Appropriately, the native of County Cork was born on St. Patrick's Day and became the only product of Ireland to become a Confederate major general. Failing the language requirements for a druggist's degree, he served with the British 41st Regiment of Foot as an officer for a number of years before purchasing his way out.Emigrating to America, he became a druggist and then
a highly successful property attorney. He joined the Confederacy in 1861.
He organized the Yell Rifles and with this unit, they seized the Little Rock Arsenal and was commissioned as a captain when Arkansas seceded. He was then sent to Company F, lst Arkansas State Troops in early 1861. He was promoted to Colonel and commanded the lst Arkansas State Troops and 15th Arkansas. Transferred with Lieutenant Gen. William J. Hardee to central Kentucky, he was promoted to Brigadier General and fought at Shiloh and Corinth. Taking part in the Kentucky Campaign, he was wounded at both Richmond and Perryville. Promoted to major general, he commanded a division at Murfreesboro, during the Tullahoma Campaign, and at Chickamauga. A favorite of Pres. Jefferson Davis, he is credited with covering the retreat from Chattanooga after his splendid defense of Tunnel Hill, where he stopped Major Gen. William T. Sherman.
That winter, he proposed that in order to reinforce the Confederate armies, slavery would have to be abolished in a "reasonable time" and blacks be recruited for military service on the promise of their freedom. The proposal was rejected by the Richmond authorities and would not be passed by the Confederate Congress until a couple of months after Cleburne's death. He went on to command his Division, 2nd Division/Hardee's Corps, and briefly the corps, through the Atlanta Campaign and then with Lieutenant Gen. John B. Hood into middle Tennessee.
At the battle of Franklin he became the senior of 6 Confederate generals to die in the battle, which did little more than commit mass suicide against the Union works. His death was a calamity to the Confederate cause, perhaps only exceeded by the death of Lieutenant Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. First buried near Franklin, Cleburne's remains were later removed to Helena, Arkansas.
Cleburne was a great combat general whose career was damaged by the proposal to muster slaves as combat soldiers. He was the most popular Confederate division commander. He was known as the "Stonewall of the West".
Colonel - 1861
Brigadier General - March ??, 1862
Major General - December 20, 1862
2nd Brigade, lst (Hardee's) Division, Army of Central Kentucky (fall 1861 - March 29, 1862)
2nd Brigade, Hardee's Division, Army of the Mississippi (July 2 - August 15, 1862)
2nd Brigade, Buckner's Division, Army of the Mississippi (August 15-30- October 8, and October - November 20, 1862)
2nd Brigade, Buckner's Division, Hardee's-Breckinridge's Corps, Army of Tennessee (November 20 - December 1862)
Buckner's Division (December 1862 - November 30, 1863)
Division, Hardee's- Cheatham's Corps, Army of Tennessee (November 30, 1863 - January 1864, January-August 3 1, and September 2 - November 30, 1864)