Newsom’s Tennessee Cavalry Regiment

Organized within Federal lines in West Tennessee in 1863; broken up and men distributed to other organizations May, 1864.

This regiment is not to be confused with the 18th (usually called 19th) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, which was also commanded by Colonel John F. Newsom, although some of the officers, and many of the men also served in this later organization. This was a field organization of eight companies, which never received Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office recognition. John F. Newsom was originally captain of Company “F”, 6th Tennessee Infantry. His company was disbanded in October, 1862, and the men distributed to other companies, leaving Captain Newsom without a command. Some time thereafter he was authorized by Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow, Superintendent of Volunteer and Conscript Bureau, to raise a command within the Federal lines, and this organization was the result. It was sworn in at Jackson, Tennessee July 27, 1863 with eight companies, as follows:


  • Thomas I. Dick, Co. “A”. Dick later became captain, Co. “G”, 18th (19th) Regiment. Some of the men served in his company, some in 21st (16th) Regiment.
  • Jason W. Fussell, Co. “B”. Some of the men later were in Co. “G”, 21st (16th).
  • William H. Simmons, Co. “C”. Some men later in Co. “E”, 21st (16th) Regiment.
  • William Wilson (or Wilison), Co. “D”. Some men later in 21st (16th) Regiment, some in 18th (19th) Regiment.
  • R. M. May, Co. “E” May was later captain, Co. “B”, 18th (19th) Regiment, and some of the men also served in this organization.
  • Luther C. McClerkin, Co. “F”. McClerkin was later captain, Co. “I”, 18th (19th) Regiment and some of the men also served in this organization.
  • Francis M. Phillips, Co. “G”. Some of the men later served in 18th (19th) Regiment.
  • Thomas I. Ruffin, Co. “H”. Nothing is known as to subsequent fate of this company; probably disbanded and men distributed to other companies. Prisoner of war records showed men from Hardeman, Hardin, Henderson, Madison and McNairy Counties.


  • Colonel John F. Newsom
  • Lieutenant Colonel John D. Ozier
  • Major W. T. Parham

but they were never regularly commissioned into this organization.

The organization operated within the Federal lines until November 21, 1863, when it moved to Russellville, Alabama, where for the first time it was regularly mustered. Each muster roll of this date bore a notation from John W. Estes, Lieutenant Colonel and Special Inspector and Mustering Officer, by order of Brigadier General Pillow: “This company belongs to Colonel John F. Newsom’s Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, and has been in the enemy lines in West Tennessee, and it was impossible to make out muster rolls and regular reports on the company until now. The men were regularly sworn into the service on the 27th of July, 1863, and have been doing good service since that time, and are entitled to pay from 27th July, 1863.”

A Federal report of February 20, 1863, reported the capture of Colonel Newsom, with seven of his officers and 60 men at Clifton, Tennessee. Newsom was reported dangerously wounded and paroled. No further reports were found until June, 1863, but from then on there were numerous reports of the activities of Newsom and his command in various parts of West Tennessee, acting in conjunction with Colonels Richardson, Biffle, Green, and Wilson. On July 27, Biffle, Wilson, Newsom, and J. A. Forrest were reported to have crossed the Tennessee River, and to be heading in the direction of Jackson, Tennessee. It was evidently on this expedition that the men were sworn into service, as mentioned above. On September 4, Newsom, with 700 men, was reported by Federal sources at Jackson, Tennessee “stealing horses and conscripting.”

After withdrawing to Russellville, Alabama in November, the command seems to have re-entered West Tennessee in December at the time of General N. B. Forrest’s entry into that territory. On December 10, Newsom with 500 men was reported ten miles north of Bethel. General Forrest withdrew into North Mississippi, but on January 8, 1864, Federal General G.M. Dodge stated: “I think Forrest has gone out of West Tennessee leaving Newsom’s, Wilson’s and Norton’s regiments, which were raised in West Tennessee. His opinion was confirmed by a report dated January 17, 1864 which stated that 200 men of Newsom’s Regiment crossed the road last night one mile east of Middleton, Tennessee, and that it was reported that 800 more of the same command would cross that night.

On January 25, 1864, at his headquarters at Como, Mississippi, General Forrest issued orders for the organization of his command, and placed Russell’s, Greer’s, Newsom’s, Barteau’s and Wilson’s Regiments in the 3rd Brigade, commanded by Colonel Tyree H. Bell.

On May 11, 1864, by orders of General Forrest, the 18th (usually called 19th) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment was organized, six companies of which were composed principally of men who had been in Newsom’s Regiment, the other four companies from Jeffrey E. Forrest’s Alabama Cavalry Regiment. The Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office, on July 19, 1864, confirmed this organization, and officially designated the new regiment the 18th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, although it was known in the field, and usually reported as the 19th Tennessee Cavalry. General Forrest appointed John F. Newsom as colonel of this new organization.

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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