J. P. Brownlow, Adjutant General, State of Tennessee, in a report dated March 1, 1866, stated: “The Seventh Regiment was never organized, and the companies raised for it were transferred to other regiments.” However, in the Official Records, references were found to two organizations, both called the 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, one from East Tennessee and one from West Tennessee.
The East Tennessee organization had its inception in a band of guerrillas, or partisans, raised in the fall of 1861 by William Clift, of Hamilton County. On November 14, 1861, Governor Isham G. Harris issued an order: “Muster all the armed forces possible without calling on Zollicoffer, and capture Clift and his men, dead or alive.” On November 17, General Zollicoffer’s office reported: “Three expeditions are moving from different directions upon Clift’s men, but it is feared they will disperse and escape to the mountains.” Colonel S. A. M. Wood, 6th Alabama Infantry, reporting on his part in these expeditions, said his regiment moved from Chattanooga to Sale Creek, where Clift’s men were supposed to be encamped, and found that the insurgents had dispersed the night before, after voting upon what their procedure should be. Colonel Clift, Lieutenant Colonel Shelton and two others voted to stay and fight; 100 voted to try to reach Kentucky, and the rest, some 200, voted to disperse. They broke up during the night, 10 or 12 going with Colonel Clift, who hid in the mountains, 65 with a Captain Sullivan marched toward Kentucky, and the others dispersed.
On May 24, 1862, Brigadier General George W. Morgan, at Cumberland Ford, wrote: “I had taken steps to organize a partisan regiment, under Colonel Clift, (commissioned by the Secretary of War), in Scott and Morgan Counties, Tennessee, in order to annoy the enemy’s rear.” The regiment so organized was called the 7th Tennessee Volunteer Regiment, and Colonel Clift, on October 31, 1862, gave a report of his operations from June 1, 1862, to that date.
Colonel Clift stated he started recruiting in Scott County early in June, made expeditions into Morgan and Anderson Counties, and fortified an eminence near Huntsville, Scott County, Tennessee. Here, with about 250 men, he was attacked on the morning of August 13 by from 1500 to 2000 Confederates. Most of his men, new recruits, fled in confusion, but “about 50 men held our breastworks for one hour and forty minutes against the enemy. Major James S. Dunan, Captains Robins, Wilson and Shelton fought with great coolness and deliberation. When our numbers in the breastworks were reduced to about 20 men, I ordered a retreat, which was conducted in good order, carrying with them our guns without any loss.” He went on to report scouting parties through Scott, Morgan and Fentress Counties in October, and a brush with Champ Ferguson’s guerrillas. On authority from General 3 T. Boyle, he had mounted about 50 of his men, and requested the War Department to furnish him with cavalry saddles and bridles. On the date of his report, he gave his headquarters as Somerset, Kentucky.
On December 26, 1862, at the time of General John Hunt Morgan’s third raid into Kentucky, Colonel William A. Hoskins, at Lebanon, Kentucky, reported the 7th Tennessee Infantry, 258 men, as part of his command, and stated he placed it in a temporary brigade along with the 12th and 16th Kentucky Regiments, to engage in the attempt to cut off Morgan.
On August 21, 1863, Colonel Clift, “late of the 7th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment,’ was ordered to report for duty at once to Brigadier General J. M. Shackelford, Commanding 3rd Brigade, Cavalry Division, XXIII Corps. Evidently the regiment had been broken up some time before this date. No muster rolls were found, but a Lieutenant Colonel Hazeland, 7th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, was mentioned, in addition to the other officers mentioned above. Also the Captain Sullivan, mentioned in Clift’s first organization, was later spoken of as Major Sullivan, 7th Tennessee Infantry. The muster-in roll of Captain William C. Shelton’s Co. “A”, 8th Tennessee Infantry states it was transferred from the 7th East Tennessee Volunteers in accordance with order dated December 22, 1862. Also, a detachment from Captain James Wilson’s company was mustered into the 8th Tennessee on May 15, 1863.