Brig. General States Rights Gist (CSA)

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States Rights Gist

Death: November 30, 1864 (33)
Immediate Family:

Son of Nathaniel Gist, Sr. and Elizabeth Lewis Gist
Husband of Jane Margaret Brooks
Half brother of Thomas McDaniel Gist

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Brig. General States Rights Gist (CSA)

States Rights Gist (September 3, 1831 – November 30, 1864) was a lawyer, a militia general in South Carolina, and a Confederate Army brigadier general who served during the American Civil War. A relative of several prominent South Carolinians, Gist rose to fame during the war but was killed before its end at the Battle of Franklin (1864) on November 30, 1864. His name was based on the nullification politics of his father, Nathaniel Gist. Nathaniel Gist was a disciple of John C. Calhoun and chose his son's name to reflect his own political sentiments.

Personal life

Known to his family as "States", Gist was born in Union, South Carolina, to Nathaniel Gist and Elizabeth Lewis McDaniel and was distantly related to Mordecai Gist, a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He graduated from South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina. Gist attended Harvard Law School for a year without graduating and then moved home to Union to practice law. In 1863, Gist married Jane Margaret Adams, whose father was James Hopkins Adams, governor of South Carolina from 1854 until 1856. In 1858, Gist's cousin William Henry Gist became governor. Both were active in the secession movement.

Pre-Civil War state militia and governor's office service

Soon after his return to South Carolina in 1853, Gist served in the state militia as captain of a volunteer company. He became aide-de-camp to the governor in 1854. By April 1856 he was a brigadier general in the South Carolina Militia. One of his many roles was to train fellow militia members for war. His older cousin, William Henry Gist, who was governor between 1858 and 1860, appointed States Rights Gist as "especial" aide-de-camp. General Gist then came to Columbia to become part of the governor's household. In April 1860, General Gist resigned from the militia and became a full–time advisor to the governor. In October 1860, the governor sent his cousin to six other governors of Southern states to seek support for secession due to the likely election of Abraham Lincoln as the next President of the United States.

Civil War service

Fort Sumter

In January, 1861, after South Carolina had seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, the new governor of South Carolina, Francis Pickens, appointed Gist as state adjutant and inspector general. While in this role Gist acquired weapons and mobilized military manpower throughout the state. Also in this capacity, he briefly oversaw operations in preparation for the occupation of the Charleston, South Carolina harbor and the reduction of Fort Sumter. The Confederate government took over this operation in February 1861 and appointed General P. G. T. Beauregard to command it. Gist accompanied Pickens and Beauregard for the raising of the state and Confederate flags over Fort Sumter after its surrender on April 14, 1863.

First Manassas

In July 1861, Gist was assigned by General Joseph E. Johnston to the Confederate Army of the Potomac as a volunteer aide-de-camp to another South Carolina general, Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee, and accompanied Bee on July 20, 1861 to the First Battle of Manassas. Bee was killed during the battle soon after giving Stonewall Jackson his famous nickname. General Beauregard assigned Gist to lead the 4th Alabama Regiment after Bee and the regiment's Colonel Jones were killed in the battle. Gist himself was slightly wounded.

Coastal Defenses

After the Battle of First Manassas, Gist returned to Columbia to prepare state forces to defend Port Royal in the fall of 1861 and for entry into the Confederate Army in winter 1862. On March 20, 1862, through the influence of Confederate Senator James Chesnut of South Carolina, Gist was appointed a brigadier general in the Confederate Army and commanded the James Island military district and a brigade in coastal defenses between May 1862 and May 1863.

Gist was third in command of Confederate forces at the Battle of Secessionville in June 1862, commanded troops sent to oppose a landing by Union forces at Pocotaligo, South Carolina in October 1862, led a small division of reinforcements in North Carolina between December 1862 and January 1863 and was present at the Union naval attack on Charleston on April 7, 1863. He was not personally involved in combat operations at any of these battles or events.


In May 1863, Gist and Brig. Gen. W.H.T. Walker led two brigades of South Carolina troops to reinforce Confederate forces under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in Mississippi that were trying to relieve Confederate forces under attack at Vicksburg by the Union Army under the command of then Major General Ulysses S. Grant. After arriving in Mississippi, Walker was promoted to major general and Gist's brigade was placed in Walker's division. They participated in the Vicksburg Campaign and the Battle of Jackson, Mississippi. Johnston's efforts in the Vicksburg Campaign were unsuccessful and the fortress city fell to the Union Army under General Grant on July 4, 1863.

Chickamauga, Chattanooga

After the Vicksburg Campaign, in August 1863, Walker's division was sent to Chattanooga, Tennessee to join General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. Gist's brigade was first stationed at Rome, Georgia, but on September 17, 1863, Gist was ordered to return with his brigade to Walker's division. Gist and his men arrived at the Battle of Chickamauga on the morning of September 20, 1863 to find that Gist had to take command of the division because Walker was in temporary command of a corps. Gist's brigade lost 170 men in 45 minutes when they had to plug a hole in the line of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge.

Gist again commanded Walker's division during the Third Battle of Chattanooga in November 1863. The division served as the rear guard for the retreat of Breckenridge's corps from Missionary Ridge. While many of Bragg's principal subordinates opposed him during the turmoil in the Army of Tennessee in the fall of 1863, Walker and Gist remained loyal to Bragg.


Gist's brigade remained with Walker's division during the Atlanta Campaign. During the Battle of Atlanta Walker was killed and Gist was wounded in a hand on July 22, 1864. On July 24, 1863, Walker's division was broken up and Gist's brigade was assigned to the division of Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham. Gist returned to duty a month later after recuperating from his wound.

Franklin-Nashville Campaign

After the Battle of Atlanta, Gist commanded a brigade under Maj. Gen. John C. Brown during Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood's Franklin-Nashville Campaign.

Death at Franklin

Gist was shot in the chest while leading his brigade in a charge against Federal fortifications at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. He was leading the brigade on foot after his horse had been shot. Two sources state that he died of his wounds soon after at a field hospital in Franklin, Tennessee but two others state that he was killed instantly on the battlefield. He was one of twelve Confederate generals who were casualties that day, six of them killed in action. In addition, Brig. Gen. George W. Gordon was wounded and taken prisoner.

Gist had proven to be a brave and competent soldier who trained his men well and could be trusted with commands higher than his nominal grade.

Brig. Gen. States Rights Gist is buried in the Trinity Episcopal churchyard in downtown Columbia, South Carolina.

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