Bankhead's Battery

Company B, 1st Tennessee,
Light Artillery Regiment
Civil War Living History Unit

Who Are We?

We are Bankhead’s Battery, Company B, 1st Tennessee, Light Artillery Regiment, Civil War living history unit.

Bankhead’s Battery is an experienced, dedicated group of men and women artillerists actively portraying those honored soldiers who fought and sacrificed in the War for Southern Independence (commonly called the Civil War). The Battery participates in many anniversary battles and living histories and works closely with other re-enacting groups. The Battery specializes in the safe, authentic operation of nineteenth century artillery field pieces and all of the officers have between 5 and 15 years experience each. The Battery drills at all events prior to the battle. A new member can start for less than $125.00 for a basic uniform and equipment. Please ask about appropriate uniform preferences before purchasing. Bankhead’s Battery encourages family participation and welcomes members of all ages and abilities!

Bankhead’s Battery is a Tennessee not-for-profit corporation, qualified under federal laws to receive tax deductible donations.

Bankhead's Battery was re-formed in 1972, again in Memphis, in honor of its namesake and his gallant Tennesseans. Our gun crews specialize in the use of our two smoothbore 6 pounder field cannons, the showpiece being an 1861 Noble Brothers 6 pounder founded in Rome, Georgia, and rescued from the ignominy of a discarded and rusty death by Division Commander Tarry Beasley, also a Memphis attorney. The Noble Brothers is fully restored and still delivers a throaty Confederate Welcome at both live shoots and at re-enactments of the War of Northern Aggression.

Bankhead's Battery is very active, participates in numerous re-enactment events annually, and was involved in filming the television special "The Mississippians", the remake of the Shiloh National Battlefield visitor center video "Shiloh: Fiery Trial" (2011), as well as the motion pictures "The North and The South, Part II" and "Glory." The objectives of Bankhead's Battery are:

  1. To further understanding of the War between the States and the principles on which it was fought;
  2. To honor our forefathers who honorably served the Confederacy and stood to protect their homelands;
  3. To actively and authentically demonstrate the skills of the Artillery of the 1861-1865 period;
  4. To actively participate in historical reenactments of the War between the States for the benefit of the public;
  5. For the fellowship benefits derived by members of the Battery in the foregoing activities.


Bankhead’s Battery annual meeting is held in February each year. Members are not required to attend but are encouraged, especially to pay dues and gain details on the upcoming year’s events. Annual dues are $30 per person for full membership and $15 per person for recruits (interested children of members).

Bankhead’s Battery is comprised of an eclectic and diverse group of individuals. Many of our group are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, some are also members of the Sons of Union Veterans, and some are not affiliated with either group but who nevertheless appreciate re-enacting the military life and struggle of these gallant soldiers. It is apparent that each member has his or her own set of priorities, preferences, and schedules. This is a wholly volunteer group, and while we re-enact military history and adopt a military group structure, we remain individuals who do not react well to being “ordered”. With this in mind, as a group portraying the men and circumstances of the War for Southern Independence, it is deemed both appropriate and important that we exhibit military bearing and demeanor, particularly when we operate the guns. This military bearing and demeanor cannot be achieved without individual pride in the organization and in ourselves. All members are encouraged to conduct themselves with respect to others and the intentions within re-enacting.


Please consult Battery members for uniform and sutler recommendations. Items not listed are subject to approval.
Minimum Uniform Requirements:

  • Jacket: Common shell jacket in 12oz. or heavier wool. Colors– Confederate Gray, Tuscaloosa Gray, or Cadet Gray. Red trim on collars and cuffs and brass buttons.
  • Trousers: 12oz. or heavier wool in Federal Sky Blue or grays listed above. Foot or mounted pattern without beltloops or pocket flaps. No patterned or check design allowed. Red trim for officers only.
  • Shirt: Issue pattern “Jefferson” style, civilian pattern, “Henley” style, or battle shirt. These are all mostly pullover in white or natural color cotton with 4-8 buttons and are long sleeved.
  • Cap: Bankhead’s style forage or kepi in wool. Red on top with gray band. Or black slouch in wool with red hat cord.
  • Footwear: Brogans or Half-calf artillery boots/knee length cavalry boots, black.

A pre-approved Bankhead's Battery uniform can be purchased from Milk Creek Mercantile.

Please arrive early to all events to help unload the cannon and set up camp. Most events require at least 6 members to a gun so members are encouraged to attend as many events as they are able. All members wishing to work the gun during an event are required to drill prior to the battle. Operation of the gun is a serious task and should be respected. Any member not taking their duties seriously will be pulled from the gun. Operating a cannon can be a very safe activity if everyone does their part. Remember, you are responsible for the safety of every member just as they are responsible for yours!

At some events the Battery will “galvanize”, meaning that we portray a Union Battery. Bankhead’s mainly portrays a Confederate Battery and a Union uniform is not required for membership. Additional items you may wish to purchase include a tent, leather goods, canteen, haversack, bedroll, camp chair, and other small authentic personal items. Most members camp at the events but it is not required. Event registration and payment will often be made by the Battery Adjutant. It is your responsibility to make sure you pre-pay or re-pay your fees. Event fees range from free to $20.

The History of Bankhead's Battery

In April of 1861, although Tennessee had not seceded from the Union, Governor Isham Harris was already calling for an Army to defend the state. 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 Tennessee 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 Lieutenant. 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 Lieutenant. 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 cannon of their own.


The Civil War Battery

During the Civil War, artillery batteries often consisted of six field pieces for the Union Army and four for the Confederate States Army. Batteries were divided into sections of two guns apiece, each section normally under the command of a lieutenant. The full battery was typically commanded by a captain. As the war progressed individual batteries were often grouped into battalions under a major or colonel of artillery.

Civil War artillery included the use of the 6-pounder Gun, M1857 12-pounder “Napoleon”, 12-pounder Howitzer, 12-pounder Mountain Howitzer, 24– pounder Howitzer, 10-pounder Parrott rifle, 3-inch Ordance rifle, 14-pounder James Rifle, 20-pounder Parrott rifle, and the 12-pounder Whitworth breechloading rifle.

There were two general types of artillery weapons used during the Civil War: smoothbores (included howitzers and guns) and rifles.

Ammunition came in wide varieties, designed to attack specific targets. A typical Union artillery battery (armed with six 12-pounder Napoleons) carried the following ammunition going into battle: 288 shot, 96 shells, 288 spherical cases, and 96 canisters.

  • Shot (or bolt) was a solid projectile that had no explosive charge.
  • Shells included an explosive charge and were designed to burst into fragments in the midst of enemy infantry or artillery.
  • Case (or shrapnel) were anti-personnel projectiles carrying a smaller burst charge than shell; more effective against exposed troops.
  • Canister shot was the deadliest type of ammunition, consisting of a thin metal container loaded with layers of lead or iron balls packed in sawdust.
  • Grapeshot was the predecessor of, and a variation on, canister, in which a smaller number of larger metal balls were arranged on stacked iron plates with a threaded bolt running down the center to hold them as a unit inside the barrel.

Horses were required to pull the enormous weight of the cannon and ammunition; on average, each horse pulled about 700 pounds (317.5 kg). Each gun in a battery used two six-horse teams: one team pulled a limber that towed the gun, the other pulled a limber that towed a caisson. The limber was a two-wheeled carriage that carried an ammunition chest. It was connected directly behind the team of six horses and towed either a gun or a caisson. The combination of a Napoleon gun and a packed limber weighed 3,865 pounds (1,753.1 kg). The caisson was also a two-wheeled carriage. It carried two ammunition chests and a spare wheel. A fully loaded limber and caisson combination weighed 3,811 pounds (1728.6 kg). The limbers, caissons, and gun carriages were all constructed of oak. Each ammunition chest typically carried about 500 pounds (226.8 kg) of ammunition or supplies. In addition to these vehicles, there were also battery supply wagons and portable forges that were used to service the guns.

Limber and Gun
Limber & Gun
Traveling Forge and Battery Wagon
Traveling Forge & Battery Wagon
Caisson and Limber
Caisson & Limber

Operation of the Gun

The chief of the piece (Sergeant) has charge of the platoon, consisting of the cannoneers, drivers, and corporals (gunner and chief of the caisson). The equipment in his charge is one piece (the gun), two limbers, one caisson, and thirteen horses. He oversees the operation of the platoon and insures the gunner gives the proper range and direction during firing, that proper ammunition is readily available, and horses are properly stationed. The gunner (corporal) gives all commands for the gun in action. He communicates the orders which he receives from the chief of the piece for the kind of ammunition to be fired.

Detail Commands: Non-Detail Commands: Misfire Commands:
Load by detail
Cease Firing
Cease Firing
Do no advance the primer has failed

Cannoneers Positions and Duties

Number 1:
Sponges the barrel clean, rams (or seats) the ammunition
Number 2:
Loads the ammunition, removes debris (using the worm) from the barrel after each fire
Number 3:
Clears the vent after each fire, covers vent to prevent accidental fire, pricks the gun powder
Number 4:
Inserts primer into vent, fires gun
Number 5:
Delivers ammunition to No. 2
Number 6:
Issues ammunition to No. 5
Number 7:
Assists No. 6 and may alternate with No. 5
Commands the gun
gun crew positions

Contact Bankhead's Battery

For more information or to join please contact:

Bankhead's Battery
Memphis, TN


Sunday, April 15, 2018 21:34

Join us this Saturday at Fort Pillow State Park as we demonstrate the cannon and you can see Civil War life, blacksmithing, vendors, hay rides, take tours of the museum and grounds and enjoy a day outside with the family.

Visit: Fort Pillow State Park

Thursday, April 5, 2018 12:59

Attention to all planning on the Shiloh event this weekend: due to current field conditions and expected additional weather tomorrow, the event has been cancelled and will be rescheduled at a later date.

Saturday, March 17, 2018 12:43

Just a note of historical info for everyone on St. Patty’s Day.....

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Sunday, March 4, 2018 13:32

Thank you, Martha Smylie, for coming out to the show and taking pics.

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Sunday, March 4, 2018 13:31

We’d like to thank Stephanie Morrison-Quinn and Memphis Cheer for coming out this weekend to the show!

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Sunday, March 4, 2018 13:13

Tents are on sale at Fall Creek Suttlery right now.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018 08:44

Direct from Captain Cohea.

The after action report from Brice’s Crossroads/Mississippi Stands:


Bankheads Battery was ordered to join the 1st Division at Baldwyn, Mississippi on the old Brice’s Crossroad Battlefield. Due to unfinished business at many troops home posts, we were only able to muster 1 gun to send being the first campaign of the season. I arrived on Thursday due to the weather to report to command and locate a suitable campground for our battery. After surveying the landscape and conditions, I made a very unconventional choice for our battery’s abode. Looking across from the main artillery camp, which was a virtual pigpen of mud, I spied a local with a watchful eye on the scene. I sized him up as being sympathetic to our cause and approached him in a gentlemanly fashion. Introducing myself and laying out the dilemma of the ground, I asked if I could park our battery wagon upon his premises after unlimbering the gun in artillery park. I further stipulated that I would have some of my crew to sleep in the wagon and he agreed without taking any payment. SO we spent the entire time on the “King Plantation” without having to pitch a tent nor take up when it was over. That night we were even fed from his kitchen venison and beans which he served to our wagon and coffee the following morning. Every unit on the field commented at our arrangement and some even snidely remarked at it but we let it roll off as they were just green with envy.

We were called to the guns the next day at the report of an advancement of the enemy after hearing the sounds of battle all night in the distant. We were provided with ample cavalry support to our position which constantly came back to our flanks to ward off any advancement from that direction. Soon we switched to canister as the approaching infantry drove ours back to our lines. They stopped short at our front being that they could not muster an advancement on our guns and retired. We pulled our guns back close to the camp in its defense.

The union troops pulled back to the safety of Corinth but that night we gave them no sleep by occasionally firing into the town after dark. The fire and sparks were magnificent at night and even called the union line to reply with no casualties on either side that I recollect.

That night we were ever so happy at our choice of abode. There came a terrible storm with reports of wind but all we received was another gully washer at our location. We all slept in excellent comfort feeling sorrow for our fellow troops out in their tents. The battery wagon was our savior this campaign.

Upon awaking the next morning, it was reported that the threat of enemy in the area was gone. Either the wind blew them away or the rain washed them away but we received orders to break camp and return to our home posts. The Mississippi Stands event was a wet one but we made lemonade from lemons on this one and stuck to our motto of “Death Before Discomfort” …again.

Your obedient servant,

Capt. H. Cohea

Sunday, February 25, 2018 12:10

News coming in from Pvt. Hunter of Signal Corps:

Brice’s Crossroads/Mississippi Stands
“Today’s battle has been cancelled.”

Mother Nature obviously wreaked havoc with the battlefield, itself, leaving the ground unsafe to skirmish on.

For those that came out to witness the action...thanks so much for attending!

Pvt. Elkins
Signal Corps

Saturday, February 24, 2018 16:37

Reports coming in direct from Captain Cohea:

“Confederate forces engaged the Yankees outside the town of Corinth today. We set our guns on the ridge south and opened at 2:00.
Our Infantry and cavalry engaged them driving them back into the town when they retired for the day.”

As more comes in we will be sure to post.

Signal Corps
Bankhead’s Battery

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Friday, February 23, 2018 19:19

More photos came in from today’s battle.
Waiting for the enemy to advance upon the hill.
Waiting to mow them down....

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Friday, February 23, 2018 12:12

Information is now coming in from the Battery from Brice’s Crossroads.

“Mississippi Stands” is now underway. An early photo shows the beginning of the Confederate infantry taking the field.
As more photos come in, we’ll keep everyone back home (or en route to the action) posted.

Signal Corps
Bankhead’s Battery

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Monday, January 15, 2018 18:57

The 2018 campaign is quickly approaching! The Battery has discussed the events for the coming season and it looks like it’s going to go a little something like this:

•Brice Crossroads “Mississippi Stands” - February 25-28

•Mid-South Military History & Civil War show, Memphis, TN
-March 3-4

•Shiloh Park – April 7

•Fort Pillow – April 14th (unconfirmed)

•Sacramento, KY– May 18

•Resaca, GA - May 18

•Memorial Park Cemetery – May 28

•155th Gettysburg – July 5,6,7,8

•Starlight Symphony Jackson, TN-TBA

•Cedar Hill Farms – TBA

•Columbus-Belmont, KY– Oct. 12 -14

•Parker’s Crossroad – November 10 & 11

Dates are subject to change and as we have them confirmed, we’ll post here on the Facebook page! See you there!!!

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018 21:48

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Saturday, December 9, 2017 15:42

Bankhead’s Battery is resting over the winter, but we’re going over the proposed dates for next year as we post this! If anyone has any requests or suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Don’t forget to check us out on instagram as well!
For now we would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017 15:41 it’s cold outside🎶

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Saturday, November 4, 2017 16:15

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