Elkanah Bracken (Brackin) Greer, soldier, planter, and politician, was born in Paris, Tennessee, on October 13, 1825, the son of Capt. James and Rachel (Bracken) Greer. In 1845 he joined the First Mississippi Rifles as a private under Jefferson Davis for service in the Mexican War and participated in the battles at Monterrey and Buena Vista. Greer served as major general of the Mississippi militia soon after the war ended. He moved to Marshall, Texas, in 1848 and returned briefly to Tennessee in 1851 to marry Anna Holcombe; the couple had four children. During his antebellum years in Marshall he was a merchant, a planter, and a lawyer in the firm of Pope, Stedman, and Greer. He also served for a time as superintendent of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Marshall.
Greer was an ardent states'-rights Democrat and became grand commander of the Knights of the Golden Circle in 1859. He organized support for the filibustering program of the KGC, and in February of 1860 he offered Governor Sam Houston a regiment of mounted volunteers to invade Mexico. Later that year Greer attended the Democratic convention in Charleston as a delegate, and he was among the "bolters" who refused to accept Stephen Douglas's platform. In Texas he urged the calling of the Secession Convention after the Republican presidential victory. He entered the Confederate army in May of 1861 and raised the Third Texas Cavalry by June. With Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch's Army of the West, he commanded his regiment at the battles of Wilson's Creek (Oak Hill), Missouri, and Chustenahlah, Indian Territory. At Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern), Arkansas, he sustained a serious wound to his arm and could no longer command. He resigned his command on June 1, 1862, but later returned to service and in June 1863 was commissioned a brigadier general and assigned as Commandant of Conscripts for the Trans-Mississippi Department. He worked with Gen. John B. Magruder to reconcile Confederate conscription laws with Texas state laws. He resigned his commission on May 27, 1865, and after the Civil War he lived in Marshall in semiretirement. In 1875 he was a member of the reception committee for Jefferson Davis's visit to Marshall. Greer died while visiting his sister at DeVall's Bluff, Arkansas, on March 25, 1877, and was buried next to his parents at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.
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Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Roy Sylvan Dunn, "The KGC in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70 (April 1967). Jack Thorndyke Greer, Leaves from a Family Album, ed. Jane Greer (Waco: Texian Press, 1975). Douglas Hale, "The Third Texas Cavalry: A Socioeconomic Profile of a Confederate Regiment," Military History of the Southwest 19 (Spring 1989).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Greer, Elkanah Bracken,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 1, 1995
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