12th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion

Also called Adrian’s Partisan Ranger Battalion; Phipps’ Battalion

Organized September 1, 1862; consolidated with 16th Battalion, June, 1863 to March, 1864, in temporary field organization known as Rucker’s Legion; in Brigadier General I. C. Vaughn’s Brigade balance of war.


  • Majors-T. W. Adrian, Francis Leeper Phipps, George W. Day

The battalion was originally organized with four companies of Independent Partisan Rangers; Company “E” was added soon after, and Company “F” and “G” attached in 1864.

These companies were as follows:


  • Clinton D. Lyon, Frank L. Phipps (to major), Co. “A”. Organized May 21, 1862 at Lyon’s Store, Hawkins County.
  • John Q. Arnold, John S. Fitzpatrick, Co. “B”. Organized June 28, 1862 at Greeneville, Greene County.
  • George W. Day (to major), L. I. Jennings, Co. “C”. Organized August 27, 1862 at Camp Adian, Hawkins County.
  • D. C. Jackson, James H. Morris, P. H. Thornburg, Co. “D”. Organized September 1, 1862 at Morristown, then Grainger, now Hamblen County.
  • Leslie T. Hardy, Co. “E”. Organized September 27, 1862 at Knoxville, Knox County.
  • William R. Neilson, Co. “F”. Organized September 1, 1863 at Caney Branch, Greene County.
  • J.J. Harrell, Co. “G”. Originally Lieutenant Harrell’s Company Local Defense Troops (Grainger County). Organized July 27, 1863 at Thorn Hill. Attached to 12th Battalion in October, 1864.

The battalion was commanded successively by Major T. W. Adrian, who was killed November 12, 1862, then by Major Frank L. Phipps, who resigned July 24, 1863; finally by Major (later lieutenant colonel) George W. Day, who was in command for the rest of the war.

On June 24, before the battalion was organized, Major General E. Kirby Smith, making preparations for his invasion of Kentucky, wrote: I think I shall order Colonel Starnes to Rogersville to scout in Hawkins and Hancock. ***If Captain Phipps’ Company from Hawkins County can be found, he might be ordered to report to Colonel Starnes, as they could act as guides for him.”

Soon after organization, the battalion was evidently placed in Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler’s Command, for in his report of the Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1862, he stated: “Early in the day I sent a battalion under Major Adrian to re-enforce the picket on the Perryville to Mitchellburg road, the enemy having pressed upon us at that point with the apparent indication of attempting to gain our rear. Major Adrian skirmished with them and held them at bay until we retired the following morning.”

On October 31, the battalion was reported in Colonel J. S. Scott’s Brigade, in the Department of East Tennessee, and on November 15, Major General E. Kirby Smith ordered the 1st Louisiana Regiment, 1st Georgia Regiment and Adrian’s Battalion to proceed via Monticello and Somerset across the mountain toward London and Mount Vernon, and return through Cumberland and Big Creek Gaps.

About this time, a portion of Company “B”, along with Captain Hardy’s Company “E” were ordered on detached service as escort to Major General John P. McCown, where they remained until the last of June, 1863. Company “T” reported that on December 30, on outpost and vidette duty at Murfreesboro, it fought the enemy cavalry for four hours, and on December 31 was placed under General “Horton.” This was evidently Brigadier General John A. Wharton, for General McCown stated: Captain L. T. Hardy’s Company of Cavalry, who had been serving as my escort, was thrown out to connect my left with General Wharton, where he suffered severely.” General Wharton reported: “Ashby’s Regiment and L. T. Hardy’s company formed in front of the enemy. Ashby and Hardy were ordered to charge, which they promptly did, and were met by a counter charge of the enemy, with sabres drawn.” On January 10, Hardy’s Squadron, at Shelbyville, reported 93 present for duty, 170 present, 261 present and absent.

On January 2, 1863, General Joseph E. Johnston sent a message to General Bragg: “Send 1st Georgia, 1st Louisiana, and Adrian’s Battalion to report to General E. K. Smith, and such other of his troops as may be required, to repel a raid in East Tennessee.” These troops had been reported in Colonel I. S Scott’s Brigade at Sparta, Tennessee, on November 20, but had been ordered into Kentucky by General Smith on November 15.

On March 19, Major Phipps’ 12th Tennessee Battalion was reported in Brigadier General A. E. Jackson’s Brigade, at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. Shortly thereafter it was transferred to the brigade commanded by Colonel J. J. Morrison, which was reported April 25, at Albany, Kentucky, composed of the 1st Georgia, 1st (Carter’s), 2nd (Ashby’s) Tennessee Regiments, the 12th and 16th Tennessee Battalions of Cavalry, and Huwald’s Battery. Colonel Morrison reported an engagement with the enemy near Monhcello, Kentucky on May 2.

About the first of June, the 12th and 16th Battalions were consolidated into a field organization known as Rucker’s Legion (also called 1st East Tennessee Legion), which on July 31 was reported in Brigadier General John Pegram’s Brigade, with Headquarters at Ebenezer, Tennessee, consisting of 1st Georgia, 6th Georgia Regiments, 7th North Carolina Battalion, 1st (Carter’s) Tennessee Regiment, and Rucker’s Legion. Company reports for the 12th Battalion showed most of the companies at Sweetwater, on June 30, and Captain Hardy’s Company “E” at Ebenezer reported it had just rejoined the battalion after being on detached service in Middle Tennessee for the past nine months. On August 23, a Federal report placed Rucker’s Legion (part of Pegram’s Command), with four pieces of artillery at Kingston.

As part of Pegram’s Brigade, Rucker’s Legion took part in the cavalry engagements prior to the Battle of Chickamauga, and on September 12, the 6th Georgia and Rucker’s Legion fought Wilder’s Lightning Brigade of Mounted Infantry at Leet’s Tan Yard. In the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, Rucker’s Legion was in Brigadier General H. B. Davidson’s Brigade, of Pegram’s Division.

Rucker’s Legion was then placed in Colonel J. Warren Grigsby’s Brigade, Brigadier General John H. Kelly’s Division, of Major General Joseph Wheeler’s Cavalry Corps, and detached to go with Lieutenant General Long-street on his move into East Tennessee. In November, 1863, company reports showed the battalion in Hawkins County, East Tennessee. In December 1863, and January and February 1864, Rucker’s Legion was reported as operating near Russellville, Tennessee, at such points as Sneedville, Mooresburg, Chucky Bend, Morristown, Strawberry Plains, New Market, and Dandridge. On January 31, the Legion reported 171 effectives, 213 present, and 525 present and absent.

The report for the Department of Eastern Tennessee and Western Virginia dated February 29, 1864, bore a note: “Rucker’s Legion disbanded, and regiments transferred to Dibrell’s Division, and Vaughn’s Brigade.” So far as is known, the only members of Rucker’s Legion were the 12th and 16th Tennessee Cavalry Battalions, and these were transferred to Brigadier General 3. C. Vaughn’s Brigade. Colonel Rucker was transferred to the Department of Mississippi, and later commanded a brigade in General N. B. Forrest’s Cavalry Corps. The 12th and 16th Battalions remained in Vaughn’s Brigade for the rest of the war. On April 29, an inspection report showed the 12th Battalion with 234 effectives.

Soon after this, Vaughn’s Brigade moved into the Valley of Virginia for the campaign beginning with the battle of Piedmont on June 5, 1864. No record of the particular activities of the battalion were found, but it was evidently a part of this force, for on August 22, Major General Robert Ransom, Jr., in reporting on the condition of the cavalry forces in the Valley of Virginia and making recommendations for improved organization, recommended that the 12th and 16th Battalions be consolidated with 1st (Carter’s) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, and that the rest of Vaughn’s Brigade be dismounted.

On July 13, a Federal report placed Day’s Battalion at Tazewell, Tennessee; on August 1, a detachment of Vaughn’s Brigade, under Colonel William M. Bradford, was reported as stationed near Buirs Gap, Tennessee and Abingdon, Virginia; the battalion was listed as part of this detachment. Company reports show the battalion near Bristol in September; near Kingsport in October, 1864. One report stated: “This command was engaged in a severe skirmish with the 2nd Federal Tennessee Regiment on 18th October in Grainger County. On 28th, took part in General Vaughn’s fight in Jefferson County. Had the proud satisfaction of checking the columns of the enemy, Carter’s and Bradford’s Brigades, at Russellville, Tennessee, and saving the wagon train of the entire command.” It is a curious coincidence that in the fighting in East Tennessee there were Colonels Carter and Bradford in both the Federal and Confederate forces.

On November 30, Major Day, at Thorn Hill, Grainger County, reported to General Vaughn that he had reached that place the night before. On December 3, General Vaughn reported: I have Major Day’s Battalion on the Rogersville Road.”

On February 28, 1865, the battalion was still reported in Vaughn’s Brigade, Department of Eastern Tennessee and Western Virginia, commanded by Brigadier General John Echols. The last report from any company of the battalion was from Company “E” on March 8, 1865, at which time it was at Big Creek, Hawkins County. General Echols disbanded his forces when news was received of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Some of Vaughn’s Brigade crossed over into North Carolina, and were finally surrendered at Washington, Georgia but it is not known definitely whether the 12th Battalion was a part of this force.

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. This history may not be republished for any reason without the written permission of the copyright owner.

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