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The 26th Kentucky at the Battle of Nashville

Cicero Maxwell began his wartime service as the lieutenant colonel of the 26th Kentucky Infantry under the infamous “Butcher of Kentucky,” Stephen Burbridge. Maxwell, however, was not like Burbridge, and it appears they had a major disagreement or falling out in 1862. Maxwell was granted sick leave, but Burbridge insisted on marking him as AWOL anyway.

The regiment spent 1861-1862 marching and camping between Calhoun and South Carrollton, Kentucky on the Green River without ever seeing any major combat, though they did have a few skirmishes with Confederate forces that ventured into the area. The winter at Camp Calhoun was full of rain, mud, and illness.

Maxwell led the regiment during the Battle of Shiloh, where it fought on April 7th, the second day. They advanced through the old Hornet’s Nest and through Daniel Davis Wheat Field and helped drive off the Washington Artillery. Maxwell commented that they were not engaged long, but suffered several casualties in the short amount of time, including two brothers of my 3x great grandfather.

After the advance on Corinth, the 26th, now under the command of Maxwell, moved back into Kentucky during the Kentucky Campaign. Once Bragg abandoned the Commonwealth, the regiment stayed there until 1864, acting as a garrison and anti-guerrilla force. In some of my other research, I saw that Maxwell’s wife died sometime in the first half of 1864, something other Kentucky soldiers saw in the Louisville papers during the Atlanta Campaign. Many Kentucky soldiers “lamented the loss of a fine lady.”

When John Bell Hood invaded Tennessee in the fall of 1864, the 26th was moved to Nashville. Here, Maxwell reports that the regiment was encamped near Fort Negley, which still stands today. There Maxwell led the regiment again in several charges against the Confederate lines. He wrote after the battle, “The color-bearer, James Scott, was severely wounded in the leg as he ascended the hill, but would not go to the rear until he had planted our regimental flag on the top, and he was among the first there.”

Maxwell received a slight wound in the battle, and had been fighting chronic illness throughout the entire war, which ultimately led him to resign his position as colonel and return to civilian life. Unfortunately, the combination took his life on February 17, 1865 while he was in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was only 33 years old.

After the Battle of Nashville, the 26th was put on a train for Washington, and from there, an ocean steamer bound for Wilmington, North Carolina. The 26th was the first Union regiment to enter the city just five days after his death.

Regimental colors of the 26th Kentucky held by the Kentucky Historical Society.

Report of Col. Cicero Maxwell, Twenty-sixth Kentucky Infantry, of operations December 15-16, 1864.

Camp Twenty-sixth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry,

Five Miles North of Columbia, Tenn.

December 22, 1864.


In compliance with orders I respectfully submit the following report of the part taken by the Twenty-sixth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry in the actions near Nashville, Tenn., on the 15th and 16th instant:

Colonel Cicero Maxwell

We left our camp near Fort Negley about 8 a. m. on the 15th instant; moved slowly two or three miles toward the right, passed through our outer line of works on the Hardin turnpike, and formed line of battle at 11 a. m., just outside the works and on the left of the pike, the Twenty-sixth Kentucky Volunteers being the right of the First Brigade. In forming line one of our men, James H. Cohron, Company B, was instantly killed by the accidental discharge of his own gun. Between 12 m. and 1 p. m. we were moved forward about a mile, the right considerably advanced, and halted in a lane. A heavy cannonade was going on at the time, and the enemy’s shells occasionally exploded near us, but no one was injured. After remaining here an hour or so we were moved by the right flank, changing direction somewhat to the right, a mile perhaps, again formed in line of battle, and moved briskly forward. As we commenced to move a strong position of the rebels in our front was gallantly charged by some dismounted cavalry, and a number of prisoners and several pieces of artillery were captured. We continued to move, our right advancing, until our line was nearly or quite perpendicular to the one first formed in the forenoon. At little more than a mile from where we formed line the second time, our brigade charged a strong position of the enemy on one of the high hills, or knobs rather, between the Hillsborough and Granny White pikes, about five miles from Nashville, and though the men were exposed to a galling front and cross-fire, they moved steadily and rapidly forward, drove the rebels in great disorder from their positions, and captured a number of prisoners and several pieces of artillery. In a few minutes we were moved about half a mile farther, and took position at sundown on a high hill exposed to a cross-fire from the enemy posted on another hill on our right. Here we remained all night and threw up earth-works. Our regiment was not regularly engaged on the 16th, but was moved forward with the First Brigade as the final charge was made late in the afternoon, and bivouacked for the night near the new house of Mr. Lea, on the left of the Granny White pike.

The 26th Kentucky, a part of Couch's division, was a part of the Union assault on the Confederate left.

The line officers of the Twenty-sixth Kentucky, without exception, and the enlisted men, with few exceptions, behaved very gallantly. We lost 2 men killed, besides Cohron, and had 44 wounded, some severely, but the most of them slightly. Captain Hackett, who, as senior line officer, was assisting me in the absence of the lieutenant-colonel and major, and was mounted, was severely wounded while bravely urging the men forward. The color-bearer, James Scott, was severely wounded in the leg as he ascended the hill, but would not go to the rear until he had planted our regimental flag on the top, and he was among the first there. Lieutenant Brown, acting adjutant, behaved with great gallantry and rendered me great assistance.

I enclose herewith a list of the names of the killed and wounded.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel Twenty-sixth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry.

From the service record of Corporal James Cohron.


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