Moxley Sorrel & His Military Moxie



With the removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina’s State House grounds, the subject of the Civil War and the Confederacy has recently been in the news. No matter where you side on the issue, there’s no denying that the Confederate army was chock full of funny names, from Jubal Early to Bushrod Johnson to Vestal Coffin. Fabulous!

But today’s funny-named fellow of note is Moxley Sorrel, Brigadier-General in the “Provisional Army of the Confederate States,” aka The South. Born to one of Savannah’s wealthiest businessman and a mother from the famous Virginia Moxleys, Gilbert Moxley Sorrel was destined to shine. His childhood home was called the Sorrel Weed House (not a drug den). In fact, I do declare that it is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the entire United States. And to be clear–sorrel is a perennial herb. The tart, lemony flavor can be used for salads, soups, and sauces.


In 1861, the 23-year-old Sorrel left his job as a bank clerk and entered the Confederate Army as a private, reporting to Brigadier-General James Longstreet (yes, they were both ultimately B.G.’s, not to be confused with Bee Gees). Longstreet wrote that the young Sorrel “came into the battle as gaily as a beau, and seemed to receive orders which threw him into more exposed positions with particular delight.” Indeed, he rather fancied getting his war on. Later that year, he made captain, and was promoted to major the following year.


By 1864, big-bam-boom, he became a B.G. Wounded in two battles, Sorrel survived the War Between The States with the reputation as one of the best staff officers in the Confederacy. 

But his talents as a writer rivaled his talents on the battlefield. Sorrel wrote Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer, published posthumously in 1905, full of wonderful characterizations of fellow officers.

Of the night he met Ulysses S. Grant (originally Hiram Ulysses Grant), the 18th President of the United States (and the dude on your $50 bill), he wrote:

Grant was in excellent form, looked well and talked well; his glass was not touched. Fresh from his tour around the world he had much to say. He had been deeply interested in Japan and talked incisively of that wonderful country, really a monologue of a full hour, the table intent and absorbed in the fresh observations that fell from him. Then it became time for his departure to meet a public appointment, and we rose to bow him out. Resuming our seats and attention to the old Madeiras, we agreed that for a silent man Grant was about the most interesting one we had recently found.

By the way, the “old Madeiras” was a fine wine. For more than 150 years, no other wine rivaled it in the eyes of connoisseurs. Every public event—from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to George Washington’s Inauguration—was toasted with a glass of Madeira (per


Sorrel died in the summer of 1901, but the Sorrel Weed House is still open for public tours, should you so desire.

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23 Responses to Moxley Sorrel & His Military Moxie

  1. Dave says:

    As gaily as a beau? That sounds fantastic!

    I’m duly impressed by these Confederate names! We’ve covered a Bushrod and a Coffin here before, but never a Moxley, nor a Sorrel, nor anyone with a weed house!

    As for the weed house, given that I know nothing about Greek revival architecture in the US, I’m just going to take your word for it that the weed house is one of the finest examples of it!

    • kerbey says:

      Surely you know about the last phase in the development of Neoclassical architecture? No, I don’t either. But just one word: columns. That’s what it is. Columns. Like “Gone With The Wind,” I bet…

      • Dave says:

        No, but I took an art history class back in the day and learned some fancy words like “Doric and Ionic”… so that I can impress people who know less than I do (which means less than one thing) about columns.

        Just for fun… or not fun… I’m not really sure… there are many many types of columns, you know, for people who are into that kind of thing –

  2. Dave says:

    Random thoughts:

    Old Madeira sounds like good fun!

    I’d love to hear Moxley and his B.G’s perform some classics by the Brothers Gibb!

    Does anyone else find the lips on that seed packet totally unnecessary and kind of creepy?

    4 years of funny names blogging and we still haven’t covered Hiram Ulysses Simpson Grant….*makes mental note*

    • kerbey says:

      Totally thinking that same thought. Hiram is pretty boss. Yes, the lips are icky, as are the lips in “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I think the song to sing would be “Night Fever” but sung as “Scarlet Fever,” but then again, General Longstreet lost THREE children to it in the span of one week, if I recall. So maybe a bad idea. I need to find a meme that says “Go into battle as gaily as a beau.” Who knew beaus were so gay?

      • Dave says:

        Haha, I certainly didn’t – but I just googled “beau” and apparently the second definition is: “a rich, fashionable young man; a dandy” and the synonyms are “dandy” and “fop.” I long for the days when people would exclaim “What a foppish beau!”

        As for Scarlet Fever, it’s not pleasant… I just learned about it in microbiology (it’s an exotoxin-mediated complication of strep pyogenes, which is one of the more common bugs that cause strep throat) – a yucky red rash, and a “strawberry tongue” that looks nothing like a strawberry. It used to be a major killer, but is sensitive to even the most basic antibiotics, so yay medicine!

  3. midlifemeg says:

    Good one. I learned something and laughed, too. I loved the Sorrell Weed House and all your Southern fluff-language.

    And Dave, I hate lip prints. Real ones, cartoony ones…all super gross to me.

  4. Arto says:

    My favorite part was the sidenote about the culinary uses of sorrel. I don’t know why, but it made me chuckle, and as they say, “a chuckle a day keeps the doctor at bay”. There were multiple chuckles in this article, so I think the doc’s going to be stuck at the bay for a while.

    So much goodness, great names, and a rarity in BoFN writing : a tourist attraction tip.

  5. wdydfae says:

    I knew this had to be Kerbey as soon as I hit the Bee Gees quip. Klassik Kerbee!

  6. ksbeth says:

    great names and i would like to name my next pet, ‘bushrod.

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