BG Elisha Franklin ?Bull? Paxton

Commanded - 1863

Born March 4, 1928 - Died May 3, 1863 (KIA)


     ELISHA FRANKLIN PAXTON was born March 4, 1828, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of Elisha Paxton and Margaret McNutt. His grandfather, William Paxton, came to Rockbridge in its earliest settlement about the year 1745. He was a man of character and substance and commanded a company at the battle of Yorktown. Margaret McNutt was the daughter of Alexander McNutt and Rachel Grigsby. She was one of a family of eight sisters and four brothers, many of whom possessed marked intelligence and great force of character. Alexander Gallatin McNutt, Governor of Mississippi, was one of the brothers. Margaret McNutt Paxton possessed the family characteristics to a high degree. She was a granddaughter of John Grigsby, whose sobriquet was "Soldier John," going back to his service under Admiral Vernon in his expedition against Cartagena in 1741. He also commanded a company in the Revolutionary War. His soldierly qualities were stamped on his descendants, four of whom were brigadier-generals in the Confederate army, and many others were officers of lower rank who followed the stars and bars.

     The Paxtons are descended from a soldier under Cromwell who emigrated with his Presbyterian comrades to the north of Ireland. As members of a hostile and an alien race their life there was one of conflict. Later they bitterly resented the action of the crown in compelling them to pay tithes for the support of the English Church, and largely on this account emigrated to America. Men, like plants, take on certain characteristics from the soil in which they live, the air they breathe and other physical surroundings. These militant churchmen found an appropriate home for the development of their sterling virtues in the beautiful valleys lying between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies -- the Paxtons in the rough but fertile lands of Rockbridge.

     Here, on a beautiful spot in the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge, Frank Paxton first saw the light. There in his childhood he imbibed that love of freedom and devotion to duty which had marked his ancestors. As a boy he manifested unusual vigor of intellect. He attended the classical school of his cousin James H. Paxton, and at the age of fifteen entered the junior class at Washington College, where he received his degree of A. B. in two years. He then went to Yale, where he graduated in two years, and afterward took the law course at the University of Virginia. He was five feet ten inches high, heavily built and of great bodily strength. As an indication both of his physical and soldierly qualities he was known both at school and in the army as "Bull" Paxton. Dr. John B. Minor wrote the following of his course at the University of Virginia:

     "Gen. E. F. Paxton, who fell at the battle of Chancellorsville, in May, 1863, was a student of law here, and a graduate in the Law Department of the University in 1849. As a student, none of his contemporaries acquitted themselves more satisfactorily, and in point of conduct, he was entirely exemplary. I think he could then have been not more than twenty-one years of age, but I have retained a lively recollection of him during the intervening period of forty-three years, so that whilst, after so great a lapse of time, I cannot recall particulars, he left on my mind an impression of unusual merit and a conviction that if he lived, he was destined not only to achieve eminence, but what in my estimation is far better, to attain to distinguished usefulness."

        Upon his admission to the bar, he spent several years in the prosecution of land claims in the State of Ohio and resided there. He was successful in this enterprise and made some money. In 1854 he opened a law office in Lexington, Va., and married Miss Elizabeth White, the daughter of Matthew White of Lexington. This union was a most happy one and there were born of it four children, three of whom survived him -- Matthew W. Paxton of Lexington, Va., the writer, and Frank Paxton of San Saba County, Texas. Frank Paxton at once took a high rank in his profession and engaged in important business enterprises, among others becoming the President of the first bank in Rockbridge. His strength of character was shown by the fact that at this time, when the drinking of whiskey was a universal custom, he abstained altogether from its use, and continued to do so until his death. In 1860 failing eyesight compelled him to abandon his profession and he purchased a beautiful estate near Lexington, known as Thorn Hill.

        In this beautiful home with wife and babes, the drum tap of '61 found him. It is needless to say that he had been taking an active part in the political events leading up to this. He was a man of intense feeling, when aroused, and had early adopted the view of the Constitution of the United States, which came to him from his fathers. To him the right of secession was as clear as the right of trial by jury. The State was sovereign and in the hot blood of his youth he believed the time had come to secede. So the war in which he entered was for the defense of his home and fireside and against an invading foe. It was as righteous to him as that waged by the Greeks at Thermopylæ and his life, if needs be, must be cheerfully surrendered in such a cause. In the contest in Rockbridge County over the election of delegates to the secession convention he took an active part in favor of the secession candidates. His great moral courage was conspicuous at the meeting held in Lexington, where he again and again attempted to overcome the large majority opposed to him. He was unsuccessful in this, and Rockbridge sent Union delegates to Richmond.

        He had no special military training and entered the service as first lieutenant of the Rockbridge Rifles, and afterwards a part of the 27th Virginia Regiment, Stonewall Brigade. With this company, at the first call for troops in April, 1861, he marched to the front.


His son published a book of his letters from which the above was taken.  You can read Memoir and Memorials: Elisha Franklin Paxton, Brigadier-General, C.S.A.;
Composed of his Letters from Camp and Field While an Officer in the Confederate Army, with an Introductory and Connecting Narrative Collected and Arranged by his Son, John Gallatin Paxton: Electronic Edition by clicking on the title.


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Last Updated March 11, 2005
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