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File:Randal William McGavock.jpeg

Lt. Col. Randal William McGavock

Randal William McGavock (1826-1863) was an American Democratic politician, Southern planter, and Confederate Lt. Colonel.[1][2][3][4][5][6] He served as the Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee from 1858 to 1859.[1][2][3][5][6]


Early life

He was born on August 10, 1826 in Nashville.[1][3][5][6] He was a fourth-generation Irish-American.[3] His paternal grandfather was Randal McGavock (1766-1843), who served as Mayor of Nashville from 1824 to 1825 and owned the Carnton plantation.[3] His father, Jacob McGavock, fought in the Creek War of 1813-1814 with Andrew Jackson.[1][3][5] His maternal grandfather was Felix Grundy (1775-1840), U.S. Congressman from Tennessee from 1829 to 1838 and 13th United States Attorney General from 1838 to 1840.[3] His mother was Louisa Caroline (Grundy) McGavock.[1][5] He attended a private academy, The Classical and Mathematical Seminary run by Professor Moses Stevens in Nashville, which closed down in 1846.[5] From 1843 to 1846, he attended the University of Nashville.[3][5] In 1847, he enrolled at the Harvard Law School, where he was active in the debating club called Kent Club and the Moot court.[3][4][5] He received his law degree from the Harvard Law School in 1849.[3][5][7] He then went on a twenty-month tour of Europe, Asia and Africa.[3][5] He wrote articles about his experiences abroad for the Daily Nashville Union and published them in a book in 1854.[3]


Upon his return from Europe, he worked as a lawyer in Nashville.[3] He joined the A.O.M.C., a fraternal organization whose members wore black robes and hoods during ceremonies.[3] He also oversaw his family plantations in Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.[3]

He was active in the Tennessee Democratic Party.[3] For example, he canvassed for James Buchanan in the 1856 campaign.[3] He served as Mayor of Nashville from 1858 to 1859.[1][2][6] He had won the election thanks to the Irish vote.[3] In 1860, he campaigned for John C. Breckinridge.[3] He was a strong proponent of states's rights.[3]

Prior to the American Civil War of 1861-1865, he established a militia in Tennessee among the Irish.[3] Meanwhile, his wife founded the Ladies Soldiers' Friend Society, a patriotic group that included Sarah Childress Polk, the widow of President James Polk (1795-1849).[3] During the war, he served as Lt. Colonel of the 10th Tennessee C.S.A. in the Confederate States Army.[1] He bought their uniforms.[3] In 1861, he was imprisoned in Fort Warren on Georges Island in Massachusetts for five months.[4] In 1862, he resumed the fight.[4] However, he was killed in the Battle of Raymond near Raymond, Mississippi on May 12, 1863.[1][4][5][6][7]

Personal life

He married Seraphina Deery in 1855.[1][5] He was first buried in Raymond, but his sister Ann and her husband, Judge Henry Dickenson made arrangements for the body to be brought to their home in Columbus, Mississippi.[3] Finally, on St. Patrick's Day, 1866, he was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville during a ceremony conducted by the Masons.[1][3]


His portrait was painted by Washington Bogart Cooper (1802-1888) circa 1850.[8]


Primary source

  • Randal William McGavock, A Tennessean Abroad (1854).[3][5]

Secondary source

  • Jack Allen, The Diary of Randal William McGavock, 1852-1862: An Interpretation of a Period (George Peabody College for Teachers, 1941).[5]


Political offices
Preceded by
John A. McEwen
Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee
Succeeded by
Samuel N. Hollingsworth

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