Edward W. Gantt

Edward W. Gantt was born in 1829 in Maury County, Tennessee, the son of John E. Gantt. By 1850 he was a lawyer in Williamsport in Maury County. An early secessionist, Edward and his brother George were delegates to the 1850 "Southern Rights" Convention in Nashville. Moving to Washington in Hempstead County, Arkansas, in 1854, Gantt became a lawyer and active Democratic politician. Gantt was elected three times as district prosecutor, elected to the U.S. Congress in 1861 (not taking his seat), and to the First Confederate Congress. Gantt had also married into a prominent Dallas County family.

Preferring field duty to legislative drudgery, Gantt raised the 12th Arkansas Infantry and on July 29, 1861, was elected its colonel. In the fall of 1861 the regiment was stationed at Columbus, Kentucky, as part of the Confederate garrison there. At the Battle of Belmont on November 7, 1861, the 12th was only lightly engaged, but Gantt was commended for his bravery by his brigade commander. On December 5, 1861, Gantt was ordered to New Madrid, Missouri. He took command of a brigade of two Arkansas regiments garrisoning Fort Thompson, part of the Island No. 10 defenses. Gantt, "a fine officer.. .. [who was] extremely popular with the men" but also "ambitious" and a womanizer, avidly sought promotion. In early 1862 General P. G. T. Beauregard appointed Gantt acting brigadier general, with the promise to ask the president for formal appointment to that rank. The Union army of Major General John Pope began an attack on Fort Thompson on March 13, 1862. The next night the garrison was evacuated across the Mississippi River into Tennessee by order of Major General John P. McCown, the Island No. 10 commander. In the evacuation the garrison left behind thirty-three pieces of artillery and huge quantities of scarce ordnance supplies.' Gantt and his command surrendered on April 7, 1862, near Tiptonville, Tennessee, with the rest of the Island No. 10 garrison. Exchanged in August, 1862, Gantt returned to his home in Arkansas and awaited further assignment to duty. However, rumors had circulated about his alleged misconduct at Island No. 10 (mostly rumors about his drinking), and the Confederate authorities failed to give Gantt another assignment. In the fall of 1863 Gantt, an original secessionist, experienced a change of heart and turned Union loyalist. He fled to the Union lines and from there appealed to his fellow southerners to lay down their arms. His appeals, which were widely circulated, denounced "Jefferson Davis, negro slavery, secession, and the Confederacy in good round terms."

After the war Gantt, a "lawyer of ability," was a noted Arkansas "scalawag," serving the Reconstruction authorities as state prosecutor for the Little Rock area and, from 1865 to 1866, as supervisor of the Freedmen's Bureau for southwest Arkansas. In 1873 Gantt was appointed by the governor to prepare a digest of the state laws, on which he labored until his death from a heart attack on June 10, 1874, in Little Rock. He is buried in Tulip, Dallas County.

Wood, Heitman, SHSP, and CV all list Gantt as a general. For obvious reasons, his acting brigadier generalship did not lead to a corresponding PACS appointment. Contemporaries hinted that his defection from the southern cause was motivated by disappointment over lack of promotion, by cowardice, insobriety, opportunism, and immorality.

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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.