Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Sturgis Raid Or Guntown Disaster

An excerpt of a chapter in "Cahaba. A story of captive boys in blue"..."....The Wretched Criminal Managment Of [Samuel D.] Sturgis Insures Defeat," below:

The Union leaders felt it necessary to inflict some chastisement to the Confederate forces to counteract the moral effect of our defeats in the West, and another expedition was started out June 2d, 1864, this time from Memphis, under the command of General S. D. Sturgis...afterward known as " The Sturgis Raid," or " Guntown Diaster... [called Bryce's Cross-Roads by the Confederates].


This command moved leisurely along until June 9th, when, at Ripley, Miss., a small town about twenty miles northwest of Guntown, General Grierson, who was in advance, reported that a few prisoners had been taken, and that in his judgment the main body of the enemy would be found the next day at or near the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.

Fold3: Military Records
General Grierson's Photo At Fold3

General Grierson, I am informed, advised General Sturgis to keep his men well in hand, as the enemy was " near and in force." 

The infantry and artillery had gone but a part of the way when another courier from General Grierson reached Sturgis bearing the information that the Confederates were receiving re-enforcements from the South by rail. They came from Mobile, and had been sent to the aid of Forrest when it was known that Sturgis was seeking him. The whistling of the locomotives could be plainly heard by Grierson.

[General Grierson]...suggested that Sturgis halt his command about three miles back, where it then was, form his infantry on a ridge, covered with high sedge grass, which would command nearly a mile of corduroy road, over which any troops would be compelled to pass should they follow him. Grierson would gradually fall back, and on nearing the point would stampede his cavalry, as if routed. He believed that Forrest would be drawn into such a trap. 

Had Forrest followed Grierson, as he probably would under the circumstances, his forces would have been swept from the face of the earth, for they could not have turned back, and to have gotten off the corduroy would have been to sink in the mire beyond hope of succor.

But General Sturgis was not in a frame of mind to listen to suggestions from a subordinate officer, much less a volunteer, and so "West Point" and whiskey asserted themselves. 

An order [by Sturgis]...compelled the large train of more than two hundred wagons to be taken over the long corduroy road and a narrow bridge, over which but one wagon at a time could pass, close up to the front; and there, in plain sight of the Confederates, and in easy range of their artillery, the train was parked! Should Sturgis be forced to retreat, it would be simply impossible to get his wagons back over this narrow bridge, and at no other place could they cross. It would have been impossible for them to cross the bottom over the deep morass. The only road was the corduroy leading to the bridge.

No sane person could excuse any officer who would push his train forward so rapidly, and near where an uncertain battle was in progress, over a road which precluded even a possibility of saving it in case he was defeated. 

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