Forrest And His Campaigns
From an address by General J.R. Charlmers in 1879
Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest And His Campaigns
Southern Historical Society Papers
Vol. VII. Richmond, Va., October, 1879. No. 10.
I have selected as my subject on this occasion the campaigns of Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was my immediate commander during the last year and a half of the war, and who, if not the greatest military genius, was certainly the greatest revolutionary leader on our side. He was restrained by no knowledge of law or constitution. He was embarrassed by no preconceived ideas of military science. His favorite maxim was, "War means fighting, and fighting means killing." Without the slightest knowledge of them, he seemed by instinct to adopt the tactics of the great masters of the military art, if there be any such art.
Hamley says, "Nothing is more common than to find in writings on military matters reference to 'the rules of war,' and assertions such as some general 'owed his success to knowing when to dispense with the rules of war.' It would be difficult to say what these rules are or in what code they are embodied." Colonel T.W. White, a clear headed officer of my command, expressing the same idea more quaintly, said: "It all consists in two words -- luck and pluck." Forrest possessed both of these in an eminent degree; and his successes, many of which were achieved with men who had never been drilled one hour together, illustrated what might have been accomplished by untrained Southern soldiers.
His Life Before The War.
In February, 1841, when I was but ten years of age, I remember well a small company of volunteers who marched out of the town of Holly Springs, Mississippi, for the relief of Texas, then threatened by invasion from Mexico. In that little band stood Bedford Forrest, a tall, black haired, gray eyed, athletic youth, scarce twenty years of age, who then gave the first evidence of the military ardor he possessed. The company saw no fighting, for the danger was over before it arrived, and the men received no pay. Finding himself in a strange country without friends or money, Forrest, with the characteristic energy which distinguished him in after life, split rails at fifty cents per hundred and made the money necessary to bring him back to his family and home. Without tracing him through the steps by which he accumulated a fortune, it is enough to say that at sixteen years of age he was left fatherless, with a mother and large family to support on a small leased farm, and at forty years of age he was the owner of a large cotton plantation and slaves, making about one thousand bales of cotton per annum, and engaged in a prosperous business in Memphis, Tennessee, the largest city of his native State. His personal courage had been severely tested on several occasions; notably at Hernando, Mississippi, where he was assaulted in the streets by three Matlock brothers and their overseer Bean. Pistols and bowie knives were freely used, and after a terrible fight, in which thirteen shots were fired, the three Matlocks and Forrest all wounded, his assailants fled and left him master of the field.
Lieutenant Colonel Of A Cavalry Battalion.
On the 14th of June, 1861, Nathan Bedford Forrest was enrolled as a private in a Confederate cavalry company, and went into camp near Randolph, Tennessee. About the 10th of July, 1861, Hon. Isham G. Harris, the great war Governor of Tennessee, knowing Forrest well and having a high regard for the man, telegraphed him to come to Memphis, and there, through the aid of General Polk, procured authority for him to raise a regiment of cavalry for Confederate service. This was somewhat difficult authority to obtain at that time, for in the beginning of the war neither side regarded cavalry as of much value for fighting purposes; and it is, perhaps, more due to Forrest than to any other man, that the cavalry was subsequently so largely increased and played such an important part on both sides. But Forrest's men were not properly called cavalry -- they more nearly resembled the dragoons of the sixteenth century, who are described as "mounted foot soldiers." Jackson's corps were called "web footed cavalry," and Forrest's troopers might well be called "winged infantry."
On the 20th of July, Forrest mustered his first company into service, and about the same time smuggled out of Louisville, Kentucky, though closely watched, pistols and saddles to equip them. During the second week of October, 1861, he organized a battalion of eight companies, of which he was elected Lieutenant Colonel, and the day after its organization moved for Fort Donelson, and commenced his active and brilliant career, which knew no cessation until the armies of the South were surrendered. I shall not in this address undertake to follow in detail his successful and marvelous career, nor shall I indulge in any flowers of rhetoric to adorn my story. I will attempt by a plain and simple recital of his most prominent deeds, to raise up the monument he hewed out for himself, and leave to other hands to polish its surface and crown it with appropriate wreaths of beauty.
His First Battle.
After having seen some service in marching and scouting, but with little time or inclination for drill, on the 28th of December, 1861, Forrest, with three hundred men, met the enemy for the first time, about four hundred and fifty strong, near Sacramento, Kentucky. This fight deserves especial notice, not only because of its success and the confidence inspired in the raw Confederate cavalry, but because it displayed at once the characteristics and natural tactics which were subsequently more fully developed and made Forrest famous as a cavalry leader. He had marched his command twenty miles that day, when he found a fresh trail where the enemy's cavalry had passed. Putting his command at a gallop, he traveled ten miles further before he struck the rear guard. His own command was badly scattered, not half up with him; but without halting, he rushed head long at them, leading the charge himself. When he had driven the rear guard on to the main body, and they turned on him with superior force, he quickly dismounted his men and held the enemy in check until his command came up, and ordered them to attack in flank and rear. This movement was successful, and the retreat of the Federals soon began. Quickly mounting his men, he commenced one of his terrible pursuits, fighting hand to hand with pistol and sword -- killing one and wounding two himself continuing the chase for many miles, and leaving the road dotted with wounded and dead.
His Major, a celebrated preacher and subsequently an equally celebrated Confederate Colonel, D.C. Kelly, saw him then for the first time under fire, and thus vividly describes the wonderful change that always took place in his appearance in a fight: "His face flushed till it bore a striking resemblance to a painted Indian warrior's, and his eyes, usually so mild in their expression, blazed with the intense glare of a panther's about to spring on his prey. In fact, he looks as little like the Forrest of our mess table as the storm of December resembles the quiet of June."
Those who saw him when his brother Jeffrey fell, who was born after the death of his father, and who was educated and almost idolized by his brother, say that the blaze of his face and the glare of his eyes were fearful to behold, and that he rushed like a madman on the foe, dealing out death with pistol and sword to all around him -- like Hector fighting over the body of Patroclus:
"Yet, fearless in his strength, now rushing on
He dashed amid the fray; now shouting loud,
Stood firm; but backward not a step retired."
This first fight, as I have said, illustrated the military characteristics of the man, and justified the remark of General Dick Taylor, that "he employed the tactics of Frederick at Leuthen and Zorndorf, without even having heard these names." First, his reckless courage in making the attack -- a rule which he invariably followed and which tended always to intimidate his adversary. Second, his quick dismounting of his men to fight, showing that he regarded horses mainly as a rapid means of transportation for his troops. Third, his intuitive adoption of the flank attack, so successfully used by Alexander, Hannibal and Tamerlane -- so demoralizing to an enemy even in an open field, and so much more so when made, as Forrest often did, under cover of woods which concealed the weakness of the attacking party. Fourth, his fierce and untiring pursuit, which so often changes retreat into rout and makes victory complete. If our Confederate leaders had pursued their victory at Manassas, Shiloh and Chickamauga as Forrest pursued this his first victory; as he pursued Streight in the mountains of Alabama; as he pursued Sooy Smith from West Point; as he pursued Sturgis from Tishomingo creek; as he pursued every advantage obtained over an enemy -- the cause that we lost might perhaps have been won. Fifth, following, without knowing it, Napier's precept of the art of war, he was always in front, making personal observations and sending back orders for moving his troops, "while his keen eye watched the whole fight and guided him to the weak spot." As Scott said of Wellington --
"Greeting the mandate which, sent out
Their bravest and their best to dare
A fate their leader shunned to share.
He his country's sword and shield
Still in the battle front revealed
And where danger fiercest swept the field
There came like a beam of lights"
This practice brought him into many personal conflicts; and General Dick Taylor has well said: "I doubt if any commander, since the days of lion hearted Richard, has killed as many enemies with his own hand as Forrest." This exposed him also to constant danger, and he had twenty seven horses killed and wounded under him in battle and was twice severely wounded himself. This practice led to imitation by his general officers; and at Hurt's crossroads, the day before the battle of Franklin, I witnessed what I will venture to say was never seen on any other battlefield during the war, Forrest with two division and three brigade commanders all on the skirmish line in the fight.
Fort Donelson And Shiloh.
At Fort Donelson his regiment bore a conspicuous part in the fight, covered General Pillow's flank in the most important sortie that was made on our side, captured a battery of six guns, and retreated in safety, when the garrison surrendered. At Shiloh, without taking any part in the main battle, he rendered signal and efficient service. Our army had been withdrawn early Sunday evening, and when officers and men were sleeping, fondly dreaming that their victory was complete, Forrest, without any orders from any superior officer, had pressed his scouts to the river and discovered that reinforcements of the enemy were arriving. I was then in command of an infantry brigade, which, by some oversight, had not received the order to retire, and having continued the fight until dark, slept on the ground where Prentiss surrendered. About midnight, Forrest awoke me, inquiring for Generals Beauregard, Bragg and Hardee, and when I could not tell him the headquarters of either, he said, in profane but prophetic language, "If the enemy come on us in the morning, we will be whipped like hell." With promptness he carried the information to headquarters, and with military genius, suggested a renewal at once of our attack, but the unlettered Colonel was ordered back to his regiment "to keep up a vigilant and strong picket line," which he did, and gave timely notice of the Monday's attack. On the day after Shiloh, General Sherman was attempting to press our army in retreat, and the advance guard of his division was composed as he tells us, of two regiments, the Seventy seventh Ohio infantry and Dickey's Fourth Illinois cavalry. Forrest, with three hundred cavalry, was watching them. Just as they were attempting to cross a small ravine and were in some confusion, he made a charge so fierce and sudden that infantry and cavalry were all driven back together. Forrest, charging in among them with pistol and sabre, pursued to within one hundred and fifty yards of the division in line of battle, while cries of "kill him," "knock him off his horse," were heard all around him. The enemy lost fifteen killed and twenty five prisoners, while Forrest was severely and his horse mortally wounded.
General Sherman, in his report of it, says: "The enemy's cavalry came down boldly at a charge led by General Forrest in person, breaking through our lines of skirmishers, when the infantry, without cause, threw away their muskets and fled. The ground was admirably adapted to a defence of infantry against cavalry, being miry and covered with fallen timber. As the regiment of infantry broke, Dickey's cavalry began to discharge their carbines and fell into disorder. I instantly sent orders to the rear for the brigade to form in line of battle, which was promptly executed." The success and result of this attack can be best estimated by considering this further extract from General Sherman's report: "The check sustained by us at the fallen timbers delayed our advance, so that night came on us before the wounded were provided for and the dead buried; and our troops being fagged out by three days' hard fighting" (it will be remembered that this was the only fighting they had on the third day), "exposure and privation, I ordered them back to their camps where they now are."
A Brigadier General Capture Of Murfreesboro'.
On the 10th of June, 1862, before he had recovered from his wound, at the earnest solicitation of prominent citizens of North Alabama, he was ordered to Chattanooga to take command of four regiments of cavalry, which had seen but little if any service. He arrived on the 19th of June, and began at once to have his horses shod and his men made ready for a move. He was then but a Lieutenant Colonel, though assigned to this command as a Brigadier General, to which rank he had been recommended for promotion, and the appointment was subsequently made on the 21st of July. After some delay and trouble with his Colonels, growing out of the question of rank, he moved from Chattanooga on the 8th of July, with about two thousand cavalry rank and file. In five days he had crossed the mountains, fought a severe battle at Murfreesboro', and with his two thousand cavalry, by hard fighting and a successful bluff, captured General Crittenden, with seventeen hundred infantry, four pieces of artillery, six hundred horses, forty wagons, twelve hundred stands of arms and ammunition, and a large quantity of clothing and supplies. A Union writer estimated their loss at one million dollars. In five days more he had driven the Union cavalry from Lebanon, captured three picket posts around Nashville with one hundred and forty three prisoners, burned four important bridges near the city, a railroad station and a large supply of railroad wood, and made his escape from General Nelson, who was pursuing him with a largely superior force.
On the 21st July, 1862, the day his commission as Brigadier General bears date, while he was tearing up railroad track, burning bridges and doing much damage, he was so completely surrounded that his escape seemed impossible, and a telegram was actually sent to General Buell that he had been captured, with eight hundred men; but when the mountain passes were all guarded, and the enemy moving on him on every road, he coolly and quietly led his men out of the trap set for him, by taking the dry bed of a creek, with steep banks, that concealed him from view, running parallel with the McMinnville road, and passing almost under the troops drawn up in line of battle on this road to intercept him.
On the 23d he joined Bragg at Sparta, where he was for the first time furnished with a section of artillery, and as our army moved into Kentucky, was ordered to assist in protecting its left flank, which he did.
Organizes A New Command In Middle Tennessee.
But Forrest was best suited to independent action; and, at his own request, turned over his brigade in Bragg's army on the 27th of September, 1862, at Bardstown, Kentucky, and in five days had marched one hundred and sixty five miles and was at Murfreesboro', Tennessee, to organize a new command.
By the first November, 1862, he had organized a new brigade, thirty five hundred strong, and being anxious to retake the capital of his State, had persuaded General Breckinridge, then in command, to permit him, with his own force and three thousand infantry under General Roger Hanson, to attempt it. The movement was made; but just when the attack was about to begin, and when Forrest felt confident of success, an order came to retire.
His First Raid Into West Tennessee.
On the 10th of December, 1862, Forrest was ordered to move with his new brigade of raw cavalry, armed only with shot guns and such weapons as they picked up in the country, across the Tennessee river to destroy the railroad communication between Louisville and Memphis. He called attention to the almost unarmed condition of his command; but, in reply, was ordered by General Bragg to move at once. Sending an agent forward to smuggle percussion caps out of Memphis, he started. By the 15th he had crossed the Tennessee river at Clifton, swimming his horses and ferrying over his men, artillery and train, with a leaky old ferryboat, in a cold, pelting rain, that destroyed most of his small supply of percussion caps. Fortunately, his agent arrived that night with a fresh supply, and he began his arduous task on the 16th, after sinking and concealing his ferryboat to make safe his return. In two weeks' time, with about three thousand raw and almost unarmed cavalry, in a small district of country, surrounded on three sides by the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers, and on the fourth by the Memphis and Charleston railroad, thronged with Union soldiers, marching an average of twenty miles a day, he fought three heavy battles, had almost daily skirmishing, burned fifty railroad bridges, destroyed so much of its trestle work as to render the Mobile and Ohio railroad useless there the rest of the war, captured eighteen stockades, with two thousand five hundred prisoners, took and disabled ten pieces of field artillery, carried off fifty wagons and ambulances, with their teams, captured ten thousand stands of arms and one million rounds of ammunition, and then crossing the Tennessee river, seven hundred yards wide, in a few skiffs and one ferryboat, navigated by poles, his horses swimming, while an enemy ten thousand strong was attempting to cut off his retreat, he returned to his camp on the 1st of January, 1863, with a command stronger in numbers than when he started, thoroughly equipped with blankets and oil cloths, their shot guns replaced with Enfield rifles, and with a surplus of five hundred rifles and eighteen hundred blankets and knapsacks. While the army of Virginia can justly boast of its unsurpassed infantry under Jackson, the West is equally proud of the matchless achievements of Forrest and his cavalry. He had scarcely returned from this expedition, when he was ordered to assist Wheeler in his attack on Dover. Returning from this, he was constantly engaged in the battles and skirmishes around Spring Hill and Thompson station; and on the 24th of March, 1863, with his own command, captured Brentwood, with seven hundred and fifty nine prisoners, and destroyed a railroad bridge and blockhouse in a short distance of Nashville.
On the 23d of April, 1863, he was ordered to the relief of General Roddy, who was threatened with a heavy force at Tuscumbia. Starting from Spring Hill, Tennessee, and moving with his extraordinary celerity, he crossed the Tennessee river on the 27th and on the 28th joined Roddy, who was holding the enemy in check at Town creek. Before him was General Dodge, with about eight thousand infantry; and just as Forrest opened an artillery fire on him, a scout reported Colonel Streight, with two thousand two hundred cavalry, moving through Newburg towards Moulton, and before him lay unprotected the iron works of Montevallo, the workshops at Selma, and all the railroads of Alabama and Georgia; where he would strike, no one could tell. Forrest saw at once that the movement of Dodge was a feint, to cover the operations of Streight; and leaving a few regiments to keep up a show of resistance, he fell back that night toward Courtland, to prepare for the pursuit of Streight, which he commenced early on the morning of the 29th March, 1863. The story of that celebrated pursuit, which lasted four days and nights, almost without cessation; the constant skirmishing, amounting often to heavy battles; the flanking of the bridge over Black creek, through the aid of Miss Emma Sanson, who, mounting behind him on his horse; piloted him to an old ford; the courage and simplicity of that same country girl, spreading out her skirts and telling him to get behind her when they dismounted at the ford under fire of the enemy; the fierce fighting at Sand mountain at dusk, where men fought by the flash of their guns, and where Forrest had one horse killed and two wounded under him; the weird midnight attack when he rolled his guns silently by hand to within one hundred and fifty yards of his unconscious foe, and awoke the slumbering echoes of the mountain with the thunder of his artillery; the sharp crack of the rifle and the Rebel yell, before which the enemy fled; and the final stratagem by which seventeen hundred Federals were captured by six hundred Confederates -- has been so often and so vividly told, that it needs no repetition, until some Southern Waverly shall perpetuate it in romance, or some Southern Homer shall embalm it in undying verse.
The Battle Of Chickamauga.
From this time to the battle of Chickamauga he was constantly engaged and rendered effective service, both in Middle and East Tennessee. In the battle of Chickamauga, his men, dismounted, fought with the infantry until the retreat began, when, mounting his men, he pursued to within three miles of Chattanooga. He captured a Federal officer in a tall tree that had been conveniently arranged for an observatory; mounting to his place, he could see the enemy retreating along the roads and in the town of Chattanooga in great confusion and chaos. He communicated these facts to headquarters, and urged an immediate advance of the Confederate army upon them. Had his example or his advice been followed, Sherman's march to the sea might never have been made.
He Leaves Bragg's Army.
On the 3d of October, 1863, he was ordered by General Bragg to turn over his command, except Dibrell's brigade, to General Wheeler for an expedition into Tennessee. Regarding this as derogatory to him, he resigned his commission. General Bragg was my first brigade commander, and I was more attached to him than any General under whom I served. I knew him to be a pure and unselfish patriot, and in the fall of 1861 bore from him to President Davis the strikingly unselfish proposition to turn over to General A.S. Johnston, for active service in Kentucky, his well drilled army at Pensacola, and to receive raw recruits in its place, if he could not be taken with his men; and I would say nothing now even to wound his memory: But the promotion of Wheeler over Forrest, which he, in an honest desire to promote the good of the service, recommended, was unfortunate.
Wheeler, a brave, generous, unselfish and educated soldier, did not desire it, and suffered in public estimation when it was thrust on him. Forrest, though a great strategist, trusted largely for tactics and many military details to officers under him; and if Wheeler had remained second to Forrest, as he was perfectly willing to do, a more splendid combination for cavalry operations could scarcely have been made. Thus ended Forrest's career in Bragg's army; but before we turn from this Department, I must recall an anecdote strikingly illustrative of the estimation in which Forrest was held by the people, and which he always told on himself with great delight. When Bragg was retreating from Tennessee, Forrest was among the last of the rear guard, and an old lady ran out of her house to the gate, as he was passing, and urged him to turn back and fight. As he rode on without stopping, she shook her fist at him in great rage and said: "Oh! you great, big, cowardly rascal, I only wish old Forrest was here; he'd make you fight!"
Organizes A New Command In West Tennessee And North Mississippi.
Mr. Davis refused to accept his resignation, but promoted him to the rank of Major General, and assigned him to the command of North Mississippi and West Tennessee, and gave him permission to take with him his old battalion, now known as McDonald's, and Morton's battery, which he had organized, and whose guns he had captured -- the whole force amounting to three hundred men and four guns. He reached Mississippi with this force on the 15th of November, 1863, and after reporting to General Joseph E. Johnston, and receiving the assistance of Major General S.D. Lee to pass the enemy's line on the Memphis and Charleston railroad, he reached Jackson, Tennessee, on the 6th day of December, 1863, and for the fourth time during the war began to organize a new command. At this time West Tennessee was full of little companies of from ten to thirty men willing to fight, but unwilling to go far from home or into the infantry service. The arrival of Forrest was the signal for all these men to rally around him, and by the 23d of December he had collected a force of about three thousand men, all unarmed except about two hundred. In the meantime, General Hurlbut was not idle, and General Sherman who was determined to capture Forrest, if possible, was directing the movements against him.
The rains had been heavy and the streams were all full. The Tennessee was behind him and on his left, the Mississippi on his right, and before him were the Forked Deer, Hatchie and Wolf rivers, and General Hurlbut at Memphis, with twenty thousand troops, watching every probable crossing place of these rivers, while troops were moving from Union City, Fort Pillow and Paducah, on his flank and rear. Loaded down as he was with three thousand unarmed men and a heavy train of supplies, escape would have seemed impossible to a less daring and less wary man. But one of the greatest secrets of Forrest's success was his perfect system of scouts. He kept able and reliable scouts all around him and at great distances, and always knew where his enemy was, what he had, what he was doing, and very often for days in advance what he was about to do. While the enemy were watching for him at Purdy and Bolivar, he unexpectedly crossed the Hatchie at Estenaula -- not, however, without some sharp fighting before he got away. And when they were expecting him to cross the Wolf near its headwaters, he made a bold dash for Memphis and crossed one regiment, having only two armed companies over Wolf river bridge, in nine miles of that city. By skillful handling of his five hundred armed men, and the occasional display of his large number unarmed, he fought several successful skirmishes, captured the bridge over Wolf river near LaFayette station, on the Memphis and Charleston railroad, and held the enemy in check at Collierville until he passed into Mississippi, with thirty five hundred men, forty wagons loaded with subsistence, two hundred beef cattle and three hundred hogs. The correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial, writing from Memphis, January 12, 1864, says: "Forrest, with less than four thousand men, has moved right through the Sixteenth army corps, has passed within nine miles of Memphis, carried off one hundred wagons, two hundred beef cattle, three thousand conscripts and innumerable stores, torn up railroad track, cut telegraph wire, burned and sacked towns, run over pickets with a single derringer pistol, and all, too, in the face of ten thousand men."
General Forrest was met near Lafayette by General Chalmers, with twelve hundred men, who covered his further march into Mississippi, and who from then, until the close of the war, was his second in command.
The next month he was occupied in obtaining arms for his recruits and reorganizing his command into four brigades. When this took place, many officers who had been commanding little squads as companies were thrown out of office. This occasioned great dissatisfaction, and about one third of the recruits deserted and went back to West Tennessee. Before this organization was completed, General Sherman commenced his movements in Mississippi.
The Defeat Of General W. Sooy Smith.
On the 3d of February, 1864, General Sherman began his movement from Vicksburg to Meridian, Mississippi, and at the same time sent a force up by Yazoo City, to take Forrest in rear at Grenada, and ordered General W. Sooy Smith to "move from Collierville on Pontotoc and Okolona," &c., and to meet him at Meridian, Mississippi, as near the 10th of February as he could.
General Sherman says "General Polk seemed to have no suspicion of our intention to disturb him." If this were true, he certainly could not say the same thing of Forrest. He knew that Smith's cavalry was preparing to move some time before it did move. On the 8th two infantry columns moved - - one on Panola and the other on Wyatt -- and on the 9th, one day before the cavalry started, Forrest, then at Oxford, telegraphed Chalmers, at Panola, to skirmish with the infantry, but that this was a feint, and he must be ready to intercept the cavalry, which he predicted would strike for Columbus and the prairie country of east Mississippi, where we had government works and a large quantity of corn. McCulloch's and Richardson's brigades were then stretched out from Panola to Abbeville, watching the crossings of the Tallahatchie river, while Jeff. Forrest's brigade was at Grenada watching the forces at Yazoo City, and Bell, at Oxford, organizing. On the 1Oth Smith started from Collierville. On the 11th McCulloch moved to Oxford on converging lines with him. By the 14th it was manifest that Smith was moving for the prairie, and Forrest ordered a concentration of his command near West Point to intercept him, and this was accomplished by the 18th -- Jeff. Forrest reaching there on the 17th. His brigade was thrown forward towards Aberdeen, and continued skirmishing with the enemy until the 20th. On the 20th Bell's brigade was sent to keep on the flank of the enemy and cover Columbus, and McCulloch and Richardson moved up to support Jeff. Forrest, and all fell back, slowly skirmishing to West Point. A telegram received here announced that General S.D. Lee, with three brigades, would be with us early on the 22d, and Forrest retired behind Suquatoncha creek, of steep banks and miry bottom, and over which there were but few bridges, easily defended. This was a perfectly safe position, where he could easily hold the enemy in check until Lee could arrive. Smith was in a complete cul- de- sac, formed by the Suquatoncha on his right, the Tibbee before him, and the Tombigbee on his left; and Lee and Forrest united could have crossed the Suquatoncha behind him and captured his command. Early on the morning of the 21st, a heavy fire was opened on our pickets, composed of two regiments, dismounted and thrown out in front of the bridge, four miles west of West Point. Forrest soon came up to where I was standing on the causeway leading to the bridge, and as it was the first time I had been with him in a fight, I watched him closely. His manner was nervous, impatient and imperious. He asked me what the enemy were doing, and when I gave him the report just received from Colonel Duff, in command of the pickets, he said, sharply: "I will go and see myself," and started across the bridge, which was about thirty yards long, and then being raked by the enemy's fire. This struck me at the time as a needless and somewhat braggadocio exposure of himself, and I followed him to see what he would do. When we reached the other bank, the fire of the enemy was very heavy, and our men were falling back -- one running without hat or gun. In an instant Forrest seized and threw him on the ground, and while the bullets were whistling thick around him, administered a severe thrashing with a brush of wood. A short time afterward I saw this scene illustrated in Harper's Weekly, as Forrest breaking in a conscript. He stood a few minutes, and when the fire slackened a little, ordered up his escort and McCulloch's brigade; and they soon came. Leaving McCulloch in position, he mounted with his escort, a splendid company of seventy five young men, who each seemed inspired with the reckless courage of their leader, and dashed off through the woods to the flank and rear of the enemy. He soon discovered that the attacking force was small; and at once suspecting it to be the attack of a rear guard to cover a retreat, he ordered the first division forward, and the enemy fell back rapidly before him until they reached a wood four miles north of West Point, where they made a stand in force. After a heavy fight, in which he lost eighty killed and wounded, and the enemy as many, and where he took seventy five prisoners, he drove them back again, and continued the pursuit until dark, when he bivouacked on ground prepared by the enemy, and where he found forage and camp fires all ready for his use. Continuing the pursuit early on the morning of the 22d, he overtook the main body of the Federals drawn up in line of battle at Okolona, a town situated in an open prairie. Up to this time he had with him only his first division, not exceeding two thousand men. Before him, in an open prairie, where all the movements of each side could be seen, was Sooy Smith, with seven thousand picked Federal cavalry, selected especially, it is said, to crush the Confederate leader. If Sooy Smith had fallen back from his dangerous position at West Point to draw Forrest from a junction with Lee, he had acted with wisdom and skill; and now the long looked for opportunity seemed to have arrived, when, with a superior force of well drilled and splendidly armed cavalry, in an open prairie peculiarly fitted for cavalry operations, the cherished object of General Sherman could be accomplished. A less impetuous man than Forrest might have paused before such a situation; but he never hesitated a moment. His two brigades of the first division had been ordered forward on two different roads, converging at Okolona, and on they came at a run; and at this moment Bell's brigade, which had been watching the flank of the enemy, came in from an opposite direction. Forrest, putting himself at the head of one regiment of this brigade, mounted, made his favorite flank attack, while his three brigades quickly dismounted, attacked in front; and, after a short fight, the enemy, as if paralyzed with fear, fled almost without a struggle, leaving a small battery of artillery and about thirty killed and wounded. Sooy Smith, in his report, accounts for his defeat thus: "After the Fourth regulars had driven one entire Rebel brigade out of town three times, a portion of McCrillis' brigade, sent to the support of the Fourth, stampeded at the yells of our own men charging, and galloped back through and over everything, spreading confusion wherever they went and driving Perkins' battery of six small mountain howitzers off the road into a ditch." Forrest pursued with his accustomed vigor; and twice after this the enemy seemed to have regained their courage, and making bold stands, fought for a time with stubbornness and skill. In their first stand Colonel Jeff. Forrest was killed, and in the last, which occurred about sundown, General Forrest and three hundred men, some distance in advance of his main body, was repulsed, and only escaped capture by taking shelter, dismounted, in a ravine, which he held by hard fighting, until rescued by gallant old Bob McCulloch, Colonel of the Second Missouri cavalry, who never failed to come when needed, but never received the promotion he deserved.
Sherman's March To Meridian.
General Sherman, in the meantime, had marched to Meridian, and says: "We staid in Meridian five days, expecting every hour to hear of General Sooy Smith, but could get no tidings of him whatever."
As this was an important movement, and as its main object was as we believe, defeated by Forrest, we must pause to consider the situation at that time. General Sherman expresses it in these words: "The Rebels still maintained a considerable force of infantry and cavalry in the State of Mississippi, threatening the river, whose navigation had become to us so delicate and important a matter. Satisfied that I could check this by one or two quick moves inland and thereby set free a considerable body of men held as local garrisons, I went up to Nashville and represented the case to General Grant." General Sherman further says: "A chief part of the enterprise was to destroy the Rebel cavalry commanded by General Forrest, who were a constant threat to our railway communications in Middle Tennessee, and I committed this task to Brigadier General W. Sooy Smith. General Hurlbut had in his command about seven thousand five hundred cavalry, scattered from Columbus, Kentucky, to Corinth, Mississippi, and we proposed to make up an aggregate cavalry force of about seven thousand 'effective,' out of these and the twenty five hundred which General Smith had brought with him from Middle Tennessee. With this force General Smith was ordered to move from Memphis, straight for Meridian, Mississippi, and to start by February 1st. I explained to him personally the nature of Forrest as a man and of his peculiar force; told him that in his route he was sure to encounter Forrest, who always attacked with a vehemence for which he must be prepared, and that after he had repelled the first attack, he must in turn assume the most determined offensive, overwhelm and utterly destroy his whole force. I knew that Forrest could not have more than four thousand cavalry, and my own movement would give employment to every other man of the Rebel army not immediately present with him, so that he (General Smith) might act on the hypothesis I have stated." Again, referring to the same subject, General Sherman, in his Memoirs says: "The object of the Meridian expedition was to strike the roads inland, so to paralyze the Rebel forces that we could take from the defence of the Mississippi river the equivalent of a corps of twenty thousand men, to be used in the next Georgia campaign, and this was actually done. At the same time, I wanted to destroy General Forrest, who, with an irregular force of cavalry was constantly threatening Memphis and the river above, as well as our routes of supply in Middle Tennessee. In this we utterly failed, because General W. Sooy Smith did not fulfill his orders which were clear and specific, as contained in my letter of instruction to him of January 27th, at Memphis, and my personal explanations to him at the same time." As this letter is very important in this Connection, and has never been published, I give it in full:
Headquarters Department of the Tennessee,
Memphis July 27th, 1864.
Brigadier General William Sooy Smith, Commanding Cavalry, &c.:
Dear General--By an order issued this day, I have placed all the cavalry of this department subject to your command. I estimate you can make a force of full seven thousand men, which I believe to be superior and better in all respects than the combined cavalry which the enemy has in all the State of Mississippi.
I will, in person, start for Vicksburg today, and with four divisions of infantry, artillery and cavalry, move out for Jackson, Brandon and Meridian, aiming to reach the latter place by February 10th. General Banks will feign on Pascagonia, and General Logan on Rome.
I want you, with your cavalry, to move from Collierville on Pontotoc and Okolona, thence sweeping down near the Mobile and Ohio railroad, disable that road as much as possible, consume or destroy the resources of the enemy along that road, break up the connection with Columbus, Mississippi, and finally reach me at or near Meridian, as near the date I have mentioned as possible.
This will call for great energy of action on your part; but I believe you are equal to it, and you have the best and most experienced troops in the service, and they will do anything that is possible. General Grierson is with you and is familiar with the whole country. I will send up from Hains Bluff an expedition of gunboats and transports combined to feel up the Yazoo, as the present stage of water will permit. This will disconcert the enemy. My movement on Jackson will also divide the enemy, so that by no combination can he reach you with but a part of his force. I wish you to attack any force of cavalry you meet, and follow them southward, but in no event be drawn into the forks of the streams that make up the Yazoo nor over into Alabama.
Don't let the enemy draw you into minor affairs, but look solely to the greater object to destroy his communication from Okolona to Meridian, and then eastward to Selma. From Okolona south you will find abundance of forage collected along the railroad, and the farms have standing corn in the fields. Take liberally of all these, as well as horses, mules, cattle, &c. As a rule respect dwellings and families as something too sacred to be disturbed by soldiers; but mills, barns, sheds, stables and such like things use for the benefit and convenience of your command.
If convenient, send into Columbus and destroy all the machinery there, and the bridge across Tombigbee, which enables the enemy to draw the resources of the east side of the Valley, but this is not of sufficient importance to delay your movement.
Try and communicate with me by scouts and spies from the time you reach Pontotoc, avoid any large force of infantry, leaving them to me. We have talked over this matter so much that the above covers all points not provided for in my published orders of today.
I am, yours, &c.,
W. T. Sherman, Major General Commanding.
While General Sherman admits the defeat of General W. Sooy Smith and censures him severely, he claims that his own movement was a complete success, and said, in general orders dated Meridian, Mississippi, February 18th, 1864: "Having fulfilled and well all the objects of the expedition, the troops will return to the Mississippi river.
Now we know that the whole North expected Selma to be destroyed or Mobile taken by him, and were sadly disappointed when he returned, after tearing up a few miles of railroad track, which were soon replaced or repaired.
General Boynton, who took issue with General Sherman, says: "This impression" (that Mobile or Selma was to be taken) "was current at General Grant's headquarters and at Washington, and General Grant himself had written to Halleck, under the date of January 15th, 1864, in the same letter which unfolded the spring campaign, as follows: 'I shall direct Sherman, therefore, to move out to Meridian with his spare force -- the cavalry coming from Corinth and destroying the railroad east and south of there so effectually that the enemy will not attempt to rebuild them during the rebellion. He will then return unless the opportunity of going into Mobile appears perfectly plain.' Again, writing to General Thomas at Chattanooga, January l9th, General Grant said: He (Sherman) will proceed eastward as far as Meridian at least, and will thoroughly destroy the roads east and south of there, and if possible will throw troops as far east as Selma, or if he finds Mobile so far unguarded as to make his troops sufficient for the enterprise, will go there.' It will be observed in General Sherman's letter of instructions to General Smith, he mentions as objects of attack Columbus and Selma, where we had important government works, but gives no instructions to attack Forrest; on the contrary, intimates that an attack will come from him, and the movement seemed to me intended to elude and not attack Forrest. That General Smith so understood his instructions is evident from his reports. In his report February 26th, 1864, by letter to General Sherman in person, he says: 'I moved the infantry brigade temporarily assigned to my command, first on Panola and then on Wyatt, and drew Forrest's forces and attention to those points, while I threw my whole force to New Albany, where I crossed the Tallahatchie river without opposition. Forrest then fell back to Grenada, and I moved on by way of Pontotoc.' In his more formal report of his operations made March 4th, he repeats the same thing more in detail, and seems to take credit to himself for having deceived and eluded Forrest. General Sherman says that Smith might safely have acted on the hypothesis I have stated, that 'my movements would give employment to every other man of the Rebel army not immediately present with him ' (Forrest); and yet, when Sooy Smith turned back from West Point, S.D. Lee was in one day's march of a junction with Forrest. If General Sherman accomplished all he intended, why was Smith ordered to Meridian, and why did he wait there five days for him? If the chief part of the enterprise was to destroy Forrest, why was Smith ordered to 'move straight for Meridian, Mississippi,' when Forrest was not there and not expected there? Why order Smith to move through East Mississippi when Forrest was in West Mississippi? Why send infantry to make a feint on Panola and Wyatt, when Smith was moving for Pontotoc one hundred miles east of Panola? And lastly, if Smith was sent out especially to destroy Forrest, why does Sherman say, 'I told him that in his route he was sure to encounter Forrest?'
I have no desire to take part in the controversy between Smith and his friend Boynton with General Sherman. Smith may have violated the verbal instructions given him by General Sherman, and he undoubtedly deserved the censure he received for being outgeneraled and whipped by an inferior force. But we cannot consent to this achievement of Forrest's being underrated, by admitting that Sherman's march to Meridian accomplished all that was intended.
Thus ended Sherman's effort to crush Forrest and set free the large number of men required to hold him in check. Mississippi, with its immense stores of corn and beef, was still held, and the railroads soon repaired to feed our army in Georgia. But the student of military operations will be puzzled to understand how Sherman, with four divisions of infantry and a small force of cavalry, crossed such streams as the Big Black and Pearl rivers and passed through the centre of Mississippi, in the face of two divisions of infantry and four splendid brigades of well equipped and well drilled cavalry under West Point officers, almost without firing a shot, while a man who could not drill a company, with three thousand cavalry, one half raw troops, saved the State by defeating General Grant's Chief of Cavalry with seven thousand picked troops.
It reminds us of what Macauley says of Cromwell: "It is a remarkable circumstance that the officers who had studied tactics in what were considered as the best schools, under Vere, in the Netherlands, and Gustavus Adolphus, in Germany, displayed far less skill than those commanders who had been born to peaceful employments, and never saw even a skirmish until the civil war broke out. Cromwell never fought a battle without gaining a victory; he never gained a victory without annihilating the force opposed to him." . . . "In what respect does Cromwell, who never drew a sword till upwards of forty, yield to any of these famous commanders? And how immeasurably superior to them all is he as an improver of victory?" I would not by this disparage military education. I would not, if I could, disturb a single leaf in the laurel crowns which decorate so justly the heads of those whom nature and education have combined to make great generals. I do not concur in the sentiment so often expressed, that "the Confederacy died of West Point"; but I do believe that many a brilliant citizen soldier was neglected, and his usefulness paralyzed, if not destroyed, by the West Point influence which barred the doors to promotion. General Joseph E. Johnston, considered by many the first of Confederate generals, has said, "if Forrest had been an educated soldier no other Confederate general would have been heard of," and yet the treatment of Forrest furnishes a striking example of what I have said.
The Third Raid Into West Tennessee.
In the first week of March, 1864, a small brigade of Kentucky infantry, seven hundred effective, under General Buford, was turned over to Forrest to be mounted, and General Buford assigned to command of his Second division. Forrest, ever anxious to be moving, determined at once to move into West Tennessee and Kentucky, to annoy the enemy and recruit his command, especially his new Kentucky brigade. In ten days he mounted his new brigade, and on the 15th of March commenced his movement, which resulted in the capture of Union City, with four hundred and seventy five prisoners, with their arms, ammunition and three hundred horses; the attack on Paducah, where a large quantity of supplies were obtained, and his Kentucky brigade increased to seventeen hundred fighting men; the route of a Federal regiment at Bolivar, and the capture of Fort Pillow. This last fight, for political purposes, has been, by false testimony, and I believe willful perjury, represented as a bloody massacre. The willful and malicious assaults of a partisan press, who have recently revived these slanders for partisan ends, has called forth from Dr. Fitch, of Iowa, who was the Union surgeon at Fort Pillow, a complete vindication of the Confederates, which has been published in your Monthly Papers, and as I have recently published a statement on this subject, I will not detain you now with its repetition. You will pardon me, however, for saying that I regarded one of my highest duties in life well performed when, as a representative in Congress, I placed on the records of the country a refutation of this infamous slander on Forrest and his cavalry. It was said that Forrest's demand for a surrender at Paducah, coupled with an implied threat that he would not be responsible for the consequences if compelled to take the place by assault, showed a predetermination to cold blooded murder. This was the form of his first demand for surrender made at Murfreesboro', and he practiced it afterwards just as he practiced his flank attack, and for the same purpose, and with the same effect, to intimidate his adversary. Again he gathered up a large quantity of supplies and recruits, and again General Sherman attempted to have him captured, as will be seen from the following telegrams, taken from the Congressional report on the conduct of the war:
Nashville, Tennessee, April 2, 1864.
General McPherson, Huntsville:
I would not give orders about Forrest, who is in your command, only the matter involves Kentucky also. As soon as he is disposed of, I will leave all matters in your Department to you. Veatch is posted near Purdy to cut off his escape by the headwater of the Natchez. Hurlbut, with infantry and cavalry, will move towards Bolivar with a view to catch Forrest in flank as he attempts to escape. Brayman will stop a few veteran regiments returning, and will use them as far out as Union City.
W. T. Sherman, Major General.
Nashville, April 11, 1864.
To General McPherson, Huntsville:
If you have at Cairo anything that could go up the Tennessee, and move inland on Jackson or Paris even, it would disturb Forrest more than anything Hurlbut will do from Memphis.
W. T. Sherman, &c.
Nashville, April 18, 1864.
To General McPherson, Huntsville; General Brayman, Cairo; General Hurlbut, Memphis; and General Slocum, Vicksburg:
General Grant has made the following orders.. General Sturgis has started this morning, to assume command of all the cavalry at or near Memphis, with which be will sally out and attack Forrest wherever he may be. General Grierson may seize all the horses and mules in Memphis to mount his men and be ready for the arrival of General Sturgis, and Buckland's brigade of infantry should be ready to move out with the cavalry.
W. T. Sherman, Major General Commanding.
To further show the great danger apprehended from Forrest at this time and the number of troops held to watch him, I cite the following dispatch from General Sherman:
Nashville, April 19, 1864.
To General Rawlins, Chief of Staff, Washington, D.C.:
At Memphis are Buckland's brigade of splendid troops (two thousand), three other white regiments, one black artillery at Fort Pickering, twelve hundred strong; about one thousand men floating, who are camped in the fort; near four thousand black troops; three thousand enrolled and armed militia, and all Grierson's cavalry, ten thousand nine hundred and eighty three, according to my last returns, of which surely not over three thousand are on furlough. Out of this a force of about twenty five hundred cavalry and four thousand infantry could have been made up and by moving to Bolivar could have made Forrest come there to fight or get out. I have sent Sturgis down to whip Forrest, and, if necessary, to mount enough men to seize any and all the horses of Memphis and wherever he may go.
W. T. Sherman, Major General Commanding.
And again, writing to General Thomas, at Chattanooga, from Nashville, April 25, he says: "The only danger I apprehend is from resident guerrillas and Forrest coming from the direction of Florence. I did want A.J. Smith about Florence to guard against that danger." While the enemy's coils were being prepared for him, Forrest was quietly gathering recruits and supplies. His first division had left him on the 15th, under orders of General Polk, to guard against a threatened raid from North Alabama on Columbus, Mississippi. General Veatch had been posted at Purdy, with ten thousand infantry, to guard the headwaters of the Hatchie, and was ordered away, to General Sherman's intense disgust, as shown in his dispatches. As soon as Veatch left Purdy, Buford, with a heavy subsistence train, drawn by oxen, moved out by the Purdy road, while Forrest, with his escort and the remnant of his old battalion -- in all about three hundred men -- moved so as to protect Buford's flank from a heavy force moving from Memphis under Sturgis, and evidently intended, as Sherman had suggested, to capture the Confederates while crossing the Hatchie river at Bolivar. Forrest reached Bolivar first, and posting his three hundred chosen veterans in the fortifications, well constructed by the Federals when they held this place, he coolly received the attack of not less than two thousand cavalry, repulsed them with serious loss, and they retired evidently believing Forrest's whole command present. He then moved on, having suffered no serious loss, save the wounding of his gallant Adjutant, Major Strange. Hurlbut was severely censured, removed from his command at Memphis, and General C.C. Washburn put in his place. When, a short time after this, Forrest came into Memphis and captured Washburn's uniform from the room in which he slept, it is said that Hurlbut curtly remarked: "They removed me because I couldn't keep Forrest out of West Tennessee, but Washburn couldn't keep him out of his bedroom."
The Defeat Of Sturgis.
Forrest reached Tupelo, Mississippi, on the 5th of May, 1864, and was busily engaged in reorganizing his command, now considerably increased by recruits and the addition of General Gholson's brigade, recently converted from State into Confederate troops. On the 26th, by order of General S.D. Lee, Department Commander, Chalmers, with McCulloch's and Neely's brigades was ordered to Montevallo, Alabama, to protect the iron works of that region. On the 31st Forrest started with Buford's division for Tuscumbia to assist Roddy in meeting a movement in that quarter, and had reached Russellville, Alabama, when he received information that Sturgis, with eight thousand infantry, five thousand cavalry and six batteries, was moving from Memphis into Mississippi, parallel with the Memphis and Charleston railroad. Forrest began at once to concentrate his scattered command.
Rucker, from Oxford, with three small regiments, was thrown across the Tallahatchie at New Albany, and commenced to retard the enemy's advance. This little brigade, under Rucker, who was second only to Forrest as a fearless fighter -- composed of three regiments, under three dashing young Colonels, Duff, Bill Taylor and Alex. Chalmers was highly complimented by Forrest for gallantry in performing this duty. On the 9th Forrest took position with two brigades of Buford's division, Johnson's brigade of Roddy's division and Rucker's brigade of Chalmers' division, east of the Hatchie, near Rienzi, to dispute the passage of Sturgis over that river, supposing he was moving to reinforce Sherman in Georgia. The scouts now reported Sturgis moving south towards Forrest's camp at Tupelo. Chalmers, with two brigades, was then at Montevallo, Alabama; Roddy, with one brigade, near Tuscumbia; Gholson, with one brigade, near Jackson, Mississippi. General S.D. Lee, now in command, determined to fall back toward Okalona until he could concentrate his forces, and left that night by rail, after ordering Forrest to get in front of Sturgis and retard his advance. Forrest moved before day to take position at Bryce's crossroads, on a dividing ridge where the waters of the Hatchie rise and run north and of the Tallahatchie rise and run south, and when in four miles of that place he learned that the enemy had already occupied it and were now between him and his headquarters at Tupelo.
He had with him there his three smallest brigades, the effective strength of which at that time he reported as follows: Lyons', eight hundred; Rucker's, seven hundred, and Johnson's, five hundred; while Buford, with Bell's brigade, about fifteen hundred strong, and two batteries of artillery, were some distance in the rear. Ordering them to move instantly up, which they did, coming eight miles in a gallop, he moved forward with the men he had and opened the fight, and at the same time ordered Buford to send one regiment across the country to attack the enemy in rear. The battle raged fiercely for some hours with doubtful success, and eight hundred Federals and six hundred and forty Confederates fell dead and wounded around Bryce's house. One peculiarity of Forrest's fighting was his almost reckless use of artillery, and on this occasion he had eight pieces of artillery that were boldly handled by Captain Morton, a beardless youth, with the face of a woman and the courage of a lion. The Federals made several splendid charges, that were repulsed at short range by the artillery, double shotted with cannister. The Confederates insist that both the Federal infantry and cavalry were in this fight. The Federal cavalry officers who censured Sturgis, say they had cavalry alone, and that instead of falling back with his cavalry on to his infantry, prepared in line, he undertook to hold the position with his cavalry, and bring up his infantry five or more miles at double quick, and that they arrived broken down and unformed just as the cavalry were driven back on them, and all went pell mell together. Be this as it may, when Forrest captured Bryce's house, the enemy's infantry in column were in full view coming up. He turned loose on them his own eight pieces of artillery and six more just captured, and about that time Barteau's regiment struck them in rear, and the flight commenced.
A more terrific pursuit was never seen. The negroes had been sworn on their knees in line before starting from Memphis to show no quarter to Forrest s men, and on their shirts and banners was inscribed, "Remember Fort Pillow." This had a double effect: it made the Federals afraid to surrender, and infuriated Forrest's men -- and it is said that nineteen hundred were killed in this pursuit, which was continued sixty miles. The exact truth as to this fight will, perhaps, never be known; but taking either the Federal or Confederate accounts of it, it was the most brilliant victory of the war on either side. Forrest reports his force as thirty two hundred cavalry and eight pieces of artillery. The Federal report places Sturgis' force at thirty three hundred cavalry, fifty four hundred infantry and seventeen pieces of artillery. With a superior force of cavalry, he might well have expected to hold, with them alone, his position, well selected at Bryce's crossroads, until his infantry could come up. Sturgis was as much astonished at his defeat as any one, and was so terribly mortified that when A.J. Smith moved out after Forrest, a confidential spy from Memphis reported that Sturgis was sitting in a hotel soliloquizing, "It can't be done, sir!" and when asked what could not be done, he said, "They c-a-n-'t whip old Forrest!"
In this battle, two thousand prisoners were taken, all the artillery (seventeen pieces), the whole ordnance train, well supplied with ammunition and many articles of value to us; the ambulance and wagon train, filled with most acceptable supplies, especially coffee, which the hungry Confederates had not tasted for many days.
General Sherman, in a cipher dispatch, dated June 20th, 1864, says: "He whipped Sturgis fair and square, and now I will put him against A.J. Smith and Mower, and let them try their hand." By this victory Forrest not only saved Columbus and the rich prairie region of Mississippi again, but he saved Mobile also by the withdrawal of A.J. Smith's division, which had been ordered to its attack.
Roemer, speaking of the battle of Arbela, says: "From that great day when in person Alexander led the Macedonian horse, he ranks the first of cavalry generals of all times, and the tactics there displayed were in every respect the same which now receive the sanction of modern science -- sudden deployment and bold attack, outflanking the enemy's wings, dividing the enemy's forces rallying, attacking the rear, supporting the menaced point, and, to crown all, a pursuit of six hundred stadia (seventy five miles) in twenty four hours. Never was there a greater achievement in ancient or modern warfare."
When a new edition of Roemer's work on cavalry is written, it is to be hoped that the battle of "Tishomingo Creek," or "Bryce's Crossroads," as the Federals call it, will not be forgotten, where the battle was fought and a pursuit of sixty miles made all in thirty hours.
The First Invasion Of A. J. Smith Into Mississippi.
That you may appreciate the immense work Forrest was now doing, besides keeping about thirty thousand men constantly engaged to watch him, I call attention to the following telegrams from General Sherman. His telegram from Nashville, dated April 4, 1864, to General Rawlings, shows that General Corse was sent up Red river to bring A.J. Smith "with all dispatch to Vicksburg and up the Yazoo river and rapidly occupy Grenada. His appearance there, with ten thousand men, will be a big bombshell in Forrest's camp, should he, as I fear he will, elude General Hurlbut. At Grenada, Smith will do all the mischief he can, and then strike boldly across the country by Aberdeen to Russellville and Decatur." This movement was defeated by the victory over Sooy Smith and the advance into Middle Tennessee and Kentucky. A little later A.J. Smith was ordered to assist in taking Mobile; and this was broken up by the defeat of Sturgis, as shown by the following telegram from General Sherman to Honorable E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War, dated Big Shanty, June 14, 1864: "I have just received news of the defeat of our party sent out from Memphis, whose chief object was to hold Forrest there and keep him off our road. I have ordered A.J. Smith not to go to Mobile, but to go out from Memphis and defeat Forrest at all costs." Again, as early as June 6, General Sherman telegraphed General Thomas to prepare a cavalry raid for Opelika, Alabama; but when it was ready to move he was afraid to let it stark and telegraphed to General Rousseau, at Nashville, June 20th, . . "wait and see what Forrest will do." And on the 29th June to the same officer: "Do not start until we know something definite of General A.J. Smith." To the same officer on the 30th June: "The movement I want you to study and be prepared for is contingent on the fact that General A.J. Smith defeats Forrest or holds him well in check." And July 6th to the same officer: "That cavalry expedition must be off now. . . . I have official information that General A.J. Smith is out from Memphis, with force enough to give Forrest full occupation."
On the 24th June (General Sherman telegraphs, through his aid, L.M. Dayton, to General Thomas: "General A.J. Smith moves from Memphis via Corinth to engage Forrest. . . . Smith has nine thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry." General Smith moved slowly and cautiously; Generals S.D. Lee and Forrest were concentrating forces and fortifying at Okalona to meet him. The first division was thrown forward above Pontotoc, to watch Smith, with orders to skirmish with him slightly, but let him come on. Smith reached Pontotoc on the 11th of June and halted until the 13th, as if hesitating what to do. On the 13th Smith turned east and moved rapidly towards Tupelo, as if alarmed, but repulsed, with promptness and severe loss to us, two flank attacks made on him during the day. During the night Smith entrenched himself at Harrisburg, the site of an old town on the hill above Tupelo, with nine thousand infantry, three thousand cavalry and twenty pieces of artillery. Major General S.D. Lee, now in command of the Confederate forces, had seven thousand cavalry, twenty one hundred dismounted cavalrymen acting as infantry and twenty pieces of artillery. The enemy had greatly the advantage in force and position. General Smith, with a splendid corps of infantry, hardened by long and active service, was in an entrenched position on a hill covered with timber. General Lee, with dismounted cavalry, was in an open field where every man he had and every movement he made could be plainly seen. The enemy would not come out of his entrenchments. General Maury from Mobile was telegraphing for help against a threatened assault, and General Lee determined to attack the enemy in position. Brave men never marched more fearlessly to death than did Forrest's cavalry on that occasion, as the terrible slaughter testified, including among the killed and wounded three brigade commanders and almost every regimental commander engaged. We were badly defeated, and in a very short time, but the enemy never moved from his entrenchments to improve his victory, and on the next day moved off rapidly again as if in retreat. General Forrest dashed after the rear guard in his usual style of pursuit, when just under the hill beyond the little prairie, above Town creek (where it is said De Soto fought the Indians, and where old bayonets and musket balls were found in the earth, mingled with Indian arrow heads), Forrest suddenly came upon the enemy's infantry drawn up in line to receive him. He attacked at once, and was driven back with heavy loss, and severely wounded himself. Thus ended two sharp defeats in two successive days, for which General Lee has been somewhat censured, as he was in immediate command. General Jordan, the biographer of Forrest, who wrote under his supervision (and to whose valuable book I am greatly indebted for many details used in preparing this address), leaves the impression that General Lee made the fight from supposed necessity and without the concurrence of Forrest. I know that this is not the true statement of the case. Lee, Forrest, Buford and I were riding to the front when the battle was about to begin. Buford said to Lee and Forrest, who had spent the night and morning together in consultation: "Gentlemen, you have not asked my opinion about this fight; but I tell you, we are going to be badly whipped." Forrest replied, sharply "You don't know what you are talking about; we'll whip 'em in five minutes." Buford replied: "I hope you may be right, but I don't believe it." Forrest was a great general; but he never rose to that greatness and dignity of soul which enabled Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg to assume the responsibility of a failure.
The Second Invasion Of A. J. Smith.
On the 19th of July, 1864, General Grant telegraphed from City Point, Virginia, to General Sherman: "I see by Richmond papers of yesterday that Smith has left Tupelo. Although they call it a retreat, I judge from S.D. Lee's dispatch that Forrest has been badly whipped. Smith, however, ought to be instructed to keep a close watch on Forrest and not permit him to gather strength and move into Middle Tennessee." General Sherman gave the order, but he no longer talks so flippantly about whipping Forrest as he had done. He telegraphs General Washburn, July 26th: "It was by General Grant's special order General Smith was required after his fight to pursue and continue to follow Forrest. General Smith must keep well after Forrest, and rather watch him closely, than attempt to pursue him; but when he does fight, he should keep the advantage." General Washburn replies, Memphis, August 4th, 1864: "Forrest is below Okalona; I am moving in that direction, while Smith is after him with five thousand cavalry and ten thousand infantry." On the 11th Washburn further telegraphed: "In addition to his own proper force, ten thousand strong, he has three thousand colored troops from Memphis, three Minnesota regiments sent me from Saint Louis, and four thousand cavalry." On the 4th of August General Sherman telegraphed General Grant: "General Washburn is moving from Holly Springs on Columbus, Mississippi. He thinks that Forrest is dead, from the wound he received in his battle with General Smith." If this movement of General Washburn was not a myth, as he was never heard of in the field, he must have suddenly returned when he learned that Forrest was not dead. The only time he was ever known to be in the neighborhood of Forrest, was when he ran out of his bedroom in Memphis, in light marching order, leaving his uniform behind, which Forrest captured and afterward restored to him. Washburn, in return, sent to Forrest some gray cloth, gold lace and trimmings to make him a Confederate uniform.
General Smith moved slowly, repairing the railroad from Grand Junction to Abbeville as he came On the 8th of August Forrest again took the field in a buggy though still suffering severely from his wound. On the 18th the enemy had completed the railroad to Abbeville, thrown a pontoon bridge across the Tallahatchie river at that place, and commenced his movement on Oxford. Feeling unable to contend with A.F. Smith, with his largely superior command, he determined to make a counter movement on Memphis with one half of his command, leaving the other half under his first division commander -- the whole force not then exceeding four thousand effective. He conceived this idea on the morning of the 18th of August, 1864, and sending out men to cut the telegraph wires in rear of Smith, promptly at 5 P.M. of the same day he started, saying to his second in command, "If you can hold them back two days, I will be in Memphis." Believing it the best method of delaying the enemy, the officer left in command determined to threaten an attack. Early on the morning of the 19th, taking his escort and Colonel Burrows' regiment, two hundred and fifty strong, having placed his command in a strong position behind Hurricane creek to receive any return attack that might follow, he moved on Abbeville, captured forty pickets on the Oxford road, and charged into town. As the Confederates came in, a large force of Federal cavalry went rushing out. Colonel Burrows, a dashing preacher, who fought as well as he prayed, wanted to charge after them; but the officer in command ordered a halt until he galloped to the top of the hill and saw a heavy force drawn up behind it, evidently to receive a pursuing charge, and withdrew. The return attack came, and was severely repulsed, and the enemy were held back more than two days without discovering the absence of Forrest. This affair at Abbeville and the affair at Town creek, where Forrest's command was so quickly cut to pieces and himself severely wounded in a similar trap, led me to believe that A.J. Smith had studied Forrest more closely than any other Federal general who met him. The movement on Memphis had the desired effect to draw Smith back. A similar movement by Van Dorn on Holly Springs drew Grant from Oxford; and it is believed that a similar movement, made when our army lay at Canton, Mississippi, twenty thousand strong, while Memphis was lightly garrisoned, would have drawn Grant from before Vicksburg. The railroad could have put them in Panola in two days - - three days' marching would have put them in Memphis; and, with the Mississippi river in our possession at Memphis and Port Hudson, Grant would have starved sooner than Pemberton.
In Sheridan's Rear In Middle Tennessee.
This campaign ended on the 23d of August, and Forrest, without any time to rest, was ordered to the defence of Mobile. On his way to Mobile, he was met by his new Department commander, General Dick Taylor, and I give their interview and its results in the graphic language of the latter.
"General Maury was informed by telegraph of my presence, that I assumed command of the Department, and would arrest Forrest's movement. An hour later, a train from the north, bringing Forrest in advance of his troops, reached Meridian, and was stopped, and the General, whom I had never seen, came to report. He was a tall, stalwart man, with grayish hair, mild countenance, slow and homely of speech. In a few words he was informed that I considered Mobile safe for the present, and that all our energies must be directed to the relief of Hood's army, then west of Atlanta. The only way to accomplish this was to worry Sherman's communications north of the Tennessee river, and he must move his cavalry in that direction at the earliest moment. To my surprise, Forrest suggested many difficulties and asked numerous questions: how he was to get over the Tennessee? how he was to get back if pressed by the enemy? how he was to be supplied? what should be his line of retreat in certain contingencies? what he was to do with his prisoners, if any were taken? etc. I began to think he had no stomach for the work, but at last, having isolated the chances of success from cause of failure, with the care of a chemist experimenting in his laboratory, he rose and asked for Fleming, the superintendent of the railway, who was on the train by which he had come. Fleming appeared a little man on crutches (he had recently broken a leg), but with the energy of a giant -- and at once stated what he could do in the way of moving supplies on his line, which had been repaired up to the Tennessee boundary. Forrest's whole manner was now changed. In a dozen sharp sentences he told his wants; said he would leave a staff officer to bring up his supplies; asked for an engine to take him back twenty miles north to meet his troops; informed me he would march with the dawn, and hoped to give an account of himself in Tennessee. Moving with great rapidity, he crossed the Tennessee, captured stockades, with their garrisons, burned bridges, destroyed railways, reached the Cumberland below Nashville, drove away gunboats, captured and destroyed several transports, with immense stores, and spread alarm over a wide region. The enemy concentrated on him from all directions, but he eluded or defeated their several columns, recrossed the Tennessee river, and brought off fifteen hundred prisoners and much spoil. Like Clive, nature made him a great soldier; and he was without the former's advantages. Limited as was Clive's education, he was a Borson of erudition compared with Forrest." Such was the quick resolves, the prompt execution and the brilliant result of the first short meeting between these two remarkable men. One, small in statue, but keen in intellect and polished by education -- the other, rough and powerful in body and mind. It was Richard, with a battle axe, that could cleave the bar of iron, meeting Saladan, whose keen sycmeter could cut the pillow of silk. Forrest admitted that he was more awed by Dick Taylor's power of will than any man he had ever met, or, as he expressed it, "I lost my charm when I met Dick Taylor."
The consternation of the enemy at his movements can best be appreciated from their telegrams to each other at the time.
Grant telegraphed to Sherman from City Point, Virginia, September 12th, 1864: "It will be better to drive Forrest from Middle Tennessee as a first step." Same day General Sherman telegraphs General Webster at Nashville: "Call forward from Kentucky any troops that can be spared there, and hold all that come from the rear until Forrest is disposed of."
On the 28th he telegraphs General Webster: "I will send up the road tonight another division, and want you to call forward from the rear all you can get."
On the same day General Sherman telegraphs General Grant: "I send back to Stevenson and Decherd General Thomas to look to Tennessee, and have ordered a brigade of the Army of Tennessee to Eastport, and the cavalry across to that place from Memphis."
Forrest has got into Middle Tennessee, and will, I feel certain, get on my main road tonight."
General Thomas telegraphs to General Sherman from Nashville, October 3d, l864: "Rousseau will continue after Forrest. Major General Washburn is coming up the Tennessee river with ten thousand cavalry and fifteen hundred infantry, and will move toward Athens for the purpose of striking Forrest's flank, or cutting off his communication with Bainbridge. General Morgan, as I telegraphed you last night, is moving from Athens on Bainbridge. So it seems to me there is a fair chance of hemming Forrest in and destroying his command. The river is not fordable, and if we seize his means of crossing at Bainbridge, he will be unable to cross anywhere else, and, I think, Rousseau ought certainly to destroy him." And it appears from the report of General Thomas, that Rousseau had four thousand cavalry.
With all these efforts made to capture him, Forrest again made his escape. As soon as he reached the south side of the Tennessee river in safety, he turned on his pursuers, laid an ambuscade of about three hundred men, under Colonel Kelly, for the enemy attempting to land at Eastport, captured seventy five prisoners, three pieces of rifled field artillery, sixty horses; sunk one gun and two caissons in the river, and drove a large number of the enemy into the river, many of whom were killed or drowned. And then striking boldly for Johnsonville, Sherman's chief depot of supplies on the Tennessee river, captured one gunboat, two transports and one barge, heavily laden with supplies; destroyed three gunboats, thirteen transports, eighteen barges and buildings, quartermaster and commissary stores, to the value of eight million dollars, as estimated by Federal officers. General Sherman, whose soul had been greatly vexed by Forrest, writing to General Grant, November 6th, 1864, about the movements of Hood, says: "And that devil Forrest was down about Johnsonville making havoc among the gunboats and transports." Forrest's reputation was now world wide; and in reading recently a description of the great Tamerlane, I was struck with the wonderful resemblance between their military careers. The author of "Soldiers and their Science" says of Tamerlane -- "Born to comparatively humble fortunes, irresistible obstacles seemed to lie across the path of his ambition, and yet one by one he overcame them. . . . His plans were deeply meditated; before embarking in an enterprise he examined the avenues of retreat, and he himself tells us that the principles of his tactics were uniform. It was his maxim that success came not from the greatness of armies, but from skillful and judicious measures: Shepherds and hunters, mounted on light hardy horses, and wielding the javelin and the bow, followed the standard of Timour; he covered them neither with defensive armor nor unfamiliar weapons. He respected and even drew advantage from that untamed and adventurous spirit, which, regarding close restraint as insupportable, gave so large a scope to daring intelligence and prowess. . . . He relied much on rapidity of movement, and often disconcerted his enemies by falling on them unawares, and cutting them up in detail -- in his own words, he charged quick and hot on the foe, and never let the plain of battle cool. He at least had made, if not announced the discovery, since attributed to Marshall Saxe, "that the secret of an army's success is in its legs." . . . . On all occasions his march was preceded by clouds of flying scouts, who, piercing the country in every direction, kept him constantly informed as to its varied resources and the dispositions of the enemy." With change of name a better description of Forrest could scarce be written.
Hood's Nashville Campaign.
The day after Johnsonville was destroyed, Forrest received orders to join General Hood in his march on Nashville. His movements in this campaign were marked by his usual energy, judgment and success, but were mostly of that ordinary character that marks cavalry acting as a part of an army of mixed forces.
Schofield Halted At Spring Hill.
There were two movements, however, that deserve especial notice When Hood was ready to advance from Columbia. Forrest crossed Duck river about night in three places, and early the next morning whipped the Federal cavalry at Hurt's cross roads and drove the most of it towards Nashville, and then turned on the infantry and held them in check at Spring Hill until Hood's infantry came up The head of the column reached Spring Hill some time before night and our army went into camp, while the enemy marched along by them and, as General French expressed it, "lit their pipes by our camp fires." This movement marks a new era in the use of cavalry to arrest and capture retreating infantry, which deserves the especial study of military men. It was subsequently copied by Sheridan in the capture of General Lee; and if it had been practiced by Wilson on Hood as he retreated from Nashville, the Confederate army would have been captured. I think I risk nothing in saying if Forrest had been in command of our army, General Schofield would never have marched by Spring Hill, and the disastrous battle of Franklin, where the gallant Cleburne and so many brave men fell, would never have been fought.
Poor Cleburne! he was a noble specimen of the Irish gentleman. I knew him as a promising young lawyer, and watched with interest his brilliant career in arms. He supplied my division with ammunition on the morning of Franklin, and we parted to meet no more. I shall never forget the solemn scene that occurred when his body passed through Memphis, after the surrender, to its final resting place in his adopted State of Arkansas. Like the burial of Sir John Moore, it was a sad and silent scene as we laid him down on the steamer's deck. Around him stood Jefferson Davis, Isham G. Harris, and the few Confederate generals then in Memphis. Respect for the prejudices of our recent captors prevented a greater demonstration. An Irishman approached, and in humble accents asked permission to kiss the coffin of his dead commander. Mr. Davis nodded a silent assent. Kneeling and making the sign of the cross on his breast, the humble soldier lingered a moment in prayer, and then pressed his lips with fervor on the head of the coffin. Not a word was said; but each hat was involuntarily lifted from the head and silent tears stole down the manly cheeks of those who were present.
The Retreat From Columbia.
Another incident of this disastrous campaign deserves especial mention, as illustrative of the character and service of General Forrest. When Hood's army had been defeated at Nashville and driven back in almost utter despair to Columbia, where it stood broken and sullen on the south bank of Duck river, General Forrest, who had been operating around Murfreesboro', came in on the 18th of December. The inspiring effect of his presence was felt by all, and was thus described by my Adjutant, Captain W.A. Goodman, a man of brilliant intellect, cool in battle and untiring in his devotion to the cause and the discharge of his duty: At no time in his whole career was the fortitude of General Forrest in adversity and his power of infusing his own cheerfulness into those under his command, more strikingly exhibited than at this crisis. Broken and defeated, as we were, there were not wanting many others as determined as he to do their duty to the last, and who stood out faithfully to the end; but their conversation was that of men who, though determined, were without hope, and who felt that they must gather strength from despair; but he alone, whatever he may have felt (and he was not blind to the danger of our position), spoke in his usual cheerful and defiant tone, and talked of meeting the enemy with as much assurance of success as he did when driving them before him a month before. Such a spirit is sympathetic; and not a man was brought in contact with him who did not feel strengthened and invigorated, as if he had heard of a reinforcement coming to our relief." General Forrest was by unanimous consent selected to cover the retreat from Columbia, and to assist his cavalry, now reduced to three thousand, he was assigned a division of selected infantry, numbering only fifteen hundred, but composed of as brave men and gallant officers as ever lived -- not the least of whom was that gallant Mississippian, General Featherstone, whose subsequent conduct at Sugar creek deserves to be long remembered. The advance of the enemy crossed Duck river on the night of the 21st December, and on the 22d Forrest fell back slowly until he reached a gorge between two hills, three miles from Columbia. Here he had slight skirmishing, but held his position easily for the night. On the 24th Wilson's cavalry corps, ten thousand strong, and Wood's division of infantry, crossed, and the pursuit began in earnest. There was heavy fighting during the day, in which both infantry and cavalry were engaged, and at night he camped at Pulaski. On the morning of the 25th he fell back to a strong position on Anthony's hill, seven miles beyond Pulaski. The situation now seemed desperate. It was only forty miles to the Tennessee river, where Hood was crossing, and the infantry had not all reached there, while the trains were some distance behind. Wilson, with ten thousand cavalry, and Wood's division of infantry, were close on him, while A.J. Smith and Schofield were moving on from Columbia. Forrest, with his forty five hundred, as undaunted as Zenophon with his celebrated ten thousand, calmly awaited their approach, and his men gathered courage from their leader Wilson came on, and, as General Thomas says, "Wood kept well closed up on the cavalry"; and I give the result in the language of General Thomas' report: "During the afternoon Harrison's brigade found the enemy strongly entrenched at the head of a heavily wooded and deep ravine, through which ran the road and into which Colonel Harrison drove the enemy's skirmishers. He then waited for the remainder of the cavalry to close up before attacking; but before this could be accomplished the enemy, with something of his former boldness, sallied from his breastworks and drove back Harrison's skirmishers." In this fight, which General Thomas treats as a mere skirmish, the Confederates captured fifty prisoners, three hundred cavalry horses, one gun of Company I, Fourth United States artillery, with eight horses, and the killed and wounded were estimated at one hundred and fifty, while the brilliancy and vim of the Confederate charge astonished the Federals so much that they attacked no more that day. Forrest then retired to Sugar creek and halted for another fight. Having selected an excellent position for his infantry and artillery, and thrown up temporary breastworks of rails, he ordered Colonel Dillon, with the Second Mississippi cavalry, to cross the creek above mounted ready for a flank attack, and again quietly waited their coming. About daylight oil the 26th they were heard crossing the creek in a dense fog. Nothing could be seen, but the commands to halt and dismount could be distinctly heard. Hood's ordnance train had just left Sugar creek, and orders from the river came to hold the enemy back if possible; and every Confederate felt the importance of the crisis. On came the enemy in the fog to within thirty yards of Featherstone's breastworks, when a deadly fire was opened on them, the long pent up Rebel yell burst forth, and the Federals fled in dismay through the creek, with the Confederates after them, while Dillon, charging in the rear, completed the rout. The enemy were severely punished, but more frightened than hurt, and left behind them one hundred and fifty horses and many overcoats, that were of great value to shivering men; but the grand result was that the pursuit was permanently checked and the. enemy came no more. General Wilson, who ignores this fight, says he was out of rations; could not bring Forrest to a fight, and heard the main body of Rebels had already crossed the Tennessee, and therefore halted. The truth is the infantry had not all reached the river, and the ordnance train left Sugar creek that morning. General Thomas, speaking of Hood's army, says: "With the exception of his rear guard, his army had become a disheartened and disorganized rabble. . . The rear guard, however, was undaunted and firm, and did its work bravely to the last." Forrest was now admitted by all to be a Military Genius which a distinguished military writer thus describes:
There is no art that requires greater natural gifts than the art of war: mind and body must here cooperate and both must be sound and vigorous. The talent to seize, as it were, with a glance, the advantages and disadvantages which may arise from the situation of ground or troops and to single them out from all other objects -- this characterizes the man born to become a general. This coup d'oiel, namely, the comprehensive -- one, which, in unexpected results and in the most violent changes of fortune and calculations, enables the general to discern quickly and to judge correctly of his situation, and then, with firm determination to extort, as it were, from fortune that which she will not freely give; or prudent and judicious, to extricate himself from a dangerous position; this is not to be acquired; this can be reduced to no general formula, nor be delineated upon plans and blackboards; but is, in the strictest sense of the word, military genius.
Fall Of Selma.
General Forrest was now promoted to Lieutenant General, and his command largely increased and reorganized. The First division, commanded by Chalmers, was composed of all the Mississippi cavalry, reorganized into three brigades, under Armstrong, Wirt Adams and Starke.
The Second division, commanded by Buford, was composed of the Kentucky brigade and the Alabama cavalry.
The Third division, commanded by W.H. Jackson, was composed of all the Tennessee cavalry in two brigades, under Bell and Campbell -- a force of not less than ten thousand effective men if they could have been concentrated.
At the same time -- Major General James Wilson was reorganizing his cavalry just north of the Tennessee river, at points favorable for the passage of that stream, either to invade Mississippi or Alabama; and on the 18th of March he crossed near Chickasaw station, Alabama, with seventeen thousand men, five thousand of whom were dismounted, according to Andrews' history of the Mobile campaign.
On the 16th of March, 1865, General Dick Taylor held a council of war in West Point, Mississippi, at which were present Forrest, Chalmers, Buford and Jackson, and it was then determined that the object of Wilson's movements was the destruction of the iron works at Montevallo and the shops at Selma, and it was decided that all our forces should move by the shortest lines to Selma, and engineer officers were sent at once to construct pontoon bridges over the Black Warrior at Cahawba. On the 24th of March, Wilson started from Chickasaw station. On the 25th two brigades of the First division started from Pickensville, Alabama, and Jackson from West Point, Mississippi. The bridge across the Warrior had not been completed when Armstrong s brigade reached it, and it was detained here one day. On the 30th they reached Marion, Alabama and finding that nothing had been done towards bridging the Cahawba, a staff officer was sent by railroad to Selma for pontoon boats, and the division commander was preparing to move on, when an order came from General Forrest, telling him of the enemy's movement on Tuscaloosa, and ordering him to halt and await orders. This caused a delay of one day, when General Taylor, at Selma, hearing of it, telegraphed orders for the First division to move to Plantersville. Before the division could reach Plantersville, orders came from General Forrest to move to Randolph, about twenty miles further north. Before the division could reach Randolph, Forrest had been driven from there, and it turned to Plantersville again. The Ochmulgee swamp had now to be crossed, and Armstrong's brigade was five hours in going one mile across it. When this brigade had gone over, it was utterly impassable to the artillery and Starke's brigade; and these, under the direction of a neighborhood guide, were moved to a crossing five miles above, and after working all night, got over about daylight the next morning, and moving rapidly reached Selma just in time to see it burn.
Forrest, moving with Jackson's division, heard of Croxton's movement on Tuscaloosa, and changed the march of this division by that place. Jackson gallantly met and defeated Croxton, but by this movement was thrown so far out of his line of march that it was impossible for him to reach Selma in time to assist in its defence, and it fell. The fall of Richmond soon followed the fall of Selma, and the Confederate flag went down to rise no more forever.
His Farewell Address.
It has been said that Forrest was uneducated, and this is true; but his ideas, when properly clothed in correct language, were pointed and strong, and he was exceedingly tenacious that his own ideas, and not those of the writer, should be expressed by those who wrote for him. His strong and touching final address to his troops, though shaped by another, was his own creation, and he felt all that the language imported when he said: "Civil war, such as you have just passed through, naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred and revenge. It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings, and as far as in our power to do so, to cultivate friendly feelings towards those with whom we have so long contended and heretofore so widely differed. Neighborhood feuds, personal animosities and private differences should be blotted out, and when you return home a manly, straightforward course of conduct will secure the respect even of your enemies. Whatever your responsibilities may be to government, to society, or to individuals meet them like men. . . . I have never on the field of battle sent you where I was unwilling to go myself, nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers; you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the government to which you have surrendered can afford to be and will be magnanimous." Like the cause he loved, he is dead. In coming years, when the bitterness of strife has passed away, when that mystic harp, whose chords connect the graves of the dead with the hearts of the living, shall vibrate the music of a restored Union, and some blind old bard shall sing the praises of American heroes, while eager children listen to their deeds of valor, the story of none will awaken loftier feelings of emulation than --
Forrest -- the wizard of the saddle.
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