15th Tennessee Regiment: Recruitment


Williamson County Town Square. https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/d/d2/Marion,_IL_1910_Public_Sq_photo.jpg

The 15th Tennessee Regiment was born from a small rebellion movement in Marion, Williamson County, Illinois. In 1861, an angry Henry C. “Harry” Hopper called for a meeting in the Marion salon at 8 p.m. to talk about Egypt seceding, due to Lincoln’s call for troops. Twelve men from Marion showed up, calling themselves the Illinois Committee for Southern Rights. These men were A.T. Benson, Thorndike Brooks, Hibert A. “Hibe” Cunningham, John M. Cunningham, G.W. Goddard, Isiah Harris, Harvey L. Hays, Henry C. Hopper, Peter Keifer, James D. Manier, William r. Scurlock, and James M. Washburn. (Gleeson p. 4) They became known as “Jeff Davis’s Twelve Apostles” and posted their grievances titled, “Be it Resolved,” which called for a meeting in the Marion town square. At the meeting a pro-union mob showed up, angry with the men for fear of spreading pro-south propaganda, and getting federal troops placed in the town. The men were forced to recruit quietly for their unit, and were promised by Hibe Cunningham that the absent John A. Logan (who was currently moving his family to Marion) would soon join them. (Gleeson p. 9) Whether this promise was true or not, is still unclear. On May 25th, the company of men set out for Tennessee to enlist in the Confederate army. Recruitment did not go nearly as well as they had hoped, despite controversy with federal canons placed at Carbondale and panic in the community thanks to rumors spread by Frank Metcalf. (ibid p. 8)


Click to zoom. Map of river boat paths around Little Egypt.

Leaving Illinois, and crossing into Paducah, Kentucky, the unit only had 28 men from Williamson, and 6 from Jackson County. The hope was that they could recruit more along the way, and eventually be met with a larger amount of men lead by Logan. Along the journey to Tennessee the Southern Illinois Company recruited 20 more men from McCracken County, Kentucky, and 9 men from Graves County, Kentucky. On May 31st, 1861 the company arrived at Union City, Tennessee where they waited six days for Logan. After almost a week Hibe had still not heard from his brother-in-law John Logan, and the men began to worry they would not be able to attach the company onto a regiment. Finally on June 5th, 1861, the Company of 98 men, 34 of them from Southern Illinois, attached themselves to the 15th Tennessee Volunteer Regiment, under Colonel Charles M. Carroll.

The Regiment was noted for having a different make-up than most typical Confederate regiments, “First all three field officers were suspected of incompetency; and second, unlike most Confederate regiments the Fifteenth was neither homogenous nor cohesive.” (Gleeson p. 15) As a whole the regiment had companies of men from Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, and Southern Illinois; and despite being dubbed a Western Tennessee Regiment, many of the companies did not have a single resident of Western Tennessee in it! As for the Southern Illinois Company, they elected Thorndike Brooks as their captain, with Hibert A. Cunningham as the 1st Lt., Harry Hopper 2nd Lt., and Harvey Hayes as Brevet 2nd Lt. Since all 4 of the officers were from Southern Illinois, Company G became known as the Southern Illinois Company.

After its formation, Company G of the 15th Tennessee was sent to Columbus, Kentucky on Sept 1st, 1861. In Kentucky the entire 15th Tennessee, consisting of 744 men was to be trained. It was in Kentucky were Hibe learned that his brother-in-law, Logan, had joined the Union and was raising the 31st Illinois in Cairo.