53rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment

Organized January 7, 1862; surrendered at Fort Donelson February 16, 1862; reorganized September, 1862; formed part of 4th Consolidated Tennessee Infantry, paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina May 1, 1865.


  • Colonels-Alfred H. Abernathy, William H. Wilkes, John R. White.
  • Lieutenant Colonels-Thomas F. Winston, William H. Wilkes, John R. White, W. B. Holden.
  • Majors-W. N. Baker, John R. White, W. B. Holden, Hans H. Aymett, William C. Richardson.


  • Theo Westmoreland, William C. Richardson, Co. “A”. Men from Giles County. Enrolled December 6, 1861.
  • William B. Holden, William F. Collins Co. “B”. Men from Marshall County. En. rolled December 17, 1861 at Nashville.
  • Alfred H. Abernathy, Hans H. Aymett, M M. Macun, Co. “C”. Men from Giles County Enrolled December 13, 1861.
  • Thomas F. Winston, William H. Wilkes, William P. Lewis, Co. “D”. Men from Marshall and Giles Counties. Enrolled December 6, 1861 at Camp Weakley, Nashville.
  • Isaac H. Hill, Samuel C. Orr, Co. “E”. Me from Marshall and Giles Counties, Enrolle December, 1861.
  • William N. Baker, John R. Coble, C “F”. Some men from Perry County. Enrolled December, 1861 at Camp Weakley, Nashville.
  • James D. Bevers, Algernon R. Rarwood, Co. “G”. Men from Giles County. Enrolled December, 1861 at Nashville. “The case of 1st Co. “H” should be noted. It rendezvoused at Camp Weakley, Nashville, December, 1861. Not sworn into Confederate service because of insufficient numbers. Nevertheless participated in the organization of the regiment at Fort Donelson. For reasons best known to themselves, this company, officers and men alike, left the camp together, without permission. From the fall of Fort Donelson to the present hour, said company remains yet to be heard from. (Signed) John R. White, Major Commanding, at Camp near Holly Springs, Mississippi, October 20, 1862.”
  • Robert S. Walker, 2nd Co. “H”. No muster roll.
  • John R. White, Robert L. Evans, Co. “I”. Men from Giles County. Enrolled December, 1861.
  • Milton C. Alexander, Isaac James Rittenberry, Co. “K”. Men from Giles County. Enrolled December, 1861.

The companies composing the regiment had assembled at Camp Weakley, Nashville, during December, 1861. The regiment was organized at Fort Donelson January 7, 1862. The information as to the origin of the companies comes from individual service records, and is not complete.

At the reorganization in 1862 William H. Wilkes was elected lieutenant colonel in place of Thomas F. Winston. Colonel Abernathy resigned, and Wilkes succeeded him as colonel, with Major White moving up to lieutenant colonel, and W. B. Holden elected major. Colonel Wilkes resigned in February, 1863, and Lieutenant Colonel White became colonel, where he served until his death at Lick Skillett Road July 28, 1864. Major Holden became lieutenant colonel and Hans H. Aymett major. Aymett was succeeded as major early in 1864 by William C. Richardson, who was mortally wounded at Lick Skillett Road.

On February 7, 1862, Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson, on his arrival at Fort Donelson, listed the 30th, 49th, 50th and 53rd Tennessee Regiments, Colms’ 1st Battalion, and Captain Frank Maney’s Battery, as the troops stationed at the fort prior to the build-up of forces there. Brigadier General Pillow, on his arrival, mentioned the 53rd as a new regiment “almost disbanded by measles, did not exceed 200 men fit for duty.” Under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas F. Winston, the 53rd was placed in Johnson’s Division, Colonel A. Heiman’s Brigade, composed of the 10th, 53rd, 48th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, 27th Alabama Infantry Regiment, and Maney’s Battery. In this brigade it took part in some heavy fighting, and along with the rest of the army was surrendered on February 16, 1862.

Some of the men not captured at Fort Donelson served later in the 35th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, and some in Nixon’s 48th Regiment. On March 19, 1863, four men from the 53rd were on a list of prisoners at Camp Butler, Illinois, who desired to take the oath of allegiance to the Federal Government.

The regiment was released on parole at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and declared exchanged November 10, 1862. A report from W. B. Holden, captain, Company “B”, dated September 24, 1862 stated: “This company was surrendered to the Federal forces under General Grant at Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862 after three days’ fighting. Sent from there to Indianapolis where remained until September 16, when the only two privates left at the camp were exchanged at Vicksburg, 27 of the non-commissioned officers and privates having taken the oath to the Federal Government. Privates Robert K. Kercheval and acting commissary Joe A. McRady were with the commissioned officers at Johnson’s Island, neither of whom took the oath. The men had much suffering and privation while in the fort and in prison.”

The regiment was at Holly Springs, Mississippi on October 20, 1862, as evidenced by the report from Major White about 1st Company H”, but this was the last report from the regiment which was found. On October 26, Major General Sterling Price stated: “The following regiments were ordered to report for duty at Meridian, Mississippi from General Maury’s Division: 49th/55th and 42nd Tennessee, 1st Mississippi, 53rd, 9th* and 46th Tennessee and 27th Alabama Regiments.’ The regiment was next reported on January 7, 1863, at Port Hudson, Louisiana, in Brigadier General Samuel Maxey’s Brigade, composed of Miles’ Louisiana Legion, 4th and 30th Louisiana, 42nd, 46th, 48th, 53rd and 9th Tennessee Battalion (commanded by Colonel W. A. Quarles) and Bailey’s Consolidated Regiment, 49th/50th Tennessee/7th Texas Infantry Regiments, and three batteries. The regiment remained in this brigade until the end of the war. The brigade was commanded by General Maxey until September, 1863, when Brigadier General W. A. Quarles was given command. From that date on, it was known as Quarles’ Brigade, and General Quarles remained in command until he was wounded at the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864.

On March 31, 1863, Captain H. H. Aymett was reported as commanding the 53rd, still at Port Hudson, Louisiana. The brigade at this time was composed of the 4th, 30th Louisiana, 42nd, 46th/SSth, 48th (Voorhies’), 49th and 53rd Tennessee Infantry Regiments and a Texas Battalion of Sharpshooters. On April 30, the 10th Arkansas had been added to the brigade, with Captain Aymett still in command of the 53rd.

On May 30, 1863, the 53rd, with Lieutenant Colonel J. R. White in command, was back in Mississippi, in the same brigade of Major General W. W. Loring’s Division. On June 21, Major General S. G. French’s Division was organized, and Maxey’s Brigade placed in it. On July 10, 1863, a list of organizations paroled at Port Hudson, Louisiana listed some men from the 53rd in an Improvised Tennessee Battalion, commanded by Captain Whiteside, made up of men in the Tennessee Regiments of Maxey’s Brigade.

In September, 1863, the brigade was at Mobile, Alabama, where Colonel (later brigadier general) Quarles took command. From here, it was ordered to joiji the Army of Tennessee outside of Chattanooga. The next report on the 53rd was in a dispatch from Colonel M. H. Wright, commanding Atlanta, Georgia, to Colonel George Brent, Assistant Adjutant General at Chattanooga: “Colonel White’s Regiment, 250 strong, leaves at 11 this morning for the front. No others here. We had no notice of their coming, but will push all forward with all possible dispatch.” The brigade arrived at Missionary Ridge after the issue had already been decided, and fell back to Dalton, Georgia.

At Dalton, on December 14, 1863, the 53rd reported 212 effectives, 227 present, 220 arms. The 53rd was commanded by Colonel J. R. White, still in Quarles’s Brigade, Major General J. C. Breckinridge’s Division. The brigade at this time was reported as consisting of the 4th and 30th Louisiana, 46th/55th Tennessee, 48th, 49th, and 53rd Tennessee Regiments. The 42nd Regiment was not included in the list at this time, possibly by oversight, as on December 31 the 42nd was again included in the list of brigade members.

On January 20, 1864, Quarles’ Brigade was ordered to the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana, and at Mobile, on April 2, 1864, Major General D. H. Maury reported the 53rd as part of his forces, with 222 effectives, 339 present and absent. On June 30, 1864 the brigade was reported in Major General W. W. Loring’s Army of Mississippi, Major General E. C. Waithall’s Division, with the 1st Alabama Regiment shown as a member of the brigade. Reports from other regiments in Quarles’ Brigade state the brigade had actually joined the Army of Tennessee on May 27, 1864 at New Hope Church. Lieutenant General A. P. Stewart succeeded Loring in command on July 10, and on July 31 the Army of Mississippi became Stewart’s Corps of the Army of Tennessee. By this time the Louisiana Regiments had been detached.

The only specific reference to the activities of the 53rd during this period was in Brigadier General Quarles’ report of the engagement at Lick Skillett Road, July 28, 1864, in which the brigade lost 514 men killed and wounded. In reporting that Colonel White had been killed, and Major Richardson mortally wounded, General Quarles paid high tribute to the character and efficiency of these men. On July 31, the 53rd was reported as commanded by Captain I. J. Rittenberry; on August 31 and September 20, by Captain S. C. Orr.

On December 10, 1864, following the Battle of Franklin, the 42nd/46th/49th/53rd/55th Regiments were consolidated into one unit under Captain Austin M. Duncan. On March 31, 1865, at Smithfield, North Carolina, Quarles’ Brigade was reported as composed of the 1st/17th/29th Alabama Regiments and the 42nd/46th/48th/49th/53rd/55th Tennessee Regiments, with the Tennessee Regiments commanded by Captain Joseph Love. The 53rd was not accounted for in the final order of battle for General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army on April 9, 1865, but a comparison of the muster rolls show that some men from the regiment were paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina May 1, 1855 as part of the Fourth Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Anderson Searcy, and listed in the Official Records as composed of the 2nd (Robison’s)/3rd (Clack’s) /10th/15th/18th/20th/26th/30th/32nd/37th/ and 45th Regiments and the 23rd Tennessee Infantry Battalion.

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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