Also called 1st and 2nd Tennessee Cavalry Regiment
Organized May, 1862, by consolidation of 2nd (Biffie’s) and 11th (Gordon’s) Battalions; reorganized June 12, 1862; paroled May 3, 1865 at Charlotte, North Carolina.
There was a considerable amount of confusion as to the number and nomenclature of practically all Tennessee cavalry organizations, but the record of this regiment seems to be the most confused of all. When first organized it was called the 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, but as its first colonel was J. B. Biffie, formerly lieutenant colonel, 2nd Battalion, it was sometimes referred to as 2nd (Biffie’s) Regiment. As reorganized under Colonel James T. Wheeler, it was known in the field, all muster rolls made out as, and paroled as 1st (Wheeler’s) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. However, the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office, on September 12, 1862 ordered that it be known as the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, as there were already rolls on file for one 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. In the Official Records it was sometimes listed as the 1st, sometimes as the 1st (6th) and occasionally as the 6th Tennessee Cavalry. To make confusion worse confounded, the company letters, as shown in the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office records, do not agree with the company letters shown on the muster rolls. For the sake of clarity, it will be referred to as the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment in this sketch, as there were several other regiments known as the 1st.
- Colonels-Jacob B. Biffie, James T. Wheeler
- Lieutenant Colonels-W. W. Gordon, James H. Lewis
- Majors-William S. Hawkins, Joseph I. Dobbins
- George M. V. Kinzer, Co. “A”. Formerly “D”, 2nd Battalion.
- James M. Minnis, Co. “B”. Formerly “F”, 2nd Battalion.
- Edward E. Buchanan, Thomas B. Wilson, Co. “C”. Formerly “C”, 11th Battalion.
- Edward L. Ensley, Leonard K. Hooper, Co. “D”. Formerly “D”, 11th Battalion, plus some men from “F”, 11th Battalion.
- James H. Polk, Co. “E”. Formerly “A”, 2nd Battalion.
- Asa G. Freeman, Co. “F”. Formerly “F”, 2nd Battalion.
- James M. Mitchell, William R. Duncan, Co. “G”. Formerly “B”, 2nd Battalion.
- Robert N. Jones, Co. “H”. Formerly “B”, 11th Battalion.
- James H. Lewis (to lieutenant colonel), Hartwell F. Barham, Co. “I”. Formerly “C”, 2nd Battalion.
- James T. Wheeler (to colonel), William 0. Bennett, David C. Myers, Co. “K”. Formerly “A”, 11th Battalion.
Companies “B” and “C” were temporarily consolidated under Captain Thomas B. Wilson on May 25, 1863, and mustered as one company from September 1 to December 31, 1863. The two companies were detached March 20, 1864 to serve as Escort for Major General C. L. Stevenson. Co. “F” was detached as Escort Company for Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong in September 1862; then served as escort for Major General Earl Van Dorn until his death on May 7, 1863, and then as Escort to the Brigade Commander until October, 1863.
The regiment was cut off by the Federal forces when General Bragg evacuated Corinth in May, 1862, but cut it’s way through and followed the Army to Tupelo, Mississippi, and on July 21, 1862 was assigned to the Army of the West with orders to report to Major General Sterling Price. A part of the regiment, under Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong, was engaged at Middleton, and at Britton’s Lane, near Denmark, on August 31, and September 1, 1862.
The regiment took part in the campaign in North Mississippi during the rest of 1862, and on January 18, 1863 was reported with 430 men, as part of the forces assigned to Major General Earl Van Dorn. On January 20, Brigadier General W. H. Jackson’s Division, of Van Dorn’s Department, 2nd Brigade, was reported as composed of the 3rd Arkansas, Ballentine’s Mississippi, 2nd Missouri, and 6th Tennessee Regiments. On February 2, the regiment, along with the 3rd Arkansas, 4th Mississippi, and a regiment from Montgomery, Alabama, was listed in Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong’s Brigade. As part of this brigade, it moved to Spring Hill in February, 1863, and in March was with Brigadier General N. B. Forrest in the action around Brentwood. In this affair, the 6th, under Lieutenant Colonel Lewis, raided to within two and a half to three miles of Nashville, and made a half circuit of Nashville from the Franklin to the Charlotte Pike. At this time, Sanders’ Battalion had replaced the regiment from Montgomery as a member of the brigade, and on July 31, Woodward’s 2nd Kentucky Regiment had replaced the 4th Mississippi and McDonald’s Battalion from Forrest’s Old Regiment had been added in place of Sanders’ Battalion.
The regiment retreated with the Army to Chattanooga in July, 1863, and took station at Post Oak Springs, Roane County, in August. It rejoined the main army for the Battle of Chickamauga September 19-20, serving under General Wheeler on the left for the first day, and under General Forrest, on the right, on the second day. It then moved back to East Tennessee on September 24, and was engaged at Charleston on the 26th, pursuing the enemy to Philadelphia, Tennessee. It then crossed the Tennessee River under Major General Joseph Wheeler on the 30th, and went with him on his raid through Middle Tennessee, recrossing the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals. During this raid, the brigade was under the command of Colonel Wheeler, with Lieutenant Colonel Lewis commanding the regiment.
On October 31, in the reorganization of the Army of Tennessee, the regiment was reported in Brigadier General H. B. Davidson’s Brigade, of Major General John A. Wharton’s Division, composed of the 1st (Carter’s), 2nd (Ashby’s), 4th (McLemore’s), 6th (Wheeler’s) and 11th (Holman’s) Tennessee Cavalry Regiments. On December 31, a company report showed it in winter quarters near Cave Spring, Georgia, although a Federal report dated December 28 stated the 2nd, 3rd and 6th Regiments under Colonel Wheeler were at Rome, Georgia, excavafing and building barracks.
On April 30, 1864, the regiment was reported in Brigadier General W. Y. C. Humes Division, with Colonel Wheeler in command of a brigade composed of the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Regiments, and 9th Battalion under Major Akin. On July 10, the brigade, now commanded by Colonel Ashby, was reported as composed of 2nd, 5th, 6th Regiments and the 9th Battalion, and was known as Ashby’s Brigade from this time on. A regimental report dated December 31, 1864 at Hardeeville, South Carolina, gives a record of its activities from June 30 until December 31. “Since last mustered the regiment has been almost continuously on the march. After participating in the capture and dispersion of enemy raiding parties in the rear of our lines around Atlanta, Georgia in the month of July, the regiment left Covington, Georgia on August 11 and marched to the rear of the enemy lines at Dalton, Georgia, from thence to the neighborhood of Knoxville, assisting in all service done by General Wheeler’s Cavalry in the destruction of railroads and cutting enemy communications in his rear.
“Marched from vicinity of Knoxville over the Cumberland Mountains to a point near Nashville, Tennessee, having met the enemy at various points; from there to Florence, Alabama, crossing the Tennessee River at Colbert Shoals, being in all about 800 miles. About September 20, the regiment having been temporarily transferred to General Forrest, recrossed the Tennessee River and participated in various engagements and captures made by him in North Alabama, and Middle Tennessee. Recrossed the Tennessee River October 8, and marched into West Tennessee, thence to Corinth, Mississippi. Left Corinth about October 12 under orders to report to General Wheeler in North Georgia. Marched through Gadsden, Alabama, and thence by way of La Grange, Georgia to Griffin, to vicinity of Savannah, participating in all engagements of Wheeler’s Cavalry against Sherman’s command. The command has been almost continuously in the saddle, fighting, and on duty in front of the enemy, and has marched in the aggregate more than 2000 miles.”
In the meantime, Colonel Wheeler, with a commissioned officer from each company was ordered to return to Middle Tennessee with Hood’s Army for the purpose of obtaining recruits for the regiment, leaving Lieutenant Colonel Lewis in command of the regiment. On December 5, General Hood ordered: “Colonel James T. Wheeler and Major J. H. Akin will report with their commands to Major General Forrest, commanding the Cavalry, for temporary duty.” On January 20, 1865, after Hood’s disastrous Tennessee Campaign, General Forrest, in Mississippi, instructed Brigadier General James R. Chalmers: “Retain Holman’s, DeMoss’s, Biffie’s and Russelrs Regiments, and send Wheeler’s and 4th Tennessee, and all other parts of regiments, or detachments, whose commands may be in Georgia.” Meanwhile, a Federal report stated a prisoner from the 6th had reported that Ashby’s Brigade had crossed into South Carolina on December 7, and on January 15, 1865 was on duty near Grahamsville, South Carolina.
On January 31, 1865, Ashby’s Brigade, with the same members, was reported in Humes’ Division of Lieutenant General William J. Hardee’s Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. On April 9, 1865, in the reorganization of Joseph E. Johnston’s Army in North Carolina, these same regiments were reported in Lieutenant General Wade Hampton’s command.
Lieutenant Colonel Lewis, in Linrlsley’s Annals, stated the regiment under his command took part in the Battles of Averysboro and Bentonville, North Carolina, and in one final skirmish on the road from Chapel Hill to Raleigh, North Carolina, and was paroled at Charlotte, North Carolina on May 3, 1865, at which place Colonel Wheeler, with about 200 recruits from Middle Tennessee, rejoined the command. In the meantime, Colonel Wheeler, with the troops under his command, had been ordered on April 5 to keep between the Federal raiders and Danville, Virginia. On April 8, Colonel Wheeler reported “I am now on the pike between Henry Courthouse and Danville, Virginia.” On the same date, he was instructed: “General Walker has orders to return your regiment to the command as soon as it can be dispensed with. Collect your detachment at Danville and Hillsboro.”
Lieutenant Colonel Lewis stated that on May 4, one day after the parole was supposed to have been consummated, this detachment had an engagement with a brigade of Federal Cavalry at Henry Courthouse, neither party having been advised that the war was over. Private Edwards, of Captain Barham’s Co. “I” was killed here; by a singular coincidence Private George W. Barham, of the same company, was the first man killed, near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in October, 1861, these being the first and last casualties in the Army of Tennessee.
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.