About William Felix Brantley
William Felix Brantley (March 12, 1830 – November 2, 1870) was an American lawyer and soldier. He served as a Confederate general in the American Civil War, mainly serving in the Western Theater during the conflict. He is also noted for the manner of his death, murdered as part of a family feud in 1870.
Early life and career
William Felix Brantley was born in 1830 in Greene County, Alabama, but moved with his family to Mississippi while still a child. He was a son of William Brantley, originally from Georgia, and his wife Marina Jolly of Alabama. By 1850 Brantley was studying law in Carroll County, Mississippi. Two years later he began practicing as a lawyer in now non-existent city of Greensboro in Webster County, Mississippi.
On December 27, 1855, Brantley married Cornelia S. Medley, and the couple would have three children together. They were: Mary Thomas, born Sept 5, 1858, in Macon and died June 11, 1943, in St. Louis, Missouri; Joseph Ransom, born Sep 5, 1859 in Choctaw County and died there on Sep 19, 1869; and an un-named infant born in 1861 and died on June 7 of that year. By 1860 Brantley was a lawyer in Choctaw County, Mississippi, where he lived with his brother Dr. John Ransom Brantley. In 1861 he represented his county during the Mississippi state secession convention.
Civil War service
When the American Civil War began in 1861, Brantley chose to follow his home state and the Confederate cause. On April 20 he entered his state's forces as a captain in the Mississippi Militia. On May 21 Brantley joined the Confederate Army when his company (called the Wigfall Rifles) was added to the 15th Mississippi Infantry as Company D, of which he was elected its captain. In the spring of 1862 he was a captain in the 29th Mississippi Infantry, and fought at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, where he was wounded. That May Brantley was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and on December 13 he was promoted to colonel in command of the 29th Mississippi. He then fought during the Battle of Stones River, in which he was wounded again, hit in a shoulder on December 31.
Brantley led his regiment (now part of the Army of Tennessee) during the Battle of Chickamauga from September 19–20, 1863, and then with distinction in the Chattanooga Campaign that October and November. In his commander's report about the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Brantley was praised for his conduct:
It is due in particular to commend Col. W. F. Brantley, Twenty-ninth Mississippi regiment and Lieut.-Col. McKelvaine, Twenty-fourth Mississippi regiment, for the skill, activity, zeal and courage I have ever observed in them under similar circumstances, but which in an especial degree signaled their actions on this occasion."
1864's Atlanta Campaign
Also during 1863 Brantley's wife Cornelia died. He led the 29th Mississippi into the Atlanta Campaign in the spring and summer of 1864. In the inconclusive Battle of Resaca on May 13–15 he was again noted for his performance, "commended for gallantry, after leading a charge on the enemy that repulsed Federal assaults three times." During the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, his brigade commander, Col. Samuel Benton, was mortally wounded, hit in his chest and right foot by a shell. Brantley then took command of the brigade, and would lead it for the rest of the war. On July 26 Brantley was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He then led his brigade during the Franklin-Nashville Campaign in late 1864. At Battle of Franklin on November 30, Brantley's command consisted of the 24th, 27th, 29th, 30th, and the 34th Mississippi Infantry, plus a dismounted cavalry company.
In 1865 Brantley's command and the remnant of the Army of Tennessee participated in the Carolinas Campaign, and he surrendered along with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina on April 26. He was paroled on May 1 from Greensboro and returned home to Mississippi.
Postbellum and death
After the war ended in 1865 Brantley resumed his law practice in Mississippi. He also married a woman named Julia, and an un-named son was born 1869, but the child died on November 10 that same year. Brantley was part of a family feud, and this led to his own death. An account of his involvement follows:
William’s brother, Dr. John Ransom Brantley was killed in Gonzales, Texas in 1859. The brothers’ reprisal for this act, lead to other murders. On August 16, 1870, William’s brother, Arnold J. Brantley, was shot in cold blood, according to reports. The Weekly Clarion stated in November 1870 that it was the General’s attempt to bring to justice the party responsible for this murder that led to his own. He was shot and killed near Wiona, Mississippi on November 2, 1870 as he drove his buggy from town toward his home. None of the assassins were ever apprehended.
Brantley died of a shotgun blast at Winona, located in Montgomery County, Mississippi, in 1870. He was buried in a cemetery "behind the church at Old Greensboro, about three miles north of Tomnolen, Webster County, Mississippi."
Postscript: As of April 2013, a home built by William F. Brantley in Savannah, GA. (20 W. Gaston St.) was listed for sale at $4.75 million. The March 21, 2013 edition of Business Insider included this home on a list of what it calls "the 10 most luxurious lawyer homes."