Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 38.djvu/366

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352
Southern Historical Society Papers.

After the battle of Murfreesborough, Major-General W. S. Rosecrans, of the Federal army, determined, if possible, to manoeuvre Major-General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Confederate Army of Tennessee, south of the Tennessee River, in order that the Confederates might not get possession of the natural stronghold of Chattanooga. One step towards this end was to destroy the two railroads leading from that mountain city, one to Atlanta, the other to Knoxville, by which sustenance for the Confederates could be supplied. The undertaking was entrusted to a body of raiders under the leadership of Colonel Abel D. Streight, of India. The plans of "this great enterprise, fraught with great consequences," for it was thus that the order ran, were carefully laid by Rosecrans and his chief of staff, Brigadier-General James A. Garfield, with the aid and advice of the intrepid Hoosier who was to be its leader.

The commands selected by Colonel Streight were the Fifty-first and the Seventy-third Indiana, the-Third Ohio, the Eighteenth Illinois, and two companies of Alabama Union cavalry, about 2,000 officers and men in all.

With impatience and high hopes the Streight raiders set out from Nashville on April 10, 1863, under orders to repair "to the interior of Alabama and Georgia, for the purpose of destroying the railroads in that country."

Upon the entrance of the raiders into North Mississippi, they were joined by a considerable force under General Grenville M. Dodge, whose orders were to facilitate the advance of Streight upon his important mission. It was the intent of the Federals to so divert the Confederates under Colonel P. D. Roddey by minor skirmishes in which they engaged them as to cause them to lose sight of the movements of Streight.

On the 26th of April, 1863, just past midnight, through almost impenetrable darkness and steady downpour of rain, Streight's "lightning brigade" rode out of Tuscumbia, Ala., over broken and boggy roads, headed for Mount Hope, thirty-six miles distant, where they were to make their encampment. At sunset, hungry and weary, having made only one halt for food, they reached their destination, with the cheering news, however, from General Dodge that he had Forrest, the "Wizard of the Saddle," whose pursuit was Streight's greatest fear, upon the run in an--