I’ve always been proud of the fact one of my great-great-grandfathers served in the Confederate Army.
I never knew Richard Cullen, of course, but I like being related to him. He was born in Kentucky in 1842, and worked as a carpenter in Union County, Kentucky, near Owensboro. In 1861, he joined the Fourth Regiment, Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Later, he served in the 10th Regiment of the Kentucky Cavalry (Johnson’s).
He is the only Rebel ancestor that I know of. The others fought for the Union.
For years, I imagined Private Cullen riding a magnificent stallion, attacking the Yanks with his saber, carbine and Colt. In my mind’s eye, he wore gauntlets, a gray felt hat with a jaunty plume, and black boots that reached to the knee. He was, in every sense of the word, a fearless Southern cavalier.
But this week, well, reality struck. I had contacted The Confederate War Department, an online service that researches military records. I had hoped to get all sorts of thrilling information; instead, I discovered that my ancestor first went AWOL, then he deserted in June 1863 — and was never heard from again.
Regardless, he probably could have told some amazing tales. The Fourth Regiment, Kentucky Mounted Infantry, organized at Bowling Green, Ky., in September 1861, had 213 men disabled at the Battle of Shiloh, and then it fought at Baton Rouge and Jackson. As part of the Army of Tennessee, it fought at Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and the Atlanta Campaign. It lost 21 percent of the 275 men engaged at Chickamauga.
Richard Cullen’s other unit, the 10th Regiment, Kentucky Cavalry, was organized behind Federal lines in the spring and summer of 1863. It fought in Kentucky and Tennessee and served as a guide for Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s famous raids into Indiana and Ohio.
“Some of the men returned home, and a detachment surrendered at Paducah, Ky., in May 1865,” a regimental history notes.
All things considered, I’m glad Private Cullen deserted. If he had been killed at Chickamauga, I wouldn’t be here today.
In April 1865, at age 22, he married Molly Perkins, aged 18, in Union County. Two years later, Molly gave birth to my great-grandfather, Charles C. Cullen.
And the rest is history.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.