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A Brief History of the 4th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry

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Click here for a roster of the 4th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry
Click here for accounts of the 4th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry at Camp Poland
Click here for correspondence from Capt. John Travis of Co. K
Click here for info. on deaths at  Camp Poland
Click here for a discharge document from the 4th Tennessee


The 4th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry served in Cuba as part of the occupation force.

Unit History:

The 4th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry was mustered into the federal service at Knoxville, Tennessee between July 1 and 13, 1898 under the command of Col. Brown. At the time of mustering in, the regiment consisted of forty-seven officers and 1,247 enlisted men. The regiment was the first regiment to be mustered in under President McKinley’s second call for volunteers. The major of the regiment, E. E. Wright was the grandson of Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes, who commanded the ALABAMA during the Civil War. Within four days following the regiment's mustering in, Santiago, Cuba surrendered to the American forces. In less than a month, Spain and the United States reached an armistice, ending the war's fighting.

The regiment remained at Knoxville’s Camp Poland and was initially assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division of the First Army Corps on September 7. While in camp a racial dispute arose in which the men of the 4th Tennessee refused to drill, believing that they had been brigaded with the 6th Virginia Volunteer Infantry, an African American regiment. When they were assured by Brigade commander, General McKee, that the 6th Virginia was not part of their brigade, they agreed to drill. However, as a result of the incident, several officers and non-commissioned officers were reduced in rank.

Tragedy also struck the regiment in September. First on September 12, an intoxicated Private Gibblings of Company L drowned while trying to swim the Tennessee River. Later, on the night of September 21, 1898, Private Shutemen, a teamster, was shot and killed while disobeying an order to stay out of a house of ill repute by the Privates Kelley and Atlas of the provost guard. After the incident, the two men of the guard were placed under arrest and moved to the guard house of the 31st Michigan Volunteer Infantry several miles away since there were concerns that the two men would be lynched by the men of the 4th Tennessee. Atlas had fired the fateful shot. However, at the court-martial hearing, both men were found to be innocent of murder.

On October 7, the regiment was reassigned to the First Brigade, First Division of the same Corps, which was to be commanded by Major General John Breckinridge. Though the brigade was headquartered at Macon, Georgia, the 4th Tennessee was not ordered to relocate. On November 28, the regiment left Knoxville, bound for Savannah, Georgia where it arrived the following day.

On December 1, 1898, the Fourth Tennessee steamed for Cuba aboard the transport MANITOBA. Companies A, F, G, H, K and M landed at Trinidad, Cuba on December 6, with the remaining companies, B, C, D, E, I and L, arriving at Sancti Spiritus, Cuba six days later. Both towns were in Santa Clara Province.

The regiment remained in these locations until late March when, on March 28, 1899, the regiment boarded the transport DIXIE bound for Savannah, where it arrived on April 1.

The regiment remained in Savannah where it was mustered out of service on May 6, 1899. At the time of mustering out, the regiment consisted of forty-six officers and 1,117 enlisted men.

During its term of service, the regiment had sixteen enlisted me die of disease, two killed by accidents, one murdered, and eighty-two deserted. In addition fifteen enlisted men were discharged on disability and three were court-martialed. Concerning the murdered man, it is unclear if this refers to Private Shuteman, which was later determine to not have been murder, or if this refers to another incident.


"At Chickamauga," Portsmouth Herald. [Portsmouth, New Hampshire] July 15, 1898, p. 3 [First regiment after McKinley’s second call for volunteers]

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899) Vol. 3, 219.

Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Island and the China Relief Expedition. Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902) 530-534, 600.

“Many Generals Less,” Evening Democrat. [Warren, PA] October 8, 1898 (info. on Breckinridge)

“158th Indiana Regiment”  Fort Wayne Journal.  [Fort Wayne, Indiana], September 9, 1898 p. 2  [Col. Brown Commands]

"One With Sampson’s Fleet, Other in the United States Army” Steubenville Herald-Star. [Steubenville, Ohio]  June 29, 1898, p. 3 [Info. on E. E. Wright]

“Orders to Move,” The Daily Northwestern. [Oshkosh, Wisconsin] December 23, 1898, p. 1 [Santa Clara Province]

“Review at Camp Poland,” Galveston Daily News. [Galveston, TX] September 14, 1898, p. 2 [Death of Pvt. Gibblings]

“Shooting at Camp Poland,” Galveston Daily News. [Galveston, TX] September 26, 1898, p. 3 [Death of Pvt. Gibblings, possible lynching]

“Shot by a Provost Guard,” Trenton Times. [Trenton, New Jersey] September 22, 1898, p. 6 [death of Pvt. Shuteman]

“The Court-martial Result,” Galveston Daily News. [Galveston, TX] October 10, 1898, p. 1 [Court-martial results for Atlas and Kelley]

“Wouldn’t Drill”  Fort Wayne News.  [Fort Wayne, Indiana], September 30, 1898 p. 2 [Conflict with 6th Virginia]

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