Also called 81st Tennessee Infantry Regiment: Pitts’ Regiment, East Tennessee Volunteers: 61st Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment
Organized October 10, 1862; mustered into Confederate service November 10, 1862; captured at Vicksburg, July 1863; served remainder of war in Vaughn’s Brigade in East Tennessee and Western Virginia; part of President Davis’ escort from Charlotte, North Carolina to Washington, Georgia, where disbanded.
The 61st Regiment was originally organized with eleven companies which had been enrolled during September and October, 1862. When mustered into Confederate service at Henderson Mills (now Alton), Greene County, on November 10, 1862, Captain Jesse Bundren’s Company was mustered with the regiment, but seems to have left the regiment shortly thereafter, and subsequently appeared as 2nd Company “H”, 26th Tennessee Infantry Regiment.
- Colonels-Fountain E. Pitts, J. G. Rose
- Lieutenant Colonels-J. G. Rose, James P. Snapp
- Majors-James P. Snapp, I. Nathan Dodd
- I. Nathan Dodd (to major), Co. “A”. Enrolled Rheatown, Greene County, September 15
- William Francis Sturm, Co. “B”. Enrolled Rogersville, Hawkins County, September 24
- James W. Jackson, William J. Johnson, Elijah Scott, Co. “C”. Enrolled Greene County, October 4. J. C. Gallaher, Co. “D”. Enrolled Henderson’s Mills, Greene County, September 26
- James P. Snapp (to major), L. H. Denny, Co. “E”. Enrolled Blountville, Sullivan County, September 27
- Jacob M. Alexander, Co. “F”. Enrolled Jossy Creek, Jefferson County, October 2.
- Frank M. Jackson, Co. “G”. Enrolled Moristown, Grainger County, now Hamblen County, October 3
- S. E. Mitchell, Co. “H”. Enrolled Claiborne County, October 3. William N. Bewley, Co. “I”. Enrolled Varrensburg, Greene County, October 4
- Samuel H. Kelton, Co. “K”. Enrolled Zollioffer (now Bluff City), Sullivan County, October 4
- Jesse B. Bundren. This company, enrolled in Grainger County, October 2, became 2nd Co. “H”, 26th Tennessee Infantry Regiment
Colonel Pitts resigned in 1863, and Rose became colonel, Snapp lieutenant colonel and Captain J. Nathan Dodd major.
Immediately after being mustered into Confederate service the regiment was placed in Brigadier General John C. Vaughn’s Brigade, along with the 60th and 62nd Tennessee Regiments, and ordered to Mississippi, arriving at Jackson, Mississippi late in November, 1862. These three regiments remained together in Vaughn’s Brigade throughout the var. See the history of the 60th Regiment or late additions to the brigade.
Its first action of any consequence was at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou and Chickaaw Bluffs, outside Vicksburg, December 6-29, 1862. Vaughn’s Brigade held the abattis on the left wing of the defenses. The 60th was detached to Brigadier General S. M. Barton’s Brigade on the third day of the fighting, the 62nd to Brigadier General Stephen D. Lee’s Brigade on the second day, leaving he 61st to hold the abattis. Lieutenant General J. C. Pemberton’s report stated the heavy abattis prevented the approach of the enemy except with sharpshooters who advanced continuously, but were met with firmness by be East Tennesseans. The regiment suffered only four casualties. In this battle the Federals suffered heavy losses.
The next engagement was at Big Black River, May 17, 1863. Here Vaughn’s Brigade vas guarding a bridge over the river over which Pemberton’s army passed after its defeat at Baker’s Creek on the previous day. According to Colonel J. G. Rose’s outline of he regiment in Lindsley’s Annals the 61st was holding a hastily thrown-up line of earthworks on the left of the brigade, when it was attacked in overwhelming strength by General Osterhaus’s Division of the Federal Army. The regimental colors were seized by the 26th Iowa Regiment. Of about 400 men who responded for duty on the morning of the 17th, only 112 were marched back to Vicksburg that evening.
For the next 48 days and nights “without shelter, and with less than half rations of poor quality, the men literally ate, slept and fought in the trenches. The mortality from exposure and insufficient food was great-in fact, much greater than the casualties in battle.” Along with the rest of the brigade, the regiment was surrendered on July 4, 1863, as part of Major General M. L. Smith’s Division. Although almost immediately paroled, the men captured at Vicksburg were not declared exchanged until June 27, 1864, and some of those captured at Big Black were not released until the spring of 1865.
In the meantime, General Vaughn had been given command of Colonel A. W. Reynolds’ Brigade, which was mounted in December, 1863, and served the remainder of the war as mounted infantry. When the men of the 62nd who had been captured at Vicksburg were finally declared exchanged, they were assigned to this brigade and mounted. Prior to this, a detachment from the 2nd East Tennessee Brigade, numbering only 48 men, was listed in a report of Vaughn’s Brigade in December, 1863, and some men from the 62nd were reported in a detachment attached to General Bushrod Johnson’s Brigade at Zollicoffer on April 20, 1864. This detachment was commanded by Captain Dodd, of the 61st. The first report of the 61st as a regiment, commanded by Colonel James G. Rose, was in a report of Vaughn’s Brigade on November 10, 1864. However, Colonel Rose stated the regiment was in the fight at Carter’s Depot and Greeneville in September, 1864, when General John II. Morgan was killed. It was again engaged at Morristown and Russellville on October 28, 1864, where Colonel Rose was taken prisoner.
Adjutant James D. Thomas, in Lindsley’s Annals, gave the subsequent history of the regiment. The regiment gained a measure of revenge for its defeat on October 28 in the skirmish at Russellville November 14; moved into North Carolina in December; spent Christmas Day at Wilkesboro; returned to Blountville in January; was in Christians-burg, Virginia when it received news of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Here Brigadier General Echols, who was in command of the Department, dissolved his forces, but the 61st, with others from Vaughn’s Brigade, crossed the mountains into North Carolina to join General Joseph E. Johnston, reached a wing of his army at Raleigh, were ordered to Charlotte, where they met President Davis and served as his escort to Washington, Georgia, where he was captured, and the regiment disbanded.
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.