20th (Russell’s) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment

Also called 15th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment

Organized February 5, 1864; consolidated March, 1865 with 18th, also called 1~h (Newsom’s) Regiment and paroled as 19th and 20th Consolidated Tennessee Cavalry Regiment at Gainesville, Alabama, May, 1865.

This regiment was organized on order of Major General N. B. Forrest in the reorganization and consolidation of his forces after he was appointed to the command of the cavalry forces in West Tennessee and North Mississippi. Many of the men, including the lieutenant colonel and major, were members of Greer’s Tennessee Cavalry (q.v.), which had been raised within the Federal lines in West Tennessee during the fall of 1863, but which never received recognition from the Adjutant and Inspector Generars Office.


  • Colonel-Robert Milton Russell, formerly commanding 12th Tennessee Infantry.
  • Lieutenant Colonel-H. C. Greer, previously captain and assistant commissary of subsistence, 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Battalion.
  • Major-Henry F. Bowman, previously captain, 5th Tennessee Infantry, also in Greer’s Regiment.


  • William Gay, Co. “A”. Men from Gibson County. Paroled as Co. “F”, 19th and 20th. Some men from Henry County.
  • W. H. Hawkins, Co. “B”. Previously in Greer’s Regiment. Men from Carroll and Henry Counties. Paroled as Co. “A”, 19th and 20th.
  • J. T. Mathis, Co. “C”. Men from Gibson County. Some men paroled in Co. “E”, 19th and 20th.
  • J. A. Shane, Co. “D”. Men from Madison, Carroll, Dyer, Henry and Gibson Counties, mainly Gibson. Paroled as Co. “B”, 19th and 2Oth.
  • William D. Hallum, Co. “E”. Organized September 17, 1863 at Paris, Henry County.
  • J. Cardwell Wilson, John M. Fields, Co. “F”. Men from Carroll, Humphreys, Henry and Haywood Counties.
  • J. R. Hibbift, D. E. Parker, Co. “G”. Organized December 1, 1863 in Dyer County. A few men paroled in Co. “E”, 19th and 20th.
  • J. R. Gardner, Co. “H”. Organized December 1, 1863 in Dyer County. A few men paroled in Co. “E”, 19th and 20th.
  • E. Tompkins Hollis, Co. “I”. Men from Weakley County. A few men paroled in Co. “E”, 19th and 20th.
  • Henry F. Bowman (to major), A. V. Clark, Co. “K” (also called “A”). Organized September 22, 1863 at Cottage Grove, Henry County. Paroled as Co. “D”, 19th and 20th. Formerly in Greer’s Regiment.
  • The History of Henry County Commands states that Captain N. W. McNeill raised a small company in Henry County which was consolidated with Captain W. H. Hawkins’ Co. “B”.

The regiment was placed in Brigadier General Abraham Buford’s Division, Colonel (later Brigadier General) Tyree H. Bell’s Brigade, where it remained for the balance of the war. The other members of the brigade were Wilson’s 21st (also called 16th), and Barteau’s 22nd (also called 2nd) Regiments. It got an early baptism of fire at Okolona, Mississippi February 22; at Paducah, Kentucky March 25; at Fort Pillow April 12; and at Brice’s Crossroads June 10-11, 1864. At Okolona, Mississippi, in Forrest’s defeat of Major General William Sooy Smith, the regiment had three officers wounded, and a total of 21 casualties. It also participated in Forrest 5 raids to the Ohio River in April, and in the capture of Fort Pillow.

On May 21, in response to numerous complaints that the new cavalry regiments had in their ranks many men who belonged in the infantry regiments, Forrest had a number of such men arrested, and turned over to the proper authorities, including 97 men from the 20th Regiment. On May 31, at Tupelo, Mississippi, in preparation for a planned expedition against Sherman’s communications in Middle Tennessee, Forrest advised: ~ shall leave Colonel Russell in command at this place with his own and Newsom’s Regiment, and the dismounted men of the other six regiments, and two pieces of Artillery. Four companies of Russelrs Regiment and Kizer’s Scouts will be kept at Corinth.” However, his plans were disrupted by a Federal expedition under Major General Samuel D. Sturgis into North Mississippi, which ended in Sturgis’ defeat by Forrest at Brice’s Crossroads on June 10, 1864. In this engagement, the regiment lost Captain I. R. Hibbitt killed, and a total of 52 casualties.

On July 7, in preparing to meet another Federal expedition, this one under Major General Andrew Jackson Smith, Forrest ordered Bell’s Brigade, now composed of Barteau’s, Russelrs, Wilson’s and Newsom’s Regiments, to Ellistown, Mississippi. About a week later, Bell’s Brigade took part in the Battle of Harrisburg on July 14th and 15th, with the Confederate forces under the overall command of Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee. Here Colonel Russell was wounded. No action of importance in which the regiment was engaged took place until General Forrest’s capture of Athens, Alabama on September 26, and his subsequent raid into Middle Tennessee ending on October 8, when he recrossed the Tennessee River near Florence, Alabama. The regiment was in Buford’s Division on this expedition.

Buford’s Division was a part of Forrest’s force in the attack on Paris Landing and Johnsonville, October 30 to November 4, but no specific report of the regiment was found. It then joined General Hood’s Army of Tennessee for his invasion of Tennessee culminating in the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. Again, no specific report of the regiment was found.

Following the withdrawal into Mississippi after this campaign, General Forrest, on February 13, 1865, ordered all the Tennessee troops in his command to report to Brigadier General W. H. Jackson, for consolidation into six regiments, to compose two brigades. As a result of this order, Russell’s Regiment was consolidated with Newsom’s Regiment, which had been officially designated the 18th, and a few former Tennesseans were added from the 12th Kentucky Cavalry and the Second Mississippi Partisan Rangers. The consolidation was known as the 19th and 20th Consolidated Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, which Colonel Russell commanded.

The regiment was composed of the following companies:


  • Wilham H. Hawkins, Co. “A”. Formerly Co. “B”, 20th Regiment.
  • J. A. Shane, Co. “B”. Formerly Co. “D”, 20th Regiment.
  • W. N. Barnhill, Co. “C”. Formerly part of Co. “A”, 18th Regiment.
  • A. V. Clark, Co. “D”. Formerly Co. “K”, 20th Regiment.
  • A. T. Gay, Co. “E”. Formerly various companies of the 20th Regiment.
  • J. H. Blakemore, Co. “F”. Formerly Co. “A”, 20th Regiment.
  • J. M. Carrell, Co. “G”. Most men formerly in 12th Kentucky Cavalry.
  • J. E. Stewart, Co. “H”. Formerly various companies of the 18th.
  • H. C. Klyce, Co. “I”. Formerly part of Co. “A”, 18th Regiment.
  • W. W. McDowell, Co. “K”. Some from 2nd (Ballentine’s) Mississippi Regiment.

On May 3, just a few days before the final surrender, this regiment was reported in Bell’s Brigade, with 29 officers, 217 men present for duty, aggregate present 283, aggregate present and absent 428. As such, it was paroled at Gainesville, Alabama May, 1865.

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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