Originally 1st East Tennessee Cavalry Regiment.
Organization begun at Cumberland Gap, July, 1862; four companies organized at Louisville, Kentucky, December 1862, January, 1863, others at Nashville; mustered out at Nashville July 12, 1865.
Captain Meshack Stephens had a company of 35 men at Cumberland Gap where Brigadier General George Morgan was in command. The regiment was first reported in the Official Records on October 31, 1862, as the 1st East Tennessee Cavalry, under Colonel R. M. Edwards, in General Morgan's Division, District of Western Virginia. General Morgan evacuated Cumberland Gap September 17, 1862, and retired to Gallipolis, Ohio, where the regiment arrived November 12, 1862. On November 14, an order was issued at Cincinnati, Ohio, directing that Colonel Edwards' Regiment 1st East Tennessee Volunteers, an incomplete cavalry organization, on arrival at Cincinnati, should proceed via Bowling Green to Nashville, to join Major General W. S. Rosecrans. On November 17, Brigadier General James G. Spears, at Louisville, reported "I am here with the residue of my command, 5th Tennessee (Infantry) and 1st, 2nd, Tennessee Cavalry. 2nd Tennessee has 1030 men. Colonel Cook's 1st Tennessee, Colonel Edwards says, 300." General Spears got his numbers reversed, for Colonel Cook's Regiment was the 2nd East Tennessee, and Colonel Edwards' the 1st. On December 4, 1862, Major General H. G. Wnght advised General Rosecrans: "The 1st and 2nd East Tennessee (Infantry) and part of the 5th are still at Louisville, awaiting transportation to you; also Edwards' and Cook's incomplete cavalry regiments."
On December 28, 1862, at the time of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's "Christmas Raid," General Wright advised Brigadier General Jeremiah T. Boyle, at Louisville: "You had better recall Edwards' Regiment unless you have some special service for him. He can do nothing by himself, and he will add materially to your force. Don't mind small places; you can't defend them all, and any attempt to do so will involve your being beaten in detail."
The regiment finally reached Nashville on January 26, where it was mustered into service as the 4th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment with Lieutenant Colonel Jacob M. Thornburgh in command. On March 26, 1863, Brigadier General Robert B. Mitchell, Commanding Post at Nashville, wrote: "I have had no reply with regard to arms for the 4th Tennessee Cavalry. Can I have them? They are useless as they are."
On June 30, 1863, the regiment, under Major Meshack Stephens, was reported at Camp Spear, Nashville, where Colonel Alvan C. Gillem was in command. On October 5, 1863, the regiment left Nashville for Murfreesboro as part of a hastily scraped up force under Brigadier General William T. Ward to reenforce the garrison at Murfreesboro which was threatened by Confederate forces under Major General Joseph Wheeler. It remained at Murfreesboro doing post and scout duty until late in December when it was recalled to Nashville to join the force which Brigadier General William Sooy Smith was organizing for an expedition into West Tennessee. At this time Co. "C" was detached as escort for Major General Henry W. Slocum, Commanding XII Army Corps, with Headquarters at Tullahoma. It did not rejoin the regiment until April 1864.
The rest of the regiment left Nashville December 28, 1863 with General William Sooy Smith, who moved through Columbia and Savannah, Tennessee to Corinth, Mississippi, and from there to Collierville, Tennessee. From Collierville, on February 11, 1864, General Smith led a column whose objective was Meridian, Mississippi. In this expedition, the 4th Tennessee along with the 2nd and 3rd Tennessee, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry, was placed in Colonel La Fayette McCrillis's 3rd Brigade. The principal engagement on this campaign took place at Okolona, Mississippi, on February 22, where General Smith's forces were roughly handled by Confederate forces under Major General Nathan B. Forrest. Colonel McCrillis's report stated: "The 4th Tennessee acted the whole day with coolness and courage, and never left any position ordered into by the commanding general or myself until outflanked or ordered back." In the entire campaign, lasting about two weeks, the regiment reported 34 casualties.
From Okolona, the expedition withdrew to Memphis, where, on February 27, the regiment was ordered back to Nashville, via Fort Henry. It reached Nashville on March 18, and in the reorganization of the Cavalry Corps on April 30, 1864, was placed in the 1st Brigade of Brigadier General Alvan C. Gillem's 4th Division. The brigade was composed of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Tennessee Cavalry Regiments, and Battery "A", 1st Tennessee Light Artillery. It did post duty at Nashville, and along the Nashville and Decatur Railroad until June 19, when it moved to Decatur, where Brigadier General R. S. Granger was in command of the District of Northern Alabama.
On July 10, 1864, under Major Stephens, the regiment formed part of the force which Brigadier General Lovell H. Rousseau led from Decatur to destroy the Decatur to West Point, and the Montgomery and West Point Railroads, south of Opelika, Alabama. The expedition wound up at Marietta, Georgia on July 27.
From here, hardly pausing for breath, the regiment took part in Brigadier General Edward M. McCook's raid against the Atlanta & Western, and the Atlanta & Macon Railroads in the area around Newnan and Lovejoy Station, Georgia. This expedition was cut off and surrounded by Confederate forces on July 30, but the 4th was part of a force under Lieutenant Colonel F. A. Jones which cut its way out, but not before suffering heavy loss in men and equipment. It got back to Marietta, Georgia, on August 4, and on the 5th was ordered to turn over its horses, equipment arid transportation to the 3rd Cavalry Division, and proceed by rail to Decatur.
On August 8, 1864, under Major Stephens, it reported nine officers and 229 men present for duty; but with only nine officers and 20 men mounted and equipped for dutie. It reported 181 unserviceable horses and 194 small arms. It arrived at Decatur on August 10, where on August 31, Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Thornburgh was reported in command of the brigade. On August 18, a detachment from the regiment was with Lieutenant Colonel Prosser of the 2nd Tennessee on an expedition to Moulton, Alabama, which had a sharp engagement at Antioch Church. On September 30, the 4th, 550 strong, was ordered to Nashville and did duty along the Nashville & Decatur Railroad as garrisons for the blockhouses along the road during October and early November.
On November 17, 1864 Major General James H. Wilson, who had been charged with the task of reorganizing the cavalry into an effective force, ordered the formation of the 7th Cavalry Division, and the 4th was assigned to this division. Bv this time, General John B. Hood, C.S.A., had started his invasion of Tennessee, and General Wilson was at Columbia, urgently calling for reinforcements. The 4th was at Nashville, where strenuous efforts were being made to get it mounted and equipped for service. On November 26, General Wilson was advised that the 4th and a detachment of the 3rd, 600 strong, armed with sabres and Maynard carbines, would probably march the next day.
In the battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864, the 4th was in Brigadier General J. H. Hammond's 1st Brigade, 7th Division. The division, on the night of the 15th was stationed along the Granny White Pike; on the 16th, it fell back to the Hillsboro Pike where it was engaged most of the day; on the 17th, after the Confederate lines had been broken, it joined in the pursuit, and was engaged at Hollow Tree Cap and Franklin; on the 25th at Anthony's Hill; on the 26th at Sugar Creek; and continued on into North Alabama where Division Headquarters were established at Gravelly Springs. Here the 2nd and 4th Tennessee, and the 9th and 10th Indiana Regiments constituted the 1st Brigade.
On February 3, 1865, the 7th Division was ordered to New Orleans, to report to Major General F. R. S. Canby. The 1st Brigade, as soon as completely mounted and equipped, was ordered to Eastport, Mississippi, for embarkation.
In the Mobile, Alabama, campaign, March 17-April 12, 1865, the 4th was reported in the 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, Military Division of West Mississippi. On March 23, at Navy Cove, Alabama, it was reported "only a portion of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry (about 450 men have arrived at this point." On the same date, one company showed up at Barrancas, Florida, through a mistake in orders, and was ordered to rejoin the regiment. On March 30, a detachment of the 4th under Major Blackman was assigned to temporary duty with Brigadier General James C. Veatch, 1st Division, XIII Army Corps, near Spanish Fort, Alabama.
On the 31st, another detachment, under Major Stephens, at Sibley's Mills, Alabama, reported 14 officers, 260 men, 291 horses, 39 mules present.
On April 14, after the capture of Mobile, Alabama, the 4th, at Blakely, Alabama, was ordered to report direct to Major General E. R. S. Canby for duty and orders. On May 2, at Mobile, Brigadier General I. Bailey was assigned to command of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Military Division of "vest Mississippi, composed of the 3rd Michigan, 4th Tennessee, and 10th Illinois Regiments. From May 8-22, 1865, this brigade went on an expedition from Spring Hill, Alabama, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Lieutenant Colonel Thornburgh was assigned to command of a Pioneer Corps composed of detachments from all regiments, and General Bailey commended him highly, saying that he labored assiduosly, and was deserving of special credit for his efficiency.
On May 27, the regiment was ordered back to Nashville, where it arrived June 13, 1865. On arrival it was ordered to report to Colonel C. C. Miner, Commanding Cavalry Depot, Edgefield (now East Nashville), Tennessee, where it remained until mustered out of service in July.
This unit history was extracted from Tennesseans in the Civil War, Vol 1. Copyrighted © 1964 by the “Civil War Centennial Commission of Tennessee” and is published here with their permission.
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