Organized May, 1862; captured Vicksburg July, 1863; served in Vaughn's Brigade in East Tennessee and Western Virginia thereafter.
The nucleus of the 59th Regiment was Eakin's Tennessee Infantry Battalion, composed of five companies and organized into a battalion on February 17, 1862. The battalion was gradually increased to a regiment by the addition of other companies, and was known as the 1st East Tennessee Battalion. It was organized as a regiment in May, 1862, and was officially designated the 59th Tennessee Infantry June 30, 1862.
Colonel Cooke resigned in March, 1863, and Lieutenant Colonel Eakin succeeded him as colonel. Major Alexander died in December, 1862; 3. P. Brown succeeded him as major, and later lieutenant colonel.
On April 19, 1862, Major Eakin, commanding Eakin's Battalion, at Morristown, Tennessee was instructed "to arrest all Union leaders who circulate exaggerated reports of the military draft, thereby inducing ignorant men to fly thefr homes to go to Kentucky."
On April 24, in a report of the forces under Major General E. Kirby Smith, the 1st Tennessee Battalion was reported "unarmed and unattached." On May 31, Cooke's Regiment was reported, still unattached. On June 22, General E. Kirby Smith ordered Brigadier General C. L. Stevenson: You will send all companies of Cooke's Regiment now with your command to Strawberry Plains, including also that at Morristown. Lieutenant Colonel Eakin should accompany them and assume command." On July 1, Lieutenant Colonel Eakin was instructed information has just been received that a plan is being secretly formed to burn the bridges at Loudon and Strawberry Plains. Be doubly vigilant in your guard."
On July 3, the 59th was reported in Stevenson's Division, Colonel T. H. Taylor's Brigade, composed of the 23rd and 46th Alabama, 3rd (Vaughn's), 31st (39th) and 59th Tennessee Regiments, plus the Rhett Artillery. On August 23, General Smith advised Stevenson; "Of Colonel Cooke's Regiment, which you supposed here, (Knoxville) two companies were sent to Morristown, (one for that post and one for Holston), four, with the Headquarters, are at Strawberry Plains, one is at Flat Creek, but three here."
On August 25, Colonel Cooke was instructed: "Your regiment having been ordered to report to General Stevenson, you will see that it is not encumbered with any superfluous or unnecessary baggage. Only five wagons will be allowed to a regiment, and not more than one tent to each company. * * * The men will be supplied with three days' rations, and 40 rounds of cartridges." Apparently part of the regiment was with Stevenson in his investment of Cumberland Gap, and his subsequent move into Kentucky, although no specific record of its activities was found. However, Company "I" reported: "We remained at Noe's Ferry until October 16. We were then ordered to rejoin our regiment which was in Kentucky. Proceeded to Tazewell where met the army retreating out of Kentucky. Remained there till our regiment arrived, and marched to Lenoir Station."
On October 31, the 59th was reported in Brigadier General Henry Heth's Division, Colonel A. W. Reynolds' Brigade, composed of the 3rd Confederate, 39th, 59th, and 43rd Tennessee, 39th North Carolina Infantry Regiments, and 3rd Maryland Battery. These four Tennessee regiments remained together for the remainder of the war, although the other units were later transferred out of the brigade. The brigade was reported November 20 at Cumberland and Big Creek Gaps, and on the line of the raifroad.
In December, the brigade was restored to Stevenson's Division, and moved to Vicksburg, where it remained until the surrender of that city on July 4, 1863. The brigade left Vicksburg May 1, as the rear guard of Lieutenant General Pemberton's Army marching toward Port Gibson. It halted at Baker's Creek, and was engaged with the enemy as guard for the baggage and trains; returned to Vicksburg May 6, "The men greatly exhausted"; and remained in the entrenchments from that time on. Colonel Reynolds reported: "During these 47 days, under the terrific fire of the enemy's artillery and infantry, the officers and men of the brigade bore themselves with constancy and courage. Often half fed, and illy clothed, exposed to the burning sun and soaking rain, they performed thefr duty cheerfully and without a murmur.
Company "F" reported: "July 4, 1863, the company, total 66, aggregate 70, was captured at Vicksburg. Paroled July 10. Marched 150 miles to Enterprise, Mississippi; transportation thence to Homes, in East Tennessee; exchanged September 12, 1863. By permission Major General Sam Jones, the major portion of the company mounted themselves, and were assigned to duty in East Tennessee as scouts and guides for Brigadier General (John S.) Williams October 14, 1863. Zollicoffer (now Bluff City) evacuated by our forces falling back to Abingdon, Virginia October 17. Federals falling back the 18th, our company advanced the 19th. The company, attached to Colonel Witcher's Battalion, engaged a party of cavalry near Zollicoffer, capturing a portion, and routing the rest. At Dalton, Georgia, February 23, 1864, the company started by southern route to rejoin the regiment at Rogersville, by order General Johnston."
In the reorganization of the Confederate forces after Vicksburg, Brigadier General John C. Vaughn was given command of Reynolds' Brigade, which was reported November 20 in Bragg's Army, Breckinridge's Corps, Stevenson's Division, with the note "Exchanged prisoners. But few reported."
The brigade was transferred to Major General Buckner's Division, Lieutenant General James Longstreet's Corps in East Tennessee, where on December 31, 1863 the brigade was reported increased by a detachment of the 2nd East Tennessee Brigade, Major James A. Rhea. These were evidently men from Vaughn's old brigade, the 60th, 61st, 62nd Tennessee Regiments. At about this time, the brigade was mounted, and served as Mounted Infantry for the balance of the war. On January 31, 1864, the brigade was reported in Major General William T. Martin's Cavalry; on March 31, in Major General Robert Ransom's Cavalry Corps. By this time the brigade had been further increased by the addition of the 12th (Day's) and 16th (Neal's) Cavalry Battalions. In February, 1864, the 59th was reported stationed at Kingsport and Rogersville.
An inspection report dated May 6, 1864, showed the 59th with 241 aggregate present. The brigade had been further enlarged by the addition of the 1st (Carter's) Tennessee Cavalry, and the 16th Georgia Cavalry Battalion. The report was very critical of the condition of the brigade, and especially of the commander, General Vaughn, calling it little more than a band of marauders.
In May, 1864, a portion of the brigade was dismounted, and moved into Southwestern Virginia, where it participated in the campaign in the Valley of Virginia. No further reports from the regiment were found until February, 1865, when it was stationed at Rogersville, and Big Creek Gap, Hawkins County. On August 1, 1864, in Brigadier General John H. Morgan's Command, a detachment from Vaughn's Brigade, under Colonel William M. Bradford was reported near Bulrs Gap and Abingdon, Virginia, composed of the 16th Georgia Battalion, 1st (Carter's), 12th, 16th Battalions, 3rd, 39th, 43rd and 59th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiments, Morgan's Division (dismounted), and Osborne's Scouts. On November 10, 1864, Major General J. C. Breckinridge was in command of the Department; on February 28, 1865, Brigadier General John Echols. Echols was still in command when the news of General Lee's surrender was received, and he dissolved his command in Southwestern Virginia.
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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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