39th (Bradford’s) Tennessee Infantry Regiment

(later Mounted)
Also called 31st (W. M. Bradford’s) Tennessee Infantry Regiment

Organized March 28, 1862. Reorganized May 3, 1862. Surrendered Asheville, North Carolina April 26, 1865.


  • Colonel-William M. Bradford
  • Lieutenant Colonel-James W. Humes
  • Major-Robert McFarland

The same field officers were re-elected at the reorganization of the regiment. It is probably unique in that all the original field and staff officers survived the war.

By a curious coincidence, two regiments of Tennessee Infantry, one in West Tennessee, one in East Tennessee, both commanded by a Colonel Bradford, and both called the 31st Tennessee Infantry Regiment were organized at about the same time. In June, 1863, the East Tennessee Regiment was officially designated as the 39th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, but prior to that time it was known as W. M. Bradford’s 31st. The regiment was organized at Knoxville, Tennessee March 28, 1862.


  • James W. Chambers, Co. “A”. “J. P. McCown Guards.” Enrolled at Knoxville, January 25, 1862. Men from Sevier County.
  • John E. Toole, Elliott E. Carnes, Co. “B”. Enrolled at Maryville, Blount County, February 12, 1862.
  • John D. Thomas, William McCampbell, Co. “C”. Enrolled at Dandridge, Jefferson County, February 15, 1862.
  • Lemuel C. White, James Denton Spears, Co. “D”. Enrolled in Hawkins County, February 18, 1862.
  • William W. Stringfield, George H. Hynds, Co. “E”. Enrolled at Strawberry Plains, Jefferson County, March 5, 1862.
  • Albartus Forrest, John C. Neil, Co. “F”. Enrolled at Mouse Creek, March 17, 1862. Men from McMinn County.
  • Joseph Francis Foard, James P. Burem, William Lyons Armstrong, Co. “G”. Enrolled at Rogersville Junction, now Bull’s Gap, Hawkins County, March 18, 1862.
  • Samuel T. Dunwoody, Co. “H”. Enrolled at Midway, March 19, 1862. Men from Greene County.
  • Edward A. Watkins, Co. “I”. Enrolled at Talbott Station, Jefferson County, March 20, 1862.
  • Henderson Hix, Moses J. McLendon, Co. “K”. Enrolled at Sweetwater, Monroe County, March 21, 1862.

Shortly after organization the regiment moved to Loudon, where it was reported on April 30, 1862 with 363 effectives, partly armed with country rifles. On June 30, at Rutledge, it was reported in Brigadier General S. M. Barton’s Brigade, composed of the 20th Alabama, 40th Georgia, 39th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, 9th Georgia Infantry Battalion, and the Botetourt Artillery, but a few days later, on July 3, it was reported in Brigadier General C. L. Stevenson’s Division, Colonel T. H. Taylor’s Brigade, composed of the 3rd, 46th Alabama, 3rd (Vaughn’s), 39th, 59th Tennessee Infantry Regiments and the Rhett Artillery. These three Tennessee regiments remained together throughout the war.

On September 18, it set out to join General Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi, reaching him at Harrodsburg, Kentucky, just after the Battle of Perryville, and retreated with his ai’rny to Knoxville. Company reports show that it moved from Loudon to Camp Breckinridge, to Danville, to Harrodsburg, to Versailles, to Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, back via Bryantsville and Lancaster, Kentucky, Cumberland Gap, Bean’s Station, Rutledge, Knoxville, Lenoir to Loudon, Tennessee; a march of 700 miles in 42 days, often without food or water, many barefoot, sometimes in dust four inches deep, and to cap the climax, on October 26, a heavy snow, which caught it with no tents, thin clothing, and no cover.

On October 31, 1862, the regiment was reported in Brigadier General Henry Heth’s Division, Colonel A. W. Reynold’s Brigade, composed of the 3rd (Lillard’s), 39th, 59th, 43rd Tennessee, the 39th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, and the 3rd Maryland Battery. The 43rd Tennessee also became a permanent member of the brigade, but the 39th North Carolina was soon transferred elsewhere. 3rd (Lillard’s) was originally 3rd (Vaughn’s), Colonel J. C. Vaughn having been commissioned brigadier general.

On December 31, 1862, the regiment left Charleston via rail for Jackson, Mississippi where it arrived after ten days and nights in crowded box cars. Here Reynolds’ Brigade, Stevenson’s Division, was placed in the forces commanded by Lieutenant General J. C. Pemberton, and moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the regiment was engaged in picket duty for some time. In February, 1863, a detachment of three companies was placed on a small steam ferry boat with two cannons, and captured the Federal gun boat “Queen of the West.” Shortly thereafter, in company with other troops, the same men from the 39th manned the “Queen of the West” and the “Webb,” and captured the ironclad gun boat “Indianola.” On May 1, the regiment was ordered to Port Gibson, but arrived after the fight. On May 15, in the engagement at Raymond, Mississippi, the brigade was assigned to guard the baggage trains, and was involved in a skirmish at Baker’s Creek. It then returned to Vicksburg, and spent 47 days in the trenches, until the surrender of Vicksburg July 4, 1863. All company reports during this period complained of the horrible beef which was furnished, so bad that the men would not eat it. The regiment was surrendered and paroled with the rest of Pemberton’s Army.

On September 15, 1863, Inspector General S. Cooper, in a memo to President Davis, reported that Reynolds’ Brigade consisted of the 3rd Confederate, 39th, 42nd, and 59th Tennessee Regiments, and recommended that the 3rd, Vaughn’s old regiment, be transferred to Vaughn’s Brigade, and a Tennessee Regiment from Brigadier General John Gregg’s Brigade be transferred to Reynolds’ to replace it. The mention of the 42nd was evidently an error, for the 42nd had never been a member of the brigade; 42nd should have read 43rd Tennessee. The recommendation was approved, but apparently never put into effect. Instead of transferring the 3rd to Vaughn’s Brigade, Brigadier General J. C. Vaughn was given command of the brigade, which on November 20, 1863, was reported in Bragg’s Army, Stevenson’s Division, with the note “Exchanged prisoners. But few reported.”

On December 31, 1863, Vaughn’s Brigade was in Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s Corps, Major General Simon B. Buckner’s Division, with the same regiments plus a detachment from the 2nd East Tennessee Brigade under Major James A. Rhea. On January 31, 1864, Vaughn’s Brigade, now mounted, was reported in thd Cavalry Corps of Major General William T. Martin, of Longstreet’s Department of East Tennessee. By March 31, 1864, the brigade had been increased by the addition of 12th (Day’s), 16th (Neal’s) Cavalry Battalions, and a detachment from the 6Oth, 61st and 62nd Tennessee Regiments (now mounted). On April 16, 1864, an inspection report stated that Vaughn’s Brigade, now increased by the addition of the 1st (Carter’s) Tennessee Cavalry was in deplorable condition; that Vaughn had no idea of discipline, and the brigade was almost a band of marauders. The 39th was reported with 272 men present. On May 6, 1864, General Bragg forwarded the report to the Adjutant General with the recommendation that the brigade be dismounted, and that General Vaughn be sent to some disciplinarian, or left out of assignment. At about the same time, on April 20, 1864 a detachment from the 16th Georgia Battalion, 3rd, 39th, 43rd, 60th, 61st and 62nd Tennessee Regiments, commanded by Captain Nathan Dodd, was reported as attached to General Bushrod Johnson’s Division of the Army of Tennessee, with the brigade commanded by Colonel John S. Fulton. General Bragg’s recommendation was not accepted, for General Vaughn continued to be reported in command of Vaughn’s Cavalry Brigade in the Department of Western Virginia, and East Tennessee until February 28, 1865 when the brigade was composed of the 13th Georgia, 1st (Carter’s) Tennessee Cavalry Regiments, the 3rd, 43rd, 59th, 60th, 61st, 62nd Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiments, and the 12th and 16th Tennessee Cavalry Battalions, plus Abbott’s Scouts. This is the last record found in the Official Records.

Colonel W. M. Bradford, in his outline of the regiment in Lindsley’s Annals, stated that in the spring of 1864, about half the brigade, under the command of General Vaughn was ordered to the Valley of Virginia, while the other half, under his command, remained in the vicinity of Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia. Part of the regiment, under Major Robert McFarland, was in the force that went to Virginia, and participated in various engagements, losing 46 men killed and wounded out of 118 engaged in the Battle of Piedmont. He goes on to say that in April, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the brigade, as part of the forces commanded by Brigadier General John Echols, was on the march to re-enforce Lee; that Echols disbanded his troops at Christianburg, Virginia; but that Vaughn’s Brigade and others refused to disband at this point and marched across the mountains to Charlotte, North Carolina and there joined President Davis; served as his escort until his capture; when they were surrendered and paroled at Washington, Georgia. He further stated that after the surrender and exchange at Vicksburg, not more than half the regiment ever reported for duty. Colonel Bradford’s individual personnel file shows that he surrendered at Asheville, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865, and took the oath of allegiance on May 13, 1865. Brigadier General Davis Tillson, U.S.A., in his report of operations in Western North Carolina in the spring of 1865, stated: “Colonel Bradford surrendered to General Tillson with his command on May 6, 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.

Comments are closed.