Edmund Winchester Rucker

Edmund Winchester Rucker was born on July 22,1835, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, the son of Edmund and Louisa (Winchester) Rucker. His father was a farmer and physician; his mother, a daughter of War of 1812 General James Winchester. Rucker grew up on his father's farms in Wilson and DeKalb counties, receiving only such meager education as the local schools could furnish. At age eighteen he left home to work with a party surveying the route of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. Three years later Rucker removed to Memphis and began a career as an engineer.

In 1858 he was appointed city engineer of Memphis. In May, 1861, a month before Tennessee seceded, Rucker enlisted as a private in Pickett's company of sappers and miners (i.e., engineers). Commissioned as first lieutenant of engineers, Confederate regular army, Rucker was stationed at Columbus, Kentucky, in the summer of 1861. Promoted to captain of Tennessee artillery in late 1861, he was assigned to command a company of Illinoisans who had come downriver to fight for the South. Rucker and his artillerymen fought at the Battles of Island No. 10 and Fort Pillow. In the summer of 1862 he was promoted to major of the 16th (Rucker's) Tennessee Cavalry Battalion and sent to east Tennessee, where he commanded the posts at Kingston and Cleveland. Rucker's primary task was to round up conscripts, a task he detested. He later recalled this duty as the "meanest and damnest job a soldier... ever had." The only action he saw in east Tennessee was during a raid into Kentucky. In 1863 Rucker's Battalion was combined with the 12th Battalion to form "Rucker's Legion." The legion was attached to Forrest's cavalry corps of the Army of Tennessee. A colonel by late 1863, Rucker led the legion in the Chickamauga campaign. In the spring of 1864, at the request of General Forrest, he was transferred from the Army of Tennessee to Mississippi and given command of a brigade of Tennessee cavalry in Brigadier General James Chalmers' division of Forrest's new cavalry command. Rucker led the brigade at the Battles of Brice's Crossroads (June 10, 1864) and Tupelo (July 14, 1864). During the latter battle Rucker was shot twice while leading a charge that tore his brigade apart. In September, 1864, upon his return to duty after convalescence, Rucker was given command of another cavalry brigade, over the heads of more senior colonels. The move caused great dissatisfaction within the brigade. One trooper, while admitting that Rucker was "a brave and competent man," protested that Rucker should not have superseded serving colonels. Rucker led the brigade in General John Bell Hood's invasion of Tennessee. On the second day of the Battle of Nashville (December 15 and 16,1864), Rucker's brigade was ordered to hold open the army's line of retreat. In a confused melee amidst rain and darkness, Rucker was shot in the arm and captured. The shattered left arm was amputated by Union surgeons that evening.

The now one-armed colonel returned to Memphis after the war. In 1869 he removed to Alabama, living mostly in Birmingham. Utilizing his engineering and railroad background, Rucker became president of the Salem, Marion 6k Memphis Railroad (working with his old commander, General Forrest); president of the Birmingham Sloss Steel & Iron Company; and a bank president. Rucker died on April 13, 1924, in Birmingham and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery there.

Rucker is termed a brigadier general in SHSP. Long a brigade commander, he was called "general, being in command of a brigade, though he was never commissioned."

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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.