Brigadier General John Adams
Born July 1, 1825 at Nashville TN
USMA 25th in 1846
Killed November 30, 1864 at Franklin TN
Buried Pulaski TN

Brig. Gen. John Adams
"It is the fate of a soldier to die for his country."

Brigadier-General John Adams, a gallant soldier was born at Nashville, July 1, 1825. His father afterward located at Pulaski, and it was from that place that young Adams entered West Point as a cadet, where he was graduated in June, 1846. On his graduation he was commissioned second lieutenant of the First Dragoons, then serving under Gen. Philip Kearny. At Santa Cruz de Rosales, Mexico, March 16, 1848, he was brevetted first lieutenant for gallantry, and on October 9, 1851, he was commissioned first lieutenant. In 1853 he acted as aide to the governor of Minnesota with the rank of lieutenant-colonel of State forces, this position, however, not affecting his rank in the regular service. He was promoted in his regiment to the rank of captain, November, 1856. May 27, 1861, on the secession of his State, he resigned his commission in the United States army and tendered his services to the Southern Confederacy. He was first made captain of cavalry and placed in command of the post at Memphis, whence he was ordered to western Kentucky and thence to Jackson, Miss. In 1862 he was commissioned colonel, and on December 29th was promoted to brigadier-general. On the death of Brig.-Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, May 16, 1863, Adams was placed by General Johnston in command of that officer's brigade, comprising the Sixth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-third and Forty-third Mississippi regiments of infantry. He was in Gen. J. E. Johnston's campaign for the relief of Vicksburg, in the fighting around Jackson, Miss., and afterward served under Polk in that State and marched with that general from Meridian, Miss., to Demopolis, Ala., thence to Rome, Ga., and forward to Resaca, where he joined the army of Tennessee. He served with distinction in the various battles of the campaign from Dalton to Atlanta, he and his gallant brigade winning fresh laurels in the fierce battles around the "Gate City." After the fall of Atlanta, when Hood set out from Palmetto for his march into north Georgia in the gallant effort to force Sherman to return northward, Adams' brigade was much of the time in advance, doing splendid service, and at Dalton capturing many prisoners. It was the fate of General Adams, as it was of his friend and classmate at West Point, Gen. Geo. E. Pickett, to reach the height of his fame leading his men in a brilliant and desperate, but unsuccessful, charge. But he did not come off so well as Pickett; for in the terrific assault at Franklin, Adams lost his life. Though wounded severely in his right arm near the shoulder early in the fight and urged to leave the field he said: "No; I am going to see my men through." He fell on the enemy's works, pierced with nine bullets. His brigade lost on that day over 450 in killed and wounded, among them many field and line officers. Lieut.-Col. Edward Adams Baker, of the Sixty-fifth Indiana infantry, who witnessed the death of General Adams at Franklin, obtained the address of Mrs. Adams many years after the war and wrote to her from Webb City, Mo. This letter appeared in the Confederate Veteran of June, 1897, an excellent magazine of information on Confederate affairs, and is here quoted: "General Adams rode up to our works and, cheering his men, made an attempt to leap his horse over them. The horse fell upon the top of the embankment and the general was caught under him, pierced with bullets. As soon as the charge was repulsed, our men sprang over the works and lifted the horse, while others dragged the general from under him. He was perfectly conscious and knew his fate. He asked for water, as all dying men do in battle as the life-blood drips from the body. One of my men gave him a canteen of water, while another brought an armful of cotton from an old gin near by and made him a pillow. The general gallantly thanked them, and in answer to our expressions of sorrow at his sad fate, he said, 'It is the fate of a soldier to die for his country,' and expired." The wife of General Adams was Miss Georgia McDougal, daughter of a distinguished surgeon of the United States. army. She was in every way worthy to be the wife of so gallant a man. Though left a widow with four sons and two daughters, she reared them, under all the severe trials of that sad period, to be useful men and women.

Adams was born on July 1, 1825, in Nashville, Tennessee, of Irish immigrant parents. Having entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1841, he graduated 25th in his class, and was commissioned 2d lieutenant in the 1st Dragoons/U.S. Regular Army. He served under Captain Philip Kearny in the Mexican War. Brevetted in 1848 for gallantry and meritorious conduct at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales, he was commissioned 1st lieutenant in 1851 and promoted to captain in 1856.

Adams spent the next five years at Fort Crook, California, on frontier duty, except for two years as a recruiting officer. He resigned in 1861, then went to Tennessee to enlist in the Confederate army. As a captain of cavalry, he was placed in command at Memphis, advancing to the rank of colonel by May of 1862 and then brigadier general by December of that year.

Adams took over Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman's command of the Mississippi infantry brigade after Tilghman's death in 1863. During the campaign to relieve Vicksburg, Adams served under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, later joining Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk in Mississippi. Adams was transferred to the Army of Tennessee, and his brigade served during most of General John B. Hood's campaign to push Major General William T. Sherman north after the fall of Atlanta. Receiving commendation for his brave service, Adams continued with General Hood during the Franklin and Nashville Campaign, and served briefly under Major General Nathan B. Forrest.

Adams was killed in the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, while leading his regiment in a forceful but unsuccessful attack on Union forces. In the midst of the deadliest fighting around the cotton gin, witnesses recall seeing the conspicuous Adams astride his white steed, Old Charley. Well out in front of his brigade, he dashed towards the Federal lines, seemingly impervious to the hail of bullets. Spurring his mount to jump the parapets, the horse came crashing squarely down on top of them, dead. Adams fell from the horse and into the ditches, his body riddled with nine bullets. Breathing his last, Adams was heard to say; "It is the fate of a soldier to die for his country."

Units Which Served under Gen. Adams:

Sixth Mississippi Infantry Regiment
Fourteenth Mississippi Infantry Regiment
Fifteenth Mississippi Infantry Regiment
Twentieth Mississippi Infantry Regiment
Twenty-third Mississippi Infantry Regiment
Forty-third Mississippi Infantry Regiment


Brown, Campbell H. "The Myth of the 5 Dead Generals." CW Times Illus 8 (Aug 1969): pp. 14?15. Per.

Lane, Bryan. "The Familiar Road: The Life of Confederate Brigadier General John Adams." CW Times Illus 35 (Oct 1996): pp. 40-46. Per.

Confederate Military History - Tennessee

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The Civil War in Tennessee