One of the earliest, if not the first, references to Tennessee as the “Keystone of the Southern Arch” dates to 1848. An editorial published that year in The Tennessean used the phrase to describe its unique location, “surrounded on all sides by wealthy States which must for their own interest, desire a passage across her territory.” The editors went on to point out that tensions between the eastern, western and middle sections of the state caused infrastructure improvements to lag behind its neighbors. When the sections put the interests of all Tennessee first, “she must before many years hold a most enviable position in the rank of States.”
Flash forward to 1860, and the secession crisis. Sectional divisions still lingered in Tennessee. The west favored separation from the Union, while the east preferred to remain. At first, the middle sat almost evenly divided, but soon after moved in favor of secession. On June 8, 1861, Tennesseans voted to join the Confederacy, becoming its 11th and final state.
The 1848 editorial bespoke commerce and wealth. The year 1861 brought the business of war, and, with it, death and destruction on an enormous scale that few dared to imagine. Confederate soldiers marched along its roads and moved along its railways and rivers to defend the state against invading federal forces, which used the same byways to suppress the rebellion. Inside its borders, blue and gray fought about 2,900 engagements—second only to Virginia. Included were some of costliest battles in terms of human life: Stones River, Shiloh and Franklin.
Eight months after Tennessee joined the Confederacy, it became the first state to lose its capital after Union victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson rendered Nashville untenable. When Confederate forces evacuated the city, the loss of the keystone compromised the Southern arch.
Altogether, 173,681 sons of Tennessee joined the military. More than three-quarters, 135,812, served the Confederate cause, while the remainder, 31,092 whites and 6,777 blacks, served the Union.
The following are representative portraits and accounts of Tennesseans in gray. Some of the images appear in MI for the first time, while other previously published photographs featured here include additional information about the soldier’s lives and war experience.
On Sept. 23, 1887, veterans of the 1st Tennessee Infantry gathered in Franklin for a reunion. Absent was William Patton Rutland, who had died the day before at age 47 after a brief illness. A prosperous merchant, his comrades praised him as a brave and faithful soldier.
Will Rutland began his service in May 1861 in his hometown of Nashville as a private in the Rock City Guards, which became Company B of the 1st. The company letter is visible on his cap in this image. He wears a dark shell jacket with a small stripe running down the middle. He is armed with a Model 1861 Springfield rifle.
After the Battle of Perryville, Ky., he remained behind to tend to the wounded—perhaps evidence of one writer’s description of him as “one of the purest and most dauntless spirits.” Rutland’s military record indicates he returned to Tennessee and remained on detached duty as a nurse into May 1863. Before the war ended, he returned to a combat role with the 4th Tennessee Cavalry, and signed the oath of allegiance to the U.S. government in June 1865.
Rutland’s post-war prosperity ended in untimely death. His wife and two sons survived him.
Tennessee vs. Tennessee
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest ordered one of his brigades to make a demonstration in front of Union-occupied Memphis in late March 1864. His chief aim was to mislead the federals into believing he planned a larger attack on the city. It worked. Forrest received an added bonus when, on March 29, one of the regiments in the brigade, the 14th Tennessee Cavalry, attacked the Union 6th Tennessee Cavalry at Bolivar, outside of Memphis. The troopers captured much-needed ammunition and supplies.
The man who led the assault, Col. James Jackson Neely, is pictured here. He knew Bolivar well, for he had practiced medicine there before the war. In 1861, he became a captain in the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion. In mid-1863, he raised a new cavalry regiment, the 14th, within federal-occupied western Tennessee. He took command as colonel. Neely was not the only colonel in the family. His eldest brother, Rufus, led an infantry regiment.
About six months after Neely and his men routed the Unionist Tennesseans at Bolivar, a junior colonel was placed in command of the brigade. Neely and other senior officers protested. Forrest punished them all with censures and suspensions—and cashiered Neely. His dismissal ended the military career of a talented officer.
Neely returned to Bolivar and his profession as a doctor. He also served as a county sheriff. He died in 1894.
A Tale of Two Rivers
The 500-strong 33rd Tennessee Infantry shared in the glory of the first day’s fight at Shiloh at a cost of almost 40 percent of its force. One of the men on the casualty list, Sam Asbury, served as a corporal in Company G. Born Samuel C. Asbury in Kentucky, he lived in Obion County, located in Tennessee’s northwestern corner near the Mississippi River, at the start of the war. A fisherman by trade, he enlisted in October 1861.
Six months later at Shiloh, Asbury and his comrades attacked the enemy camps along another river, the Tennessee. Exactly where and how he suffered his wound is unknown. But it proved mortal. He died on May 2 at a Confederate hospital in Grenada, Miss. He was about 25.
A Memphis Light Dragoon
When the Memphis Light Dragoons formed in 1861, its ranks included John Thomas “Tom” Garrison. An Alabamian who had moved with his family to Oakland, a community outside Memphis, he is pictured here wearing a high-crowned cap and federal style coat adopted by some early war companies, notes MI Senior Editor Ron Field. The Dragoons became Company A of the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, which engaged in operations in Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Garrison left the 7th before February 1864 to help organize a cavalry company in the Oakland area. The recruits elected him first lieutenant. The men became Company B of the 15th Cavalry, which served in Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command in western Tennessee.
Garrison survived the war, returned to his Oakland farm, and lived until 1912. He left behind a wife and 11 children. His obituary noted, “No man who enlisted in the army from this section was more feared by the Yankees than he, and the death of none was more desired than was his.”
On Aug. 16, 1864, Pvt. James A. Mason drew his pay in Confederate dollars at Tupelo, Miss. The 17-year-old Arkansas native, who appears to have been orphaned at an early age and left with family or friends in Madison County, Tenn., wrote his name and particulars of his service on the back of a five-dollar banknote he received that day: “Company K, 19th Tennessee Cavalry, Col. Tyree Harris Bell’s Brigade, Brig. Gen. Abraham Buford’s Division, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry.”
During the months leading up to Mason’s payday, Forrest’s cavalry participated in the battles of Paducah, Ky., Fort Pillow, Tenn., and Brice’s Crossroads and Tupelo in Mississippi. Mason’s role in these engagements is unclear. He did survive the war, however—a veteran at 18. Mason married in 1871, started a family that grew to include five children, and labored as a farmer and preacher in Henderson County.
In 1901, Mason gifted the Confederate fiver to his daughter, Lida May. Mason died of heart problems in 1917 at a hospital in St. Louis, where his only son lived. Mason was 69. A century later, his image and other relics turned up in a St. Louis antiques mall.
According to a comrade, 4th Sgt. Hiram Washington Keller of Company M enjoyed a healthy appetite and appreciated the finer things in life. Not surprisingly, he suffered when meat became scarce. He made up for it one day when an artillery shell killed a mule. Keller and another man “cut a bucket full of steak from said mule and we all soon joined in with them in a nice repast.”
Exactly when and where this event occurred went unrecorded. One possibility is the Siege of Vicksburg. Keller numbered among those surrendered when the city fell to Union forces on July 4, 1863. Paroled the next day, his service record indicates he was absent without leave for the rest of the war. Keller later became a farmer in Henning, Tenn., and died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 92 in 1928. His wife predeceased him, and five children survived him. His obituary noted that he was a good citizen, soldier and Christian. “When the boys in Grey fell in to protect their beloved homeland, he was one of the very first to shoulder arms.”
Wounded at Murfreesboro
Pvt. Charles Wesley Sadler and 597 of his comrades in the 17th Tennessee Infantry advanced into the Battle of Stones River at sunrise on Dec. 31, 1862. They spent the next nine hours in combat alongside their brother regiments in Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s division. “It was a bloody march,” according to the Military Annals of Tennessee, “assailing line after line of the enemy without relief or support. During the time the regiment captured three batteries.” The 17th paid a high price for success—246 casualties, or 41 percent of its fighting force.
Sadler numbered among the injured, having suffered a minor wound in the leg. A native of Putnam County who lived in neighboring Jackson County at the start of the war, he joined the 17th in June 1861.
His military service record ends with his wound at Stones River. Sadler’s whereabouts during the rest of the war are not known. His comrades soldiered on through Appomattox, Va., where 68 officers and men surrendered.
Sadler married in 1866 and eventually returned to Putnam County, where he died in 1913 at about age 75.
The Shells of Resaca
During the Battle of Resaca in May 1864, the men of the 20th Tennessee Infantry crowded in earthworks for protection from enemy artillery. Their number included 1st Lt. James William Rawley. The men packed together so tightly that the head of one soldier, Pvt. John Savage, lay against Rawley’s hip. As shells burst, one exploded with deadly effect. According to the regimental history, the shot “took John Savage’s head off and drove his old white hat into a black gum log, and tore about three pounds of flesh from Lieut. Rawley’s hip.”
Three years earlier in Nashville, Rawley had started his military service in the Sewanee Rifles, which became Company C of the 20th. He was one of four brothers that joined the Confederate army. The enlisted man seated next to him in this portrait may be one of them—Darius, Lafayette or Pleasant.
Rawley survived his Resaca wound and the war. He returned to Nashville and died at age 66 in 1900. He outlived his wife, Mary, by 10 days. Three children survived him.
The year 1864 proved challenging for William W. Hawkins, a corporal in the 2nd Tennessee Cavalry, part of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command. In February, he suffered a slight wound during Forrest’s Expedition to Meridian, Miss. His second wound, a severe injury to his hip, occurred on April 12, 1864, during the Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow massacre in light of reported killings of black and white Union soldiers after the federals surrendered. Hawkins “never recovered from the effects of the wound,” noted one writer, who added that he was “brave to a fault, true to every honorable instinct of humanity.”
Hawkins returned home and resumed his occupation as a blacksmith, though he did so with much difficulty due to his condition. In early March 1868, his home caught fire. In an attempt to extinguish the blaze he re-opened his wound. Two weeks later he died at age 29. A Mason and a Methodist, his loss was mourned by neighbors and churchmen.
The Torpedo Expedition
“The rebels on the line of the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad have introduced a new weapon for the destruction of railroad trains,” reported the Nashville Union from the federal-occupied city on June 27, 1863. The story described how mines, or torpedoes in period vernacular, placed beneath tracks had damaged two trains.
The officer in charge of the mission, Nashville native Henry Clay Brooks, was one of four brothers who joined the Confederate army. All were encouraged to fight by their mother, Ann. She labored in Nashville-area hospitals, bringing family slaves with her to care for sick and wounded men. Following occupation of the city by Union forces, she ingratiated herself with federals and passed intelligence to the Confederates.
Brooks began his war experience in May 1861 as a private in the 11th Tennessee Infantry. He soon joined the officers’ ranks, and served brief stints on the staff of Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise and as a drill instructor to the 44th Tennessee Infantry.
Brooks’ highest profile service occurred on or about June 26, 1863, southeast of Nashville near Lavergne. According to newspaper reports, Brooks and a detachment of men exploded torpedoes at two places along the railroad. Union troops spotted Brooks and chased him and his soldiers to the Cumberland River. There, Brooks and party crossed the waterway and eluded their pursuers.
Union-controlled media reported minor damage to two locomotives. But according to a Southern correspondent for the Chattanooga Rebel, Brooks had inflicted considerable damage.
“One of the torpedoes destroyed the engine and seven cars, killing and wounding a large number of soldiers, while the other torpedo destroyed the engine, killing the engineer and entirely destroying five other cars, tearing up the track for a distance of about sixty yards.” News of the Confederate losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg overshadowed the event.
Brooks survived the war and died in 1878 at about age 35.
The person who scratched the fates of these two men into the emulsion of their photos was a loyal Confederate. Use of the term “murder” to describe how they died, and attributing the act to a Union officer, tells us as much.
The story of how these three men crossed paths can be found in an after-action report detailing a scouting mission southwest of Nashville in Hickman and Maury counties. On May 7, 1864, 2nd Lt. Jordan Washington Creasey of the Union 12th Tennessee Cavalry, and a detachment of 25 troops, captured two men believed to be guerrillas. Creasey then learned of two more guerrillas and, according to the report, “after striking their trail he pursued them o’er hill and dale until finally he was upon them, they being concealed in a house of ill-fame, situated in a most secluded spot on top of a large bluff. The lieutenant, fearing escape on their part, dashed upon them and shot them, both before any of his party were on the spot.” The dead men had in their possession four pistols and three horses.
The two men 2nd Lt. Creasey killed are pictured here.
Edward Henry Pointer, 22, left, a Williamson County native, attended Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., where he was a brother in Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. He joined Holman’s Battalion, Partisan Rangers, which became Company B of the 11th Tennessee Cavalry. According to the Military Annals of Tennessee, he was on detached service as a scout and surrendered to Creasey, who murdered him with his own pistol. Pointer’s remains are buried in the family cemetery in Williamson County.
The other victim was named Buford or Beaufort. He appears here in uniform with corporal’s chevrons. He may be L.C. Buford, who served in Company D of the 11th.
About a month after the deaths of Pointer and Buford, Creasey received his captain’s bars “for gallant and meritorious service on several occasions.” He mustered out of the army in July 1865, and returned to his wife, Lavina, whom he married during his service in 1863 in Tennessee. They had two sons, one adopted, and another who died young. They settled in Clark County, Ill., where Creasey died in 1897 at about age 64.
“Second to No Woman in the South”
Felicia Ann Grundy enjoyed life as one of Nashville’s elite during the years before the war. Some noted her powerful intellect reminded them of her father, renowned U.S. Senator Felix Grundy.
By the time hostilities erupted, she had buried two husbands. Grundy poured her heart and soul to support the sons of Tennessee and other Southern states, even after Union forces occupied the city. She survived it all, and lived until 1889. She was 69.
More than two decades later, a portrait and sketch of her Confederate services appeared in the landmark 1911 series Photographic History of the Civil War by Francis Trevelyan Miller.
Following the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, Union forces moved on the Mississippi capital, Jackson. On the night of July 16, Confederates withdrew from the area. During the retreat, Pvt. Francis M. “Frank” Drake of the 49th Tennessee Infantry’s Company A went missing. He fell into enemy hands and, on Aug. 7, 1863, arrived at Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Ind. This was his second time as a prisoner of war. The first occurred a year earlier at Fort Donelson, when he and his company fell into enemy hands and spent seven months in Chicago’s Camp Douglas.
Drake survived his ordeal and the war. He died about 1880, in his mid-40s.
In southeastern Tipton County, the sight of a cavalry company of local men resplendent in triple-breasted uniforms trimmed with tassels and plaited ribbons, and topped off with broad-brimmed hats folded on one side, must have stirred the souls of patriotic citizens. They were part of Hill’s Cavalry, named for its captain, Charles H. Hill.
One of the captain’s troopers seen here, Leslie J. O’Kelley, sits with an eagle-headed sword in one hand and a secession cockade pinned to his uniform. The company letters “HC” appear on his hat. Born in neighboring Fayette County, O’Kelley was the only son of three children born into a North Carolina farm family. Eight slaves also lived on the property.
O’Kelley and the rest of Hill’s Cavalry, along with three companies from nearby Shelby County, formed the nucleus of the 7th Tennessee Cavalry. Hill’s Cavalry became Company B.
On May 5, 1862, in Weakley County, Tenn., Company B formed a mounted skirmish line in advance of their regiment and another commanded by Col. Patrick Cleburne. The skirmishers happened upon Union pickets at Lockridge’s Mill, and attacked them. According to the regimental history of the 7th, “O’Kelley rushed to the front, and having discharged his gun and pistol, drew saber, and, overtaking one of the enemy’s troopers, engaged him in personal combat. The fight was short, Private O’Kelley receiving a cut on the head, when the Federal trooper fled. His hurts were not ascertained. Private O’Kelley, however, remained in the combat, and soon afterward captured the enemy’s quartermaster and brought him to head-quarters.”
O’Kelley remained in the ranks through the end of the war, became a corporal, and appears on the rolls of men surrendered at Gainesville, Ala., by Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor on May 4, 1865. O’Kelley returned to Fayette County. He later moved to Lonoke County, Ark., where he died at age 74 in 1911. He outlived two wives, with whom he fathered at least eight children.
North Carolina-born John A. Jenkins, below, settled in Weakley County with his family as a boy in the 1840s. When the war came in 1861, he cast his lot with the Confederacy and became a second lieutenant in Capt. H. C. McCutchen’s company of Tennessee cavalry, which became Company H of the state’s 7th Cavalry. Starting out 696 troopers strong in 1862, the regiment mustered 210 effectives by October 1863. Various campaigns and engagements, including the Battles of Franklin and Nashville, further depleted the ranks. By the war’s end, the remnants of the regiment found themselves in Alabama when Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor surrendered the military Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana. Jenkins, now a first lieutenant, numbered among those paroled. He made his way home to Weakley County, where he married and worked as a farmer. Jenkins died in 1924 at age 88. He outlived his wife, Addie, and was survived by a daughter.
Union City, Summer 1861
A note inside the case of this ambrotype tells the story of a Confederate soldier. William Franklin Henry enlisted as a private in the Jackson Grays on May 15, 1861. Named for his hometown of Jackson, he and his comrades mustered into Confederate service as Company G of the 6th Tennessee Infantry. Henry advanced to sergeant and survived the war. Afterwards, he returned to Jackson, married in 1868, and lived until 1903. His wife, Mary, and a daughter survived him. Henry sat for this portrait in Union City, where the 6th was stationed from May 23 to Aug. 1, 1861. This image was published in Ross Kelbaugh’s 1991 book, Introduction to Civil War Photography.
MI invited teacher Jason Lynn Pate and his students from Lake Road Elementary School in Union City to research Henry and the 6th. This is what they found: “The 6th Tennessee served near where we live. Mustering in at Jackson, these men fought from the west side to the east side of the Volunteer State that we call home. From our research, we found that Henry served at Columbus, Ky., Shiloh, Corinth, Tullahoma, Shelbyville, Chickamauga and our home city of Union City. Our town is home to multiple small skirmishes that were mostly led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest. Using current knowledge of the location of Confederate Fort Brown and the location of our school, Pvt. Henry served just a matter of a few miles, as the crow flies. It is possible that Pvt. Henry may have stood where we are typing and researching him!
“The city of Nashville saw war activity, and it was divided on secession. The western part of the state wanted to become Confederates, while the Eastern side wanted to stay part of the Union. Directly in the middle of the two strong opinions was the city of Nashville. After the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers fell to the Union Navy, Nashville was unprepared for the Northern attack. In these pictures, you can see how our state capital was used as a medical hospital for wounded soldiers. Also, the Howard School, built for school children, was used to house prisoners of war. Imagine a war in America where Lake Road Elementary or your child’s or grandchild’s school would have to be used to hold soldiers for war!”
Conquer or Die
Capt. Thomas Hugh Walker, below, and his Company I went into action at Shiloh with the rest of the 19th Tennessee Infantry on April 6-7, 1862. The regiment, about 400 strong, distinguished itself by participating in events that ended in the capture of Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss and his division.
The regiment paid a heavy price—about a quarter of those engaged—during the two-day engagement. The fate of Walker, known as Tom, was recorded in the diary of a lady friend on April 20. “Dear Tom the loved friend of so many hearts is numbered. He fell on Monday the 7th mortally wounded at the battle of Shiloh while leading on his brave daring band to a charge upon one of the enemies batteries. He lived until Tuesday evening at 4 o’clock.” She also reported that one of Tom’s comrades noted “his face shone on Sabbath and on Monday with unusual brightness and on it was depicted the deep determination of his soul to conquer or die.” Walker was 23. His pregnant wife, Annie, survived him. She gave birth to a boy whom she named Thomas Hugh Walker, Jr. He lived until 1881.
Spy vs. Spy
Orders handed down to Lt. George Crosthwaite Ridley, left, required the utmost discretion. He was to lead a 10-man scout to the outskirts of Union-occupied Nashville, from which point he would send a spy into the city to ascertain the strength and location of federal arms. The orders came from the top—Gen. John Hunt Morgan, who commanded the cavalry force that Ridley and his fellow troopers in 9th Tennessee belonged.
Ridley had joined the 9th in the autumn of 1862 from Rutherford County, where he and four other brothers served the Confederacy. So the story goes, Ridley rode off with his troopers and, with the help of a local woman who they recruited to be the spy, gleaned the intelligence requested by Morgan.
Upon their return ride to rejoin their command, Ridley and his men detoured to avoid federal cavalry, and became lost in a place where it was exceedingly difficult to tell friend from foe. About this time, a man, dressed in civilian clothes and on horseback approached the band, and offered to guide them. “We halted him, and at once grew suspicious that his accent was not that of a Southern man, his manner uneasy and his demeanor strained,” stated one of Ridley’s scouts. Upon further examination, they found two uniforms, one gray and another blue, in his saddlebags.
Concluding the man a Union spy, they took him a prisoner and struck out through the night for the journey back to their lines. A few miles into the ride, in a dark and thickly wooded area, the sound of hoof beats and the gentle clank of accouterments was interrupted by a bang. It came from the barrel of a concealed derringer fired by the spy at Ridley. The ball just missed him, leaving a neat round hole in his hat. “Quick as lightning, the Lieutenant, on the qui vive, dropped him, and the scouts riddled him with balls,” recalled an eyewitness.
So much for the spy. Ridley and his boys eventually made it to safety. Ridley went on to become a captain, and later an aide-de-camp and acting assistant inspector general on the staff of Gen. Benjamin J. Hill. He signed a parole on May 16, 1865, in Chattanooga.
Ridley lived a long life, dying in 1931 at age 101.
Long Road Home
Following the surrender of the Army of Tennessee on April 26, 1865, Confederate soldiers waited for paroles before disbursing. Troopers in the 4th Tennessee Cavalry received their papers on May 3 in Charlotte, N.C. One man, Pvt. Jefferson P. Boles, served in Company I, which had formed in Fentress County in 1862. His record reveals little details of his service, though a regimental history lists him present at the 1865 surrender. Boles and his comrades left Charlotte for home with paroles in hand. Boles kept on going, turning up in Texas, where he married in 1888, and later in Arizona and California. He died in 1920 at about age 83. His wife and a daughter survived him.
“As a Soldier He Had No Superior”
Upon his death in 1880, fellow Tennesseans remembered Brig. Gen. Ben Hill as a respected officer. His obituary stated, “As a soldier he had no superior.”
The obituary continued, “Hill was spare made, well proportioned, had a pleasant countenance and manners, and was most amiable and courteous,” and added, “He had long since forgotten and forgiven the many years of civil bloodshed and agony, and many of his friends were Republicans. From the time he surrendered his sword, he had been a quiet, good citizen, asking for no office, but seeking happiness in dispensing happiness to others.”
Born Benjamin Jefferson Hill in McMinnville, he was a state senator and slave owner. Reluctant to leave the Union, he changed his mind after South Carolina seceded and threw himself into the Confederate cause as colonel of the 5th Volunteers in Tennessee’s provisional army, which became the 35th Tennessee Infantry. His actions with the regiment, as well as on the brigade and division level, are well documented.
Hill served in the army through the entire war, and received his parole at Chattanooga in May 1865. He returned to his wife, Mary, and home in McMinnville, where he practiced law and became a merchant. He died of consumption at age 54.
Wounded Near Carter’s Cotton Gin
Capt. Robertson Yeatman Johnson recalled how he came to be wounded near Carter’s Cotton Gin during the Battle of Franklin—the scene of some of the heaviest fighting during the Nov. 30, 1864, engagement. “While picking up the colors of our regiment, the 49th Tennessee, at some fifteen to twenty feet from the angle of the ginhouse, I received two wounds—one in the right arm and the other in the head—both of which were severe.”
This was Johnson’s second time as a casualty. The first occurred two years earlier at Fort Donelson, where he suffered a wound from a shell fragment. He became a prisoner of war with the rest of the 49th after the fort fell to Union forces in February 1862. Johnson, a Kentucky native, spent the next seven months as a prisoner of war at Johnson’s Island, Ohio. Despite the gravity of his situation, he may have found humor sharing a name with the camp.
After his Franklin wounding, he lived to fight another day. He received a parole when Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee in April 1865.
Johnson settled into the life of a farmer in Montgomery County, where he served a term as a legislator. He lived until 1912, dying at age 75.
On Oct. 28, 1863, Henry Farrar Bowman resigned his captaincy in the 5th Tennessee Infantry. He did so because his Company G mustered only 11 men—six privates, three commissioned officers and two non-commissioned officers. Another 22 enlisted men were absent without leave.
Bowman, 32, had moved with his family from Prince Edward County, Virginia, to Tennessee in 1851. When the war came a decade later, Bowman and six of his brothers joined the Confederate cause. Three of them died from battle wounds.
Bowman started as a second lieutenant in the 5th and advanced to captain before the depletion of his company prompted his resignation. He went on to join the 20th Tennessee Cavalry (Russell’s), part of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry corps. He was present for duty during the battles of Okolona, Fort Pillow and Brice’s Cross Roads.
He survived his service and, after the war, settled in Mississippi. He died in 1893 at age 63.
Sam Watkins included this description of his beloved commander, Hume R. Field, in his classic book, Co. Aytch. “Colonel Field was born a soldier. I have read many descriptions of Stonewall Jackson. Colonel Field was his exact counterpart. They looked somewhat alike, spoke alike, and alike were trained military soldiers. The War Department at Richmond made a grand mistake in not making him a ‘commander of armies.’”
The son of a prominent doctor, wealthy planter and large slaveholder in Giles County, Field (also spelled Feild) received his education at Kentucky Military Institute. In character, Field was, as Watkins recalled, of the strong and silent type. “He was not a brilliant man; could not talk at all. He was a soldier. His conversation was yea and nay. But when you could get ‘yes, sir,’ and ‘no, sir,’ out of him his voice was as soft and gentle as a maid’s when she says ‘yes’ to her lover. Fancy, if you please, a man about thirty years old, a dark skin, made swarthy by exposure to sun and rain, very black eyes that seemed to blaze with a gentle luster. I never saw him the least excited in my life. His face was a face of bronze. His form was somewhat slender, but when you looked at him you saw at the first glance this would be a dangerous man in a ground skuffle, a foot race, or a fight. There was nothing repulsive or forbidding or even domineering in his looks. A child or a dog would make up with him on first sight. He knew not what fear was, or meaning of the word fear. He had no nerves, or rather, has a rock or tree any nerves? You might as well try to shake the nerves of a rock or tree as those of Colonel Field. He was the bravest man, I think, I ever knew.”
Field suffered two battle wounds. At Kennesaw Mountain, Ga., a bullet fractured his skull, causing temporary paralysis on one side. In a North Carolina skirmish, he received a thigh wound.
Watkins recalled that Field and his command encountered the enemy on a scout in Virginia. Armed with a carbine, Field killed 20 or 21 Union soldiers, which led to the belief that “one Southern man was equal to twenty Yankees.”
This and other stories led Watkins to proclaim, “Later in the war he was known by every soldier in the army; and the First Tennessee Regiment, by his manipulations, became the regiment to occupy ‘tight places.’”
After the war, Hume settled into the farming life in Union City. He died in 1921 at age 86. He outlived his wife, who died young. At least one of his several children survived him.
A Gibson Star Falls at Shiloh
Two notes in the military service record of Capt. Benjamin H. Sandeford reveal his fate at Shiloh on April 6, 1862: “Killed on the battle field” and “Effects in the hands of the enemy and not known.” Sandeford, who commanded a company in the 12th Tennessee Infantry, likely fell during the fighting in the vicinity of Rhea Field, east of Shiloh Church. He was about 32.
Sandeford joined the regiment in May 1861. He left his Gibson County farm, where his wife, daughter and six slaves resided, and joined the Gibson Stars, which became Company H of the 12th. He is pictured here wearing a militia eagle waist buckle, an 1851 Colt Navy revolver and a Model 1850 foot officer’s sword. The blade appears to be Southern manufactured, as evidenced by the presence of an unstopped fuller on the blade—possibly crafted by Boyle and Gamble, though others copied this pattern. He also wears a dark blue coat based on an unrecorded set of state uniform regulations.
Sandeford brought a college education to the regiment, graduating from Union University in Murfreesboro in 1852. He was also one of five charter members of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity on campus—and the only one of the group to die during the war.
This image was published in William A. Turner’s 1983 book, Even More Confederate Faces.
The uphill charge made by Maj. Flavel Clingan Barber and his 3rd Tennessee Infantry against the enemy during the May 14, 1864, Battle of Resaca ended in success. The price was high. Barber fell with a devastating wound. His loss removed a courageous and able leader from the regiment. A Pennsylvania native, he graduated from Dickinson College in 1850 and settled in Pulaski, Tenn., where he attended Giles College and became a school principal.
He helped raise Company A of the 3rd soon after the war began, and led it as captain during operations against Fort Donelson in early 1862, which resulted in his capture and a 7-month stint as a prisoner of war at Ohio’s Camp Chase and Johnson’s Island. He returned to the 3rd before the end of the year and received a promotion to major.
His wound at Resaca proved mortal, and he succumbed a week later. Barber was 34. His last words reported by the regiment’s colonel expressed confidence that the 3rd would do its duty. His wife, Mary, whom he had married shortly before going off to fight, recovered her husband’s remains and brought them home for burial.
His memoirs, culled from his diaries, were published in 1994.
Time was running short for Maj. Phillip Van Horn Weems of the 11th Tennessee Infantry after he suffered a mortal wound in a charge during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. That day, his will and accompanying codicils were recorded in a pocket diary, likely dictated by him to a comrade. Its contents reveal important details of his life. To one of his brothers, he left his Hickman County plantation and most of his slaves (30 men, women and children in 1860) except for three, whom he freed. He desired a monument erected over the graves of his parents. He gave his stallion, if he returned from the battlefield, to a lady friend in Alabama. He left the vest he wore when he suffered his first war wound eight months earlier at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, to his brothers. His clothes, boots, sword and other items were distributed to friends and comrades. One of his final requests: “I desire my brothers to have me disinterred and buried in the family cemetery when the war is over.”
Weems succumbed two days later and was buried in Georgia. He was 26. Two decades later, in the 1880s, his remains were exhumed, placed in a vinegar barrel, loaded in a wagon, and brought home to Tennessee. Weems rests in the family cemetery near Bon Aqua Springs, about 40 miles southwest of Nashville.
Raider and Teamster
Charles E. Sneed had two jobs during his service in the 4th Tennessee Cavalry—as a private in Company F, and extra duty as a teamster. In his primary duty, his regiment participated in Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s West Tennessee Raid, the Battles of Parker’s Crossroads and Thompson’s Station, the Streight’s Raid pursuit through northern Alabama, and other operations. His extra duty as a teamster earned him 25 cents extra pay per day between October 1863 and June 1864, when his military service record ends. In February 1865, he signed the oath of allegiance to the federal government in his home county of Rutherford. Sneed lived until 1904.
Judge Blackburn’s War
William Alexander Lafayette Blackburn of Grainger County studied law in New York and opened a practice in Tazewell prior to the war. Late in the summer of 1861, he signed on for a yearlong enlistment with the 1st East Tennessee Rifles, which became known as the state’s 37th Infantry. Blackburn commanded a company and served as regimental quartermaster. In May 1862, a few months shy of the end of his term, he disappeared from the regimental rolls.
His story picks up the following year in Burnet, Texas, located about 55 miles outside Austin. According to an historian in the town, Blackburn rode there on horseback from Tennessee, and opened a law practice. At some point his wife, Sarah, whom he had married in 1857, joined him. They had four children. Elected judge of the 17th District in 1876, Blackburn organized many of the county courts in his jurisdiction before he retired in 1896. He lived until 1908. Three of his children survived him, including his youngest son, Robert E. Lee Blackburn.
During the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, 1st Lt. Hugh Lawson Preston led his comrades in Company E of the 8th Cavalry on a successful, though bloody, charge through a field. Preston was counted among the wounded, having suffered a gunshot, the details of which went unreported.
Born and raised in Cannon County, due east of Murfreesboro, Preston had started the war as a private in the 18th Infantry. The entire regiment was captured at Fort Donelson in February 1862, and held as prisoners of war until exchanged in September of that year. Preston claimed not to have been imprisoned, and it is possible he escaped capture. Still, about the time his comrades were exchanged, he helped organize a cavalry company in the 8th. Its troopers voted him first lieutenant. In this capacity, he fought at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Bentonville, and a number of smaller battles. His Chickamauga injury marked the first of four wounds he would receive in various actions, and he managed to make it off the field to safety.
Preston was not so fortunate after his fourth and final wound at Durham Station in April 1865. He and his men, along with another company in the 8th, participated in a rear guard action that turned ugly. “I was shot up. I was left for dead on the field,” he later wrote. He was captured afterward, and eventually signed the oath of allegiance in Nashville.
Preston went on to become a prominent Tennessee legislator. One day in 1891, whispers in the state house chambers spread that an event of interest to Confederate veterans was happening in a nearby room. The white-haired men that filled the room watched as Preston was greeted by one of his fellow officers from the 8th, Adjt. George B. Guild. According to a news account, Guild pulled from his pocket a large ear of corn and presented it to Preston. Guild had recently returned from the Chickamauga battleground and plucked the ear from the same field where Preston had been shot. Guild “asked his old comrade to take it to his country home and plant it and distribute some of the seed to every Confederate soldier in Tennessee in token that the sword had been turned into a pruning hook and ploughshare.” Preston reportedly “made a fitting response, and promised faithfully to execute the commission entrusted to him.”
Preston lived until 1919, dying at age 75. His second wife and seven children survived him.
Two Years With the 35th
Reflecting on his time in the 35th Tennessee Infantry, also known as the “Mountain Rifle Regiment,” Jeremiah Jaco recalled, “I was in the war nearly two years, and in several hard fought battles and was never struck but the one time, and that was by a grape shot bouncing and striking me on the jaw, doing no damage.” He participated in the Battle of Shiloh and two Kentucky fights, Perryville, and Richmond.
A native of Warren County, Jaco left his three children and his pregnant wife, Amanda, in September 1861 and joined Company B at Camp Smartt in McMinnville. A month later, Amanda gave birth to a son, Jefferson Davis Jaco. Soon after his enlistment, Jaco posed for this portrait dressed in a single-breasted, dark-trimmed frock coat made of heavy material with a distinctive weave and civilian buttons. He holds a Jamestown Rifle from the North Carolina school of gunmakers and a prominent D-Guard Bowie knife.
Jaco rose in rank from private to first lieutenant. He signed the oath of allegiance to the U.S. government in February 1865. He lived life as a farmer in Warren County, where his family grew to 11 children. Jaco died at age 67 in 1900 and is buried in the family cemetery in Rock Island, Tenn.
This image has been published on numerous occasions. The first known was the 1984 Confederate Calendar by Lawrence T. Jones III.
A Memphis Mounted Rebel
As federal forces made inroads into Tennessee during the spring of 1862, Edwin Landvoight, seated left, joined the Memphis Mounted Rebels, a new cavalry company. Memphis was his adopted home. He had moved there in 1858 from Washington, D.C.
The son of Austrian and German immigrants, Landvoight spent his youth in the capital, attended a year of college in Georgetown, and found work as a printer. One biographical sketch notes that he played a minor role in two of the most influential anti-slavery books of the period. He typeset captions for an edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and proofread The Impending Crisis of the South.
The Memphis Mounted Rebels became part of the 1st Confederate Cavalry, a regiment composed of troopers from Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. Landvoight reportedly suffered the first of three wartime wounds at the 1862 Battle of Perryville. The others occurred in 1864 during the Siege of Fort Morgan at Mobile Bay, Ala. By this time, he had joined the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery. When Fort Morgan fell in August 1864, Landvoight became a prisoner of war and spent the rest of his service at the Confederate camp in Elmira, N.Y.
He survived his imprisonment and went on to become a successful newspaper publisher in Arkansas. He died at age 94 in 1934. A daughter survived him.
“Eager for the Fray”
Before dawn on July 13, 1862, about 1,400 troopers led by Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Murfreesboro and launched a surprise attack on its unsuspecting 934-man garrison. At one point during the fight, Forrest approached a subordinate, Maj. Baxter Smith, and asked him if his Tennesseans could capture part of a hastily formed Union line held by the 3rd Minnesota Infantry, supported by four cannon. The major turned to his troopers. He looked upon the face of the officer pictured here, 19-year-old aide 1st Lt. James Trimble “Trim” Brown, and saw a young man “eager for the fray.” His expression, and those of the other men, inspired the major to answer in the affirmative.
The Tennessee cavalrymen promptly charged and took the position. Forrest’s force later captured the entire garrison and a vast quantity of supplies. Maj. Smith said of Brown: “No one on that memorable day bore himself more gallantly or acted his part better.”
Brown hailed from a family of leaders. His father, Neill Brown, served as governor of Tennessee during the Mexican War. His uncle, John C. Brown, became a Confederate general.
Brown made his family proud as a staff officer through the entire war, which ended for him in April 1865 with the surrender of the Army of Tennessee in North Carolina.
Brown returned to his home and family in Nashville, where he married and started his own family. He also became a successful attorney, and died after a brief illness in 1878. He was 36.
Seed Corn Contingent
“The memory of incidents of boyhood is rarely incorrect, because impressions first made are most lasting,” wrote 1st Lt. Bromfield Lewis Ridley, Jr., in reference to the Battle of Stones River in December 1862. Then 17, he described himself as one of the “seed corn of the South”—too young to fight and chomping at the bit to follow his older brothers into the army.
“My home was between the two armies,” he recounted, and “the battle ground was six miles from my home,” Ridley reported. He remembered the tense days leading up to the momentous battle, the bewildering calm that blanketed the countryside the night before the fight, and then the sights and sounds of battle. He listened to “the ‘zip-zip’ of minnies, and the basso interlude of the shells, beat upon the air.” Ridley added, “It sounded like the breaking of millions of sticks, and the cannons boomed like a trip hammer sounds over a stubborn piece of iron. The followed the woo-oo-oo-ing of the solid shot, the w-h-i-z-z-i-n-g, w-h-i-n-i-n-g owl of a shell, as with a shuck tied to it.” After the battle, he helped round up 212 Union stragglers, and turned them over to Confederate pickets.
Ridley soon had his chance to serve, first as a private in the 9th Tennessee Cavalry, part of Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s command, and later as a first lieutenant and aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart.
Ridley survived the war and became an attorney in Murfreesboro. His story of the war, Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee, was published in 1906. He died 11 years later at age 71. His wife, Idelette, and a son survived him.
Bill Dawson and His Partisan Rangers
Gen. Braxton Bragg selected the right man when he authorized William Azariah Dawson to raise a partisan ranger battalion in 1862. A son of South Carolina who had moved to Tennessee, “Bill” Dawson was endorsed by a comrade: “As brave and true hearted a man as ever trod a Battle field. If men wish to be under a leader who will give them an opportunity to do service in the cause, who will bear his share of the hardships of the camp and march, and lead them fearlessly in battle—no better man can be found — We will dare to lead where any man will dare to follow.”
Dawson had a battle record to support the endorsement. As a captain in the 22nd Tennessee Infantry, he fought well at Belmont and Shiloh, where he suffered a wound and was discharged.
Dawson’s Tennessee Partisan Rangers Battalion took the field by early 1863. Bad luck befell Dawson when Union forces captured him in Dyer County in February 1863. He spent the next year as a prisoner of war. Exchanged, he returned to his battalion, which became part of the 15th Tennessee Cavalry.
On Nov. 24, 1864, Dawson met his death during a raid. The after-action report of Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers, who commanded the division in which the 15th belonged, stated that Dawson led a charge against the enemy outside Columbia, Tenn., and was shot as he attempted to wrest an enemy battle flag from its bearer, after discharging all the rounds in his revolver. According to his family, Dawson emptied two pistols and broke his saber in two before he lost his life. He was about 42.
Pride of Franklin
On May 18, 1861, in Franklin, Tenn., Capt. James Park Hanner and his Williamson Greys lined up outside the Presbyterian Church, where they received pocket bibles and the pastor’s blessing. Hanner, 25, the principal of Harpeth Academy in Franklin, had raised the company, the core of which was composed of boys from the school. The Nashville native was well qualified for the job. He had graduated from the Western Military Institute in Kentucky in 1853, before going on to receive a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
An eyewitness to events on that May day recalled that the Greys “marched to the station looking very soldierly in their black pants with gilt side stripes, grey coats trimmed with gilt braid and brass buttons, a grey cap setting off their uniforms. An immense crowd had gathered at the station to say good-bye from all parts of the country. The train blew and the hour for departure had come, brave mothers clung to their sons, fathers, overcome with emotion, shook their hands in farewell, hysterical sisters screamed, shy sweethearts tried to conceal their tears with their bonnets.”
The soldiers went off to meet their fate as part of the 1st Tennessee Infantry. Hanner was one of the first to return. He fell sick in July 1861 and resigned before the end of the year. His decision to leave may have been influenced by his brother, William, a sergeant in the company, who also fell sick about the same time and died.
Hanner recovered and returned to active duty in mid-1863 as assistant surgeon in Capt. John W. Morton, Jr.’s, Company of Tennessee Light Artillery, part of Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Artillery Battalion. Hanner survived his war service and returned to Franklin, where he started a family that grew to include four children. Hanner served two terms as the city’s mayor, and played an active role in Confederate veterans’ affairs. He died in 1918 at age 82.
All in the Family
A father and son stand at attention in this portrait taken soon after they joined the Confederate army. Capt. David Tennessee Neff, left, a native of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, had moved to Tennessee and settled in Johnson County in 1836. He and his wife, Lydia, raised three boys. Their youngest, born in 1843, was named James Knox Polk Neff, in honor of the incumbent U.S. President. In the autumn of 1862, the younger Neff mustered into Company H of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry as a second lieutenant. He is shown here wearing a forage cap with the gold-tinted letter H added by the photographer or a colorist.
Father David became captain and commander of Company G of Thomas’ Legion, an organization recruited from eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. He and his company transferred to the 1st Tennessee Cavalry in November 1862. Captured at Somerset, Ky., on March 30, 1863, and imprisoned with other captured Confederate officers at Fort Delaware, Del., he survived his imprisonment and the war and lived until 1887.
Son James died tragically less than two weeks after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. According to the family, two men described as Lincolnites murdered him on April 21, 1865.
The Gloster Boys Go to War
In 1861, two brothers from Fayette County went off to war. Each chose different paths with very different outcomes.
The older brother, 28-year-old Arthur Willis Gloster, chose the cavalry. He joined the Tennessee Mounted Rifles. It was said that he placed his hand and swore the oath of allegiance on the same bible used by his comrades, one of whom was Nathan Bedford Forrest. While Forrest would rise to fame in this branch of the service, Gloster, a civil engineer by profession, went on to excel in another. Tapped as a lieutenant of engineers, he applied his experience to fortifications at Island No. 10, Fort Pillow, Shiloh, Tupelo and Vicksburg, where he was surrendered with Confederate forces on July 4, 1863. After his exchange, Gloster received a promotion to captain and command of Company C, 3rd Confederate Engineers. Among his works was the construction of pontoon bridges across streams during the Atlanta and Tennessee Campaigns for the Army of Tennessee. He survived the war and became a prominent player in the location and construction of rail lines throughout the South. He died in 1902 at age 70. His passing occurred months after thedeaths of his wife and a daughter. Five other children survived him.
The younger, James Otey Gloster, 21, joined the 13th Infantry. He survived the Battles of Belmont and Shiloh, but his luck ran out at Stones River when he was killed on Dec. 30, 1862.