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.  

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