Railroad Gateway to Deep South
— Forrest's First West Tennessee Raid —
(In Yellow) Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led his cavalry brigade on a raid through West Tennessee, Dec. 15, 1862 - Jan. 3, 1863, destroying railroads and severing Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's supply line between Columbus, Kentucky, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Forrest crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton, defeated Union Col. Robert G. Ingersoll's cavalry at Lexington, captured Trenton and Union City, and ranged briefly into Kentucky. He raided back through Tennessee, evaded defeat at Parker's Cross Roads, and crossed the river again at Clifton. Grant changed his supply base to Memphis.
During the war, Jackson was the transportation crossroads of West Tennessee. After the 1862 Battle of Shiloh, 50 miles southeast, Union commanders took control of Jackson's railroad junction to use the tracks as supply lines for their Mississippi campaigns.
The Confederates contested control of Jackson's railroads. In September 1862, the Battle of Britton Lane took place south of here at the town of Denmark.
In November 1862, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg ordered Gen. Nathan B. Forrest to launch a major cavalry raid against the Union garrisons here and in other occupied railroad towns. Union Gen. Jeremiah C. Sullivan fortified Jackson, ordering that "the negroes in town will ... be pressed into the service, and be employed in carrying stores within the inner line." On December 19, the two sides clashed on Jackson's outskirts at Salem Cemetery. The next day, the Confederates moved north to take the Federal garrisons at Humboldt and Trenton. After raiding into Kentucky, Forrest headed back to Middle Tennessee. Union forces almost stopped him on December 31 at Parker's Crossroads, 26 miles east of here.
After Confederate forces reoccupied Jackson, a Union expedition from LaGrange drove them out after a stiff fight on July 13, 1863, as several Federal regiments, including Col. Fielding Hurst's 1st Tennessee Cavalry, fought on the streets of downtown Jackson. Part of the town burned, extensive looting occurred, and Federal commanders blamed and fined Hurst. He returned a few months later and forced city leaders to repay the fine.
"General Forrest ... completely fooled General J.C. Sullivan. ... While we were on this wildgoose chase towards Lexington, Forrest simply whirled around our flanks at Jackson, and swept north on the railroad." - Lt. Leander Stillwell, 61st Illinois Infantry
(Map Bottom Left)
Forrest's First West Tennessee Raid, Dec. 15, 1862 - Jan. 3, 1863
(Pictures Bottom Right)
Gen. Nathan B. Forrest Courtesy Library of Congress. Railroad scene in Jackson, Harper's Weekly, Oct.21, 1862.
Tennessee Civil War Trails CivilWarTrails.org