April 21, 1863
It was a daring idea: Send Union troops in a raid through Alabama with the goal of cutting the Western Atlantic Railroad – a key supply route for the South between Chattanooga and Atlanta during the Civil War.
But bad planning and other mishaps doomed the effort that launched from Nashville, under the command of Col. Abel Streight.
With no formal military training, Streight chose mules instead of horses, which were in short supply. He thought they would perform better in the rough terrain, but the mules were stubborn and in poor condition, and before the raid even began, Streight’s men spent two days rounding them up after a surprise assault by Confederate cavalry triggered a stampede.
As they plunged deeper into enemy territory in northern Alabama, Streight’s ill-supplied men were chased and hounded by Confederate cavalry led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. Streight ultimately surrendered his 1,700 exhausted soldiers at Cedar Bluff, after Forrest had some of his 500 men ride in circles in the distance during a meeting between the two commanders. The ruse fooled Streight into believing Forrest had a much larger force. After learning better, Streight reportedly demanded the return of his forces for a proper fight. Forrest politely declined.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.