Thomas Drayton

Thomas Fenwick Drayton
Born (1809-08-24)August 24, 1809
Charleston, South Carolina
Died February 18, 1891(1891-02-18) (aged 81)
Florence, South Carolina
Place of burial Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, North Carolina
Allegiance  United States of America
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 182836 (USA), 186165 (CSA)
Rank Second Lieutenant (USA)
Brigadier General (CSA)
Battles/wars American Civil War
- Battle of Port Royal
- Battle of Thoroughfare Gap
- Second Battle of Bull Run
- Battle of South Mountain
- Battle of Antietam

Thomas Fenwick Drayton (August 24, 1809 February 18, 1891) was a planter, politician, railroad president, and military officer from Charleston, South Carolina. He served in the United States Army and then as a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.

Early life and career

Drayton was a native of South Carolina, most likely born in Charleston. He was the son of William Drayton, a prominent lawyer, soldier, and US Representative. In 1833, William Drayton took all the family but Thomas, who chose to stay in the South, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania following the Nullification Crisis, as he was a unionist. Thomas' grandfather, William Drayton, Sr., was a judge for the Province of East Florida (1763-1780) and appointed as the first Federal judge of the new United States District Court of South Carolina.[1]

Drayton graduated in 1828 from the United States Military Academy, where he was a classmate of Jefferson Davis, who became his lifelong friend. Drayton was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 6th U.S. Infantry.

Four years later, Drayton resigned from the US Army and became a civil engineer for railroad construction in Charleston, Louisville, and Cincinnati for two years before he returned to plantation life. He was a captain in the state militia for five years.[2]

Drayton was elected to the South Carolina state legislature and was an outspoken supporter of states rights and slavery. He eventually owned 102 slaves at Fish Hill Plantation, which his wife had brought to their marriage. While a state senator, Drayton also was President of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad from 1853 until 1856.[2]

Marriage and family

In 1832 Drayton married Catherine Pope of a wealthy planter family in Edisto, South Carolina. Her family owned Fish Hall Plantation on Hilton Head Island. The Draytons had several children. Two of Drayton's sons also served in the Civil War.

Civil War

With the coming of war, Jefferson Davis, the new President of the Confederate States of America, appointed Drayton as a brigadier general in September 1861 and placed him in command of the military district at Port Royal, South Carolina.[3] Drayton subsequently used "Fish Hall Plantation", which his wife owned, as headquarters in the defense of Hilton Head Island until 1861. Drayton assigned many of his own 102 slaves on the island to construct defenses and do other work to support the Confederates.[4][5]

At the Battle of Port Royal later that year, troops under his command at Fort Beauregard[6] and Fort Walker[7] came under attack by ships of the Union Navy, including the USS Pocahontas, commanded by his brother, Percival Drayton. Thomas Drayton's son, Lieutenant William Drayton, also fought with the Confederates in defense of the forts. After a lengthy bombardment, both forts fell to the Union attackers, who subsequently occupied much of the region. They gained their first deepwater port in coastal Carolina.[8]

In 1862, Drayton was assigned command of an infantry brigade composed of the 15th South Carolina Infantry, the 3d Battalion S.C. Inf. and three Georgia infantry regiments, the 50th and 51st and Phillips' Georgia Legion. The brigade joined the Army of Northern Virginia after the Seven Days Battles and became part of the Right Wing of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. Drayton led his brigade to Second Bull Run and in the Maryland Campaign.[1]

After the Battle of Antietam, Robert E. Lee became displeased with Drayton's performance. His brigade was broken up and its regiments transferred to other brigades, and Drayton himself was sent to the Trans-Mississippi Theater. Drayton had failed to get his brigade into action at Second Bull Run, and it was driven from the field in panic at South Mountain and Antietam. Lee complained that Drayton was unable to keep his brigade properly organized, failing to file reports and returns, and in each battle the brigade had been engaged in, most of its colonels were AWOL, leaving the regiments commanded by inexperienced majors and captains. He was transferred to the Western Theater to command a brigade in Sterling Price's army. During the final two years of the war, he mainly performed administrative duties in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, although he did briefly command a division in early 1864.[1]

Postbellum activities

Following the surrender of Confederate forces in the spring of 1865, Drayton moved to Dooly County, Georgia, where he managed a plantation. Destitute and unable to reclaim his confiscated property in South Carolina, in 1871, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he sold insurance for a living. Drayton was president of the South Carolina Immigrant Society until shortly before his death in Florence, South Carolina, at the age of 81.[9] He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte.[10]

Drayton is commemorated by a historical marker erected in 1985 by the state of South Carolina near Hilton Head in Beaufort County.[11]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Evans, p. 387.
  2. 1 2 Warner, p. 75.
  3. The modern town of Port Royal was not established until after the Civil War, but the term was in usage for the general region around Port Royal Sound.
  4. Photos by Mike Stroud, P"Fish Hall Plantation", Historical Markers Database, 2006-2012
  5. Reverse of Fish Hall Plantation marker Archived 2009-03-30 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. "Fort Beauregard". Fort Wiki. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  7. "Fort Welles". Fort Wiki. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  8. Site about the Drayton brothers and the Civil War
  9. Warner, p. 76.
  10. Find-a-Grave bio and photos of Drayton's gravesite
  11. Drayton marker


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