Getting to Know the Army of Tennessee

My knowledge of the Confederate army is confined mainly to the Army of Northern Virginia. As I sketch out my cultural biography of Silas Chandler, however, I am running into my limited understanding of the Army of Tennessee. Silas’s master, Andrew Chandler, served in Co. F of the 44th Mississippi Infantry up to the battle of Chickamauga in 1863. He then served Andrew’s brother in the 9th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment, which accompanied Jefferson Davis after he abandoned Richmond in April 1865. That’s another story.

Silas and Andrew were together for some of the major battles such as Shiloh in which the latter was taken prisoner and Chickamauga, where Andrew was wounded. According to stories Silas supposedly convinced a doctor in Atlanta not to amputate his owner’s leg and used coins stitched in his jacket to pay for passage for the two to return home to Mississippi.

Here is where you come in. I would love your recommendations on secondary sources on the Army of Tennessee, specifically on the social dimensions of the army and their views on slavery and race. I’ve read Larry Daniel’s Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee: A Portrait of Life in a Confederate Army, which is helpful, but he includes next to nothing on slavery. I would love to find something along the lines of what Joseph Glatthaar does for the Army of Northern Virginia in General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse and Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee. In addition, I am also looking for campaign/battle histories that include references to the 44th Mississippi specifically.

Officers of Company H (Independent Volunteers) of the 57th Georgia Regiment, Army of Tennessee, 1863.

Officers and camp servant of Company H (Independent Volunteers) of the 57th Georgia Regiment, Army of Tennessee, 1863.

Finally, I am also very interested in published or archival sources (letters and/or diaries) from soldiers in the Army of Tennessee that comment on camp servants and other slaves present in the army. I have plenty of such accounts from men who served in the Army of Northern Virginia to help fill out the picture of the many roles that camp servants played, but I am curious as to whether there there any differences between the two armies. One thing that comes to mind is that Union armies penetrated much further south earlier in the war and came into contact with much larger slave populations compared with the Army of the Potomac. To what extent, if at all, was Confederate policy on the use of slaves in the army shaped by this fact?

One particularly helpful book is Scott Walker’s history of the 57th Georgia, Hell’s Broke Loose in Georgia: Survival in a Civil War Regiment. What else do I need to read? Thanks in advance for your assistance.

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30 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Aug 8, 2015 @ 8:00

    Will do. Thanks, Lee.

  • Adam Rothman Aug 7, 2015 @ 15:00

    Armstead Robinson, Bitter Fruits of Bondage.

  • Eric A. Jacobson Aug 4, 2015 @ 8:09

    Yes, and of special (and ironic) note is that Cleburne’s men were being held back from attacking the Dalton garrison. More than one person noted exactly that.

  • Eric A. Jacobson Aug 4, 2015 @ 3:02

    Kevin, while it is not what you are looking for specifically, you might review the Dalton affair in late 1864. It involved the AoT as it moved through northwestern Georgia and the USCT garrison at Dalton. It is a volatile encounter, and one that might easily have gone very bad. The OR contain some interesting references, especially from the post commander and how William Bate, in particular, acted. Even Sam Watkins writes about it, and it is not pretty. I also wrote about it briefly in my first book. Also, the 10th MS and 44th MS were consolidated by that stage of the war.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 4, 2015 @ 4:36

      Thanks Eric. Will definitely look into it. The debate about enlisting slaves was certainly shaped by encounters with USCTs.

  • Robert Gudmestad Aug 3, 2015 @ 8:36

    You might try contacting Patrick Lewis, who was recently earned is PhD at the University of Kentucky. He gave a presentation a couple of years ago about Sanker, who was Sam Watkins’s slave. If I remember correctly, Watkins brought Sanker with him to war, but never mentioned it in his memoir.

  • Tim Talbott Aug 2, 2015 @ 15:12

    If I remember correctly from when I worked there, the Kentucky Historical Society has some letters from Confederate soldier Albert Boult Fall that mention his camp servant. Fall died at Fort Donelson. Fall Family Papers –

    • Kevin Levin Aug 2, 2015 @ 15:18

      Great. Thanks for the reference, Tim. I will definitely follow up.

  • James F. Epperson Aug 2, 2015 @ 11:43

    Dave Powell, who is a good personal friend, is writing a three volume study of Chickamauga (two volumes are out). It is a traditional battle study, but I would suggest looking at his bibliography for sources that might be of use to you.

  • Ben Allen Aug 1, 2015 @ 17:48

    I got the perfect idea for a book on the Army of Tennessee, Kevin: “Nothing but Defeat,” by Steven E. Woodworth! 🙂

    Somebody should show that photo to the Lost Causers, particularly Karen Cooper, and say, “Here is what most of your ‘Black Confederates’ did to fight for the Confederacy: pour water for massa’s coffee, with a little spit added for good measure.” 😉

    • Kevin Levin Aug 1, 2015 @ 17:55

      Woodworth’s book is about the Union Army Of The Tennessee.

      • Ben Allen Aug 2, 2015 @ 6:26

        Your point being?… I wrote “Nothing but Defeat,” not “Nothing but Victory.” I’m proposing a book on the Army of Tennessee. It is just that it would be so poetically appropriate if Woodworth wrote it. 🙂

  • Leo Jul 31, 2015 @ 16:57

    Jeff T. Giambrone at the Mississipi Department of Archives and History should be able to help you.

  • Daryl Black Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:58

    Kevin, As Ken pointed out the published sources are thin. I think it might be helpful to reach out to Lee White at CCNMP and Patrick Lewis as Kentucky Historical Society. Both have done significant research into the subject and could help guide you. Lee’s most relevant publication here is

    Patrick’s work on Sam Watkin’s slaves is very much on point here. I don’t think he has published any of the work but has presented at the AHA and other conferences on the topic.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:59

      Thanks, Daryl. Those two are definitely on my short list of people to contact.

  • Buck Buchanan Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:53


    Small point but…

    Chickamuiaga was fought in September 1863 not 1864.

    All I have to do is look up from my computer monitor and see the colors of the 19th United States Infantry, The Rock of Chickamauga, in a glass frame.

    The 19th, along with several otehr Regualr battalions and Grangers Reserve Corps troops, stood with George Thomas on Snodgrass Hill to cover the retreat fo the Army of the Cumberland.

    Thats said, there were oeprations east of Chickamauga in 1864 as part to the Atlanta Campaign so it may be those events which are referred in your research.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:55

      My bad. Thanks for picking that up. You see, I really don’t know much about the war out West. 🙂

  • Bryce Hartranft Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:44

    I don’t think I have ever read a book on events in the western theater without the author referencing Sam Watkins’ “Co. Aytch.”

    If you google search the title there are websites that have the text digitized so you can search for key words like slave or servant.

    For example, in reference to Bragg’s harsh treatment of the army Watkins says “we were tenfold worse than slaves.”

  • Al Mackey Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:39

    Thomas L. Connelly’s two books, Army of the Heartland and Autumn of Glory should be your first place to go.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:43

      Thanks, Al. Should have mentioned that they are in my library. Unfortunately, Connelly doesn’t include much of anything about slavery.

  • Pat Young Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:16

    This was the army in which a number of officers backed Pat Cleburne’s emancipation memo.

    Symonds, Craig L. Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997. ISBN 0-7006-0820-6.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:26

      Thanks, Pat. I am familiar with this book and the story surrounding Cleburne’s proposal.

  • Ken Noe Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:14

    There’s really no equivalent to Glatthaar for the Army of Tennessee. In regard to published sources, I had good luck with Bell Wiley’s ed., This Infernal War; Blomquist and Taylor, ed., This Cruel War; and Cash and Howorth’s edited My Dear Nellie. (In This Cruel War, Grant Taylor described how members of the 40th Alabama whipped a camp servant to death for theft.) I’d also look at the Comer Family Papers at UNC, now digitized, to get the real story behind the often-published photo of Wallace Comer and his camp servant.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:25

      Thanks, Ken. Will definitely check out these sources. Good to hear that the Comer Papers have been digitized.

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