Cobb's Battery, 1st Kentucky Brigade

    First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 

A Post War Memoir of

   This faded and nearly illegible typewritten manuscript was found in the Civil War vertical file, Special Collections, Paducah Public Library. A note at the top says, "This paper was written from information given by Mr. Julian F. Gracey from what his Father had told him." Frank Gracey was a Lieutenant of Cobb's Battery. The manuscript is presented below as written, with notes, some punctuation, and paragraph breaks added.

Edited and Annotated by Geoff Walden

   Cobb's Battery, which was one of the most distinguished and famous of the Confederate Military Units, was organized at the beginning of the War at Mint Springs, Kuttawa, Ky. [Lyon County, in Western Kentucky]

   H[ylan] B. Lyon, who had given up his commission in the United States Army and had returned to his home at Eddyville, Ky. when war between the States became inevitable, was made Captain of the Company. R[obert] L. Cobb was made First Lieut., Frank P. Gracey Second Lieut., and either Bart James or Bob Mathis Third Lieut. Later in the history of the Company both of these men were lieutenants but the record as to which one held this position originally is not accessible. [Robert B. Mathews was originally 1st Sgt., later 1st Lt.; and Bartley A. James was 2nd Lt.]

   After the Company had been organized under the name of Cobb's Battery, the men were confronted with their first difficulty. Kentucky was one of the border states and the one most divided against itself. In some sections the people were hotly in favor of the Confederacy and secession, while in other sections they were in favor of the Union. Under such conditions as these the Battery could not train at Eddyville or Mint Springs but was forced to move into Tennessee in order to come within the lines of the Confederacy.

   Accordingly, they moved to Clarksville, Tenn. where as a body they enlisted in the Southern Army and went into training at Camp Boone, six miles from Clarksville on the Guthrie Pike, with other Kentucky and Tennessee Troops. The Battery was trained for Artillery in the 3rd Kentucky Regiment and from now on was designated either as Cobb's Battery or as the First Kentucky. (General) H.B. Lyon, the first Captain, was soon promoted, and R.L. Cobb became Captain of the Battery. Frank P. Gracey was advanced to First Lieut. and Bart James or Bob Mathis [Mathews] were made Second and Third Lieutenants. [see above]

   After a period of training the troops moved to Bowling Green, Ky. [September 1861] and the First Kentucky Battery was formally brigaded under Gen. John C. Breckinridge. Since Kentucky never officially seceded and joined the Confederacy, the Kentucky troops became known as the Orphan Brigade, and among all the troops of the South none were more distinguished for their bravery and service. Cobb's Battery was probably better known than any other Regiment outside of Virginia. Among the famous battles in which the Battery engaged are Shiloh, Baton Rouge, Jackson, Sulphur Trestle, Resaca, Murfreesboro, Jonesboro, Chicamauga [sic], Missionary Ridge and Johnsonville. At Chicamauga [sic] the battery distinguished itself, and at Snodgrass Hill a Marker has been erected by the Governor to show its position during the War. [This marker shows the position of Cobb's Battery in support of the Orphan Brigade assaults on the Federal works near the Kelly Field (near Tour Stop 2), not at Snodgrass Hill.]

   When Albert Sidney Johnson [Johnston] fell back with his troops to Corinth, Mississippi, the Battery went with him and began its active service in the great battle of Shiloh. Here the Battery was intended to be held as a reserve under General Breckenridge [sic], but as the attack of the Federals was so sudden and determined, all the reserves were soon rushed into the field and held their places throughout the entire long engagement. Thirty-four members were soon killed or wounded, and every horse in the Battery was killed except one, he belonging to Frank P. Gracey who was in charge of the Battery, as R.L. Cobb had been made Major. [Cobb was promoted to Major and chief of artillery for Breckinridge's Division following the battle of Chickamauga.] 

Cobbs Battery, Shiloh National Military Park
This horse (named Frank) saved himself when his rider dismounted to help limber up the guns and train them against Sherman's Artillery. As soon as he found himself without a rider, Frank trotted away and found safety behind an enormous pile of hay which had been baled and was used as headquarters by McClellan, one of Sherman's Generals [Maj.Gen. John McClernand, commanding a division under Gen. Grant, or Col. John McDowell, commanding a brigade under Sherman?]. There the horses remained in perfect safety and enjoyed a banquet of hay during the engagement.

   After the battle of Jackson, Miss., where Cobb's Battery greatly distinguished itself and was largely responsible for the Confederate victory, the troops were drawn up in a hollow square and presented with a banner by the wives of Generals John C. Breckenridge [sic], [Simon] Boliver Buckner, and H.B. Lyon. The flag was made from dresses of these three ladies as it was not possible to secure material for it from any other source. Shortly after the close of the war this banner, which [was] carried all through the war and was cut by many bullet shots, was presented [to] Frank P. Gracey by one of the members of the Battery, who wrapped it around his body under his clothes and smuggled it through enemy lines. It is still in the possession of his son Julian P. Gracey [see below]. 

Cobb's Battery, Chickamauga National Military Park
The Battery, which distinguished itself and its native state by its heroism all through the war, was commanded [commended?] at different times by Generals Breckenridge [sic], Bates [William B. Bate, division commander in the Army of Tennessee], Cheatam [B. Frank Cheatham, division and corps commander in the AoT], Helm [Ben Hardin Helm, commander of the Orphan Brigade who was killed at Chickamauga], Preston [William Preston, brigade commander], Lewis [Joseph Lewis, final commander of the Orphan Brigade], and Lyon.


Notes from Terry Reigel:  The account consistently calls the namesake Cobb "R. L. Cobb." He was not. Major Robert Cobb was Robertson H. Cobb, son of Robert Livingston and Cornelia (Mims) Cobb. While early records use the name Robertson, he always used Robert as his first name.

Capt. R. L. Cobb was Robert Linah Cobb, son of the elder Robert's brother Joshua, and Cornelia's sister Julia. It appears he did serve in his cousins' battery briefly, but then moved on to some fame as a pontoonier in Engineers. If indeed Julian made that mistake, I suppose it is understandable. He was the son of Robert L's sister Irene, and Robert L. was a closer relative than his cousin Robert H., who lived in Paducah, then moved to Texas.

Major Cobb is on my website at and Capt. Cobb is at

CobbFlag1.jpg (26507 bytes)

   This is a post-war flag used by the veterans of Cobb's Battery, on display at the Rose Hill Museum, Eddyville, Kentucky.  It was presented by Julian Gracey to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Lyon County in 1927, but it is not the flag mentioned in the memoir.

For more information on Orphan Brigade flags, see the Flags page.

(Eddyville, KY, "Herald Ledger," 25 March 1998; courtesy Tom Prince; photo courtesy Georgette Beatty, Rose Hill Museum)

NOTES: Muster rolls and other records show that Cobb's Battery was organized on September 20, 1861, as conversion of Company F, 3rd Kentucky Infantry to artillery service. It was initially armed with four 6-pounder smoothbore guns and two 12-pounder howitzers. In July 1863 it was re-armed with four 12-pounder Napoleon cannons, and during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, it had six Napoleons.

The battery fought in the battles noted above. At Shiloh, they were heavily engaged on the second day (April 7, 1862) in the area of Water Oaks Pond. At one of the larger actions during the siege of Jackson, MS, 12 July 1863, Cobb's Battery was instrumental in repulsing the Federal assaults. Following the end of the Atlanta Campaign, the battery left the Orphan Brigade and was assigned to the defenses of Mobile. Some members left to serve with Forrest's Cavalry. The battles of Sulphur Trestle, AL, and Johnsonville, TN, were fought by Forrest in September-November 1864 (Gen. Lyon and Capt. Gracey participated).

Click here to see a photo of several veterans of Cobb's Battery at a reunion, ca. 1901.

Click here for a compiled roster of Cobb's Battery.

Click here to visit another page with a history of Cobb's Battery.

For additional reading:

Report of the Adjutant General for the State of Kentucky: Confederate Volunteers, Vol. 1 (Frankfort, 1915, reprinted by McDowell Publications, 1980), pp. 470-477.

Ed Porter Thompson, History of the Orphan Brigade (Louisville, 1898, reprinted by Morningside Books, 1991), pp. 862-869.

"Captains R. L. Cobb and F. P. Gracey," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 3, No. 8 (August 1895), pp. 249-250.

Stewart Sifakis, Compendium of the Confederate Armies: Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, the Confederate Units, and the Indian Units. New York: Facts on File, 1995, pp. 5-6.

The Southern Bivouac, Vol. 2 (1884), p.364, and Vol. 3 (1885), pp. 195, 248 (reprinted by Broadfoot Publishing, 1992).


Revised: Monday, 24-Mar-97 22:13:58 PST


Comments to page authors:

Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at)
Laura Cook
: lcook62 (at)

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