Major Shelah Waters | 5th Regiment Cavalry U.S.
Revised: 19 Feb 2017
The name Shelah is a Biblical baby name. In Biblical the meaning of the name Shelah is: That breaks, that unties, that undresses.
Major Shelah Waters was the son of Wilson Lawrence Waters, grandson of Shelah Waters Senior. Watertown, Tennessee, (formerly Waterstown, Three Forks and Round Lick respectively) was named for Wilson Waters around 1858. Waters was key in the development of the rail line from Knoxville to Nashville via Watertown.
Shelah (male) attended Union University, then located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He graduated Cum Laude in 1860 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Union was a refined institution of higher learning including philosophy, foreign language, geology, chemistry, etc. Closed some time after the 1860-1861, it was devastated by the Civil War. It reopened briefly from 1869-1870 to 1872-1873. In 1876 it reopened the Jackson, Tennessee where it still operates today.
Shelah’s first cousin and classmate was David L. Phillips. Dave would serve as a Confederate officer in the 7th Tennessee Volunteers. The 7th were the tip of the spear in Virginia; serving from the start of the war, all the way to Appomattox. He attended Union for 2 years prior to the war. They were both brothers of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. They also had another cousin from home that served in the Union army: John W. Phillips 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry. David mentions writing to kin in Pennsylvania, early during the war. It most likely was him. John also mentions in his diary visiting cousins in the Johnson Island prison at one point. David was there.
Waters joined the U.S. Army in August of 1862, a year after his first cousin signed on with the South. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and rose to the rank of Major with the 5th Tennessee Cavalry, USA. His younger brother Major Thomas Waters served in the same regiment.
In 1869 President Andrew Johnson nominated him for Minister to Ecuador. In that same year, he was living in McMinnville, Tennessee. The cave pictured below is in that area, so it is more than likely his mark.
“The name “Shelah Waters” and the date “1869″ are inscribed on the walls in candle smoke or scratched into the rock in many rather remote areas. This is the oldest name and date in the cave.” – Cumberland Caverns | U.S. National Natural Landmark
See a 360º virtual panorama of the cave below:
Major Shelah Waters Biography:
Buried in the Nashville National Cemetery behind his brother Major Thomas Waters, US Army.
- 1860 Graduated from Union University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee Cum Laude
- 1861-1865 Major in Stokes’ Cavalry AKA First Middle Tennessee Cavalry, AKA 5th Tennessee Cavalry
- 1869 – Nominated as Minister to Ecuador by President Andrew Johnson
- 1868-1869 Clerk in Office of the Second Auditor of the Treasury
- 1871 Assessor of Internal Revenue in Third Collection District of the State of Tennessee
- 1875 Appointed postmaster at Lebanon by U.S. Grant
- 1894 Died February 2, living in Nashville, Tennessee
The 5th Tennessee Cavalry U.S. timeline. Also check this blog.
- Affair at Kinderhook August 11, 1862
- Skirmish near Nashville September 2, 1862
- Siege of Nashville September 7 – November 7, 1862
- Goodlettsville September 30, 1862
- Gallatin October 1, 1862
- Near Humboldt October 9, 1862
- Near Nashville November 5, 1862
- Near LaVergne November 7, 1862
- Reconnoissance toward LaVergne November 19, 1862
- Reconnoissance to Franklin December 11-12, 1862
- Franklin December 12, 1862
- Duty at Nashville, Tenn, till December 26, 1862
- Advance on Murfreesboro December 26-30, 1862
- Nolensville Pike December 27, 1862
- Wilkinson’s Cross Roads December 29, 1862
- Battle of Stone’s River December 30-31, 1862, and January 1-3, 1863
- Overall’s Creek December 31, 1862
- Lytle’s Creek January 5, 1863
- Reconnoissance to Auburn, Liberty and Cainsville January 20-22, 1863
- Near Cainsville February 15, 1863
- Manchester Pike February 22, 1863
- Bradysville March 1, 1863
- Expedition to Woodbury March 3-8, 1863
- Near Auburn March 8, 1863
- Vaught’s Hill near Milton March 20 (Co “E”) Expedition to Auburn, Liberty, Snow Hill, etc , April 2-6, 1863
- Snow Hill or Smith’s Ford and Liberty April 3, 1863
- Liberty April 7, 1863
- Expedition to McMinnville April 20-30, 1863
- Hartsville April 22, 1863
- Bradyville Pike May 17 (Two Companies on Streight’s Raid toward Rome, Ga , April 26-May 3, 1863
- Day’s Gap or Sand Mountain, Crooked Creek and Hog Mountain April 30, 1863
- Blountsville and East Branch, Big Warrior River, May 1, 1863
- Blake’s Creek near Gadsden May 2, 1863
- Blount’s Farm and near Centre May 2, 1863
- Near Cedar Bluff May 3, Bradyville Pike May 17, 1863
- Expedition to Middleton May 21-22, 1863
- Scout on Middleton or Eagleville Pike June 10, 1863
- Expedition to Lebanon June 15-17, 1863
- Skirmish at Lebanon June 16, 1863
- Dixon Springs June 20, 1863
- Middle Tennessee or Tullahoma Campaign June 23-July 7, 1863
- Shelbyville June 25, 1863
- Fosterville, Guy’s Gap and Shelbyville June 27, 1863
- Duty at Carthage, McMinnville, Alexandria, Tracy City and Shelbyville, operating against guerrillas on line of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad till February, 1864
- Pulaski July 15, 1863
- Expedition to Huntsville, Ala , July 18-22, 1863
- Scout in Sequatchie Valley September 21-22, 1863
- Missionary Ridge and Shallow Ford Gap September 22, 1863
- Operations against Wheller and Roddy October 1-17 (Re-opening Tennessee River October 26-29 (Co “G”) 1863
- Battle of Wauhatchie, Tenn , October 28-29 (Co “G”) 1863
- Centreville October 29 (Co “G”) Eagleville December 7, 1863
- McMinnville December 21 Lavergne December 29, 1863
- Scout to White and Putnam Counties February 1-7, 1864
- Operations against guerrillas about Sparta February to April, Johnson’s Mills February 22 (Detachment) Sparta and Calf Killer River February 22, 1864. Confederate Guerrilla Champ Ferguson was wounded in this engagement. Captain Ferguson killed 19 of the 5th, many after their surrender.
- White County March 10, 1864
- Operations about Sparta March 11-28 Calf Killer River March 11, 1864
- Winchester March 17, 1864
- Beersheeba Springs March 19, 1864
- Duty at Nashville, Tenn , and on line of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad at McMinnville, Carthage, Tullahoma and other points till November, 1864
- Scout in Lincoln County July 12-15 McMinnville August — Murfreesboro September 4 Operations about Murfreesboro November, 1864, to January, 1865 Siege of Murfreesboro December 4-12, 1864
- Overall’s Creek December 4 (Detachment) Demonstrations on Murfreesboro December 5-7, 1864
- Wilkinson’s Cross Road near Murfreesboro and the Cedars December 7, 1864
- Ordered to Fayetteville January, 1865, and duty patroling line of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and duty in District of East Tennessee till August, 1865
- Skirmish near McMinnville February 5, 1865
- Mustered out August 14, 1865
Of the Waters family:
“The tall, square, two-story dwelling at the end of Waters Street in Watertown, sits like an ancient matriarch, fanned and sheltered by the waving branches of majestic trees. It watches with calm eyes as you approach as though it were wondering which of its children you were returning for a visit. It is a house which has been filling up with memories for the pioneer Waters family since it was built in 1844 by Wilson Lawrence Waters.
One of the more beautiful memories was the 50th Wedding Anniversary of its builder and his wife on Dec. 17, 1894, when the mansion was ablaze with light and old-fashioned bouquets from Mrs. Waters’ garden supplied every room with wild and beautiful color.
A faded little booklet, a cherished possession of great-granddaughter, Christine Teasley, includes a nostalgic poem written for the occasion by Mr. Waters’ brother, the Reverend James Waters, which gives an intimate and endearing word picture of the family and festivities in connection with that memorable wedding day. James was only 8 years old when his brother married but he recalls in fine detail the meat and dessert portions of that wedding feast, which consisted of turkeys, chicken pies, cherry cobblers, custard pies, and cakes with icing!
Little wonder that the neighbors turned out to honor Mr. Wilson Lawrence Waters on this important occasion; he was virtually and admittedly “Mr. Watertown.” In its earliest days the whole town was on his 400 acre farm. His store supplied the needs of the community and from it he sold the first turning plow in Wilson County. In 1845 the Post Office was moved to his store and the Three Forks designation was dropped in favor of Waters’ Town, later combined into one word, Watertown, in honor of Mr. Waters.
He also built and operated a water-powered grist mill and saw mill. He was the leading spirit in getting the old stagecoach road (Walden Ridge Road) replaced by the Lebanon-Sparta turnpike, and acted as President. But perhaps his greatest accomplishment for Watertown was his securing a route through the town for the Nashville and Knoxville Railroad (later, a part of the Tennessee Central system). This proved a heady tonic for the community and occasioned a spurt of economic and population growth. He lifted the first shovel of dirt before a large gathering of citizens in 1887. He was also the man who drove the last spike at Smithville.
This listing of accomplishments, however, gives only one view of the man. A yellowed and age-mutilated clipping describes Mr. Waters as “up to his eyes in business.” And that was true; but Mr. Waters was also the possessor of psychic powers*. He was aware of his gift of prophesying the future of his dreams, so he kept a Dream Book wherein happenings and events were recounted which eventually took place in the manner he had foreseen in his dreams. A Peabody student used the book as a basis for what must have been a most interesting thesis.
The Wilson County History reports that while Mr. Waters was in the legislature in 1865, be made a stirring appeal requesting that colored persons be tried in the same way that whites were. His ability to project into the future was not limited to dreams; his appeal was rejected but his idea was sound and prophetic, and even though its time had not yet arrived-arrive it most assuredly would, as Waters full well knew.”
*His son and brother went against the majority of Watertown residents, joining the Federal/Union United States Cavalry. They survived the war and enjoyed it’s spoils.
– The Guide Book to Wilson County published by the Wilson County Bicentennial Commission.