Alvan Cullem Gillem


Born in Jackson County, Tennessee in 1830, Alvan Cullem Gillem was West Point-trained with the rank of 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army when war broke out. For meritorious conduct at the Battle of Mill Springs in January, 1862, Federal command bestowed upon Gillem the rank of brevet Major. Gillem also fought at the Battle of Shiloh and took part of the siege of Corinth, Mississippi. From August 12 to December 24, 1862, Gillem served as the provost marshal for the Federally occupied city of Nashville. As provost marshal, Gillem required the citizens to follow a few rules: all Confederate soldiers remaining in the area had to turn themselves in or be considered spies; liquor could no longer be sold regardless of prior licensing; sutlers were prohibited from selling items when not attached to their regiments; and finally, citizens were required to adhere to a 9 p.m. curfew. The apex of Gillem’s Civil War service came in 1864 when he pursued Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry force through East Tennessee on a mission to drive Confederate forces from the Unionist part of the state. He routed the Confederates at the Second Battle of Blue Springs on August 22, driving them beyond Greeneville. After receiving intelligence regarding Morgan’s location, he then sent a detachment to surprise attack Morgan. On September 5, he reported to Gen. John Schofield: “I surprised, defeated, and killed John Morgan at Greeneville this morning. The killed are scattered for miles, and have not yet been counted; probably number from 50 to 100; prisoners 70, among them Morgan’s staff. Captured 1 piece of artillery and caisson. The enemy’s force outnumbered mine, but the surprise was complete.” With this severe blow to the Confederate force in East Tennessee, Gillem succeeded in pushing them out of the state and into Virginia.

  • Heroic actions at Mills Springs; fought at Shiloh and Corinth, MS
  • Provost marshal in occupied Nashville
  • Defeated Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan at Blue Springs, pursued and killed him