Hamilton’s Tennessee Cavalry Battalion

Also called 4th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion: 4th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment
Later known as Shaw’s Tennessee Cavalry Battalion

Organized in Jackson County December, 1862; Confederate Service April 11, 1863; consolidated with Allison’s Squadron July, 1864.


  • Lieutenant Colonel-Oliver P. Hamilton
  • Major-Jo Shaw


  • D. J. Shaw
  • Richard N. Coffey (or Coffee)
  • W. B. Carlen
  • Thomas L. Dodd
  • Winton B. Harris
  • A. W. Norris
  • William Hutchison
  • Ed Cullom
  • Jo Coffee
  • B. V. Wright
  • R. B. Rease
  • George W. Stephens
  • Thomas L. Bransford
  • R. J. C. Gailbreath
  • Benjamin H. Ford

The only muster roll of the battalion which was found was that of Captain O. P. Hamilton’s Company, dated December 21, 1861, which was organized in Jackson County. Prisoner of war records make reference to eight companies, “A” through “H”, but from them it is not possible to identify the captains with the various companies. Captain Richard M. Coffey, from Overton County, was listed as captain of Company “F”. Practically all the men covered by the prisoner of war records were from either Overton or Jackson County.

The Adjutant General’s Office, State of Tennessee, advised Adjutant General S Cooper, Richmond, Virginia April 18, 1863: “Hamilton’s Company was mustered into service for the local defense of the border counties lying up the line of Tennessee where the counties and mountains strike the Kentucky line pursuant to an order from General Johnston authorizing the muster of companies for that purpose. This company has done good service, and is now organized, and has been, and is now, in general service.”

Information available indicates Hamilton was first elected Major of the battalion, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel on July 1, 1863, at which time Captain Jo Shaw was elected major. Hamilton was captured at Celina, Tennessee on March 4, 1864, and his prisoner of war records list him as lieutenant colonel 4th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, but there was nothing found to indicate that he was ever connected with any of the regiments that were known by that number. He was charged by the Federal officials with being a guerrilla, and was being forwarded to Lexington, Kentucky for trial, when he was killed by his guard, circumstances not known.

A communication from Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton, dated July 25, 1863, reported that the battalion, with six companies, was mustered into Confederate Service April 11, 1863. On April 20, 1863, Federal General E. H. Hobson reported that troops of his command had attacked Hamilton’s command at Celina, Tennessee, destroying his camp and killing seven of his men. On the next day, they took possession of the town, killing 30, and reported the rebels in full retreat and in perfect disorder.

On June 9, another Federal report described the total rout of Hamilton’s command at Kettle Creek, with 40 killed, 36 captured, and the capture of two howitzers and the entire wagon train and equipment. At this time, Hamilton’s command was a part of Brigadier General John H. Morgan’s forces, who, in reporting the disaster, stated; “Major Hamilton had been ordered to report to Colonel B. C. Morgan, but refused.”

At Chickamauga, September 19-20, Shaw’s Battalion, O. P. Hamilton’s Battalion, and Allison’s Squadron, all under the command of Major Joseph Shaw, were reported in the brigade commanded by Colonel George G. Dibrell, in Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong’s Division, of Brigadier General N. B. Forrest’s Cavalry Corps. On October 31, and again on November 10, Hamilton’s Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel O. P. Hamilton, was reported in Brigadier General J. H. Kelly’s Division, of Major General Joseph Wheeler’s Corps, in the brigade commanded by Colonel J. Warren Grigsby.

On November 24, 1863, Colonel John C. Carter, 38th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, in command at Charleston, Tennessee, made mention of a detachment of 17 cavalrymen under Major Shaw as being there with him. Hamilton’s Battalion continued to be reported in Grigsby’s Brigade through December 31, 1863, but in the report for January 20, 1864, Hamilton’s Battalion was reported to be with Lieutenant General Longstreet in East Tennessee. A Federal report told of a skirmish with “Hamilton’s Marauders” at Flynn’s Lick, Tennessee, on January 31, and their pursuit in the direction of Livingston, Tennessee. As already mentioned, Hamilton was captured at Celina, Tennessee on March 4, 1864, and from this time on the battalion was reported under the command of Major Shaw.

On April 30, it was reported in Grigsby’s Brigade, Brigadier General W. Y. C. Humes Division, Wheeler’s Corps. On June 30, it was reported in Brigadier General John S. Williams’ Brigade, Humes’ Division, but on July 10, Williams’ Brigade was reported in Kelly’s Division again. On July 31, it was back in Humes’ Division, with Allison’s Squadron and Hamilton’s Battalion consolidated into a field unit under Major Shaw. An isolated report from the battalion showed it stationed near Marietta, Georgia on June 30, 1864. Major Shaw was killed near Savannah, Georgia, in the Savannah Campaign later in 1864.

On January 31, 1865, Colonel George G. Dibrell, at Grahamsville, South Carolina, in reporting on the distribution of his troops listed Shaw’s Battalion as being at Grahamsville. On January 31, Dibrell’s Brigade of Humes’ Division was reported as composed of 4th (McLemore’s), 13th (Dibrell’s) Regiments and Shaw’s Battalion under Captain R. V. Wright. On April 8, Dibrell’s Brigade was reported in General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army, and as such was included in the convention which Johnston made with General Sherman at Greensboro, North Carolina April 26. No specific record of the parole of Shaw’s Battalion was found.

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.

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