and the Civil War
William enlisted for Confederate service on September 7, 1862 at Larkinsville, Alabama, by Capt. Henry F. Smith. He enlisted as a Private, Captain Smith's Company G, Russell's Battalion of Partisan Rangers on Muster-In Roll of September 22, 1862 at camp near Taylor's Store, Tennessee. Valuation of horse: $175.00, Horse Equipments: $20.00. He is on the roll of March 1st to April 30, 1863; November 1 to December 31, 1863. His age on muster-in roll is given as 23, but he was 36.
According to family stories, William also joined the Union Army to give false information, serving as scout and spy. It was William who Ulysses S. Grant was speaking of when he said that if it would not have been for one particular spy, that supplied us with false information, this war would have ended six months ago.
Six Alabama Cavalry companies which had been serving as a battalion under Alfred A. Russell joined with four companies from the Third Tennessee Cavalry and became Russell's Regiment. Russell operated under General Forrest in the Tennessee Valley, continually active in the winter of 1862-63 raiding Union lines, destroying provisions and communications.
Soon after the unit was formed it was assigned to the Army of Tennessee. It served in that Army until early in 1865. Then it joined the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, for the remainder of the war.
The Fourth (Russell's) Alabama Cavalry took part in more than one hundred and ten various type engagements during its career. The first engagement was at Spring Creek, Tennessee on December 19, 1862. The last engagement before surrender was April 2, 1865 at Selma, Alabama. W.S. Wilbern, Corporal, appears on the Roll of Prisoners of War of Co. B, Fourth Regiment Alabama Cavalry who surrendered May 4th to Major General E.R.S. Canby, U.S.A., paroled May 14th at Gainesville, Alabama; residence, Coffeetown, Jackson County, Alabama.
Russell's Alabama Cavalry had a skirmish at Mill Creek, Tennessee on January 8, 1863. They had already had ten skirmishes in Tennessee since the first on December 19, 1862. This is a copy of a letter from William Starnes Wellborn to his wife, Elizabeth (Reynolds) Wellborn on the day after the skirmish.
State of Tennessee
Tell farther that I would be glad to see him and if he can't come to see me and I can't get to come home I would be glad he would right to me and let me no how the times is, what the people is all doing back there. Tell your farther I have not forgotten him. Tel the girls to rite to me. Tell Martha Wellborn that James is well. There is a good deal of sickness in camps. James B. Hillin is here very low with fevor, William Vaught is very low with consumption, Jessee Boyd is sick with a brest complaint but is going about. Gesse Wellborn with one finger shot. Wallis McFarlin is here with his feet frozen. That is a list of the disable men of our company. Tell Mary Davis that Gilbert is well. Tell all of my friends to rite to me.
Elizabeth I want you to wright to me as soon as you get this letter, and direct your letter to Pulaski Tennessee, Russell's Regiment in cear of Capt. H.F. Smith, and if I have left here it will follow me. Give my respects or all inquiring friends and tell tem to rite to me. I have but little time to rite and they have plenty of time-- so I must Birng my lines to a close. So nothing more, only I will Remain your affectionate husband untill death farewell.
It is told that William Starnes was very sick after returning from the Civil War, he developed Jaundice during the war, and that he never got better. He died on June 28, 1867 and is buried in the Boyd Cemetery in Langston, Jackson County, Alabama.