John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders: Too Young To Die

Early Life and Military Service of John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders

John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders was one of the Confederate States Army’s youngest brigadier generals during the War Between the States. Born on April 4, 1840, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Sanders grew up in Clinton, Greene County, Alabama. He began his studies at the University of Alabama in 1858 but left school to enlist in the Confederate States Army as a private at the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861.

Sanders’ Wartime Saga and Trauma

Sanders was elected captain of Company E of the 11th Regiment Alabama Volunteer Infantry on June 11, 1861. The 11th Alabama Infantry first engaged in combat at the Battle of Seven Pines. Sanders sustained a severe leg wound from a shell fragment during the Battle of Glendale (Frayser’s Farm) on June 30, 1862, in Henrico County, Virginia, while fighting in the Seven Days Battles, following the Battle of Gaines Mill. Nonetheless, he returned to command the regiment on August 11, 1862, as he was the senior officer on duty. He was wounded again at the Battle of Second Manassas on August 30, 1862. After sustaining a facial injury from stones thrown up by an exploding shell during the Battle of Sharpsburg on September 17, 1862, Sanders received a formal promotion to colonel.

Despite his injuries, Sanders continued to fight for the Confederate cause. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Salem Church, and the Battle of Gettysburg, Sanders fought valiantly. However, he sustained a knee injury on July 2, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg.. While recovering, he served on court martial duty as the president of the division court martial. He returned to his regiment in time to command them in the Overland Campaign.

Sanders’ Promotion to Brigadier General and Leadership

Sanders commanded Cadmus M. Wilcox’s old brigade in Richard H. Anderson’s division of III Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Bristoe Campaign and Mine Run Campaign. Thereafter, Brigadier General Abner Monroe Perrin returned to command the brigade. Subsequently, Sanders returned to command his regiment until Perrin was killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Sanders then led his brigade and helped retake the “Mule Shoe” Salient. The Confederate army promoted Sanders to brigadier general on May 31, 1864, based on his actions and services at Spotsylvania Court House. They utilized the provision in their law that allowed them to appoint temporary general officers.

Leadership assigned Sanders to command a brigade of Alabama regiments that Brigadier General Cadmus M. Wilcox had previously led. He performed with competence and bravery during the Battle of Cold Harbor and the early engagements of the Siege of Petersburg. As part of Major General William Mahone’s division, Sanders’s brigade participated in the defense of the Confederate line during the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864, where he led his brigade in the Confederate counterattack.

Sanders’ Fate and Impact on the Confederate Cause

During the Battle of Second Battle of the Weldon Railroad on August 21, 1864, enemy fire struck Brigadier General Sanders in both thighs, causing him to bleed to death within minutes. The Confederacy suffered a significant loss with Sanders’s death. Many considered him one of their most capable and promising young generals.

Remembering John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders: Life, Death, and Human Cost of War

The loss of Brigadier General John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders was a heavy blow to the Confederate cause, especially considering his youth and potential for continued leadership. Sanders was admired and respected by his fellow soldiers, as evidenced by the fact that he was chosen to lead a brigade of Alabama regiments, and his promotion to brigadier general. His courage and competence on the battlefield were unquestionable, as he repeatedly returned to the fight despite suffering multiple injuries. Sanders’ death was a tragedy for his family and loved ones, and a poignant reminder of the human cost of war. Yet, despite his untimely passing, his legacy lives on as a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought for the Confederate cause during the Civil War.

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