rangers were independent cavalry units that fought for
the South. They were irregular soldiers who fought
guerrilla warfare, making surprise raids behind the lines
of the invading enemy. For the most part, they were
volunteers who elected their own officers and provided
their own horses, weapons, and other equipage. They
frequently provided vital information and services to the
Confederate army, as well as destroying enemy lines of
supply and communication.
Two companies of Major Daniel W. Holman's Battalion of partisan rangers were raised in Giles County, in September and October, 1862. Captain Andrew R. Gordon raised a company of 160 men and Captain James Rivers raised a company of 100 men. The company officers elected were:
"About the middle of October, 1862, the battalion was organized, went into camp, and for about one month was subjected to drill and military discipline preparatory to active field duty. While thus engaged details were called for to assist in enforcing the conscript law and arresting deserters from the army.
In arresting one Wm. Meadows, a deserter, Private Wm. Gordon, of Capt. River's company, was killed near Cornersville, Tenn. Meadows shot him from a crack in his house, for which he was tried by court-martial at Murfreesboro a few days afterward and shot. A few days before the killing of Gordon, Meadows had shot and severely wounded _____ Malone of Capt. Gordon's company."
Holman's Battalion spent the rest of 1862 scouting for Confederate General Joe Wheeler in the vicinity of Lavergne, Franklin and Murfreesboro. They participated in several skirmishes between Lavergne and Nashville.
On the 29th of December they began a series of raids on the rear of the Union army under the command of General Rosencrans, which was massed near Murfreesboro preparing to attack the Confederate army under the command of General Bragg. Holman's Battalion continued these raids as the Battle of Stones River was fought. On the 2nd of January, 1863, they moved to the battlefront and participated in this bloody Confederate failure.
As Bragg's massive Confederate army retreated to Shelbyville, Holman's Battalion was sent to Manchester to recruit and picket. From there they moved to the Cumberland River below Nashville to harass the enemy and interrupt his communications. They spent the next three weeks disrupting the Union navigation of the Cumberland River, capturing many prisoners and destroying Union boats laden with supplies.
Around the 1st of February, Holman's Battalion went with General Wheeler toward Dover, on the Cumberland River. "Through Captain Rivers and other reliable scouts sent from the battalion information of the Federal force at Dover had been obtained, and was promptly communicated to Generals Wheeler and Forrest." Wheeler and Forrest then attacked the Union garrison at Dover. Lieutenant Henry Collins of Captain Gordon's company was killed during this assault. Major Holman was severely wounded in the thigh and was disabled for about four months.
As the war that was supposed to last only a few months began to stretch into years, most of the glamor of war was lost. Many partisan ranger battalions began raiding Union sutlers' wagons more frequently than raiding behind Union lines. They were permitted to keep their captured booty, thus causing desertion from the Confederate army as many Confederates by this time were more worried about feeding their starving families than about fighting yankees. Knowing they were subject to the conscription laws and had to be in the army, large numbers of Confederate soldiers deserted their regiments and joined the partisan rangers.
After a recommendation from General Robert E. Lee, the law authorizing partisan rangers was abolished and almost all partisan rangers were required to join the regular Confederate army. Holman's Battalion was no exception. "On the 20th of February, 1863, the battalion against the wishes of every man composing it, was taken to form a part of the Eleventh Tennessee Cavalry, and from that time till the close of the war its history is identified with the history of that regiment." Holman's Battalion had served as partisan rangers for only 4 months.
General Nathan Bedford Forrest issued orders at Columbia, Tennessee, on February 20, 1863, forming the Eleventh Tennessee Cavalry, composed of 11 companies, including Gordon's and Rivers' companies of Holman's Battalion. General Forrest appointed James M. Edmundson to command the regiment. Daniel W. Holman was appointed Lieutenant Colonel, but was recovering from the wound he had received at Dover and could not immediately rejoin the regiment.
The 11th TN Cavalry was with General Forrest at the capture of Thompson's Station on March 5, where 1200 prisoners were taken; and at the capture of Brentwood on the 25th, where 800 prisoners were taken. On April 19, the regiment was ordered to Florence, Alabama, where it reported to Colonel Philip D. Roddey. The 11th TN Cavalry was part of General Forrest's Cavalry which captured Colonel Abel D. Streight's command, taking 1700 prisoners, roughly three times the force General Forrest had at hand.
"On the 12th of July, 1863, Gen. Bragg sent Capt. Rivers into Middle Tennessee with important papers. Gen. Forrest selected him as the most suitable man that could be found for the mission, and went with him in person to Gen. Bragg. Middle Tennessee was wholly in possession of the enemy. Capt. Rivers performed the prescribed work satisfactorily, and returned within a month, having ridden in all over eight hundred miles to make the round trip."
The regiment then returned to Middle Tennessee, was with General Forrest in the retreat of General Bragg's army to Chattanooga in July, then moved to Post Oak Springs, near Kingston, on August 27, 1863.
They fought at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19th and 20th, where they suffered casualties, among them Giles Countian William Ballentine, who was killed by a cannon-ball. Ballentine's remains were returned for interment in Maplewood cemetery in Pulaski. The 11th TN Cavalry chased the fleeing Union army within about one-half mile of Chattanooga, taking several hundred prisoners, but losing several killed and wounded. Among those killed was Dr. William McNairy, whose head was torn from his body by an artillery shell. Dr. McNairy at the time was Orderly Sergeant of his River's company, a physician of prominence in Giles County, and a true and faithful soldier. Dr. McNairy is buried in Maplewood cemetery in Pulaski.
Shortly after the Battle of Chickamauga, General Bragg took General Forrest's command away from him, resulting in an altercation which President Jefferson Davis had to resolve by sending General Forrest to Mississippi. The 11th TN Cavalry was placed in General Joseph Wheeler's Cavalry Corps. They moved into East Tennessee as part of General James Longstreet's army and remained there until April, 1864, when they rejoined the Army of Tennessee near Dalton, Georgia.
Around the 1st of October, the regiment was ordered to Cleveland, Tennessee, to rest and recruit. It was during these three weeks at Cleveland that they were taken from General Forrest and turned over again to General Wheeler. From Cleveland, they advanced on a Union brigade camped at Philadelphia, Tennessee, where they captured 700 prisoners, 50 wagons, 12 ambulances, 800 stands of small arms, 6 pieces of artillery, 1000 horses and mules, saddles, etc., and a large amount of commissary and sutlers' stores. "Captain James Rivers, while gallantly charging the retreating Federals with a view of picking up prisoners, was captured, together with several of the men whom he was leading. No exchange could be effected, and he was held a prisoner of war at Johnson's Island till the close of the war."
On November 1, the regiment reached Unitia, a small village on the east bank of the Holston River. A brisk duel ensued, resulting in the death of James Newton Paisley, Orderly Sergeant of Rivers' company, who was shot through the head. The regiment remained in East Tennessee until the following spring. It was exceedingly cold that winter and the men were poorly clad. Many of them, being almost barefooted, wrapped their feet and legs with rags to keep them from freezing. Near the end of March, 864, the 11th TN Cavalry headed for Dalton, Georgia, via Asheville, NC, Greenville, SC, and Atlanta, GA.
The 11th TN Cavalry participated in General Joseph E. Johnston's retreat to Atlanta during the spring and summer of 1864. They fought at Dalton, Resaca, Adairsville, Cassville, and near Dallas, where on May 31, Private C. Buford of Gordon's company was killed and Captain Gordon was severely wounded, never again able for duty. Through the rest of the war, Gordon's company was commanded by Lt. J. M. Edmundson, Lt. Robert Gordon, and Lt. George Rothrock.
The regiment participated in the fighting at Kennesaw Mountain and on the 13th of June, was ordered to report to General Joseph E. Johnston, at Atlanta, for special service. They received much-needed rest, then policed Atlanta, served as scouts, couriers, and almost every duty incident to the army. When General John Bell Hood took command of the Army of Tennessee, the regiment was retained for special service.
After the fall of Atlanta, the 11th TN Cavalry again served under General Forrest. They returned to Tennessee as General Hood made his valiant effort to re-capture Nashville. Following the Battles of Franklin and Nashville, the regiment returned with the remnant of Hood's army south of the Tennessee River. In February, 1865, the 11th TN Cavalry was consolidated with the 10th TN Cavalry and all placed under the command of Colonel Holman. They participated in the aftermath of the capture of Selma, Alabama, on the 2nd of April, 1865, which was to be their last engagement of the war. They made the final surrender at Gainesville, Alabama, in May, 1865.
Roster of Company E, 11th Tennessee Cavalry (compiled many years after the war):
The following is a partial list of the casualties of Gordon's company:
The following is a partial list of the casualties of Rivers' company:
Submitted by Bob Wamble