Biography of Minor Meriwether

Compiled by the National Archivists before the microfilming of the Civil War records.

Entries in blue are references and my additions. 

   Born Jan 15, 1827, at Cabin Row, Christian County, Kentucky. He was educated as a civil engineer and distinguished himself at an early age as an engineer by building a tunnel through the Cumberland Mountains between Chattanooga and Nashville when only 23 years old. He was an Engineer or Chief Engineer on railroad construction projects for about 13 years before the war. He joined the Confederate Army as an Engineer in October, 1861. Most of his war duty was constructing defenses and building/re-building railroads. He was a member of the Iron Commission.

   After the war, he returned to Memphis and purchased a home on the current site of the Peabody Hotel. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis lived in Memphis after the war. Minor assisted Forrest in forming the Ku Klux Klan, one of its early organizational meetings was held in their home. In 1866, he was Secretary & Treasurer of the Mississippi & Tennessee Railroad. In 1869, he was Treasurer of the Memphis, Holly Springs, Okolona & Selma Railroad. He also constructed some of the first levees along the banks of the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He devoted himself to the practice of law until 1880 when the yellow fever epidemic caused him to move to St. Louis with his family. He practiced law there until his death.
   While in Memphis, Meriwether originated the scheme by which Memphis abrogated its charter and lost its identity as a municipality and thus escaped the payment of the heavy bonded indebtedness incurred during the reconstruction period. By Meriwether's repudiation scheme the city disintegrated, becoming part of the commonwealth and having no municipal existence and no officers; the bondholders were left without recourse. Meriwether was appointed receiver in a suit brought for the purpose of adjusting the matter, and after a long fight the bondholders settled for an insignificant amount, by way of compromise.
   Meriwether clashed with Forrest, who was president of the Memphis railroad, in his capacity as Memphis City Engineer. Meriwether condemned a section of roadbed that was unsafe and Forrest swore that he would kill Meriwether if he showed his face at the next stockholders meeting. Meriwether attended the next meeting, armed to the teeth, and confronted Forrest. Meriwether lived; the roadbed was later upgraded and approved.
   Minor died June 6, 1910 in St. Louis, where he is buried.
   Minor married Elizabeth Avery January 5, 1852, in Memphis. Elizabeth was born on January 19, 1824, in Bolivar, Tenn. and died November 4, 1916, in St. Louis. They had 3 sons: Avery, born in 1857; Rivers, born in 1859; and Lee (named for Robert E. Lee), born in 1862. 

Picture from

   Carrying out the wishes of Minor's late father, the couple sold part of Minor's inherited land to free his slaves and repatriate them to Liberia. Elizabeth later accepted the gift of a household slave from her brother.
   When the war started, Minor left to join the Confederate Army as an engineer officer. Elizabeth stayed in Memphis until Gen. Sherman ordered her to leave, in December, 1862, because of her vocal advocacy of the Confederate cause. Elizabeth recounted her ordeal in an 1863 short story, "The Refugee." Forced on the road as a refugee, at first she attempted to follow her husbandís unit, and delivered her third child in a strangerís house on Christmas night in 1862, in Columbus, Miss. She resorted to stealing corn for food for her children, selling clothing and even sneaking back into Memphis on a dangerous mission to pay taxes so her property would not be sold at auction. She eventually ended up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
   While in Tuscaloosa, Meriwether resumed her childhood pastime of writing. She won a competition sponsored by the Selma Daily Mississippian offering $500 for the best story dealing with the war. Her short story "The Refugee" is based partly on her own experiences traveling through Alabama and Tennessee. Encouraged by this success, Meriwether wrote The Yankee Spy, which a newspaper planned to publish as a book, but when the Confederacy fell, the project was abandoned.
   After the war, she became one of the first suffragettes, publishing a newspaper which featured her unorthodox views on woman suffrage, divorce law, and pay equality for women teachers. She was active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the National Woman Suffrage Association, serving as a national officer of the latter, in 1886.
   Elizabeth wrote a play, 2 novels, 2 non-fiction works and a memoir, "Recollections of 92 Years," which was serialized in many Tennessee newspapers in 1916. All her published works idealized the Confederate cause and the traditional race ideology of the "Old South." {Most of the information above is from the Tennessee Cyclopedia article on Elizabeth, written by Sally S. Hermsdorfer.} Elizabeth is one of three women depicted on the Tennessee Woman's Suffrage Memorial in Knoxville.
November 28, 1861 Recommendation that he be employed on the defences of the Mississippi River and his qualifications given
December 20, 1861 Assigned as Major and Chief Engineer, Polk's 1st Division, Western Department (Special Order 343)
March 10, 1862 Worked for Gen. Polk at and regarding Island No. 10 (OR 1/8/148 & 774)
April 6-8, 1862 At Battle of Shiloh
April 10, 1862 Was sent to Island No. 10 (OR 1/8/136)
Early May to late July, 1862 Assigned command a Pioneer battalion by Genl. Beauregard.
June 15, 1862 An officer of his battalion requested for duty on Alabama & Mississippi Rivers RR construction
October 24, 1862 Requests a commission as Major of Engineers in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. Says he is now acting in the capacity of Chief Engineer of the District of Tennessee, on Genl. Price's staff (since July)
December 17, 1862 Asks Pemberton and Davis to help his application for commission
March 22, 1863 Selected the place for defensive works and fought in the Battle of the Tallahatchee Yazoo (north of Vicksburg) (OR 1/24/2/415)
April 18, 1863 Signs as Engineer Corps Army of Mississippi
May 13, 1863 Certified work done repairing Mississippi & Tennessee RR
June 18, 1863 Proposed defenses for Mississippi & Tennessee RR bridges
August 4, 1863 Pays future Iron Commission Clerk for fodder, corn in Tuscaloosa
August 8, 1863 Mentioned as one who could rebuild the Pearl River bridge
October 22, 1863 Acting Chief of Engineering Bureau recommends Meriwether be assigned to the Iron Commission and promoted to Major. Approved by Secretary of War 10/28/63. Received his orders 11/10/63.
October 27, 1863 Date of appointment as Major of Engineers; ordered to report to the Engineer Bureau
November 6, 1863 Notified that he has been selected by the Secretary of War and the Navy to occupy a position on the Commission for the Collection and Distribution of R. R. Iron
November 7, 1863 Gen. Johnston informed that Meriwether will take over RR repair job between Meridian and McDowell
November 12, 1863 Gen. Johnston's chief engineer ordered to make efforts to repair railroads in order to save iron and machinery until Meriwether arrives
November 24, 1863 Would be ordered to repair Pearl River Bridge
November 30, 1863 Sam. Tate assured by Quartermaster General that Meriwether will work well with the Quartermaster Department
Paid Iron Commission Agent
December 5, 1863 Engineering Bureau Chief agrees with his views on the Live Oak connection
December 12, 1863 Given instructions regarding finishing the Tombigbee River bridge
December 24, 1863 Pays for RR iron impressed from Brunswick & Albany RR
December 31, 1863 Paid Iron Commission Agent and Clerk
January 7, 1864 Authorized to impress RR iron and rolling stock of 3 Florida railroads
January 22, 1864 Waiting for 100 men assigned to him.
Informs Rives that Savannah, Albany & Gulf RR will not construct the Lawton and Live Oak connection and is ordered to construct it himself
January 23, 1864 Sold spikes to Mobile & Great Northern RR
January 25, 1864 Trip
January 28, 1864 Purchased chains for repairs
January 29, 1864 Paid for loading RR ties
January 31, 1864 Paid Clerk
February 2, 1864 Paid for hire of Clerk's slave
February 4, 1864 Paid for repairs to New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern RR
February 7, 1864 Buys cross ties
February 15, 1864 Engineer Bureau asks about the Mobile & Spring Hill RR, then authorized to impress its iron
February 22, 1864 Instructed to construct a connection from Lawton to Live Oak
Approved payments for Brunswick & Albany RR iron removal
NA, B&A 2-18-64
NA, B&A 2-22-64
February 25, 1864 Takes a trip to Savannah
February 29, 1864 Has the RR iron required to repair a RR
Paid Clerk's expenses
March 4, 1864 Informs the Engineer Bureau to pay for two impressed locomotives
Engineer Bureau is trying to get Maxwell for him
March 17, 1864 Favors removal of the iron from the Mississippi, Gainesville & Tuscaloosa RR
Pays Iron Commission Agent
Send Clerk on mission
March 27, 1864 Trip to Mobile
March 28, 1864 Engineer Bureau states he has been placed in charge of building Tombigbee River bridge
March 31, 1864 Paid Clerk's expenses
April 5, 1864 Appointed Lieutenant Colonel of Engineers
April 6, 1864 Orders paid Commission bills reimbursed
April 9, 1864 Returned from trip to Savannah
April 28, 1864 Ordered to press forward the construction of the Blue Mountain & Rome RR
Noted that he has been duplicating bridges for the East Tennessee & Virginia RR
April 29, 1864 Directed to take action on the construction of the Columbia & Hamburg RR
May 12, 1864 Recommended sale of forage to Lawton & Live Oak RR contractors
Ordered by Gilmer to take up Florida RR iron
NA, DSCGF 5-12-64
May 13, 1864 Pays Iron Commission Agent
May 14, 1864 Pays for iron from Pollard to Tombigbee River
Told C. F. M. Garnett the status of seizing the iron on the Florida RR
May 20, 1864 Paid Clerk
May 21, 1864 Accounts for iron taken from the Brunswick & Albany RR
Paid Clerk's expenses
May 24, 1864 Makes final evaluation of Alabama & Florida (of Florida) RR rolling stock impressed
May 26, 1864 Provides locomotives to railroads
May 30, 1764 Pays expenses
June 10, 1864 Recommends a route for the Lawton & Live Oak connection
June 14, 1864 Could not pay because he was short of funds
June 15, 1864 Requests the services of Major Peters
June 16, 1864 Peters ordered to assist him in completing Blue Mountain RR
NA, DAMELA 6-16-64
June 17, 1864 Gen. Anderson will give aid in removing Florida RR iron
June 26, 1864 Reports the impossibility of getting RR iron except by impressment
Instructed regarding charging for RR iron
June 28, 1864 Reports that Governor of Florida is interfering with the removal of the Florida RR iron
July 1, 1864 Mentioned in need for funds for Engineers
July 5, 1864 Pays Lamb for 3 months
Pays Southard's expenses
NA, RRB 7-5C-64
July 8, 1864 Paid Lamb for Board at Demopolis
July 12, 1864 Pays Fairbanks for travel for the quarter ending
July 21, 1864 Buys 2 Brunswick & Albany RR locomotives
July 22, 1864 Reply to his status report
July 25, 1864 Removing Florida RR iron
July 26, 1864 Receives instructions regarding Alabama railroads
July 31, 1864 Paid Kenney for 5 months as General Agent of Iron Commission
August 2, 1864 Paid Clerk's expenses
August 3, 1864 Ask Gen. Hood for impressment authority
August 6, 1864 Asked for practicality of building a Columbus to Montgomery connection
August 8, 1864 Paid Clerk
August 13, 1864 His drafts for the Alabama & Florida (of Florida) RR can now be paid in Richmond
August 31, 1864 Paid Clerk's expenses and pay
September 3, 1864 Report of iron removed from Alabama & Florida (of Florida) RR
September 8, 1864 Final report on the Brunswick & Albany RR iron removal
September 24, 1864 Asks for a draft to be paid
September 26, 1864 Placed in charge of Alabama & Mississippi Rivers RR completion
NA, DAMELA 9-26-64
NA, DAMELA 9-26A-64
September 30, 1864 Capt. Myers added to Iron Commission
October 1, 1864 Reports the railroad articles bought and sold during the past quarter
October 12, 1864 Reports account with Alabama & Florida (of Florida) RR
NA, ENGR 10-12-64
October 13, 1864 Orders cars belonging to him delivered to a RR
October 18, 1864 Receives report on RR construction
October 20, 1864 Recommends the purchase of a spike machine from Tredegar and installing it at Selma
NA, ENGR 10-20B-64
October 21, 1864 Reports on plan to complete the Alabama & Tennessee River RR to Jackson
October 31, 1864 Reports operations and plans
November 4, 1864 Makes recommendation about the use of certain iron rails
NA, ENGR 11-4B-64
November 30, 1864 Reports operations and plans
December 8, 1864 Asks permission to build a shop machine at Selma
NA, ENGR 12-8A-64
December 18, 1864 He and Major Hottel were working on repairing Georgia RRs, though under different orders
December 20, 1864 Need to impress iron to repair the Atlanta & West Point RR
Maxwell and work on the Tombigbee River bridge
January 5, 1865 Sold locomotive
January 25, 1865 Asks QMG order issue of 200 sets of clothes for slaves
NA, QMR 1-25-65
January 30, 1865 Requests a train
NA, DAMELA 2-1-65
January 31, 1865 Maxwell ordered to send him bridge builder company
NA, DAMEL 1-31-65
February 7, 1865 Was to turn over 2 locomotives to the Quartermaster at Meridian
February 20, 1865 Impressed the iron of the Macon & Brunswick RR
March 14, 1865 Ordered to assist in restoring telegraph line over Tombigbee River
NA, DAMEL 3-14-65
March 29, 1865 Need for iron from the Macon & Brunswick RR
April 7, 1865 Was repairing Cahaba RR bridge
NA, DAMELA 4-7-65
April 13, 1865 Asks if he should keep working on the Tombigbee River bridge
April 20, 1865 Repair the Alabama & Tennessee River RR
NA, DAMEL 4-20-65
NA, DAMELA 4-20A-65
May 10, 1865 Paroled at Meridian, Miss.