Following reorganization of the Confederate army and his personal success at Shiloh, Col. Nathan B. Forrest was recommended for promotion to brigadier general and given a command around Chattanooga in June. On July 9th, he led his regimental-size cavalry force across the Cumberland Mountains to McMinnville, where it rendezvoused with 5 additional companies on the 11th. Under Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith's orders, Forrest's 1,400 men were to raid, scout, and discourage the Union Army of the Cumberland's movements in Middle Tennessee.
At 1:00 P.M. on the 13th, Forrest's brigade set out from McMinnville, riding northwest. They stopped at Woodbury at 11:00 P.M., received reports on the strength and supplies of the Union garrison at Murfreesboro, and decided it was a good objective. The Confederates hit Murfreesboro at 4:30 A.M., and by early afternoon had captured Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden, his entire 1,040 man garrison, its artillery, small arms, and supplies. In 14 1/2 hours, Forrest's men had ridden 50 miles, and, within another 10 hours, they were riding back toward McMinnville, their prisoners driving wagons loaded with $1,000,000 in goods and arms.
Kirby Smith and Gen. Braxton Bragg were readying Chattanooga troops for an invasion of Kentucky and ordered Forrest to make a feint at Nashville, distracting Brig. Gen. William "Bull" Nelson and the new Union garrison at Murfreesboro from campaign preparations. On the 18th, Forrest's raiders left McMinnville at noon. Frightened by his success at Murfreesboro and alerted to his new moves, the Union commander at Nashville dispatched a force to Lebanon, northeast of the city, mistakenly believing that the troops in Forrest's command numbered 7,000.
After ranging through Middle Tennessee for 2 days, avoiding Murfreesboro, Forrest's brigade rode into Lebanon at dawn on the 20th. They found that the Federals there had retreated the day before, concerned by the reported size of the Confedeate force. At noon on the 21st, his men rode through the Hermitage, 12 miles from Nashville, and late that afternoon drove in Union pickets 5 miles from the city. The hours before dark were spent destroying rail lines to the Chattanooga area, telegraph lines, and railroad stockades. That same afternoon, Confederate operations around the city compelled Federals in Nashville to wire Nelson to send infantry north to engage Forrest. The raiders returned south in the face of Nelson's column, avoiding them and the remaining Murfressboro garrison by simple detours.
The last clash between Forrest and Union troops in Middle Tennessee occured at Manchester, southeast of McMinnville, on the 27th. There, Brig. Gen. William S. Smith's small force, guarding a branch rail line from Tullahoma to McMinnville, was bloodied by some of Forrest's troops operating against the railroad. There was additional maneuvering in Middle Tennessee between Forrest and the Federals into late August, when the Confederates' Kentucky campaigning was under way, but actual raiding stopped at the end of the month.