Partially organized fall of 1863; broken up February 5, 1864, and men distributed to other organizations.
On July 16, 1863, authority was given by the War Department to Lieutenant Colonel Nathan D. Collins and Captain I. H. Price to raise a regiment of Partisan Rangers in West Tennessee within the Federal lines in conjunction with Colonel R. V. Richardson, to act near and on the banks of the Mississippi River, with the understanding that when the regiment was formed and the muster rolls filed with the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office, Collins was to be appointed colonel, and Price lieutenant colonel. By the time Major General N. B. Forrest took command in Mississippi in December 1863, Collins claimed to have four complete companies, four incomplete, and other officers recruiting. It was claimed by Major General Stephen D. Lee, and Brigadier General I. R. Chalmers that Collins was recruiting in North Mississippi, within the Confederate lines, and that many of his so-called recruits were absentees from other organizations who had been tempted to desert and join Collins. General Chalmers, in a letter to the Governor of Mississippi dated January 7, 1864, stated that several companies claimed at times to be in Mississippi State Service, at other times in Collins’ Command, that the companies commanded by Floyd, Perry and other officers in Collins’ command had formerly belonged to Colonel Blythe’s old regiment, whose term of enlistment as 12-month troops had expired; and gave it as his opinion that many of the men were claiming enlistment in Collins’ command in order to escape conscription.
On February 5, 1864, in the reorganization of Forrest’s forces, the command was broken up. Companies not below a certain minimum present (64 was suggested) were allowed to retain their present organization and join any other organization which was not full, subject to the approval of the commanding general. Many of the absentees were returned to their proper commands, and the conscripts turned over to the proper authorities. Individuals in companies which were broken up were allowed to select their new companies. On February 8, 1864 two companies from Collins’ command were authorized to be consolidated with the 18th Mississippi Cavalry Battalion to form a regiment. The regiment was not formed at that time, but many of Collins’ men were found to have served in the 18th Mississippi Battalion. Collins said there were two full companies, only one of which has been firmly identified.
An inspection report dated June 10, 1864, sent to Adjutant and Inspector General S. Cooper, gives a concise statement of the conditions under which this, and other fragmentary organizations, were formed: “In October, 1863, General Forrest was authorized to proceed to North Mississippi and West Tennessee to raise and organize troops. Only one organized brigade was found, that of General Chalmers, others were in a chaotic and disorganized condition, or incomplete, and claiming to be followers of different leaders. Their commanders found it impossible to keep their commands to-gether. On November 6, 1863, Brigadier General Richardson’s morning report showed 826 present for duty out of an aggregate 2954 present and absent; on November 19, only 330 present.
“General Forrest informed the commanders that unless they assembled their commands by February 5, 1864, he would reconstruct them. They having failed to do so, General Forrest proceeded to reconstruct and reorganize all their commands into battalions and regiments. He assumed and exercised the power of appointing the field and staff officers for many of these commands. This took place primarily in troops of Richardson’s Command, and some scattered bands or battalions claimed to have been raised by Collins and others. It is impossible to trace out the origin and subsequent history of these organizations. It is also impossible to reinstate them in their original condition. To do so would produce endless confusion and controversy. To avoid such, the good of the service would be best promoted by accepting the existing organizations. Legitimate authority for raising the commands cannot be produced. Richardson’s own brigade, for which alone a legal color of authority for its organization can be shown, cannot stand the test of a probing scrutiny. Investigation will show that the muster rolls of his command were in many instances fictitious, and that the commissions thereof should be revoked.” No muster rolls of the organization were found, and the information given herein was taken from Prisoner of War Rolls, miscellaneous records and personal papers.
- W. I. Floyd, Co. “A”. Organized November 25, 1863. Became Co. “H”, 18th Mississippi Cavalry Battalion.
- Thomas I. Morris, Co. “B”. Organized November 14, 1863. Became “H”, 8th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment.
- Captain Manning’s Company disbanded February 1864, and men collected by a Captain Rodgers, assisted by Lieutenant Douglas of Manning’s Company, and became 2nd Co. “F” McDonald’s Battalion of 3rd (Forrest’s Old’) Regiment.
- Jasper G. Wilbourne, Co. “F”. Wilbourne resigned January, 1864 as 1st Lieutenant Co. “E”, 1st Mississippi Infantry, stating that he had been elected Captain of Co. “F” of Collins’ Regiment, which he had raised on the authority of Collins. The men were probably assigned as individuals to the 18th Mississippi Cavalry Battalion.
These are the only companies positively identified. The letter from General Chalmers mentioned Captain Perry’s company as being in Collins’ command. This was probably Captain J. R. Perry, of Co. “G” 18th Mississippi Cavalry Battalion, which was formed from members of two companies of Partisan Rangers in State Service.
There was a Nathan D. Collins who enlisted as a private in Company I”, 13th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to Orderly Sergeant, and on the roll for November-December, 1862, was listed as a deserter. A Federal report from Union City, dated in December 1862, reported that a Lieutenant Colonel Collins of Forrest’s Cavalry appeared there under a flag of truce, escorting into Federal lines paroled prisoners captured at Trenton, Tennessee (on December 20). He was not further identified, and it is possible that this was Nathan D. Collins. Collins returned to his regiment in 1863, was elected second lieutenant, and on May 13, detached, and ordered to report to Brigadier General Pillow, at Huntsville, Alabama, for recruiting service. During the latter part of 1863, he signed requisitions for forage as “Lieutenant Colonel.” He returned to his regiment in 1864, and was elected first lieutenant. It seems evident that this was the same N. D. Collins of Collins’ Regiment.
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.