51st Tennessee Infantry Regiment

Organized January 1, 1862; consolidated with 52nd Tennessee Infantry April, 1862 to form 51st Consolidated; consolidation declared illegal and regiment reorganized April, 1863; formed part of Company “B”, 2nd Consolidated Tennessee Infantry April 9, 1865; paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina May 2, 1865.

First Organization


  • Colonels-B. M. Browder, John Chester
  • Lieutenant Colonel-John Chester
  • Major-Edward A. Clark

51st Consolidated

  • Colonel– John Chester
  • Lieutenant Colonel-Edward O. Shelton
  • Major-Green W. Smitheall (declined), Andrew N. Wilson

Reorganized Regiment

  • Colonel-John Chester
  • Lieutenant Colonel-John G. Hall
  • Major-John T. Williamson

First Organization


  • Edward O. Shelton, William Campbell, Co. “A”. Men from Mount Zion, Tipton County. Enrolled November 16, 1861. JR. Hodges, A. D. Thomas,Co. “B”. Men from Gallaway Station, Fayette County. Enrolled November 20, 1861
  • O. D. Weaver, F.M. Spivey, Co. “C”. Men from Shelby Station, Shelby County. Enrolled November 26, 1861
  • M. Murchison, J. B. Tate, Co. “D”. Men from Jackson, Madison County. Enrolled November 30, 1861
  • Benjamin F. Elder, Richard T. McKnight, Co. “E”. Men from Jackson, Madison County. Enrolled December 3, 1861
  • J. C. Hudson, M. W. Russell, Co. “F”. Men from Henderson Station, then Madison, now Chester County. Enrolled December 17, 1861
  • B. M. Browder, John G. Hall, A. B. Hill, Co. “G”. Men from Tipton County. Enrolled November 4, 1861
  • Samuel D. Bamett, Robert D. McCallum, Co. “H”. Men from Henderson Station, then Madison, now Chester County. Enrolled December 7, 1861
  • D. O. March, Co. “I”. Men from Jackson, Madison County. Enrolled February 27, 1862
  • S. E. Sherrill, George C. Howell, J. S. Hall, Co. “K”. Men from Tipton County. Enrolled March 1, 1862

51st Consolidated Regiment


  • N. A. Wesson, Co. “A”. A consolidation of “A” and “B”, 52nd Regiment
  • J. A. Russell, Co. “B”. A consolidation of “B” and “K”, 52nd Regiment
  • Andrew N. Wilson, James F. Franklin, Co. “C”. Later cavalry commanders. A consolidation of “C” and “F”, 52nd Regiment
  • S. D. Barnett, William H. Brown, Co. “D”. A consolidation of “H” and “I” of 51st Regiment
  • John W. Estes, Co. “E”. A consolidation of “H” and “I” of 52nd Regiment
  • J. C. Hudson, Co. “F”. A consolidation of “D” and “F” of 51st Regiment
  • S. E. Sherrill, Co. “G”. A consolidation of “H” and “K” of 51st Regiment
  • Thomas C. Campbell, Co. “H”. A consolidation of “A”, “B”, and “G”, 51st Regiment
  • O. D. Weaver, Co. “I”. A consolidation of “C” and “E” of 51st Regiment
  • J. G. Thomason, Co. “K”. A consolidation of “E” and “G” of the 52nd Regiment

The regiment was organized at Henderson Station, then Madison, now Chester County, Tennessee, with only eight companies, “A” through “H”. The final two companies were added after a portion of the regiment had been taken prisoner at Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862.

Company reports state “On January 28 we were ordered from Henderson, Tennessee, without arms, and very inefficiently drilled, to Danville, to guard bridges across the Tennessee River. From there to Fort Henry, and given very inefficient arms in the shape of double barreled guns. Retreated to Fort Donelson. In consequence of our inferior arms, our regiment, or a portion, was detailed to man a battery for which they played a good part till we were surrendered.” Company “B” said it served Captain Parker’s Battery.

Just how many were at Fort Donelson is not certain. When Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow arrived he said “Browder’s Regiment had but 60 men, and was placed under Captain Parker to work the artillery.” Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson said Browder’s Tennessee Battalion was in line in the trenches which his division held on the left wing of the entrenchments. Brigadier General Simon Buckner reported Colonel Joseph Drake’s Brigade, composed of the 4th Mississippi, 15th Arkansas Infantry Regiments, Garvin’s Alabama Battalion and Browder’s Tennessee Battalion, as part of the force surrendered by him. At any rate, only part of the regiment under Major Clark was surrendered. Company “F” reported 18 men surrendered; Company “F” 14 men. Of these six died in prison, one was unaccounted for, and 26 were exchanged at Vicksburg. On March 19, at Camp Butler, Illinois 138 men from the 51st were reported as being among those desiring to take the oath of allegiance to the Federal Government and return to their homes.

On February 26, ten days after the fall of Fort Donelson, Colonel Benjamin Lea, of the 52nd Regiment, at Henderson Station, reported “I have under my command about 251 of the 51st Tennessee under Lieutenant Colonel Chester, for whom he has secured about 100 common sporting rifles, repaired and cleaned.” This was before the last two companies were added to the regiment. On March 5, General Bragg ordered “Lea’s and Browder’s Regiments, and stragglers collected, to report to General Ruggles at Corinth forthwith.” On March 9, the regiment was reported in Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles’ Division, Brigadier General L. Pope Walker’s Brigade, along with the 5th Alabama, 38th and 52nd Tennessee Infantry Regiments, 1st Alabama Cavalry, and Cram’s Battery. On April 3, General A. S. Johnston issued an order: “Bragg will detach 51st and 52nd Tennessee, Blount’s Alabama, and Desha’s Arkansas Battalion, and Bains’ Mississippi Battery from his corps to form garrison for post and depot at Corinth.” At Shiloh, April 6-7, one order of battle listed the 51st in Brigadier General I. R. Chalmers’ Brigade, of General Withers’ Division, along with the 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th Mississippi, 52nd Tennessee, and Gage’s Battery. Another omits the 51st from this brigade. No reports of its being engaged at Shiloh were found, and Brigadier General Chalmers, in his report covering the activities of his brigade, makes no mention of the 51st being in his brigade in this battle.

After the battle, on April 25, 1862, by order of General Bragg, the 51st was consolidated with the 52nd to form the 51st Consolidated. It was mustered under this name until April 27, 1863, when the War Department declared the consolidation illegal, and ordered the two regiments to be reorganized as separate units. The organization of the 51st Consolidated Regiment was as shown above.

This regiment was first reported in Colonel J. C. Moore’s Brigade, shortly thereafter in the brigade commanded by Colonel A. S. Fulton, but on June 30 it was reported in Major General B. F. Cheatham’s Division, Brigadier General D. S. Donelson’s Brigade, composed of the 8th, 15th, 16th and 51st Tennessee Infantry Regiments and Carnes’ Battery. These four regiments remained together for the duration. Brigadier General Marcus I. Wright took command of the brigade after the Battle of Murfreesboro, and it was known as Wright’s Brigade, under various commanders, until after the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, when the brigade was broken up.

In August, 1862, the 38th Tennessee was added to the brigade, and with this composition, the brigade was engaged in the Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1862. Here the 51st reported nine killed, 25 wounded.

Its next engagement was at Murfreesboro, December 31, 1862. Here the 84th Tennessee had been added to the brigade just before the battle, but was not actively engaged. The 51st reported 293 engaged, 86 casualties, and the capture of three pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners. In the heat of the battle, Companies “A”, “F”, and “D” became separated from the regiment and attached themselves to Colonel Savage’s 16th Tennessee in some of the heaviest fighting. The balance of the regiment, with Colonel Chester, participated in the charge with the 8th Tennessee Regiment. Colonel Chester’s report read 270 men engaged; killed, wounded and missing, 76; with eight out of 20 officers killed or wounded.

In the meantime, the portion of the 51st which had been captured at Fort Donelson was released on parole at Vicksburg, Mississippi September 16, 1862. A report from Company “H” for July-August 1863, dated at Chattanooga, tells the story: “A part of the company was at Fort Henry; retreated to Fort Donelson; captured February 16; prisoners of war till September 16, 1862, when exchanged at Vicksburg. Then went to Holly Springs and massed into the 50th Tennessee under Colonel Sugg.

“With the army when it fell back from Coldwater, Mississippi to Abbeville, and again when it fell back thence to Grenada. From Grenada, the company went to Vicksburg, and was there during the action of December 31, 1862. On the 5th of January, the regiment to which this company was attached was ordered to Port Hudson, Louisiana, and was there during the fierce bombardment on the night of March 14, 1863. From Port Hudson, the 51st went to Shelbyville, Tennessee.

“The other half of the company after the fall of Fort Donelson to Tupelo, thence to Chattanooga, thence with the army into Kentucky. Took part in the Battle of Perryville. Went thence to Knoxville, thence to Murfreesboro, and participated in the bloody battle there. Fell back with the army to Shelbyville, where the two parts of the company were united again on the 20th April, 1863 after being separated for 14 months. It was with the Army of Tennessee when it fell back from Tullahoma to Chattanooga, where it is now stationed.”

Company reports from “B”, “C”, “D”, “F”, and “H” at Holly Springs, Mississippi October 31, 1862, were signed by Captain John G. Hall of Company “G” with this notation, “This company has been consolidated with mine, and has no one of its original officers present.” The report from Company “E” stated only that the company was not reorganized; and the report from Company “A” is missing. Presumably, these companies also were consolidated with the others into one company under Captain John G. Hall. This company was reported as the 51st Tennessee in Brigadier General John Gregg’s Brigade, along with the 50th Tennessee Regiment until the return to Tennessee. For the composition and history of the brigade during this period, see the history of the 50th Tennessee Regiment.

At Shelbyville, in April, 1863, the 51st Consolidated Regiment was dissolved, and the 51st and 52nd Regiments reorganized as separate units, the men being returned to their original companies. Shortly thereafter, the 51st and 52nd Regiments were again consolidated as a field unit, but separate muster rolls were maintained. During the remainder of the war they were reported as the 51st/52nd Regiment.

As such, in Wright’s Brigade, composed of the 8th, 16th, 28th, 38th, 51st/52nd Tennessee Regiments, it participated in the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863. The 5lst/52nd was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John G. Hall, formerly captain of the contingent in Mississippi and Louisiana, and reported 232 engaged, 13 killed, 102 wounded. It was not engaged at Missionary Ridge, and fell back with the army to Dalton, Georgia, where on December 14, 1863, it reported 181 effectives, 213 present, with 134 arms.

The regiment was part of a force that moved from Dalton, Georgia on February 20, 1864 to Demopolis, Alabama, and returned to Dalton, Georgia on February 29, 1864. This was an expedition which started to re-enforce General Leonidas Polk in Mississippi, but which was recalled on reaching Demopolis. The last report from the regiment showed it in winter quarters at Dalton, Georgia, during March and April, 1864.

However, as part of Cheatham’s Division, the brigade took part in the Atlanta campaign, the return to Tennessee, and the Battle of Franklin. Mter that battle, Wright’s Brigade was broken up, and on December 10, 1864, Vaughan’s Brigade, commanded by Colonel William M. Watkins, was reported as composed of the 11th/29th, 12th/47th, 13th/ 51st/52nd/ and 154th Tennessee Regiments, with the last unit commanded by Major John T. Williamson, of the 51st/52nd Regiment.

After the Battle of Nashville, the brigade retreated into Mississippi; moved to North Carolina to join General Joseph E. Johnston; and in the order of battle for his army dated at Smithfield, North Carolina March 31, 1865, Vaughan’s Brigade was reported as commanded by Colonel William P. Bishop, with the same units, and the 13th/Slst/52nd, and 154th Regiments commanded by Major Marsh M. Patrick. In the final reorganization of Johnston’s Army April 9, 1865, the 51st was reported in the 2nd Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George W. Pease, and composed of the 11h/1l2th/13th/29th/47th/50th/51st/ 52nd/154th Tennessee Regiments. As part of this unit it was surrendered and paroled with the rest of Johnston’s Army at Greensboro, North Carolina May 2, 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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