William Richard Caswell
William Richard Caswell, a
brigadier general of Tennessee state troops, was born in Rutherford County,
Tennessee, on October 22, 1809. His father, William Richard Caswell, was a
grandson of North Carolina Governor Richard Caswell and second cousin of
Governor David Swain. His mother, Sarah Lytle, belonged to a family prominent in
the founding of Murfreesboro. The younger Caswell attended the University of
Nashville and removed to east Tennessee around 1830. During the 1830s and 1840s
Caswell was active in the state militia. By profession he was a farmer and
lawyer, serving as attorney general for the state's Twelfth District from 1843
to 1854- During the Mexican War he was briefly aide-de-camp to General Gideon
Pillow. He was then elected captain of Company K (the Knoxville company), a
regiment of Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. Serving from 1846 to 1847, Caswell led
that company at the Battles of Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo. Returning home to
Tennessee, Caswell resumed the life of a farmer and lawyer in Russellville (1847
to 1849), Dandridge (1849 to 1858), and Knox County (1858 to 1862). He retired
from the practice of law in 1856 to become assistant cashier of the Dandridge
Bank. Wealthy and influential, Caswell owned land in two states, held slaves,
and served on the board of directors of the East Tennessee and Virginia
On May 9,1861, Caswell, an old-line Whig Unionist, was nevertheless appointed brigadier general of Tennessee state troops by Democratic Governor Isham Harris. His Civil War service was entirely in east Tennessee, where he organized regiments and hunted down Union sympathizers. Governor Harris praised him for "discharg[ing] the duties of his position well and faithfully" and urged Richmond to appoint him general in the PACS. General Felix Zollicoffer, the Confederate commander in east Tennessee, mentioned that Caswell had "politely given me great assistance." In October, 1861, Caswell resigned his state commission and for the next few months sat out the war. He had, however, made bitter enemies of many east Tennesseans while arresting local "Tories." General Caswell was murdered near his home, six miles east of Knoxville, on August 6, 1862. Blame for the murder was placed on a runaway slave and a group of unidentified men, who struck from ambush. He is buried in Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville.
Caswell's rank of general in the Tennessee 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.