The Tiger Company
(Civil War)

     In most wars there are men of honor and men not so honorable on each side.
     In the Civil War it was often for families in the border area, and this section of East Tennessee was one of them, to know where they should put their loyalty.
     Henry Francis Coleman, who lived on Mulberry Creek in Hancock County, Tennessee, was only a teenage boy during the War Between the States, but he did fight.
     In 1911, three years before his death, Henry set down his memories of the "Tiger Company" in which he served. It was sometimes known as the Riley Company.
     A copy of these memories, which "Hen" Coleman made in affidavit form, has been loaned me by Martin Southern, Knoxville lawyer. Hen Coleman was a brother to Martin's grandmother.

The Border Raiders

     In the year 1864 the country east and southeast of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, composed of the counties of Lee and Scott in Virginia, and Hancock and a portion of Claiborne County in Tennessee, was infested with roving and raiding bands of Confederate Soldiers, with here and there a few who belonged to neither army but were engaged in robbing the citizens...
     The citizens on the Tennessee side of the state line were largely Union, and those on the other side of the line were largely the other way, and because of these facts the citizens on the Tennessee side, especially those who adhered to the Union, were being killed and captured and otherwise annoyed almost constantly.

For Own Protection

     At that time the nearest post of Federal soldiers was at Cumberland Gap, and it was too far away to give adequate protection. So the best citizens of this section organized a company for that purpose.
     The company was organized in the fall of 1864 and included the following persons:
     William Riley, Thomas Riley, John Parker, John Fugate, Tennessee Parks, William Fugate, C. D. Spence, John M. Southern, Josiah Ramsey, William Ramsey, Harvey Ritchie, Henry Hall, John Woods, Lafayette Mason, Calvin Brooks, Levi Brooks, Samuel Estep, Jacob Estep, John Longcorniti, John C. Fields, David Branham, William Stanford, Adams Hopkins, Albert Overton, Rufus Overton, Isaac Livingstone, John Yeary and H. F. Coleman. The men at one time numbered 32, but these names are all that I can recall.
     With William Riley as Captain and John Parker as Lieutenant the company was in actual and constant service from September 1864 until the close of the war in the spring of 1865. In January 1865 it made its headquarters at Tazewell, Claiborne County, and allied itself with the Second North Carolina Mounted Infantry and acted in concert with it nearly all the time until the close of the war.

Many Brought Own Weapons

     The men of the company furnished their own horses. But they were supplied with clothing, horse feed, rations, and ammunition by the Federal authorities. The Federal Government supplied arms to some, but a number in the company were men of property and means, and not being content with such guns and other arms as were furnished by the Federals, bought their own arms, such as Spencer rifles and Spencer carbines and improved pistols.
     Two of Tiger Company's engagements were at Tazewell, Tennessee; two were at Balls Bridge in Lee County, VA; one at Mulberry Gap, TN; two were at Wallen Creek in Lee County, VA; and before it became associated with the Second North Carolina Regiment it had two engagements with the Confederates at or near Bobcamp Church in Claiborne County, and one near the Bales Iron Works in Lee County, VA.

No Looting Allowed

     The services of these men were absolutely honorable. No man in the company was allowed to pilfer or rob, and no man was allowed to maltreat or insult a prisoner. All prisoners, however, were promptly turned over to the proper authorities, and these prisoners were many.
     When a prisoner was captured by the company, he was treated with the utmost kindness, and it as nothing uncommon for the members of the company to make up a "pony purse" to supply the wants of the prisoner while he was in prison. And Captain Riley nearly always headed the list in these contributions.
     About the first of January, 1865, eight of the men, including Captain Riley and Lieutenant Parkey, were surrounded in the dwelling house of Mrs. Nancy Fugate by 64 Confederates. After only a few minutes these eight men repulsed the entire Confederate force.
     Footnote: Henry Francis Coleman, who told this story, after the war became a farmer, cattle dealer, lawyer, Tennessee State Senator, Judge of Hancock County Court, and U. S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.


 
 
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