Thomas Alexander Harris

 (Need photo)

Thomas Alexander Harris was born in what is now Warren County, Virginia, in May, 1826. The family moved to Missouri when Harris was a boy. Harris was orphaned at the age of nine, and clerked in various stotes near Hannibal to survive. A military enthusiast, Han-is fought in the Mormon and Iowa War at the age of twelve and was elected lieutenant colonel of a militia regiment at age seventeen. He attended West Point from 1843 to 1845, but did not graduate. Instead he studied law. In 1848 Harris was appointed second lieutenant of the 12th U.S. Infantry, a regiment raised for the Mexican War. However, the day he reported for duty, peace was declared. After the war he participated in Lopez filibustering expedition to Cuba. As colonel, Harris led another filibustering expedition into Central America. Returning to Hannibal in the 1850s, Harris became the legal counsel for the local railroad and served as city attorney. He also edited the local newspaper. Politically Harris was variously an anti-Benton Democrat, national secretary of the American party, and a Unionist who supported John Bell for president in 1860. In 1856 he made an unsuccessful run for secretary of state in Missouri on the anti-Benton ticket. In 1860 he was elected to the state house of representatives on the Bell-Everett ticket. He was chosen chairman of the house military committee.

Harris was traveling to Booneville to join Governor Jackson on June 21, 1861, when a messenger informed him that the governor had commissioned him brigadier general of the 2nd Division of the Missouri State Guard. Harris raised over two thousand troops in northeast Missouri that summer, often under the noses of Union occupation forces. His command joined the governor that fall in time for the siege of Lexington. Harris was one of several officers who took credit for the idea of using hemp bales as movable breastworks to attack the Lexington garrison, a stratagem that resulted in the surrender of the Union forces. After this battle he was named to the Confederate Congress, in which he served through 1864-Hanis was a member of the House Military Affairs Committee. Politically he was anti-administration and opposed to all tax bills. Harris declined to run for reelection in 1864. Allegedly, Harris, "a celebrated bon vivant," was unable to run because of a broken leg suffered in a fall at a brothel. After his term ended he stayed on in the capital. The government contracted with him to supply the army with needed equipment, which Harris purchased from European suppliers and shipped in via blockade runners. When Richmond fell he attempted to flee the country but was captured on May 17, 1865, in Florida. He was imprisoned at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

Soon pardoned, Hanis returned to Missouri impoverished by the war. He found employment with the Life (Insurance) Association of America, based in St. Louis. In 1870 he opened an office in Texas for them. Subsequently Harris worked for a New Orleans newspaper. He soon relocated again in Kentucky, and the governor, an old friend, appointed Harris assistant secretary of state. Harris later won election to the state legislature, representing Oldham County from 1885 to 1886. General Hanis died on April 9, 1895, in Pee Wee Valley, near Louisville. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville.

Heitman and SHSP list Hanis as 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.