11th Tn Cavalry Battalion
6th (1st) Tn Cavalry Regiment
Colonel William Wallace Gordon's 11th Tennessee Cavalry
Battalion was officially organized on January 8, 1862,
composed of six companies, including two from Giles
County. At that time there were no cavalry commands large
enough to be accepted into service as a regiment. Giles
Countians served in this battalion:
Company A - Captain James T. Wheeler, organized December 9, 1861, men from Giles County.
Company B - Captain William Wallace Gordon, organized December 10, 1861, men from Giles County. Captain Gordon was promoted to the command of the battalion and replaced by Captain W. H. Abernathy.
This battalion of cavalry was a short-lived organization and very little is known about its activities. This battalion was attached to the brigade commanded by Brigadier General W. H. Carroll of General Zollicoffer's command, with whom it was regularly on duty, and retired with Johnston's army to Corinth, Mississippi. It participated in the battle of Shiloh, and was on outpost duty and scout services during all the arduous campaign from Shiloh to Corinth. On April 28, 1862, the battalion, with 32 officers, 357 men present for duty, 408 present, and 469 present and absent, was reported in Brigadier General William N. R. Beall's Brigade, in the Army of Mississippi, at Corinth, Mississippi.
In May, 1862, at Corinth, Mississippi, the 2nd (Biffle's) and 11th (Gordon's) Tennessee Cavalry Battalions were consolidated to form the 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. However, there was already a 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment in the Confederate Army and the official designation of this regiment was changed to the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. It continued to be known as the 1st Tennessee Cavalry in the field throughout the war, causing much confusion in its records.
The 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment was first commanded by Colonel Jacob Biffle. At the organization of the regiment, Lieutenant Colonel William Wallace Gordon was assigned to duty as Lieutenant Colonel, but declined the position and resigned his commission. The two companies of men from Giles County were now designated:
Company H - (formerly Co. B, 11th Bn) Captain Robert N. Jones.
Company K - (formerly Co. A, 11th Bn) Captain William O. Bennett.
The regiment was cut off by the Federal forces when General Bragg evacuated Corinth in May, 1862, but cut it's way through and followed the army to Tupelo, Mississippi, and on July 21, 1862, was assigned to the Army of West with orders to report to Major General Sterling Price. A part of the regiment, under Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong, was engaged at Middleton, and at Britton's Lane, near Denmark, on August 31, and September 1, 1862.
In July, 1862, the regiment was reorganized and Giles Countian James T. Wheeler was elected Colonel. The regiment was known as Wheeler's 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment throughout the remainder of the war.
The regiment took part in the campaign in North Mississippi during the rest of 1862, including the Battle of Iuka in September and the Battle of Corinth on the 5th and 6th of October. The regiment was very poorly armed, many of the men had nothing by double-barreled shotguns, with the ordinary sporting percussion cap. The rain by day, and the cold damp ground upon which the boys rested at night, rendered these guns almost useless. Colonel Wheeler was wounded at Holly Springs in December, and was disabled from service until the following May.
On January 18, 1863, the regiment was reported with 430 men, as part of the forces assigned to Major General Earl Van Dorn.
On January 20, 1863, Brigadier General W. H. Jackson's Division, of Van Dorn's Department, 2nd Brigade was reported as composed of the 3rd Arkansas, Ballentine's Mississippi (John Goff Ballentine), 2nd Missouri, and 6th Tennessee Regiments. On February 2, the regiment, along with the 3rd Arkansas, 4th Mississippi, and a regiment from Montgomery, Alabama, was listed in Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong's Brigade.
As part of this brigade, it moved to Spring Hill, Tennessee, in February, 1863, and in March was with Brigadier General N. B. Forrest in the action around Thompson's Station and Brentwood. In this affair, the 6th, under Lieutenant Colonel James H. Lewis, raided to within two and a half to three miles of Nashville and made a half circuit of Nashville from the Franklin to the Charlotte Pike. The regiment captured a splendid set of silver instruments - twenty-four pieces - most of which were kept by the regimental band during the remainder of the war.
Early in May, 1863, General Van Dorn was killed at Spring Hill, Tenn., and General Forrest, having returned from what was known as Streight's raid, assumed command of all the cavalry in the vicinity of Spring Hill. This regiment escorted General Van Dorn's remains to the place of burial in the cemetery at Columbia, Tenn.
The regiment brought up the rear as Bragg's Army of Tennessee retreated to Chattanooga in July, 1863, and took station at Post Oak Springs, Roane County, in August. It rejoined the main army for the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, serving under General Wheeler on the left for the first day, and under General Forrest, on the right, on the second day.
Wheeler's 6th Tennessee Cavalry assisted in the pursuit of Rosecrans' army to Chattanooga, and then marched back into East Tennessee. They assisted in the capture of an army train of more than one thousand wagons with its convoy of 1500 men. The wagons were loaded with supplies for the Federal army, then almost in a state of siege at Chattanooga.
The regiment moved to McMinnville, Murfreesboro, and Wartrace, then crossed the Duck River and, under the command of Major General Joe Wheeler, participated in the Battle of Farmington in October. They retreated southward and crossed the Tennessee River near the mouth of the Elk River, at Muscle Shoals, having passed through Giles County. The regiment then moved eastward, across northern Alabama, back to the vicinity of Chattanooga and retreated with the Army of Tennessee to winter headquarters at Dalton, Georgia.
In the early summer of 1864, Wheeler's 6th Tennessee Cavalry participated in Confederate General Joe Johnston's retreat to Atlanta, fighting at Resaca, New Hope Church, Pine Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, and at Atlanta. During this struggle the regiment was again and again dismounted and took the place of infantry in the trenches.
General Wheeler then marched to Covington, Georgia, 40 miles south of Atlanta. From this place, on the 10th of August, the regiment moved with General Wheeler's command to the rear of Sherman's army to Dalton, Georgia, Cleveland, Athens, and around Knoxville, then crossed the mountains to Sparta, in Middle Tennessee.
At one point the regiment was more than two hundred miles behind enemy lines. They moved on to Franklin, tearing up the track of the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad, destroying trestles and bridges; also the Nashville and Decatur railroad, cutting Sherman's and Thomas' lines of communication. They passed west of Columbia by way of Lynnville and Lawrenceburg, fording the Tennessee River at Colbert Shoals, below Florence, Alabama.
Colonel James Wheeler asked General Joe Wheeler for permission to join General Forrest on his raid into Middle Tennessee in September, 1864. General Wheeler at first declined the request, but later allowed Wheeler's 6th Tennessee Cavalry to join Forrest's command.
The Giles County boys, at least what remained of them, were returning home. At Athens, Alabama, Colonel Wheeler played a significant part in Forrest's deception that led to the surrender of the Federal garrison. As part of his bluff, General Forrest addressed Colonel Wheeler as General Wheeler and together they convinced the Union commander that their command was much larger than it actually was.
The command moved with Forrest, aided in capturing a force of 400 men guarding the bridge at Elk River, on the Nashville and Decatur road, and all the stockades on the road as far as Pulaski, where the Federals had collected several thousand men to oppose Forrest; thence to the neighborhood of Shelbyville and Wartrace. The command crossed the Tennessee River near Florence, Alabama.
The regiment went with Forrest to Corinth, Mississippi, then parted from Forrest with reluctance and moved to LaGrange, Georgia, where they rejoined Wheeler's command about the 25th of November, 1864. The command moved with General Wheeler to Griffin, Georgia, where it first encountered General Sherman on his "march to the sea." They followed Sherman, making frequent attacks on his massive army, but to no avail.
They crossed into South Carolina, then moved into North Carolina, where they participated in the battles at Averysboro and Bentonville. The Battle of Bentonville was the last of the war in which the Army of Tennessee was engaged. It was fought on the 19th and 20th of March, 1865. On the 26th of April, 1865, the battle-flag of the Confederacy was furled, as far as the Army of Tennessee was concerned. Wheeler's 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment was paroled at Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 3, 1865.
Some Giles Countians who served in this regiment:
Holman's Battalion and the
rangers were independent cavalry units that fought for
the South. They were irregular soldiers who fought
guerrilla warfare, making surprise raids behind the lines
of the invading enemy. For the most part, they were
volunteers who elected their own officers and provided
their own horses, weapons, and other equipage. They
frequently provided vital information and services to the
Confederate army, as well as destroying enemy lines of
supply and communication.
Two companies of Major Daniel W. Holman's Battalion of partisan rangers were raised in Giles County, in September and October, 1862. Captain Andrew R. Gordon raised a company of 160 men and Captain James Rivers raised a company of 100 men. The company officers elected were:
"About the middle of October, 1862, the battalion was organized, went into camp, and for about one month was subjected to drill and military discipline preparatory to active field duty. While thus engaged details were called for to assist in enforcing the conscript law and arresting deserters from the army.
In arresting one Wm. Meadows, a deserter, Private Wm. Gordon, of Capt. River's company, was killed near Cornersville, Tenn. Meadows shot him from a crack in his house, for which he was tried by court-martial at Murfreesboro a few days afterward and shot. A few days before the killing of Gordon, Meadows had shot and severely wounded _____ Malone of Capt. Gordon's company."
Holman's Battalion spent the rest of 1862 scouting for Confederate General Joe Wheeler in the vicinity of Lavergne, Franklin and Murfreesboro. They participated in several skirmishes between Lavergne and Nashville.
On the 29th of December they began a series of raids on the rear of the Union army under the command of General Rosencrans, which was massed near Murfreesboro preparing to attack the Confederate army under the command of General Bragg. Holman's Battalion continued these raids as the Battle of Stones River was fought. On the 2nd of January, 1863, they moved to the battlefront and participated in this bloody Confederate failure.
As Bragg's massive Confederate army retreated to Shelbyville, Holman's Battalion was sent to Manchester to recruit and picket. From there they moved to the Cumberland River below Nashville to harass the enemy and interrupt his communications. They spent the next three weeks disrupting the Union navigation of the Cumberland River, capturing many prisoners and destroying Union boats laden with supplies.
Around the 1st of February, Holman's Battalion went with General Wheeler toward Dover, on the Cumberland River. "Through Captain Rivers and other reliable scouts sent from the battalion information of the Federal force at Dover had been obtained, and was promptly communicated to Generals Wheeler and Forrest." Wheeler and Forrest then attacked the Union garrison at Dover. Lieutenant Henry Collins of Captain Gordon's company was killed during this assault. Major Holman was severely wounded in the thigh and was disabled for about four months.
As the war that was supposed to last only a few months began to stretch into years, most of the glamor of war was lost. Many partisan ranger battalions began raiding Union sutlers' wagons more frequently than raiding behind Union lines. They were permitted to keep their captured booty, thus causing desertion from the Confederate army as many Confederates by this time were more worried about feeding their starving families than about fighting yankees. Knowing they were subject to the conscription laws and had to be in the army, large numbers of Confederate soldiers deserted their regiments and joined the partisan rangers.
After a recommendation from General Robert E. Lee, the law authorizing partisan rangers was abolished and almost all partisan rangers were required to join the regular Confederate army. Holman's Battalion was no exception. "On the 20th of February, 1863, the battalion against the wishes of every man composing it, was taken to form a part of the Eleventh Tennessee Cavalry, and from that time till the close of the war its history is identified with the history of that regiment." Holman's Battalion had served as partisan rangers for only 4 months.
General Nathan Bedford Forrest issued orders at Columbia, Tennessee, on February 20, 1863, forming the Eleventh Tennessee Cavalry, composed of 11 companies, including Gordon's and Rivers' companies of Holman's Battalion. General Forrest appointed James M. Edmundson to command the regiment. Daniel W. Holman was appointed Lieutenant Colonel, but was recovering from the wound he had received at Dover and could not immediately rejoin the regiment.
The 11th TN Cavalry was with General Forrest at the capture of Thompson's Station on March 5, where 1200 prisoners were taken; and at the capture of Brentwood on the 25th, where 800 prisoners were taken. On April 19, the regiment was ordered to Florence, Alabama, where it reported to Colonel Philip D. Roddey. The 11th TN Cavalry was part of General Forrest's Cavalry which captured Colonel Abel D. Streight's command, taking 1700 prisoners, roughly three times the force General Forrest had at hand.
"On the 12th of July, 1863, Gen. Bragg sent Capt. Rivers into Middle Tennessee with important papers. Gen. Forrest selected him as the most suitable man that could be found for the mission, and went with him in person to Gen. Bragg. Middle Tennessee was wholly in possession of the enemy. Capt. Rivers performed the prescribed work satisfactorily, and returned within a month, having ridden in all over eight hundred miles to make the round trip."
The regiment then returned to Middle Tennessee, was with General Forrest in the retreat of General Bragg's army to Chattanooga in July, then moved to Post Oak Springs, near Kingston, on August 27, 1863.
They fought at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19th and 20th, where they suffered casualties, among them Giles Countian William Ballentine, who was killed by a cannon-ball. Ballentine's remains were returned for interment in Maplewood cemetery in Pulaski. The 11th TN Cavalry chased the fleeing Union army within about one-half mile of Chattanooga, taking several hundred prisoners, but losing several killed and wounded. Among those killed was Dr. William McNairy, whose head was torn from his body by an artillery shell. Dr. McNairy at the time was Orderly Sergeant of his River's company, a physician of prominence in Giles County, and a true and faithful soldier. Dr. McNairy is buried in Maplewood cemetery in Pulaski.
Shortly after the Battle of Chickamauga, General Bragg took General Forrest's command away from him, resulting in an altercation which President Jefferson Davis had to resolve by sending General Forrest to Mississippi. The 11th TN Cavalry was placed in General Joseph Wheeler's Cavalry Corps. They moved into East Tennessee as part of General James Longstreet's army and remained there until April, 1864, when they rejoined the Army of Tennessee near Dalton, Georgia.
Around the 1st of October, the regiment was ordered to Cleveland, Tennessee, to rest and recruit. It was during these three weeks at Cleveland that they were taken from General Forrest and turned over again to General Wheeler. From Cleveland, they advanced on a Union brigade camped at Philadelphia, Tennessee, where they captured 700 prisoners, 50 wagons, 12 ambulances, 800 stands of small arms, 6 pieces of artillery, 1000 horses and mules, saddles, etc., and a large amount of commissary and sutlers' stores. "Captain James Rivers, while gallantly charging the retreating Federals with a view of picking up prisoners, was captured, together with several of the men whom he was leading. No exchange could be effected, and he was held a prisoner of war at Johnson's Island till the close of the war."
On November 1, the regiment reached Unitia, a small village on the east bank of the Holston River. A brisk duel ensued, resulting in the death of James Newton Paisley, Orderly Sergeant of Rivers' company, who was shot through the head. The regiment remained in East Tennessee until the following spring. It was exceedingly cold that winter and the men were poorly clad. Many of them, being almost barefooted, wrapped their feet and legs with rags to keep them from freezing. Near the end of March, 864, the 11th TN Cavalry headed for Dalton, Georgia, via Asheville, NC, Greenville, SC, and Atlanta, GA.
The 11th TN Cavalry participated in General Joseph E. Johnston's retreat to Atlanta during the spring and summer of 1864. They fought at Dalton, Resaca, Adairsville, Cassville, and near Dallas, where on May 31, Private C. Buford of Gordon's company was killed and Captain Gordon was severely wounded, never again able for duty. Through the rest of the war, Gordon's company was commanded by Lt. J. M. Edmundson, Lt. Robert Gordon, and Lt. George Rothrock.
The regiment participated in the fighting at Kennesaw Mountain and on the 13th of June, was ordered to report to General Joseph E. Johnston, at Atlanta, for special service. They received much-needed rest, then policed Atlanta, served as scouts, couriers, and almost every duty incident to the army. When General John Bell Hood took command of the Army of Tennessee, the regiment was retained for special service.
After the fall of Atlanta, the 11th TN Cavalry again served under General Forrest. They returned to Tennessee as General Hood made his valiant effort to re-capture Nashville. Following the Battles of Franklin and Nashville, the regiment returned with the remnant of Hood's army south of the Tennessee River. In February, 1865, the 11th TN Cavalry was consolidated with the 10th TN Cavalry and all placed under the command of Colonel Holman. They participated in the aftermath of the capture of Selma, Alabama, on the 2nd of April, 1865, which was to be their last engagement of the war. They made the final surrender at Gainesville, Alabama, in May, 1865.
Roster of Company E, 11th Tennessee Cavalry (compiled many years after the war):
The following is a partial list of the casualties of Gordon's company:
The following is a partial list of the casualties of Rivers' company: