David Bullock Harris


David Bullock Harris was born in Frederick's Hall, Louisa County, Virginia, on September 28, 1814, the son of Frederick and Catherine Snelson (Smith) Harris. His father, a captain in the War of 1812, was later president of the Louisa (Virginia Central) railroad. Harris grew up at Gardner's Crossroads in that county. Appointed to West Point, he graduated seventh (of forty-three) in the class of 1833. After service in the artillery and as an engineering instructor at West Point, he resigned from the army in 1835 at the urgings of his father. Harris worked as an engineer for the James River and Kanawha Canal Company for two years, then did railroad survey work. By 1845 he had settled into the life of a tobacco fanner at Woodville, his Goochland County plantation.

Commissioned captain of Virginia engineers on May 2, 1861, Harris served on the staff of Brigadier General Phillip Cocke at the First Battle of Bull Run. After that battle he was assigned to General P. G. T. Beauregard's staff. Harris was associated with Beauregard for the remainder of the war, planning the defenses at Centreville, Fort Pillow, Island No. 10, and Vicksburg. A "brave and efficient officer . . . [who was] admired and respected," ' Harris earned swift promotion to captain (February 15, 1862), major (October 3, 1862), lieutenant colonel (May 5, 1863), and colonel (October 8, 1863) of Confederate engineers. Harris' greatest contribution to the Confederacy was his work in planning and constructing the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina. Under Beauregard's general direction, Harris supervised the construction of new earthworks and the renovation of old works, constantly inspecting the many sites and making suggestions for improvements. No armchair soldier, he "threw himself constantly among the troops that were most exposed, sharing their dangers and winning their admiration by the coolest courage." General Beauregard, himself a distinguished engineer, called Harris "the only officer in his command who never made a mistake.. .. [Harris] always exceeded his most sanguine expectations." Charleston remained the one major southern port that was never captured or closed by the Union navy. In 1864 Harris went with Beauregard to Virginia, where he helped plan the Petersburg defenses that proved so invulnerable to Union attack. Sent in October of that year to Charleston, Harris held the post of chief engineet of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Colonel Harris died of yellow fever in Summerville, South Carolina on October 10, 1864. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

Heitman, Cullum, SHSP, and CMH all list Harris as a general. Although repeatedly recommended for promotion, and although President Davis in October, 1864, verbally promised to promote him, it appears he died a colonel before President Davis could formally appoint him. The Charleston Mercury, both in articles the week of his death and in his obituary, uniformly calls him colonel; there is no record of his promotion, and Colonel Alfred Roman, a fellow staff officer, stated in his book on General Beauregard that Harris died before the promotion went through.' Harris' association with Beauregard, an enemy of the president, is thought to have retarded his army advancement.

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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.