Organized as a battalion at Memphis, October, 1861; increased to regiment January, 1862; divided into two battalions April, 1862; four Alabama companies transferred to 4th (Russell's) Alabama Cavalry Regiment in November, 1862; 18th Battalion first known as Balch's Battalion; then as McDonald's Battalion; finally as 26th Battalion; reorganized as regiment latter part of 1864; consolidated with 12th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment in February 1865; surrendered and paroled at Gainesville, Alabama, May 1865.
This regiment had a very complex history, some 20 to 25 companies being at one time or another attached to it, with numerous changes in company letters.
The above eight companies were formed into a battalion under Lieutenant Colonel N. B. Forrest and Major D. C. Kelley, at Camp Forrest, near Memphis, Tennessee in October, 1861. The following were soon added:
Balch's 18th Battalion of Forrest's Regiment was composed of the following:
McDonald's Battalion of Forrest's Regiment was composed as follows:
A letter from Major General N. B. Forrest, dated May, 1864, stated that his old regiment was erroneously designated as a battalion, and that he would increase McDonald's Battalion to a regiment, which he did in November, 1864, with the appointment of D. C. Kelley as colonel, P. T. Allin as lieutenant colonel; and W. H. Forrest as major. The companies listed in McDonald's Battalion retained the same company letters in the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, reorganized, and the following companies were added:
The final metamorphosis of the regiment took place in February 1865, when the 3rd Consolidated Tennessee Cavalry Regiment was formed. Companies "A" to "E" of the consolidated regiment were formed by the transfer of men from other companies of the 3rd Tennessee reorganized to these companies. Additional companies:
These companies were composed of former members of the 12th Tennessee Cavalry, principally from Companies "A", "E", "B", and "F".
Almost immediately after its organization in October, Forrest's battalion of eight companies moved to the Kentucky line, and was stationed with headquarters at Hopkinsville, Kentucky during November and December, 1861. On January 31, 1862, Forrest's Cavalry was reported in Brigadier General Charles Clark's Brigade, of Brigadier General John B. Floyd's Division. After fighting a successful engagement at Sacramento, Kentucky, late in 1861, the battalion distinguished itself in the fighting around Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. By this time the battalion had been increased to ten companies by the arrival of Companies "I" and "K".
As is well known, Colonel Forrest refused to surrender at Fort Donelson and led his force out through the backwaters of the Cumberland River, although two companies remained in the fort and surrendered. These were Captain Gould's Company "D" and Captain Davis' Company "I Neither of these companies again served with the regiment.
From Fort Donelson, Forrest moved with his men to NashvillQ where General Floyd left Forrest in command to quell the rioting and secure the government stores. From here they fell back to Murfreesboro, and eventually to Corinth, Mississippi, having been joined in March by Captain Jesse A. Forrest's 2nd Company "D" and Captain Schuyler's 2nd Company "I". At Corinth, on April 2, Forrest was elected colonel; Kelley lieutenant colonel, and Balch major.
In the Battle of Shilob, April 6-7, 1862, Forrest's regiment was unattached to any brigade, but kept under the direct command of Brigadier General 3. C. Breckinridge. Most of the regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Kelley, was assigned to the duty of escorting to the rear the Federal prisoners from General B. M. Prentiss' Division. Forrest, with a squadron which he had retained with him, led a brilliant cavalry charge during the withdrawal, in which he was wounded.
After the Battle of Shiloh, Forrest was given command of a brigade, and was promoted to Brigadier General on July 21, 1862. His old regiment, under Kelley and Balch, was assigned to the cavalry brigade commanded by Brigadier General William N. R. Beall in the Army of the Mississippi. On April 28, 1862 it reported nine companies, with 463 effectives, 676 present, and 842 present and absent. By this time Captain Logan's Company "G" had been transferred to the 7th Kentucky Cavafry.
Shortly after this date, the four Alabama companies, "B", "E", "F" and "H", under Captain W. C. Bacot were sent on detached service to Chambers, Mississippi, in which neighborhood they remained until the withdrawal of the army to Tupelo, Mississippi. Early in July, they were ordered to move from Tupelo across the Tennessee River to harass the Federal lines of communication. On August 11, 1862, General Bragg ordered the 1st Kentucky Cavalry and Captain Bacot's command (four companies) to move immediately by the most practicable route to join Brigadier General Forrest on the Kingston and Sparta road, 20 miles west of Kingston. On August 29, 1862, Captain Bacot's command, described as one battalion Alabama Cavalry, was with Forrest in a skirmish with the 18th Ohio Infantry on the Manchester to McMinnville railroad. It continued with General Forrest until on November 23, 1862 this battalion was transferred to the 4th (Russells) Alabama Cavalry Regiment although the Adjutant and Inspector Generars Office did not get around to confirming the transfer until July 1864. It was placed in the brigade commanded by Brigadier General John A. Wharton, and passes from the history of the 3rd (Forrest's) Regiment.
The balance of the regiment was at times commanded by Major Balch, at times by Lieutenant Colonel Kelley. In a letter dated May 15, 1864, Kelley stated he commanded the regiment until relieved from duty on account of ill health, and then returned to duty under orders of General Forrest. Just when, or how long his leave of absence was, is not known. On June 15, 1862, R. M. Balch signed a communication as Major Commandmg. Forrest's Regiment, which at that time was still in Beall's Brigade.
On June 19, 1862, the Headquarters of the Army of the West, at Priceville, Mississippi, ordered: "Forrest's Cavalry command will prepare to march immediately with ten days' rations. The commanding officer will report in person at this Headquarters for orders. (Signed) Major General Earl Van Dorn." On July 2, 1862, Federal Colonel Sheridan reported an attack on his forces near Booneville, Mississippi, by Confederate forces, including "Balch's" Regiment, about 800 strong. On July 13, 1862, Forrest's Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel Kelley commanding, (four companies) were stationed near Priceville, Mississippi, in Brigadier General Frank Armstrong's Cavalry Brigade, Army of the West. What had become of the other company is not known. Of this battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Kelley, in Lindsley's Annals, stated it accompanied General Armstrong through North Alabama, and charged, captured and almost annihilated the Fourth Michigan Cavalry at Okolona Church, near Courtland, Alabama. In the same sketch, he stated: "From Tupelo, one battalion of the regiment under command of Major Baich and afterwards Major McDonald, accompanied General Forrest in his expedition to and capture of Murfreesboro (July 13, 1862). This must have referred to the four Alabama companies under Captain Bacot; Kelley was in error in stating this battalion was with Forrest at the capture of Murfreesboro, as it did not join him until August. General Forrest, in his report of that raid, made no mention of any of his old regiment being with him at that time.
The battalion with General Armstrong continued with him on his expedition into West Tennessee, and, as Forrest's Regiment was reported as part of his command at the Battle of Britton's Lane on August 31, 1862.
Lieutenant Colonel Kelley tendered his resignation on August 18, 1862. It was not accepted, but he must have been granted a leave of absence about this time, for the next reference to the regiment was as Balch's Battalion. Captain Crutcher's Company (originally Captain Overton's) had been transferred to the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry in December 1862. On January 18, 1863, Balch's Battalion, 234 men, was included in the list of Cavalry to go with General Van Dorn into North Mississippi, later into Middle Tennessee, and was assigned to the 1st Brigade of Brigadier General W. H. Jackson's Division. On February 2, 1863, the brigade was transferred to Brigadier General W. T. Martin's Division, with Brigadier General George B. Cosby in command of the brigade.
On February 25, 1863, General Forrest ordered the organization of the 11th Cavalry Regiment, and transferred Captain McDonald's company to the new regiment. About July 1, Forrest transferred McDonald's company back to the remnants of Balch's Battalion, and organized McDonald's Battalion, with the companies shown in the foregoing table. Balcli disappeared from the records about this time. Major McDonald commanded the battalion until he was killed on October 7, 1863, after which Captain P. T. Allin became major in command.
On July 31, the battalion, now listed as McDonald's Battalion (Major Charles Mc-Donald) was reported in Forrest's Cavalry Division, Armstrong's Brigade, composed of the 3rd Arkansas, 2nd Kentucky, 1st (6th) Tennessee (Colonel James T. Wheeler), Mc-Donald's Battalion, and Captain John Bradley's Escort Company. As part of this brigade, then under the command of Colonel Wheeler, the battalion participated in the fighting at Chickamauga, September 19-20, sometimes under the personal direction of General Forrest, who reported that on September 23, with McDonald's Battalion, he gained the point of Lookout Mountain.
On October 29, Forrest was again detached from the Army of Tennessee, and sent to West Tennessee and North Mississippi "to organize such troops as he can."
On November 7, Forrest, on setting out on this assignment, reported "McDonald's Battalion, my escort Company, and one battery (Morton's) will comprise my entire command." Total effectives of this expedition were 271 men, of which McDonald's Battalion comprised 139. McDonald's Battalion was part of Forrest's command at Okolona, Mississippi in February 1864, when he defeated the Federal force under Major General William Soov Smith. On March 7, McDonald's Battalion was reported in the brigade cornmanded by Colonel R. C. MeCulloch, of Brigadier General James R. Chalmers' Division, but on March 9, Duckworth's Regiment, and McDonald's Battalion, now commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James R. Crews, were ordered to report to Forrest at Columbus, Mississippi, and accompanied him on his raid into West Tennessee, and his capture of Fort Pillow on April 13. Lieutenant Colonel Crews remained in command of the Battalion itutil the assignment of Lieutenant Colonel Kelley in July, 1864, although his appointment to the command was never confirmed.
On April 15, Forrest, on his withdrawal into Mississippi, reported he had left Duckworth's Cavalry Regiment and McDonald's Battalion in West Tennessee for the purpose of conscripting, and holding the guerrillas in check. The battalion continued to be reported in McCulloch's Brigade until July 18, 1864, when Forrest ordered; "The regiment now known as Forrest's Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel D. C. Kelley, will be assigned to duty with Neely's Brigade."
The authorities at Richmond had gotten the impression that Forrest's Old Regiment had lost its identity, but in May, 1864, General Forrest advised them that McDonald's Battalion was a part of his old regiment, and that he intended to increase it to a regiment by the addition of other companies. On July 19, 1864, the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office finally got around to confirming the changes which had taken place some time before, and ordered: "The four Alabama Companies heretofore attached to the or(lanization kn own as McDonald's Battalion, or N. B. Forrest's 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, are hereby transferred to Russell's Alabama Regiment. The seven companies now composing N. B. Forrest's 3rd Tennessee Cavalry will constitute the 26th Battalion, to the command of which Lieutenant Colonel D. C. Kelley is hereby assigned." However, Forrest called it Forrest's Tennessee Regiment, with Kelley as colonel; Allin as lieutenant colonel; and W. H. Forrest as major.
On August 30, 1864, Colonel E. W. Rucker was given command of a brigade in Chalmers' Division, composed of 7th (Duckworth's), 14th (Neely's), 12th (Richardson's), 15th (Stewart's) Regiments, and the 26th Battalion (Forrest's Old Regiment). The unit was, from this time on, sometimes reported as the 26th Battalion, sometimes as the 3rd Tennessee, and sometimes as Forrest's Old Regiment, commanded at times by Major P. T. Allin, at times by Lieutenant Colonel Kelley. It accompanied Forrest on his raid into Middle Tennessee in September, going from Athens, Alabama to Pulaski, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, and back through Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. It then went with Forrest into West Tennessee, the attack on Paris Landing and the firing of Johnsonville. Here Lientenant Colonel Kelley, with the 26th Battalion captured the transport Venus, crossed the river with it, and seized the gun boat Undine, and returned with it.
On November 15, Forrest again joined the Army of Tennessee in command of all the cavalry of that army. As part of Chalmers' Division the regiment participated in Hood's Tennessee Campaign, and on December 3, under Colonel D. C. Kelley, with four field pieces, blockaded the Cumberland River at Bell's Mills, six miles below the city of Nashville, until the Battle of Nashville opened.
After the retreat from Nashville, with Forrest in command of the rearguard, Forrest continued to operate in Alabama and Mississippi after the Army of Tennessee transferred to North Carolina to join General Joseph E. Johnston. His were the last Confederate forces east of the Mississippi to surrender. The regiment, as part of the 3rd Consolidated Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, was surrendered and paroled at Gainesville, Alabama in 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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