Group of 48th veterans circa 1910.

 

Soldiers of the 48th Tennessee Infantry at Camp Douglas Il in 1862

The 48th was one of the first units ever to be incarcerated in hastily prepared Union prison camps.  The Federals sent the field grade officers to Fort Warren, Massachusetts, the line officers to Camp Chase Ohio, and the enlisted men to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois.  (The officers were later transferred to Johnson's Island on Lake Erie.)  The defeated Tennesseans began their trip north shortly after the surrender on the evening of 16 February.  Grant's troops herded their prisoners aboard the steamer Empress.  The steamer departed on the seventeenth and arrived at Cairo, Illinois, that night.  The trip up the Mississippi was both uncomfortable and unhealthy.  Many of the soldiers crowded aboard the Empress were already sick from exposure, poor diet, and frostbite.  Sanitary conditions on the vessel were poor.  The weather was cold, and the rations consisted of crackers and raw meat.  Along the route, Union soldiers gathered to taunt the prisoners.  In response, Andrew Campbell reported, "Our men never failed to cheer for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy."  At two points along the river, unknown assailants fired shots at the vessel and several prisoners were wounded.
 The Empress arrived at St. Louis on 20 February.  The Confederates were surprised to find that the citizens of the city demonstrated pro-Southern sympathy by providing gifts of apples, cakes, tobacco, and money.  The enlisted men boarded trains for Camp Douglas that evening, while the officers remained aboard other vessels for the next five days.  Sympathizers risked insult and arrest to help the prisoners.  One woman, who threw apples to the captives, was accosted by
a Union officer who shook his fist in her face.  To support her, one of the Confederate officers cut a button off his uniform and tossed it to the woman.  When she attempted to retrieve the gift, a Federal guard stepped forward and "thrust his bayonet in front [of her] to push her back."  Unimpressed, she simply pushed the bayonet out of the way and retrieved the button.

Historians acknowledge that the prison systems on both sides during the war between the states were poor.  The Federal prisons at Camp Chase and Douglas were among the worst.  When A. J. Campbell surveyed the filthy, overcrowded conditions at Camp Chase, he thought that he could "with good grace go out and volunteer to be shot."

At Douglas, death stalked the 48th.  On 3 March, K. Company lost William Welch and on the ninth a "kind, and most beloved" James Hodges died.  The death of Third Sergeant John E. Amis on the twelfth left two small sons fatherless.   On the fourteenth a "fair and honest" James Akin passed away.  At least forty-five, or seventeen percent of the 270 soldiers known captured at Fort Donelson died while in Federal hands.

As the months of imprisonment worn on, death and sickness became a constant companion.  Weekly, soldiers died of pneumonia and consumption.  Union guards forced prisoners to stand by while money and personal items were stolen from them.  Guards required little provocation to attack unarmed prisoners.  At Camp Douglas, sixteen-year old Wilson Trousdale of Company E was bayoneted in the back by a guard.  Johnson's Island guards routinely shot or shot at prisoners.  Captain Campbell writes, "Everytime I see a villainous Yankee it makes my blood boil to think we are to be shot down like dogs without any provocation whatever and no means of redress.  One does not know what minute he will be shot down as we frequently have guns leveled and cocked at us."

In early May, the officers at Camp Chase were transferred to the infamous Johnson's Island aboard the Island Queen.   In June the president of the United States Sanitary Commission urged that Camp Douglas be abandoned and burned due to poor sanitary conditions there.  Escape attempts were not infrequent.  On 23 July, a tall and bearded Allen Adcock from E Company took part in one of Camp Douglas's best known escape attempts.  Adcock and several compatriots planned the escape for weeks.  Adcock slept with a homemade ladder hidden in his bunk.  The group kept delaying their attempt, hoping Adcock's sick brother Robert would improve enough to go with them.  Robert, who was afraid to go to the prison hospital, failed to improve.  Finally, on the dark and rainy night of the twenty-third, the group made a break for the prison fence.  Four of Adcock's friends made it over before the guards discovered them and began to fire.  Adcock was not one of the lucky ones and quickly had to make his way back into the barracks.  Camp Douglas was "in a commotion."  Mackey, who was not with Adcock, wrote "Our Federal excellencies were much alarmed; the cannon fired and general excitement prevailed."  The Federals rushed to the barracks looking for prisoners with muddy shoes to indicate they had participated in the escape.  Adcock, however, proved too smart for his jailers.  He escaped detection because he had the foresight to wear socks over his shoes during his adventure.  Adcock's  shoes looked as if he had been in his bunk the whole time.

The Rebels did their best to entertain themselves.  In the winter there were snowball contests, the "bloody" 48th and the 7th Texas heavily engaged against the 20th Mississippi.  The Tennesseans attended church, wrote letters, read Northern newspapers, annoyed the guards, circulated unending rumor, and listened to antisecessionist speeches sponsored by their captors.  In the summer, a group of twenty-one prisoners from the 48th pooled their money and had a photo taken.  The soldiers in the photo stare seriously, hats cocked to one side or the other.  They were young and mostly bearded but some looked too young to shave.  They wore various uniforms, kepis, and slouch hats.

By July 1862, rumors that the 48th would be exchanged were prevalent and believed by most.  The prisoners believed war news from the South was good and morale in the 48th improved.  A small but tough looking Private Joe Rainey let his high morale get him in trouble.  When the Illinois Governor paid a visit to Camp Douglas, an impudent Rainey shouted a hurrah for Jeff Davis and The Yankees promptly hauled him off to the guard house.

Just before their exchange in August, the Federals offered the  Confederate prisoners a choice:  they could accept exchange or they could take the oath of allegiance.  At Camp Douglas, 918 opted to take the oath, among them were seventeen from the 48th.

In September 1862 the Federal government exchanged the 48th.  One Federal Officer thought the exchange was a mistake.  Campbell reports the officer said "all the weakly prisoners had died, the cowardly had taken the oath, and the others would make invincible soldiers."

The officers left their prison on 1 September 1862 and were released at Vicksburg on the 16th.  On 3 September, jubilant enlisted soldiers left Camp Douglas and were released on the 23rd.   They were in the words of Campbell "relieved of the presence of the hated Yankee once more."  Shortly after the exchange sixty-year old Captain George W. Gordon, the well-loved commander of K Company died.  The entire regiment mourned his loss.  After the enlisted were freed on the twenty-fourth, they were able to spend a few days in Vicksburg.  The newly freed soldiers poked around Vicksburg and found it, "A nice place with little to eat."

On the twenty-sixth, the troops boarded "the cars" for a forty-five mile train ride to Jackson, Mississippi.  There on 29 September, after seven months of captivity, the 48th was reorganized.  The troops elected William Voorhies Colonel, Arron S. Goodwin Lieutenant Colonel, and Andrew Jackson Campbell Major.  The reorganization of the 48th created a problem:  the Confederate army now had two separate 48th Tennessee Infantry Regiments.  One regiment was under Colonel Voorhies serving in Maxey's Brigade, District of Louisiana, Department of Mississippi; the other regiment served under Colonel Nixon in Polk's Brigade, Cleburne's Division, Polk's Corps, Army of Tennessee.


 

Dear Internet Surfer,

The above was extracted from my work on the 48th Tennessee Infantry.   My name is Gerald A. Kincaid Jr,  I serve as a Lt. Colonel in the US Army, my roots are in Columbia Tennessee and I still have cousins there.   A few years ago while obtaining a Master’s degree in Military Arts and Sciences (MMAS) I wrote my thesis on the regimental history of the Confederate 48th Tennessee Infantry  (both Nixon’s and Voohries’).   These twin regiments were raised from Maury, Lewis, Lawrence and Hickman counties.  The units had an extensive combat history and between them, they fought in most of the important western battles of the War.

A copy of the thesis is available at the Maury County Tennessee Library.   The thesis was well received by those who have read it.  On the advice of  Prof. Glenn Robertson (Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth)  I am currently expanding the history in to a book.

I believe I have seen almost everything that is in print on the 48th.  I have posted notices in several Civil War publications and am listed as a point of contact on the Louisiana State University Civil War home page for these regiments.   I have been through, National, Tennessee and some local archives.   I have built an extensive roster of the 48th’s soldiers.   In all, I have a great deal of information on the 48th.

Mine is a not for profit venture.    I had ancestors that fought in the 48th as did many of your readers.    My goal is to write a factual history that if the 48th’s soldiers could read, would be proud of and, would say “Yep, that’s how it was.” I hope that this book will be one that enriches  local history as well as adds to the general knowledge of the War Between the States.

Bottom line, I am betting  that there is still essential information available in the hands of descendants and those interested in the regiment. I would very much like to correspond with anyone who has an interest, or information concerning the 48th.   Photos, letters, records and diaries are likely to be included in the book.   I am very willing to share any information or answer questions concerning the 48th Tennessee Regiments. My email address is: gakincaid@coastalnow.net

Your Obedient Servant,

LTC Gerry Kincaid (US Army Retired)

Below is Chapter One of the Thesis (without illustrations)

"Of course the histories are all correct. They tell of great achievements of great men, who wear the laurels of victory; have grand presents given them; . . . when they die, long obituaries are published, telling their many virtues, their distinguished victories, etc., and when they are buried, the whole country goes into mourning and is called on to buy an elegant monument to erect over the remains of so distinguished and brave a general. But in the following pages I propose to tell of the fellows who did the shooting and killing, the fortifying and the ditching, and sweeping of the streets, the drilling, the standing guard, picket and videt [sic] and drew (or were to draw) eleven dollars per month, and rations and also drew th e ramrod and tore the cartridge." Sam Watkins author of Co. Aytch

The 48th, unique in the annals of Confederate military history, was broken on the anvil of defeat at Fort Donelson and reforged into two separate effective regiments. These twin regiments then fought in varied locations as two separate yet connected regiments for twenty- seven months. The distinction of being separate organizations enabled the 48th to list battle credits unlike any other regiment during the war. A clear understanding of the history of this regiment lends itself not just to a better understanding the Army of Tennessee, but also to the war in the Western Theater.

A group of 48th Tennesee Soldiers Camp Douglas 1862.

Regiments were the building blocks of Confederate forces in Tennessee. While brigades and divisions were fluid organizations, the regiment usually retained its basic organization until the end of the war. The state of Tennessee raised regiments from the same localities, in compliance with the 1840 militia law. Soldiers knew each other and they usually had friends and relatives serving with them. Responding to the call of Governor Isham Harris, Tennessee organized the 48th at Nashville during October and November of 1861. On 17 December 1861, the troops elected William M. Voorhies, Colonel and the 48th Infantry became one of 110 regiments raised in the state for the war. The 48th was in many ways a typical Tennessee regiment; quickly recruited, untrained, poorly equipped, and hastily ordered into Confederate service.

The majority of the men who formed the 48th were from the prosperous and very secessionist middle Tennessee counties of Hickman, Maury, Lewis, and Lawrence. The State formed these counties in 1817 due to a large migration of settlers of Celtic and English descent from North Carolina. The raw recruits mustered in at varied locations but most notably in the towns of Columbia, Waynesboro, and Lawrenceburg. A review of diaries, letters, and documents show the soldiers were gene rally well educated. While a few signed by their mark, military documents that remain indicate most of the rank and file were at least literate and some of them exceptionally so. William Polk, nephew of Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, served as the regimental adjutant. H. G. Evans dropped out of college to join up. Most of the recruits were farmers, but there were clerks, merchants, blacksmiths, a dentist, a few doctors, and even two ministers. Many of the soldiers had wives and children. The average age of the regiment was older than one might guess. There were few younger than seventeen and most were in their twenties to early thirties. It was not uncommon for soldiers in their fifties to serve. The oldest known soldier was Private Harrison P. Babbitt, who enlisted at fifty and completed his full-year enlistment. The Army discharged Babbitt, like many of the older soldiers, when his initial enlistment was over. (After the first year many were dismayed that Confederate conscript laws forced them to stay in uniform. Only those soldiers older than thirty-five had the option to re-enlist). Some older soldiers, like Private Fountain Hunt, enlisted at age forty-five and then re-enlisted. Fountain served until the end of the war. The average age of the 48th at the surrender was 25.5.

By the time the 48th was organized, the reality of the war was apparent, and Union troops were encroaching on Tennessee. The 48th's recruits were not the nonchalant lads of early 1861 who rushed off to engage in a short, romantic war. The days of the ninety-day enlistment were over, and the men enlisted in the 48th for a least a year. Those who served in the 48th were true volunteers; the draft would not be an inducement to enlist until April of 1862. The 48th rarely contained over 500 men, but nearly 1,850 men served in the regiment at one time or another. Less than sixty men who enlisted in 1861 were still fighting with the 48th when the final surrender of the army took place at Greensboro, North Carolina. Despite the regiment's participation in a number of battles, it was disease, desertion, and capture that continually whittled down their numbers. By 5 February 1862, the 48th was committed to its first engagement at Forts Henry and Donelson. Though they performed well, the battle proved to be a disaster for the 48th. Grant captured approximately 55 percent of the unit, which included Colonel Voorhies. After Donelson, the 48th troops that escaped capture were reorganized at Corinth, Mississippi, in April 1862. This new 48th regiment elected George M. Nixon colonel and "Nixon's 48th" was added to Brigadier General Patrick Cleburne's Brigade. The capture of the 48th at Fort Donelson and its subsequent reorganization at Corinth created the confusing situation where there are two separate 48th Tennessee Infantry regiments serving in two different Confederate armies. The two organizations, one Voorhies' 48th and the other Nixon's, remained apart for twenty-seven months until they were consolidated in July 1864. After a skirmish at Corinth, Nixon's 48th participated in Major General Kirby Smith's invasion of Kentucky and fought at Richmond and Perryville. Nixon's regiment was later heavily engaged at Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and the Atlanta Campaign.

The U.S. Government exchanged Voorhies' regiment in September 1862. After the exchange, the regiment engaged in the campaign to defend the Mississippi River, fighting at Port Hudson, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi. Voorhies' regiment joined with Nixon's at the battle of New Hope Church on 18 July 64, during the Atlanta campaign. The consolidated regiment then played a significant role at the battles of Jonesboro, Nashville, and Bentonville. The following paragraphs identify some soldiers who were significant to the 48th Tennessee.

William Milton Voorhies, Sr. Born in 1815, Voorhies was six feet tall with dark hair and blue eyes. The troops elected Voorhies colonel at the organization of the regiment. His sixteen-year old son served in K Company. The Federals c aptured Voorhies at Fort Donelson and confined him until the exchange of the 48th in September of 1862. Voorhies received a vote of confidence when the 48th reelected him colonel at the reorganization. By August 1863, his performance warranted his recommendation for brigadier general and brigade command. Unfortunately for Voorhies, Tennessee Governor Harris preferred Colonel William Quarles of the 2nd Tennessee for the command. Voorhies' command of the regiment ended at Na shville on 15 December 1864, where he was wounded and captured.

Colonel George H. Nixon. Born in 1822, Nixon was a Mexican War veteran who commanded the Lawrenceburg Blues at the Battle of Monterey. After the war, he served in the Tennessee General assembly. In 1857 the Federal Government appointed him to head the land office in Nebraska. He resigned when Tennessee seceded and returned to Lawrence County where he accepted a major's commission with the 23rd Tennessee I nfantry. He became the regimental commander of the 48th on its reorganization at Corinth after the fight at Fort Donelson. Nixon was an excellent commander and an able administrator. At Chickamauga he was both wounded and cited for bravery. After Chickamauga his regiment was so small that it was consolidated as a battalion with the 35th Tennessee, Nixon then became a supernumerary. He soon returned to Tennessee and raised a cavalry regiment. Colonel Nixon and his cavalry regiment then served with General N. B. Forrest until the end of the war.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Green Evans. Evans was born in 1842 at Columbia Tennessee. He left college to join the 54th Tennessee. (The 54th was consolidated with Nixon's 48th at Corinth.) General Patrick Cleburne called Evans "brave, intelligent and a good disciplinarian."16 He commanded I Company, a specially selected company of sharpshooters. After Nixon's consolidation with the 35th Tennessee, the 48th's remaining troops were organized into a sharpshooter battalion with Evans in Command. His troops skirmished with Wilder's "Lightning Brigade" at Ooltewah, Tennessee. Nixon's regiment was consolidated again with Voorhies' regiment on 27 May 64. Evans then commanded the regiment at the battle of Lovejoy Station.

Major Andrew Jackson Campbell. Campbell was born in Maury County on 14 February 1834, into a well-to-do family. He attended Franklin College and mustered in the 48th as a first lieutenant on 17 November 1861. Campbell was captured at Fort Donelson, imprisoned at Camp Chase and Johnson's Island, and exchanged at Vicksburg. He was elected major at the reorganization in September 1862. Campbell's diary presents an eloquent portrayal of his war experiences until his death in May 1863.

Major Thomas Emmitt Jameson. Born on 5 March 1835, Jameson commanded A company. He was captured at Fort Donelson and held at Johnson's Island until he was exchanged in September of 1862. He was promoted to major on 18 February 1864. Major Jameson was severely wounded at the battle of Nashville and imprisoned again. He was held by the Federals until 24 July 1865. Captain Joseph Love. Born in 1835, Love was in Maury County and commanded E Company. He was captured by the Federals at Fort Donelson and imprisoned at Johnson's Island. On 23 March 1863 he wrote a letter to General Cheatham requesting permission to raise a regiment of "colored" troops, which Major General Cheatham endorsed. (Love wrote the letter long before Cleburne's famous initiative to raise black troops). After Nashville, Love commanded what was left of the 48th in Hood's rear guard and led the survivors on to Bentonville. Joe Love seems to have become the unofficial regimental historian after the war. Several short articles he wrote on the 48th appear in Southern publications.

First Lieutenant James T. Mackey. Mackey was born in Maury County in 1842, he was captured at Fort Donelson and imprisoned at Camp Douglas. George Levy, the author of To Die in Chicago, called Mackey one of the best diarists of the war. Mackey records the brutality of the prison and mourns the deaths of his comrades. He was exchanged with the rest of the 48th in September 1862 and then stationed at Port Hudson. Allowed to return to occupied Tennessee on leave, he met the same fate as many of his fellow soldiers; the Federals captured him on 23 October 1863 while he was home on furlough. Mackey died a prisoner at Fort Delaware 18 January 1865 after almost two years in Federal prisons.

First Sergeant William Kennedy Estes. Estes was born 22 November 1843, and enlisted at Columbia in November 1861. Estes was not captured at Fort Donelson with Voorhies and became part of Nixon's 48th. Estes was an ever-practical first sergeant who counted bible verses and succinctly recorded the war events in his diary. Shot in the head at Chickamauga, many pages of his pocket diary "are so stained with his life-blood that much cannot now be deciphered."

First Sergeant Jasper Doggett. Doggett enlisted at Newburg on 29 November 1861 and served in both Nixon's and Voorhies' 48th. His now aged and difficult to read diary covers the entire war period. Doggett surrendered with the remnants of the 48th and the Army in April 1865.

Quartermaster Sergeant John W. Sparkman. Born 3 February 1835, Sparkman mustered in on 30 November 1861. Though he was often traveling with the supply "trains" and not with the 48th, Sparkman is the only diarist from Nixon's 48th who survived to the surrender.

Foot note on the 54th Tennessee.

54th TENNESSEE INFANTRY -- Organized February 5, 1862; consolidated with remnants of 48th ( Voorhies') and other regiments not captured at Fort Donelson to form 48th (Nixon's) Tennessee Infantry , April, 1862. The regiment was in the process of being mustered in at Nashville, on February 5, 1862, when several companies were ordered away before the muster was completed, with the result that the records are incomplete. The whereabouts of the regiment from this time until April 1862 is not known, as the regiment is not listed at all in the Official Records. Unofficial information is that the regiment moved first to Kentucky, from there to Fort Donelson, where it escaped, but was almost disbanded. It is not included in the list of forces at Fort Donelson as found in the Official, Records. In April 1862, it was at Camp Hill, near Corinth, Mississippi where it was consolidated with the portion of the 48th (Voorhies) and other regiments who were not captured at Fort Donelson. The further records of men who comprised the 54th Regiment are filed with those records of the 48th (Nixon) Tennessee Infantry Regiment.