R.M. Gano: A Christian Confederate General

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Today's political correctness would have many believe that one could not fight for the Confederacy and be a Christian. 

But in fact, many of the officers who fought for the Confederacy were devout Christians, including Robert E. Lee and Leonidas Polk, who served as an Episcopal bishop. 

The following is the story of one of those officers, a man not as famous as others, but a Christian who fought for what he believed in.

A Mild-Mannered Christian General

To some Civil War scholars and to many Civil War buffs, Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery Gano remains one of the most unknown of all the Confederate generals.

However, that's probably the way Gen. Gano would have liked it. Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, this Christian man was known in the later part of the 19th century for his fighting ability -- and for his faith.

A Family of Preachers

Gano was born into a family of preachers, June 17,1830 in Bourbon County, Ky. His great-grandfather John Gano had served as a chaplain in the Revolutionary War and had baptized Gen. George Washington in the Potomac River. He also pastored the First Baptist Church in New York.

Gano's father, John Allen Gano, was also a preacher and elder in the local church known as the Disciples of Christ. It is claimed that during his lifetime, Gano's father baptized more than 10,000 people.

Young Richard Gano, or Dick as he was later called by his friends, was 10 years old when he was baptized by his father.

On to Texas

As a young man, Gano was very studious. At the age of 12, he attended Bacon College in Harriodsburg, Ky. By the time he was 17, he was admitted to what is now known as the University of Louisville's Medical School. He graduated under special dispensation in 1850 before he was 21. Gano first practiced medicine in Kentucky. He also practiced at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Baton Rouge.

He married Martha Jones Welch in 1853. They would have 12 children together, but only nine reached maturity.

Seeking more adventure, in 1857 he moved his young family to Texas near Grapevine Prairie. He served as a state representative and an officer in the local militia, fighting Indians on the Texas plains.

Today, part of the old Gano homestead lies under the runways of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

An Example to His Men

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Gano used his connections to raise a Texas cavalry regiment for the Confederacy.

In the spring of 1862, he led his regiment of more than 200 men to Tennessee to join his friend Gen. Albert Sydney Johnson. However, Johnston had been killed at the battle of Shiloh, Tenn., so Gano and his Texas Cavalry Squadron reported to Confederate Gen. P.G. Beauregard's headquarters.

Gano and his men were assigned to Col. John Hunt Morgan's command in Kentucky, who appointed him colonel of the 7th Kentucky regiment, The men who came with him from Texas remained under his command and were known as "Gano's Guards" throughout the remainder of the war.

Col. Gano tried to treat all of his men fairly, but there were two things he could not tolerate in his command -- drunkenness and the use of foul language. Once after a successful raid on Harrodsburg, Ky., one of Gano's troopers became drunk, and whiskey was found in his canteen. Gano ordered all of his men to fall in to line.

He then told his officers to go down the line, smelling each of the men's canteens. Those who were found to have whiskey in their canteens were immediately ordered to pour it out. Later, many of the men recalled that a lot of fine Kentucky bourbon was wasted that day.

Trying to be an example to his men, Gano never smoked, drank alcohol, coffee or tea.

A friend of Gano's later said, "During the war he led his men, doctored them when they were wounded, and preached to them on Sunday."

Serving with Distinction

After the death of Morgan, Gano was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and assigned to Gen. Samuel Maxey's command in the Indian Territory where he served with distinction.

He participated in more than 70 battles during the war and had five horses shot out from under him. He was wounded in the arm at the battle of Poison Spring, Ark.

One of Gano's greatest wartime accomplishments was the capture of a Union wagon supply train of more than 300 wagons at Cabin Creek located in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. He and Brig. Gen. Stand Watie had led their mixed command of 2,000 Texans and Indians on a raid far behind enemy lines to surprise, attack, and capture the wagon train in a rare night battle on September 19, 1864.

Watie, the only native American to attain a general's rank on either side during the war, is said to have led three cheers for "Gen. Gee-no" inside the Cabin Creek mule stockade with his Indian troops.

The captured supplies were estimated to have been worth more than $1.5 million.

Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith, commander of the TransMississippi Department, issued a congratulatory order calling the raid "one of the most brilliant raids of the war."

On January 19, 1865, both houses of the Confederate Congress passed a resolution recognizing Gano, Watie, and their respective commands for their capture of the wagon train.

Preacher & Cattleman

After the war, Gano returned to his native state of Kentucky to enter the ministry where he was ordained by his father. He preached his first sermon at Leesburg, Ky., in July of 1866 and continued for the next six years as a circuit-riding preacher for several churches in Kentucky.

Gano later wrote of his decision.

"At the close of the Civil War, I laid down my sword of steel and took up the Word of God as my weapon of warfare," he wrote in his journal.

The former Confederate general went back to Texas in the early 1870s to pursue his other interest - cattle ranching.

Gano and his sons bought and operated the G4 Ranch, consisting of 55,000 acres, which was located in what is now Big Bend National Park. By 1891, the herd was estimated at 30,000 head, making Gano a millionaire.

In his private journal, Gano recorded not only of his exploits as a rancher, but also as a minister.

"Surveyed three sections today, and saved four souls," he wrote.

The former warrior faithfully served as a minister in the churches of Christ in Texas for 45 years. He established many churches throughout the state of Texas, preaching at many meetings in Texas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He personally baptized more than 6,800 people during his lifetime, keeping a record of the names of those he baptized.

However, he did not add those who answered the gospel call as a result of his preaching. Church historians estimate he was responsible for more than 16,000 people being led to Christ as a result of his ministry efforts.

"On all occasions I have tried to do my duty, and should all my converts remain faithful when I reach heaven I will meet an army of soldiers of the cross," Gano wrote, as recorded in Mamie Yeary's "Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray, 1861-1865."

Gano was instrumental in the formation of the United Confederate Veterans in Texas and held the office of Chaplain General in the state organization. He served as an elder at the Pearl and Bryan Church of Christ in Dallas for more than 30 years.

He died on March 23, 1913 at his home in Dallas at the age of 84. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery next to his wife Mattie.

Gano's Legacy

The small town of Gano, Texas, was named in honor of the former Texas general during his lifetime.

Gano's eldest son, William, completed his studies at Harvard Law School, returned to Texas to practice law with his two brothers. Gano, Gano and Gano became one of the most respected law offices in Dallas.

William later became one of the most respected judges in the Lone Star State. He served as chairman of the board of the Southwestern Christian College in Denton, Texas and also wrote the legal charter for the school that eventually became Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.

His daughter Alene, married a young man with the surname of Hughes. Gano's great-grandson, Howard R. Hughes, Jr., would become the world's richest man with his investments from Hughes Tool Company, Hughes Aircraft and motion pictures.

Gano Street in Dallas was also named to honor the Confederate general, rancher, and preacher. The street borders the Old City Park where Gano's dogtrot-style house along by other buildings from Dallas history can be toured by visitors.

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