Shiloh: April 6-7, 1862
Mumfordsville: September 14-17, 1862
Perryville: October 8, 1862
Murfreesboro: December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863
Chickamauga: September 18-20, 1863
Missionary Ridge: November 23-25, 1863
Jonesboro: August 31 September 1, 1864
Franklin: November 30, 1864
Nashville: December 15-16, 1864
Kinston: December 14, 1862
Bentonville: March 19-21, 1865
The soldiers in Gardner's Brigade included the 19th Alabama, the 22nd Alabama, the 25th Alabama, the 26th-50th Alabama, and the 1st Louisiana infantry regiments, veterans of the recent Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee (fought only a few weeks before, in early April). Many of the 39th were shaken by the stories that the others in Gardner's Brigade told of the battle. Gardner's Brigade had been up until recently named Gladden's Brigade, until the brigade commander, Brigadier General Gladden, from Louisiana, was killed during the battle. At Shiloh, the 19th Alabama had suffered 110 killed and 240 wounded out of 650 men that had gone into battle - casualties well over 50 per cent. Major Robert Armstead of the 22nd Alabama, along with scores of other men in the same regiment, were shot and killed and would never return to the 22nd. The 25th Alabama lost 90 casualties at that battle, and the 26th-50th lost 123 men out of 700 engaged. Although the men of the 39th probably feared a combat situation would occur at any time, the 39th remained with the brigade, unengaged, at Tupelo, during the remainder of May.
The 39th, along with the rest of the brigade of men (the 19th, 22nd, 25th, 26th-50th Alabama Infantry, the 1st Louisiana Regular Infantry, the newly-formed 17th Battalion Sharpshooters, and a battery of artillery known as Robertson's Battery) was formally assigned to a Reserve Corps. The brigade was named the First Brigade, under the command of Brig. Gen. Frank Gardner. Sometime in August of 1862, the First Brigade (along with the rest of the Army of the Mississippi) was loaded onto railcars at Saltillo and Tupelo and transported by rail along the M & O Railroad to Mobile, Alabama. The men changed trains in Mobile, and were then shipped to Montgomery, Alabama; West Point, Georgia; Atlanta, and, finally, Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Army remained in a militarily strategic position at Chattanooga until late August of 1862.
On August 28th, the Army of the Mississippi began a march through the mountains northward to Kentucky. One soldier in a Tennessee regiment thought the march into Kentucky to be a splendid affair, recalling after the war:
I remember how gladly the citizens of Kentucky received us. I thought they had the prettiest girls that God ever made. They could not do too much for us. They had heaps and stacks of cooked rations along our route, with wine and cider everywhere, and the glad shouts of 'Hurrah for our Southern boys!' greeted and welcomed us at every house. Ah, the boys felt like soldiers again.
On September 17th, the Army of the Mississippi, under the command of General Braxton Bragg, who had replaced General P. G. T. Beauregard some time ago, reached Munfordsville, Kentucky. Bragg's men surrounded the city in the evening, and the next morning, the federals within the town surrendered. 3,500 federal soldiers were captured, and the men of the 39th were ordered to remain in Munfordsville to parole (process) prisoners. The men of the 39th stayed in the city for two days processing prisoners to send to prison camps in the south. Around this time, a statement was issued to the soldiers notifying them that their commanding general had renamed the Army of the Mississippi the Army of Kentucky.
Bragg's men continued on a march into the heart of Kentucky, reaching Hodgenville and Bardstown in October. On October 4th, the Army of Kentucky witnessed an inauguration of the Confederate governor of Kentucky at Frankfort. The inauguration festivities were short-lived, however, as a federal army ordered to intercept Bragg reached the Army of Kentucky at Perryville on October the 7th. On the next day, the Battle of Perryville was fought.
Louis Frazier and the men in Gardner's Brigade were held in reserve, and were not involved in the battle. Bragg retreated the Army of Kentucky to Knoxville, Tennessee. On the next day, October the 9th, upon reaching Knoxville, the Army of Kentucky was formally renamed the Army of Tennessee
The title Army of Tennessee would remain forever inscribed in history as the second-most important army of the Confederacy. The army was entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the heartland of the Confederate States, yet was often poorly managed and led by officers whose engagement in petty bickery would threaten to destroy the army by attrition. Regardless of the leadership, the individual soldiers were strong-willed and steadfast, and when properly commanded and utilized (as will be seen at Chickamauga, later in this narrative), were literally unstoppable in combat.
The Army of Tennessee stayed in Knoxville for a couple of weeks, and during this time, a detachment from each company of the 39th was sent home to get fresh clothing for the men. In a short time, the army was ordered to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The army marched and rode trains to Bridgeport, Alabama. Upon reaching Bridgeport, the bridge over the Tennessee River was found to have been burned. A steamboat was hustled to the site, and the men of the 39th were able to cross the wide river.
The men were ordered to cook up three days rations at Bridgeport. That night, the men of Company H of the 39th were sitting around the camp fire, talking. Sergeant John James recalls Lieutenant Murphy complaining about the quality of the rations that were issued, remarking that 'if any man were to steal my rations, they would be welcome to them'. Later that night, Sgt. James waited until Lt. Murphy was sound asleep, and crept into Lt. Murphy's tent. Sgt. James 'eased the haversack out from under Lt. Murphy's pillow', and took it to his own tent. The next morning, Lt. Murphy threatened to whip the man that stole his rations, and, despite Sgt. James' efforts in recalling Lt. Murphy's testimony of the previous night, the rations were returned to the Lieutenant. After breakfast, the men broke camp and resumed the march to Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Snow came to Murfreesboro in November of 1862, and Sergeant James of Company H recalls men ice skating on some 'dried-up ponds of Stones River'. With the bitterly cold weather, several of the men fell sick, and Colonel Clayton noted in one of his reports that 371 men were absent from the 39th Alabama. Colonel Clayton also remarks about the lack of adequate provisions, as he notes that he is having great difficulty in obtaining writing supplies, despite 'repeated requisition' requests.
In November of 1862, Brigadier General Frank Gardner, the commander of the First Brigade, was promoted and transferred. The commander of the 22nd Alabama, Colonel Zachariah Cantey Deas, a 43 year old cotton broker from Mobile, Alabama, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General on December 13, 1862, and on December 31, 1862, was formally assigned command of the brigade. Louis's comrades would remain under the command of Brigadier General Zack Deas in what would soon be called "Deas' Brigade" for nearly the entire duration of the war. The brigade, however, was commanded by several different interim commanders at times. The men of Deas' Brigade belonged to a division commanded by General Withers.
The 39th remained under the command of Colonel Henry D. Clayton, and while Col. Clayton did not receive the promotion to command the Alabama brigade, Colonel Clayton would eventually surpass Brigadier General Deas in rank and responsibility later in the war.
On Saturday, December the 13th, on an unusually balmy indian summer day, President Jefferson Davis reviewed the Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. The men of Deas' Brigade were formed up at attention, and the President addressed the men, reminding them of their importance to their country.
Cold Hell at Murfreesboro:
On December the 30th, at 11:00 am, the 39th Alabama and the 26th-50th Alabama were formed up behind a fence in support of an artillery battery, near the Widow Smith house on the Franklin Road, about one-half mile west of Gresham Lane, outside of Murfreesboro. The cold wintry air had returned to Tennessee. The infantrymen were within a few hundred yards of the cautiously-advancing federal army. The artillery battery was assigned to Deas' Brigade; six 12-pounder Napoleons, manned by Florida troops, under the command of Captain Felix Robertson. Napoleon guns were considered by most artillerymen to be the most versatile and useful cannon available upon a battlefield. Although their barrels were smoothbores, resulting in little accuracy at long ranges, Napoleons were fiercely deadly up close, when their large diameter barrels could pump shotgun-like barrels of lead balls into an approaching enemy.
The commander of these Napoleon guns, twenty-three year old Captain Felix Robertson, was an interesting character. The only native born Texan to be promoted to General in the Confederate States, Captain Robertson attended Baylor University in his home state before being appointed to West Point in 1857. One of Captain Robertson's classmates was the infamous George Armstrong Custer, presently serving in the federal army. Upon hearing of Texas' secession from the United States in his last year at West Point, Cadet Robertson immediately resigned from his senior year, without graduating, and offered his services to the Confederate States. He was assigned to the staff of General Gladden (the original commander of Deas' Brigade, who was killed at Shiloh), and manned an artillery battery in the brigade at the Battle of Shiloh. He was promoted following his noteworthy performance at Shiloh and given command of six guns, manned by Florida soldiers, to be permanently assigned to Gardner's (formerly Gladden's) Brigade.
Personally, Captain Robertson was a strong-willed character that would follow orders, but, if he did not personally agree with the orders, would loudly complain and unwillingly obey. He had a strong respect for General Braxton Bragg, and his undivided and unquestioned loyalty to him would sometimes cause friction with other officers not in Bragg's favor. He was a harsh disciplinarian, and his native-american features in his face earned him the nickname, "Comanche Robertson". Later in the war, he would be involved in a controversial event. In October of 1864, Robertson's men would kill over 100 wounded federal soldiers, mostly african-american recruits, after a failed union assault. Though Robertson was never charged with a crime, one of Robertson's subordinates was eventually hanged for murder. Wounded the next month in another engagement, Felix Robertson eventually made his way back to Waco, Texas, and practiced law until his death in 1928.
At 3:00 pm, federal infantry of the 21st Illinois, anxious for a fight, advanced and attacked the confederates, intent upon seizing Robertson's Battery. The determined Illinoisians furiously charged the fenceline, firing as they advanced. For a brief moment, the federals were successful, until a concentration of fire from the men of the 26th-50th and the 39th sent the Illinoisians reeling rearward. Sergeant James recalls that after the men of the 39th fired upon the yanks, that they left 'hardly ... enough to go back to tell the tale'. Captain Abner H. Flewellen of Company F reported to the Columbus Sun newspaper after the brief engagement that one man was killed and three were wounded in the 39th, with none of the casualties being in his company. Upon a break in the action, Colonel John Coltart of the 26th-50th rushed a courier back to the brigade to request support. At the double-quick, Colonel Loomis' 25th Alabama rushed to the fenceline and connected to the right wing of the 39th. Within moments, the enemy charged again at 6:00 pm. This time, the enemy did not reach the battery, and were overwhelmed by the concentrated fire from the three confederate regiments. The enemy was reported by Captain Flewellen to have suffered several casualties. The 39th spent the freezing cold night at that fenceline in position, on the alert for another assault by the enemy during the night, until just before daybreak, when orders were received to pull back towards the main army. Campfires were not permitted, and their blankets had been left with the rest of the brigade with the main army.
This engagement would prove to be only a minor incident compared to what would transpire after sunrise. The very next morning after this minor skirmish, the 39th would become involved in their first major battle. The 39th was so bloodied and beat up on the next day that Captain Flewellen, shocked by the brutality of the battle, submitted his resignation from military service. Captain Flewellen's brother, Lieutenant Colonel James T. Flewellen, who was second in command of the 39th, had already resigned just a few months prior to the battle. The tone of Captain Flewellen's report to the Columbus Sun newspaper immediately after the battle indicates his state of nervous anxiety from combat, as it includes the sentence, "I thank God that I am privileged to report myself alive today. He has, indeed, been very merciful and gracious to me". Sergeant John James of Company H recalled in his memoirs after the war that he remembered that "Flewellen's record was not creditable". Sergeant James added that Lt. Col. Flewellen's record was similar to that of his brother.