John Summerfield Griffith


John Summerfield Griffith was born on June 17, 1829, in Montgomery County, Maryland, the son of Michael Berry and Lydia (Crabbe) Griffith and grandson of General Jeremiah Crabbe. The Griffiths were a prominent Maryland family whose ancestor had emigrated from Wales in 1675. Because of business losses John's father, a merchant, moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1835; to Portland, Missouri, in 1837; and to San Augustine, Texas, in 1839. In 1850 the young Griffith became a clerk in a mercantile establishment. Soon setting up his own shop, Griffith prospered. In 1859 he removed to Kaufman County, Texas, where he raised livestock, cotton, and Irish potatoes.

In September, 1861, Griffith was elected captain of a volunteer cavalry company, later Company B, 6th (Stone's) Texas Cavalry. Upon the organization of the regiment, Griffith was elected lieutenant colonel. He led the regiment in a gallant charge at Chustenahlah, Indian Territory, in December, 1861, killing an Indian with his saber. The 6th fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas on March 7 and 8, 1862, but without Griffith, who was temporarily absent from the regiment. After Pea Ridge the 6th was transferred to Mississippi. Upon the reorganization of the regiment in May of 1862, Griffith, whose constitution was naturally delicate, declined to be a candidate for colonel. Griffith went back to Texas on recruiting duty, but returned to the 6th in the fall of 1862. As lieutenant colonel he led Lawrence S. Ross's cavalry brigade at the engagements at Oakland and Holly Springs. He is generally credited with conceiving the December, 1862, Holly Springs raid, which destroyed the main Union supply depot in the rear of Major General Ulysses S. Grant's advance upon Vicksburg, Mississippi. Griffith personally led the van of Major General Earl Van Dorn's cavalry in the successful attack on that town. Because of ill health (he was asthmatic), Colonel Griffith resigned his commission in May, 1863.

Returning to Texas that June, Griffith was immediately elected to the state house and was made chairman of its Military Affairs Committee. On March 1, 1864, Governor Murrah of Texas appointed Griffith brigadier general of District No. 2 in central Texas to command state reserve forces.

The end of the war found Griffith impoverished and slaveless. However, he soon founded a successful business selling orange seed in the North. Griffith removed to Terrell, Texas, in 1874, and in 1876 he was again elected to the state house. His efforts there won him the sobriquet "Watchdog of the Treasury." General Griffith died at Terrell on August 6, 1901, and is buried in that city's Oakland Memorial Park. One source lauds Griffith as a man "unselfish in his characteristics; brave, though sagacious, as becomes a commander; patriotic in all his impulses; had health been vouchsafed to him, a career of glory . . . would have crowned his efforts with success."

Gtiffith's rank of general in the Texas state army qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.

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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.