Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
List of Illustrations
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My interest in writing about the Civil War in Tennessee originated with my discovering its indelible impact upon the whole war in the West. To a lesser degree I am fascinated with the struggle there being “a true civil war” of neighbor against neighbor and occasionally brother against brother. Finally, I already had some familiarity...
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Introduction: Context and Circumstances
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Of all the states of the Confederacy, Tennessee was the most sectionally divided. East Tennesseans opposed secession at the ballot box in February 1861 and again in June, then in a show of solidarity through conventions in May at Knoxville and in June at Greeneville, where they petitioned for separate statehood. While the government...
Part 1: Beginnings
1. The First Year
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Only a few companies of Tennessee Union cavalry organized during the first year after the state seceded. Federal forces did not occupy parts of Middle and West Tennessee until winter 1862, and loyal companies did not form in those sections until that summer. East Tennessee remained in Confederate hands until the second half of...
2. Regiments in the Making
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Most would-be cavalrymen at Cumberland Gap, where Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan concentrated his division in June 1862, lacked horses. Initially Morgan, commanding the Seventh Division, Army of the Ohio, armed these recruits with “old Harper’s Ferry muskets” until Belgian muskets arrived. The Tennesseans drilled...
3. Unready for Battle
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The day after Christmas 1862, Stanley’s cavalry brigades supported Rosecrans’s three-pronged infantry movement toward Murfreesboro. They provided the advance, guarded the flanks, and protected the supply lines. Minty’s First Brigade moved cautiously before Thomas L. Crittenden’s corps on the Murfreesboro Pike, Zahm’s Second...
4. Between the Battles
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General Bragg regrouped his battered Army of Tennessee on January 3, 1863, at Tullahoma on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, thirty-five miles southeast of the Stones River battlefield. General Rosecrans encamped his Army of the Cumberland in and around Murfreesboro, with some supporting troops at Nashville and outposts along...
Part 2: Middle Tennessee and Beyond
5. Out of Murfreesboro
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Following Stones River, General Bragg at Tullahoma spread his front twenty miles south of Murfreesboro along a railroad branch running west from Wartrace to Shelbyville. With cavalry on his flanks as well as providing couriers, pickets, and scouts, his infantry protected four passes through the Highland Rim. General Rosecrans remained...
6. The Chattanooga Campaign
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General Stanley reorganized his Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Cumberland in June 1863 into two divisions: Brig. Gen. Robert B. Mitchell’s First Division and Brig. Gen. George Crook’s Second Division. The first three Tennessee regiments served in Mitchell’s division, and Stokes’s 5th served in Minty’s “saber brigade” of Crook’s division...
7. Into East Tennessee
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In spring 1863 Lincoln appointed Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of Ohio with orders to move from Kentucky into East Tennessee and then turn down into the Tennessee Valley to link up with Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland. Attorney Robert A. Crawford of Greeneville, whom Burnside sent to gather...
8. The Cumberlands
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At Tracy City in September 1863, Col. William B. Stokes of the 5th Tennessee expressed regrets to Governor Johnson for having to abandon what he called “my section of [the] country.” Stokes accused the 22nd Tennessee Infantry’s Lt. Col. Thomas B. Murray, a Sparta attorney detached with two hundred men to recruit and mount his...
9. Mounted Infantry
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Congressman Andrew J. Clements of Macon County urged Governor Johnson in November 1862 to have twelve-month soldiers recruited in the Cumberland River valley. Having taken refuge in Kentucky in 1861, the physician, who knew the situation on both sides of the river, proposed establishing a camp “near Carthage or Gainesboro.” Because...
Part 3: West Tennessee and Beyond
10. West Tennessee during 1863
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In 1863 no battles worthy of the name happened in West Tennessee or northernmost Mississippi, but thirty-six skirmishes occurred in those sections. From the perspective of the Federals, these resulted from three objectives: protection of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad running almost between the two sections, suppression of Rebel...
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In December 1863 Brig. Gen. William Sooy Smith, chief of cavalry for the Army of the Tennessee, selected Col. Daniel M. Ray’s brigade (2nd, 3rd, and 4th Tennessee) as part of an expedition into the interior of Mississippi to be coordinated with a raid by General Sherman farther south. Smith’s 7,000 cavalry men, taken from his corps of...
12. Union City
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In mid-March 1864 General Forrest, hoping to increase his army by collecting deserters, conscripts, and coming-of-age volunteers, left Mississippi on an expedition into West Tennessee and western Kentucky. Along the way he would seize supplies and horses, disrupt the enemy’s lines of communication, and boost civilian morale by...
13. Fort Pillow
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By August 1863, Indiana officers from Fort Pillow found “hundreds sku[l]king in the woods—in the Counties of Lauderdale—Dyer—Tipton, and Haywood—ready and eager to go in the service” of the Union army. At occupied Union City, attorney William F. Bradford had enlisted a home guard devoted to “driving out guerrillas.” In late...
Part 4: The Atlanta Campaign
14. North of Atlanta
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As part of Col. Joseph B. Dorr’s First Brigade (1st Tennessee, 2nd Michigan, and 8th Iowa) of McCook’s division, James Brownlow’s regiment guarded Sherman’s flanks during the march to Atlanta from May to July 1864. In what seemed to be one continuous skirmish, his boys fought at such places as Varnell’s Station, Cassville, Acworth, and...
15. Two Cavalry Raids
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When Atlanta proved difficult to capture, Sherman decided to bombard it and to cut its railroad links from Montgomery, Macon, and Augusta. Maj. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau, eager to exchange his Nashville desk job as commander of the District of Tennessee for some action, offered his services to Sherman to cut the Montgomery...
16. Wheeler on the Railroads
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Following the defeat of McCook’s cavalry south of Atlanta, Hood ordered Wheeler to “break the [rail] roads running from Nashville.” He also requested that Generals Forrest and Roddey, then in Mississippi and Alabama, attack the same two railroads. Wheeler’s command for the raid consisted of five thousand horsemen...
17. Forrest on the Railroads
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As Sherman approached Atlanta in June 1864, he wrote his cavalry commander in Tennessee, General Sooy Smith, that Gillem’s division should prevent Forrest from crossing the Tennessee River in Alabama. But at a minimum he expected Gillem’s homegrown Yankees to be “in motion” in the seventy-five miles “between Columbia and...
Part 5: The Nashville Campaign
18. North to Nashville
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When Sherman occupied Atlanta on September 2, Hood remained below the city. In early October he circled clockwise around the Union army. Sherman countered by shuffling detachments to North Georgia and Chattanooga. He deployed Thomas with his Army of the Cumberland to assume command in Middle Tennessee of a...
19. The Battle of Nashville
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The Nashville of 1864 sat entirely in the bend of the Cumberland River. Two lines of defense ran in semicircles roughly two miles apart, cutting across the main pikes from west to east: the Charlotte, Harding, Hillsboro, Granny White, Franklin, Nolensville, and Murfreesboro. Within the interior defense line stood three main forts and...
Part 6: East Tennessee and Beyond
20. Bulls Gap
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On February 18, 1864, the 13th Tennessee arrived from Kentucky and camped at Camp Gillem, a mile northwest of Nashville. Forty new recruits joined them the next day, bringing reports of suffering from upper East Tennessee. The regiment spent several days raising “big ‘Bell’ tents.” These “old smoker[s]” with a stove in the middle, wrote...
21. The Saltworks
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Following the flight from Bulls Gap, Gillem’s cavalry encamped back at Knoxville. Both Gillem’s and Ingerton’s wives resided at the Franklin House. Twenty-four-year-old Joshua H. Walker of Maryville—a former lieutenant of Company D, 2nd Tennessee—entered the hotel on November 25. He was armed, intoxicated, and seeking revenge...
22. Stoneman's Last Raid
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Following the Saltville raid, Miller’s brigade of the 8th, 9th, and 13th Tennessee camped just east of Knoxville. Some men died from exposure experienced during that expedition; others resigned because they “felt uneasy about . . . affairs at home.” Because of these losses the brigade recruited and reorganized. Its men erected winter quarters...
23. Final Months
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Governor Johnson called a statewide convention at the capitol on January 9, 1865. (It had been announced earlier for the “third Monday in December” but postponed because of Hood’s march on the city.) More than five hundred delegates from sixty counties, some clad in army blue, attended. Because of the revolutionary circumstances...
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The location of a Tory cavalryman’s residence determined to a large degree why he joined the Union army. He was far more likely to become a Union trooper if he hailed from one of four predominantly white sections of the state: East Tennessee, the Cumberland counties of Middle Tennessee, the Tennessee River counties of the western half...
Epilogue: Pride, Politics, and Pensions
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The Union army mustered out all of its Volunteer State cavalry during summer 1865 except for the 12th Tennessee at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which did not muster out until in October. For the cavalry, the war wound down rather than abruptly ending. Mopping up rogue enemy forces had to be done, order restored, and...
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Page Count: 464
Publication Year: 2009