First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 

FAQs  --  Frequently Asked Questions


Q.  --  What was the "Orphan" Brigade?  Where did this name come from?

A.   --  It doesn't have anything to do with children without parents  ...  well, not really.  As Kentuckians serving in the Confederate Army, the soldiers of the First Kentucky Brigade were "orphaned" from their home state, because the state government remained loyal to the Union, and for most of the war, Kentucky was behind enemy lines.  The Orphan Brigade could not recruit from home, the men could not go home on furlough, and even delivery of mail from home was uncertain.  Some of the men were even under indictment by the pro-Union county governments at home.  As the war went on, and the dream of liberating Kentucky faded, the soldiers of the Orphan Brigade began to see themselves truly as "orphans," who had no home other than the Confederate Army.

To see more information on the composition and organization of the Brigade, click here.

The name "Orphan Brigade" may have been in limited use during the war, but it actually became common after the war, as the veterans met and wrote their reminiscences.  Remembering their leaders who had fallen in the war, Gen. Hanson at Murfreesboro and Gen. Helm at Chickamauga, and that their beloved Gens. Buckner and Breckinridge were transferred away from them to other commands, the veterans naturally embraced the name "Orphans."  A final note  ...   the name was "Orphan Brigade," not "Orphans Brigade" or "Orphan's Brigade."

Q.  --  How can I learn more about the Orphan Brigade?  How can I find more information on my ancestor who served in it?

A.  --  Browse through our listing of suggested reading on the Brigade, then follow this link to learn more about researching your specific ancestor and his unit.  If you read just one book on the Orphan Brigade, make it William C. Davis' The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn't Go Home (1980 and various reprints).

Q.  --  Why don't you list the 3rd and 7th Kentucky Infantry, or the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, or the regiments of Morgan's Cavalry?  I thought these were all members of the Orphan Brigade.

A.  --  When we planned this webpage, we made a conscious decision to concentrate on those units that the Brigade historian, Ed Porter Thompson, included in the rosters in his histories of the Orphan Brigade: the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th infantry regiments, and Cobb's, Graves', and Byrne's batteries.  Thompson also included the 1st Kentucky Cavalry in his 1898 edition, but in reality, this unit was only officially attached to the Brigade for a very short period, during February-March 1862.  It was then transferred and did not again serve with the Brigade (Thompson included the 1st Kentucky Cavalry in his 1898 edition because the Brigade veterans had "adopted" the unit in 1884).  Similarly, Morgan's Cavalry Squadron was part of the Brigade for only a few months after its organization.  The subsequent regiments in the cavalry brigade and division under Gen. Morgan were never part of the Orphan Brigade, nor attached to it.  For further info on these units, visit the following links:

1st Kentucky Cavalry, CSA
Morgan's Men Association

The 3rd Kentucky Infantry is a different case.   Perhaps Thompson should have included this regiment, because it was part of the Brigade when it was recruited and organized, and served as part of the Brigade for its first year.   But this unit was also transferred away from the Brigade, and never served with it again.  However, we do include some information on the 3rd Kentucky in our pages.   The 7th Kentucky Infantry, on the other hand, was not part of the Orphan Brigade when it was formed, and was only attached to it during the summer of 1862.  It was also transferred away and never served with the Orphans again.  For further info on these units, visit the following links:

3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry (rosters)
3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry (regimental roster - ftp site)
7th Kentucky Mounted Infantry (rosters)

Although the 5th Kentucky Infantry did not join the Orphan Brigade until late in 1863, it fought the rest of the war with the Brigade, and ended the war as part of it at Washington, Georgia, in May 1865.

As the years went by after the war, Confederate veteran reunions in Kentucky tended to be dominated by veterans of the Orphan Brigade. Eventually, as the numbers of the aging men dwindled, the remaining Orphan veterans adopted all Kentucky Confederate veterans into their ranks. So you sometimes read today that soldiers of many different Kentucky regiments were "members of the Orphan Brigade," but this is not really the case.  They certainly would not have had any claim to such a title during or right after the war. 

We have also not included the non-Kentucky units that were for a time part of the Brigade:  the Alabama and Tennessee battalions that served with it at Shiloh, and the 31st and 41st Alabama Infantry regiments.  But if someone does a webpage for any of these units, we will be more than happy to link to it!  (You can get some info on the Alabama units at http://www.tarleton.edu/~kjones/alregts.html)
Please follow this link to read a short history of the 41st Alabama Infantry, compiled by Hayes Lowe.

Q.  --  I looked all through your pages, and I can't find my ancestor listed anywhere.  How can I get him listed on your page?

A.  --  If your ancestor meets the criteria for Orphan Brigade membership listed above, we would be happy to list him on our page.   If you have an image of your ancestor, or information on where he is buried, please contact the page authors:
Geoff Walden: geoff_walden@hotmail.com
Laura Cook: lcook62@hotmail.com   
If you would like to write up a biography of your ancestor, send that to us and we'll post it to the Orphan Brigade Homepage.  If you have the resources and you'd like to volunteer to compile one or more company rosters, please contact the page authors for details.
Check out our Research Page for more information on how to research your ancestor.

Q.  --  I have a webpage on the 324th Oklahoma Infantry  ...  will you give me a link on your page?

A.  --  Our links page is devoted to links specifically concerned with Orphan Brigade history, or with Civil War military and genealogy research in Kentucky.  We also include several links for sites that contain hundreds of other Civil War related links.  We consider that those sites shown on our links page are all anyone really needs to search the universe of Civil War related web sites.  The Orphan Brigade Homepage is not a general links page, and if your page does not have something to do with the above specific subjects, we must decline your request.  Similarly, we are a history/genealogy page, not a reenacting page, so we don't link to pages that are concerned with reenacting, instead of primary history.

Q.  --  Please explain why there were different units called the 5th Kentucky Infantry, and how the 9th Kentucky Infantry fits into this.

A.  --  There were really two "5th Kentucky Infantry" regiments in Confederate service  ...  both ended up serving in the Orphan Brigade  ...  and this led to quite a bit of confusion, then and now (actually, there were four 5th Kentucky Infantry regiments, but three of them were more-or-less the same unit).   When the Brigade was organized in late 1861, it contained a regiment under the command of Col. Thomas Hunt, numbered the 5th.  However, unknown to the Orphans, another regiment in Eastern Kentucky had also formed as the 5th Kentucky, and since this regiment had perfected its organization first, the Confederate War Department redesignated Hunt's regiment as the 9th Kentucky in October 1862.  To confuse the issue even further, the Eastern Kentucky 5th Kentucky Infantry (reorganized from the original unit) joined the Orphans in November 1863, and served with them through the remainder of the war.

Most postwar writings show Hunt's regiment as the 9th Kentucky, to minimize confusion (Thompson's Brigade histories are written this way, and the reports that appeared in the Official Records were also changed to reflect Hunt's regiment as the 9th, even during the period when they were called the 5th).  However, it is still possible today to find period manuscript sources that refer to Hunt's regiment as the 5th Kentucky (some of these sources also refer to Col. John W. Caldwell, who succeeded Col. Hunt in April 1863, and who had often acted in command of the regiment previously).

Throughout this page, we will use the designation "9th Kentucky Infantry" for Col. Thomas Hunt's regiment, and "5th Kentucky Infantry" refers to Col. Hiram Hawkins' regiment, which joined the Orphan Brigade in November 1863.

(See: "Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky; Confederate Kentucky Volunteers" (hereafter cited as AGR), Vol. I, Frankfort, 1915, pp. 280-283, 410-411, 458-459.)

Q.  --  My ancestor served in the XX Kentucky Mounted Infantry  --  it says so on his military records and/or his tombstone. Why don't your lists and rosters call these units "Mounted Infantry" - were these different units?

A.  --  The regiments serving in the Orphan Brigade (2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th Kentucky Infantry) were converted to mounted infantry in September 1864, and they served the remainder of the war as mounted infantry. It is proper to refer to the Orphan Brigade units as mounted infantry for their final eight months of service. However, men who served in these units prior to September 1864 (and not afterwards), did not serve in mounted infantry units.

The confusion came about due to the nomenclature used by the clerks who compiled the soldiers' military service records (now in the National Archives). During this compilation, it was decided to label all the Orphan Brigade soldiers' records as "Mounted" (or Mtd.) Infantry. This confusion can be compounded on government grave markers, which generally use the National Archives records to designate the unit.

However, for the thousands of soldiers who served in the Orphan Brigade before the units were mounted following the Atlanta Campaign of 1864  ...  those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield or in the hospital, those so badly wounded that they were mustered out, those who were transferred, and (yes) those who deserted  ...  it is not correct to refer to the units they served in as "Mounted" Infantry  ...  just plain Infantry.

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URL: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~orphanhm/faqs.htm


Comments to page authors:

Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at) live.com
Laura Cook
: lcook62 (at) hotmail.com

All contents copyright 1996-2014, Geoff Walden, Laura Cook. All rights reserved.   No text or photos may be reproduced without the permission of the owners.  We gratefully acknowledge the generous permission of the owners in allowing us to show their images and other information on this page.

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