Griersons Raid

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Grierson hoped they would obliterate his tracks and deceive the Rebels into believing the whole brigade had turned back. Meanwhile, the rest of the brigade was soon back in the saddle and continuing south toward the town of Houston. But Barteau failed to find any fresh tracks indicating that mounted forces had passed by. He headed for Pontotoc, which his advance scouts reached at noon.

Grierson, seated center with hand on chin, is surrounded by his staff. Barteau quickly learned that the Federals had passed through the area hours before and were headed west for Oxford. Barteau send a detachment to follow the Quinine Brigade, which he figured was a diversionary force. At nightfall they camped a mile and a half north of Houston to give their worn-out horses and men a much-needed rest. By this time Grierson had passed Houston and was camped 12 miles south of the town at another local plantation.

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That night Grierson met with his regimental commanders and other key officers to discuss decoying Rebel pursuit. Then, if practicable, they were to hit Columbus, destroying the government works there and striking the railroad south of Okolona before returning to La Grange. After the column of bluejackets passed through Clear Springs, Hatch halted his regiment. The cannon was turned in the road in four different places, thus making their tracks correspond with the four artillery pieces which Grierson had with the expedition.

The object of this was to deceive the rebels, who were following us, into the belief that the entire column had taken the Columbus road. The deception worked.

Night Mail 1936 GPO Documentary Train LMS 6115 in Station

Barteau sent his men galloping eastward along the muddy road after the enemy, which he soon overtook at Pala Alto. Hatch, hearing the gunshots, ordered his men to continue into a hedged lane and dismount. Taking cover along the brush and trees that bordered the lane, the Iowans, armed with sporting Colt revolving rifles, opened up on the Rebels.

Barteau, sensing he had the Federals trapped, halted the charge and sent four companies of Tennesseans to take up positions at the far end of the lane while he attacked the enemy with the rest of his command. Before the Confederates could attack, Hatch struck first. The lone Woodruff gun opened up on the Mississippi troops while the Iowa cavalrymen hit the Mississippians hard, causing them to retreat in disorder. Barteau and his Tennesseans, meanwhile, rode hard to place themselves in a position between the Yankees and the railroad tracks.

They dug in for the night and waited for reinforcements, intending to continue the battle the next morning. Hatch had other ideas. He led his men northward through a large swamp, guided by an African American scout.

Griersons Raid by Dee Brown

Barteau, reinforced by Lt. James Cunningham and his 2nd Alabama Cavalry, rode after Hatch. Barteau continued to dog the raiders, who were burning bridges as they withdrew north. On April 24, nearing Birmingham, Hatch divided his force, sending six companies to the east while the rest of his command, along with 31 prisoners and escaped slaves who were helping to drive the captured horses and mules, proceeded into town.

The bridge was then torched, ending the skirmish after it had cost the Confederates 30 men and exhausted their ammunition. Hatch returned safely to La Grange a couple of days later, having lost only 10 men himself. Colonel Edward Hatch of the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. Grierson, meanwhile, was continuing to push south. Ahead of the column of horsemen now rode a group of scouts led by a Canadian quartermaster sergeant named Richard Surby. According to Surby, he approached his superior, Lt.

Eight men from the 7th Illinois were dressed as irregular Confederates. Passing through Starkville on April 21, the raiders seized Confederate mail and destroyed supplies. Grierson was disturbed to learn that the townspeople knew the raiders were coming. As a violent storm flashed and crashed overhead, the bluejackets pushed south from Starkville through swamps where horses struggled through belly-deep mud and water. Finding some high ground, the raiders stopped for the night. Concerned that the Confederates had been telegraphed of his force passing through Starkville, Grierson decided to send out another diversionary force, Company B of the 7th Illinois.

Separating from the main column, Forbes and Company B rode east for 30 miles. That evening Forbes halted his company at a plantation three miles from Macon. Around 9 pm, pickets captured a Confederate scout who revealed that a trainload of infantry was expected to arrive that night. Taking Macon was now out of the question. He sent Loring to Meridian to take command of all troops in the area and run down the enemy raiders. Troops went quickly by rail to Macon, where Pemberton had received reports of a large enemy force approaching. Grierson, after a rugged journey through deep mud and water, was nearing Louisville.

He ordered Major Mathew Starr to ride ahead with a battalion of the 6th Illinois and secure the town. The column then pushed on through more swamps before camping around midnight at another plantation. On the morning of April 23, the Butternut Guerrillas galloped ahead of the main column with orders to capture a key bridge over the flooded Pearl River. A couple of miles from the bridge the scouts chanced upon an elderly man who told them the bridge was held by a guard of five men, including his son, and that they had ripped up some planks in the center of the bridge and placed incendiaries in the openings.

The old man reluctantly agreed to help after he was warned that the raiders would destroy his property if the bridge was damaged.


After replacing the missing planks, Surby left one scout to wait for the main column and led the rest of his men after the fleeing guards, who he worried would spread word of the Union advance. As he neared Philadelphia, Surby spotted armed men drawn up in a line across the road. He immediately requested that an additional 10 men be sent up to reinforce the Butternut Guerrillas. When Surby saw the help coming, he led his scouts forward, revolvers blazing, and stampeded the Rebels.

The town was quickly in Federal hands. The muddy blue column of cavalry continued to push south.

Grierson's Raid - CivilWarWiki

After a brief rest, Grierson had his men riding through the night. He sent Blackburn and men of the 7th Illinois ahead with orders to capture Decatur and scout the ultimate target of the raid, Newton Station. Blackburn easily secured Decatur and halted six miles outside Newton Station.

Grierson then ordered Surby and two scouts to ride into town to reconnoiter. Riding to within half a mile of town, Surby halted on an elevated position to have a better look at Newton Station. No enemy camp or pickets were visible, and Surby could only see a few people moving around a large building that he took to be a military hospital. Pushing closer to town, Surby and his two scouts stopped at a house on the edge of town, where he learned that two trains were due to arrive shortly.

Not wasting any time, Surby sent one of his scouts back to inform Blackburn and then hurried into town with his other scout to capture the telegraph station, which he found closed. Convalescents soon began to pour out of the hospital upon seeing the two scouts. Surby pulled his revolver and told them to remain inside. Blackburn and his men thundered into town none too soon as a freight train puffing black smoke approached a mile east of town. Most of the blue raiders dismounted, hid their horses, and took cover; pickets moved to secure the different approaches to town.

The locomotive, pulling 25 freight cars loaded with ordnance and commissary supplies for Vicksburg, rolled into the station. Blackburn gave a signal, and troopers came out from hiding and seized the train, then quickly hid again as a second train neared town. The combined freight and passenger train soon slowed down by the depot.

Surby climbed aboard the locomotive and pointed his revolver at the engineer, telling him that if he reversed the engine Surby would put a ball through him. Four of the cars carried ammunition and arms, while six had commissary stores on them and the remaining two contained personal belongings of people leaving Vicksburg. The primary target was the crossroads depot at Newtown Station, where rail lines transected in all four directions.

They were then set on fire, and the shells and ammunition began to explode. Grierson, who was nearing town, heard the ammunition exploding and charged into Newton with his men, believing Blackburn was under attack. Grierson was relieved to learn the true state of events. Now serious destruction got underway. The Federal cavalry commander ordered Starr to take two battalions of the 6th Illinois east of town to torch bridges and trestles, cut down telegraph poles, and destroy the lines.

Captain Joseph Herring was ordered west of town with a battalion of the 7th Illinois to do the same thing. More destruction took place in town, where a warehouse containing arms and a large number of uniforms was set on fire. Railroad rails were pulled up and thrown on fires of burning crossties and then twisted.

The two locomotives exploded. By 2 pm, the destruction was complete, and Grierson headed south again, knowing the Confederates were looking for him to the north. Before leaving the burning and smoking destruction at Newton Station, Grierson and his officers asked some of the paroled Confederate officers taken at the hospital about various roads to the east, hoping to confuse pursuers.

After a three-hour rest five miles south of Newton Station, the raiders pushed on to Garlandville around dusk. The militia was disarmed and released. One volunteered his services as a guide and upon leaving us declared that hereafter his prayers should be for the Union Army. The Federal column pushed southwest again, the exhausted men slumping in the saddles. Some actually fell asleep as they rode, having not slept more than five hours in the last Finally, they stopped for the night around midnight at a plantation belonging to a Doctor Mackadora, 50 miles from Newton and a couple of miles west of Montrose.

By 8 am on April 25, the troopers were back in the saddle again, riding west. To get his men safely out of Rebel territory, Grierson intended to head for Grand Gulf along the Mississippi, where he knew Grant was intending to land his army. After making only five miles, the Federal column held up at a plantation, resting until 2 pm, while parties were sent out to find fresh horses hidden in the swamps and woods. They continued on, stopping at another plantation for the night.

If possible, Nelson was to torch bridges and trestles as well. Nelson, however, would not complete his mission; he ran into a Confederate cavalry detachment under Captain R. Satisfied with his answers, Love let Nelson go. A well-turned-out Mississippi cavalryman, with a tasseled hat and an unsheathed saber, poses. It was rumored that that Federals were at the town of Enterprise, where Forbes was now determined to go. Sometime around 1 pm he neared the town only to find it strongly held by the Confederates.

In a bold move, Forbes approached the town under a flag of truce and met with Colonel Edwin Goodwin, commander of the 35th Alabama Infantry, demanding the surrender of the town on behalf of Grierson. Goodwin asked for an hour to consider the surrender offer, to which Forbes agreed. Grierson was asleep when Nelson arrived in the early morning of April 26 with news of encountering the Rebel cavalry. The camp was soon a bustle of activity as the Federals prepared to pull out; by 6 am they were riding west, burning bridges behind them.

By nightfall they passed through Westville and stopped to rest two miles to the west at a plantation. The raiders made 40 miles with 60 more to go before reaching Grand Gulf. Two major rivers lay in their way, and Grierson wanted crossings over them seized and held. He directed the 7th Illinois to seize a bridge over the Strong River, leaving a detachment to hold it.

The ferry came back across the river, its handlers mistaking the Federals for Confederate cavalry. Twenty-four mud-splashed troopers and their mounts boarded the ferry and were taken across the river. Prince had ordered them to capture the Confederate guards on the far side only they discovered there were none. Grierson soon arrived, but it would take eight hours to get his whole command across the river. Prince sent in two of the Butternut Guerrillas to send a telegram to Pemberton telling him that the Yankees had reached the Pearl River but found the ferry destroyed and were heading northeast.

The message was duly sent by the telegraph operator, but as the two scouts headed out onto the muddy street they were spotted by the Smith County sheriff, who had escaped during the night. The scouts jumped onto their horses and spurred out of town, rejoining the other scouts a mile to the east.

Surby sent back word to Prince about what had happened, then charged back into Hazlehurst, finding the streets deserted. With rain beginning to pound down yet again, the scouts learned that a train was coming. Spotting the bluejackets as he rolled into town, the engineer put the engine in reverse and steamed back out of Hazlehurst. An explosion accidentally set some of the buildings on fire, which the Federal troopers tried to help extinguish.

The rest of the brigade soon joined Prince, and they were heading west again by 7 pm. A small wagon train carrying a pounder Parrot gun was captured and spiked, and 1, pounds of gunpowder were destroyed. The raiders stopped for the night at another plantation to grab some much-needed sleep. By 7 am on April 28, the Federal raiders were on the move again intending to push toward Grand Gulf.