During the Fall of 1863, Tyree Harris Bell of Dyer County, formerly the colonel of the12th/22nd Tennessee infantry regiments, had successfully rounded up Confederate deserters and recruited new soldiers for the South in West Tennessee. He crossed over the Tennessee River and down to Florence, Ala., with 200 men, well mounted but unarmed. Gen. Braxton Bragg ordered his ordnance officer to provide rifles for Bell’s soldiers.
Bell returned to West Tennessee to continue his recruiting efforts; once Lt. Col. John Uriah Green of Covington with two companies of Green’s battalion of the 12th Tennessee cavalry, traveled with them, “each man carrying an extra rifle and as much ammunition as he dared strap on his horse.”
On Nov. 5, 1863 The Unionist newspaper Memphis Bulletin, published the following: “(Capt. John H.) Stevens and (Col. Tyree) Bell with a force of 500 rebels are conscripting and robbing in Shelby, Fayette and Tipton Counties. That part of the country is reported to be in a dreadful condition. The crops were destroyed and the people are dependent on what they get from our lines for support.”
During the first half of November, Gen. James R. Chalmer’s Confederate cavalry moved on the Federal garrisons along the Memphis and Charleston railroad. The 7th Tennessee (including Tipton’s men in Co. I) skirmished with the Federals near Collierville again on Nov. 3. That same day, Chalmers attacked the town with Slemmons’ and McCulloch’s brigades. They fought the 6th and 7th Illinois and 2d Iowa cavalries. Union artillery blasted the Confederates. Chalmers was again unsuccessful. He lost six killed, 63 wounded and 26 prisoners. Hatch reported 60 Federal casualties.
On Nov. 4, the 7th Tennessee attacked the Federals at Moscow. Judge J. P. Young wrote: “The fighting here was quite severe and attended with considerable loss on both sides.”
Some companies of the 7th also attacked the Federal blockhouses at La Fayette Station (Rossville) that same day. A portion of Col. Robert V. Richardson’s brigade, including the 12th Tennessee cavalry, attacked the railroad near Pocahontas, “destroying the railroad for a considerable distance and burned the depot at Middleton.”
Richardson’s rebels did not encounter Federal forces. On Nov. 7, 1863, Gen. Stephen D. Lee, commanding cavalry in Mississippi, wrote Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest: “I wrote General Bragg stating…West Tennessee offered a good field, and that (R. V.) Richardson’s brigade in North Mississippi was nearly organized and would be a nucleus for you to build a large command. I am confident that 5,000 men can be raised in West Tennessee…Col. Richardson’s command from West Tennessee is a fine body of troops…”
On the 15th, Gen. N. B. Forrest arrived by rail at Okolona, Miss. His small command of 310 men included McDonald’s battalion (Forrest’s old regiment), Morton’s battery four cannon and his escort company arrived on the 18th. During November, Fort Pillow was garrisoned by 637 Federal soldiers: Co. B, 2d Illinois Cavalry, 75 men and the 52d Indiana Infantry, 562 men. The fort served as a recruiting station for the Union.
Several men from Tipton enlisted in the 52nd Indiana: John Adkison, William Caskey, John A. Golden, Alexander W. Hudson, James Marsh, John W. Prince and Jeremiah Smith; black Tiptonians enlisted there as well in the 4th U. S. Colored heavy artillery: Daniel and David Hill, former slaves of Dr. Lafayette Hill; Washington and Wilson Hill, former slaves of Major Charles H. Hill of the Charleston-Tabernacle area.