Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 561

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 561


This is the grave of States Rights Gist.

Yes friends, you read that right. This man was named States Rights Gist. See, he was born in 1831 in Union, South Carolina to a family that were southern extremists. This was the era of Nullification. At this point, the rest of the South thought South Carolina was insane for attempting to destroy the nation over the tariff and slavery. Andrew Jackson after all was a Tennessee slaver and he threatened to hang John C. Calhoun over it. But in South Carolina, well, they were going to lead the South to treason in defense of slavery. And they were going to make a point of it by naming a child States Rights. His family referred to him as States. He graduated from South Carolina College, which is today the University of South Carolina. He then to Harvard Law for a year but returned to South Carolina before finishing. He married into the elite he was born into, but not until 1863, when he married the daughter of a former governor.

By 1863, Gist was doing what he was born to do–commit treason in defense of slavery. The predestination here would make a Puritan blanch. Like any good southern elite, Gist was all-in on military service well before this. When he came back to South Carolina, he joined the state militia as a captain and then became a brigadier general in 1856. When his cousin William Henry Gist became governor in 1858, States Rights was named a special aide-de-camp, which seems to have meant nothing except he got to hang out at the governor’s mansion for a few years. He resigned from the militia in 1860 to become a full-time advisor to his cousin. By this time, plans for secession were in full swing. Gist was one of the six South Carolina emissaries to other southern states, urging them to join the Palmetto State in committing treason in defense of slavery.

As soon as South Carolina left the Union, Gist was named state adjutant and inspector general, which meant he was in charge of preparing the state for war. But when the Confederates became a fake nation, he was supplanted in that role by P.G.T. Beauregard. He then fought at many of the major battles of the war, including First Manassas, where he was slightly wounded. He was named a brigadier general in 1862, not because he was so skilled. This was the South after all and what mattered is your elite connections. Since he was close with James Chestnut, a treason senator and husband of famed Confederate diarist Mary Chestnut, he got the promotion. That’s how it worked. He was involved in the Battle of Secessionville (!!), which was a Union attempt to take Charleston that sadly failed. He was at Vicksburg too, one of the greatest of Union victories. I hope Gist dined on some rats. He then went to Chickamauga and Chattanooga before suffering being wounded in the hand at the Battle of Atlanta. He never did get another promotion, despite being in command of troops in battle quite a few times.

After Atlanta, Gist was commanding a brigade of troops under Major General John Brown (oh the irony), both serving under John Bell Hood in his campaign through Tennessee. At the Battle of Franklin, on November 30, 1864, Gist took a bullet through the chest and died pretty soon after. In that great battle, six Confederate generals were killed. Nice shooting boys. Frankin was a huge victory for the Union.

States Rights Gist is buried in Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery, Columbia, South Carolina. I had never heard of this guy before, but I stumbled upon this while looking for other people and started laughing out loud when I saw the name. It was a good find.

This post was funded by LGM reader donations. And if you don’t want me to write about people like States Rights Gist, I don’t know you could want. If you would like this series to visit some of the other traitors in defense of slavery mentioned in this post, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Mary Chestnut is in Camden, South Carolina and P.G.T. Beauregard is in New Orleans. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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