In mid-July, the streets of Murfreesboro will ring once again with the hoofbeats of a mythical Confederate general on the 150th anniversary of his daring raid on the Rutherford County Courthouse.
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest reached near godlike status in Rutherford County on July 13, 1862 when his famed cavalry corps surprised the federal garrison in Murfreesboro, resulting in a complete surrender by Union forces.
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest reached near godlike status in Rutherford County on July 13, 1862 when his famed cavalry corps surprised the federal garrison in Murfreesboro, resulting in a complete surrender by Union forces under Gen. Thomas Crittenden and the rescue of over a dozen prominent Murfreesboro and Woodbury citizens who were to be hung simply for suspicion of confederate sympathies.
Forrest’s raid on Murfreesboro displayed his military genius at its best. Unlike many of the commanders on both the Union and Confederate sides, Forrest did not have any formal military training. He wasn’t a Mexican War veteran and he only had a sixth-grade education, but he was the only man on either side to enter the war as a private and rise to the rank of lieutenant general.
Forrest’s name would later come to grace the military science building at MTSU, and his likeness riding high in the saddle would become Middle Tennessee State College’s mascot, the Blue Raider.
Folks have the opportunity to witness living history when the Murfreesboro Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans hosts the Armies of Tennessee in a re-enactment of the raid at 9 a.m. July 14 on the Historic Square in Murfreesboro.
2012 is the year of anniversaries for Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, with MTSU’s centennial, Murfreesboro’s bicentennial, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and the 35th anniversary of Uncle Dave Macon Days.
The raid will follow a living history encampment at Oaklands Historic Mansion, where the National Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will celebrate Forrest’s birthday with a black-eyed pea and sweet potato supper on the grounds the previous evening.
Troops will assemble at 8:30 a.m. for their march to the courthouse where federal troops will be encamped on the west side of the Square.
The entire re-enactment will serve as a kickoff for the 35th Uncle Dave Macon Days Motorless Parade which will begin immediately afterward.
“Our entire focus is accuracy,” said Brian Corley, a Blackman resident who is leading the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the planning of the raid.
“We want to be as historically accurate as possible, and we aim to show the crowd what actually happened on that fateful morning of 1862,” he added.
Many Rutherford and Cannon County residents have common direct ancestors who were rescued by Forrest that day.
It was an important day for Forrest as well.
He turned 41 that day and told his troops they would celebrate with a victory in Murfreesboro.
The Confederates rode the 18 miles to Murfreesboro, arriving at the outskirts of town at about 4:30 a.m.
Using deception, Forrest’s vanguard took out the 15 Union pickets without a shot being fired by pretending to be part of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry arriving for duty.
It was Forrest’s intention to catch them all sleeping. And he did.
In columns of four, the Confederates rode quietly into town, and it is alleged that they wrapped the horses’ hooves in burlap sacks to muffle their advance.
Forrest ordered his troops to assault the courthouse from all four sides, batter down the doors and take the garrison. After two or three hours fight, he ordered the courthouse set ablaze, and the Union troops quickly surrendered.
Union troops attempted to burn down the jail with the prisoners trapped inside, but Forrest also thwarted this attempt, rescuing the all from certain death.
The reenactment of these events is expected to draw a large crowd to the downtown area including Sons of Confederate Veterans National Conventioners, along with visitors to the Saturday Farmers Market and Motorless Parade.
“Come early and get a spot,” Corley said. “It will be living history 150 years in the making, and you don’t want to miss it.”