21st Tennessee Infantry Regiment

Organized July 9, 1861; mustered into Confederate serviice August, 1861; reorganized May, 1862; consolidated with 2nd (J. Knox Walker’s) Regiment July, 1862 to form 9th (usually called 5th) Confederate Infantry Regiment.


  • Colonel-Edward Pickett, Jr.
  • LieutenantColonel-Hiram Tilman
  • Major-James C. Cole

The ten companies which formed the 21st Tennessee Infantry Regiment were organized at the places shown below during May and June, 1861.


  • Edward Irby, Co. “A”. Men from Memphis.
  • Richard J. Person, Co. “B”. Men from Memphis.
  • J. P S. Whitemore, Co. “C”. Men from Pocahontas, Hardeman County.
  • J. D. Layton, Co. “D”. Men from Memphis.
  • J. H. Healy, Thomas R. Dashiell, Co. “E”. Men from Memphis.
  • A. L. Whitley, William A. Brown, Co. “F”. Men from Memphis.
  • S. H. Whitsitts, N. D. Cullen, Co. “G”. Men from Memphis. 24 men in this company were enrolled at Vicksburg, Mississippi, June, 1861, having formerly been in Gaines’ Company, 22nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment.
  • Nat C. Taylor, Co. “H”. Men from Memphis.
  • William Hutchinson, C. W. Frazer, Co. “I”. Men from Memphis.
  • H. C. King, Co. “K”. “The Pillow Guards No.2,” a Kentucky Company enlisted in Tennessee June 13, 1861.

Soon after organization the regiment moved to Camp of Instruction at Union City, where they were reported in July, 1861 with 744 men armed with flintlock muskets. On August 12, 1861 it was still mentioned as being at Union City. In September, 1861 it was reported in a brigade at Columbus, Kentucky, commanded by Colonel R. M. Russell, composed of 12th, 13th and 21st Tennessee Infantry Regiments.

In September, 1861, by order of Major General Leonidas Polk, Company “K” was transferred, and became Captain R. G. Grundy’s Company, Major H. C. King’s 1st Kentucky Infantry Battalion (afterwards cavalry), and subsequently Company “A” 1st Confederate Cavalry Regiment.

On October 24, 1861 the regiment was reported in Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow’s Division, Russell’s Brigade, now composed of the 12th, 21st, and 22nd Tennessee Infantry Regiments, and Jackson’s Battery. On November 7, 1861, it was engaged in the Battle of Belmont, where it lost 78 men killed and wounded, including four captains and five lieutenants wounded. The 13th Arkansas, 12th, 13th, 21st, and 22nd Tennessee Infantry Regiments, and Beltzhoover’s Battery constituted the forces on the Missouri side of the river when the battle began.

On March 9, 1862, the regiment was reported in Colonel W. H. Stephens’ Brigade, Polk’s Division, Army of the Mississippi, which was composed of 7th Kentucky, 6th, 9th, 21st Tennessee Infantry Regiments, and Smith’s Mississippi Battery. On March 25, a letter from Assistant Adjutant General Thomas Jordan to Major General Polk stated: “I am directed to acquaint you that the general commanding has found it necessary to give orders directly to Colonel Pickett, to fall back no further at present than Kenton Station, behind the Obion River, should he find it judicious to retire from Union City. In that event he has been ordered to burn about half a mile of the railway trestle work in front of the Obion Bridge, which is to be saved.”

On March 31, a Federal report from Colonel N. B. Buford told of a surprise attack on a brigade at Union City commanded by Colonel Pickett, composed of the 21st Tennessee Infantry Regiment and Jackson’s Regiment of Cavalry (7th Tennessee). The attack caught the Confederates completely by surprise, and they fled in disorder without firing a shot, abandoning their camps, which were burned by the Federal troops.

On April 1, 1862, a letter from General P. T. Beauregard to General Polk stated: “I have ordered one of my staff officers to go this morning to Trenton to inquire into the surprise of Colonel Pickett’s command, and the loss of property resulting therefrom. We must make an example of officers who permit their commands to be thus surprised. Prompt and decisive action is necessary to prevent further disasters of that kind.”

At the reorganization in May, 1862 the regiment was reduced to six companies, and was reported in Brigadier General George Maney’s Brigade of Major General B. F. Cheatham’s Division, composed of the 1st, 6th, 9th, and 21st Tennessee Infantry Regiments and Smith’s Battery. On June 30, 1862, the regiment was reported in Major General W. J. Hardee’s Corps, Colonel A. T. Hawthorn’s Brigade, consisting of 33rd Alabama, 17th, 21st, 23rd Tennessee Infantry Regiments, and Austin’s Arkansas Battery.

However, on July 21, 1862, a special order decreed “For the benefit of the public service the 2nd Tennessee and 21st Tennessee will be consolidated and reorganized with the least delay practicable under the command of Colonel Smith of the 2nd Tennessee. As a result of this order the regiment was further consolidated into four companies, and merged with four companies formed from J. Knox Walker’s 2nd Tennessee to form a regiment which was officially designated as the 9th Confederate Infantry Regiment. However, the regiment was known in the field as the 5th Confederate Infantry Regiment, and was so designated in the final reorganization of General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army just before the final surrender.

For the further history of the 21st Tennessee Infantry, see the history of the 2nd (1 Knox Walker’s) Regiment, where the history of the 9th (also called 5th) Confederate Infantry Regiment is given. The consolidated organization was finally merged into the 3rd Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment which was paroled at Greensboro, May 1, 1865.

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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