Were USV enlistees making a statement… re: the great state of…EAST TENNESSEE?

Posted on February 2, 2013 by


It’s been quite sometime since I’ve mentioned anything about the United States Volunteers.

You know… the Confederate POWs who were offered a chance to get out of POW camp and serve in the U.S. Army.

Anyway, recently, I was perusing the records of the USV* and noticed that, in their records of enlistment, the fellows from East Tennessee were making a point of indicating their place of birth… the STATE of EAST TENNESSEE. When I saw this, I wondered… were these guys really putting emphasis on this fact, or were those enrolling them putting the emphasis on it… or, was it something else?





Now, having pointed this out, it’s also interesting to see that this was NOT the rule of thumb with ALL those from East Tennessee



For those who may not be familiar with it, after Lincoln’s call for troops, the western and middle portions of Tennessee may have showed support for secession, but East Tennessee (with a more solid Whig background) held a bit more firmly (70% opposing secession). In fact, after a series of meetings, by June, 1861, East Tennessee drafted a memorial, asking that Tennessee allow the pro-Union East Tennessee counties to form their own state, and remain in the Union. It should really come as no surprise… Tennessee rejected this. (For more on the “secession” of East Tennessee, see here).

So, this raises a question… how did these fellows, clearly defining themselves as “East Tennesseeans”, find themselves fighting for the Confederacy in the first place?

William E. Bowman was formerly in Co. D, 60th Tennessee (Mounted) Infantry (Crawford’s 79th Tennessee Infantry), at Boons Creek, Tennessee. He was captured in May, 1863, at Big Black (the battle of Big Black River Bridge, Mississippi). There is no reference to conscription (which does not necessarily mean he was/was not a conscript, but it is always worth keeping in mind, as well as the fact that what we see in the service records is not always an actual reflection of how one enlisted).

Andrew F. Carr was formerly in Pitts’ Regiment (61st) Tennessee Infantry, having enlisted at Henderson’s Depot/Mossy Creek, in November, 1862. He was captured at… as above, the battle of Big Black. Again, no note if a conscript or not.

Gaston P. Laws (aka, George P. Laws) was formerly in Co. A, 60th Tennessee (I’m seeing a trend here…), having enlisted in November, 1862, at Jonesboro, Washington Co., Tennessee. As for capture and conscription… no change from the first two. In addition to being shuffled into the rolls of the USC, Laws was later on the rolls of the 1st Virginia Eastern (Loyal) Regiment.

Sydney/Sidney Tallant was also formerly of Co. A, 60th Tennessee; was captured at Big Black; and, yes, that’s correct… no mention of being conscripted. What’s really interesting is that, in his service record, he is shown as having enlisted in November, 1862, at Haynesville, EAST TENNESSEE. On top of that, he was listed as having enlisted as a substitute.

Oh, before I wrap this up… as for Yunas and White… well, I did a cursory search for Yunas, with no luck. it’s likely that his last name may have been mangled a bit. White, on the other hand, appears in Co. C, 3rd (Lillard’s) Tennessee Mounted Infantry. He enlisted in February, 1863, in Benton, Tennessee… and was ALSO captured at Big Black.

SO, if “East Tennessee” was being recognized in the enlistment records of men, as they enrolled in Confederate units, then the use of “East Tennessee” in enlistments of Tennesseans with the USV was not (I suggest) necessarily a matter of those men making a statement. More than likely, it was little more than the matter of (and despite Tennessee’s rejection of the proposal made by counties in east Tennessee), a larger number of people (in that area) recognizing the counties of east Tennessee as having successfully demonstrated ample evidence of secession, in their own right.

As to whether those who enrolled as USV soldiers were Southern Unionists… that’s another topic for another day, but the short answer is… it’s to be considered only from a soldier-to-soldier (one person at a time) basis, and… it’s not that simple to come up with a definitive answer.

*As opposed to looking directly into the records of a particular regiment of the USV, I found these records in the miscellaneous papers of the U.S.V.