6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment

Also called 1st West Tennessee Cavalry Regiment


  • Colonels-Fielding Hurst, William J. Smith.

  • Lieutenant Colonels-William K. M. Breckenridge, William J. Smith, Orlando H. Shearer.

  • Majors-William J. Smith, Daniel D. Emerson, Stanford L. Warren, Eldridge S. Tidwell, Thomas H. Boswell, Robert M. Thompson, Orlando H. Shearer, Mack J. Leaming.


  • Robert M. Thompson, Barney J. Riggs, Samuel Towls, Co. “A”. Organized at Bethel, McNairy County, August 11, 1862.
  • Harry Hodges, Elijah J. Hodges, Co. “B”. Organized at Bethel, McNairy County, August 25, 1862.
  • Nathan M. D. Kemp, Co. “C”. Organized at Bethel, McNairy County, September 11, 1862.
  • Levi Hurst, James L. W. Boatman, Co. “D”. Organized at Bethel, McNairy County, September 12, 1862.
  • Elijah Roberts, John L. Poston, Francis A. Smith, Co. “E”. Organized at Bethel, McNairy County, September 18, 1862.
  • David J. Dickerson, Co. “F”. Organized at Bethel, MeNairy County, September 21, 1862. These six companies were mustered into U. S. service at Bolivar and Grand Junction, Tennessee, in November, 1862.
  • William Chandler, William C. Webb, Co. “G”.
  • Joseph G. Berry, Risden D. DeFord, Co. “H”.
  • These two companies were mustered in at Bolivar, Tennessee, March 7, 1863, with men from Wayne, Hardin, Decatur, and Perry Counties.
  • Orlando H. Shearer, Stanford L. Warren. Co. “I”. Organized at Dresden, Weakley County, June 1862.
  • Thomas H. Boswell, Albert Cook, Co. “K”. Organized at Dresden, Weakley County, July 1862.
  • John H. Edwards, John W. Moore, Co. “L”. Organized at Dresden, Weakley County, July 1862.
  • William Carroll Holt, Co. “M”. Organized at North Gibson, Tennessee, August 1862, with men from Gibson and Weakley Counties.

These last four companies were mustered in October, 1862, as the 1st West Tennessee Infantry and transferred to the 6th Tennessee Cavalry in July, 1863, as per order dated June 10, 1863.

On September 10, 1862, one company was reported, under Colonel Hurst, at the post of Jackson, Tennessee. On October 3, two companies left Bethel with Colonel Michael M. Lawler, as part of a force sent to Corinth, Mississippi, when that place was under attack by General Earl Van Dorn. The expedition reached Corinth too late to take part in the battle, but joined in the pursuit of Van Dorn’s forces as far as Ripley, Mississippi, and then returned to Corinth on October 12.

Brigadier General Mason Brayman reported that when he took command of the post at Bolivar in November, 1862, Hurst’s West Tennessee Cavalry, upwards of 600 men, not armed nor equipped, nor yet mustered in, was part of his command. By December 31, he reported that the 1st Battalion plus two companies had been mustered, and that at this time sufficient men were on hand to complete the 2nd Battalion, and half of the 3rd. He stated that he had still not been able to secure arms and equipment for but a portion of these men.

The regiment was at Bolivar during November and December, 1862. At the time of General Nathan B. Forrest’s first raid into West Tennessee, 83 dismounted men from the regiment, under Major D. M. Edwards, were sent to Jackson on December 18, at the time of Forrest’s attack upon that place. Other detachments were engaged at Trenton and Humboldt, and on January 1, 1863, with Forrest as he recrossed the Tennessee River at Clifton.

On January 3, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, with nine officers and 168 men, was reported at Bolivar; the rest of the regiment reported with Brigadier General Grenville M. Dodge, Commanding District of Corinth. On January 31, 1863, the regiment was reported in Colonel John K. Mizner’s Cavalry Brigade, District of Jackson, and remained in this brigade until December 31, 1863. During this time, usually in small detachments, it was engaged in numerous skirmishes in West Tennessee. On January 26, one such detachment, under Major Emerson, on a scout from Bolivar to Ripley, Mississippi, captured Lieutenant Colonel F. M. Stewart, and Adjutant F. Stith, of the 22nd Tennessee Infantry CSA, who were on detached recruiting service. On May 12, Lieutenant Colonel Breckenridge, at Linden, Tennessee, captured Lieutenant Colonel Frierson and about 50 other officers and men from the 27th Tennessee Infantry, CSA. An expedition from Bolivar to the Hatchie River, in April, captured Lieutenant Colonel J. U. Green, Captain J. H. Hazelwood, and others from the 12th (Richardson’s) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment C. S. A.

On June 9, 1863, Colonel Mizner was assigned to the command of the 1st Cavalry Division, with Colonel Edward Hatch commanding the 2nd Brigade, of which the 6th Tennessee was a member. As part of this brigade, the regiment took part in the fighting around Forked Deer and Jackson, Tennessee on July 13, with Confederate forces under Biffle, J. A. Forrest, Cox and Newsom. As an aftermath to this affair, considerable looting took place in Jackson, especially the millinery shop of Mrs. A. A. Newman, which was afterwards the subject of acrimonious discussion between General Nathan B. Forrest and Federal officials. The reports of Lieutenant Colonel W. K. M. Breckenridge, Lieutenant Samuel Lewis, and Lieutenant Edward L. Harden, of the 6th Tennessee, which were written in September and October, all place the responsibility for this on drunken soldiers from the 3rd Michigan Cavalry, and all stated they tried to stop the looting.

On August 20, 1863, in a reorganization of the Cavalry Corps, Colonel Hatch was given command of the division, and Colonel L. F. McCrillis of the 2nd Brigade. The regiment was reported at Grand Junction, Tennessee, October 2, 1863 with 600 men. Skirmishes were reported at Holly Springs, Mississippi, September 7; at Salem October 7; and on October 12, the brigade took part in an engagement with Confederate forces under Brigadier General J. R. Chalmers and Colonel R. V. Richardson at Byhalia and Wyatt, Mississippi. In this engagement, Captain Palmer, C. S. A. and the Reneau battery were captured.

On October 26, 1863, the regiment was ordered to move to Jackson, Tennessee, and occupy the country around Jackson and south of Trenton. The order specified: “No plundering or pillage by men or officers will be allowed.” On October 31, 1863, Brigadier General Benjamin H. Grierson relieved Hatch as commander of the division, with McCrillis still in command of the 2nd Brigade of which the 6th Tennessee was a member.

On November 7, 1863, Brigadier General John D. Stevenson, at Corinth, advised Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut, Commanding the XVI Army Corps: “Hurst, it seems, abandoned his portion of the road against express orders from General Dodge. I cannot learn where his command is.” Hurlbut replied: “Try and find out where Hurst is and get him under your command. Both the 6th and 7th Tennessee have behaved badly.” On November 8, General Stevenson reported he had ordered Hurst’s Regiment to Grand Junction, with four companies to occupy Saulsbury. “I have sent a special and imperative order to Hurst who is at Camden, near Purdy.”

On December 1, 1863, one battalion of the regiment was reported at Middleton; on December 29, the regiment was at Pocahontas, marching for Saulsbury. It remained at Saulsbury until January 17, 1864, when it was ordered to report to the commanding officer at Memphis for duty. The order specified: “You will scour the country well on your route, and reach Memphis as soon as possible after February 1. You will gather all serviceable stock on your route, giving receipts payable by the Federal Government after the war, and subsist your command upon the country.” On the same date, January 17, 1864, Brigadier General William Sooy Smith wrote General U. S. Grant: “We have given Colonel Hurst a roving commission with his regiment to ‘grub up’ West Tennessee. I think he will reduce that district to order.”

In a report dated March 21, 1864, Lieutenant Colonel W. M. Reed, C. S. A. charged: “About the 7th of February 1864, Colonel Hurst, with his command, visited Jackson, Tennessee, and announced publicly that in consequence of the assessment by the Federal authorities of Memphis, Tennessee, against himself and his command of damages to the amount of $5139.25 in favor of Mrs. Newman, he was here to demand this amount at once of the citizens, or on refusal or failure promptly to pay the said amount into his hands that he would burn the town. Upon application of some of the citizens, and the guaranty of 20 of them, five days were granted in which to raise the sum required, to be paid in greenbacks or Kentucky funds. On the 12th of February 1864, the entire amount, $5139.25, was paid into the hands of Colonel Fielding Hurst by the citizens of Jackson, Tennessee.” The report continued with the charge that Hurst’s command had been guilty of the murder of several Confederates who had been taken prisoner, and that Hurst and his men were not entitled to treatment as prisoners of war. General Forrest sent the report to the Federal authorities at Memphis, with a demand for the surrender of the guilty parties to the Confederate authorities, and along with it, a further notice, to be delivered if the demand for the surrender of the guilty parties was refused, stating: “I therefore declare the aforesaid Fielding Hurst and the officers and men of his command, outlaws, and not entitled to be treated as prisoners of war falling into the hands of the forces of the Confederate States.”

This was at the time of Forrest’s raid, with Brigadier General Abraham Buford’s Division, through West Tennessee to Paducah, Kentucky. In connection with this campaign, the 6th Tennessee was ordered to Estenaula, and was attacked and whipped on March 29, between Somerville and Bolivar by Confederate forces under Colonel J. J. Neely. As reported by Major P. Jones Yorke, of the 1st Cavalry Brigade “He lost all his trains, Captain Moore killed, the surgeon captured, and a great many men killed, wounded and missing.”

On April 13, 1864, 200 men from the regiment, with equipment, but no horses, were ordered to Helena, Arkansas, for temporary duty, with orders to report to Brigadier General N. B. Buford. On May 6, General Buford reported that four companies, 177 men, dismounted, under Lieutenant Francis Tucker, had arrived. He described them as “a raw, undisciplined, detachment.” On June 12, 1864 they were ordered back to Memphis.

No further reports were found on the regiment until August 31, 1864, when the 6th Tennessee Cavalry, dismounted, was reported as “unassigned,” in the District of West Tennessee. On October 5, 1864, four companies of the 6th Tennessee reported to Brigadier General James D. Morgan, at Shoal Creek, Alabama. General Morgan had been sent up from the XIV Corps in Georgia at the time of Forrest’s raid into Middle Tennessee, beginning with the capture of Athens, Alabama on September 24. No further mention was made of these companies, but presumably they returned to their regiment, when General Morgan returned to his corps.

The regiment continued to be reported as dismounted and unassigned until November 24, 1864, when it was ordered to Nashville, where it was placed in the 2nd Brigade of the newly organized 7th Cavalry Division. It was in this brigade during the battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864, but reported no casualties, and was presumably not heavily engaged.

On December 13, 1864 Brevet Major General Emory Upton was assigned to the command of the 4th Division, Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, and on December 14, the 6th Tennessee was listed as one of the regiments belonging to this division. General Upton was ordered to proceed to Louisville, St. Louis, and Memphis, for the purpose of collecting the men, horses and transportation of his division, and bringing it to Nashville, via Louisville. General Upton, at the time, was at Cairo, Illinois. On December 22, 1864, instructions were sent to him at Memphis: “Take with you to Louisville the 3rd and 4th Iowa, 10th and 12th Missouri, the 6th Tennessee, and the 19th Pennsylvania.” This reference to the 6th Tennessee must have been meant to apply to some elements of the regiment left behind at Memphis when the regiment was ordered to Nashville in November.

At any rate, on January 6, 1865, the 6th Tennessee was transferred from the 4th Division to the 6th Division, with orders to report to Brigadier General R. W. Johnson, who placed it in the 1st Brigade of his division. The regiment, still dismounted, was reported at Edgefleld, Tennessee, through March 1865, and in April, under Colonel William J. Smith, was doing garrison duty at Pulaski. On May 21, still at Pulaski, Captain Deford, 6th Tennessee Cavalry, was ordered to Shoal Creek, Alabama “for the purpose of hunting down numerous outlaws who infest that country.”

The regiment was mustered out of service July 26, 1865.

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