First with the Most Forrest

By Robert Selph Henry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE FIRST WEST TENNESSEE CAMPAIGN
September 25, 1862-January 3, 1863

It was part of the evil chance which beset the Confederacy in the West that, until very nearly the end of the war, President Jefferson Davis was to see Bedford Forrest through the eyes of General Bragg, and that Bragg could not see him except through the fine-print pages of the drill books. Despite his expressed confidence in Forrest's "energy, zeal and ability" 1 he did not realize, and apparently could not realize, that a man not professionally trained in the minutiae of the regulations might nevertheless be a first-class soldier and not a mere partisan raider.

When Forrest was sent back from Kentucky his mission was to operate against the Union forces remaining in Middle Tennessee by "cutting off supplies, capturing trains, and harassing them in all ways practicable." 2 He was sent, in other words, "on partisan service, for which and which alone [Forrest and Morgan] are peculiarly and especially suited," as Bragg afterward wrote to President Davis. 3

The Union forces remaining in Middle Tennessee consisted chiefly of a garrison of something more than 12,000 men under Brigadier General James S. Negley, 4 concentrated in Nashville, where the troops had been left largely at the insistence of Andrew Johnson, Military Governor of Tennessce, that the capital of the state must be held at all hazards. To operate against this garrison, there were about 1,700 Tennessee state troops, or militia, and about 1,000 Confederate cavalry, all fresh-raised and entirely green. These half-organized and untrained bands were encamped at La Vergne, halfway between Nashville and Murfreesborough, when Forrest arrived at the latter point from Bardstown after a five-day march of 165 miles. Forrest brought with him Bacot's battalion of cavalry, veteran soldiers, and found at Murfreesborough one trained infantry regiment, the Thirty-second Alabama, and Captain S. L. Freeman's battery of two 6-pounder guns and two 12-pounder howitzers, bronze. 5

The Alabama regiment was sent forward to the advanced position at La Vergne, where at dawn of October seventh a Federal force from Nashville struck in a surprise attack, front and flank. The Tennessee levies

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