A Strategic Junction
— Forrest's First West Tennessee Raid —
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led his cavalry brigade on a raid through West Tennessee, Dec. 15, 1862-Jan. 3, 1863, destroying railroads and severing Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's supply line between Columbus, Kentucky, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Forrest crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton, defeated Union Col. Robert G. Ingersoll's cavalry at Lexington, captured Trent and Union City, and ranged briefly into Kentucky. He raided back through Tennessee, evaded defeat at Parker's Crossroads, and crossed the river again at Clifton. Forrest's success forced Grant to switch his supply base to Memphis.
McKenzie's location put it squarely in the path of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's first west Tennessee raid in December 1862. After capturing Union City, Forrest turned east on Christmas Day, burning trestles and destroying track between there and McKenzie. Forrest's troopers reached McKenzie two days later with captured wagons full of coffee, flour and military supplies. Here he learned that Federal forces had deserted the bridges over the Obion River. As two of Union Gen. Jeremiah C. Sullivan's infantry brigades closed in, local farmers told Forrest about an old bridge on a back road that spanned the Obion River and led to McLemoresville. After shoring up the rickety structure that night, the Confederates crossed the swampy Obion bottoms, slipped between the pursuing Federal columns, and headed south toward Parker's Crossroads.
When the war began, Carroll County's residents were equally divided between secessionists and Unionists and furnished a similar number of recruits to both armies. Poorer farmers in the eastern agricultural districts mostly remained loyal to the Union, while the cotton growers residing in the prime land in the western section usually favored the Confederacy. Located in the northwestern portion of the county, McKenzie's Station was situated at the junction of two railroads and therefore strategically significant.
"There was no treat for the southern girls like the coming of Confederate soldiers. No sight so pretty as a long column of boys in gray uniforms with pistols buckled round them, and guns and sabers at their sides."
— Annie Cole Hawkings, McKenzie
(lower left) Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Gen. Jeremiah C. Sullivan Courtesy of Library of Congress
(upper right) Carroll County and McKenzie's Station, from 1863 state map Courtesy of Library of Congress
Forrest's First West Tennessee Raid, Dec. 15, 1862-Jan 3, 1863