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Johnathan B. Craig (CEC)

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The Color Guard of the 6th and 15th Texas consolidated in Granbury’s Texas Brigade, Cleburne’s Division, Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee. By Keith Rocco

While growing up in Texas, history surrounded me. My dad, Bruce Frazier, was a typical West Texas raconteur and had a story about every town, hill, landscape, oil field, and cotton gin we passed on our frequent road trips. This “windshield history” served to pass the time as we drove the miles and miles of miles and miles across the state. Mostly, the tales involved cattlemen, Indians, Spanish explorers, or wildcatters, but occasionally a yarn about World War II or chasing Poncho Villa might sneak in. My mom, on the other hand, contributed the part of the family saga dealing with the American Civil War. This part of history, though, seemed awfully remote from West Texas.

Then, when I was eleven, we moved to Macon, Georgia.

Here, I discovered that the Civil War was close, live, and present. I also discovered acres of dead Confederates in the Rose Hill Cemetery on the banks of the Ocmulgee River near downtown. Among the fallen were thirteen Texans. This piqued my interest. Even if the Civil War hadn’t come to Texas in a major way, its men had certainly found the war. I thought, at that tender age, that I knew all about the Civil War. Here, though, was evidence of a much larger story about which I had no idea! What else did I not know about?

Dad encouraged me to research the lives of these dead Texans. They had their names, ranks, and regiments on their headstones. He taught me how to contact the state archives and ask for relevant service records based on this information. In those pre-email and internet days, I waited awhile before I received long triplicate forms that smelled of carbon paper and mimeograph and asked all kinds of questions about pensions, regiments, and locations. Eventually, I received photocopies of what service records existed for these dead men. Most were very incomplete. One, though, stood out: Jonathan B. Craig, Company E, 15th Texas Cavalry. This Tennessean turned East Texan had finally been swept into the ranks early in 1862, fought throughout the campaigns of that regiment, but received a wound that proved mortal in August 1864.

This soldier became my muse, his story my intellectual journey for years after my family’s return to Texas during my junior high years. After high school, college, and stints in the newspaper business, television sports, and the defense industry, history called me back into its service, particularly to answer the question I first posed in Macon, Georgia. What did Texas do during the Civil War? I graduated from Texas Christian University in 1992, and then joined the faculty at McMurry University in Abilene.

As I researched Craig’s story, I learned that Texas had a pretty impressive, but under reported Civil War story. It sent tens of thousands off to distant battlefields, armies and navies fought battles on its soil and along its coastal waters, and ordinary citizens had to cope with extraordinary times that saw 200,000 enslaved Texans become free. Then, the whole South seemed to move to Texas. “GTT” became the sign for folks cashing out someplace farther east and trying a new start in Texas. This post-Civil War story became just as fascinating.

After years in the classroom, and sharing this anecdote with generations of students and Civil War enthusiasts across the country, my original muse paid me a visit. One evening, in a post lecture conversation, a researcher informed me that, according to the records now available online, that Private Craig of the 15th Texas Cavalry had lived in Carthage, Texas, at the outbreak of the war, but had moved with his young wife and two little girls to Tarrant County, possibly to avoid getting mixed up in the affair. After the Confederacy passed near-universal conscription, Craig left his home and family to serve. He did so amid many a deadly trial, until a sweltering summer day in 1864 when Federal cavalry overran the Texan picket line near Jonesboro, Georgia, in an area now just off the end of the runway at Hartsfield International Airport. Craig, hit in the leg in this barely noticed affair, was evacuated to the hospital in nearby Atlanta.

That scene in Gone with the Wind with all the wounded Rebels lay waiting to be evacuated while Scarlett O’Hara looked on in horror? Craig would have been among them. I did not know at the time, but do now, that the trains they waited for took them to Macon, Georgia. Craig did not long survive the journey. The citizens of that town, spared up to that point the complete horrors of war, saw to it that these dead and dying men imported by rail would not lay in marked graves when their time came.

When Craig left Texas, he could not have known that his life—he was only in his late 20s—would end on the banks of the Ocmulgee River, far from his home and his little girls. Now, he had become my Texas Confederate “every man.”

Neither could I, as an eleven-year-old in 1977, know that my life as a historian and educator would begin near that very spot some 112 years after he drew his last breath.