1864: Gustavus Adolphus Henry to Benjamin Jefferson Hill

Gustavus Adolphus Henry

This letter was written by Gustavus Adolphus Henry Sr. (1804-1880), the son of Gen. William Henry and Elizabeth Julia (Flournoy) Henry. He was a classmate in law school with Jefferson Davis. He established a practice in Tennessee prior to the American Civil War. He became a wealthy businessman, owning cotton plantations in Hinds County, Mississippi and Desha County, Arkansas. Affiliated with the Whig Party, he campaigned for Henry Clay. In 1853, he was that party’s candidate for governor, losing to Democrat Andrew Johnson by around 2250 votes. He served in the Confederate States of America Senate from 1862–65 and was widely known as the “Eagle Orator of Tennessee.” Through his personal friendship with President Davis, he was influential in the Confederate government. As senator, he was a powerful member of the finance and military committees. Early in the war, the state of Tennessee commissioned the construction of a pair of forts to protect the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The fort on the Tennessee River was named “Fort Henry” in the Senator’s honor (see Battle of Fort Henry). He died in 1880. [Wikipedia]

The letter was written to Brig. Gen. Benjamin Jefferson Hill (1825-1880), a successful merchant and Tennessee state senator from 1855 to 1861. Hill began his service as Colonel of the 5th Tennessee Volunteers and later as Colonel of the 35th Tennessee. After a long and illustrious record, he was promoted to brigadier general in 30 November 1864 (date of this letter) and tasked with organizing a mounted battalion on Northern Alabama to ride with Forrest’s Cavalry Corps.


Addressed to Brig. Gen. B. J. Hill, Army of Tennessee

Senate Chamber [Richmond, Va.]
November 30, 1864

Brig. General Benj. J. Hill
My dear General,

It gives me great pleasure to address you by a title which you have won by your valor.

For any little agency I may have had in your promotion, I only ask that you will bring out our boys in Tennessee to aid in the glorious task of redeeming our noble state from the thralldom of the Yankees.

May God bless you and our Country is ever my sincere prayer.

Ever your friend, — G. A. Henry

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