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BRIGADIER GENERAL GABRIEL RENE PAUL
THE FORGOTTEN HERO OF GETTYSBURG

From the Campbell County History News - January  1999

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure."
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address - 1863

Two years into the Civil War, survival of the nation was very much in question as Confederate and Union troops clashed in the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The resulting battle was the largest and bloodiest ever held in North America resulting in 51,000 casualties during the first three days of July 1863.

The July 4, 1863 Cincinnati Daily Enquire was filled with news from the war and included in their Newport News section the following: “Brigadier General Paul - This officer who was killed in the Battle near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a resident of Newport.  His wife and family are now here.”

The report of Gabriel Rene Paul’s death was incorrect but understandable. The July-August 1996 issue of Military Images magazine includes information from a descendant who explained that on July 1, 1963, at about two p.m., Paul’s brigade was attacked from three directions by elements of four Confederate brigades and, after a stiff fight, was overwhelmed. A musket ball struck General Paul’s right temple an inch and a half behind his eye. It severed the right optic nerve, passed through his head and exited through the left eye socket removing the eye. Paul fell unconscious and was left for dead on the field, a dispatch from General Meade to Halleck reporting him killed. He was found alive by Union prisoners working as stretcher bearers, carried to a local residence and placed under the care of the surgeon of the 11th Pennsylvania.

The general was not prepared to surrender the biggest battle of his life. One can imagine his contemplating the long road that led him to the bloody field in Gettysburg and drawing strength from the memories.

The Paul family can be traced to grandparents Eustache Paul and Marie Anne Scholastique Masse. Eustache Paul was a native of France who settled at Cape Francais, Santo Domingo. His son Rene Paul was a Colonel of engineers under Napoleon, serving on the French flag ship at Trafalgar where he was severely wounded.  Rene Paul immigrated to Philadelphia, Pa., and then moved to St. Louis, Mo. where Gabriel Rene Paul was born on March 22, 1813.  Gabriel Paul’s mother was Eulalie Chouteau, daughter of August Chouteau and Marie Therese Cerre.

Gabriel Rene Paul began his military career by obtaining an appointment to West Point from which he graduated in July 1834. He was assigned to frontier duty in the Seventh Infantry and stationed at Fort Gibson in present day Oklahoma. On March 24, 1835 he married Mary Ann Whistler, daughter of Colonel William Whistler.  Mary’s father and Grandfather were both military men previously stationed in the Newport Barracks and Mary Whistler was probably born in Newport about 1815. Gabriel and Mary would have 3 daughters and a son over the next several years.

Gabriel R. Paul served several years of recruiting duty and went to war in 1842 fighting the Seminole Indians in Florida. He then served in the Mexican War taking part in the defense of Fort Brown, the battle of Monterey, siege of Vera Cruz, and several other battles including Cerro Gordo where he was wounded. He led a storming party at Chapultepec, which captured the enemy flag and for this act he was brevetted major. The citizens of St. Louis presented him a sword for his service in the Mexico campaign.

The 1850s included tours in Texas and the 1852 Rio Grande expedition in which he captured Carvajal and his gang of desperadoes. In 1854 William Whistler moved his family back to Newport, possibly bringing the Paul family with him. Available records do not indicate when the marriage of Mary Whistler Paul and Gabriel R. Paul broke up but Mary lived until 11 November 1871 and is buried in Kansas while Campbell County marriage records show G. R. Paul married Louise Rodgers on April 13, 1858. Louise Rogers/Rodgers was daughter of John and Elizabeth (Neland) Doxon and widow of Alfred H. Rogers of Cincinnati. Gabriel and Louise went on to have two daughters. It appears Gabriel served in the Utah expeditions from 1858 to 1860 during which he was engaged in the surprise and capture of a camp of hostile Indians.

Gabriel was promoted to Major and transferred to the 8th infantry in April 1861, serving as acting inspector general of the Department of New Mexico from July to December 1861. He was then appointed Colonel, commanding Fort Union and the Southern military district of New Mexico. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in April 1862 and brigadier-general of volunteers in September 1862. He then transferred to the Army of the Potomac in March 1863, taking part in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

  


Image did not appear in newsletter - Photo of Brigadier General Gabriel René Paul, ca. 1864
This work is in the public domain. Located at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_Ren%C3%A9_Paul)

 
It appears that at the time Gabriel transferred east, his wife Louise returned to Newport. She first appears in the 1863 tax list with a town lot valued at $6,000. Gabriel may have returned to Newport to recover from his Gettysburg wounds since the 1864 and 1865 tax lists list both Louise and G. R. Paul and indicate they had two slaves. The 1866 tax list shows only Louisa Paul after which they disappear from the tax lists.

The July 19, 1888 Kentucky State Journal, a Newport based newspaper, reported on page 4:  “The following, from the Courier-Journal, will be found of interest to our Newport Readers, insomuch as it gives an insight to why one of our elderly and highly esteemed citizens has not been able to obtain a well-deserved pension:  For two years the widow of General G. R. Paul has been asking congress to grant her a pension. So far she has been unsuccessful. 

The eyesight of Gen. Paul was destroyed at Gettysburg, and for over 20 years it was an every-day sight in Newport, Ky., their home, to see Mrs. Paul, with the hero on her arm, walking the streets of that city.” The article goes on to accuse a couple of Republican representatives of “keeping the widows of officers out of their pensions because the bills were introduced by Democrats.” The above article indicates the Paul family remained in Newport but they have not been found in tax lists or city directories. The widow’s pension papers show General Paul was absent from duty on account of wounds until February 1865 when he was retired from active military service “for disability resulting from wounds received in the line of duty.” 

Despite being totally blind, suffering violent attacks of pain in the head and having epilepsy, he was at that time made deputy governor of the Soldiers’ Home near Washington, D.C. In June 1865 he was placed in charge of the military asylum at Harrodsburg Ky where he served until December 1866. He was reported as unemployed from 1866 until his 1886 death. Statements in support of the widow’s pension indicate the wound left him “so helpless as to constantly need attention” with necessary expenses that took up all his pay. A Resolution of Congress granted him full pay and allowances of brigadier-General on April 12, 1870. Records show his seizures increased over the years occurring several times per day in the later years.

Death records show General Paul died “at his residence” in Washington, D.C. at 10 a.m. on May 5, 1886. The listed cause of death was “coma following on an epileptic form convulsion, the result of a wound received at the battle of Gettysburg, Pa.” He was given a hero’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery with a monument erected over his grave by his comrades of the Grand Army.

His widow was granted a pension of $50 per month August 4, 1886 but applied for an increased because of financial hardship. The pension was increased to $100 per month on August 21, 1888 and remained at that amount until Louise Paul died in December 1898.

The image of Gabriel René Paul shown above was copied from the Wikipedia website. The photo and any copyrighted information for this article are used under the fair use provision of the copyright law allowing use for non-profit educational purposes.

Special thanks go to Cheryl Whistler Garrison who provided numerous documents relating to Gabriel René Paul and his family. Copies of all submitted documents can be found in the family files at the historical society research office. 

Readers access are encouraged to visit her web page at: http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/g/a/r/Cheryl-Garrison-MI/  which includes information on ancestors including the Whistler, Paul and Helm families of Campbell County. This page can also be accessed from the historical society web page researcher links. Cheryl is interested in exchanging information on the above families and encourages researchers to contact her.

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