Francis Withers Capers
Francis Withers Capers, the son of
Methodist Episcopal Bishop William Capers and Susan (McGill) Capers, was born on
August 8,1819, in Savannah, Georgia. Capers attended Randolph-Macon College in
Virginia from 1835 to 1836. Entering the College of Charleston, he graduated in
1840 first in his class and commenced a long and distinguished career as a
teacher. From 1841 to 1843 he tutored in math at his alma mater. Upon the
organization of the South Carolina Military Academy (SCMA), he was made
professor of mathematics, with the rank of first lieutenant. With the illness of
the two senior professors, Capers in effect launched the new school. Resigning
in 1847, he was elected professor of ancient languages at Transylvania
University in Kentucky. In 1853 Capers returned to SCMA to become superintendent
with the rank of major. In 1859 the state of Georgia induced him to become
superintendent of the newly reorganized Georgia Military Institute (GMI), at
which he remained until the beginning of the war.
Major Capers' first war service was as captain of the Kennesaw Dragoons. However, Capers' administrative abilities and long experience in drill were in demand in organizing the incoming volunteers. He served as instructor in tactics at various Georgia camps of instruction. On November 11, 1861, Governor Brown appointed Capers a brigadier general to command a brigade of Georgia state troops guarding the coast. After nearly a year's service in this post Capers returned to the superintendency of GMI. In 1863 he laid out the defensive works at Resaca, Georgia, and conducted classes in artillery instruction for state army officers. In 1864, when Sherman advanced upon Atlanta, Capers and his cadets laid out and constructed fortified works. The two company cadet battalions participated in the Battle of Resaca, then were sent to guard railroad bridges in the Confederate rear. Ordered back to the front in July, the battalion helped man the trenches around Atlanta. On August 20 they were ordered to Milledgeville, the state capital. Capers' cadets fought at Ball's Ferry and throughout Sherman's March to the Sea. After the fall of Savannah, the cadets were transferred to Augusta and Milledgeville, guarding property and keeping order, until the end of the war. His superior reported that Capers' "qualifications for military command are of the highest order."
In the summer of 1865, GMI now in ruins, General Capers opened a private school in Augusta, Georgia. In 1869 the College of Charleston appointed him professor of mathematics and civil engineering, a position he held until retiring in 1889. General Capers was also president of the college from 1880 to 1882. He died in Charleston on January 11,1892, and is buried in Bethel Churchyard. His brother, Ellison Capers, was, colonel of the 24th S.C. and brigadier general of the PACS.
Capers' rank of general in the Georgia state army qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.