Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lee's (Unknown) Lieutenants. . .Carnot Posey

Well, I dusted off my biographical files yesterday at work and rediscovered just how much I enjoy studying the lives of America's Civil War figures. . .especially those second, third, or even fourth tier generals who have seemingly spent the last 140 or so years in obscurity. Regular readers know that I have sometimes posted brief biographical sketches of a number of these figures, so today I wanted to do another. . .only this time I want to focus on one of Robert E. Lee's lesser known generals, a fella by the name of Carnot Posey.
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Born on August 5, 1818, near Woodville, Wilkinson County, Mississippi, Carnot Posey was the fourth of eight children born to and raised by John and Elizabeth Posey. John Posey was a planter and was able to provide comfortably for his large family. Carnot attended the local public schools before graduating from college in Jackson, Louisiana, and studying law at the University of Virginia. He returned to Wilkinson County following his graduation from UVA, and opened a law practice in Woodville. He also engaged himself as a planter. When the Mexican-American War broke out, Posey enlisted as a 1st Lieutenant in the 1st Mississippi Rifles, a regiment led by none other than Colonel Jefferson Davis. Posey saw significant combat during the war, and was even wounded at the battle of Buena Vista. Recovering, Posey returned to Mississippi where, in 1849, he married Jane White. The couple would have six children. Continuing in his law practice, Posey was selected by President James Buchanan in 1857--perhaps upon the recommendation of Jefferson Davis, at that time a senator from Mississippi--to serve as U.S. District Attorney for southern Mississippi. Posey held this post until the outbreak of civil war in April 1861. The forty-two-year-old former planter, lawyer, and district attorney organized the Wilkinson Rifles and entered service as this company's captain, which became Co. K, 16th Mississippi Infantry. In early June, however, Posey was elevated to regimental command and the rank of colonel. Posey's regiment saw action at First Manassas, Ball's Bluff, and served under Stonewall Jackson during the famed Valley Campaign in 1862. At the battle of Cross Keys, Posey was struck in the chest and arm but recovered from his wounds in time to fight alongside his men at Second Manassas. Afterwards, Posey's brigade commander, Winfield Featherston, fell ill and Posey, as the brigade's senior officer, assumed brigade command. He then his Mississippi brigade at the battle of Antietam, and on November 1, 1862, was promoted to brigadier general. Posey and his men were attached to General Richard H. Anderson's division, first under Longstreet during the Chancellorsville Campaign, and then under A.P. Hill, in the army's newly formed Third Corps, at Gettysburg. Posey survived the bloodletting at Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, but in October 1863, at the battle of Bristoe Station, the Mississippi native was struck in the thigh by a shell fragment. He was taken to the home of Dr. Davis, a professor at Posey's Alma Mater, the University of Virginia, for recovery. At first the wound did not seem serious, but it soon developed an infection and on November 13, 1863, General Carnot Posey died at the age of forty-five. He was buried on university grounds. Carnot Posey was the highest ranking officer to give his life at the short, but fierce fight at Bristoe Station.

Carnot Posey's Gravesite at the University of Virgina (Courtesy of


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for that look at a confederate officer! I've been to his grave at UVA. It is very near that of one of my ancestors who is buried there as well!

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed when I am reminded that the cause of infections (and antibiotics) were unknown at this time. Thanks for an interesting read!

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...


I found your blog via blogspots "Blogs of Note"--congratulations on making the list!

Your blog is very interesting! I'm a crazed Civil War fan and have been for a long time now. While I'm a Rebel at heart, I still can enjoy a "Yankee" blog. Hope you don't mind if I stop by!


Margaret Cloud said...

I like reading about history, especially our country. You did a great job with this story, thank you.

M said...

Thank you so much for doing such an outstanding job on this blog! I am a Civil War enthusiast and I was so interested in reading on the "Unknown Lieutenants". You have rejuvenated my intrigue in the Civil War.

Rob said...

Something drove me to google Carnot today, just to see if there's more information from the last time I did more substantial research on him, and I'm pretty happy to see that more people reference him and have written on him. He was a much better officer than the vague (and few) historical references would lead one to believer.

It also doesn't hurt that he's my great, great, great-uncle. :D

JMM said...

Enjoyed your comments about Carnot Posey. I have copies of several letters written by him including two from the Mexican War. If you are interested, one is posted on my site -

Keith said...

In ref. to Rob's comments in January of last year, Rob, I am a Posey from Natchez,MS. I would like to know if you are interested in exchanging information on Posey geneology. Although, there are many postings of Posey's on ancestry and heritage websites, there really are few of us in the South left.
Would love to hear from you or anyone else that may have information.

John Andy said...

In ref. to Keith, Keith, I would be interested in learning more about the geneology you have on the Posey family. I am in Meridian, Mississippi and Carnot Posey is thought to be my great, great grand-dad or great, great, great grand-dad.