Cavalry versus Navy
During the Civil War, several engagements occurred along the strategically important Tennessee River within about five miles of here. In each one, cavalrymen engaged naval forces.
On April 26, 1863 near the mouth of the Duck River east of here, Confederate Maj. Robert M. White with the Texas Rangers and its four-gun battery attacked a Union flotilla from the river bank. The gunboats Autocrat
, and Adams
and several transports came under heavy fire. When the vessels drove the Confederate cannons out of range with small-arms and artillery fire, Union Gen. Alfred W. Ellet ordered the gunboats to land their forces, signalmen on the exposed decks "wig-wagged" the orders with flags. The Mississippi Marine Brigade quickly disembarked and engaged the Rangers, who "who were driven back and pursued some 12 miles in the interior, with the loss of Major White, mortally wounded and left near the field and 1 lieutenant and 8 men killed." White, a Tennessee native who had lived in Texas since 1834, was buried in Belton, Texas.
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest successfully attacked the Union supply depot at Johnsonville on the east bank of the Tennessee River five miles north of here, on November 4, 1864. Forrest earlier commandeered two Union vessels at Paris Landing near the Kentucky border and ferried his command across the river. Opposite Johnsonville, Forrest placed batteries above and below the depot, and an intense artillery duel erupted with the defenders. Three Union gunboats caught fire, and Col. Charles R. Thompson ordered the transports destroyed to prevent their capture. Wind-shipped flames spread to the warehouses, causing millions of dollars in damage. Forrest then crossed Birdsong Creek near here en route to join Gen. John Bell Hood's army near Florence, Alabama.
(upper center) Gen. Nathan B. Forrest and Gen. Alfred W. Ellet Courtesy Library of Congress
(upper right) Confederate infantry and artillery firing on Union gunboats Courtesy U.S. Naval Historical Center
(lower right) Union gunboat fleet on the Tennessee River, Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War