1st Tennessee Cavalry Battalion

Also called 1st West Tennessee Cavalry Battalion:1st Middle Tennessee Cavalry Battalion

Organized early 1861; mustered into Confederate service September 19, 1861; reorganized May, 1862; consolidated into three companies June 13, 1862 and consolidated with four companies 7th Cavalry Battalion to form the 22nd, usually called 2nd, (Barteau’s) Cavalry Regiment.


  • Lieutenant Colonel-Frank N. McNairy
  • Major-Green Malcolm


  • Frank N. McNairy, W. Hooper Harris, Co. “A”. Men from Davidson County. Organized at Nashville May 23, 1861. “The Tennessee Rangers.”
  • William L. Horn, William W. Calvert, George Morton, Pleas Smith, Co. “B”. Men from Davidson County. Organized at Nashville May 25,1861. “The Shelby Dragoons.”
  • William Ewing, William Parrish Co. “C”. Men from Williamson County. Organized May 28, 1861 at Franklin, Tennessee. “The Light Dragoons, Williamson County Cavalry.”
  • Edwin D. Payne, J. H. Duncan, Co. “D”. Men from Davidson County. Organized at Nashville, June 15, 1861. “The Marion Dragoons.”
  • Timothy M. Allison, Moses W. McKnight, Co. “E”. Men from Cannon, Wilson, DeKalb and Rutherford Counties. Organized at Nashville June 28, 1861. “The Sang Diggers.” “The Sangs.”

In July, 1861, the battalion, “five companies, fully armed,” was reported at Camp Jackson, Middle Tennessee. It was assigned to the forces in East Tennessee under Brigadier General Felix K. Zollicoffer, and on September 15 was reported at Knoxville with 361 present for duty, 370 present, and 393 present and absent. On September 19, it was mustered into Confederate Service at Camp Cummings. It moved to Camp Buckner, near Cumberland Ford, Kentucky, where on September 24 it reported only 191 present for duty, 236 present and absent. Other Cavalry units there at the time were the 4th (Branner’s) and 3rd (Brazelton’s) Battalions. General Zollicoffer reported that on September 26, Colonel Rains’ Regiment (11th), Colonel Statham, with a battalion of his regiment (the 15th Mississippi Infantry), and Lieutenant Colonel McNairy’s Battalion of Cavalry marched for Laurel Bridge, Laurel County, Kentucky to break up a camp of the enemy variously estimated at from 600 to 1500. The expedition broke up the camp, captured part of the baggage and made an ineffectual pursuit of the enemy past London, Kentucky.

On October 16, 1861, Lieutenant Colonel McNairy, with 280 of his men, was ordered to march as part of an expedition towards Barboursville and London, Kentucky. On November 7, when Zollicoffer’s forces marched from Cumberland Gap to Oliver, Tennessee, Zollicoffer ordered “Colonel McNairy will follow the infantry and artillery.” On December 26, Zollicoffer sent 650 cavalrymen, under Lieutenant Colonels McNairy, Branner, and McClellan, on a scout from Beech Grove, Kentucky down the north side of the river toward Burkesville. On December 31, the cavalry units at Beech Grove were the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th Battalions and two independent companies. On January 7, 1862, McNairy’s Battalion, still at Beech Grove, reported 15 officers, 197 rank and file present for duty, 329 present and absent.

The battalion stayed in this vicinity until after the Battle of Fishing Creek on January 19, 1862, but apparently was not engaged in that battle, for Brigadier General G. B. Crittenden, in his report of the battle, said that on the 17th, McNairy’s Battalion was at Mill Spring, Kentucky, on the south bank of the river, and made no mention of its moving across the river. It retreated with Crittenden’s forces to Gainesboro, Tennessee, and from there was ordered to Livingston, Tennessee on February 6, 1862.

The next record of the battalion was on March 20, 1862, when General Bragg ordered Brigadier General John C. Breckinridge to move his troops by rail to Corinth, Mississippi, and advised him; “Your wagons and artillery horses will be escorted by McNairy’s Battalion, to be furnished by General Crittenden.” However, a Federal report placed McNairy’s Battalion at MCMinnville, Tennessee on March 27. According to this report, a detachment of the 4th Ohio Cavalry at McMinnville got word that McNairy, with 200 men, was planning to attack them that night. Being forewarned, they prepared an ambush, and when the Cavalry rode down on them at 3:00 A.M., poured a withering fire on them which sent them “kiting.” “The defeat was so complete that the next intelligence heard of them was that those surviving were on the way to Winchester, and never offered a fight afterwards.” However, R. R. Hancock, in his “Diary” makes no mention of this engagement, and says the battalion crossed the Tennessee River at Decatur, Alabama, on March 13, 1862.

On April 1st, General Bragg was inquiring of Breckinridge “Where are McNairy’s and Gordon’s Cavalry commands?” There is no record of the battalion having been engaged at Shiloh, and the last record of McNairy’s Battalion was found in a report by Colonel W. R. Bradfute, commanding a Cavalry outpost, of a move from Jacinto, Mississippi, with McNairy’s Battalion and one piece of artillery, to Burnsville, Mississippi where he found Lieutenant Colonel McCulloch and Captain Milner with 300 men. They then marched to Booneville, Mississippi, where they had a skirmish with Federal forces guarding a large number of sick Confederate prisoners. The expedition resulted in effecting the release of 2000 sick prisoners, and the occupation of Booneville. Colonel Bradfute paid tribute to the conduct of Lieutenant Colonel McNairy and his men, who numbered only 76 enlisted men, and were parts of three companies, Parrish’s, McKnight’s and Morton’s.

An old history of the battalion, date uncertain, written by one of its members, stated that after the Battle of Shiloh, Colonel John H. Morgan desired to make an expedition into Kentucky, and not having men who were familiar with the section of Tennessee through which he would pass, obtained a detail of 25 men, including Captain Hooper Harris, from Company “A” of the battalion, to accompany him. The expedition left Burnsville, Mississippi early in May, and at Lebanon, Tennessee, on May 5, 1862 were surprised by a strong force of Federal Cavalry. Captain Harris, and 21 men from the battalion were captured in this engagement.

Felix H. Blackman, later a Captain in the 9th (Ward’s) Cavalry Regiment in a letter dated September 25, 1902, stated he was originally a member of Company “A”, and that the remnant of Captain Harris’s company was consolidated with Captain Horn’s Company “B”, and that Orderly Sergeant George Morton became captain and Pleas Smith lieutenant. Pleas Smith later became captain of the consolidated companies.

The history of the Battalion, as such, ended on June 13, 1862, with the organization of the 2nd Regiment, also called 22nd (Barteau’s) Cavalry. In this consolidation Companies “A” and “B” were consolidated to form Company “A” of the 2nd; Companies “C” and were consolidated to form “B” of the 2nd; and Company “E” became Company “C” of the 2nd.

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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