The Bizarre Case of the 48th Tennessee

Luke Freet

Sergeant Major
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Palm Coast, Florida
When I first looked into OoBs for the Confederacy in the West, I never bat an eye at the thought of two 48th Tennessee Infantry Regiments (Voorhies' and Nixon's) being in existence at the same time (this stuff is mundane to me compared to what I see in the Arkansas units, where the designations are just all over the place). However, I decided one day to look more into it, and so looking on TNgenweb, I found their pages on the two regiments...and was shocked to find out they were actually pretty connected.

Let's start by the formation of the units. The first 48th Tennessee was mustered in Nashville on December 17th, 1861, with 6 companies from Maury County, 3 companies from Hickman County, and one company from Lewis County. Their Colonel was William W. Voorhies (1815-1892). Companies C and K were assigned to guard bridges, while the rest of the 48th Tennessee were assigned to Fort Henry, and assigned to the command of Colonel Adolphus Heiman. Heiman described the regiment poorly, considered a skeleton regiment of less than 400 men, poorly drilled, and badly armed and poorly uniformed. The regiment moved from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson, only to surrender there with the rest of the garrison, and marched into federal prison camps.

This is where things get complicated. Those two detached companies, along with other escapees from Fort Donelson, under senior Captain David Sowell of Company A, reorganized in Corinth on April 7th, as a 4 company battalion, and combined with 6 companies of the partially formed 54th Tennessee, and named the 48th Tennessee, under Colonel George Nixon (1822-1887), formerly the Major of 23rd Tennessee. His unit (353 strong) was attached to Cleburne's Brigade during the Corinth Siege, and would fight with him in Kentucky, distinguishing themselves at Richmond and Perryville.

On September 23rd, Voorhies' 48th was released in Vicksburg on parole, before finally being exchanged November 10th. Due to this, on December 1st, the four companies of Voorhies' original regiment assigned to Nixon's unit were disbanded, its men being sent to fill up Voorhies' ranks, and leaving Nixon's 48th a 6 company battalion instead of a full regiment, made up entirely of men from the 54th Tennessee.

Voorhies' 48th was sent to Port Hudson, where it was assigned to Maxey's (later Quarles') Brigade; and was sent to reinforce Joe Johnston's Army of Relief during the Vicksburg Campaign, before breifly being assigned to Bate's Division in Dalton in December (the regiment at that time numbered 248 men effectives, 267 present, and 208 arms), before being sent to garrison Mobile. On May 27th, 1864, the brigade joined Johnston's army at
New Hope Church, where they supported Cleburne's Division at Pickett's Mill (their first combat since Fort Donelson).

Meanwhile, Nixon's 48th Battalion remained in Cleburne's Brigade (now under Lucius Polk). They were not involved at Murfreesboro, but were heavily engaged at Chickamauga, where the unit lost 78 men killed, wounded or missing out of 170 men engaged; among the casualties was the Lt. Colonel Hughs and three captains, all wounded and disabled. The "regiment" was temporarily consolidated with Colonel Benjamin Hill's 35th Tennessee; Colonel Nixon and several other officers became supernumaries; Nixon left the unit and would raise a cavalry regiment under Forrest. The unit fought consolidated at Missionary Ridge and Ringgold Gap. That October, Colonel Hill reported he had 400 men under his command, and in the December returns, the still consolidated unit numbered 251 present, 245 effectives, with 207 arms. After the reorganization of the Army of Tennessee under Joe Johnston, the 35th/48th Tennessee was unconsolidated, with Colonel Hill and his regiment becoming the Provost Guard, while the 48th Tennessee remained with Polk under Captain Henry G Evans (1842-1914) of Company I. They remained until Polk's wounding at Gilgal Church in mid June. The Brigade was disbanded, and on July 14th, Evans' Battalion was transferred to Quarles' Brigade and consolidated with Voorhies' 48th; finally, the two regiments were fully one again.

The now consolidated 48th Tennessee fought at Ezra Church (known to the unit histories as Lick Skillet Road), which was considered in the regimental history as its hottest engagement of the war, losing half its men in killed or wounded. Lt. Colonel Aaron S. Godwin was in command at the time, though Evans would breifly be reported in command. The regiment, natives of Maury County, took leave early in the Tennessee Campaign, missing the slaughter at Franklin; the unit, under Colonel Voorhies, returned to their command (now under George D. Johnston) at Nashville. Here, Colonel Voorhies and Major Thomas Jamison were wounded and captured, leaving Captain Joseph Love of Company E in command (Love would later become the regiment's historian). It fought at Anthony Hill in the rearguard action there. The unit fought at Bentonville, its last battle of the war.

On March 31st, 1865, the Tennessee units in Johnston's Brigade were consolidated into the a single unit, with Captain Love in command. While the unit can't be found listed on the surrender list, it seems the men of the unit were paroled under the 4th Tennessee Consolidated Infantry.
 

Luke Freet

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Location
Palm Coast, Florida
Great overview. I know the cavalry regiments in Tennessee have duplicate ID’s and confusing histories. There seems to be some infantry that was also mixed up.
Yeah, there's a million examples. The duplicated 1st Georgias and 1st Carolinas (that exchange enumerations like "Rifles", "Volunteers", "Provisional Army" or "Regulars"), the duplicate Tennessee Provisional Army and Volunteer Infantry regiments 1st-5th, and everything happening in Arkansas.
I note this regiment as bizarre is because these two regiments actually are interconnected beyond enumeration.
 
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