Confederate Archive Related to the 154th (Senior) Tennessee Volunteers, from Brigadier General Preston Smith's Military Correspondence
Lot of 50 individual orders issued by the 154th Senior Tennessee Regiment under Brigadier General Preston Smith. They originated from Smith’s Order Book and were preserved by Jacob Lyman Cook, Corporal, Co. L. Signed by a number of Assistant Adjutant Generals, the manuscript documents date from early 1863.
Preston Smith was born into modest circumstances in Giles County, TN, December 25, 1823. He studied and practiced law first in Columbia, then at Waynesboro and finally in Memphis. He married Mary Amanda Crofford in 1846 and they had two children.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Smith ended his law practice and entered into service as a Colonel for the 154th Infantry Regiment of Tennessee. The unit saw its first action at Shiloh (April 6 & 7, 1862). Smith assumed command of the unit when General Bushrod Johnson was wounded in action on the first day. Smith himself was disabled with a wound to his right shoulder on the following day. He recovered and returned to the Army joining Kirby Smith’s (no relation) Kentucky Campaign reporting to General Patrick Cleburne. When Cleburne was wounded in the Battle of Richmond (August 29 & 30, 1862), Smith assumed command of the Division. Colonel Smith was commissioned Brigadier-General, CSA on October 27, 1862.
At the beginning of the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19 & 20, 1863) his brigade was assigned to General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham’s Division, forming the right wing of the Confederate Army. On the night of September 19, 1863, Smith and Deshler’s brigades were ordered to launch a night attack. Disorder and misunderstanding ensued quickly. Smith moved to the front to reconnoiter and ventured into the battle line of the Pennsylvania 77th Infantry Regiment. The Pennsylvanians unleashed a deadly volley that mortally wounded Smith and killed one of his aides outright. The general died within an hour of being shot. He was initially interred at Atlanta, GA, but was re-buried at Memphis on May 2, 1868. Today he lies in peace at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.
The 154th Tennessee was an infantry regiment that served with the CSA for the entire conflict. It was a pre-war organization that maintained its designation after the war broke out. The 154th reorganized in Randolph, Shelby County and sought to retain its old number and received permission to add "Senior" to its regimental number. It fought at Shiloh, Richmond (KY), Perryville, Chickamauga, and the Atlanta and Nashville Campaigns. The 154th surrendered May 2, 1865 at Greensboro, NC.
Smith’s orders provide interesting insight into the workings of the 154th. They are labeled as being Circulars, General Orders or Special Orders and cover a variety of aspects connected to running a large and complex organization. It is striking that the regiment faced many of the same challenges that large modern organizations face:
Reporting and Accounting
Hereafter under the column of Effective Total in the reports from the Army, Extra duty men & men in arrest will not be included. The ‘Effective Total’ must include only the fighting field force.
The rations of Whiskey when issued will be two Gallons (to the hundred ranking).
Human Resources Job Postings
The Examining Board established …to examine candidates…for appointment as Artillery Officers will meet at Tullahoma Tenn. Tuesday January 20th, 1863…All applicants for appointment will present themselves before the Board for examination… Adjutant and Inspector General’s office will furnish to applicants information in regard to qualifications requisite to pass satisfactory examination.
Brigade Commanders will furnish…a report of the no. of Tents now on hand…and the number required…Estimates for (1) tent to 8 men.
Inflating Titles for Favored Staff Members
Official Documents are sent to the HQ designating officers as: Senior First Lieutenant, Junior First Lieutenant, Senior Second Lieutenant. Junior Second Lieutenant, Third Second Lieutenant. We desire that you impress upon the Gen.. Officers…that no such rank…is recognized …The only grade known by law…being…First Lieutenant [and] Second Lieutenant.
Several documents deal with AWOL, desertion, discipline and court martial. One unlucky deserter is sentenced to be shot to death by musketry at such time and place as the Commanding General may deem proper.
Paper sizes vary. Condition is generally very good.