13 July 2015

Civil War irregulars in the Chattanooga region

While Champ Ferguson’s group in Kentucky and those in the Missouri-Kansas border region are very well known, the Tri-state area of Southeast Tennessee-Northwest Georgia-Northeast Alabama had more than its own share of “partisan rangers”, “regulators”, “home guards”, and “scouts”, and other groups, some of whom were often little better than bandits.  Most activity occurred at the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign and after the occupation by Union troops.

Though in the later years of the war, the two terms blended together, a “bushwacker” usually referred to a Confederate while a “jayhawker” usually referred to a Unionist.

Confederate irregulars

One of the earliest  bushwacker units in the vicinity was William Snow’s Scouts in Snow Hill, north of Ooltewah.  Snow began the war commanding Company C, 3rd Battalion (also called the 2nd and the 5th), Henry Ashby’s 2nd Tennessee Cavalry.  After having to retire due to his age (53), while his executive officer, William P. Ford, assumed command of Co. C, Snow raised his Scouts to keep fighting.  His sons George and James served under him.  Their main targets were their Unionist neighbors, the majority of the population in Savannah Valley in northeastern Hamilton County.

The activities of (Thomas) Osborne’s Scouts, called (Lafayette) Jenkins’ Scouts after the former's death, in the lower Chickamauga Valley of what is now East Brainerd (then named Concord) and East Ridge are described in A Confederate Desperado, by Capt. W.B.W. Heartsill, which is actually more about one Jo J. Cox.  Recently discovered, the manuscript tells the story of Heartsill resigning as Bristol’s chief of police in March 1864 to join Osborne’s Scouts bushwackers, in which he remained until the end of the war, along with Cox.  After being assigned to support Vaughn's Brigade during Longstreet's Knoxville campaign in autumn 1863, Osborne's Scouts remained thus assigned in the Department of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia throughout the rest of the war.  Though they operated under official Confederate orders, loyalists and Union troops in the region considered them bushwackers.  Upon Osborne's death in July 1864, the loyalist press referred to him as a "notorious murderer and robber".  Their staunchest foe was the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, USA, commanded by Col. George Kirk made up of western North Carolinians, East Tennesseans, and 25-30 Cherokee Indians from the Eastern Band, probably from Cheoah Town.

Mead’s Partisan Rangers in North Alabama and Tennessee, based out of Sand Mountain began as the Paint Rock Rifles, a regular infantry company raised by Capt. Lemuel Mead at Paint Rock, Alabama.  After the Battle of Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) in 1862, Mead was a commissioned to work behind the lines commanding an official partisan ranger unit.  Midway through the war, the unit worked frequently with the 2nd Alabama Partisan Ranger Battalion.  In March 1865, his command was regularized as a small regiment composed of the 25th Alabama Cavalry Battalion, the 27th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion, and Jones' Cavalry Battalion.  The regiment assisted in Hood’s Nashville campaign and captured the Union post at Paint Rock Ridge.

The Cherokee Legion of the Georgia State Guards was a six-month unit in 1863 that was commanded by Col. James Rusk.  Composed of five troops of cavalry and ten companies of infantry, the regiment was raised to support the Army of Tennessee.  Though raised for local service, once their half-year term ended, instead of getting to go home, the soldiers were sent to regular units of the Army of Tennessee.

Gatewood’s Regulators were bushwackers based in McLemore’s Cove in northern Walker County, Georgia, generally at around fifty men, though some raids were conducted with as much as one hundred men.  Commanded by John Pemberton Gatewood after he left Champ Ferguson’s band, he previously served until he deserted with Company F, Murray’s Fourth Tennessee alongside brothers James Henry and Berry.  It was the most notable irregular group in the area.

Gatewood alternated being a Confederate avenger and a pursuer of scouts and Confederate deserters.  He was especially vicious and psychopathic.  He and his men once killed 25 men in two days in winter 1864.  As the war wound down, he went to Texas.

Dick Boughton’s Scouts was eighteen-strong, also in Walker County.  His group, like-wise straight-up bushwackers, eventually merged with Gatewood’s.

Lt. Col. William Gunter’s 18th Alabama Partisan Ranger Battalion was based on top of Sand Mountain in Jackson County, Alabama, organized in 1862.  While he transferred out in January 1863, his influence remained sufficient for the unit to be called by his name throughout the war.  Gunter and the men of his unit were officially commissioned partisan rangers.

Maj. Tom Edmondson’s North Georgia Scouts (75-strong) were bushwackers based out of Spring Place in Murray County, until he was killed in action in April 1865.

Col. James J. Findley’s First Georgia State Cavalry Home Guards were officially sanctioned with regional authority, such as there was.  Based in Dahlonega, the militia unit formed out of the Lumpkin County Home Guards.

The Pickens County Home Guards were commanded by Capt. Ben Jordan, a deserters along with brother Robert Jordan, both originally of Murray County.  They did some deserters chasing but were primarily bushwackers.

Col. Ben McCollum’s Scouts were the Cherokee County Home Guards officially commissioned by Gov. Joseph Brown as a behind-the-lines unit.  Sometimes called the Cherokee Legion, thye behaved more like bushwackers.

Capt. Jack Colquitt’s Scouts operating in Floyd County were mostly deserters turned bandit who frequently fought against Gatewood’s Regulators.  They can’t even really be called bushwackers since their main motive was accumulation.

Green Cordle’s Scouts were group of bushwackers in Walker County, broken up by Gatewood himself via the simple expedient of removing their commander from active service, permanently.

The Kingston Home Guards were organized in Bartow County in May 1864 to assist in the defense against Sherman’s march from Chattanooga.  They remained as a stay-behind unit.

The Euharlee Home Guards were organized in Bartow County for the same reasons and history as the unit above

Pickens Raid Repellers were a special legion of Georgia State Guards organized for six-months to provide local defense.

Union irregulars

The earliest Union irregulars in the Tri-state region were members of Hamilton County’s own 7th Tennessee Militia.  Commanded by Col. William Clift of Soddy and based at Sale Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Campground, later fortified with earthworks, the majority of the regiment remained loyal to the Union under the name 7th Tennessee Federal Militia.  The official date for its organization was 10 August 1861.  They were allowed to remain intact, provided they did nothing against the Confederacy by the Crossroads Treaty of 19 September 1861 with Col. James W. Gillespie, Assistant Inspector General of the Provisional Army of Tennessee, at Smith's Crossroads (Dayton), Rhea County.  The regiment broke up 15 November 1861 when the Seventh Alabama Infantry approached not long after some of its members had participated in the East Tennessee Bridge Burnings.  Clift and others became jayhawkers out of mountains in the west of the county, but most went to Kentucky to join the Union Army.  At the first of June 1862, Col. Clift was authorized to recruit a regiment of partisan rangers from Hamilton Co. refugees and men of Scott, Anderson, and Morgan Cos., called the 7th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, usually referred to as the 7th East Tennessee Volunteers to distinguish it from a like-named regiment in West Tennessee.  It disbanded 30 June 1863 and its officers and men transferred to other units.

Col. E. M. McCook commanded, in name at least, the First Tennessee and Alabama Independent Vidette Cavalry.  Its troops, raised to provide defense support for the build-up to the Atlanta Campaign, operated independently, more like partisan rangers or even jayhawkers than soldiers.  Cos. A, B, C, G and H were raised in Stevenson and Bridgeport, serving 10 September 1863-26 April 1864.  Cos. D, E, and F were raised in Tracy City and Nashville, serving 9 December 1863-16 June 1864.

The Long-Roberts Partisans under John Long and Sam Roberts based in Walker County, Georgia, were the Unionist counterpart to Gatewood’s Regulators, and not only were they in Walker County, their base was also in McLemore’s Cove.

James Brown’s 1st Georgia Troops State Volunteers (USA) was approved as a counterpart to James Findley’s group.

Doc Morse’s Guerrillas in the Tennessee-Georgia Borders operated in both Tennessee and Georgia, usually east of Walker County in the case of the latter.

The Destroying Angels were a group of jayhawkers in North Alabama operating in the vicinity of the Great Bend of the Tennessee River.

John Long’s Scouts in Chattooga County organized to serve as spies and scouts for Sherman during his March to the Sea.

Pickens County Home Guard was a unit of pro-Unionists raised to protect sympathizers from depredations of pro-Confederate bushwackers.

Bill Noblett’s Scouts were a group of bushwackers turned jayhawks in Fannin County.  Noblett was a deserter from the 11th Georgia Volunteer Infantry.

Department of North Georgia

The chaos and disorder in the region had gotten to the point where Gov. Brown requested that the Military District of North Georgia into a full-fledged department.  In January 1865, Brig. Gen. William T. Wofford assumed command, organizing viable forces into what were called Wofford’s Scouts.  At seven thousand strong, however, and with the mission of restoring and maintaining order, the force was much more than “Scouts”.

Brig. Gen. Wofford surrendered Wofford’s Scouts and the Department of North Georgia to Brig. Gen. Henry M. Judah at Kingston, Bartow County, on 12 May 1865, the same day that Capt. Stephen Whitaker surrendered Walker’s Battalion of the former Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders, on detached service from the rest of that command, to Col. George W. Kirk at Franklin, North Carolina.  The two unit were the last to surrender east of the Mississippi.


Though guns in the West east of the Mississippi River had fallen silent by mid-May 1865, some of the lingering animosities of this fratricidal conflict lingered, especially in the more rural areas of the region, leaving a lasting impact on the culture and in the psychology of its people down to the twenty-first century.

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