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AUTHOR:  Kirby Brown

I’ve always been glad that my name was Kirby.

My great-grandfather, General Edmund Kirby-Smith, a West Point graduate, was the last Confederate general to surrender at the end of the Civil War. There were only seven full generals, and he was one of them.

Before the hostilities between North and South, my great-grandfather had been a soldier for the Federal forces. He fought in the Spanish American War. That military duty provided him with an opportunity to travel in the western part of the country and in Mexico.

The Confederate Army put him in charge of the trans-MIssissippi forces–in other words, the western frontier including Texas. He surrendered his troops in Galveston, TX on May 26, 1865. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox more than a month earlier (April 9), and the Bennett Place surrender was April 26. Edmund Kirby-Smith then headed for Mexico, in fear he would be accused of treason to the U.S. Government.

His wife negotiated in Washington for his return to the re-United States where he taught Mathematics at the University of the South, Sewanee. I visited there every summer as a young girl. He raised 11 children. His youngest son was my Godfather.

Before the war, while still living in St. Augustine, FL, where his father was a Superior Court Judge, Edmund offered to free his enslaved manservant. The slave refused freedom, traveling with him as valet during the war. After the war, the once-slave became the first black doctor in Florida.

Family legend has it that Gen. Kirby-Smith’s wife Cassie, whom he met during his tours of duty in Virginia, won a competitive prize for sewing the “best” shirt. The family, however, is concerned to this day that she cheated by getting someone to make the buttonholes for her.

By the way, I still sleep in my great-grandfather’s bed!


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