George Couper Gibbs

George Couper Gibbs was born on April 7, 1822, on St. Simons Island, Georgia, the son of George and Isabella (Kingsley) Gibbs. His father, a North Carolina native, was a merchant in North Carolina and New York City before moving to Florida. His mother was the grandaunt of the famous painter James McNeil Whistler. Gibbs grew up in Florida until reaching manhood, when he settled in New Orleans and found a job as a clerk in a mercantile establishment. During the Mexican War he served as a lieutenant in the 4th Louisiana Volunteers. In the mid-1850s he returned to Florida; the outbreak of the war found Gibbs a planter, living near St. Augustine.

In January, 1861, local militiamen seized the nearly vacant Fort Marion, which guarded St. Augustine, and Gibbs was placed in command of a company of artillerymen who temporarily garrisoned the fort. Commissioned captain in the regular Confederate army on March 20, 1861, Gibbs was placed in command of a prison guard detachment in Richmond. Promoted major in that year, on January 1, 1862, he was placed in command of the prison at Salisbury, North Carolina. In the summer of 1862 Gibbs commanded a prison post at Lynchburg, Virginia. Colonel of the 42nd North Carolina Infantry (formed from the Salisbury prison guards) from April 22, 1862, he resigned his colonelship on January 7, 1864. The regiment had seen little action in North Carolina in the meantime, and even less of Gibbs because of illness. In May of 1864 Gibbs, who because of ill health (intermittent fevet and a facial ulcer) had been posted to garrison duty, was assigned to command the Macon, Georgia, officers' prison. "A most efficient officer and peculiarly suited for the position," he was nonetheless relieved from his Macon command that August. In October, 1864, Gibbs was posted to command the troops at Anderson-ville, Georgia. Gibbs's troops, mainly Georgia reservists and local militiamen, provided the guards for the infamous Andersonville prison. Gibbs was required to furnish the commandant of the prison, Henry Wirz, with whatever troops Win requested. Beyond furnishing these detachments of troops, however, Gibbs had no authority over the running of the prison. In his infrequent contacts with the captive Union soldiers, Gibbs impressed the prisoners as a "cultivated, urbane and humane gentleman." The number of prisoners and Confederate troops at Andersonville fluctuated wildly during his tenure there. At one time he led a brigade-sized force of 1,400 men, consisting of three regiments of Georgia reserves and a detachment of artillery. On May 4, 1865, Gibbs abandoned Andersonville to return to his Florida home. He died in St. Augustine on June 14, 1872, "after a prolonged illness brought on by the war conditionsóduring and after the war." He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery, St. Augustine.

Heitman, CV, and SHSP list Gibbs as a general. SHSP states that he was an acting brigadier general at Macon in 1864- The OR show Gibbs commanding the post of Macon as colonel, and show him as colonel of the 2nd Georgia Reserves (the main unit gatrisoning Andersonville) as late as October 9, 1864. On March 29, 1865, he wrote a letter to his congressman asking for help in winning promotion to brigadier general and chief of Confederate prisons, and he signed himself as colonel as late as May 12, 1865.'

Previous Page

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