War of the Rebellion: Serial 077 Page 0521 Chapter LI. FORREST'S RAID INTO ALABAMA AND TENNESSEE.

Search Civil War Official Records

train. About a mile farther discovered the enemy were on the track in my rear. I learned at this, from citizens, that the enemy were in force, command by Colonel Jesse Forrest. I immediately ordered the train back to town and drove them from the track as I returned. Found the track obstructed in several places. As I reached the outskirts of the town was attacked by enemy, some 1,00 strong; threw men off the train; ordered conductor to run train back under protection of block-house; engaged the enemy for one hour and fifteen minutes, losing 3 men killed and 4 wounded, when, discovering I could not drive them from town, fell back to the fort. I found, on reaching the fort, they had been engaging a large force on the south and southwest part of town. The quartermaster's and commissary stores being in town, about one-quarter of a mile from the fort, I took twenty men and went in town. At this time, as it was impossible to remove them, the quartermaster's stores were set on fire. I now put my men in commissary buildings, determined to hold them if possible. About 9 p. m. Lieutenant-Colonel Prosser, commanding Second Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, with 500 men, reached the town. I ordered Colonel Prosser to charge down public square and drive enemy from depot. He declined to obey, saying he could not sacrifice his horses. I finally dismounted some thirty of the cavalry and, together with twenty colored infantry, charged down public square and drove them from the depot and extinguished the fire. I captured Surgeon Lauderdale, Fifteenth Tennessee (rebel) Regiment, and a private soldier of the same regiment. I learned from this private soldier that General Forrest, with his entire force, had invested the place, his force being estimated at from 10,000 to 12,000, with nine pieces of artillery. I now ordered all forces in town to the fort, burning all Government property. I ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Prosser to remain at or near the fort. He refused to obey, saying he did not think with his force the fort could be held. He was then ordered by Lieutenant Kneeland, acting assistant adjutant-general of General Granger's staff, to return to Decatur. I sent, by Colonel Prosser, word to General Granger what forces were investing the place. I also started two couriers with dispatches to General Starkweather, informing him of my condition. The one bearing the dispatches was murdered on the outskirts of town, shot after capture. The other escaped with wound through shoulder and returned to the fort. During the night was occasionally annoyed by sharpshooters firing, and could hear their artillery being brought into position.

Just after daylight on the morning of September 24, they opened on the fort with artillery from three different sides, casting almost every shell inside the works. I could not reach them with my 12- pounder howitzers, the being perfectly useless. The firing now ceased, 8 a. m., and I received the following communication from General Forrest:


In the Field, September 24, 1864.


Athens, Ala.:

I demand an immediate and unconditional surrender of the entire force and all Government stores and property at this post. I have a sufficient force to storm and take your works, and if I am forced to do so the responsibility of the consequences must rest with you. Should you, however, accept the terms, all white soldiers shall be treated as prisoners of war and the negroes returned to their masters. A reply is requested immediately.



Major-General, C. S. Army.