Henry Kent McCay
Henry Kent McCay was born on
January 8, 1820, in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert and
Sarah (Read) McCay. In 1839 he graduated from Princeton University. His older
brother, Charles F. McCay, was at that time a professor at the University of
Georgia in Athens, which induced the new graduate to migrate to that state. He
settled in Lexington in Oglethorpe County (near Athens) and taught school for
two years. While teaching he studied law undet Georgia Chief Justice Lumpkin and
in 1842 was admitted to the bar. Moving to Americus in Sumter County, McCay
practiced law there until the secession crisis. With his finished education and
native abilities, his law practice was one of the most successful in southwest
Georgia before the war.
By no means a states' rights advocate, McCay publicly opposed secession, running (unsuccessfully) as a "cooperationist" candidate to the Georgia Secession Convention. But when Georgia seceded McCay went with his adopted state. On June 5, 1861, he was commissioned second lieutenant of the 12th Georgia Infantry. The 12th was sent to the mountains of west Virginia, where it spent the winter of 1861 and 1862. McCay was a favorite with the men: one private wrote home that "Leut. [sic] McCay has done a great deal for the company since we left home. He spares no pains for the benefit of the company and is allways [sic] at work." On December 13, 1861, McCay was severely wounded during an engagement on Allegheny Mountain. On February 6, 1862, he was commissioned captain and regimental assistant quartermaster. The 12th participated in Stonewall Jackson's Valley campaign of 1862 before joining the Army of Northern Virginia; McCay fought gallantly in many of the battles in Virginia. On March 14, 1863, to the regret of the whole regiment, McCay resigned his commission and returned to Georgia. In May, 1864, he was elected lieutenant colonel of the 1st Battalion of the Georgia Militia and served in the Atlanta campaign. A fourth brigade of militia was formed after the siege of Atlanta commenced, and McCay was appointed brigadier general of militia to head the brigade. At the disastrous Battle of Gris-woldville, his militia brigade held the center of the Confederate line; he won praise for his "coolness and precision" while leading a charge. In early December, 1864, his brigade guarded the approaches to the important Confederate munitions center at Augusta, Georgia. Later that month the brigade helped man the entrenchments surrounding Savannah. When the Confederate army evacuated Savannah the Georgia militia were first sent to Augusta and then scattered throughout the state.
After the war McCay resumed his law practice. In 1868 the Reconstruction governor appointed him an associate justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. He served seven years; his "remarkable ability" and "immense learning" made him a leading member of that court.' Resigning in July, 1875, Judge McCay embarked upon the ptactice of law in Atlanta, again with great success. On August 4, 1882, President Arthur appointed McCay judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. McCay was one active Republican in the Reconstruction era who won the respect of Georgians of all political parties. He died in Atlanta on July 30, 1886, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta.
General McCay's command of a brigade of militia that served in a campaign 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.