* This essay is by Bruce Stith, Brandenburg Ky., third generation descendant of Thomas Jefferson Stith. If you have any further information about Thomas Jefferson Stith's participation in the War please contact Bruce or contact me, Jess Scott, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Jefferson Stith -- The War Years
|This photo was taken after the war at a party at the Jesse
Jones Stith House.
(Oral tradition from Bruce Stith's father) Also from note from Ruth
Fontaine Scott "These were made from an old picture. Your great-
great grandfather Thomas Jefferson Stith - aged 24 years. Taken at
an "Infair" given for him by Uncle Jessie Stith (at oru old home) Summer
of 1865 on his return from war."
Thomas Jefferson Stith was a young man of 19 in the summer of 1861. The Civil War was just getting into full swing with the defeat of the Union at Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 14. Both sides, the North and the South, wanted Kentucky in its fold.
In September 1861, there were enough votes in the Ky. legislature to declare neutrality at an end. All Confederate forces were ordered out of the state in the middle of the month. On Sept. 18, the state government officially ended neutrality and aligned itself with the North. At this time men from both contending armies were operating in Kentucky and on this date a small contingent of Confederates marched North toward Bowling Green. For many of these men, this was a homecoming, for they had been training for several months in Tennessee at a place they named Camp Boone in the absence of training camps in their own state of Kentucky. These men were headed by General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Now they were back, organized regiments of Ky. infantry in Confederate service. These were the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ky Infantry, the 1st being formed in Virginia that Spring.
Men from all over the state swarmed to join at Bowling Green. Morgan's Lexington Rifles went there to enlist as cavalry. General Buckner authorized special recruiting agents to go to the various small towns to raise companies. They came in large numbers, 400 men on Sept. 19, 500 men, 6 days later.
A new Kentucky regiment was being established, the 1st Ky. Cavalry. This regiment was led by Col. Ben Hardin Helm, brother-in-law of Abe Lincoln. He was 30 years old and married to Emily Todd, sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. On Oct. 19, he received his commission as colonel and ordered to organize the 1st Ky. Cavalry. It consisted of 11 companies, A-K. On Nov 1, Private Thomas J. Stith is recorded as belonging to Company K, commanded by Captain Huey. Some of these companies consisted of men who had enlisted for a period of one year, and company K was included.
Thomas J. Stith had turned 20 years old on Aug. 28, was 5'10-1/2" tall, and apparently decided to leave his Dad's farm in Stith Valley and seek adventure in the war. His parents were Henry, 45, and Mary Ann, 40 years old. He was the oldest child; two sisters, Emily and Laura, and one brother, Albert, preceding him having died in childhood and infancy. Henry and Mary Ann naturally didn't want their son to go to war, but he liked horses, as did any farm boy, and wanted to join the cavalry. It must have been a lonely day when he mounted his horse with his squirrel gun and rode away.
He left behind two sisters, Nancy 18, Rosanna 16, and two little brothers, Charles 14, and Richard 8. Six other younger brothers and sisters had already passed away. His brother Charles would help his Dad carry the load while Thomas was gone.
General Joe Johnston, commander of the Confederate Army west of the Alleghenies, appointed John C. Breckinridge commander of his army of Central Kentucky on Oct 28. Breckinridge had been vice-president of the U.S. just eight months before. These men stayed at Bowling Green during the winter of 1861-62 guarding the Louisville and Nashville Railroad where it branched off to Memphis. General Johnston was forced to evacuate Bowling Green in February and the 1st Ky Cavalry covered his withdrawal to Nashville. They left on Feb. 12 and unbeknownst to them then, they were never to return to Kentucky. They became known as the Orphan Brigade, because Ky. was officially a Union state and they couldn't come back home to rest or recruit; they were outlaws, genuine rebels.
While in Nashville, the Kentuckians were put in charge of guarding stores. Company G was engaged at Ft. Donelson against Grant on Feb. 16; many were captured and some escaped and were attached to Company K at Nashville. They then marched to Murfreesboro and left it on Feb. 28 and marched to Huntsville and 20 miles farther to Decatur. The Ky Cavalry spent a week here and boarded a train for Corinth, Miss., 100 miles to the west.
General Albert Johnston was marshaling his forces for a move against Grant to the north. The Kentucky Brigade, under Breckinridge, and the Cavalry under Helm arrived at Corinth on March 19, along with Capt. John Hunt Morgan's calvary brigade. Three days later, they camped at Burkesville about 12 miles SE. Breckinridge drilled his troops for battle. General P.T. Beauregard arrived to join forces with Johnston in his move against the Federals.
Grant was camped 20 miles north at Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River. On March 29, Johnston organized his army into three corps, led by Generals William J. Hardee, Leonidas Polk, and Braxton Bragg. A reserve corps, smaller than the others, he created as well, included the Kentucky Brigade, assigned to George B. Crittenden. But on March 31, Crittenden was relieved due to drunkenness, and Breckinridge took command. On April 6 and 7 was the Battle of Shiloh. The Kentucky Brigade was called in on the second day to fill in a gap and took heavy losses. We don't know for sure if Thomas Stith was there.
General Albert Johnson was killed and Beauregard took over and retreated to Corinth. He evacuated Corinth on May 30 and retreated to Tupelo. General Bragg took over for Beauregard on June 27. they received orders to report to Vicksburg. The 1st Kentucky Cavalry was called away to other service before the Kentucky Brigade reached Vicksburg. Under whose command is not known, but Ben Hardin Helm remained with Breckinridge.
The Ky. brigade (infantry) was sent to Baton Rouge on July 25. Many of them had gotten very ill while camped at Vicksburg. They fought the Federals at Baton Rouge and occupied and secured Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. While here Ben Hardin Helm's horse was shot and fell on his leg putting him out of action for a while. The movements of the Kentucky Cavalry are not known until they apparently rejoined Breckinridge's Kentucky brigade in Knoxville.
Gen. Bragg planned to invade Kentucky in the fall and wanted the Kentucky brigade to join him. The order reached them Aug. 18, 1862. Waiting for trains and boats, they didn't get to Montgomery until Sept. 30. They reached Knoxville Oct. 2 and Bragg's army was already in Kentucky. While organizing to move to Ky., they heard about the defeat at Perryville. They began marching toward the Cumberland Gap on Oct. 14, but two days later they received word that Bragg was retreating, so they returned to Knoxville, disappointed that they didn't get back into their native state.
On Oct. 26, Breckinridge reorganized his infantry brigade and the 1st Kentucky cavalry. Morgan's cavalry was there, and perhaps Thomas Stith. Some of the 12 months men were mustered out, but most rejoined for three more years. Did Thomas muster out or did he remain with the cavalry? We don't know for sure. The Kentucky Brigade went on to Murfreesboro, where John Hunt Morgan got married and made general. The Kentucky Brigade was engaged in action at Murfreesboro at the end of the year and the first days in January. Since we don't know for sure if Thomas was still serving, we will stop following the movements of the Ky. Brigade.
Records show that Thomas J. Stith was in Weatherford, Texas, a few miles from Ft. Worth, on Sept. 30, 1863, when he enlisted in the Texas Cavalry. Capt. J.R. Baylor was in command and later Capt. R.H.D. Sorrell. This company of cavalry was also known as "Ladies Rangers". Thomas, by now a seasoned veteran, apparently enlisted as a sergeant, because on Nov. 15, 1863, he was promoted to 3rd lieutenant, and on June 23, 1864, promoted to 2nd lieutenant.
How did Thomas Stith get to Texas? Perhaps he became companion and friends to some Texans he served with. The 8th and 9th Texas regiments served in Corinth, Mississippi the same time the 1st Kentucky Cavalry was there (March-April 1862).
Captain Sorrel's company was attached to the 21st Infantry regiment, also known as Griffin's Battalion. Griffin's battalion was organized in 1862 with six companies, A to F. Sorrel's cavalry company became G Company. Then the company was transferred to Col. D.S. Terry's Regiment Texas Cavalry.
David S. Terry's regiment was organized in early 1864. Field officers were Lt. Col S. H. Brooks and Major J. M. Evans. They were assigned the western sub-district of Texas (April-May 1864), eastern sub-district of Texas (May- September 1864) and northern ' cub-district (August-September 1864).
There was little action in Texas itself at this time, but many Texas units served in Louisiana. In March 1864, the Union under Gen. Banks, began moving toward taking Shreveport, Louisiana. General Kirby Smith, the Confederate commander of the Trans-Mississippi Dept., determined to stop him. He alerted his Texas commander, Maj. General John Magruder to ready his entire force, garrisons excluded, to meet Banks. At Sabine Crossroads, April 8, 13,500 Rebs, met 9,000 Federals and routed them. There were more battles later on, but we don't know if Thomas was involved.
There exists an account sheet made out after Aug. 28, 1864, which shows Lt. Stith received on March 4, 1864--1 cloth jacket, 1 pr. cotton drawers, 1 pr gray pants, 1 pr. brogan shoes, 1 blanket, 1 coat. And on July 29th, received 1 hat, 1 cotton shirt, 2 pair cotton drawers, 1 pair pants.
On Nov. 20, 1864, the 21st Regiment was broken up by order no. 62, Headquarters district of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona dated Nov. 11, 1864. Four companies , A,B,C and E were consolidated with 6 companies of the 11th Battalion Texas Infantry, and D and F were transferred to 13th Regiment Texas Infantry.
Possibly because of this breakup, Lt. Stith submitted his resignation on Nov 29, 1864 while camped near Greenwood, LA to Col. S.S. Anderson, acting adjutant general at Shreveport. He gave his reason as desiring to join a Kentucky company. His resignation was accepted Dec. 9th.
Also requesting a transfer at this time was Private James I. Stith, perhaps a cousin of Thomas, who was transferred to the 9th Kentucky Infantry.
Whether Thomas rejoined, no record exists. Perhaps he did not return home until the war ended the next April since he was an "Orphan" and would be hunted in his own state of Ky. Arriving home, he was now 23 years old and had a full dark beard. He probably returned to his father's farm and helped him. The next year, on December 12, 1866, now 25 years old, he married Hannah Chase Williams, a 17 year old girl, and began a progeny of 11 children.
Note: This is all I know to date of the war record of T. J. Stith. Subject to review and updating after more research.
Bruce W. Stith
February 15, 1999
"The Orphan Brigade", William C. Davis Doubleday and Co. 1980
Rebel Records--National Archives Washington D.C.
Personal papers of Thomas Jefferson Stith, (Copies from James Stith, Lexington, Ky)
"The Civil War", Shelby Foote Ransom House 1974
Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky, Vo1. 1, page 534
Compendium of the Confederate Armies, Stewart Sifakis, volume Texas, volume Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri
Facts on File, Inc. 1995