Organized August 29, 1861; mustered into Confederate service October 4, 1861; reorganized May 24, 1862 and consolidated with the 5th Battalion to form 2nd (Ashby's) Cavalry Regiment.
According to Adjutant and Inspector Generals Office files, another company, Captain William C. Eblen's, was attached to this battalion in 1862, but no muster rolls were found.
On September 15, Brigadier General Felix K. Zollicoffer, in reporting on the forces in his command at Knoxville listed the 2nd Tennessee Battalion (Branner's) with an estimated 490 effectives, 530 present, and 550 present and absent. On September 24, he reported the 2nd Tennessee Battalion (Branner's) at Camp Buckner, with 214 effectives, and 248 present, 312 present and absent. The report bore a note that half of Branner's Battalion, 250 men, was at Knoxville. On September 25, Zollicoffer ordered Colonel Rains' Infantry Regiment, and McNairy's Cavalry Battalion to attack an enemy force reported to be at Laurel Bridge on the road to London, Kentucky, and ordered a battalion of Colonel Statham's Infantry, with three companies of Branner's Cavalry to be posted on the road to Barbourville and London, about ten miles back, to give support if necessary.
On October 4, Major Bridgman, at Camp Myers, ordered his two companies, Ragsdale's and Finley's, and Captains Gass' and Snow's Companies, to "Take the back track" to Post Oak Springs. Gass refused, but the other companies moved, but were ordered to move to Jamestown, Tennessee by October 25. On October 16, Zollicoffer, at Camp Buckner, ordered: "The senior captain of Branner's Battalion, with 220 men, will march toward Barbourville and London in advance of the corps of the brigade."
On November 17, Zollicoffer reported: "I have started the regiments of Colonels Statham, Newman, Cummings, and Battle, the 1st Battalion of the 16th Alabama Regiment, and Branner's Battalion around by Wartburg on the way to Jamestown, Tennessee and Monticello, Kentucky." On December 26, at Beech Grove, Kentucky, he reported: I have sent down the north side of the river 650 Cavalrymen under Lieutenant Colonels McNairy, Branner, and McLellan, to observe the enemy at or near Columbia, and to descend to Burkesville, with orders to report back any information."
On January 7, 1862, at Beech Grove, Kentucky, the battalion reported 336 effectives, 580 present and absent. At the Battle of Fishing Creek January 18, Branner's Battalion brought up the rear of Brigadier General W. H. Carrol's Brigade, but Carroll reported he did not have an opportunity to bring his Cavalry or Artillery into the action. Company "F" reported that most of the company lost their horses on the retreat from Fishing Creek.
During March and April, individual companies were reported at Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Camp Clinch, near Kingston. On April 16, Captain Ashby left Knoxville with about 40 men of his own company, and about eighty others, and attacked a force of "Tories" who were attempting to cross the Cumberland Mountains at Woodson's Gap. He reported the capture of 423, the killing of about 30, and the wounding of about the same number. The prisoners were sent to Monticello, Georgia, and permission was given to enroll there any who wished to enlist in the Confederate forces for service in South Carolina, or elsewhere, but not in East Tennessee.
The last record of the battalion was in a report from Major General E. Kirby Smith, dated April 26, in which he stated "Branner's and McLellan's Cavalry, 700 effectives, are under orders for General Crittenden's Command." In May, 1862 the 4th and 5th Tennessee Cavalry Battalions were consolidated to form the 2nd (Ashby's) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, and the further history of the unit will be found in the history of Ashby's Regiment.
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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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