Monday, February 11, 2013

Company F, Duckworth's 7th Tennessee Cavalry: Ordnance Sergeant Jacob Washington Nowell, my 1st cousin 5x removed

Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his Calvary by Don Troiani

Colonel William Lafayette Duckworth's 7th Tennessee Cavalry was originally organized in April of 1862.  The Regiment was organized when six original Companies from Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Logwood's 6th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion merged with Colonel William Hicks Jackson's 1st Tennessee Cavalry. 

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Logwood's 6th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion was organized in July of 1861.  The unit was comprised of men from Haywood, Fayette, Tipton, and Shelby counties.  Originally the unit served in the Western Department.  A detachment of the unit fought at the Battle of Belmont, Missouri in November of 1861.  They later saw action in Tennessee and Kentucky before being reorganized.  William Lafayette Duckworth served as Lieutenant of the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion before eventually being promoted to Colonel of the consolidated 7th Tennessee Cavalry in 1863.

William Hicks "Red" Jackson

Colonel William Hicks "Red" Jackson graduated from The United States Military Academy at Westpoint in 1856 and was breveted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army before he resigned his commission on May 16, 1861 to serve his home State of Tennessee in the Confederate Army.  Jackson was originally appointed as Captain of an Artillery Regiment before being appointed as Colonel of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry in early 1862.  He served as Chief of Cavalry under John C. Pemberton, Earl Van Dorn, and then Sterling Price. 

On April 1, 1862, although only partially organized, the Regiment, along with Colonel Pickett's 21st Tennessee Infantry was attacked by Federal Forces at Union City, Tennessee.  Twelve wagons were lost and the entire camp was burned.  It was a tough, early lesson for one of the South's premier Cavalry Regiments.  Following the rout, Colonel Jackson withdrew his Regiment to Trenton, Tennessee where he set out to train and better organize the men.

The Regiment redeemed itself on May 5, 1862, when Five Companies under the command of Captain John Goff Ballentyne of Company C attacked and routed Three Companies of the 5th Iowa Cavalry at Lockridge Mill near Dresden, Tennessee.  It was one of the few occasions where the fighting took place with sabres as the primary weapon.  Captain Ballentyne particularly distinguished himself in the brutal hand-to-hand combat.

Captain J .G. Ballentyne

For the remainder of May, the 1st Tennessee Cavalry covered the Confederate Army's retreat from West Tennessee.  On June 10, 1862,  the Regiment was officially organized at Abbeville, Mississippi by the order of Brigadier General John Bordenave Villepigue.   A few weeks later, they would be designated as the 7th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment.

The 7th Tennessee Cavalry made several brief excursions into Western Tennessee in late June of 1862.   It was commended for "a well planned and soldierly execution of an expedition within the enemy lines, led by Colonel Jackson, and resulting in the capture of a Federal colonel and 56 men, and the destruction of a locomotive and a train of cars near La Fayette Station, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad on June 25."   The 7th Tennessee Cavalry also routed a Federal wagon train in the same area on June 30th and participated in a brief raid under Colonel Joseph Wheeler (no relation) in early July.

Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong

The Regiment was then placed in Brigadier General Frank Crawford Amrstrong's Brigade along with the 1st Mississippi and 1st Missouri Cavalry Regiments.  Armstrong had previously served as a Captain in the U. S. Army.  He led a Company of Union Cavalry at the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas in June of 1861 before resigning his commission and joining the Confederate Army on August, 10, 1861. 

On August 30, 1862, General Armstrong led a force of about 2,600 Confederates into West Tennessee.  There he encountered a mixed force of Federals at Middleburg.  The Confederates forced the Federals to retreat into their works at Bolivar, Tennessee.  During this confrontation, the 7th Tennessee Cavalry operated as dismounted skirmishers on the Confederate right and suffered no serious casualties.  The following day, Armstrong's command moved north along the railroad where they captured a few Union outposts.  Armstrong's Brigade encountered ten companies of Federal Infantry at Medon, Tennessee.  The Brigade made an unsuccessful attack in which the 7th Tennessee Cavalry suffered heavily.  As Armstrong's Brigade moved toward Denmark, Tennessee on September 1st, they encountered a small Regiment of Federal Infantry along with a section of supporting Artillery at Britton's Lane.  General Armstrong decided to attack the well placed Federals and ordered the 7th to dismount their horses and charge the Federal position.  The 7th Tennessee Cavalry charged into murderous fire across a cornfield and eventually took two Federal guns that were later abandoned when Federal reinforcements arrived.  Now severely outnumbered, the Confederates crossed the Hatchie River and withdrew back into Mississippi. 

Battle of Corinth, Currier and Ives 1862

The next major engagement in which the 7th Tennessee Cavalry took part in was the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi.  This battle took place between October 3 - 4, 1862.  During the Battle of Corinth, the 7th Tennessee was attached to the 1st Division of the District of the Mississippi, commanded by Major General Mansfield Lovell.  Colonel Jackson commanded a Brigade comprised of the 7th Tennessee and the 1st Mississippi Cavalry Regiments.  Although Jackson and his men performed capably, the Federals took the upper hand.  Poor senior leadership was thought to have been the difference.  The 7th was again routed on November 8th when a large Federal force surprised them at Lamar, Mississippi.  The Union Cavalry vigorously attacked the confused Confederates and split their force.  Several Confederate Cavalrymen were captured, including Captain Taliaferro of Company D.  The captured men were soon exchanged.  The men of the 7th vowed to never let such an embarrassment happen again. 

For the remainder of 1862, the 7th Tennessee Cavalry performed a series of rear guard actions against the advancing Federal Army.   They learned to operate more effectively under fire and fall back in good order.  On December 20, 1862, Major General Earl Van Dorn led a group of approximately 2,500 Confederate Cavalrymen, including the 7th Tennessee, in a raid on the Federal supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi. 

Major General Earl Van Dorn

General Van Dorn's raid severely interrupted Ulysses S. Grant's overland campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi.  After riding about 100 miles in less than two days, the Confederates under Van Dorn took the Federal Garrison by surprise on the morning of the 20th.  1,500 Federals soldiers were captured  and roughly $1.5 million worth of Federal supplies were destroyed, causing Grant to abandon his overland campaign against Vicksburg.  This achievement boosted the confidence of the 7th and proved to the men that when properly led, they could make a decisive difference in battle. 

The coming of the year 1863 brought many changes to the 7th Tennessee Cavalry.   Colonel William Hicks Jackson had been promoted to Brigadier General on December 29, 1862 and was assigned a command in Middle Tennessee under Major General Van Dorn.  Company A accompanied Jackson to Middle Tennessee as his escort.  Lieutenant Colonel John G. Stocks was promoted to Colonel, but soon resigned due to illness.  Major William Lafayette Duckworth, formerly of Company D, assumed command.   For the remainder of the War, the 7th Tennessee Cavalry would be referred to as Duckworth's 7th Tennessee Cavalry.  Duckworth was later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by a "complimentary order for gallantry on the field."  Companies B and C were detached for special service while the remaining Companies were brigaded with the 2nd Arkansas and 2nd Missouri Cavalry Regiments and placed under the command of Brigadier General James Ronald Chalmers, a former Infantry Brigade Commander. 

Brigadier General James Ronald Chalmers

In June of 1863, General Chalmers and his men marched to the Mississippi River to disrupt the movement of Federal transports that were bound for Vicksburg.  On June 19th they encountered a force of Federal Cavalry just south of Hernando, Mississippi and routed it.  Several Federal soldiers and most of their equipment were captured during this engagement.  General Chalmers specifically commended the 7th Tennessee Cavalry for excellent marksmanship with their 1851 Colt Navy Revolvers.  The 7th Tennessee spent the remainder of the Summer drilling and scouting in North Mississippi and West Tennessee.

An inspection report of Chalmers command dated August 20, 1863 found "the command generally is not in good condition.  All the troops with the exception of the 7th Tennessee are indifferently armed." On September 10, General Chalmers ordered "On account of reduced numbers, the 7th Tennessee Cavalry and the 18th Mississippi Partisans Battalion will act together in case of an engagement."  On October 22nd, the 7th Tennessee reported only 210 effectives. 

The 7th Tennessee spent the Fall of 1863 raiding enemy lines along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.  On October 11th, Chalmer's Brigade surprised the Federal Garrison at Collierville, Tennessee.  A train carrying Union General William Tecumseh Sherman was at the post at the time of the raid.   Sherman and his party had to take cover in the depot.  Federal reinforcements from a nearby fort began to respond to the attack.  Several boxcars were burned before the Confederates were forced to withdraw.  On November 10, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel William Lafayette Duckworth was commissioned Colonel of the Regiment. 

On November 23, 1863, Major General Stephen Dill Lee, commander of the Cavalry of the Department of Mississippi & Eastern Louisiana, advised General Chalmers: "Brigadier General [Nathan Bedford] Forrest has been assigned to the Command in West Tennessee, to organize such troops as he can.  I think it best that Duckworth's Regiment go with him to recruit, and return when full to your command."

General Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest had experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of the Confederate Army.  He had originally enlisted as a Private in Captain Josiah White's Company E "Tennessee Mounted Rifles" on July 14, 1861.   This was quite unusually for someone like Forrest who came from the wealthy planter society.  Governor of Tennessee and my 1st cousin 6x removed, Isham Green Harris, caught wind of his enlistment and commissioned him as a Lieutenant Colonel and authorized him to raise a Battalion of Confederate Mounted Rangers.  In October of 1861 he was given command of Forrest's Cavalry Corps. 

Forrest distinguished himself for bravery and valor in February of 1862 at the Battle of Fort Donelson, where he led a charge that broke through the Federal offensive that captured over 12,000 Confederate troops.  He also commanded the Confederate Rear Guard after the Battle of Shiloh.  In the battle of Fallen Timbers, he drove through the Union skirmish line.  Not realizing that the rest of his men had halted their charge when reaching the full Union Brigade, Forrest charged the Brigade single-handily, and found himself surrounded.  He emptied his Colt Army revolvers into the swirling mass of Federal soldiers and pulled out his saber and commenced hacking and slashing.  A Union infantryman fired a musket ball into Forrest's back with a point-blank shot, nearly knocking him out of the saddle.  Forrest grabbed another unsuspecting Union soldier, hauled him onto his horse to use as a shield, dumped the man once he had broken clear and was out of range, then galloped back to his men.  A surgeon removed the musket ball a week later, without anesthesia, which was unavailable at the time. 

Fight at Fallen Timbers by Mort Kuntsler

He was promoted to Brigadier General in July of 1862 and given command of a Confederate Cavalry Brigade.  In December of 1862, his veteran men we reassigned by General Braxton Bragg to another command.  This was the beginning of a very uneasy relationship between Bragg and Forrest.  Armed with nearly 2,000 new recruits, Forrest led many small scale operations against the Federals until April of 1863 when he and his command returned to the Regular Army.  In September Forrest and his men participated in the Battle of Chickamauga.  Following the Confederate victory, he pursued the Union Army and took hundreds of prisoners.   He urged Bragg for an immediate follow up attack to recapture Federal occupied Chattanooga.  After Bragg's failure to do so Forrest was quoted as saying "What does he fight battles for?"  During a heated confrontation, Forrest reportedly threatened Bragg's life.  Following the confrontation, Bragg reassigned him to an independent command in Mississippi.  On December 4, 1863, Forrest was promoted to the rank of Major General.

During the Winter of 1864, Duckworth's 7th Tennessee Cavalry was placed in Brigade under the command of General Forrest's brother, Colonel Jeffrey E. Forrest. 

Jeffrey E. Forrest

In February of 1864, a Federal expedition force under the command of Brigadier General William Sooy Smith left Memphis and was advancing toward the prairie region of Mississippi.  By this time it was now part of the Union strategy to make war on the civilian population.  Rumors of Yankee deprivations began to swirl in the Confederate Camps.  Smith's Federal force made it as far as West Point, Mississippi before they began to withdraw.  Duckworth's 7th Tennessee Cavalry was the first Confederate unit to strike Smith.  They engaged the Federals and the fighting continued into Okolona, Mississippi. 

On February 22nd, the Federals rallied and charged the Confederates.  Duckworth's 7th Tennessee, being in the lead of the Confederate force, bore the brunt of the attack.  Instead of meeting the enemy in a mounted engagement, the 7th Tennessee dismounted and waited for the Federals to come within musket fire reach.  Duckworth and his men poured murderous musket fire into the advancing enemy Cavalry.  The Federals broke their line and were driven back in confusion.  General Forrest was with the 7th at the time of the Federal attack and was responsible for ordering the counterattack.  The 7th Tennessee drove the enemy from the field and captured a small Artillery Battery.  The victory was costly for Forrest, his brother Colonel Jeffrey E. Forrest, was shot in the neck and killed during the battle.  The 7th Tennessee led the pursuit of the retreating Federals, who fell back in disarray to Memphis. 

In a post battle report Forrest wrote:

"I desire to testify of my appreciation of the skill and ability of Colonels McCulloch, Russell and Duckworth as Brigade commanders. Colonel Duckworth took command of Colonel Jeffrey E. Forrest's brigade when Colonel Forrest fell on the 22nd." 

With the Federal Army temporarily at bay, Forrest moved into West Tennessee and established his headquarters at Jackson.  On March 22, 1864, Forrest ordered Colonel Duckworth and the 7th Tennessee to capture Union City, Tennessee while Forrest and the main body of the Confederate force moved on toward Paducah, Kentucky.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Union City, Tennessee was defended by the 7th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, a Union force comprised of men who had been recruited from the same geographical area as Duckworth's 7th Tennessee Cavalary.  The determination to defeat these "tories" was strengthened by a personal challenge from Forrest himself.  Duckworth and his men found Union City heavily fortified.  On March 24, 1864, Colonel Duckworth made a strategic decision to bluff the Federal Garrison into surrender.  He accomplished this by mounting a log on wagon wheels to resemble Artillery.  Duckworth's men then began sounding bugle calls to give the impression that Forrest's entire force was arriving.  The commander of the Federal Garrison, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Robert Hawkins, requested to meet with Forrest himself.  Duckworth sent another dispatch in Forrest's name explaining that he was not in the habit of "meeting officers of inferior rank", but would send Colonel Duckworth, under his authority to arrange the terms of surrender.  The bluff worked and Hawkins surrendered his post along with 700 Federal soldiers, 300 horses and scores of supplies.  Unknown to Hawkins, a force of roughly 2,000 Federal reinforcements only six miles away were marching to his aid. 

Brigadier General Chalmers after battle report stated:

Hdqrs. First Div., Forrest's Cav. Dept. - Oxford, Miss. April 20, 1864

Soldiers:  It is with pride and pleasure that I review the part taken by the soldiers of this division in this decisive campaign. Colonel Duckworth, of the Seventh Tennessee, by a successful ruse at Union City made the enemy believe that Maj. General Forrest was present , and compelled the surrender of the place by Hawkins and his regiment of renegade Tennesseeans, with all their arms, horses, and equipment.

James R. Chalmers, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

In early June of 1864, Federal General Samuel Sturgis left Memphis with approximately 10,000 Union troops on a mission to deal with "That Devil Forrest".  Duckworth's 7th Tennessee was briefly placed into a Brigade with the 18th Mississippi Battalion under the command of Colonel E. V. Rucker.  On June 10th, Forrest struck a blow to the Sturgis' Federals at Brice's Crossroads, near Baldwyn, Mississippi.  As soon as Rucker's Brigade entered the field of battle, they were ordered to dismount and charge the Federal position across a muddy field.  As the Brigade charged, they were met with heavy volleys of enemy fire.  Initially they were repulsed with heavy losses before reforming and continuing the attack.  Under heavy fire, the 7th Tennessee dragged the enemy's defenses out of the way and began pouring in through the exposed gap.  Fierce hand-to-hand combat ensued with the Union soldiers.  Pistols came into play and rifle butts were used as clubs in some of the most desperate fighting the Regiment would ever encounter.  The Federal line finally gave way and retreated.  Forrest then attacked with his entire force driving the Federals back to Tishomingo Creek, where their retreat turned into a rout.  Forrest's mobility and superior tactics help his force of 3,500 Confederate defeat the vast superior Federal numbers of General Sturgis' 8,500 men.

The Battle of Brice's Crossroads was Forrest's greatest victory of the Civil War.  Not only had his force succeeded in routing a much larger Federal force, but Forrest had also captured 16 artillery pieces, 176 wagons and 1,500 stands of small arms.  Forrest's casualties numbered 96 men killed and 396 wounded. Casualties on the Union side were much worse, 223 killed, 394 wounded and 1,623 men missing.

One month later, Federals under General A. J. Smith, again tried to deal with "That Devil Forrest".  Forrest's men attacked the Union line at Harrisburg, just west of Tupelo, Mississippi.  This time with much different results than those at Brice's Crossroads.   This time the Federals were ready.  A series of poorly orchestrated attacks by the Confederates were easily repulsed.  Colonel Rucker was wounded twice and the 7th Tennessee lost 74 men killed or wounded.  General Forrest was also wounded in the foot.  Smith was forced to retreat back to Memphis, but his force was practically unscathed.

Duckworth's 7th Tennessee recuperated with the rest of Forrest's force near Okolona, Mississippi.  In early August of 1864, the Federals commanded by General A. J. Smith moved toward Oxford.  The 7th Tennessee, along with the rest of Chalmers' Division moved out of their camp to meet them.  Although severely outnumbered, the Confederates contested every inch of ground but were forced to retreat south of Oxford.    There Forrest arrived with the rest of his command, but sensing Smith was reluctant to move further south, he took part of his men on a daring raid into Memphis.

Forrest's Memphis Raid

Duckworth's 7th Tennessee did not accompany Forrest on his raid in Memphis, but rather stayed behind in Oxford to keep the Federals in check.  Smith's Federals managed to capture Oxford before he got word that Forrest was safe in Memphis.  Smith ordered that the town be burned to the ground.  Once again "The Wizard of the Saddle" had humiliated him.

General Forrest reorganized his Corps in early September of 1864.  Duckworth's 7th Tennessee was placed in a Brigade along with other Tennessee Regiments under Colonel Rucker.  Some of the Colonels including Duckworth and Neely of the 13th Tennessee, disapproved Rucker's appointment, believing they should have been placed in command.  When they refused to follow Forrest's order, he had them arrested and dismissed from their Regiments.  Lieutenant Colonel Taylor took command of the 7th Tennessee for the remainder of the war.

Jacob Washington Nowell  was born near Wellwood, in Haywood County, Tennessee on September 30, 1839.  He is my 1st cousin 5x removed.  Jacob enlisted as an Ordnance Sergeant in Company F, Duckworth's 7th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment on November 4, 1861.  He was 22 years old. 

Jacob was captured sometime during the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, which took place between May 18 - July 4, 1863.  Jacob was part of the large Confederate force of nearly 30,000 men that were captured during the Siege.  Most of the Confederate Prisoners of War were exchanged on July 6th and received back into the Confederate Army as early as August 4, 1863.

List showing Jacob was captured at Vicksburg

Jacob received formal Parole in Memphis, Tennessee on May 20, 1865.

Report showing Jacob's Parole

Following the War, Jacob returned to his home in Haywood County, Tennessee, where he lived until sometime after the 1870 Federal Census.  By 1880, Jacob and his family had moved from Tennessee and relocated to Faulkner County, Arkansas.  Jacob Washington Nowell lived an additional 39 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Faulkner County, Arkansas on October 23, 1904 at the age of 65.  He is buried in the Cypress Valley Cemetery in Faulkner County, Arkansas. 

Grave of Jacob Washington Nowell

Closeup of Grave of Jacob Washington Nowell

Here's my relation to Jacob:

Jacob Washington Nowell (1839 - 1904)
is your 1st cousin 5x removed
Dempsey Nowell III (1802 - 1852)
Father of Jacob Washington
Dempsey Nowell Jr. (1755 - 1810)
Father of Dempsey
Rev. John Downing Nowell (1803 - 1859)
Son of Dempsey
Joseph Warren Nowell (1829 - 1889)
Son of Rev. John Downing
Walter Hinton Nowell (1855 - 1922)
Son of Joseph Warren
Joseph Warren Nowell (1889 - 1954)
Son of Walter Hinton
Ruth Adelaide Nowell Stokes (1918 - 2013)
Daughter of Joseph Warren
Selby Edward "Stokey" Stokes Jr. (1946 - )
Son of Ruth Adelaide
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Selby


  1. Excellent research and fascinating history brought to life. Thank you! One of my ancestors, William Alexander Taylor, was in Duckworth's 7th Cavalry.

  2. thank you, excellent account, Big Black Creek Historical ,Denmark, Tennessee.