Alexander Watkins Terrell

Alexander Watkins Terrell was born on November 3, 1827, in Patrick County, Virginia, the son of Christopher and Susan (Kennedy) Terrell. His father, a doctor, died when Terrell was six years old. The family moved to Boonville, Missouri, in 1832. Terrell attended the University of Missouri, studied law, and practiced in St. Joseph, Missouri, from 1849 to 1852. In that year he moved to Austin, Texas, practicing law there and becoming a judge.

Terrell, a close friend of Governor Sam Houston, opposed secession (like the governor) and favored a compromise of sectional differences. Nevertheless, when Texas seceded Terrell went with his state. The first two years of the war, in between his judicial duties, he served as a volunteer aide and as major of the 1st Texas Cavalry. For most of 1862 he was a captain and volunteer aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Henry McCullough, who commanded Texas troops stationed in Arkansas. Declining a colonel's commission in 1861, Terrell was thereafter repeatedly recommended for an officer's commission. Texas Governor Francis Lubbock, for one, praised Terrell's service in Arkansas "without pay or rank, which was declined by him several times." Lubbock said that Terrell "had one of the finest minds in the state." On March 31, 1863, Terrell was commissioned lieutenant colonel of a cavalry battalion later built up into the 34th Texas Cavalry. Upon the formation of the regiment (June 20, 1863) Terrell was chosen colonel. In July, 1863, Terrell was temporarily assigned to command the Northern Sub-District of Texas. The 34th spent the balance of 1863 in various camps in the District of Texas. In March, 1864, the 34th, along with most of the troops in Texas, were ordered to Louisiana to oppose the Union advance on Shreveport. At the Battle of Mansfield (April 8, 1864) Terrell's troops attacked on the Union right. At the Battles of Pleasant Hill the next day his dismounted troopers seized a Union position but could advance no further. At the Battle of Mansura (May 16) Terrell led Arthur Bagby's veteran cavalry brigade. In September, 1864, Terrell was given command of a brigade of three Texas cavalry regiments, which formed the advance line of the Confederate positions in west Louisiana. But by the end of the year Brigadier General Bagby assumed command of the brigade, and Terrell returned to command of the 34th. In late April, 1865, the brigade was drawn back to Texas. Hearing of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the troops deserted their colors. On May 14, 1865, Terrell, recognizing the war was lost, disbanded his regiment. Two days later (May 16, 1865) General Kirby Smith, who had not heard of Terrell disbanding his unit, assigned the "daring and efficient" Terrell brigadier general to succeed Bagby (promoted that day to major general) in command of the brigade. By this late date there was no brigade left to command—Terrell had the title, but no troops.

After the war Terrell fled to Mexico, becoming an officer in Maximilian's army. Returning to Texas, he had a varied postbellum career as a lawyer, politician, and cotton planter. Terrell was elected four times to the state senate, serving from 1876 to 1883. He also served three terms in the state house, in the Twenty-second, Twenty-eighth, and Twenty-ninth legislatures, was elected a reporter to the Texas Supreme Court, and was an ambassador to Turkey in the Cleveland administration. General Terrell, "a delightful orator," was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1887. His efforts on behalf of the state university, both in the legislature and as regent of the board of trustees, earned him the title of "Father of the University of Texas." A historian, Terrell became president of the Texas State Historical Association. He lived in Houston (1865), Robertson County (1865 to 1871), and then Austin. General Terrell died on September 9, 1912, at Mineral Wells, Texas, and is buried in the State Cemetery in Austin.

Wright and Wood list Terrell as a Confederate general.

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Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.