JOHN BURRUSS SALE
BIOGRAPHY and GENEALOGY
Lawrence County, Alabama
(Personal Comments about John Burruss Sales are from James Edmound Saunders who knew him)
John Burruss Sale was the fifth Lawrence County Court Judge. He was born in Amherst County, Virginia in Jun 7, 1818. He descended from Captain John Sale who was an officer in the Revolutionary army and served for seven years. “Alexander Sale, his father, was a minister of the Methodist Church, of sound judgment, but deficient imagination; and his mother was a Burruss, gifted with genius, imagination and wit.”
Rev. Alexander Sale moved to Lawrence County from Virginia around 1821 along with other Virginians by the name of Butler, Booth, Jones, Norment and Fitezgerald. They all resided in the neighborhood of Courtland, Lawrence County, Alabama.
John entered La Grange College in 1835 under the Presidency of Bishop Robert Payne and being well advanced in his studies, graduated with the highest honors in 1837. He studied law in Courtland and began the practice of law in Moulton in the year 1839. By the end of 1840, he was elected judge.
John B. Sale decided to move to Aberdeen, Mississippi in 1848 and immediately formed a partnership with John Goodwin, which lasted until Mr. Goodwin’s death in 1854. James Phelan joined the firm in 1852 or 1853 under the firm name “Goodwin, Sale & Phelan;” The firm did a very large business from the beginning.
After the war, W. F. Dowd was added to the partnership. This firm, probably combining more talent than any other in the State, did an immense business during the lawyer’s ‘harvest” after the war, which lasted to about 1874. Some years after Judge Phelan removed to Memphis; Sale & Dowd continued their partnership up to a few months before Sale’s death, in 1876. After this dissolution, Sale and E. H. Bristow (a talented young lawyer) became partners.
Colonel Sale ranked with the best lawyers in the State. He was always methodical and systematic in his profession, private and domestic affairs. “Colonel Dowd, once speaking of Sale, likened him to a great steamboat – slow to go about and start, but when once under way irresistible and fast.”
When the war was imminent and inevitable, Sale determined that he would go into service. He assisted in raising a company of infantry, 111 men, and was elected captain. They along with other companies constituted the Fifth Mississippi Battalion of Infantry; went first to Mobile and thence to Pensacola. Later Sale’s command was one of the eleven companies of the Twenty-seventh Mississippi Infantry. His connection with the Twenty-seventh ceased after the Kentucky campaign when Bragg appointed him head of the Department of Military Justice( Judge Advocate General).
After Bragg was removed from the Army of Tennessee, Sale applied for a judgeship on the military court of Hood’s Corps, and was appointed. He served in this position for several months until President Davis selected Bragg as his advisor at Richmond. Bragg urged Sale to accept the position as his chief of staff and Sale remained with Bragg “to the bitter end.”
Colonel Sale was married four times. First to Susan Turner Sykes Dec. 8, 1843 in Limestone County, Alabama, the daughter of Dr. William Sykes of North Alabama and they had one child, Dr. Eugene Paul Sale.(b. 1845 Aberdeen, MS)
He then married Miss Louisa C. Leigh of Columbus, Mississippi. They had one daughter Mary C. Sale.
“Sale was anything than a negative character; he was capable of the strongest attachments, and indefatigable in his services to his friends. He was outspoken as to the foibles of those who claimed his attention, and sometimes impatient with those who differed from him. As for his enemies- well they didn’t love him. His intellect was massive, and of the order analytical. Few men could unravel a complication so successfully, or use the reconstructed material so powerfully. His devotion to method and system, as applied to the business of his life, was without change. Nothing could hurry him into disorder. All matters of professional business, domestic business, his arguments at the bar, and his books of account, were the subjects of careful arrangement. Notwithstanding these strong traits and habits, he was sentimental. No one enjoyed romance more than he, and he loved poetry, if it was of the emotional kind; his theory on this subject was that the mission of poetry was to make us feel; that to write of commonplace things, or demonstrate mathematics in verse, was a thundering humbug! Can do it far more pleasantly in prose. He delighted in humor, broad or narrow, and was himself a considerable sit, and was (sorry to say it) much given to “punning.” Utterly without policy, he couldn’t help rasping his best friends sometimes, when they “stood fair.”
Sale’s knowledge of the English language, and his use of it, was remarkable; as a letter writer, he was unexcelled; his friendly correspondence combined the force and point of a man’s with the ease and gossip of a woman’s pen. As a draftsman of business or legal papers, he was considered a model; and great talent for making difficult and complicated subjects read smoothly, in spite of the cant and rugged technicalities which seem indispensable to such writing. A friend (not a lawyer) once suggested that his papers were just a little prolix; he contended, however, that as ink and paper were cheap you had better bear the tautology and run the risk of obscurity.
Before the war Sale had accumulated an ample fortune, but nearly all of it consisted of promises-to-pay and uncollected fees; of course, like others, he lost nearly all, and when the war was over had but little beside his residence and law office. He, however, left his family independent, if not rich, at his death.
His careful forethought was not less remarkable than his uniformly methodical habits. In speaking of these, I might have mentioned many amusing incidents; instance his purchase of the alarm clock for arousing Gus, a sleepy-headed servant, at a certain time in the morning. He was single, and occupied a room adjoining his office. Gus slept in this office,and usually made his bed under a large table in front of the fire. The clock was started, duly explained, and the alarm set for day break next morning. Now, in order that Gus should have a proper sense of this clock, Sale got up a few minutes before alarm time, and stood ready with a long red cowhide; sharp to the minute, “she went off,” when the cowhide joined the reveille. Gus, tremendously stampeded, bounced up with the big table right on top of his head; the table fell first on one corner, and after one or two ricochets, landed bottom upward at the back door. Such a scatteration of briefs, private correspondence, inks (red, black and copying),postage stamps and kerosene lamps! Augustus thereafter, about daybreak slept like the mink, with one eye open.
One of Sale’s maxims was, that a soldier should always be prepared and ready for victory as well as for defeat, especially for those sudden emergencies, when there is no time to pack up your things. True to his principles, at the beginning, he had a very large pair of saddle-bags made (the biggest in the army) and in them he kept a complete soldier’s outfit; these bags were never used, or even opened, except for the purpose of better arrangement of the outfit, which he kept ready at hand during the entire war. Fortunately, there was no occasion to test the true value of the saddle-bags.”
John B. Sale died January 24, 1876 Aberdeen, Monroe, Mississippi.
- Saunders, Col. James Edmonds, Lawrence County, Ala. EARLY SETTLERS OF ALABAMA, NOTES AND GENEALOGIES, by his granddaughter Elizabeth Saunders Blair Stubbs, New Orleans, LA. 1899, p. 62 and 63
- Saunders, Col. James Edmonds (personal note – my brother Col. William H. Saunders was reared near Judge Sale – was his college mate – lived near him at Aberdeen- helped him to raise his company in the late war – was his messmate until he was transferred to Richmond- succeeded him as military judge of Bragg’s corps, and at my request, has furnished me with the sketch of his career from the time he left Alabama.
- Reminiscences of Public Men by William Garrett 1872
- My Brother, Col. William H. Saunders, of Mississippi, his life-long friend, who also served with him in the Military Court of Hood’s army, in transmitting this sketch, says “You will of course use it as so much raw material for making up your article for publication.” I have taken the liberty of inserting it, just as he wrote it.
- Family tree – Ancestry.com for death date. 6.1860 Aberdeen, Mississippi US census 7.Find A Grave Memorial # 112568964 # 12915357# 112775249# 112773505 # 112750435#112764551 # 112765218 112569358
This biography is included in the E-Book Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Volume II and in First Families of Lawrence County, Alabama Volume I
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