Fannie Sims Granbury: Shrouded By Mystery

Rebecca Blackwell Drake


The old saying, Gone But Not Forgotten, was by no means the case with Fannie Sims Granbury, the 25-year-old wife of Major Hiram B. Granbury. On a cold winter day in March of 1863, Fannie was buried in Mobile; her husband too poor to afford a headstone or a cemetery plot. She was placed in a plot provided by friends and buried with no marking. Since that time, records of her death and burial have been lost to historians.

The lives of Hiram and Fannie Granbury began in 1858 when the couple married in Waco, Texas. Fannie, a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was twenty years old at the time and Granbury was twenty-seven. Granbury was a well-known judge and a highly respected citizen of Waco. When the war erupted, he answered the 'call to his Southland' by organizing the Waco Guards, a militia group from McLennan County, and marched to Marshall, Texas. Here, his group joined with nine other counties to form the 7th Texas Infantry. The war was young and the soldiers' hopes were high. Fannie's hopes were high as well as she followed her husband to war.

Unexpectedly, within months, the 7th Texas and other Confederate regiments were captured at Fort Donelson. Before Granbury could be transported to prison he requested permission to settle his wife who had been staying with the family of Mr. Steven Trice in Hopkinsville. When the weather turned frigid, she was moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, a short distance away, to stay with friends. Surprisingly, General Grant granted the request. On March 4, 1862, after a brief prison stay at Fort Chase, Granbury and the other officers were informed that they would be moved to Fort Warren Prison in Boston Harbor. Refusing to leave her husband's side, Fannie accompanied Hiram and the other officers on the train to Boston. Granbury remained at Fort Warren prison for five months before being exchanged.

Prison life for Granbury was tolerable since, along with John Gregg and Randal McGavock, he was quartered in the facility for officers. Prison regulations would not allow Fannie on the premise so she traveled to Hagerstown, Maryland. While in Hagerstown she resided with the family of Dr. Charles MacGill, Hiram's new cell mate. Dr. MacGill had been one of the most prominent doctors in the east until he was arrested for being a Southern sympathizer. In July of 1862, Fannie began to experience health problems. There was an unexplained swelling in her abdomen and she was constantly nauseated and fatigued. Dr. MacGill took matters in his own hands and referred her to Dr. Nathan Smith, one of the finest of the surgeons in Baltimore. An appointment was made and Granbury was given early parole (prisoner exchange) in order to meet her in Baltimore. There was no record of the diagnosis but undoubtedly Dr. Smith advised Fannie that she could be suffering from ovarian caner.

Refusing to face the situation and anxious to accompany her husband who was leaving for Richmond, Virginia, to be exchanged, the Granbury's left Baltimore without medical help. All Fannie wanted to do was to be with her husband. If she could accompany him to Richmond, she would agree to seek medical help there. In early August, Hiram and Fannie sailed from Baltimore to Richmond for the process of exchanging prisoners. While in Richmond, they visited another surgeon and the news was tragically confirmed. Fannie was suffering from advanced ovarian cancer and would not be expected to live through the year. The situation they were facing was beyond comprehension. Fannie was only 24 years old at the time of her diagnosis.

Once again, Fannie and Hiram parted ways. Hiram rejoined his regiment and returned to Southern soil prepared to continue the fight for the Southern cause. Fannie returned to Hagerstown and the home of Mrs. MacGill where she would be treated like family. Fannie had her own battle to fight - to live as long as possible. All that she had left of Hiram was a photograph that he had taken for her during their stay in Boston.

In October of 1862, stricken with grief over her illness and the separation from her husband, Fannie returned to her home state of Alabama to spend her last days. Hiram took the train up to get Fannie and Alice MacGill, daughter of Dr. MacGill. Alice had agreed to accompany them back. At first Fannie was taken to the home of her father in Tuscaloosa where she remained for several months. When the end was near, Hiram took leave from the brigade at Port Hudson and moved her to Providence Hospital in Mobile.

Fannie finally succumbed to death on March 20, 1863, eleven days before what would have been her 5th wedding anniversary. She was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in a large plot purchased by the Redmond family. Due to poverty brought about by prison life, there was no money for a headstone. The young wife was laid to rest in an unmarked grave and literally forgotten over the course of time.

Following Fannie's death, Col. Granbury returned to Port Hudson then on to Raymond, Mississippi, where he led the 7th Texas Infantry in the Battle of Raymond. His constant cohort on and off the battlefield was General John Gregg. More than anyone, this old friend knew the extent of Granbury's personal loss.

Even though the Battle of Raymond was a disaster for the Confederate forces, Col. Granbury performed brilliantly. He continued on to Chickamauga where he was wounded by a bullet that struck his lower abdomen. On February 29, 1864, he was commissioned brigadier general- an honor that his wife had not lived to see. Nine months later Granbury led his brigade in the Battle of Franklin and was killed in action. Initially Brig. Gen. H. B. Granbury was buried near the battlefield but later he was re-interred at the Ashwood Cemetery south of Columbia, Tennessee. In 1893, his body was exhumed and re-interred in Granbury, Texas, a town named in his honor.

Since 1893, General Granbury has been hailed a hero and his grave viewed annually by thousands of visitors. On the other hand, for 139 years, Fannie Sims Granbury has been resting in an unmarked grave hundreds of miles away, completely forgotten. The only tangible reminder of Fannie is a death notice dated March 21, 1863: "DIED on yesterday, at 11 o'clock A. M., Mrs. Fannie Granbury, aged 25 years. Wife of Col. H. B. Granbury, 7th Regiment Texas Infantry. The funeral will take place from the Providence Infirmary, at 3 o'clock P. M. TODAY."

The shroud of mystery has finally been lifted. Fannie Granbury was not left behind to die in a cold and hostile northern state - a victim of war, as once was believed. The young wife was simply a victim of a tragic fate and the heartbreaking circumstances of the time.

Sources: Compiled Service Records for the State of Texas;  Obituary of Mrs. Fannie Granbury in Mobile Advertiser and Register, March 21, 1863 (discovered in January 2002); Intrepid Gray Warriors, 7th Texas Infantry 1861-1865 by James NewsomForce Without Fanfare, Reminiscences of Gen. K. M. VanZandt; 1862 letters of Dr. and Mrs. Charles MacGill, courtesy of Duke University; and The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 24.

Credit for finding the burial site and obituary of Fannie Sims Granbury goes to: Edward Lanham, Brooks, Georgia; Mary Eddins Johnson, Mobile, Alabama and Jane Embrose, descendant of Gen. Granbury. Lanham researched cemetery records in Baltimore, Mobile and Waco and located the body. Johnson researched the archives and Mobile and found the death records as well as the obituary.


Related Links

The Search For Fannie Sims Granbury: Wife of Brigadier General Hiram B. Granbury
Seventh Texas Infantry: Generals John Gregg and Hiram Granbury
General Hiram B. Granbury/Granberry Genealogy
A Misleading Headstone Leads to the Search for General Hiram B. Granbury

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