CAMPBELL COUNTY'S COL. JOSEPH A. COOPER ORGANIZED UNION 6TH TENNESSEE REGIMENT IN KENTUCKY IN 1862
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
The Union 6th Tennessee Regiment witnessed many scenes through which they passed from time to time. The Regiment consisted of raw recruits among the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky and East Tennessee. Campbell County's Colonel Joseph A. Cooper commenced the organization of this regiment on or about the 6th of March 1862, at Barboursville, Ky., under the authority of Maj. D.C. Buell commanding the Department of Ohio. This department was confirmed by an appointment from the Secretary of War, date, February 27, 1862, and was mustered into service on March 22, 1862.
Col. Cooper immediately appointed the Regimental Quartermaster. Recruiting was actively sought after. Many of them were forced from East Tennessee by the severity of the Confederate rule. On April 23 four companies were completed with a Lieutenant being appointed. By May 1st, three other companies were organized and the full quota of field and staff officers was appointed.
After a march from the northern outlet of Big Creek Gap (LaFollette) to Barbourville and back about June 10th, the regiment took part in the opening, which resulted in the capture of Cumberland Gap on June 17, 1862. It then crossed with the 1st Brigade, to which it was attached, at Big Creek Gap. It then moved up Powell's Valley, south of the mountains to the rear of the Confederate stronghold.
While stationed at the Cumberland Gap, the regiment, with all the 1st Brigade, marched to Wallace's Cross Roads, 18 miles north of Knoxville, where they destroyed a cavalry camp of the enemy, killing and wounding about 60 men. Here they captured some prisoners and returned without a loss.
About September 1st, 100 men from the Sixth formed part of an expedition, under Col. Cooper, to Big Creek Gap, that killed and captured all but two of a Confederate cavalry company, numbering 112 men. They traveled safely through the lines of the enemy and secured the Gap.
On September 17th, the 6th Regiment took up the line of march in Morgan's famous retreat to the Ohio River, which was reached on October 3rd. The regiment was entirely refurbished at Portland, Ohio and was ordered to Gallipolis, Ohio, where it was stationed until November 11, 1862.
The regiment was then ordered to report for duty to Maj. Gen. Rosecrans, commanding the Department of the Cumberland at Nashville. It was then transported by river and rail, which on November 20th found the 6th Tennessee Infantry encamped on the Franklin Pike, two miles from Nashville. It remained at Nashville until the last of December 1862 when the regiment was detailed as one of an escort on an ammunition train in Rosecrans army. It then engaged in the fiercely contested battle of Stone's River. Near the Lunatic Asylum, eight miles from Nashville, the Confederate cavalry, under Wheeler, attacked the train. The 6th Tennessee Infantry immediately repulsed the cavalry with considerable loss, with help from 250 recruits from the 2nd Tennessee Cavalry, a regiment already stationed at the front.
At Murfreesboro, the Sixth remained until April 2, 1863, when it was attached to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 14th Army Corps. On that evening the 1st Brigade was detached and started to Carthage, Tn., by way of Liberty. After a long march the Brigade reached Carthage on the 4th, taking part in a skirmish near Liberty on the 3rd. The regiment then began drilling and scouting the surrounding counties until about August 15th. Then the Sixth, along with the 3rd Tennessee, were stationed at Alexandria, Tn. They were idle for the next two weeks and then relieved the garrison at this place. They were again idle and then relieved the garrison at McMinnville. The 5th Tennessee then relieved them, and about September 10th, crossed the Cumberland Mountains at Beersheba Springs to Jasper, Marion County.
The Brigade then located to the Tennessee River at the mouth of Battle Creek. After crossing the river, it moved to Chattanooga reserve and took part in the finale of the battle of Chicamauga as part of Granger's Corp. After this battle, the Brigade was sent to Sale Creek Academy, 28 miles above Chattanooga. The Sixth was then stationed at Blythe's Ferry to guard the crossing above and below. Here they were quartered, skirmishing with the enemy on the other bank of the river almost daily. They then joined the forces that moved to relieve Union General Ambrose Burnside and participated in the siege of Knoxville, early in December 1863.
The Sixth then took part in the many movements of the winter of 1863-64. This was known as the campaign of East Tennessee, and to those engaged, as a game of prisoner's base with Confederate General Longstreet.
The Sixth was then transferred to the Department of the Ohio and assigned to the Second Division, Twenty-third Army Corps, and in the latter part of April 1864, moved with that Corps to join General Sherman in his great campaign for Atlanta. They then took an active part, losing heavily in the fight around Resaca and engaging in every action from that time until the occupation of Atlanta. During this engagement Capt. Wm. L. Lea, of Co. C, was killed, the only officer of the Sixth Tennessee ever killed in action.
After the famed declaration, "Atlanta is ours and fairly won," the 23rd Corps was stationed at Decatur, Ga., until orders to join in the pursuit of Confederate General Hood. The General and his troops were due north destroying Sherman's line of communication. The pursuit was pressed as far as Galesville, Al., where it was discontinued. The Sixth Tennessee then made preparations for the famed "March to the Sea."
However, the 23rd Corp, along with the Sixth Tennessee, was then ordered to report to Maj. Gen. Thomas at Nashville. This outfit, the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division was sent to Duck River to guard its crossings. The stay on Duck River was cut short. The Brigade then moved toward Nashville and quickly found themselves cut off. They then marched to Clarksville, by way of Charlotte, a total of 60 miles in 33 hours. From Clarksville they joined their Corp at Nashville and took part in the battle around that city on the 15th and 16th of December. They then traveled by water to Cincinnati and on to Washington, D.C. by rail in January 1865.
In February they embarked at Alexandria, Va., and sailed for Fort Anderson, N.C. They then marched on to Wilmington, N.C. On March 6th the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, 23rd Corp, took up the line of march to Kingston, and from there marched with Union General Schofield and met up with Sherman at Goldsboro. The regiment was stationed at Moseby Hall, 14 miles from Goldsboro. Here on March 31st, they were ordered to Morehead City, and there embarked and traveled by way of Fort Monroe to New York City. The Sixth then traveled to Nashville, where on April 27, 1865, all but a detachment of recruits was mustered out of service. The regiment spent three years and moved on foot and otherwise, nearly ten thousand miles