Download Grierson Raid

yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts

Battle of White Oak Road wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Fredericksburg wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Perryville wikipedia , lookup

United Kingdom and the American Civil War wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Island Number Ten wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Wilson's Creek wikipedia , lookup

First Battle of Bull Run wikipedia , lookup

Second Battle of Corinth wikipedia , lookup

Economy of the Confederate States of America wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Seven Pines wikipedia , lookup

Anaconda Plan wikipedia , lookup

Border states (American Civil War) wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Shiloh wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Sailor's Creek wikipedia , lookup

First Battle of Lexington wikipedia , lookup

Union (American Civil War) wikipedia , lookup

Western Theater of the American Civil War wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Stones River wikipedia , lookup

Siege of Petersburg wikipedia , lookup

Capture of New Orleans wikipedia , lookup

Military history of African Americans in the American Civil War wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Cedar Creek wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Gaines's Mill wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Fort Pillow wikipedia , lookup

Galvanized Yankees wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Harpers Ferry wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Cumberland Church wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Lewis's Farm wikipedia , lookup

Alabama in the American Civil War wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Appomattox Station wikipedia , lookup

Conclusion of the American Civil War wikipedia , lookup

Red River Campaign wikipedia , lookup

Battle of New Bern wikipedia , lookup

Siege of Vicksburg wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Namozine Church wikipedia , lookup

Cavalry in the American Civil War wikipedia , lookup

Battle of Mount Elba wikipedia , lookup

Mississippi in the American Civil War wikipedia , lookup

Grierson’s Raid: A Cavalry Through Brookhaven
Scott A. Tynes
Brookhaven and Beauregard played a key role in what has been called one of the greatest cavalry raids
in the history of the mounted soldier.
Although when cavalry commanders come to mind, Confederate greats J. E. B. Stuart and Nathan
Bedford Forrest are the first to come to min, But the Union is actually the army responsible for possibly
the greatest cavalry raid in history.
It was the spring of 1863 and Federal troops were just beginning to recoil from the staggering losses and
defeats at the hands of southern Confederates in the past two years.
Union General Ulysses S. Grant, and future president, embarked on a campaign to capture the “Gibraltar
of the Confederacy” – Vicksburg. The old Mississippi city fortress was of paramount importance to the
Union because it, and it’s supporting forts, Grand Gulf and Port Hudson, were the only obstacle
preventing the Mississippi River from being under Union control.
Confederate resistance along the Mississippi was defiant, however, and Grant’s first two attempts to
siege the city had failed. His next gambit had the virtue of never having been tried on such a grand scale.
Grant decided to ferry his men across the river at Grand Gulf, into the teeth of the Confederate artillery.
Before he could do so, however, he needed to distract the Confederate general in charge of Vicksburg’s
defenses, Lt. Gen John Pemberton and force a redeployment of the southern troops.
To do so, Grant chose a 36-year old former music teacher and storekeeper from Jacksonville, Illinois –
Col. Benjamin Henry Grierson.
Tall and lean with a long, full beard, Grierson enlisted as a private in 1861. He was commissioned major
of the 6th Illinois Calvary, and promoted to colonel in the spring of 1862.
He had proven to be a reliable and resourceful commander in west Tennessee while fighting guerrillas
and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, who would later become famous for his “March to the Sea”, once
referred to him as “the best cavalry commander I have yet had.
Grierson would prove his worth on a 15 day raid from the Mississippi-Tennessee border to Baton Rouge,
La. Grierson left LaGrange, Tenn., Apr. 17 with less than 2,000 cavalry men and rode 600 miles through
the heart of Mississippi to arrive in Baton Rouge May 2. He left in his wake destroyed railroads, trestle
work, bridges and supply depots which hurt the Confederacy severely. Some of the railroads he
destroyed would not be back in operation until well after the war was concluded in 1865.
The 1, 700 veteran cavalry men riding with Grierson included the 6th and 7th Illinois and the 2nd Iowa
Cavalry regiments. He also took six two-pounder Woodruff cannons of Capt. Jason B. Smith’s Battery K
of the 1st Illinois Artillary.
The raiders were only lightly supplied. Grierson intended to live primarily off the southern hospitality
and raided foodstuffs. They took with them only 5 days “light rations” of hardtack, coffee, sugar and
salt. He instructed the men to make the rations last 10 days.
Grierson raided southward, sending small detachments in different directions to raid and confuse the
enemy, and caused fairly extensive damage by the time he reached Union Church, in nearby Jefferson
County, Apr,. 28.
Prior to his arrival at Union Church, Grierson decided to send one battalion in a sudden feint back east to
the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad Bahala, now renamed Beauregard in honor of the Confederate
general, appeared to be the closest town.
Four companies of the regular First and Third Battalions of the 7th Illinois were chosen for the expedition
Company G Commander Captain George W. Trafton was given command as acting major.
The battalion moved towards Bahala at approximately 11 a. m. while Grierson ordered the main body of
the raiders to continue to march slowly along the Natchez road toward Union Church until they arrived
at a plantation where he could await the return of Trafton’s raiders.
Grierson reached the plantation of a Mr. Snyder, two miles outside of Union Church, at approximately 2
P. m.
What Grierson did not know until early in the morning of the 28th was Confederate cavalry was
responding and closing in on him from nearly every direction. They would form a loose ring around
Union Church and believed to have him trapped.
Grierson, however, only become aware of the trap when his pickets were fired upon.
“In a short time the camp was all in confusion, men running as fast as they could in every direction,
carrying saddles, leading horses on the gallop, gathering up carbines and sabers and buckling on belts,
while the air was filled with cries and oaths and quick impulsive exclamations and sharp stern orders…”
he wrote in his report.
“The column came in sight, “ Grierson continued, “a crowd of greylooking (sic) horsemen galloping and
shooting in a cloud of dust and smoke, passing by on the road in our front.”
Grierson was opposed by an enemy force for the first time since he left La Grange 11 days ago.
“A beautiful roll of smoke sprang from the line of carbines with a roar, and a sheet of balls swept
through the rebel line bringing it to a sudden halt and sending it back in confusion,” he wrote.
The rebels were fleeing and Grierson ordered the First Battalion of the 6th Illinois in pursuit. There were
no more than 150 Confederate cavalry men in the charge and the First Battalion quickly drove them
back over the two miles to Union Church where the dismounted cavalry men on both sides skirmished
until nightfall, the rebels ending up three miles outside of the town.
One Federal trooper was slightly wounded in the action and at least two Confederates were wounded;
they were brought in with several prisoners.
“It proved to be a part of (Gen.) Wirt Adams’ Mississippi cavalry,” Grierson said.
Adams and Grierson had met on the battlefield before, in fights around Corinth and Iuka. Each
commander held considerable respect for his counterpart.
The events at Union Church promoted Pemberton to cable Maj. M. R. Clarkm who was commanding a
training camp at Brookhaven. Clark was warned to be prepared for a visit from the enemy.
“The principal object will perhaps be to parole prisoners,” Pemberton said. “It will be well in that event
to send all the men you cannot arm to the country, if only a few miles.
Paroling prisoners was a serious consideration. Agreements made between the North and the South
regarding prisoners of war allowed for parole until exchange. A captured soldier was given a slip of
paper by his opponent which stated he was paroled, or ineligible for service in the military, until he had
been notified by his government he had been “exchanged, “ if only by paperwork.
Not aware of the trap, Grierson elected to try and get out of it.
“I had previously hoped to join General Grant in the vicinity of Grand Gulf or Port Gibson, yet the heavy
firing from the gun boats heard by us satisfied me that it would be impracticable (sic) to undertake to do
so, as it was very evident he had not at that time effected a landing with his troops,” Grierson said. “To
delay an indefinite time to effect a junction would be hazardous with my small command, in view of the
large forces –over 20,000 men sent out from various points to intercept and destroy us.”
Therefore, Grierson used a dramatic feint to draw the enemy form his main body to allow him to
“From this point I made a strong demonstration toward Fayette, with a view of creating the impression
that we were going toward Port Gibson or Natchez, while I quietly took the opposite direction, taking
the road leading southeast to Brookhaven, on the railroad,” he wrote in a dispatch from the
Headquarters First Cavalry Brigade in Baton Rouge May 5.
Not long after the raiders entered the Brookhaven road, they encountered a train of ox and mule teams
hauling sugar destined for the Mississippi River forts. The wagon teams, which had been loaded at the
Brookhaven railroad station, were destroyed after the raiders had replenished their supplies.
Two miles outside of Brookhaven, while still concealed by the vast forest, scouts reported two or three
hundred men were scattered in small groups and roving restlessly in the streets. No one was in uniform,
but it was obvious the city expected Grierson’s visit. A mile to the south on a high oak-shaded hil were
several rows of tents and beyond the tents were some long frame buildings –a military training camp.
“Before arriving at this place,” Grierson reported, “we ascertained that about 500 citizens and conscripts
were organized to resist us. We charged into town, when they fled, making but little resistance. We
captured over 200 prisoners, a large a beautiful camp of instruction, comprising several hundred tents,
and a large quantity of quartermaster’s and commissary stores, arms, ammunition, etc. After paroling
the prisoners and destroying the railroad, telegraph, and all Government property, about dark we
moved southward and encamped at Mr. Gill’s plantation, about 8 miles south of Brookhaven.
The 7th Illinois made the charge into the town, with the 6th Illinois swinging to the right to charge the
tent camp. As the men of the 7th broke from the trees, a rebel watch somewhere to their left fired a
single shot in warning, but the sudden rush of 500 cavalry men disheartened Brookhaven’s poorly armed
citizenry and they broke.
When the 6th Illinois dashed into the training camp, all they found was a few guards and convalescents
who surrendered without a fight. Pemberton’s message to Clark the day before had apparently been
obeyed to the letter.
After all the prisoners were assembled on the main street under heavy guard, however, there were still
an impressive 216 Confederates.
Union Adjutants George Root and Samuel Woodward, both lieutenants, were to receive some of the
hardest work of the day. Civilian morale, which was never high in some of the state’s southern counties,
bordered on open disloyalty to the Confederacy. After paroling “over 200 officers, soldiers and ablebodied citizens,” Woodard was surprised when a large number of military-age men lined up to receive
“Many who had escaped (conscription) and were hiding out were brought in by their friends to obtain
one of the valuable documents,” Woodard recalled.
While Woodard and Root were busy with the paroles, Capt. John Lynch took tow companies of the 6th
Illinois a short distance down the railroad track and burned several sections of trestle work. Other
companies from the regiment destroyed the deserted training camp.
In Brookhaven itself, the 7th Illinois fired the railroad station, a dozen freight cars and a small bridge. Two
days before, in Hazlehurst, flames from the burning depot threatened to spread to nearby buildings and
threatened the same in Brookhaven. An officer and 20 raiders prevented fires from spreading to civilian
“Our own soldiers,” said Sgt. Stephen Forbes, who was in charge of a fire squad, “climbed to the roofs of
the houses and kept them wet by pouring water over them until the fire had burned down.”
Some speculate it is probable the raiders did find some Union sentiment in Brookhaven. The town was
founded by a Massachusetts man a number of years before the war and would later form a new county
around itself, which Brookhaven citizens insisted be named Lincoln for President Abraham Lincoln.
Since dawn of that day, the Union raiders had traveled almost 40 miles and were happy to bed down for
the night at Gill’s Plantation, approximately eight miles south of Brookhaven.
The next morning, with no new information regarding events along the river and unsure of the location
of the pursuing Confederate cavalry, Grierson decided to continue tearing up track along the New
Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad.
An easy two-mile ride brought him to Bogue Chitto, a forlorn cluster of perhaps a dozen buildings
straddling the railroad, at about mid-morning.
Grierson ordered the 6th Illinois to burn the railroad depot and eight freight cars on the switch track
beside it. When the advance company of the 7th Illinois approached, he ordered Capt. Joseph Herring to
go down the line and destroy a section of trestle work. Within an hour, a wide swirling cloud of smoke
marked the destruction of several hundred feet of bridges and trestle work, and the raiders were
continuing their damaging flight south.
Grierson felt some satisfaction now that even if his brigade was captured, he had dealt heavy blows to
tow railroads vital to transportation of men and supplies between Jackson and the supply bases of
southern Mississippi and Louisiana.
He felt transportation would be interrupted for a few weeks, long enough for Grant to finish Vicksburg.
In fact, the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad was unable to make full repairs until after the war’s end,
more than two years in Grierson’s future.
Grierson’ s raid through this area was finished –from Bogue Chitto he raced southward, always ahead of
his pursuers, and raided Summit and other points southward until he arrived in Baton Rouge May 2.
In 600 miles of frenzied pursuit by Confederate forces, Grierson was only engaged twice, once at Union
Church and once at Wall’s Bridge over the Tickfaw River, three miles north of the Louisiana border. Both
engagements were by minor Confederate forces out manned and outmatched by the Federal raiders.
The raid has been called one of the most brash, daring and bold of cavalry operations since the mounted
soldier and, specifically, of the American Civil War.