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Forrest's Raid On Memphis

George H. Ellsbury - Harper's 1864
The New York Public Library, Digital Gallery

Ever since the Battle of Memphis in June of 1862, the town had been in Union hands. This was especially galling to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, since Memphis was his home town.

On September 10, 1864 Forrest staged a nighttime raid, hoping to free Confederate prisoners and capture two Union Generals, Washburne and Hurlburt, who were in command there. Forrest led about 1,500 men against a force of 6,000 Union soldiers. His forces arrived on Beale Street, and then split up.

Forrest’s brother, Lieutenant Colonel Jesse Forrest, attacked General Washburne's headquarters on Union Avenue, but found it deserted. He did capture the General’s overcoat which had been left behind when the general and his men escaped just moments before the rebels arrived. Jesse and his men then rode their horses at a gallop straight to General Hurlburt’s headquarters at the Gayoso Hotel. But Hurlburt had escaped, too.

Another part of the Confederate force tried to free prisoners, but they were fought-off by the prison guards and reinforcements from the Eighth Iowa regiment. By then it was 6:00 a.m., and the outnumbered Forrest brothers made a strategic retreat.

Though dashing, the mission was largely a failure, unless General Washburne really loved that overcoat.

To learn more about all of our region's history, visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums, their Facebook page, or http://www.memphismuseums.org.

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