Rear Guard Action Nashville Tn 1862 by Forrest

diane

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Nathan Bedford Forrest escaped from Ft Donelson with 1700 men. When that fort fell, the backwash was felt completely across Tennessee. Braxton Bragg was preparing to defend Chattanooga but the Union victory at Ft Donelson caused a tremendous shift in the Union forces throughout the northwestern theater. Buell and Thomas were ordered to Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, but ahead of them went the only large, organized body of cavalry the CSA had - Bedford Forrest's combined units. His force was green but had a core of veterans, and they were all states - Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee. Altogether he had the largest force he ever commanded - about 5 to 8,000 troops.

Buell's army alone was 50,000 strong, Rosecrans had George Thomas and Ormsby Mitchell recalled to stop the rebel movements at Nashville. This was a tremendous surge of Union troops toward the center of Tennessee, and right in the middle of it was one cavalryman.

Forrest arrived in Nashville ahead of Union forces and just before the mayor surrendered the city to the Union. He emptied the city of supplies, destroyed anything of use and cleared the roadways enough for transport. There were riots in Nashville - Forrest turned the fire hoses on the rioters when they became more numerous than his men. Put a damper on things! The main warehouse was being looted so he put himself before the doors. He may have seemed a lonesome figure, and a small mob soon formed as there was liquor in the warehouse they wanted. Forrest ordered them away but one huge man stepped up quickly behind Forrest and grabbed him by the collar to fling him aside. He not only didn't fling, he whacked the guy's melon with his navy Colt - and it was no love tap. The man was stretched out on the ground for some time and proved to be an excellent example of why one did not touch the officer standing in front of the liquor!

Don Carlos Buell was headquartered in Columbia and Gen Ormsby Mitchell was headquartered in Murfreesboro. Buell ordered him to move his division to Shelbyville, leaving Murfreesboro protected by only a small number of Union forces. No one expected Confederate forces to be anywhere near...but this opened the Murfreesboro Turnpike between that city and Nashville. Forrest made the famous raid that began his 1862 West Tennessee Raid, which made him a major general.

What else did Forrest accomplish with Nashville? He burned all the bridges the brilliant Mitchell (Old Stars - a genuine genius) had built, retrieved or destroyed all the stores and materiel usable by the enemy, and caused a great disturbance in the force! This is not much known, but Forrest did indeed with his few thousand troops stymie Buell's army of over 50,000. (Later, this was something Sherman took note of with his march. Forrest had stopped him once with Meridian as he had stopped Buell.) Forrest kept them moving as he kept moving - he, Van Dorn and Morgan created chaos while Bragg moved toward eastern Kentucky - his plan was to take that area and Bowling Green. (This was a 'bread basket' area and also a major salt manufacturing site.)

Grant, finding his threat against Vicksburg stymied by the cavalry raids of Van Dorn and Forrest, moved toward Nashville with surprising speed but was stopped cold by Henry Halleck. It would have been interesting if Grant had been able to act in Nashville.

Many times people have understated what Forrest actually did as cavalry and how effective he was. He was organized, calculating and deadly efficient with great intelligence gathering skills. This is demonstrated by how he rode into Murfreesboro right under the noses of three Union generals who were nobody's fools. Impeding an army the size of Buell's with a fraction of the manpower was surprising audacity even Lee would have gasped at but it worked. Buell backed off like a bull meeting a feisty mouse for the first time! It bought Bragg time he needed. That is another thing not often mentioned about Forrest's operations around Nashville in 1862.

Inadvertently there was another curious outcome of Forrest's rear guard cover of the Confederate army's shift from Corinth. The failure of the quixotic and vastly interesting Andrew's Raid. Stealing the General was, surprisingly enough, foiled by Forrest!
 
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5fish

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I think we should talk about the Nashville retreat of 1864. You Know where Forest shows up a day late... It was Lee's corps and Chalmers Div and other heroes ... and no Forrest to be found... oh until late on the 17th... it was a unit not even Forrest... here some random takes on the retreat... after the 17th Forrest and Walthall lead the rear guard...

Snip... The Retreat...

“What followed over the next twelve days would be one of the most spellbinding and tragic episodes in American military history as hunters and hunted left bloody footprints on the bayonet-sharp ice for more than 100 miles. Grizzled Confederates who survived claimed it was worse than the patriots’ sufferings at Valley Forge. One general wrote ‘that it was a most painful march, characterized by more suffering than had ever before been my misfortune to witness.’ ”

Snip...

Just when it seemed the infantry of Stevenson’s command was doomed, a unit of General Forrest’s cavalry rode into the fray, arriving from the east, just in time.

SNip... I think it should be Forrest men...

The U.S. Army cavalry fought Gen. Hood‘s army for over 100 miles, but lost them after being check-mated more than a dozen times by Lt. Gen. Bedford Forrest. Hood’s Retreat was too late to have changed the outcome of the war, but testimony to the resolve of these grizzled warriors.

SNIP...

Along Franklin Pike near Brentwood, late in the evening of his decisive defeat at Nashville, Hood reorganized his army for the retreat southward. Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee’s Corps, supported by Chalmers’ Cavalry Division, covered the withdrawal, fighting continuously until the army bivouacked near Spring Hill, 21 miles south, the night of Dec. 17. Near Columbia, Gen. Forrest’s men arrived to lend assistance. After a 100-mile retreat, the ragged and defeated Confederates finally reached safety by crossing the Tennessee River in northern Alabama on December 26.

Snip...

In what was perhaps one of the largest cavalry charges on American soil, maybe 6,000 federal troopers charged across what is today known as Harlinsdale, now a Franklin city park.

Snip...

Late in the morning of December 17, the rain soaked and chilled the Confederates to the bone, adding to their misery. Across these rolling fields, Federal cavalry units under Gen. James H. Wilson closed in. Hood’s rear guard, Gen. Stephen D. Lee’s hardened veterans, held a line at the Harpeth River near here. Wilson’s 3,000 cavalrymen charged the Confederates on both sides of the Franklin Pike to rout and destroy the remnants of the Army of Tennessee. Confederate cavalrymen and artillery firing from the riverbank slowed the Federal attack and enabled Lee’s men to escape across the river. When Confederate engineers toppled the railroad trestle, some of their comrades were stranded on the northern bank. A few swam across to temporary safety. The Federal cavalry charge, much of it over what is today known as Harlinsdale Farm, was among the largest of the war. As the day progressed, the fighting continued through and south of Franklin. Nightfall finally ended the cavalry attacks on the worn-out Southerners, who continued their flight south.

SNIP...

Confident, they soon realized it wasn’t going to be that easy and were stunned by the ferocity of the Confederate repulse. Wilson would later write that the battle at Hollow Tree Gap left him “undeceived” about the gumption left in the Confederate rear guard. There were over three hundred casualties on both sides along a stretch of Franklin Road where today thousands of motorists’ transit, with no idea what happened there. Only a lone Civil War Trails marker in the Gateway community at Moore’s Lane recalls the events of that day.

Snip...

ONE OF THE DIFFICULTIES IN UNRAVELING THE retreat from the Battle of Nashville is that there were few written reports, even by Union officers. They were burdened with more than 4,500 prisoners, and the reports they did manage to file dwelled on claiming credit for capturing cannons and men.
 

diane

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Ah-ah! I see what you did there! :D Let's make 1864 Nashville a second thread and this one about 1862. All about talking Nashville 64 - but this thread's Nashville 62. You know, the first two years of the war just don't get no love - like the Trans-Mississippi!

Forrest did everything on this campaign that he's become famous for NOT doing. He screened effectively, gathered better than excellent intelligence, performed every task with precision and even successfully pushed back Buell's entire army as well as confusing Rosecrans - his rapid mobility made both generals think his force was much stronger than it really was. This allowed Bragg to position himself for either protecting Chattanooga or taking a crack at Kentucky. Forrest worked very well with Bragg, and Bragg wasn't doing badly himself - Forrest was a perfect subordinate when his commander made sense to him. Contrary to popular thought, Forrest and Bragg made a very good team at this time.
 

diane

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There were huge changes in two years - even Robert E Lee couldn't shine! The contrast between the two campaigns is intriguing. Forrest was zealous, full of confidence and had great clarity about what he was fighting for. Can't say he didn't put his money where his mouth was, either, unlike many other planters. One thing - the only Union general who had Forrest's utmost respect from first to last was Grant, and that respect was returned. Grant didn't like Forrest but he did respect him - plenty. (And his brothers as well. Whenever he got a report Forrest was around he'd ask, "Which one?" )
 
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