stored in Shreveport and Jefferson. Eastern investors pressured the U.S. Congress to invade the South and confiscate goods they thought Texans lacked the good sense and resources to utilize. Though poorly equipped, the farmers-turned-soldiers were blessed with good common sense. They understood clearly the Easterners' motives and the insult. It was all the catalyst they needed to march willingly onto the battlefield.

At Mansfield, Louisiana, the armies of the North and South collided. The 34th that had been left to support the artillery was called forward, led by Lt. Col. Caudle. They rushed toward the enemy over an open field of hissing minie balls and rifle smoke. The giant sound of thundering cannon vibrated the darkening sky. Bullets and grapeshot ripped through the Confederate lines and thudded into chests, tearing at arms and legs and popping heads back in instant death. They thrust forward with bayonet on the Union lines. Over the fence the Gray Line swept, now using the bayonet and beating back all in their path. The 130th Illinois, although almost destroyed, refused to quit and the fighting was now hand to hand. Union troops began to turn and run, and finally the 130th Illinois Regiment, all but destroyed by the rest of the federals, was completely destroyed. These gallant men from counties across Illinois were all killed, wounded or captured and the regiment ceased to exist.

At Sabine Crossroads near Mansfield, the 34th Texas, the ugly ducklings of both the cavalry and the infantry, farm boys without shoes, made a gallant charge across an open field to break the Union lines. Behind them the field was littered with the fallen, among them a larger number of Fannin County farmers who died to save their homeland from federal invasion.

The military service of Lee Privett was not what movies are made from, but, it is what made the South strong and communities and families even stronger.

Lee Privett was one man of many who was a farmer, a father and a family man. He felt the call of duty and served proudly. As in life, we never know what battles lie ahead, but, it is our personal duty, one hundred years later, to prepare ourselves and our families to meet whatever challenges await us.

The family we come from laid a strong foundation to prepare us for these challenges and we must do our part, in whatever way, to prepare the next generation for theirs. As Lee Privett did, we come from a long line of love, hard work and family values. It is a family tradition that must continue, for the sake of family, community and nation, and with your interest, it will.

©Ron Brothers and Melanie McConnell Klein, All Rights Reserved, 1999.

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