The Tiger Company, by VIC WEALS (sent to me by Cynthia Lewis Hutchinson )

In most wars there are men of honor men and not so honorable on each side.   In the Civil War it was often difficult for families in the border areas, 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, 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 to me by Martin Southern, Knoxville lawyer. Hen Coleman was a brother to Martin's grandmother.

These are excerpts and condensations from what Henry Francis Colhman remembered:


In the year 1864 the country east and southeast of Cumberland Gap, Tenn., 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 men who belonged to neither army but were engaged in pilfering and robing 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.


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 orgainized in the fall of 1864 and included the following persons:  William Riley, Thomas Riley, John Parker, John Fugate, Tennessee Parks (picture), William Fugate, C.D. Spence, John M. Southern, Josiah Ramsey, William Ramsey, Harvey Ritchie, Henry Hall, John Woods, Lafayette Mason, Calvin Mize, Calvin Brooks, Levi Brooks, Samuel Estep, Jacob Estep, John Longcrniti, John Fields, David Brandham, William Stanford, Adams Hopkins, Albert Overton, Rufus Overton, Isaac Livingstone, John Yeary, and H. F. Coleman.  The company at one time numbered 33, but the names above are all I can recall."

With William Riley as captain and John Parkey as lieutenant the company was in actual and constant service from September 1864 until the close of the war in 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.


The men of the company furnised their won 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, Tenn, two were at Balls Bridge in Lee County, Va; one was at Mulberry Gap, Tenn; one was at Wallens Creek in Lee County, Va; and before it became associated with the Second N.C. Regiment it had two engagements with the Confederates at or near Bobcamp (Robcamp) Church in Claiborne County, and one near the Bales Iron Works in Lee County, Va.


The service of these men was 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 promply 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 was 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 contrubutions.

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.



Henry Fancis Coleman, who told this story, after the war became a farmer, cattle dealer, lawyer, Tennessee State Senator, Judge of Hancock County Court, and a U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

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