Home History Deep Cut Into Dixie: Inside the Union Raid That Tore the Heart Out of Mississippi

Deep Cut Into Dixie: Inside the Union Raid That Tore the Heart Out of Mississippi

by Enochadmin

The arrival of Colonel Benjamin Grierson and his saddle-sore troopers in Union-occupied Baton Rouge, La., on Might 2, 1863, concurrently brought on each reduction and pleasure all through the area. Grierson’s cavalry had barely slipped via the grasp of the pursuing Confederates on a number of events, managing to achieve secure haven after an extended and treacherous expedition originating in LaGrange, Tenn. Brigadier Normal Halbert E. Paine of Wisconsin, third Division commander within the Military of the Gulf, later described the incoming horse troopers as “tough and prepared Illinois cavalrymen embrowned by their raid via the Confederacy unkempt and frowsy.” The weary males arrange what they known as “Camp Magnolia Grove” and eventually had an opportunity to relaxation uninterrupted.

Stationed exterior New Orleans when he heard the information, Corporal George W. Southwick of the first Vermont Mild Artillery on Might 6 elatedly wrote—albeit with just a few misspellings—“900 cavalry made an excellent sweep down via from Tennessee to Baton Rouge. They made an excellent sweep tareing up railroads burning bridges cuting telegraph wires and elevating the divil on the whole. It’s the biggest factor that has ever transpired since this battle broke out.”

For the Northern public, this was not mere hyperbole. Cavalry raids in late 1862 and early 1863 by Accomplice Generals Earl Van Dorn and Nathan Bedford Forrest had disrupted Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s provide strains in Mississippi and Tennessee, significantly irritating Grant’s advance on the essential Mississippi River port metropolis of Vicksburg. A Union response of some scale was wanted, resulting in Grierson’s daring raid behind enemy strains.

Cheers greeted Grierson’s arrival within the Louisiana capital. “To make use of the expression of my informant,” Ulysses Grant wrote, “Grierson has knocked the center out of [Mississippi].” (Harper’s Weekly)

Within the wake of the raid, Captain Henry Clinton Forbes, who commanded Firm B of the seventh Illinois Cavalry, took time to write down his spouse an in depth account of the function he and his males had performed within the enterprise, planting himself on a hill in entrance of the Louisiana State Home to take action. Though Forbes—labeled “a dashing sagacious captain of 30” by one relative—later compiled an official report, these preliminary ideas, nonetheless contemporary in his thoughts, supplied useful perception. Parts of the letter to his spouse, now in a non-public assortment, are revealed right here for the primary time.

The brainchild of this “expedition southward into Mississippi” on horseback was Union Maj. Gen. Stephen A. Hurlbut, commander of the Sixteenth Corps, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn. Acquiring fast approval from Grant, Hurlbut known as Grierson to his headquarters for an in depth description of his thought. Grant had deliberate a collection of diversions to throw the Southern forces off steadiness. Northern Mississippi was to be rife with Federal advances, definitely drawing sufficient consideration away from Grant’s river operations and Grierson’s maneuvers.

Forbes’ personal description of the raid’s begin was reasonably matter of truth: “Nicely, I used to be in my blankets, on my specific 5 ft 9 of mom earth at ten o’clock P.M. Sixteenth-April at LaGrange the place we had been so lengthy and so quietly doing obligation at Headquarters of the first Div., Sixteenth Military Corps, when an orderly introduced me a dispatch from the overall commanding, ordering me to report back to the Commanding Officer of my regiment, for ‘obligation on this expedition.’ Reporting instantly, I discovered that three regiments comprising our brigade [6th Illinois, 7th Illinois, and 2nd Iowa] had been ordered to march at daylight the following morning with 5 days rations.”

Captain Henry Clinton Forbes (College of Arizona Assortment)

“By particular favor,” Forbes recalled, “I learnt that we had been to make a deep minimize into ‘Dixie’ and on the daybreak we had been in our saddles.” Of their departure, Forbes famous, “42 males and each my lieutenants McCausland and O’Kane, supplied every man with a [Cosmopolitan] carbine and fifty rounds of ammunition, a saber and a homosexual coronary heart. We had been inside the enemy’s strains; forward, a wilderness of secession and enmity…”

The troopers had an inkling it was to be an extended raid, however, as Grierson elaborated, “No particular person aside from myself and Lieutenant S.L. Woodward, a.a.a. [acting assistant adjutant] normal of the brigade knew the possible extent of the expedition on which we had began.”

Wanting his spouse to know the precise route they took, Forbes really helpful: “Now take the perfect map of the State of Miss. you may get and also you shall march with us. You observe Tippah County subsequent to the N.W. of Ripley its county seat, having marched 35 miles. There we discovered loads of Com. [Commissary] Fodder and meat, which we appropriated with a liberal understanding of our personal desires. The soonest of objections solely enlisted the sweetest of smiles, however the inexorable ‘can’t assist it’ of the nice ‘Feds’ solely left the grief of the impoverished secesh the deadlier and the deeper.”

Forbes would additionally boast: “Via the northern fringe of Pontotoc Co. you’ll observe the Tallahatchie river working in a southwestern course. This stream the Rebs had vaunted no Yank ought to ever go alive once more. Accordingly, we handed it, the central Column a few miles above New Albany. One battalion at Kingsford [King’s] Bridge, under, and the 2nd Iowa above. About twenty secesh males discovered by the advance guard endeavoring to fireside [King’s] Bridge, however had been readily dispersed and the crossing effected.” These, Forbes famous, had been a part of a cavalry drive dispatched by Main A.H. Chalmers, however when phrase {that a} bigger drive of Yankees was headed their means, “they’d instantly left within the night time, going west.” The conflict, although, had served to warn Grierson of a doable assault from the rear.

The subsequent morning, Forbes’ Firm B took the lead and had “a number of energetic chases after little squads of the enemy”—a singular “insurgent scout…shot on the sting of city” being the one notable interplay. Commissary shops had been destroyed, together with “plenty of barrels of salt [which were] poured on the street, not that it had misplaced its savor, however that it could be trodden beneath foot by our horses.”

Captain Henry Forbes sat down on the hill in entrance of the Louisiana State Home to write down his spouse of his exploits. In late December 1862, Union troops had began a fireplace that gutted the constructing’s inside. (© Corbis through Getty Photographs)

The malicious act despatched the civilians scrambling for the precious commodity. As Forbes wrote, “You need to have seen the unsalted poor jubilant with their pails to scratch the valuable condiment out of the dust! One poor girl I bear in mind with peculiar zest, who, as she got here in sight of the lengthy white line of salt spilled throughout the road turned to our column then in full movement and together with her bonnet rapidly snatched from her head in a single hand and her pail in one other powerless to precise her pleasure in Language jumped up and down in her place and truly screamed in delight.”

Forbes’ baleful tendencies had been additional uncovered when he recalled: “One other amusing incident occurred close to the rear of the column the place my firm was stationed….I heard a dire knocking behind some fantastic premises towards whose fence our horses had been turned, and handed via to see what was doing when I discovered our boys within the act of very generously distributing some 5 – 6 hundred weight tobacco which they’d found. The person of the home having run away, his girl very affectingly besought me to set a guard for his property, which I very magnanimously proceeded to do. Some delays, accountable to the uninitiated, having been skilled, after I lastly went to set my guard, behold the tobacco, the boys and the obligation, which, as a gallant Knight owed to a good one in misery, I used to be by no means sorry to seek out had all vanished collectively!”

On April 20, Grierson’s command was “roused by the shrill reveille bugles at 2 o’clock within the morning.” By then, Grierson had already “despatched again all of the sick and disabled males”—an ensemble to be dubbed the “Quinine Brigade”—via Pontotoc in an effort to additional confuse the Confederates of his true intentions. Forbes and his males “drew a deeper breath and set out once more for Dixie, which like ‘away down east’ it’s possible you’ll uncover is tough to achieve.”

Lytle took this beforehand unpublished picture of Grierson, a piano instructor prewar, after the colonel reached Baton Rouge. Grierson wears no insignia and a plain uniform jacket. (Courtesy of Glen Cangelosi)

“We marched south east by byroads and encamped at Clear Spring,” Forbes wrote. “No occasion occurred worthy of word, save that being under the advance of our troops upon any former event, we started to understand probably the most ludicrous panic in possession of the minds of the individuals. No language may give an ample thought of the prepossession of the favored thoughts in Central Mississippi, towards the Yankee soldiery, all chimerical, all whimsical, the work of false witnesses in the one journals which come to their hand, part of the nice system of atrocious fabrication upon which the insurrection was primarily based on the first, and by which it’s diligently sought to be perpetrated.”

Grierson continued his efforts at subterfuge on April 21, when he indifferent Colonel Hatch and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. They had been, Forbes famous, “putting eastward along with his command for the Cellular and Ohio R.R. to work it no matter mischief lay in his energy and diverting the eye of the enemy from our progress halfway between the 2 roads to return at his comfort to our strains.” Grierson’s fundamental command crossed a neighborhood creek and, in response to Forbes, “[Upon entering] Starkville, a neat and nice village, we discovered nearly solely abandoned of its inhabitants, they newly fled in terror of the Yankee invasion. The place was tenderly handled, not a home being damaged, not an individual molested, although afterwards the secesh papers revealed that we burned the city and hung one of many physicians.”

Grierson’s males had been issued new .52-caliber Cosmopolitan carbines that used breech-loaded paper cartridges. Regardless of a 1,000-yard vary, they proved unpopular with the troopers. (Cowan’s Auctions)

“We camped 8 miles past [Starkville],” Forbes continued, “having marched 45 miles through interminable swamps, and captured plenty of prisoners, amongst which was a quartermaster from Port Hudson.” About two miles out after daybreak, Colonel Prince requested Forbes if he was prepared to take his command of 39 males to Macon and if doable destroy the [rail]highway at that place. They had been instructed to then rejoin the principle column by compelled marches.

Forbes readily accepted the task and began out towards Macon “as quickly because the slippery roads would allow.” One soldier, nonetheless, rapidly recommended: “The detachment to be thrown towards this [railroad] was used as a forlorn hope and was anticipated to be thrown away.”

Forbes’ males observed the roads had been tracked with hooves of livestock “pushed in to the swamps to be hidden by negroes” to keep away from seize. A number of ladies, Forbes famous, “burst into tears as we handed with out biting their noses off.” The group additionally encountered wagons loaded with meals and useful items hub-deep in mud. Forbes directed a few his males to decorate in captured “secesh” garments and scout forward of their unit. The element would arrest just a few locals, whereas one man tried to make a break for it earlier than getting “a saber stroke for his temerity.” Firm B lastly halted and bivouacked within the yard of a neighborhood plantation. “Simply as I used to be ending my piece of pone and cup of buttermilk,” Forbes wrote, “…picket posts got here in with a prisoner captured.” Forbes discovered {that a} Southern infantry regiment had arrived in Macon by rail, bolstered by two artillery items and native militia.

Forbes was not happy to be taught that the bridge he was suppose to cross “had been ready for instantaneous destruction.” All of them slept restlessly that night time with “23 males out of 39 sustaining numerous components of guard obligation for that night time.” Realizing that no less than 30 miles separated Firm B from Grierson’s fundamental physique, Forbes impressed a information to cause them to Baugh’s Ford, which they “discovered impassable owing to a[n] exceedingly heavy present.” They ended up crossing a bayou, lastly making their solution to the Marshallville highway. They turned and went via a menagerie of “swamps, plantations, wildernesses, dens, logs, pens, lakes, pits and caves of demise.” They swam two extra streams and ultimately struck the highway working southwest from Macon to Philadelphia about 4 miles from the previous, “pushing with all velocity.”

As Forbes would later doc: “We handed through Summerville, known as Gholson on Colton’s maps, simply earlier than sunset. It’s a stunning little hamlet, the seat of two common faculties finely located in giant buildings, one for both intercourse. We had been mistaken for secesh cavalry by the boys of the primary college, and amid probably the most exaggerated demonstrations of delight we made in having fun with the glory of being their courageous defenders. The women rushed to their balcony to wave us all hail, the matrons to their larders to acquire us a lunch and invites to the officers to sup right here.” The lads of Firm B handed up these alternatives however lastly stopped at Mr. Nunn’s plantation. Recalled Forbes: “We entered into negotiations for feed and supper all within the pure Secesh vernacular. Out got here the fodder, out got here the corn; the smokehouse disgorged, the ovens glowed, the churn gave up her all (of buttermilk), even the knives and spoons discovered their means on to the desk material.”

Forbes’ males had been tasked with destroying enemy railroad tracks and depots, disrupting Accomplice practice service to Vicksburg. (New York Public Library)

Forbes had a confidential confab along with his host, the place the latter expressed his dire contempt of the Yanks. Nunn started to entertain “misgivings in his thoughts and neuralgia in his abdomen” when he heard the bugles sound and got here exterior to find “one of many boys whose horse had turn into means worn had traded him incontinently for an out there nag that he discovered neighing patriotically for U.S. Service within the poor patriarch’s stables. The final I heard of our host was an inquiry for the Captain, and upon being informed that he was prematurely, he lifted up his voice, and known as me simply as I used to be engaged in shouting ahead! March! Which after all, shut off without end the noise of his complaints and divided the Yankees and honest Summerville for a season. Poor Nunn! Might he repent and consider. Although he’s previous in transgression, and hardened in false doctrines.”

Forbes’ males had been making nice time, resting for 4 hours at Nice Spring after traversing 60 miles. On the twenty fourth, the corporate handed via “a poor and barren firm.” The aspect journey grew to become harmful when the 2 scouts Forbes had dispatched forward encountered bushwhackers, with one scout killed and the opposite wounded. The Confederates “had carried out their bloody work and disappeared earlier than we may canter on to the bottom.” They gathered up the useless man and “laid him on a neighboring porch and unfold a blanket decently over him and left him for the enemy to bury. Our haste would brook no delay. Poor Invoice Buffington! God gave him good sleep beneath the inexperienced timber of this far land!” Forbes had his revenge, nonetheless, revealing, “I loved the pleasure of burning to the bottom the house of one of many bushwhackers.”

Upon reaching Newton Station, the troopers discovered the practice depot smoldering. Anticipating to cross the bridge Grierson had used, they found it had been destroyed by their very own forces and headed as a substitute towards Enterprise. There, Forbes stumbled on a “suspicious wanting enclosure of excessive plank fence round a faculty home…[that] I speedily found was stuffed with troopers and a sentry to be standing on the gate.”

In the course of his subsequent sentence, nonetheless, the narrative ends. Forbes had spilled espresso on this 14th web page and neither completed his ideas nor the missive itself. He had additionally spilled ink on the primary web page.

Forbes later boasted to his sister about going “48 hours with out meals,” regardless of revealing fairly the other to his spouse. He additionally claimed to have misplaced 22 kilos, regardless of his earlier descriptions of consuming luxurious meals from the palms of Southern civilians or their storehouses.

Forbes grew to become a farmer after the battle and revealed a big quantity of his personal poetry. He would go away on January 5, 1903, in Champaign, In poor health. 

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