Brigadier General States Rights Gist was a descendant of Marylander, Gen. Mordecai Gist, who distinguished himself at the battle of Camden in 1780, and at the Combahee in 1782 during the American Revolution, and subsequently resided at Charleston, S.C. At his death Mordecai left two sons who bore names exemplifying his views, and most views of Americans of that time, concerning their status as a free people among the nations of the world. His sons were Independent Gist and States Rights Gist.
Having been born in Union, South Carolina on September 3, 1831, States Rights Gist graduated from South Carolina College, before attending Harvard University Law School. After graduation he returned to South Carolina where he practiced law.
In 1859, Gist became involved in the state militia, rising to brigadier general. In this capacity he trained and prepared his fellow South Carolinians for the war that would soon come. When his native state seceded from the Union, he worked as state adjutant and inspector general, whose responsibility it was to acquire arms for the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Gist then served as a volunteer aide to General Bee, and at the critical moment in the first battle of Manassas. The day after this battle, Bee was killed and Gist stepped in as temporary commander of his brigade.
When Gen. J. E. Johnston rode to the front with the colors of the Fourth Alabama at his side, Beauregard relates that "noticing Col. S. R. Gist, an aide to General Bee, a young man whom I had known as adjutant-general of South Carolina, and whom I greatly esteemed, I presented him as an able and brave commander to the stricken regiment, who cheered their new leader, and maintained under him to the end of the day, their previous gallant behavior." Gist was wounded in this action, but he subsequently resumed his duties as adjutant-general, organizing South Carolina troops for the war, until in March, 1862, he was commissioned brigadier-general in the Confederate service, and ordered to report to General Pemberton, then in command of the department. He was after this on duty on the South Carolina coast, in command east of James island in June, on that island from July; temporarily in command of the first district, and in December, 1862, in command of the troops ordered to the relief of Wilmington, until May, 1863, when he was ordered to take command of a brigade and go to the assistance of General Pemberton in Mississippi. Reaching Jackson his command formed part of the troops under J. E. Johnston, took part in the engagement of May 14th at Jackson, marched to the Big Black river just before the surrender of Vicksburg, and then returning to Jackson was besieged by Sherman. His brigade comprised the Forty-sixth Georgia, Fourteenth Mississippi and Twenty-fourth South Carolina, the Sixteenth South Carolina soon afterward being substituted for the Mississippi regiment, and was assigned to the division of Gen. W. H. T. Walker. He fought gallantly at Chickamauga, commanding during part of the battle Ector's and Wilson's brigades, his own brigade being led by Colonel Colquitt, and on Sunday commanding Walker's division. At an important stage of the fight Gen. D. H. Hill called for Gist's brigade for dangerous duty, in the performance of which it suffered severely. He continued in conspicuous and valuable service; during the battle of Missionary Ridge commanded Walker's division, and throughout the Atlanta campaign of 1864 was identified with that division.
After the fall of General Walker he was transferred to Cheatham's division, which he commanded for some time during the fall campaign of that year. At the terribly destructive battle of Franklin, Tenn., he was one of the noblest of the brave men whose lives were sacrificed. On November 30, 1864, attended by Capt. H. D. Garden and Lieut. Frank Trenholm, of his staff, he rode down the front, and after ordering the charge and waving his hat to the Twenty-fourth, rode away in the smoke of battle, never more to be seen by the men he had commanded on so many fields. His horse was shot, and he was leading the right of the brigade on foot when he fell, pierced through the heart. Gist was one of six Confederate generals to die this day.
Gist’s remains were burled on the 10th of May 1866, in the Trinity Church Grave Yard, Col'a, South Carolina.