Gibson in Gray

31st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry
Confederate States of America

Gibson in Gray
Barry Dunagan's Genealogy and History

A Short History of the Flag of the 31st.

On December 18, 1863, following General Braxton Bragg's disastrous defeat at Chattanooga, command of the Army of Tennessee was transferred to General Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston's first goal was to restore the morale and esprit d'corps of the army. One of the ways he effected this revitalization was by the issuance of new and uniform battle flags to the regiments during the months of March and April 1864.
"The Flags of the Confederacy, an illustrated history"
By Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.

The flag issued to the 31st at this time at Dalton, Georgia was carried the remainder of the war by William M. Belew. At the surrender in North Carolina, to keep the flag from falling into Yankee hands and suffering descreation,Belew took the flag and under cover of darkness concealed it in his coat.
After this William moved to Texas where he died and was buried. Until recently it was believed his grave was also the final resting place of the flag he bravely carried and these men fought under.
But in 1995 Darren Helton, a member of the 31st Tennessee Infantry Company E, reenactment unit told me he had seen pictures of the flag.He said while at the Lotz House Museum and Antiques in Franklin, Tennessee he mentioned to the curator that he was a reenactor with the 31st. The gentleman then told Darren that a descendant of William Belew had brought a flag to them for appraisal and possible purchase. Pictures and detailed diagrams of the flag were made. It was a Dalton issue battle flag with no battle honors on it, but with 2 ribbons attached that had 31st VOL INF on them.The flag was in good condition, made of cotton bunting, with but few holes or tears. Although there were two Tennessee units designated as the 31st. only one would have carried this flag because the other 31st had been transferred to Virginia.
The Lotz House tried to purchase the flag, but were not able to do so and it was eventually purchased by a private collector. Which is sad, because it will probably not be displayed as it would have in Franklin.

Unit History

Organized October 12, 1861: reorganized May 8, 1862: formed Company G, 3rd Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment April 9, 1865: paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina May 1, 1865.
Field Officers

A.H. Bradford, Egbert E. Tansil
Lieutenant Colonels
C.M. Cason, Mansfield D. Jinkins, F.E.P. Stafford
John F. Smith, F.E.P. Stafford, Samuel Hudson, Samuel Sharp
Egbert E. Tansil, B.J. Roberts, Company A, the Western Stars. Men from Weakley County.
Caleb McKnight, James House, Company B. Men from McNairy County.
C.M. Cason, W.B.Clayton, J.K.P. Randolph, Company C. Men from McNairy County.
A.H. Bradford, L.Houk, John Willis, Company D. Men from Haywood County.
J.B. Robertson, A.T. Gay, D.H. Blankenship, Company E. Men from Gibson County.
F.E.P. Stafford, J.T. Jacocks, Company F. Men from Madison County.
W.Y. Baker, Samuel Sharp, W.R. Ramer, Company G. Men from McNairy County.
Jonathan Luten, George Bright, Company H. Men from Decatur County.
Thomas Bell, W.V. Sims, Company I. Men from Weakley County.
John Elliott, John Hatler, George Thomas, Company K. Men from Weakley County.

Of the field officers, Colonel Bradford, Lieutenant Colonel Cason, and Major Smith were not reelected at the reorganization. Colonel Tansil transferred to the cavalry; Colonel Jinkins died November 20, 1862; Lieutenant Colonel Stafford was killed at Franklin, November 30, 1864. Major Hudson was killed at Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862.
There were two regiments called the 31st Tennessee Infantry Regiment, both organized about the same time and both commanded by a Colonel Bradford. The East Tennessee Regiment commanded by W.M. Bradford was finally officially designated as the 39th, but in the Official Records for the first two years was called the 31st, so care must be taken to distinguish the records.

The companies comprising this, the official 31st, were organized in August and September, 1861; assembled at Camp Trenton, Gibson County, in October, 1861, where they were organized into a regiment. Regimental and company records show that the regiment moved to Camp Price; from there on November 29, 1861, to Columbus, Kentucky, where it was placed in the brigade of Brigadier General J.P. McCowan. On January 18, 1862, it was reported in Major General Leonidas Polks' command, 3rd Division, stationed at Columbus, Kentucky, consisting of the 5th Louisiana Battalion, 11th and 12th Louisiana Infantry Regiments, 4th and 31st Tennessee Infantry Regiments, three troops of cavalry, and three batteries of artillery. On February 28, 1862 it was in General McCowan's forces at New Madrid, Missiori, Colonel R.P. Neely's Brigade, composed of the 12th Louisiana, 4th and 31st Tennessee Infantry Regiments, with the brigade reporting total effectives of 1714 men. On March 17, 1862, General McCowan reported he was leaving Island Number 10 for Fort Pillow, taking with him the 11th and 12th Louisiana, 4th(Neely's), 31st and 5th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, two batteries and two troops of cavalry. On April 6, 1862 Brigadier General John B. Villepigue, commanding at Fort Pillow, reported the 31st Tennessee was armed with Enfield Rifles, well clothed, arms and accoutremants in satisfactory condition, but that their camp police was in bad order, and discipline and instruction could be improved. On April 30, 1862, still at Fort Pillow, the 31st reported 621 for duty out of 765 present.

The regiment remained at Fort Pillow until after the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, when it moved to Corinth, Mississippi and was placed in Polk's Corps, Brigadier General Charles Clark's Division, Brigadier General Alexander P. Stewart's Brigade, composed of the 13th Arkansas, 4th, 5th, 31st, 33rd Tennessee Infantry Regiments and Stanford's Mississippi Battery. The 13th Arkansas was soon transferred to another brigade, but these four Tennessee regiments remained together throughout the war, the 31st and 33rd at times operating together as a field unit. By July 8, the 13th Arkansas had been replaced with the 24th Tennessee, and this regiment too became a permanent member of the brigade, which was transferred from Clark's Division to that of Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham.

At the reorganization of the regiment, May 8, 1862, Egbert E. Tansil was elected colonel, M.D. Jinkins lieutenant colonel and F.E.P. Stafford, major. Lieutenant Colonel Jinkins died in November, 1862, and Stafforf suceeded him. Colonel Tansil later transferred to the cavalry, and Lieutenant Colonel Stafford was in command of the regiment until his death at Franklin, November 30, 1864.

The regiment moved with the brigade from Corinth to Tueplo, to Chattanooga, with General Bragg in the invasion of Kentucky, culminating in the Battle of Perryville October 8, 1862. Here the 31st suffered 100 casualties.

It then retreated with the army to Murfreesboro, where it was engaged in that battle on December 31, 1862. Here the brigade had been enlarged by the addition of the 19th Tennessee Regiment, and the 31st/33rd operated as one field unit under the command of Colonel Tansil. The 31st/33rd reported 379 engaged, and suffered 87 casualties.

The regiment went into winterquaters at Shelbyville and vicinity until the retrogade movement to Chattanooga began in June, 1863. By April 1, Colonel (later Brigadier General) Otho French Stahl was in command of the brigade, and remained as its commander until his death at Franklin.

The regiment was next engaged at Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863. No separate report of casualties was found, but the brigade reported 250 casualties. On October 23 the regiment moved to Sweetwater, where it remained until just before the Battle of Missionary Ridge. On October 31 Strahl's Brigade was transferred to Stewart's Division of Breckinridge's Corps, and in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, November 25, reported 21 casualties.

The regiment went into winter quarters at Dalton, Georgia, where on December 14, 1863 it reported 137 effectives out of 157 present, Lieutenant Colonel Stafford was now in command. Here it remained until the resumption of hostilities in May, 1864, except for one brief expedition to Demopolis and return in the latter part of February. Stewart's Division had started to re-enforce General Leonidas Polk in Mississippi, but was recalled before reaching its destination.

The brigade was returned to Cheatham's Division on February 20, 1864, where it remained for the duration. As part of this division, the regiment was almost daily engaged in the fighting from Resaca, Georgia to Atlanta, to Jonesboro, the return to Tennessee as part of General Hood's Army, and the Battle of Franklin. Here the Brigade lost 286 in casualties, including General Strahl, and Lieutenant Colonel Stafford of the 31st.

Following this battle, Colonel A. J. Kellar was reported in command of the brigade on December 10, 1864, with the 4th/Sth/3lst/ 33rd/38th commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Luke W. Finlay, and the l9th/24th/4lst by Captain Daniel Kennedy.

It participated in the Battle of Nashville December 15, 1864, and then retreated with the army into Mississippi. The survivors of the regiment were given a furlough to visit their homes in West Tennessee, and only a few of them got back in time to make the final move to North Carolina to join General Joseph E. Johnston.

On March 31, 1865, at Smithfield, North Carolina the brigade was reported with the same organization as on December 10, 1863, except that Colonel C. W. Heiskell was in command of the l9th/24th/4lst Regiments. In the final reorganization of Johnston's Army, 21 men from the 31st remained to form Company "G" of the 3rd Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel James D. Tiliman, and composed of the 4th/5th/l9th/24th/3lst/33rd/35th/38th/41st Tennessee Infantry Regiments. As part of this regiment they were paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina May 1, 1865.