In the late winter of 1862 General Ulysses S. Grant's bold plans were in action. His goals were to send part of his force south to follow the railroad lines into central Mississippi to capture the state capital at Jackson and to send a column of troops under the command of General Sherman to take Vicksburg. Grant also deployed gun boats on the Tennessee River with plans to use their power at Vicksburg.
There was another power in Tennessee that Grant had not yet learned to respect, however, and that was General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry. Forrest’s assignment was to cause so much havoc and damage to Grant’s lines that the Federal Army’s offensive would be stopped, and Grant would not be able to re-enforce Murfreesboro or move on Vicksburg. For 15 days in the latter part of a sleeting and snowy December, Forrest and his cavalry raided west Tennessee. Forrest with his cavalry of about 2000 men, supported by 6 pieces of artillery, raised terror throughout the countryside. He spread rumors that his army was far greater that it actually was. Forrest fought a major battle at Parker’s Crossroads lasting 5 hours from which he escaped after being surrounded. He won two major engagements and skirmished several times a day with Federal troops. When his men were not fighting, they burned and destroyed every railroad trestle, culvert crossing, and wagon bridge across the countryside. Any supplies that were not hauled away were destroyed and depots were burned by Forrest’s men. All Grant’s supply routes and lines of communication were cut.
Just as the fires of the burning bridges destroyed General Grant’s communication and supply lines, so up in smoke went Grant’s hopes of capturing Vicksburg and Jackson, forcing his retreat to safer confines away from Forrest country. He now would have greater respect for the “Wizard of the Saddle”.
By: John Paul Strain