Hardy M.B. Greer; 18th & 45th Tennessee Inf.

11 12 2008
Post-war image of Hardy Greer

Post-war image of Hardy Greer

Hardy Greer; known as “Bud” by friends and family, was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee January 15, 1841. He was the last child born to Nathaniel (b. 1790) and Sarah “Sallie” (Childress) Greer (b. 1792). The couple had eleven children. Nathan and Sallie both ended up in Rutherford County during the western migration of their parents from North Carolina. Sallie’s father Isham was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, as was Nathan’s father John. Nathan was also a veteran; serving in Captain Carson’s Company of Tennessee Militia. He would be present at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama.
The Greer family owned several hundred acres in northern Rutherford county. The east fork of Stones River and Bradley’s creek bordered their land.  Hardy would have a lot of area to explore while young man, as well many adventures; i’m sure. By 1856 most of the children were out of the house. On August 1st of this year Hardy’s father would pass away. Nathaniel would leave 70 acres of land to Sallie and Hardy, the 1860 census shows Sarah and Hardy as the only two people in the household.
As the clouds of war gathered Hardy felt he would have to make a decision. After Tennessee voted to leave the Union, it did not take long for Hardy to enlist. He would travel to the county seat of Murfreesboro and enlist as H.M.B. Greer on May 2, 1861. The men from Rutherford County would travel to Camp Trousdale where they would be mustered into the Provisional Confederate  Army. Hardy would belong to Company I (Cainsville Guards), 18th Tennessee Infantry. By September 1, 1861 the regiment was with the rest of the army at Bowling Green, Kentucky along the Green River. A defencive line had been established there to protect Tennessee from invasion. The excitement soon faded for the soldiers at Bowling Green; it was apparent to all that they would spend the winter on this line. Dreams of great battles and heroism soon gave way to sickness. First hand accounts talk about the cold and dampness along the Green River; many soldier’s would die of disease at this place.  On January 20, 1861 Hardy Greer would desert from the army. Why he did is not certain. There is one clue besides spending a severe winter in Kentucky.
In early 1862 a new regiment was being formed in Murfreesboro. Hardy’s brother-in-law; James Lillard had enlisted in Company G, 45th Tennessee Infantry. The company was  made up of men from Rutherford county. Hardy would join the 45th Tennessee on February 28, 1862. Maybe fate was kind to Hardy. The 18th Tennessee had been sent to help defend Ft. Donelson, which sat on the Cumberland River. The whole regiment had been captured, and sent north to Union prison camps. The 45th Regiment had not been properly trained or armed in late Febuary. Because of the Confederate defeat at Ft. Donelson, the regiment was quickly placed in Statham’s Tennessee Brigade. The brigade which consisted of the 19th, 20th, 28th, and 45th Tennessee Regiment’s, was sent to Corinth, Mississippi. A build-up of Confederate forces was taking place in order to repeal the Union invasion of West Tennessee.
On April 6, 1862 Hardy and the 45th Tennessee would face their first major battle. Shiloh would rank as one of the bloodiest battles during the war. As part of General Breckinridge’s reserve corps, Statham’s Brigade would be placed in line of battle when corps or brigade commanders needed more strength in their lines. It did not take long for the call, Hardy would soon be fighting in the “Peach Orchard” sector of the battlefield.  Written accounts state that the men could tell they were close to the action. The sounds of firing on their right became louder and their step quickened. The 45th Tennessee would be engaged around the Sarah Bell Farm, taking cover in a small ravine, they started a long range shooting contest with the enemy. The men of the regiment had never been under fire before and had been little trained in school of the soldier. At one point in the battle, they accidentally fired into the backs of the advancing 20th Tennessee Regiment.  The men were worried about crossing a double row fence in front of an open field where the Sarah Bell Cabins stood. Some of the men in the 45th Tennessee would start to drift back out of line; officers would heard the stragglers back.
 During the fight at the Peach Orchard, an officer came up to General Albert Sidney Johnston; overall commander, and stated there was a Tennessee regiment that would not fight. After several attempts to advance the regiment by staff members, including Governor Isham Harris of Tennessee, General Johnston approached the regiment. He was carrying a tin cup he had picked up from a Union camp and began twirling it in his fingers while the regiment was put into line. Once in line, General Johnston began riding by the 45th Tennessee, he was tapping his cup on the tips of the men’s bayonet’s. He then stated “Men, they are stubborn; we must use the bayonet.” He then brought his horse to the center of the regiment and yelled, “I will lead you!” The General then led the whole brigade forward under heavy enemy fire. General Johnston would be killed later that day leading a different brigade in the Peach Orchard.
Hardy and the 45th Tennessee learned a lot about soldiering that day. On April 7th the battle would resume, and the Confederate Army would retreat back to Corinth that day a defeated army. Battered and bruised, they would settle in for a siege. Orders came for Breckinridge’s Corps to report to Mississippi; help was needed to protect the Vicksburg area. On July 27, 1862  Breckinridge’s Corps marched out of Vicksburg, the target was Baton Rouge. On August 5, 1862 the 45th would fight again. The battle of Baton Rouge had started off well, until the Union Army was pushed back to where the Union Navy’s  gunboats were. The heavy artillery fire from the ships soon pushed Breckinridge’s men back. They would retreat to Jackson, Mississippi. Back in Tennessee, Confederate General Bragg was invading Kentucky. He wanted Breckinridge and his corps back, it contained the First Kentucky Brigade. His hopes were that Kentucky citizens would flock to the colors of the First Kentucky Brigade. By the time Breckinridge reached Tennessee, Bragg had been defeated at the battle of Perryville.
Breckinridge’s Corps stayed in Murfreesboro; where the rest of the Confederate Army would gather. On December 31st, 1862 the battle for Murfreesboro was started, Hardy and the 45th Tennessee were lightly engaged on this day. On January 2nd, 1863 Breckinridge’s Corps was chosen to make an attack on the Union Army. They would have to cross a large open field and ford Stones River under fire. The attack was a nightmare; Breckinridge’s Corps was cut to pieces by Union Artillery fire in the open field. Once near Stones River the Union Infantry opened with musketry fire on the advancing Confederate columns. In this poorly conceived attack, the 45th Tennessee lost 113 men killed, wounded and missing. General Bragg would retreat from Murfreesboro with nothing to show from the fight, except a long casualty list of men he could not afford to lose.
After the battle of Murfreesboro the Confederate Army stayed in the East Central Tennessee area. At some point Hardy left the army. Perhaps a “French Leave” as soldiers called it. He was captured near his home; Milton, Tennessee on February 13, 1863. Also captured that day was a John F. Miller, Company I, 18th Tennessee Infantry; Hardy’s old regiment. No one knows the reason, desertion after a terrible battle; need of clothes; or to check on Sallie, who at the time was living in the middle of a war zone. Hardy and John were sent north to Camp Butler, Illinois.  Hardy was at Camp Butler until March 14, 1863. He was then sent to City Point, Virginia where he was exchanged along with other Confederate’s for Union prisoners. It is unclear if Hardy returned to the army, no other service record exists for him after his release.
Hardy would return to the banks of Bradley’s Creek and resume farming after the war. On August 7, 1885 his mother Sallie would pass away. Hardy would marry Miss Mary Judith Nolan on September 23, 1885, they would have 7 children.  Hardy Greer died in Rutherford County, Tennessee on April 26, 1901.
Written by Scott Busenbark


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.