Serving throughout the Civil War in what would become the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Tennesseean Benjamin F. Cheatham proved himself to be a highly capable commander at brigade through corps level. A farmer, he had served as a captain in the lst Tennessee and as the colonel of the 3rd Tennessee during the Mexican War. Active in the state militia during the interwar years, he was one of the state’s senior officers during the period before it merged its forces into the Confederate army.
He led a division at Belmont and Shiloh, where he was wounded, and during the defense of Corinth, Mississippi. Having been promoted to major general before Shiloh, he fought as a division commander temporarily in charge of the wing at Perryville and later at Murfreesboro. After participating in the Tullahoma Campaign he fought in the Confederate victory at Chickamauga. Absent at Chattanooga (the one major action of the army that he missed) he returned for the Atlanta Campaign.
When William J. Hardee left the army due to conflicts with Braxton Bragg, Cheatham took over the corps for the invasion of middle Tennessee. just before the fight at Franklin the Confederates lost an opportunity to destroy a large portion of John M. Schofield’s Union forces at Spring Hill. Instead of attacking, the enemy was allowed to slip by unmolested.
Recriminations followed as Bragg focused on Cheatham, who retaliated in kind. Most historians believe that the facts are on Cheatham’s side. In any event Cheatham went on to fight at Nashville and shortly thereafter Bragg asked to be relieved. Cheatham then went on to the Carolinas where in the April 9, 1865, reorganization and consolidation, he was reduced to command of a division. This he led until the surrender near Durham Station, North Carolina. He then returned to his farm and briefly entered politics as an unsuccessful congressional candidate. He was later a prison official and postmaster.
- Brigadier General, Provisional Army of Tennessee (May 9, 1861)
- Brigadier General, CSA (July 9, 1861)
- Commanding lst Brigade, lst Geographical Division, Department #2 (September 7 – October 24, 1861)
- Commanding 2nd Division, lst Geographical Division, Department #2 (October 24, 1861 – March 9, 1862)
- Major General, CSA (March 10, 1862)
- Commanding 2nd Division, lst Corps, Army of the Mississippi (March 29 – July 2, 1862)
- Commanding lst Division, Army of the Mississippi (July 2 – August 15, 1862)
- Commanding division, Right Wing, Army of the Mississippi (August 15 – November 20, 1862)
- Commanding division, Polk’s-Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee (November 20, 1862-October 23, 1863, January – July, and September – October 1864)
- Commanding the corps (October 23 – November 1863 and October 1864-April 9, 1865)
- Commanding division, Hardee’s (new) Corps, Army of Tennessee (April 9-26, 1865)