Maj. G.V. Rambaut - key member of Forrest's staff
Gen'l N.B. Forrest was very loyal to a small group of dedicated staff officers who remained with him from the very formation of Forrest's "Old Regiment" to the end of the war. That loyalty, and love, were returned in kind by those officers. Here is a brief biography of one key officer, Major Gilbert V. Rambaut, with an example of how Forrest appreciated and complimented his staff officers.
Major Gilbert V. Rambaut served with Lt. Gen. N.B Forrest from the very beginning through the duration of the war, mostly as Forrest’s Chief of Commissary, the important task of feeding Forrest’s troops and horses.
The Rambaut’s emigrated from France shortly after the French Revolution. Major Rambaut’s father, Captain G.V. Rambaut was a tobacco merchant in Petersburg, VA. He was the first, and only, commander of the Petersburg Guards and, though 62 years old, entered the Confederate service as a captain of artillery in 1861.
Born in Petersburg, VA in 1837, Rambaut moved to Memphis, TN in 1857 at the age of 21 and entered into the tobacco trading business. That led to a series of ever more successful commercial ventures, and in 1861, at age 25, was the owner of the former Worsham Hotel (renamed Rambaut & Cox) in Memphis and had a contract to build a railroad through Attala County, MS.
He was married to Susan (Sue) Apperson of Memphis in 1860, the Appersons being involved in large planting and banking operations in the area. Six children were born, the first in March 1861, just as the war was starting and the second in August 1865, just after the war’s conclusion. The other four followed at intervals until 1873.
Twice voting against succession, he nevertheless enlisted as a private in Company H, commanded by Captain McDonald, in Forrest’s "old regiment." He was quickly recognized as an intelligent young man with great organization skills and was made an officer, attached to (then) Lieutenant Colonel Forrest’s staff, quickly rising in rank to major. Major Rambaut often wrote Forrest’s reports as the lieutenant colonel, later general, would dictate them to him. This included Forrest’s report of the action at Ft. Donalson. Rambaut was slightly wounded in the hand at Shiloh.
Rambaut and another Forrest staff officer, Major John P. Strange, along with then Bvt. Brigadier General Forrest were all promoted for gallantry at the Battle of Murfreesborough in 1862. Strange was promoted to colonel and Rambaut to lieutenant colonel, both promotions would have sent them to field commands. When Gen’l Forrest remarked that he would dearly miss their company and counsel, both Rambaut and Strange refused their promotions in order to remain on Gen’l Forrest’s staff, Strange as Assistant Adjutant General and Rambaut as Chief of Commissary, where they would serve throughout the war.
Majors Rambaut and Strange were captured in February 1863 returning from the second fight at Ft. Donalson. After a brief stay at Camp Chase and then Ft. Delaware, both were exchanged after about three months, in time to join Forrest in his pursuit of the Streight Raid. Rambaut was wounded in the knee during a skirmish at Dillard’s Plantation near Harrisburg on July 12, 1864, but did not leave the field. During the campaign in the “western district,” he was in 17 fights in 13 days.
On one occasion, during this flurry of fighting, Major Rambaut was actually in command with Gen’l Forrest serving on his staff. Forrest had left Major Rambaut at Trenton, TN in command of one company, a lot of dismounted men and Morton’s Battery of four guns and seven ammunition wagons, a total of about 125 men. Rambaut had orders to proceed to Kenton Station, while Forrest was with the rest of the command, tearing up railroad.
As Rambaut neared Kenton Station with his small force, he was informed that a Federal force of some 250 infantry was strongly entrenched in a stockade. Rambaut had orders to camp at the station, and he assumed the Gen’l Forrest was aware of the enemy’s presence, so he made orders to attack and dislodge the Yankees. Initiating his plan, he was advancing and had already driven in the Federal skirmishers when Gen’l Forrest galloped up and asked what he had done. After Rambaut stated his plan, Gen’l Forrest told him to carry it out, and instead of taking command himself, Forrest stated that he would serve on Major Rambaut’s staff, with another Forrest staff officer, Major C.S. Shay, serving as Rambaut’s temporary adjutant during the fight.
Rambaut resumed his advance, driving in the enemy skirmishers, then brought his artillery to bear. Upon the second discharge from the cannons, the Federals surrendered.
This was a high compliment to a loyal and valuable staff officer by Gen’l Forrest. He served with Forrest to the end of the war and surrendered at Gainesville, AL on May 13, 1865.
After the war, Major Rambaut returned to Memphis, eventually going into the grocery and cotton business with his father-in-law. He later founded the (ironically named) Union Stockyards and Fertilizer Company, served on and as president of the Memphis School Board, served as a director of the Planters Insurance company of Memphis and formed the Mechanics Building and Loan Association in 1877. He served on many cultural and educational boards, including the Mozart Society, where he re-invigorated its Conservatory of Music, making it one of the cultural jewels in the south. Major Rambaut died in 1896 and his wife survived until 1923.
Source: Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans: containing biographies and records of many of the families who have attained prominence in Tennessee. By: William S. Speer; Genealogical Publishing Company, Nashville, 1888
Last edited by Mike Ventura; 01-11-2012 at 09:57 AM.