Saturday, January 9, 2010

"The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son..."

The Army of Tennessee would lose four brigade commanders in the Battle of Chickamauga, Brigadier Generals Preston Smith, Ben Helm, and James Deshler, along with Colonel Peyton Colquitt. Today four stacks of cannon balls mark the locations of where they fell. Of the four, Helm, Deshler and Colquitt were all young men, Helm being the eldest at 32, Deshler being 30, and Colquitt being 31, and all three would fall in the blundered attack of Leonidas Polk on the morning of September 20th. Little attention has been given to these three as a group, Helm has always stood out for being President Lincoln's brother in law, but little has been told of Deshler and Colquitt. Of interest is that all three had attended West Point at the same time with Deshler and Colquitt being friends and displaying similar traits.

Deshler and Colquitt also had something else in common, their father's strong Fire Eater personalities that were passed along to them. David Deshler was born in Pennsylvania in 1798 and moved to Alabama in 1825 where he became quite wealthy from his involvement in the establishment and later ownership of the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad, the first railroad west of the Appalachians. By the 1850s Deshler had become quite radical in his political leanings, in February of 1861 he wrote to a friend in Philladelphia, "You don't seem to see that the Black Republican programme would be degradation, socially and politically to our section; it would be the destruction of $4,000,000,000-four thousand millions of dollars-of property to us, besides putting us down upon a platform of perfect equality with our own chattels. How can we stand the proposition? Could you agree to it, supposing that we changed places? Not at all-You would die first. Well, so will we..." David Deshler imparted these views to his son, and he would indeed die for that line of thought. David Deshler would mourn his son for the rest of his life, having already lost his wife, daughter and another son prior to the war. Upon his death in 1871, Deshler willed all of his land and money for the establishment of the Deshler Female Institute in Tuscumbia, being named for James.

Walter T. Colquitt was a legal powerhouse in the state of Georgia, making his way to the state Supreme Court. Judge Colquitt was a strong states rights advocate and urged immediate secession in 1850, at the Nashville Convention of that year, which meet to consider what the southern states should do if Congress banned slavery in the new territories. During the discussion Colquitt losing patience for the debate that was going on stood and said that the time for talking was over, action was needed and that instead of words that they should be casting bullets and preparing for war. Colquitt also passed his beliefs onto his sons, particularly Peyton, who after dropping out of West Point would become editor of the Columbus Sentinel and a state senator from 1857-58. After John Brown's Raid Colquitt would offer the services of his militia company to the State of Virginia, all of this would have made his father proud, but Walter Colquitt had died in 1855. His son would also live up to his father's expectations and go to war, and pay the ultimate price at Chickamauga. Indeed the sins of the fathers would be visited upon the sons a thousand times.


Sam Elliott said...

Interesting post, Lee.

msimons said...

It is always sad to read of loss of life due to a leaders blundering.

This battle's blunders were a prelude to the mess at Franklin.

David Sullivan said...

Thanks for this nice post. Some more family info on Peyton Colquitt: his father Walter Terry Colquitt was born in Virginia and his family moved to Georgia when he was young, as Georgia was being settled. I'm not sure that WTC was a Georgia Supreme Court Justice as you say, in fact I think he was not (there have been a line of Walter Terry Colquitts, at least 4, and another was a judge) but this WTC was a US representative (1839-40, 1842-43) and senator (1843-48) from Georgia.

Peyton's older brother, Alfred H Colquitt, also a Confederate leader, had fought in the Mexican War and served in the US Congress before the war, was promoted from colonel to major general during the war, which he survived, and was later governor and senator from Georgia. Alfred served in the Senate with at least one Union commander he had fought against, at Olustee. Alfred was more of a "fire eater" to use your phrase than his father. I am descended from Alfred but our family lore is that Peyton, who I believe left a widow but no children, was the golden boy of the Colquitt family, the best looking, and destined for the most success before he was killed at Chickamauga.

Lee White said...

David, Thank you for the post and I stand corrected, I didnt realise there were two Walter Colquitts, but other than the judgeship I got the right one. Thank you for adding to this.

Unknown said...

I hope to reach David Sullivan.

David, I am trying to figure out if there is a connection from the Judge Walter Terry Colquitt family to the Walter Tom Colquitt family of Louisiana, Shreveport area.

I am from LaGrange Ga and Judge Colquitt was one of the first judges to help organize Troup County.

I have a copy of what I think is the only scholarly book published about the Nashville Convention and there are some very nice descriptions of Judge Colquitt's actions there.

My email is

Mike A. said...


There has indeed been a line of Walter T. Colquitts... I am the grandson of Walter Terry Colquitt III, who has a son, my uncle Terry, who is the IV.
Alfred Holt had a son which he named Walter Terry. That would be Senior, my great great grandfather.
I am not sure yet, as I am only just starting to dig into my geneology, but I believe Senior is the Justice.
Also, there is another Colquitt that became the governor of Texas...

Hope this helps a little.