A Meteor Shining Brightly
Essays on Major General Patrick R. Cleburne
The story of Pay Cleburne’s life is told in this wonderful book. Mauriel Phillips Joslyn is the editor and main essayist. The essays are in chronological order and cover Cleburne’s entire life, from his youth in Ireland to his service in the British Army in the 1840s, through his immigration to the U.S., settling in Helena, Arkansas, service to the confederacy, and death at Franklin, Tennessee.
The life of Patrick Cleburne has been well documented in books and articles. The material in these essays is not new, but it is well written, easy to follow, and offer a special insight into the life of one of the Confederacy’s finest generals. His years as a Southern military commander are particularly absorbing and describe his emergence as a great military leader.
Cleburne’s proposal to free the slaves and arm them for the Confederacy was met with mixed reactions and never acted upon. But the fact that his proposal was considered was a testament to the high degree of respect Cleburne commanded.
Mauriel Joslyn delved deep into the character of the man to describe his loyalty, patience, and bravery. She researched his friendships and his great love for Susan Tarleton, whose great-nieces provided photographs and information for some of the essays.
The last essay is sad, as are all essays and books about the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. Thomas Cartwright’s description of the battlefield that beautiful Indian summer afternoon is so similar to Winston Grooms’s description in Shrouds of Glory that you can almost see the brilliant colors of the fall foliage, feel the slight nip in the air, and hear the bands playing “Dixie’s Land” and “Bonnie Blue Flag” as 20,000 confederate soldiers march across a bare valley, most of them towards death.
Pat Cleburne died there that day: He was laid out on the porch of the McGavock home alongside the bodies of General Adams, Granbury, and Strahl.
The Appendix of the book contains Cleburne’s full proposal to make soldiers of the slaves. It is interesting to read and contemplate, as are all the fine essays in this book.