20th (Russell's) Tennessee Cavalry, CSA

This website is intended to summarize the information I've been able to gather about the 20th (Russell's) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, CSA. My particular interest is in Company "I", formed in Weakley County, Tennessee. This company included one of my great-great-grandfathers, his brothers, and assorted friends, neighbors, and relations.

R.M. Price

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Revised August 12, 1999
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Russell's 20th Tennessee Cavalry was recruited from Carroll, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, and Weakley Counties in West Tennessee during the fall of 1863. In late December, these men were brought into North Mississippi and merged with several smaller organizations into a regiment under the command of Colonel Robert M. Russell.

For most of its service Russell's Regiment was part of Col. Tyree H. Bell's Brigade, Brig. Gen. Abraham Buford's Division, of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's Cavalry in the Confederate Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. The other regiments in Bell's Brigade were also comprised of Tennesseans: Newsom's 19th, Wilson's 21st, and Barteau's 22nd regiments of cavalry.

In March of 1865, the 20th was consolidated with the 19th (sometimes 18th) (Newsom's) regiment of Tennessee cavalry. The consolidated command (19th and 20th Consolidated Tennessee Cavalry Regiment) was surrendered and paroled at Gainesville, AL in May 1865.

Unit Designation

There has always been considerable confusion over the numerical designation of Russell's Regiment. The Confederate record cards from the National Archives are indexed and headed as "20th Cav. (Russell's)", but on the body of the card the unit is listed as "15 Reg't Tennessee Cavalry". This explanation is in a footnote:

This regiment was organized about February 5, 1864, many of the men having previously served in a field organization which was known as Greer's Regiment or Battalion Tennessee Cavalry. The A. & I.G.O. recognized it as the 20th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry but it was known and mustered in the field as the 15th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry. It was consolidated about March, 1865, with the 18th (Newsom's) Regiment Tennessee Cavalry (which was known in the field as the 19th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry) and the consolidated regiment was paroled at Gainesville, Alabama, in May, 1865, as the 19th and 20th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry.

A table of organization for Forrest's Cavalry, dated May 10, 1864 (Official Records, I-39-2) shows the "15th Tennessee, Col. Robert M. Russell" in Bell's Brigade of Buford's Division and the "15th Tennessee, Col. Francis M. Stewart" in Neely's Brigade of Chalmer's Division. The same designations are found in similar tables issued on June 1, 1864 (Official Records, I-39-2, p. 631), but one of June 10th lists them as the 15th and 20th regiments (Official Records I-39-2, p. 648). A general order dated July 27, 1864 states that the two regiments will be known by their commanders name, "until their proper numbers are given them by the war department" (Official Records I-39-2, p. 732).

This means that the reader looking for traces of Russell's Regiment must keep track of two "15th Tennessee Cavalry" regiments (Russell's and Stewart's) and two "20th Tennessee Cavalry" regiments (Russell's and Nixon's). Often, context allows discrimination, but sometimes it is difficult. The editors of the Official Records evidently tried to distinguish between the regiments, indexing them by their commander, but it appears to me that they may also have confused the units at times.

Another warning to the would-be researcher: the 4th Alabama Cavalry Regiment was also commanded by a Col. Russell (Alfred A.), and served with Forrest prior to establishment of his cavalry department in late 1863. References to this regiment in books on Forrest should not be confused with the 20th Tennessee. Editors of such books have made the error; for example, the index of the Morningside Bookshop edition of Jordan & Pryor's The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest's Cavalry mixes the two regiments into a single entry. It also indexes both Cols. Russell as "Russell, Col. R. Milton (CSA)".

The Official Records contain a few references to a cavalry raid in south central Tennessee (near Fayetteville) in late 1864, indexed under "Russell, R.M.". The timing doesn't seem to fit what I know about "my" Russell's Regiment activities, so I suspect this may be an effort by A.A. Russell's troopers instead. (Any reader who can clarify any of these issues -- please contact me!)


An address of Forrest to his troops (apparently made sometime in November, 1864), provides a roll of battles (Official Records I-45-1, p. 759): "Jack's Creek, Estenaula, Somerville, Okolona, Union City, Paducah, Fort Pillow, Bolivar, Tishomingo Creek, Harrisburg, Hurricane Creek, Memphis, Athens, Sulphur Springs, Pulaski, Carter's Creek, Columbia, Johnsonville."

History of Russell's Regiment

Descriptive Notes on Battles

Rosters of Russell's Regiment and Related Organizations

Biographical Notes on Russell's Regiment

Chronology of Movements & Engagements




Thanks to:

Battles  Biographies  Chronology  History  Links  References  Rosters

Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 by R.M. Price -- All Rights Reserved

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