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Gabriel J. Rains
June 4, 1803(1803-06-04) – September 6, 1881 (aged 78)
Gabriel James Rains.jpg
Nickname The Bomb Brothers (with his brother George Washington Rains)
Place of birth New Bern, North Carolina
Place of death Aiken, South Carolina
Place of burial Saint Thaddeus Cemetery
Aiken, South Carolina
Allegiance United States of America
Confederate States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Confederate Army
Years of service 1827–61 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
Rank brev. Brigadier General (USA)
Brigadier General (CSA)
Battles/wars Seminole War
Mexican War
Indian Wars
American Civil War

Gabriel James Rains (June 4, 1803 – September 6, 1881) was a career United States Army officer and a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.


Early life

Gabriel James Rains was born in June 1803 in New Bern, North Carolina to cabinetmaker Gabriel Manigault Rains and Ester Ambrose. His younger brother, George Washington Rains, was also a brigadier general in the Georgia Militia, and the two were known as "the Bomb Brothers" for their creation and use of land mines, torpedoes, booby traps, and other explosives. Rains graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1827, 13th in his class. Among his classmates were Leonidas Polk, Napoleon Bonaparte Buford, and Philip St. George Cooke.[1]

Military career

Early photo in US Army uniform

Upon graduation, Rains was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry. Rains served in the Seminole Wars and was promoted to captain on December 25, 1837, and brevetted major on April 28, 1840, for his service against the Seminoles near Fort King, Florida, where he routed a superior force, and was twice severely wounded. One of his wounds was considered mortal, and several obituary notices of him were published, however he survived the wounds. Rains took part in the Mexican War and was engaged in the defense of Fort Brown in May 1846. When General Pedro de Ampudia demanded the surrender of the fort, Rains cast the deciding vote against surrender in a council of officers. Following the Battle of Resaca de la Palma he was ordered to the United States on recruiting duty, and organized a large part of the recruits for General Winfield Scott's campaign. Rains was promoted to major of regulars on March 9, 1851, and from 1853 until the Civil War he served on the Pacific Coast, where he took part in the Indian Wars. In 1855 he was brevetted to brigadier general of Washington Territory volunteers. Rain was the commanding officer of Fort Humboldt from 1856 through 1860. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel of regulars on June 5, 1860, but resigned his commission on July 31, 1861, and joined the Confederate States Army, in which he was commissioned a brigadier general.[1]

Civil War

Rains led a division at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, and fought at the battles of Shiloh and Perryville. Rains was wounded during the Battle of Seven Pines, and was singled out by Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill for a successful flanking maneuver that turned the tide of battle in favor of the Confederates. Rains was then placed in command of the conscription and torpedo bureaus at Richmond. He organized the system of torpedoes and mines that protected the harbors of Charleston, Savannah, Mobile and other port cities, and invented an early land mine that was successfully used in battle.[1]


Land mines

The development of the first modern mechanically fused high explosive anti-personnel land mines was attributed to Rains during the Battle of Yorktown in 1862.[2] (As a Captain, Rains had earlier employed explosive booby traps during the Seminole Wars in Florida in 1840.[3]) Both mechanically and electrically fused "land torpedoes" were employed, although by the end of the war, mechanical fuses had been found to be generally more reliable. Many of these designs were improvised in the field, especially from explosive shells, but by the end of the civil war, nearly 2,000 standard pattern "Rains mines" had been deployed.

Post-War and death

Following the end of the war, Rains resided for some time at Augusta, Georgia, but later moved to Aiken, South Carolina where he died from his wounds from the Seminole Wars.[1]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d A Civil War Biography - Gabriel James Rains
  2. ^ The Origins of Military Mines, Major William C. Schneck, Engineer Bulletin July 1998
  3. ^ HISTORICAL USES OF anti-personnel LANDMINES: IMPACT ON LAND FORCE OPERATIONS, Roger L. Roy and Shaye K. Friesen, Department of National Defense, Canada, October 1999


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