Confederate Shell Jacket Worn by Pvt. James L. Stephens

Company C, 3rd Battalion Tennessee Cavalry, Army of Tennessee, C.S.A.


Description and Photograph



     The butternut Confederate shell jacket shown here has a positive identification to Private James L. Stephens of the 3rd Battalion Tennessee Cavalry.  Stephens was a resident of Pikeville in Bledsoe County at the time of his enlistment.

     The jacket was purchased directly from his descendants and comes with a notarized letter dated January 9, 1994, documenting its history from, Nancy Stephens Tremaine, Private Stephen’s great niece.   

     She states: “This jacket has been in the Stephens’ family since the Civil War and has been passed down from generation to generation.  My great uncle enlisted in the 3rd Battalion Tennessee Cavalry in early 1862.  When the 3rd Battalion was joined with Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry in late 1862 my uncle joined then (sic) unit.   Sometime in 1863  Pvt. Stephens was taken prisoner and according to older family relatives he was captured at the Battle of Chicamauga….Accompanying my great uncle’s jacket are two letters written by him to his sister Laura and his oath of allegiance dated April 10, 1864 taken shortly before his death from pneumonia on April 23, 1864.  The jacket is a brown colored jacket with two flower buttons on each sleeve, an eagle shoulder tab button and shoulder tab on each shoulder, and nine Federal eagle style buttons on the front of the jacket.

   I swear that according to Stephens’ family history this jacket belonged to and was worn by Pvt. James L. Stephens during his service in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and that this jacket has been unaltered since that time.”

      The 3rd Battalion Tennessee cavalry was organized in May 1861 for twelve months.  In November 1862, the 3rd Battalion was reorganized into the 1st Tennessee (Carter’s) Cavalry.  Private Stephens enlisted for 12 months on August 5, 1861, into Captain W.T. Gass’ Company (also known as Company C, and later reorganized as Company E, 3rd Battalion), Brazelton’s Battalion, Tennessee Cavalry.  During that time, the 3rd Battalion was assigned to Pegram’s Cavalry Brigade, Department of East Tennessee.  Private Stephens’ tenure with 3rd Battalion indicates he would have seen action in the Corinth Campaign, April-June 1862, and the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862.  According to Stephens’ family history, Private Stephens was captured at the Battle of Chicamauga, September 19-20, 1863.  He died of pneumonia on his way home from Federal prison camp on April 23, 1864.

     Private Stephens’ shell jacket is a second Richmond Depot pattern jacket made of a coarse blend of wool and cotton on the exterior and a coarse cotton cloth interior lining known as Osnaburg.  The jacket features nine eagle buttons on the front and two commercially made flower buttons with tin backs on the cuff of each sleeve.  On each shoulder are tabs which are fastened by an eagle button.  Sewn on the rear of the coat is a belt loop on each side.  Private Stephens’ jacket is of Trans-Mississippi manufacture and likely manufactured by the Atlanta Arsenal or a local Tennessee manufacturer.

     Accompanying Private Stephens jacket are two original letters written by Private Stephens to his sister Laura and the original oath of allegiance signed by Private Stephens on April 10, 1864.  In the letter dated December 10, 1862, Private Stephens describes seeing “2 or 300 Yankee prisoners” recently captured by John Hunt Morgan.

     Transcriptions of the letters are included.

                                                                                     December 9, 1862

                                                                                         Dear Sis

     As I have an opportunity of writing I will drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well and where I am at.  We are camped 8 miles from Murfreesburro. In the pike shed besides to McMinville.  I think we will go to town to Morrow.  Did It Snow Eny over on that side of the Mountain.  It Snowed a big Snow over hear I hav not heard of …. Since I hav bin heur.  He Is down about Nashville Some Where  We nearer to day   Think the fedrals were leaving Nashville  I do not know wether it is So or Not  They has Not bin Eny fightin latly.    I do Not know where our Rigiment is at we left it last week. I do Not know where we will go  So it is gone   I am in Hopes I Never will See it a gan.  We are furring (faring) fine, at the present time.   The Captin and I have done got dinner. We had Chicken and pork and plenty of Every thing  Else Clay and I do the Cooking and the Captian byes things

    Cut is a fine cavilry hoss   I was offurd $200. for her the other day  She looks fine   Laura tell father that I would like if he has Enay lether I would like to hav me a pare of boots made  The will be nears hard to git. After while. And I will pay for them.  I will Neede the boots.  Tell father and Mother to rest Easy for the Yankees is Not coming for a long spell.   Is Elbert gon out in the survis yeut.  I will hav to close  Sill (still) remaining your True Brother

J.L. Stephens 

                                       Camps Near Blacks X Roads

                                                                           De em the 10 1862

                                                           Dear SiSter

                                                                         I take the pleasur according to prommist.  We are capt 6 miles from Murfreesurrow in the Direction fo Leenton.  I seen o Sight To Day Never Saw before. 2. 3 00. Yankees Prisners.  John H. Morgan had to fight last Sunday with them and whip them good and took, 2, 300 prisners and large amount of comsurs (commissary) wagons Arms Aminson.&.   James E. Carter is our Cournal.  May Beam is oru Lut. Cournal   Cup Gofurth(?) is Maj.  Giddens is our qurter master,  Some man from Knoxvill is our comsure  Clay will not git the appointen.(appointment)

I think I will git a transfur to James McReynods Cum. Cut stones the trip fine I think she will makie a good cavilly Horse   when you wright to me Buck them to Murfreesburor   Tell ….. to take good cear of Bill    I hav Not Seen Ike since I hav bin over hear.  I hearde of him the other day he is …… go ovr 60 mile, he lowes (allows?) hear

I am well at presnt.

    Form your Brother

                 J.L Stephens

      The jacket is in very good, original condition.  There has been no restoration.



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