Sunday, June 25, 2017

General Nathan Bedford Forrest - Did He make a Difference? Part 4

Notes from presentation made by retired General John Scales at the Prattville Dragoons camp meeting on Thursday May 11, 2017.  

Early in 1864, Forrest conducted raids in Western Tennessee and Kentucky.  He took Union City capturing 475 Union soldiers with a bluff, without firing a shot.  At Paducah KY, Forrest was unable to take Fort Anderson which was protected by gunboats.  The time was also utilized to rest and resupply his men and horses.  

Fort Pillow was meant to protect the Mississippi but by 1864 it was a base of support for Yankees to raid the Confederate countryside and as a center of illegal cotton trade. Union General Sherman actually directed Fort Pillow to be evacuated but his order was disobeyed.  There was a lot of geographical relief including gullies and mounds around the fort offering cover and high ground to attack.  The Union commander at the fort was killed and the second in command refused to surrender although his position was untenable.  He thought Forrest was again bluffing when he demanded the fort be surrendered.  In the battle, Forrest lost just twenty men killed and 80 wounded while there were 600 Union troops killed, wounded (100) or captured (200). Reports of torture were never substantiated even though there were Congressional investigations.  There was evidence of some killings after the surrender but Forrest was at a distance of a half mile from the fort  Thousands of copies of the Congressional report were circulated before the 1864 Presidential election to drum up support for the War and the Republicans.  The reports also helped US Colored Troops recruiting as they vowed revenge.  Flames of racial animosity were deliberately fanned. 

In the summer of 1864, Forrest defended Mississippi while Sherman defended his supply lines.  At Brice's Cross Road, Forrest's troops routed experienced Union troops in a brilliant victory.  At Harrisburg, S.D.Lee and Forrest sustained casualties but the Union forces retreated again.  Forrest took advantage of action in the southern part of the state to launch an attack on Memphis which required Union forces to be brought back up to defend occupied Memphis.  But, ultimately, Sherman's supply lines remained secure and Forrest lost many men and horses.  

In September 1864 Sherman took Atlanta.  Forrest was released to attack his supply lines  and he was successful in destroying Tennessee and Alabama railroads and ironclad steamers but his efforts were too late for a major impact.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dragoons Complete Robinson Springs Cemetery Workday

The morning of Tuesday June 20th, with strong storms just to the north of Millbrook AL and rain coming up from the south, a group of devoted descendants of Confederate soldiers gathered at Robinson Springs Cemetery to help clean the grounds including weed eating and trim work.  This cemetery is the final resting place of a number of Confederates, and veterans of other wars including WWII, the Spanish American War and others including early residents of Autauga County AL.  These SCV members are motivated to honor the dead and were rewarded in their efforts as the Good Lord kept the rain away until ten minutes after completion of the work.

Five Dragoons from SCV Camp 1624 met at Robinson Springs Cemetery including members Tyrone Crowley, Bill Myrick, Bill Gill, James Spears and Larry Spears. Compatriot Carl French of the Cradle of Confederacy camp in Montgomery cuts the grass at the cemetery in a joint effort between the camps. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Did He Make a Difference? Part 3

Notes from presentation made by retired General John Scales at the Prattville Dragoons camp meeting on Thursday May 11, 2017.

Thru 1863, Forrest fought under Generals Wheeler and Van Dorn.  Significant engagements included Steight's Raid, an impressive victory by Forrest capturing Streight's 1700 men with a smaller force of only 500 at Cedar Bluff, AL.

Forrest protected Bragg's left (western) side operating in the western theatre.  At Chickamauga, Forrest missed an opportunity - he delayed Granger but another half hour would have resulted in a Confederate victory in in this battle.

Forrest had a final showdown with Bragg and attempted to resign but President Jefferson Davis refused.  Bragg forced Forrest to raise another brigade of cavalry.

In February of 1864, Sherman with 30,000 infantry attacked Confederate General Leonidas Polk with 10,000 men at Meridian MS.  Union General William Sooy Smith with 7000 cavalry moved south to join forces with Sherman and if he had been able, Sherman likely would have swept thru Selma to attack Mobile from the rear (north).  Forrest opposed Smith with just 3000 men but Smith was afraid of Forrest and postponed his advance and upon reaching West Point MS, he elected to retreat north back to Memphis.  Forrest vigorously pursued the retreating Union forces and at Okolona he avoided a trap set by Smith's second in command.  Forrest waited for the Federals to again move before attacking again, routing them to full retreat back to Memphis.

Sherman could not do to Alabama what he subsequently did in Georgia in the fall of that year because he did not have the cavalry support from Smith.  Forrest effectively delayed Alabama's defeat by a year.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Did He Make a Difference? Part 2

Notes from presentation made by retired General John Scales at the Prattville Dragoons camp meeting on Thursday May 11, 2017.

General Bragg wound up taking Forrest's cavalry and giving them to General Joe Wheeler so Forrest returned to the Columbia/Nashville TN area to raise another brigade of cavalry.

Union Generals Grant and Sherman were threatening Vicksburg and Bragg directed Forrest to confront this large Union army although the Confederates were undersupplied and not yet trained sufficiently.  The plan was again to slow the Federals advance by disrupting supply and communication lines.

Between December 15, 1862 and January 2, 1863, ten separate engagements occurred including destroying a rail line along the Tennessee River culminating at Parker's Crossroads where Forrest narrowly avoided capture.  Forrest lost 400 men with 300 prisoners but the Union forces lost 1300 including 1000 prisoners.

Forrest delayed Vicksburg's fall by six months thru his raids and destroying the railroad line used to supply the sieging Union army.
Artwork - "Forrest at Parker's Crossroads" by John Paul Strain

Friday, June 16, 2017

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Did He Make a Difference? Part 1

Notes from presentation made by retired General John Scales at the Prattville Dragoons camp meeting on Thursday May 11, 2017.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was born in Chapel Hill TN but his family moved to Salem Mississippi when he was a boy.  He was a voracious reader but had little formal education as his father died and Nathan Bedford had to work for his family's sustenance at an early age. He did some horse trading with his uncle and also was a successful slave trader and for a time was even the mayor of Memphis.  He was a very successful and wealthy businessman.

Forrest was originally against secession but when war broke out, he joined Captain Overton's cavalry as a private.  But he raised a cavalry battalion himself and was accordingly promoted to Lt.Colonel.  At this early time, he patrolled in front of the Confederate Army in Kentucky for General Albert Sydney Johnson.

Forrest performed credible service at Fort Donelson and escaped when the Confederate Generals there decided to surrender, salvaging supplies in Nashville.  At Shiloh, Forrest manned the right flank, reinforcing the Confederate attack and also performed reconnaissance.  At Fallen Timbers, he opposed Union General Sherman's pursuit of the retreating Confederates and was wounded after charging Sherman's forces and actually capturing an aide of Sherman's after overruning the Feederal lines with his 300 cavalrymen.

Forrest was selected to take over the Chattanooga defenses and was promoted to Brigadier General.  He commanded only about 5000 defenders threatened by General Buell with over 40000 men.  Forrest took over the Brigade which was in disarray and successfully repulsed Union General U.S. Grant who's army was stymied by a malaria outbreak.

Forrest decided to attack Mufreesboro and the stockpile of supplies there and cripple the resupply railroad.  He was able to approach from the east in the Cumberland Plateau thru a solid Confederate friendly area. His attack resulted in 120 Union soldiers killed and wounded and he lost 100 men but accomplished the mission.  He stayed behind Union lines harassing Buell's troops, destroying three bridges, killing and capturing more Union troops while sustaining no casualties.  Buell kept sending troops to find Forrest and wound up ignoring Chattanooga so Forrest was successful in his defense of Chattanooga.

From August 24 thru Sept 2, 1862, Forrest conducted a raid against a Union supply wagon train but it was guarded by artillery and many troops so Forrest's raids were largely unsuccessful.  So, he opted to loop around and attacked a stockade but without artillery, that attack was repulsed.  He lost between 75-80 men before he rejoined General Bragg in the east.

In summary, Forrest delayed Buell's forces despite the Federals having overwhelming numbers of 10,000 men positioned within 30 miles of Chattanooga which didn't fall for over a year thru a persistent threat to the Union supply lines.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Alabama Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Reunion 2017

A very successful and well attended Division Reunion was held the weekend  of June 9-10, 2017 in Cullman, hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Denney Camp. Commander Wayne Willingham and the members of the Denney camp worked very hard to be sure the entire Reunion went according to plan. Friday night the Commander’s Reception was held at Sportsman Lake under a large comfortable pavilion where a nice breeze drifted in from the lake and the ducks and geese played nearby. The food was prepared by camp members, particularly Division 1st Lt. Commander Carl Jones who smoked several Dixie butts and chickens. Home made baked beans and cole slaw were added as side dishes as well as bread, desserts and beverages. The food was excellent and displayed the expert cooking skills of the camp members. Entertainment was provided by Carl Jones, Gary Carlyle and Russ Hare with their guitars and Bill Anthony with his harmonica. Members and guests mingled and enjoyed excellent fellowship as old acquaintances were renewed and new friends were made.

Saturday morning brought the opening ceremonies and business session at the West Point Middle School. Representing the Dragoons were Tyrone Crowley, George Jenks, Harold Grooms, Bill Myrick and Larry Spears. The business and reports of the Division were handled in a professional manner and the session concluded about 2:30 in the afternoon. All three proposed amendments to the Division Constitution were adopted by the delegates after somewhat detailed debate. The amendments changed the wording on Division life membership, duties of Brigade Commanders and discipline of members. It was reported that the Division has 62 camps and 2006 members. A good bit of time was spent discussing the recently enacted Alabama Memorial Protection Act which protects memorials to veterans and other significant persons on public property in the state. 

The Awards banquet was held Saturday evening at the school with our speaker, Dr. John Killian. John was “fired up” about the attacks on the Confederacy and proposed a “What If” scenario… what if the South had won The War? His presentation was very interesting, passionate and inspirational. The Dragoons' own Conner Lee was one of 3 recipients of the General Joe Wheeler Scholarship. He was a guest of the Division and was recognized for his achievements. Conner will be attending Faulkner University in the Fall.  Another noteworthy presentation was the Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest award the Division bestows, to our Brigade Commander, Butch Godwin. For many years Butch has quietly worked to improve the Division and is always willing to help any member or any camp at any time. 

Pictured below are Commander Jimmy Hill at the podium, the Dragoon delegates, banquet participants  featuring Conner Lee, his brother Nick, mother Laura and Grandfather Bill Gill, also a Dragoon. Next picture is Conner with the other 2 recipients of the General Joe Wheeler award and lastly, Brigade Commander Butch Godwin being presented the Lifetime Achievement award.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Prattville Dragoons Camp 1524 Meeting for June 2017

The Prattville Dragoons held their June 2017 meeting on Thursday June 8th at the Shoney's on Cobbs Ford Road with 1 LT. Commander Harold Grooms leading the meeting.  Manny enjoyed fellowship over a nice meal prior to the meeting commencing then Lt. Grooms provided a presentation about the progression of war time weaponry. The program was very interesting and included some video as well as  a slide presentation. 

We had the honor of welcoming two guests, one of whom is a prospective member. Also, Colby Carlock brought his 10 month old son, Braxton, to the meeting and Braxton was very fascinated with his new surroundings.   Chaplain Snowden started the meeting with an Invocation and devotional.  Dragoon Will Dismukes was  then welcomed and introduced as our new color sergeant -- a huge thanks for assuming this important responsibility.  Upcoming events and news were shared before 1st Lt Grooms made his excellent presentation.