Tennessee Records Repository

Henderson Co. TN


Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith

Mr. Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith of Jackson has published seven genealogical miscellanies for Henderson County.  He wishes to share this information as widely as possible and has granted permission for these web pages to be created.  We thank Mr. Smith for his generosity.  Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 2001

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"The sure and certain defense of a free people is a well regulated state militia."
Constitution of Tennessee, 1796, Art. 11, Sec. 24

From time immemorial the British had placed great stock in their militiamen (extending into the time of their early American colonies), those private citizens called upon to protect their localities in the time of armed conflict. (ANCESTRAL TRAILS, THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BRITISH GENEALOGY AND FAMILY HISTORY, by Mark D. Herbert, Baltimore, Maryland, 1998, page 342) The early local governmental units in North Carolina and Tennessee counties were based upon this hallowed tradition. Tennessee's Constitution provided that captains, subalterns, non-commissioned officers and field officers of the militia were to be elected by the men in the counties who were subject to military service. The local companies were composed within regiments which in turn were attached to brigades and divisions, commanded by brigadier-generals and major-generals, respectively. The militia was loosely organized at first but in 1797 the state legislature provided that all male citizens, aged eighteen to forty-five, with the exceptions of certain officials and ministers were subject to military duty; the counties were divided into companies and regiments with the larger geographical units called bridges and divisions; that regimental musters (drill and instruction) were required each year. "The act embraced thirty-seven sections, covering organization, administration, duties and services." (MESSAGES OF THE GOVERNORS OF TENNESSEE, volume one, 1796-1821, by Robert H. White, Nashville, 1952, pages 37-38; 49-50)

At some time in his adult life each physically-able male in the state was required to participate in the local militia, to meet several times a year for military drill and instruction on those occasions called musters. Such service was obligatory, in order to stand in readiness for defense of home and country. Men aspiring to public life sought support from and contact with one's fellow eagerly participated in the militia as a means of enhancing their political base and prospects.

By act of legislation dated November 17, 1819 the General Assembly revised and amended Tennessee's militia laws, effective January 1, 1820. (ACTS OF TENNESSEE; 1819, Chapter 68, pages 106-134) All "free men and

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indented servants, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, shall compose the militia of this state, judges of the supreme courts, circuit courts and courts of equity, Secretary of State, Treasurers, Attorney Generals, regular or ordained ministers of the gospel of every denomination, public ferry men, justices of the peace, post officers who have the care of the mail, are exempt from military duty, except in case of insurrection or invasion." (IBID., page 106)

The militia was divided into regiments, initially one for each county; several counties were grouped and designated as brigades and the latter into state divisions. (IBID., pages 106-110) Commanding the regiments were colonels or colonel-commandants (with the aid of first and second majors). Brigadier-Generals the brigades. Major-Generals the divisions. The basic military unit was the company several of which composed the county regiment; its commissioned officers were a captain, first and second lieutenants and ensigns. Non-commissioned Officers were sergeants and corporals. The commissioned officers served five year terms and the non-commissioned officers served three year terms. When company officers were to be elected they were so chosen by the membership of the company they were to lead, at the muster grounds where militiamen met for drill and instruction, which musters were held four times at year. (IBID., page 127) Each regiment met for the same basic purpose, once a year, in the fall. (IBID., pages 106-110) All general officers, through these ranks, were elected by the men who served under their command.

Serving each regiment was a judge advocate who compiled and kept the regimental records (who reported current returns to the brigade major each year who in turn compiled a report from the various returns and submitted it to the appropriate assistant adjutant general, one serving in each division who in turn made divisional reports to the adjutant general of the state in September of each year. (IBID., page 113)

In November, courts martial were scheduled for each regiment when it was felt necessary, to hear cases brought against militiamen who had been charged with neglect of their duties, disobeyed orders or who had acted "ungentlemanly. "A seven member court composed of officers heard the merits of pro and con claims involving these men and passed judgment; if found guilty, strong fines were imposed on the men for these infractions of military regulations. (IBID., page 114) Similar courts martial were held for brigades and divisions. (IBID., pages 118-121) The judges advocate kept the records of these courts martial.

The governor of the state was commander-in-chief of the state militia. He appointed the Judge Advocate of the state and the Quartermaster General, the latter of whom was commissioned to "collect and keep safely all arms and military stores belonging to the state." (IBID., page 122)

Volunteer rifle and cavalry companies were attached to the regiments in their respective counties serving under the same general regulations as the other militiamen. (IBID., pages 127-133) Members of such companies were compelled to serve at least five years unless by death or acceptable resignations they were dropped from the company rolls. (IBID., pages 128, 132) The elected officers of each cavalry company were one captain, one lieutenant, one cornet, three sergeants, three corporals, one trumpeter; each such company was to consist of between 30-60 men. (IBID., page 130) Each member of a cavalry company was to furnish his own horse, saddle, harness, holsters and pistols. (IBID., page 131) Separate cavalry, attached to a brigade rather than a regiment consisted of a lieutenant-colonel and a first and second major; they constituted a militia regiment.

By law, the state militiamen could be called into active military duty in service of the United States for six months. (IBID., page 127)

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Whenever a regiment contained sixteen militia companies, exclusive of volunteer rifle or cavalry companies, the colonel-commandant could, if there was a sufficient call for it, divide the regiment to form two regiments, but each regiment had to have at least eight companies; "and when any adjoining company in any regiment may have a sufficient number of men to form a new lawful company, it may be lawful for the field officers of said regiment to designated the bounds of such new company." (IBID., pages 126-127)

To clarify the procedure for the dividing of a regiment, the legislature passed an act, July 29, 1820, ordering among other things, "And it shall be lawful for the commandants of regiments of militia in this state to divide any company or companies in their respective regiments, so as to make two or more captains companies" provided the same could be done without undersizing the number of privates in the remaining company, in order to organize a company of militia and the bounds shall be laid off and recorded by the judge advocate of the regiment" (emphasis by the present writer). (ACTS OF TENNESSEE, 1820, Chapter 31, pages 41-45)

The boundaries of each captain's company were clearly drawn and two justices of the peace (magistrates of the county court) were elected for the same. If a captain died, resigned or his term was completed, another captain from his company was elected to serve the same area but it was then called by the newly-elected captain's name. Surviving records suggest that there were frequent changes in the captains' districts. This was the law and structure of the militia and captains' districts when Henderson County was created on November 7, 1821 and in this legislation was the provision that the sheriff of the county (John T. Harmon) was to hold an election in March 1822 for the adult male citizenry to elect field officers for the new regiments of county militia some time after which these officers were to hold elections for individual company offices. (ACTS OF TENNESSEE, 1821, Chapter 32, pages 41-44) This new county regiment was designated as the 76th Regiment of State Militia and in the spring of 1822 the county was divided into captains districts, the boundaries of which were clearly drawn. No permanent record was made of the actual boundaries of these districts (at least none have survived) but they were generally known among the male citizenry of the county at that time (and recorded by the judge advocate of the regiment in his records), those men aged eighteen to forty-five. The captains' districts were distributed and grouped geographically over the county.

When the new Constitution became effective in 1836 the militia was reorganized. In Henderson County, there were two regiments, the 109th and 110th, assigned to the 20th Brigade, including Perry and Madison counties, in the Fourth Division of the State Militia. Five year terms remained the length of service for commissioned officers.

On February 15, 1857 the state legislature abolished all musters, designating each male, aged eighteen to forty-five, liable to military service should an emergency for their service arise. The importance of the militia had diminished after the Mexican War and military service only became a matter of vital concern on the outbreak of the Civil War.



Commission Book Six

page 189. James Baker, Lt-Colonel; Andrew Simpson, first major; Robert Wilson, second major. June 3, 1822.

page 197. Henry Barger, William Patton, Benjamin Golden, Robert Patton, captains; John Brigance, Lewis Langston, Edward T. Boswell, Micajah Joiner, lieutenants; William Cain, Willie (pronounced Wylie) Story, Allen Asbell, Dickinson Marsh, ensigns. October 29, 1822.

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page 215. John Harmon, captain; John McCan, lieutenant; Burwell Hunter, cornet in the cavalry company attached to the 11th Brigade. November 7, 1823.

page 221. Caldwell G. Wilson, first major; John Harmon, second major in cavalry company attached to the 11th Brigade. January 19, 1824.

page 228. Jesse Morris, John A. Neill, captains; W. Barns, lieutenant; Richard Middleton, ensign. June 19, 1826.

page 236. William Dixon, John Nash, Mordecai H. Barton (or Burton), captains; Reuben Morgan, Isaac D. Hall, John Adams, lieutenants; William Kirby, Abner T. Johnson, Jeremiah Stephens, ensign. October 12, 1824.

page 252. John H. Burton, Alfred Middleton, captains; Tobias Long, lieutenant; Josiah Rodgers, Elijah Blevins, Archibald Morgan, ensigns. July 23, 1825.

Commission Book Five

page l. James R. Hamlett, Colonel-Commandant; William Patton, Lt.-Colonel; Peter Edwards, first major; John S. Noel, second major. February 5, 1827.

Commission Book Six

page 58. Robert W. Wynn, Colonel-Commandant; George D. Arnold, Lt.-Colonel; Benjamin Miller, first major. October 24, 1833.



Commission Book Five

page 185. Peter Edwards, Colonel-Commandant; Alfred Middleton, Lt.-Colonel; Isaac Rogers, first major; William S. Randolph, second major. November 12, 1831.

Commission Book Six

page 71. Nicholas H. Daniel, Colonel-Commandant; Samuel M. Carson, Lt.-Colonel; David B. Harvy, first major; Samuel T. Burrus, second major. December 14, 1833.

page 88. Fuzzell Hawkins, James Hannah, captains; John Cook, first lieutenant; Michael Brooks, ensign. June 25, 1834.

page 93. Franklin Skinner, captain; John Rogers, first lieutenant; Rowland Grissom, second lieutenant. August 20, 1843.

page 102. Griffith L. Ross, Jeremiah Hollis, James W. Glass, J. A. Vincent, Martin Arnold, Thomas Argo, Eli Teague, Mathew J. Galloway, James Botton, Joel R. Towns, captains; Thomas Cone, Leonadas J. Perryman, Leonard Smith, Abraham Teague, Joel Phillips, Samuel Whitley, Thomas N. Black, Obadiah Hendrick, first lieutenants; Carrol Parchman, John R. Sims, John Vandaforth, Isaac N. Hansbrough, second lieutenants; Washington E_____, Daniel Fryes, John D. Webb, Eli Cox, William Hodge, ensigns. December 18, 1834.

page 178. D. H. E. Henderson, captain of cavalry company attached to the 121 Brigade. September 21, 1836.



Commission Book Six

page 144. Andrew Allen, Colonel-Commandant. May 25, 1836.

page 147. Isaac Nanney, Lt.-Colonel. May 30, 1836.

page 15l. Jeremiah Hollis, first major. June 4, 1836.

page 154. Eli Teague, second major. June 8, 1836.

page 192. R. S. Bradford, captain. April 18, 1837.

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page 264. Burrell H. Collins, Colonel-Commandant; Ples A. Hendrick, Lt.-Colonel; Henry D. Brook, first major; John H. Belew, second major. March 7, 1839.

page 285. Willis A. H. Shackelford, Henry M. Arnold, James D. Mitchell, L. J. Perryman, Oliver Coppage, William R. Parsons, captains; Stephen Gatlin, Thomas H. Green, William M. Allen, first lieutenants; James Box, John Franklin, James Culpepper, second lieutenants. Also, James H. Hemphill, captain; B. Hilliard, first lieutenant; J. Johnson, second lieutenant; Daniel Meals, ensign of volunteer rifle company attached to the 109th Regiment. July 10, 1839.

Commission Book 7, January 1, 1840-March 15, 1862

page 12. James H. McEwen and Hampton Williams, C. H. Woods, captains; H. R. Spain, first lieutenant; Isaac Johnson, second lieutenant; John A. Dodds, first lieutenant. April 20, 1840.

page 24. John M. Eskew, captain. July 10, 1840.

page 34. Eli McKorkle and Jesse Hall, captains. November 19, 1840. page 65. E. J. Fuller, captain; Thomas Thomason, first lieutenant; A. Read, second lieutenant; A. A. Read, ensign. October 13, 1841.

page 72. H. M. Arnold, captain; D. Deberry, first lieutenant; D. Hodges, second lieutenant. December 7, 1841.

page 94. David T. Spain, Colonel-Commandant. September 27, 1842.

page 105. E. McCorkle and E. T. Hall, second majors. February 7, 1843.

page 192. Dudley H. Williams, Lt.-Colonel; James Willis, first major. August 24, 1849. Also, Henry D. Crook, Colonel-Commandant; William McCorkle, Lt.-Colonel; Mathew H. Brown, first major in a new unnumbered regiment. August 24, 1849. On page 315:John M. Stone, Colonel-Commandant; Logan Douglass, second major in this latter regiment. February 14, 1851.

page 355. H. Williams, Colonel-Commandant; Willis Holland, Lt.-Colonel; T. S. Lawler, second major. March 17, 1852.



Commission Book Six

page 144. Elisha W. Cain, Colonel-Commandant. May 25, 1836.

page 147. Samuel F. Brown, Lt.-Colonel. May 30, 1836.

page 151. Samuel Leslie, first major. June 4, 1836.

Page 154. Reuben Ridley, second major. June 4, 1836.

page 184. Edmond Bishop, Samuel Carter, James Hart, Reben R. Billingsley, Hardy S. Daniel, John S. Blair, captains. December 11, 1836.

page 199. Willis F. Low, captain. June 29, 1837.

page 200. Augustus Williams, Lt-Colonel. July 19, 1837.

page 264. Elvis S. Rhoads, first major. March 7, 1839.

Commission Book 7, January 1, 1840-March 15, 1862

page 61. J. D. Crow, captain; J. M. McClerkin, first lieutenant; W. D. Cozart, second lieutenant; J. H. Hart, ensign. August 28, 1841.

page 68. Reuben Ridly, Colonel-Commandant; James M. Vanhook, Lt.-Colonel; John P. Pope, first major; James McCullom, second major; John P. P______ captain. October 27, 1841.

page 169. Thomas Smith, Colonel-Commandant; W. Milam, Lt.-Colonel; H. Gauf, first maj or; J. Johnson, second major. April 10, 1845.

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page 223. George W. Campbell, Lt.-Colonel; Nathan Wilson, first major. October 31, 1846.

page 292. Abraham Teague, Colonel-Commandant; Wiley England, Lt.-Colonel; William Leonard, first major. August 24, 1849.

Commission Book 7, 1860s Commissions

page 39. William S. Cunningham, Henderson County, lst Lt., Company G, 8 Cav.; commissioned February 3, 1864.

page 279. Thomas A. Smith, Henderson County, Captain, 7 Cav., enlisted Aug. 18, 1862; commissioned November 13, 1863.

page 327. John J. Wallace, Henderson County, 2 Lt., 7 Cav., enlisted April 15, 1863; commissioned November 13, 1863.


Return to Table of Contents for A Genealogical Miscellany Henderson County Tennessee

volume I · volume II · volume III · volume IV · volume V · volume VI · volume VII