Civil War Campaigns
While Gen. Braxton Bragg campaigned against Federals in the Murfreesboro, Tennessee area, he granted a request for help from Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, commanding at Vicksburg. Bragg ordered Brig. Ge. Nathan B. Forrest to raid in West Tennessee, destroying the rail supply line to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's troops campaigning to Vicksburg through north Mississippi. Forrest's new brigade, 2,100 men from Tennessee and Alabama, were to destroy the Mississippi Central Railroad track in the Jackson area and the Mobile & Ohio Railroad track runningfrom Columbus, Kentucky, south through Jackson. Grant's army got all its supplies directly from Columbus by train, and if Forrest was successful, the army, cut off from its commisary goods and munitions, would be forced out of Mississippi; at the least, Confederate cavalry operating to the rear might slow the Union advance.
On the 15th, Forrest's men arrived at Clifton from Middle Tennessee, crossed the Tenneess River on 2 flatboats, and entered hostile country. Because of a decision to cross the horses by boat, the ferrying was not completed until late on the night of the 16th. The movement was reported by Union intelligence, and by the time Forrest's men set out on the morning of the 17th, Grant had ordered troops to concentrate at Jackson, and a cavalry force under Col. Robert G. Ingersoll was moving to confront the Confederates.
Ingersoll's troopers clashed with Forrest's men at Beech Creek on the 18th, fell back 5 miles to Lexington, and were routed by severe fighting. Ingersoll, 149 other Federals, 2 3-inch Rodman cannons, and 300 Sharps rifles and ammunition were captured. On the 19th, Forrest demonstrated east of Jackson while Confederate detachments tore up Mobile & Ohio track 8 miles north of the town and wrecked Mississippi Central track south of it. District of Jackson commander Brig. Gen. Jeremiah C. Sullivan organized for a desperate defense of the community, not realizing his force outnumbered Forrest's 4-to-1. The next day, his men began a timid pursuit while Confederates split their force and took Humboldt and Trenton. Also on the 20th, Forrest paroled 1,200 Union troops he had captured since entering West Tennessee.
On the 23rd, Forrest captured Union City, near the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, where he made his headquarters through the 24th. Since the 20th, his men had torn up additional Mobile & Ohio track and burned trestles; on the 23rd and 24th, they ranged north across the state line and even destroyed railroad trestles at Moscow, Kentucky, 10 miles south of the Columbus railhead. No Union force came out of Columbus to meet them, presumably because of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck's orders to stay there protecting rail facilities.
On the 25th, Forrest set out southeast, down the Northwestern Railroad's line, hoping to end the raid and cross the Tennessee River. After passing into the country beyond the railroads, he found the small Obion River and other streams near flood level, Union gunboats active on the navigable waters, most bridges burned by Sullivan's men, and forces moving against him from all points.
After dodging Sullivan's 2nd and 3rd brigades on the 29-30th in the Huntingdon area north of Lexington, at 9:00 A.M. on the 31st, Forrest was compelled to fight at Parker's Cross Roads. His troops escaped the battle and withdrew to Lexington, 12 miles south.
In Lexington, Forrest paroled 300 federals captured at Parker's Cross Roads and formed the march for Clifton. The next morning, as he neared the river, he clashed with a Union cavalry regiment from Maj. Gen. Grenville M. Dodge's Corinth command, beat them, and reached the Clifton crossing by noon on January 1. The concealed flatboats were brought out and in only 12 hours, the entire force crossed back into Middle Tennessee, with the horses made to swim.
On the 2-3rd, leisurely Union pursuit and probing continued, but the raid was ended.