Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Charles W. Crawford

Committee Member

Walter R. Brown

Committee Member

James E. Fickle

Committee Member

Nathan K. Moran


Through diaries, letters, memoirs, family papers, and government and military documents, as well as a host of secondary sources, this dissertation examines the life of Theophilus Hunter Holmes (1804-1880), one of the highest ranking generals of the Confederate Army. Despite his high rank as lieutenant general and his involvement in significant Civil War events, he has largely been ignored in the historiography. This, in large part, is due to his being deemed incompetent, undeserving of his rank, and a crony of his long-time friend, Jefferson Davis. This study goes beyond the parameters of the Civil War and takes into consideration the impact of his aristocratic background, life as a husband and father, and more than thirty years of service in the United States Army prior to the Civil War. It examines his decades on the western frontier and his service in the Second Seminole and Mexican Wars. By 1861, as the nation descended into civil war, he was experienced, respected by many of his peers, and serving as Superintendent of Recruiting for the nation's army. Despite those circumstances and achievements, Holmes chose to fight for the Confederacy. Holmes' life provides a prism of early nineteenth-century expansion, Indian Removal, and rigors of frontier life. Through him we see growth and professionalization of the military and the critical role it played in achieving expansionist goals and maintaining order. By the time the Civil War erupted, Holmes was fifty-six years old, and the harsh decades of frontier service and war showed. Contemporary accounts suggest he was haggard, cantankerous, and deaf. As a result, he was often cautious and defensive, demonstrated mediocre ability, and was placed in commands that required more energy and skill than he was qualified to provide at that point in his life. Despite Holmes' shortcomings, Jefferson Davis continued to place much trust in his experience and professionalism. For that, both men were ridiculed during and after the war. While Davis remains at the forefront of Civil War history, Holmes slipped into obscurity. This dissertation seeks to eliminate that obscurity and provide a better understanding of the life of one of the Confederacy's least recognized and understood generals.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.