December 31, 1862 – After raiding Federal supply lines in western Tennessee, Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest discovered Federals blocking the way back to his base at an intersection between Nashville and Memphis.
Brigadier General Jeremiah C. Sullivan had dispatched Federal cavalry brigades from Lexington, Tennessee, to stop Forrest’s raids. Forrest and his 2,100 men had avoided these Federals north of Lexington for two days, but he found Colonel Cyrus L. Dunham’s 2nd Brigade in his front at Red Mound, where a north-south road bisected an east-west road near Parker’s Store.
Forrest decided to fight, moving his troopers into the woods northwest of the intersection and opening an artillery bombardment around 9 a.m. Dunham responded with fire from three guns on hills southwest of the intersection, but it proved ineffective. The Federals fell back to the southeast woods, and the Confederate troopers charged them between 12 and 1 p.m.
Dunham’s men repelled the charge, but Confederates were soon on Dunham’s right flank, advancing from the north. The Federals shifted to face this threat as Forrest deployed another detachment south to attack the rear of Dunham’s revised line. The Confederates now surrounded the Federals on three sides. They captured three guns, the Federal ammunition train, and 300 troopers.
Forrest demanded unconditional surrender, but Dunham refused. As Forrest prepared to launch an all-out attack to destroy his force, the Federal 3rd Brigade under Colonel John W. Fuller (and accompanied by Sullivan) rode in from the north and attacked the Confederate rear. Fuller’s horsemen had ridden 17 miles from Huntingdon.
Forrest, who expected scouts at Clarksville to warn him of any threats to his rear, was surprised by this force. His brother William, who led the troopers scouting from Clarksville, had taken a wrong road and failed to see the Federals coming.
When asked by an aide what should be done, Forrest replied, “Split in two, and charge both ways.” The Confederates abandoned their captured guns and ammunition, turned to repel Fuller’s attack, and then rode east past Dunham’s defeated Federals on their way to Lexington as planned. Once there, Forrest paroled the Federal prisoners.
The Federals seized 300 Confederate troopers who were dismounted when Fuller attacked. Forrest reported other losses at 60 killed or wounded. The Federals sustained 467 casualties (27 killed, 140 wounded, and 300 captured). This was the only occasion in which Forrest was surprised in battle, but his escape enhanced his reputation as the “Wizard in the Saddle.”
Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 249; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 68; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 247-48; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 302-03; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 270-71, 557; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 346