Forrest's Cavalry fought dismounted at the Battle of Parker's Crossroads, as was customary. Cavalry depended upon their mounts and military protocol defined how horses were handled in battle. One of every four horsemen remained mounted and took control of the horses of the three dismounted men. The "horseholders" kept to the rear, away from the battle but ready to bring the horses forward if ordered to do so.
The horseholders of Colonel George Dibrell's and Major Nicholas Cox's battalions were in the orchard and field behind the Parker house when Colonel John Fuller's Ohio Brigade came within sight of the battlefield.
Three Ohio Regiments swept down from the ridge and into the fields behind the Parker house while Fuller's gunners rained shot and shell on the Confederate batteries. The Ohioans' quick advance took the horseholders, whose attention was on the apparent surrender taking place ? mile south, completely by surprise.
In the ensuing melee, the Confederate horseholders lost control of the mounts and were forced to abandon them. Many of the stampeding horses were later rounded up by Fuller's men.
Lieutenant Colonel Zephaniah S. Spaulding, 27th Ohio, reported, "By order of Colonel Fuller I formed my line on the left of the road, fixed bayonets, and charged down the road and across the open fields which lay between us and the enemy. In an orchard we found a large number of rebel cavalry horses, with equipments, &c., complete, being held by a detail made for that purpose, all of which we captured."
(Inset: Portrait of George C. Dibrell)
"We had about 300 prisoners, and while we were parlaying about a surrender the enemy was re-enforced by General Sullivan with another brigade of infantry, which was firing upon our horse-holders before we were aware of his approach. General Forrest then ordered us to retreat, which we did in much confusion, as our horse-holders were demoralized, and many men captured in trying to get their horses." — Colonel George C. Dibrell, 8th Tennessee Cavalry