Although Tennessee had not seceded from the Union, Governor Isham Harris was already calling for an army to defend the state in April of 1861. His friend Gideon Pillow was made the commander of the Tennessee State Army and set out recruiting. Smith P. Bankhead, a 37 year old Memphis lawyer, began forming an artillery company on May 13, 1861. This unit was intended to become battery B of the 1st. Tenn. Artillery Corps but will become known as Bankhead's Battery. Joining him that day was his lawyer friends W.Y.C. Humes, age 30, and J.C. McDavitt age 27. Humes was made 1st. Lieutenant and McDavitt 2nd. Lieutenant.
Two days later on May 15, 1861 a young 20 year old lawyer William B. Greenlaw joined Bankhead as 2nd. Lt. He was from a prominent Memphis family and his father had influence. The first two privates were also recruited that day. They were W.J. Harrison and Michael Nason. Fifty-two additional men were recruited throughout the month of May.
On June 4, 1861 Tennessee seceded from the Union and William L. Scott, a 27 year old lawyer from Memphis, joined Bankhead's Battery as a 2nd. Lt. These officers and the 54 men made up the nucleus of the Battery and moved to Fort Pillow for artillery training although they had no guns of their own yet.
During the month of July Bankhead made numerous trips into Memphis to recruit additional men. He was specifically looking for artificers and recruited James E. Johnson, J.A.R. Gatch and Edward Ford. He also recruited Isaac Harrison to be unit Furrier. Seven more privates also joined from Memphis.
Bankhead's Battery received six artillery pieces (6 pounders and 12 pound howitzers) at Fort Pillow and moved to New Madrid, MO. where Bankhead began recruiting more men on July 29. In the mean time the guns did not have caissons but they were available in Memphis. Bankhead's long time friend L.J. Dupree was sent back to Memphis to bring back the caissons. Twenty-one men were recruited at New Madrid and one man from Sykestown, MO. Louis Myers joined the Battery as a bugler after being recruited in Nashville by Col. McCown and Emile Huffmeister was transferred to the Battery by order of Col. McCown. He will become the first deserter in less than two months.
By September 1, 1861 Bankhead's Battery had one captain, one 1st. Lt., three 2nd. Lts. and 87 men. One man, John Rooney was under civil arrest in Sykestown, MO. and unable to be in the ranks. Training in the school of the piece was going well and the Battery was moved to Columbus, KY. in October where drill continued. The Battery was now part of Polk's Corps.
On November 8, Humes was promoted to Captain and received the command of the artillery on Island Number 10 in the Mississippi River. This created a problem to Bankhead. He had lost his devoted friend and 1st. Lt. Bankhead requested that the battery be allowed two 1st. Lieutenants as most of the other batteries were being organized this way. He received permission and promoted McDavitt and Scott to 1st. Lt. on November 19. Needing another 2nd. lieutenant General Polk transferred Lewis Bond from Jackson's Battery. Jackson's Battery was at that time overstaffed with officers. Greenlaw believing that he should have been promoted instead of Scott based on seniority protested because he was not promoted.
General Polk and even General A.S. Johnston got involved and Bankhead had to explain why Greenlaw was not promoted. In a lengthy letter to General Polk Bankhead explained that Greenlaw was too young and inexperienced for the promotion. Bankhead went on to explain that it was well known that Greenlaw intended to leave the army after his one year enlistment was up. Promotion shortly before resignation made no sense. In light of this letter Greenlaw resigned from the army. Greenlaw resigned on January 25, 1862 and the secretary of war accepted it on March 5, 1862.
In February, 1862 Bankhead's Battery was ordered to New Madrid. Lewis Bond returned to his original unit and General Polk's son William M. Polk, was assigned to the battery as 2nd. Lt. After Greenlaw left the battery Joseph Phillips, who had been a recruiter, became the other 2nd. Lt. Phillips had actually been responsible for recruiting 7 men to the battery from Nashville on November 25, 1861.
In March orders came to move to Corinth, Miss. for what would become known as the Battle of Shiloh. The command of the battery would be in the hands of Captain Smith P. Bankhead, First Lieutenants James C. McDavitt and William L. Scott, and Second Lieutenants William M. Polk and Joseph Phillips.
"Last updated 7/14/2014"
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