3rd GGU John Thomas Jefferson Culpepper (1827 – 1902)
Terry’s Texas Rangers, 8th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Mustered into Company F at Houston, TX on September 7, 1861. Elected 4th Sergeant. Received ankle wound during the dismounted skirmish action supporting Ketchum’s Battery at Shiloh, TN on April 6, 1862. Promoted to 2nd Sergeant by August 1862. Received a contusion near Mossy Creek, TN on December 28 or 29, 1863.
Of the one thousand one hundred seventy men in the regiment, all but six were Texans; forty-seven were from Lavaca County. Probably no other regiment on either side in the war had as many engagements with the enemy as the 8th Texas Cavalry, for it was constantly employed in scouting assignments, raids, charges, and in covering retreats. All told, it participated in thirty-eight general engagements, one hundred sixty skirmishes as a regiment, and three hundred seventy skirmishes as parts of a command, battalion, companies and squads. It was out of service but twenty-one days.
The total killed, or died of exposure, disease and wounds, seven hundred thirty-six; total wounded in battle, eight hundred sixty. It served as an independent command, attached to brigades and armies; being essentially a cavalry unit, it operated over a considerable area, seeing service principally in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. It had no appreciable effect on the war, its numbers were too small for that, but it was a factor in two major battles: at Shiloh, where it checked the pursuit of the enemy, and at Bentonville, North Carolina, where it repulsed an attack, which, had it succeeded, would have been a disaster to the Confederate Army. The day preceding the surrender of the army at Jonesboro, April 28, 1865, two hundred forty-eight men answered the roll call for duty.
The Regiment mobilized at Houston. Company F, with its contingent of Lavaca County recruits, was the first to arrive. The regiment encamped about the city, where they, particularly Strobel’s Company, “kept the town in a continued bustle with their daring feats of horsemanship. .” Their armament also impressed the people, “every man has a six-shooter and bowie knife as well as a rifle or a double-barrel shotgun slung on the saddle. .”
Adventure, and in many instances death, was to be the lot of the recruits, and it began en route. At New Iberia, Louisiana, there was a gap of a hundred miles not spanned by a railroad. The men, not mounted, started on foot, marched for a day, then began to impress horses into service. It was every man for himself: pick any horse that could be found, rope and break him.
From New Orleans, they were sent by way of Nashville to Bowling Green, Kentucky, in box cars used to ship cattle. Here they joined the army General Albert Sidney Johnston who was assembling for the defense of the frontier. While there and at Nashville, an epidemic of measles and diarrhea struck the regiment and took a heavy toll.
The first duty assigned to the regiment was to patrol and picket the area from Bowling Green north as far as Woodsonville on the Green River. While on reconnaissance near the river, December 17th, they encountered the enemy on its march toward Bowling Green. Here, the regiment made the first of its famous charges, about which they said, “Nothing could exceed the brilliancy and daring of that impetuous charge, our shotguns threw up a blaze of fire and shot almost in their faces. .” The unit continued its scouting, picketing, and patrolling in the area until February, 1862.
After the fall of Fort Donelson, General Johnston abandoned Kentucky and established his base of operations in Tennessee. In this operation, the Rangers witnessed and covered the evacuation of Bowling Green, and soon thereafter were dispatched to Charlotte to cover the retreat of the infantry units escaping from Fort Donelson. Following this, the regiment, together with other cavalry units, was sent to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to watch the movements of the enemy and intercept them if they moved southward.
In March, the cavalry units at Murfreesboro broke camp and joined the army at Corinth, Mississippi. On April 6th, the regiment participated in the Battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest engagements of the war. Twice it was dismounted to aid the infantry in holding the lines. On the 8th, they patrolled behind the army, acting as a rear guard on the retreat from Corinth. Late in the evening, the enemy’s infantry pressed them so closely a stand was inevitable; it fell to the lot of the Rangers.
In another impetuous charge, the enemy was driven back, their numbers falling like a “large covey of quail bunched on the ground, shot into with a load of birdshot.” In this engagement, Company F mustered sixty-five men, and after three days of fighting, only fourteen men and the captain answered the roll. Aside from the casualties, the others were off on some duty, picketing and scouting where needed. Wounded were Culpepper, Letbetter, and Andrews. . Sergeant Culpepper, wounded at Shiloh, was wounded again in ’63; this time in eastern Tennessee. In ’65, he was still at it; it that year, he was captured but escaped and returned to duty.
John T. Culpepper returned to Lavaca Co., TX after the war and was listed as a farmer in the 1870 census with his first wife, Cynthia, and young family. He was listed with real estate valued at $3,000 and personal property valued at $3,000. He was again listed with his first wife and younger children in the 1880 census of Lavaca Co., TX. Finally, in the 1900 census of Lavaca Co., TX, Thomas J. Culpepper was listed with his second wife and younger children.
From the Culpepper family tree – “Mrs. R. M. (Anne Culpepper) Hunt wrote 27 Oct 1978: The pictures [of Lewis P. and George W. Culpepper] you sent remind me very much of my grandfather, Francis Gillespie Culpepper. I was 12 years old when I last saw him, in 1902 when we moved from Lavaca Co. Tx.
My father, John Thomas Jefferson C. died Aug. 1st of that year, at the age of 75…. I remember my grandfather’s looks, also my father and his brothers, they all had features much like the picture you sent of Geo. Washington Culpepper & Lewis Peek C. Grandpa was clean shaven, but his sons all wore beards.
My father, J. T. J. was second son – he was a farmer & stockman, he sold out in Lavaca Co. in July of 1902 & bought land in Wilson Co. Tx. 35 or 40 miles south of San Antonio Tx. was sick when he returned to our home in Lavaca & never recovered, died Aug. 1st & was buried at old Mt. Olive Cemetery.”