Major Duncan B. Cooper
Organized in Middle Tennessee in the fall of 1863; broken up and distributed to other commands in February, 1864.
No muster rolls on this organization were found, and the information given herein is taken from Prisoner of War Records, miscellaneous records, and personal papers.
A report from General Gideon J. Pillow, Superintendent Volunteer and Conscript Bureau, Department Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi dated at Marietta, Georgia, October 23, 1863, stated among other things: “Major Cooper has also raised a regiment under my orders in Middle Tennessee, where it now is, but will come soon.
A Union report dated at Columbia August 1, 1862, made mention of Cooper’s Guerrillas, 80 to 100 strong. Another report, dated August 25, 1863, at Paint Rock Bridge, Alabama, reported a skirmish on the Tennessee River with 30 rebels, and the capture of a horse belonging to “the notorious Conscript Agent, Cooper.”
A report from a Federal scout or spy to General Rosecrans, dated October 14, 1863 at Columbia, stated, among other things: “Went to Williamsport on Duck River, and learned there is a rebel colonel named Dunc Cooper who had made up two companies of Bushwhackers, Captain F. P. Scot, and Captain Kelly, with 80 men. Captain Scot and his Lieutenants, W. J. Boswell, and Mr. Flatt, and one J. C. Chafin, are the worst men on earth in secretly killing Union men.
On February 14, 1864, Brigadier General Dodge, at Pulaski, Tennessee reported: one on my mounted squads, while out after cattle in Lewis County, captured the noted guerrilla chief, Cooper, and ten of his men. He was on his way, so he says, to burn bridges on the railroad.”
Cooper was captured at Swan Creek, in Lewis County, and not released until March 7, 1865. His prisoner of war card showed him as lieutenant colonel, 20th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. While there was considerable confusion about the numbering of Tennessee cavalry regiments, nothing was found to indicate that Cooper was ever connected with either of the regiments which were known by that number. It may be that he had been promised a commission as colonel when his regiment was fully organized and accepted by the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office, and that it was the intention to call his regiment the 2Oth Tennessee Cavalry Regiment.
Other prisoner of war records cover prisoners, some captured in the fall of 1863, some in early 1864, who gave their command as Cooper’s Battalion, Cooper’s Cavalry, Cooper’s Cavalry Battalion, Cooper’s Cavalry Regiment, and Cooper’s Tennessee Cavalry. Officers included were Jackson D. Chaffin, 1st Lieutenant Co. “B”; Joseph Foster, Captain Co. “D”; George H. Grimes, Captain and Recruiting Officer. A private, James Goodman, listed himself as in Child’s Company.
From the above, it would seem that Cooper organized a company of Partisan Rangers in the fall of 1862, was later given a commission as major in the Conscript Bureau, and authorized by General Pillow to raise a regiment in Middle Tennessee, inside the Federal lines some time in the fall of 1863, and that when he was captured in February, 1864, his command was broken up and distributed to other organizations in the general reorganization and consolidation of the cavalry forces which General Forrest put into effect in February, 1864.
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.