"We have worked, road, and fought hard"
On January 1, 1863 Forrest reached the Tennessee River. By 9 p.m. the entire command, more than 2,000 men and horses, six cannon, and a train of wagons, had crossed the river on the same flatboats that had brought them to the west bank fifteen days earlier. The Federals ill-managed pursuit, always a step behind, failed to stop them. On January 3 Forrest wrote Bragg, "We have worked, rode, and fought hard, and I hope accomplished to a considerable extent if not entirely the object of our campaign..."
Forrest's campaign to disable the railroads supplying Grant was a marked success. In spite of terrible rain, sleet, snow-storms, and numerous skirmishes, his brigade inflicted heavy damages on the Mobile & Ohio and the Nashville & Northwestern railroads. They destroyed railroad bridges, trestles, water tanks, depots, and culverts. Rails were torn up and twisted. Supplies that could not be removed were burned. Traffic between Union City and Jackson was not restored until early March 1863. More importantly, Forrest's West Tennessee raid demonstrated to Grant that it was foolish to depend on any long rail line to supply an army moving in the enemy's country. Forrest's success, coupled with Earl Van Dorn's successful raid on the supply depot at Holly Springs, was instrumental in Grant's decision to delay plans to move on Vicksburg.
A Missed Opportunity
The cavalry raids of Nathan Bedford Forrest, in conjunction with those of Earl Van Dorn in Mississippi and John Hunt Morgan in Kentucky, caused so much damage that they had important and vital strategic implications for both the Union and Confederacy. For a brief time, the advantage won by the December 1862 raids gave the Confederacy the opportunity to launch an offensive in America's heartland. They failed to do so and, after months of delay, the Union regained the momentum temporarily lost.
Braxton Bragg, Forrest's commanding officer, wrote the War Department, "...the results of his expedition have been most brilliant and decisive. The enemy, in consequence of this vigorous assault... have been compelled to throw back a large force from the Mississippi and to virtually abandon a campaign which so threatened our safety."
Forrest's success earned him and his command an official commendation by the Confederate Congress.
The Final Tally
- Stockades burned at Carroll Station, Humboldt, Rutherford Station and Kenton Station
- Depot burned at Humboldt
- Over 100 miles of track destroyed
- Numerous bridges and trestles dstroyed
- Over 400 men recruited for the Confederate army
- Over 1,200 prisoners taken, including over 40 officers (all subsequently paroled)
- Over 1,500 total casualties inflicted on the enemy
- Hundreds of badly needed modern rifles captured
- 5 cannon captured (three subsequently recaptured)
- 11 caissons captured
- Hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition captured
- 38 supply wagons and ambulances captured
- Hundreds of horses and mules captured
- Commissary, quartermaster, and ordnance stores seized or burned, including rations, tents, artillery rounds, clothing, and accouterments