Marcellus Pointer was the youngest son of Dr. David Pointer, a wealthy planter who moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, from North Carolina in 1843, two years after Marcellus was born. Shortly before the war began, he enlisted in the Mississippi state militia, but once his one-year hitch ended he joined Colonel Joseph Wheeler’s staff as an aide-de-camp.
On October 19, 1862, then-Lieutenant Pointer was wounded in a rear-guard skirmish at Wildcat, Ky., as Wheeler, now commanding the cavalry of General Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi, was covering Bragg’s retreat from the Battle of Perryville. A year later, during a raid by Wheeler into northern Alabama, Pointer shot a Union color-bearer. When the color-bearer continued to run, Pointer shot him again and seized his colors.
Pointer continued to serve with Wheeler for another year. On December 28, 1863, as Wheeler attacked a Federal wagon train about to cross the Hiawassee River near Charleston, Tenn., he and his young aide-de-camp rode into a trap. Somehow the brigadier general managed to escape before the Northerners captured him, but Pointer was forced to surrender. Later, while he was being guarded by two Federal soldiers, Pointer pulled out a concealed pistol and shot one guard before escaping.
Pointer was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 12th Alabama Cavalry during the summer of 1864. He was gravely wounded in February 1865 during a skirmish in South Carolina. While recovering at home in Holly Springs, he surrendered on April 23 and was paroled on June 9.
In October 1865, Pointer married Willie Anna Mayer. According to family legend, he subsequently spent an undetermined amount of time in exile in either Mexico or South America, for an unspecified reason. He returned to Mississippi in 1870.
When Marcellus Pointer died in 1909— in a Bowery hotel in New York City—he had less than 50 cents in his pocket. A few days earlier he had pawned a medal that had been presented to him by the Confederate government. His body was transported to Memphis and buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
Marcellus Pointer was Terry Baker’s great-great-grandfather’s nephew.
Originally published in the October 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.