18th Battalion Mississippi Cavalry

(aka Chalmers’ Battalion)

 

(from Dunbar Rowland’s "Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898"; company listing courtesy of H. Grady Howell’s "For Dixie Land, I’ll Take My Stand’)

 

Company A -- no name specified (county of origin not specified)

Company B -- Porter’s Partisans, aka Porter’s Company Mississippi Partisan Rangers, and Coahoma Cavalry (raised in Coahoma County, MS)

Company C -- Carroll’s Company (raised in DeSoto, Marshall, Panola, & Yalobusha Counties, MS)

Company D -- Smith Rangers (raised in Tippah County, MS)

Company E -- Middleton’s Company (raised in Panola County, MS)

Company F -- Pettus Rangers (raised in DeSoto & Panola Counties, MS)

Company G -- Perry’s Company (raised in Panola County, MS)

Company H -- Peach Creek Rangers (raised in DeSoto & Panola Counties, MS)

Company I -- Wimberly’s Company (raised in Marshall County, MS)

Company K -- Raines’ Company (raised in DeSoto County, MS)

[no letter designation given] Phillips/Richards’ Company, aka Yazoo County Company (raised in Yazoo County, MS)

 

 Lieutenant-Colonel -- Alexander H. Chalmers. Majors -- A.H. Chalmers, William R. Mitchell. Adjutant -- S.F. Green.

This battalion was organized mainly from independent companies of partisan rangers which had been formed for the protection of the northern part of the State after the evacuation of Corinth.

Gen. James R. Chalmers was assigned to command on the northern frontier, with the duty of organizing these commands, after the Kentucky campaign of October, 1862.

A battalion was organized under the command of Major Alexander H. Chalmers, which is mentioned in the official reports, April, 1863, as with General Chalmers' command. headquarters Panola.

After Grierson’s raiders crossed the Tallahatchie, April 18, 1863, he sent a detachment toward King's bridge, against Chalmers' command. May 11, Colonel Hatch, Second Iowa Cavalry, set out from LaGrange to attack Major Chalmers at Panola, and encountered some portion of it at the crossing of Coldwater, taking three prisoners. General Chalmers followed Hatch and attacked at 2 o'clock, morning of the 14th, at Temperance Hall, again at Walnut Hill and again at the crossing of the Hecula, according to Hatch's report. Chalmers reported the capture of twelve.

With General Chalmers (at Grenada), in July, stationed at Wyatt; Webb, Middleton and J. W. Smith commanding companies: Lieut. James H. McCain, enlisting a company at Panola. Battalion actively engaged in meeting expeditions from Memphis and LaGrange.

Five companies were posted at Holly Springs, Coldwater and Wyatt, at the time of the Federal raid from the Big Black River and LaGrange, Tenn., to Grenada, August, 1863. Major Chalmers, with two companies, 94 men, guarding the river at Wyatt, fell back before one column of the enemy to find Grenada occupied by the other. The other companies did not return, but in September remnants of two companies were reported near the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.

September 10, i863, the command received the name of the Eighteenth Battalion, Mississippi Partisan Rangers. About this time Major Chalmers was authorized to increase his command to a regiment by enlistment of men not subject to conscription. The companies of Captains Middleton and McCain were then in the battalion. The companies of Mitchell and Smith were ordered to report on pain of treatment as deserters. Through these vigorous measures by S. D. Lee the battalion was enlarged. General Chalmers announced, October 7, that the battalion having been increased to six companies, Major Chalmers was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel; Capt. W. R. Mitchell, Company A, to Major. The battalion was assigned to McCulloch's Brigade of Chalmers' Cavalry, in October, 1863, the effective strength being 225.

At the Coldwater Ford, near Holly Springs, October 5, 1863, Chalmers’ Battalion was distinguished in the fight with McCrillis' Brigade of Hatch's Federal Cavalry, on a raid from LaGrange, Tenn. Both Federal and Confederate commanders agree that the battalion made a gallant charge, though they differ as to results. McCrillis retreated to LaGrange, and on the 8th made another incursion to Salem, where he took position on a ridge east of the town, and sustained an attack for several hours by General Chalmers command. McCrillis reported that his artillery fired upward of 300 rounds. After three hours' hard fighting they were driven from the position, Chalmers reported. Chalmers reported his strength at 1,200, with one piece of artillery; McCrillis his at 1,250, with sections of two batteries. The brunt of the conflict, said General Chalmers, was borne by McCulloch's Missouri Regiment, McGuirk's Regiment and Chalmers' Battalion, "and although the last two were composed almost entirely of untried men, they behaved with a gallantry equal to that which has ever distinguished the veterans of the Second Missouri Cavalry." The total Confederate loss was 1 killed, 27 wounded. Chalmers, reinforced by Richardson's command, remained in line of battle next day at Harmar's near Salem, while considerable forces of Federal cavalry moved against him, but without serious attack. He then moved to Holly Springs, and Major Mitchell, with 100 men, was sent out at night to tear up the track of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, over which General Sherman was about to move troops to the support of Rosecrans at Chattanooga. On the 11th Chalmers and Richardson attacked the fort at Collierville, Tenn. garrisoned by six companies of the Sixty-sixth Indiana, unexpectedly reinforced by General Sherman, escorted by a battalion of regulars. The fort was strong and gallantly defended, and though McGuirk captured 135 prisoners and thirteen wagons and teams, Chalmers was compelled to retire with a loss of 3 killed and 48 wounded. On the retreat Chalmers' command was engaged in battle near Byhalia and Wyatt, on the 12th. The battalion had 18 wounded in this campaign.

Later in October, being notified that Sherman was moving his troops east, Chalmers made another attempt, his plan being to demonstrate against Collierville, with the commands of Slemons and McCulloch, while Ferguson and Gholson tore up the railroad somewhere between LaGrange and Corinth. November Major Mitchell, with two companies of the Eighteenth Battalion, drove in the Union pickets at Quinn's Mill, hoping he could draw the Federals into a position favorable for attack, but they did not cross the Coldwater. November 3, 1863, Chalmers attacked Collierville, the Eighteenth Battalion forming the left wing of McCulloch’s command, which included also McCulloch's and Hovis' Regiments. After a sharp engagement of over an hour, the attack failed, and Chalmers retreated across the Coldwater, skirmishing with his pursuers at the crossing. The battalion casualties were 1 killed, 5 wounded. Though not mentioned, the battalion doubtless participated in Chalmers' raid of December, 1863, against the railroad, with fighting near Moscow, December 4.

Listed as Eighteenth Battalion, Lieut.-Col. A. H. Chalmers commanding, in organization of S. D. Lee's Cavalry Corps, January, 1864. With First Partisan Regiment, Duff's Nineteenth Battalion and Second Missouri, in McCulloch's Brigade, Chalmers' Division, Forrest's Cavalry, March 9, ordered forward to Panola to lay pontoon bridge for intended raid in Tennessee.

The battalion, with Chalmers' Division, took part in the capture of Fore Pillow, April 12, 1864, and was the first command to enter the fort, over which the battalion flag was quickly flying. There were 14 killed and 86 wounded in Chalmers' Division. Among the mortally wounded was Lieutenant Hubbard, of the battalion, a young and promising officer. General Chalmers mentioned the gallantry of Capt. C. T. Smith, commanding his escort company, who led the charge from the first to the second fort, and Private Samuel Allen of the escort, who was killed in the charge.

May 10, the battalion was attached to Duckworth's Brigade; May 21, moved to Oxford, account of Federal raid.

General Forrest, May 24, brigaded the battalion with Duff's Mississippi and Duckworth's Tennessee Regiment, under Col. E. W. Rucker. Capt. B. F. Saunders' scouts were ordered to report to Rucker, who was instructed to gather up detached bodies of men and form them into companies to raise the battalion to a regiment. This became known as the Sixth Brigade of Forrest's Cavalry. It was a part of the brigade Forrest originally organized under Colonel Neely, the other regiments being under Neely in Alabama.

General Lee sent the brigade to Booneville, June 8, to assist General Forrest against the approaching expedition under General Sturgis, then at Rienzi, and they went into line of battle at Brice's cross roads, near Tishomingo Creek, June 10, on the left of Forrest’s line. Rucker's attack, Forrest reported, was "made with vigor, rapidity and precision.'' "His brigade displayed conspicuous steadiness during the fight." The victory achieved was famous. Over 1,600 prisoners were taken and practically all the artillery and wagon train. Duff's Regiment and Chalmers' Battalion were the only Mississippi commands engaged. Chalmers had 7 killed, including Lieut. W. W. Govan, and 41 wounded.

When Gen. A. J. Smith advanced from LaGrange, Tenn., in July, 1864, Rucker's Brigade was in action near Pontotoc, skirmishing on the 12th, and on the 13th they attacked the guard of the Federal wagon train, moving from Pontotoc to Tupelo, at Bartram's shop. Smith turned at Harrisburg to face his pursuers, and took a strong position on a ridge across the road, where the Confederate troops, under Generals S. D. Lee, Forrest and Chalmers, attacked on the 14th. After the battle was begun, Rucker's Brigade advanced on the right, General Chalmers accompanying them. They moved for a long distance under fire of artillery and musketry, over plowed ground and through a cornfield, many of the men fainting in the excessive heat. "Colonel Rucker, with his little brigade, behaved with as much gallantry as men could under similar circumstances," said Chalmers, "as the heavy list of killed and wounded will prove, yet they were unable to accomplish anything." After dark, when the town was burning, General Forrest, with Rucker's Brigade, mounted, moved on the enemy's left and approached very near to his camp, eliciting the heaviest fire of small arms in the whole battle. When Smith retreated Chalmers pursued with skirmishing for two days, but was repulsed with heavy loss at each attack. The loss of Chalmers' Division was 57 killed. 255 wounded. Among the killed was Captain Middleton of the Eighteenth. Casualties of battalion, 11 killed, 62 wounded.

General Chalmers commended the rare coolness, activity and daring of his Adjutant-General, Capt. W. A Goodman, and gave honorable mention to others of his staff -- Majors B. S. Crump and A. G. Mills, Captains L. T. Lindsey and Ed Daly, Lieutenants G. T. Banks and H. Cinder of the engineer corps.

Rucker's Brigade was dissolved July 18, and Chalmers' and Duff's Battalions, returned to McCulloch’s, Brigade, Chalmers' Division. A new brigade of Tennessee cavalry was formed under Rucker, and August 30, General Forrest assigned General Chalmers to command of a division. including Rucker's and McCulloch's Brigades. McCulloch's Brigade then included the Fifth and Eighth Mississippi, First Partisans and Chalmers' Battalion, with McCulloch's Regiment.

In August Gen. A. J. Smith raided to Oxford and burned the town and Forrest, unable to give battle, raided into the city of Memphis. With Forrest in this renowned performance were the Mississippians of the Eighteenth, who lost one killed and one wounded. Entering the city, Forrest’s men sought to capture Generals Washburn, Hurlbut and Buckland, all of whom, however, escaped them. The Federal casualties were 80 killed and wounded, 116 missing. Forrest's total casualties, 9 killed, 26 wounded.

In September, McCulloch’s Brigade was sent to Mobile. The Eighth and Eighteenth Mississippi, operating in West Florida in October, 1864, encountered a Federal expedition to Milton.

Company C, at least (the escort company), was with General Chalmers in the campaign under General Forrest, with Hood's army, in Tennessee, November and December, 1864. When General Schofield was retreating in the presence of the Confederate army from Columbia to Franklin, Forrest, after driving Hatch's Cavalry back toward Nashville, attacked the infantry column at Spring Hill to hold it in check until the Confederate infantry could come up. In the evening Forrest asked Chalmers to charge, and gave him Wilson's Regiment to support his escort company, which made the charge, but found, as Chalmers had urged, that the infantry were present in force, in the woods. General Chalmers wrote in a personal letter, describing the incident as one of the most memorable feats of the war: "Lieut. Elbert Oliver, of my escort company, was shot in the foot at one side of me, and Carson, my bugler, was severely wounded on the other side of me. You (Frank Norfleet) and I together, making a circuit so as to get out of the line of fire, galloped back to General Forrest, who said to me, 'they were there sure, enough.'"

Listed November and December, 1864, as Eighteenth Mississippi Battalion Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Chalmers commanding, in district of the Gulf. One company, 66 men, moving from Enterprise to Mobile, December 7, halted at Shubuta on account of a Federal raid. February, 1865, assigned to Stark's Brigade. March 16, 1865, at Columbus, Miss., General Chalmers ordered the battalion reorganized with part of the Fifth Regiment and Saunders’ company to form a consolidated regiment [18th MS Infantry], with the following officers: Colonel Alexander H. Chalmers, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Waverly Smith, Major W. J. Floyd.

The regiment was in the field during Wilson's raid through Alabama and Georgia in April and May, 1865, and at Maplesville, Ala., Capt. C. T. Smith's company and Forrest's escort company, General Forrest also being present, had a hand-to-hand fight with the Seventeenth Indiana Cavalry, of Wilder's Brigade.

The regiment was paroled at Gainesville, Ala., in May, 1865.

 

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