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Joseph Lancaster Brent
Born (1826-11-30)November 30, 1826
Died November 27, 1905(1905-11-27) (aged 78)
Place of birth Pomonkey, Maryland, United States
Place of death Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Buried Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Allegiance Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Service/branch Confederate States of America Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861-1865
Rank 35px Brigadier General
Unit Los Angeles Mounted Rifles
Commands held Louisiana Louisiana Cavalry Brigade (1864-1865)
Robert E Lee with his Generals, 1869

Brent (top row, far right) with Robert E. Lee and Confederate officers, 1869.

Joseph Lancaster Brent (November 30, 1826—November 27, 1905), lawyer, politician in California and Louisiana, Confederate Brigadier General.

Early lifeEdit

Joseph Lancaster Brent was born on November 30, 1826, in Pomonkey, in Charles County, Maryland. He received his legal education at Georgetown University. In 1850 he came to California from Baltimore on a sailing ship bringing his law library with him, the first in Southern California. As an attorney in Los Angeles he made his reputation representing the Californio landowners who were defending their claims to their ranchos. His reputation resulted in his election as a member of the California State Assembly for the 1st District, representing Los Angeles from 1856 to 1858. Between 1855 and 1858, Brent purchased a portion of Rancho San Rafael, making him one of the first Americans to own land in what is now called Glendale. The land was located across the Los Angeles River from what is now Griffith Park. He named his property Santa Eulalia Ranch. He was also a school commissioner and a leader of the movement to create a public school system in Los Angeles.[1]

Civil WarEdit

In mid-February 1861, Joseph Lancaster Brent, as a wealthy attorney and former state legislator of southern sympathies, was one of the prominent Angelenos who signed the petition to form the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles in response to a call by Governor John G. Downey for the formation of militia companies "to preserve order" just before the start of the American Civil War. The Los Angeles Mounted Rifles formed as a secessionist militia, composed of Californios and Americans from the southern states who had settled in Southern California.[1]

Following the fall of Fort Sumter, the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles left for Texas and Federal troops occupied Los Angeles. Brent decided to return to the east, selling his rancho, and boarded the Panama steamer SS Orizaba at San Diego. On this ship, he joined former U.S. Senator William M. Gwin and former U.S. Attorney Calhoun Benham also trying to make it back to join the South's war effort. However they were arrested in Panama City for treason, by Brigadier General Edwin Vose Sumner while in Colombian waters. This incident could have involved the United States in a war with Colombia except for the trio giving consent to the arrest in order to avoid any harm to the citizens of Panama City. They were finally released upon order of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

Brent immediately went South to became a major and the ordnance officer for General John B. Magruder on the Virginia Peninsula. He then transferred west as General Richard Taylor's ordnance officer. He was promoted to Brigadier General and given command of the Louisiana Cavalry Brigade on April 17, 1864, becoming the only California citizen to become a Confederate general. He fought in Louisiana for the rest of the war.

One of the most interesting events in the war to involve Brent was the sinking of USS Indianola on February 24, 1863.

The Indianola was tasked to interdict the Confederate flow of supplies from the Red River. General Taylor ordered Brent to engage the Union ironclad with two boats, the former tugboat Webb and recently captured paddle steamer Queen of the West. They overtook Indianola and attacked from each side, ramming her seven times before the ironclad ran her bow on the west bank of the river and surrendered. The loss of Indianola was deeply distressing to the Union. It ended Admiral David Dixon Porter's efforts to blockade the Red River by detached vessels while keeping the body of his fleet above Vicksburg, Mississippi, and it prompted Farragut's costly run by the South's forts at Port Hudson, March 14, 1863.[2]

After the Civil WarEdit

After the war, he practiced law in Baltimore, until 1870 when he married Rosella Kenner, daughter of the Louisiana planter and politician, Duncan Farrar Kenner. Brent settled in Louisiana, where he managed Kenner's plantations until his death in 1887.[3] Meanwhile his wife had a son and daughter. He became a prominent and influential citizen. As a member of the Legislature, he did effective work in fighting the Louisiana lottery.[4] In 1876, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Louisiana.

Brent returned to Maryland after 1887, and participated in government there.[5] He died on November 27, 1905 in Baltimore, Maryland.


External linksEdit

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