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The 4th Tennessee Cavalry

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The 4th Tennessee Cavalry
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Author(s): George B. Guild
Date Published: 2009/07
Page Count: 216
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-739-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-740-0

The history of vital Confederate cavalry regiment

This history of a famous and dashing cavalry regiment of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War was authored by a serving officer who became the regiment's adjutant. It concerns Baxter Smith's 4th Tennessee Cavalry as distinct from another—which bore the same number—under Colonel Stearn. Previously published as 'A Brief History' this account paints a vibrant picture of the regiment on campaign and on the battlefield in such detail as only one among its ranks could provide. We join the horsemen of the South at Chickamauga, on Wheelers Raid, in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, South and North Carolina in several actions. Included within this book is an account of Bragg's Kentucky Campaign by Baxter Smith—the regiment's commander.

When Sherman with his large army of over 70,000 marched out of Atlanta, Wheeler’s small force of cavalry commenced at once to skirmish with his advance guard, and did so until he reached Savannah, with an occasional battle with Kilpatrick’s cavalry, invariably driving him back upon the infantry support and circumscribing as much as possible the pillaging of Sherman’s army. It is said that Sherman deliberately prepared for all of this before commencing his march by mounting a considerable number of his infantry upon horseback, under officers and in companies, to do the pillaging and burning, his cavalry protecting and covering their front while so engaged. It certainly was evident that his men were systematically organized beforehand for this purpose.<br>
After a few days’ march, Kilpatrick with his cavalry made a dash for Macon, Ga., with the view of destroying the public works of the Confederates, which had been extensively established in that city. Wheeler at once pursued, heading him off at the village of Griswoldville, some seven miles from Macon. A portion of the Georgia militia was occupying the place when we came up; and when Kilpatrick appeared, a fight ensued lasting some hours.<br>
The militia fought like veterans, which convinced us that if Johnston had been permitted to place them in the fortifications around Atlanta when he proposed to lead his entire army against Sherman’s flank, he would never have been removed: for they would have held the forts and breastworks as a safe retreat for his infantry, had they failed upon the flank of the enemy. After a fight lasting some hours, Kilpatrick was driven off with loss. Wheeler’s, as well as the militia’s, loss was considerable. I know that the Fourth Tennessee lost a number of their best soldiers. Kilpatrick soon afterwards made a move toward Augusta, presumably for the same purpose as at Macon; but General Wheeler, ever on the alert, headed him off by a night ride and saved the city.<br>
After this we came up with Kilpatrick at Waynesboro, Ga. It was a dense, foggy morning, so much so that you could hardly discern the form of a man fifty feet ahead. We at once attacked them in a large field near the town in a very mixed-up fight, in which we killed and wounded many and took many prisoners, losing quite a number ourselves. In the midst of the battle, with balls whizzing in every direction, I came across a squad of our men who had taken as prisoners four of the enemy. They were threatening to kill them, when I remonstrated and told them to turn them over to the rear guard nearby.<br>
Just then an officer of higher rank rode up. I appealed to him, telling him that the soldiers proposed killing them. His only reply was: “They know best what to do with them.”<br>
As I rode off into the fight, I heard the popping of the pistols, and I could see the prisoners tumbling over into the high sage. I had not proceeded far when I noticed this officer reel from his saddle with a shot in his arm. I could not help saying to myself: “I wish it had been your head shot off.”<br>
It would be proper here to say that many most outrageous transactions were done by the Federals as they passed through Waynesboro, and these were told to the men. It was enough to excite to vengeance; but nothing can excuse the killing of prisoners after capture, as was done in this case.<br>
Later in the day we came upon Kilpatrick at or near Buckhead Church, where he had intrenched his command behind a long line of fence that (we afterwards ascertained) extended from swamp to swamp, covering his entire front. General Wheeler ordered General Dibrell to proceed to the left flank of the enemy and to attack them, saying that the firing of his guns would be a signal for him to charge the line of fence with the remainder of his force.<br>
The signal was given by Dibrell, but probably before the exact situation was observed by him, and Wheeler charged with his entire force mounted. In fifteen minutes Wheeler had many of his men killed and wounded, losing more horses than in any battle during the war. Of course this created confusion for a little while when we went over the works, but the enemy had mounted their horses and were making for their infantry force, which was but a short distance off. This was one battle in which there could be no doubt that our loss was greater than that of the enemy. There could be no controversy over this. There was picked up on the field an officer’s military cap indicating high rank. It was supposed to be Kilpatrick’s, and General Wheeler returned it to him with his compliments.