TNFlag     Civil War and Carroll County, Tennessee    

Carroll  County,  like  many  other counties in West Tennessee, was a divided county.
Livestock  farmers  did  not  have slaves and were for remaining in the Union, cotton
growers  or row cropper had slaves and were for seceding from the Union. resulting in
their  meeting  at  the  Huntingdon Court House in Huntingdon for a heated discussion
resulting  in  those  for  remaining  in  the Union leaving by the North door and the
others leaving by the South door.

Carroll  County  is  not  regarded  as a place of much military importance during the
Civil  War,  although  many brave men from this area fought and died in that conflict
for  both  sides,  not  much mention of the events or terrible hardships that came to
this  part  of  Tennessee  has  been made. However, an event on the South Fork of the
Obion  River  between McKenzie and Huntingdon showed what men will endure for a cause
they believe in. The over-night crossing of the flooded South Fork of the Obion River
by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his troops in December 28, 1862 is probably one
of  the  most  significant  events  that  took  place  in  Carroll County during this
conflict.  It  is  hard  to  believe that 2,000 men, with almost that many horses and
mules,  12  pieces of artillery and 30 to 40 wagons, accomplished such a feat in such
bad  weather  and  in total darkness. After crossing the Obion River, General Forrest
fought  the enemy on December 31st, at the famous Battle of Parker's crossroads a few
miles south of the Carroll county line in Henderson county, Tennessee.

Let's go back to mid December, 1862 and follow General Nathan Bedford Forrest and the
events that led up to his passage through Carroll County. General Forrest, a military
genius,  was  also  a  genius  at selecting his staff. Colonel Jacob (Jake) Biffle of
Wayne  County  and  Colonel  Robert Milton Russell of Trenton, Gibson County are very
significant  in  his  success  in his first raid into West Tennessee. General Forrest
received  his  orders  from  General  Braxton  Bragg  on  December  10th at Columbia,

Even  though  General  Forrest had been ordered on the raid, he complained to General
Bragg  that  many  of his men were not well equipped. Some had shotguns, while others
had  flintlock  muskets  from  the  Mexican  War  of 1846. Be that as it may, General
Forrest  accepted his challenge and set his troops in motion from Columbia to Clifton
on  the  Tennessee River. Clifton was home territory for Colonel Jake Biffle. He knew
that  Union  troops  guarded  Cerro Gordo a few miles south, so they chose Clifton to
make  their  crossing.  Reaching  Clifton  on  the 15th of December, a distance of 70
miles,  Forrest  took  time  to  scout the river for Union gunboats and then began to
ferry his men and equipment across the Tennessee River to the Western side.

At this point we should review the situation:  

General  Forrest  was  putting  himself and his troops in great danger because of the
great  task  that  lay ahead for him in West Tennessee. Earlier in 1862, General U.S.
Grant's Union forces had made a clean sweep of the whole western region of Tennessee.
The North had defeated the South at Columbus, Kentucky, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson,
Island  No.  10,  Fort Pillow, Memphis and the great Battle of Shiloh. By December of
1862,   the  Union  forces  claimed  control  of  western  Tennessee  and  down  into
Mississippi. Garrisons had been posted at most towns along the railroads to guard the
supply lines from being retaken or destroyed by Southern forces.

After  crossing  the  Tennessee River, General Forrest first encountered the enemy at
Lexington  on  the  17th of December. He met them head on and forced them back toward
Jackson,  then  out-flanked  them  and  captured  150  men  and officers, 2 pieces of
artillery,  300 Sharpes carbines, ammunition and 200 horses with some wagons. Part of
the  Union  cavalry  fled  back  to  the safety of Jackson, there proclaiming General
Forrest  must  be 5,000 men strong and was headed to Jackson. He only had about 1,800
men at this time.

General  Forrest  reached Jackson on the 18th of December and an estimated a force of
10,000  Union troops. After a brief skirmish at Salem Church, then Spring Creek, Webb
Station  and Carroll Station, Forrest left Spring Creek for Humboldt along the Mobile
and  Ohio  Railroad.  This was General Grant's supply line between Columbus, Kentucky
and  Holly  Springs,  Mississippi.  General  Forrest  arrived  at  Shiloh Church near
Humboldt on the Peay Ridge Road and sent troops to Humboldt to destroy the bridges on
the  railroad.  He  then  took the Peay Ridge Road to Trenton, home of Colonel Robert
Milton  Russell.  At Humboldt on the 20th of December, part of his force captured 200
prisoners, 500 rifles, 300,000 rounds of ammunition and other supplies.

Meanwhile,  General  Forrest and the rest of his troops moved on toward Trenton where
the girls school cheered as he entered town. General Forrest positioned his Bull Pups
on  Texas  hill and fired upon the heavily fortified train depot. After a short time,
the  Union  forces  gave  up.  Forrest took 400 prisoners, 1,000 horses and mules, 13
wagons,  7  caissons,  20,000  rounds  of  artillery and 400,000 rounds of small-arms
ammunition. The days take also included 100,000 rations of food and a large amount of
clothing., blankets and cavalry equipment valued at $500,000.

On  December  21,  Forrest  moved northward along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad toward
Union  City.  He  left  Colonel  Jake Biffle and his cavalry to cause havoc along the
Christmasville  Road  to  Huntingdon. As Forrest proceeded to Union City, he captured
stockades  at  Rutherford  and  Kenton,  taking 300 more prisoners and destroying the
tracks and bridges through the Obion River bottom there. Pushing on toward the north,
Forrest reached Union City on the afternoon of the 22nd.

Here,  as  so  many  times  before,  General  Forrest  used his ability for quick and
decisive  action  to  capture the town and the 250 Union troops guarding the railroad
there.  From  Dec.23rd  to the 25th, the entire command rested and destroyed railroad
bridges around Union City as far north as Moscow, Kentucky. The 5,000 Union troops at
Columbus,  Kentucky  became  so afraid they would be captured, they began dismantling
their heavy cannons and dumped their powder in the Mississippi River.

The  day  after Christmas, General Forrest put his command in motion to the southeast
along  the  Nashville and Northwestern (NWR road) toward Dresden. He camped there for
the  night  and  received  reports  from his scouts that a force of Union troops were
moving  from  Trenton  to  Union  City  and Trenton to Huntingdon to cut him off from
returning  to  the  Tennessee  River.  Forrest  quickly  moved his troops to McKenzie
Station of Carroll County on the afternoon of the 25th of December.

General Forrest sent Colonel Robert Milton Russell and his men toward Huntingdon 6 or
7  miles  to  take and hold the crossing of the South Fork of the Obion River. Scouts
reported  back  about  9  o'clock  that night that the Union forces had destroyed the
bridges  over the South Fork of the Obion River south of the high road going to Paris
from  Jackson.  Colonel  Russell  had met enemy there, but had managed to get his men
across.  At  this  news, General Forrest sent Major N.M. Cox at a gallop to seize the
road from Huntingdon to Paris and cross if possible and hold the enemy in check.

General  Forrest  found  himself  and his troops in a very bad position. Union troops
were coming from Union City behind him and coming from Trenton to Huntingdon in front
of  him.  General  Sullivan's  brigade was at Huntingdon, General Dodge was moving up
from  Corinth,  Colonel Lowe from Fort Henry, Colonel Lawler from Jackson and General
Haynie sent troops from Trenton. Forrest was virtually surrounded by several thousand
Union troops, with no way to cross the South Fork of the Obion river at flood stage.

Union  telegram from Brig. General Jeremiah C. Sullivan to General Grant: Huntingdon,
Tn.  Dec.  29,  1862 8:06 p.m. I reached Huntingdon before the rebels knew I had left
Trenton.  I  have  Forrest  in  a  tight  place,  but  he may escape by me not having
cavalry......My  troops  are  moving  in  on  him in three directions, and I hope for
success.  Realizing  the  desperate situation he was in, General Forrest knew he must
find  a  way to cross the South Fork of the Obion River and get his troops to safety.
The  crossing  known  as the Double Bridges on the McLemoresville Road, near Big Buck
seemed  to  be  the  only  hope for the rebel raiders and their heavy wagons with the
spoils they had collected. The Union forces had overlooked these bridges as they were
thought to be impassable and were left unguarded.

General Forrest and his brigade reached the South Fork bottom about 11 o'clock on the
night  of  the  28th  of  December. They quickly began to cut timbers to brace up the
bridges  and  lay as tracks for the wagons and artillery. After this was done and the
slow  painful  crossing  started,  General  Forrest  drove  the first wagon across to
inspire  his  men  not to give up. The General made it across, but the next two teams
slipped  into  the  icy  backwaters.  Soon,  these were pulled out, and the rest were
helped  across  by  hand, twenty men to each wagon. In some cases, the wagons were so
heavily  loaded  that  the  men  threw  flour and coffee in the mud holes to get them
through.  Finally,  the artillery was drawn across fifty men to each gun and caisson.
The  men  were becoming very weary and demoralized by this time from such a hardship.
It  is  hard to imagine men wading waist-deep freezing water, pushing wagons across a
swamp  at  night  in  such  conditions.  This  type  of crossing would have been very
difficult in daylight in the summer time.

By the morning of the 29th, the men and equipment were all south of the South Fork of
the  Obion River and headed down the Big Buck Road for McLemoresville. Colonel Robert
Milton Russell and major N.M. Cox rejoined the command near Newbill's Crossroads.

Remember,  Colonel  Jake Biffle was left to play havoc along the road from Trenton to
Huntingdon. Colonel Fuller left Trenton on the Christmasville road through Concord to
Waterford of the Rutherford Fork of the Obion River. Colonel Biffle was biting at his
heels.  At  Waterford,  Colonel Fuller was advised by a local man that he should turn
right  on  the Burlington Highway to get to Huntingdon the quickest way. As he turned
right,  there  was  a  skirmish  at  Waterford  was the stragglers being overtaken by
Colonel  Biffle.  Four  of these troops were killed and buried on the William Goodman
farm in the family graveyard.

William  Goodman was one of the first settlers in Gibson county, thought to have been
here  before  the  Chickasaw  Indians were removed. His son Fielding G. Goodman had a
cotton  gin  at  Waterford.  Fielding G. Goodman was first married to Delila Woodson,
sister  of  Jane  Woodson Robinson married to George W. Robinson who was with General
Forrest. George W's cousin joined R.H. Goodman (son of F.G. Goodman) Colonel Biffel's
forces  the  very  day that this skirmish happened. Some think he may be the one that
sent  Colonel  Fuller off on this route to Huntingdon. Colonel Fuller spent the night
at  Shady Grove that night instead of Huntingdon because of the extra milage. Colonel
Jake Biffle went on the Jackson with Colonel Stephens.

Near  McLemoresville,  General  Forrest stopped for a time to let his troops rest and
fed  the  animals. There, he learned of 10,000 Union troops from Huntingdon that were
about  to  move against him. About 10 o clock, the troops were put into motion on the
back  roads leading from McLemoresville to Lexington. Late that afternoon, the troops
reached  the area around Union Church near flake's Store, about 9 miles north west of
Lexington  and  6 miles west of Clarksburg. Here they camped for the night and rested
the next day, while scouting parties kept a close eye for the enemy.

About  4  o'clock  a.m. on the 31st of December, General Forrest moved on to Parker's
Crossroads  where  he  met the Union forces commanded by Colonel Cyrus Dunham. As the
Union forces drew up in line for battle, General Forrest quickly dismounted Dibrell's
and  Russell's regiments and put them forward as skirmishes. The artillery, commanded
by  Freeman and Morton, was placed on a ridge about 600 yards from the Union position
and  opened  a steady fire upon the Union guns. After an hour or so of hard fighting,
Colonel  Dunham's  forces  were  driven  back  to the east side of the Huntingdon and
Lexington  road,  or  southeast of Parker's Crossroads. By 12 o'clock noon, Forrest's
artillery  had  knocked  out  all  of the Union artillery and driven the Union forces
further back across an open field into a clump of woods, killing and wounding many of
them.  At  this point several white flags began to appear among the forces of Colonel
Dunham's  beaten  forces.  It  seemed that General Forrest and his troops had won the
battle,  the  enemy  had  been driven back steadily for about four hours and now were
surrounded  by  the Confederates. But just as General Forrest was about to accept the
surrender of Colonel Dunham and his men, the worst thing that could happen, did.

Two  fresh  brigades  under  General  Sullivan  and  Colonel Fuller slipped in behind
General  Forrest  and  were  beginning to attack. Remember, Colonel Fuller would have
been  there in the morning had not he spent the night at Shady Grove. The scouts that
he  had  sent  to  watch  for  them had not reported back in time and allowed General
Forrest  to  be  surprised by the reinforcements. Also, remember, Colonel Jake Biffle
was  in  Jackson  on  the morning of December the 31st with Colonel Stephens. When he
first  heard  the  guns at Parker's Crossroads, he came at a gallop. As he arrived to
save General Forrest, again, General Forrest gave his famous reply when asked what to
do,  Charge them both ways. Immediately, Forrest and his men began to leave the field
of  battle  and  get  to  safety.  This  was  done  as  best they could; many who had
dismounted  to  fight were unable to get back to their horse. They were able to get 6
pieces  of  artillery  and  most  of the wagons rolling and on the road to Lexington.
There  was  some  confusion,  but  most  of  Forrest's troops escaped capture because
Colonel  Jake  had  arrived  in  time  and General Forrest led a fierce counterattack
himself.  After  stopping  briefly  in Lexington to eat and feed the animals, General
Forrest  led  his men back to Clifton where they raised the barges they had sunk when
crossing before. They crossed the river on January the 1st, 1863.

The  December,  1862  raid  into West Tennessee by General Nathan Bedford Forrest was
definitely one of his most brilliant expeditions. In the short 15 day period, Forrest
and  his men had traveled about 250 miles behind enemy lines, fought daily skirmishes
and  three  sizable  battles  with  the  enemy. Despite all this the command averaged
moving  20 miles a day over terrible winter roads. General Forrest actually ended the
campaign  with  more men than he started with, while killing or capturing 2,500 Union
troops.  He had taken or destroyed 10 pieces of artillery, captured 10,000 rifles and
pistols  and  1,000,000  rounds  of  ammunition,  plus  many other supplies, food and
equipment.  This raid also destroyed 50 bridges and many miles of track on the Mobile
and  Ohio  Railroad;  General  Grant's  major  supply  line  into  West Tennessee and

General  Nathan Bedford Forrest (of Prussian fighting descent) with his quickness and
ability  to  disrupt  the  enemy introduced new tactics of warfare into the Civil War
still  studied  and  used today. Had General Robert E. Lee known about the tactics of
General  Forrest  in  time, he might have used his tactics in other fields of battle.
General Forrest had struck such a blow to General Grant in West Tennessee with such a
small  force,  he  should  be remembered as The Wizard of the Saddle. General Sherman
also recognized him when he called him That Devil Forrest. But let us not forget, the
men  he  chose to lead under him, Colonel Robert Milton Russell, West Point Graduate,
Infantry.  General  Forrest  had  a  man  to  hold the horses while the others fought
dismounted. He only used the horses as transportation unless absolutely necessary.

This  article, contributed by Jere R Cox, was taken from an article in the History of
Carroll  County, Tennessee Volume One, 1987 submitted by Dale Cooper and Colonel Jack
Barnett Biffle, Born to Fight by Sons of the South Publications by Brent A. Cox. Some
of  the  information  was  researched  by  Brent  a.  Cox and Dan Kennerly, author of
Firstest with the Mostest. submitted by Jere R Cox


This article, contributed by Jere R Cox, was taken from an article
in the History of Carroll County, Tennessee Volume One, 1987
submitted by Dale Cooper and Colonel Jack Barnett Biffle, Born to
Fight by Sons of the South Publications by Brent A.  Cox. 
Some of the information was researched by Brent a.  Cox and
Dan Kennerly, author of Firstest with the Mostest.

                                                            submitted by Jere R Cox