Who were the Mt. Vernon Grays?

On July 31, 1861, Columbus Williamson “C.W.” Holbrook left the little town of Mt. Vernon, Texas, bound for Springfield, Missouri, and the Civil War.

Front Cover - cropped
Holbrook’s diary, complete with a modern-day sticky note added by a well-meaning relative.

As Holbrook writes in his diary, a “company of nine” left that day to “join the army of the Southern Confederacy.” They called themselves the “Mt. Vernon Grays.”

Identifying your group by a geographical area and the word “Grays” was apparently a common thing for Confederate soldiers to do.

For example, my husband John’s great-great-grandfather, Lt. Col. William Henry Ramsey, was a “Pigg River Gray.” They were named for a river in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

Gray, of course, was the color of the Confederate uniform.

So, who were Mt. Vernon Grays?

The Mt. Vernon Grays, who would join the Third Texas Cavalry’s Company H, hailed from the most prominent families in and around Titus County, Texas. In his book, “The Third Texas Cavalry in the Civil War,” author Douglas Hale describes the men of the Third Texas as “an elite minority.”

Hale writes, “Since the men provided their own horses and equipment, cavalrymen were most often drawn from those more prosperous elements of society that could afford the considerable expense involved. The men of the Third Texas were disproportionately representative of the well-to-do.”

George Stringfellow, mentioned repeatedly in Holbrook’s diary, fits this description. The 1860 U.S. Census for Hopkins County, Texas, lists Stringfellow as a 21-year-old, Alabama-born merchant with a personal estate worth more than $8,000. This translates to about $277,000 in 2016 dollars.

Holbrook also was a merchant. Another Mt. Vernon Gray, Charles Hamilton, is described in Hale’s book as “a Titus County planter’s son.”

As privileged young men, it’s likely they were not accustomed to doing what might have been considered “women’s work.”

As Holbrook writes on Aug. 5, within a week of leaving home, “…we had our first experience in washing. If some of our Mt. Vernon friends had seen us all around a tub scrubbing our dirty shirts they would no doubt have laughed heartily at our awkwardness.”

Next week, “Who were the Mt. Vernon Grays?” continues with names and a little bit about each man — at least the seven I’ve been able to identify so far. Until then.

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