Cornelius Warren Burright, ‘Hero’ of the Battle of Pleasant Hill
Cornelius Warren Burright was the son of Orrin Burright and the grandson of Cornelius Burright. He was born in Van Wert County, Ohio in 1842. By 1861 Cornelius had moved to Iowa, where he enlisted as a volunteer in ‘G’ company of the 14th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He fought in the Red River Campaign during the American civil war, where according to an account in his grand niece’s diary, he saved the life of a fellow infantryman.
The Red River Campaign
Also known as the Red River Expedition, the Red River Campaign of the American Civil War was a series of battles fought along the Red River, Louisiana. Running between March 10 – May 22, 1864, this Union initiative’s ultimate goal was to separate Texas from the confederate armies, depriving them of a major source of guns, food, and supplies. A more immediate goal was to capture the city of Shreveport.
The campaign was fought between around 30,000 Union troops under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, and 15,000 Confederate troops under the command of Lieutenant General Richard Taylor. It was a Union failure.
Battle of Mansfield (April 8, 1864)
Also known as the Battle of Sabine Crossroads, the Confederate commander General Richard Taylor decided to halt the advancing Union army at Mansfield. On April 8th, 1864 Taylor concentrated his forces at Sabine Crossroads close to where he knew he could rely on reinforcements from Texas and Arkansas. General Banks took the attack to Taylors’ forces, but after several hours of fighting, the Confederates routed the Union army. General Banks called a retreat to Pleasant Hill, where the two armies would fight again the next day.
Battle of Pleasant Hill (April 9, 1864)
General Taylor learned of the Union retreat the morning after the Battle of Mansfield. He opted to pursue Banks’ forces and headed to Pleasant Hill. The Confederate attack began at 4 pm. Due to miscalculations, the main attack took on the middle of the Union forces rather than a flank and the confederates found themselves surrounded on three sides. A Union counter attack then routed the Confederates from Pleasant Hill. Although the Battle of Pleasant Hill was a tactical win for General Banks and the Union army, it proved to be a strategic failure after Banks retreated from the area a day after the battle.
Cornelius Warren Burright and the Red River Campaign
In her diary, Ivy Burright recounts a meeting with Milo Bates, the son of a Union veteran named George Bates. As you can see, much of the story checks out, although casualties during the Battle of Sabine Crossroads were much higher – an estimated 5,500 Union and 4,300 Confederate casualties.
Milo Bates, an old man [of] 82, told me that Cornelius Burright, my great uncle [fought at the] Battle Sabine Crossroads, 35 miles east of Shreveport La. [There were] 1200 killed & wounded Union soldiers, April 8, 1865, followed by Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9.
Geo W. Bates had knee wound & bled profusely – lay 2 days without help. Cornelius said, “never move Geo and I’ll get help”. He didn’t return until he found men for stretcher-bearers & got Geo [on an] ambulance. Milo said Cornelius a great hero.
Bates was 200 lbs and tall, always lame after and General Banks followed confeds from Sabine to Pleasant Hill. Defeat for the north.
Bates lived in Salem Township, Ia. Went there about 1863 – Orren my great grandfather [lived in] Crystal TownshipIvy Burright from 1955 diary entry.
Further research confirms the authenticity of the story. In the U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 records on Ancestry.com you will find George Bates and Cornelius Warren Burright listed on the same page. They are both members of G Company, in the 14th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment. What’s more, George Bates is listed as having received a severe wound to the knee at the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana on April 9, 1864. Iowa census records also confirm that the storyteller, Milo Bates, was George Bates, son.
It’s also worth noting that this record lists several Burrights, brothers of Cornelius.
Cornelius Warren Burright after the war
Both George Bates and Cornelius Burright survived the American Civil War. Cornelius moved out to Independence, Polk County, Oregon where he died in 1910, at the age of 68. Fittingly he has a civil war veteran’s headstone.