This is an account of the Battle of Paducah by resident and a former soldier in Paducah’s Confederate 3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Company D, in Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 5, and was published in 1897:
Forrest’s Raid on Paducah
by J. V. Grief
It had long been the desire of the Third, Seventh, and Eighth Kentucky Regiments of Buford’s Brigade, Loring’s Division, to be horse soldiers, and various attempts had been made for a transfer, but not until March, 1864, did success crown our efforts. After retreating across the State of Mississippi to Demopolis, Ala., orders were received for those three regiments to report to Gen. N. B. Forrest.
We left Demopolis and marched to Gainesville, where orders were received from Gen. Forrest to halt and wait for horses. As soon as horses were provided we moved to Tibbe Station and joined the command. W. W. Faulkner’s Regiment and Jesse Forrest’s Battalion were brigaded with us, under command of Col. A. P. Thompson. We were here joined by Gen. Abe Buford, who was unwilling to separate from the Kentucky regiments, and had, at his request, been transferred to Forrest, and was given a division composed of the brigades of Thompson and Tyree Bell.
The march to Kentucky was begun as soon as the division was organized. Our horses were all old hacks, and so weak that for many days we walked fifteen minutes of every hour to give them a rest. When we reached Tennessee, where we could get rough forage, our horses improved so rapidly that we were enabled to make longer marches and ride all of the time. On the night of March 24 we camped eight miles from Mayfield, Ky., and on the morning of the 25th, after inspection, we moved on to Mayfield.
At Mayfield ten men of Company D, Third Kentucky, were detailed, under the command of Lieut. Jarrett, to go in advance with Col. A. P. Thompson. Nothing of importance occurred until within three miles of Paducah., when Sergt. Rosencranz, who was two hundred yards in advance, beckoned us from the top of a hill to come on, firing his pistol at the same time at a squad of Federal cavalry coming up the other side of the hill. When we reached the top of the hill the Federals were out of sight. We followed on to the fair grounds, where we halted and waited for the command. Gen. Buford coming up with the division, we moved into the town, capturing pickets as we advanced. A considerable squad was taken where we crossed Broadway. Thompson’s Brigade was found between Broadway and Trimble Street, about one-half mile from the fort, where we sat on our horses and waited for the enemy, who we could see marching on the streets to get into the fort. The men clamored to be led against them while outside, but as the object of the raid was for medical supplies, and not for fight or prisoners, no movement was permitted until they were safely housed, when the Kentucky Brigade dismounted and moved on the fort, driving in and killing skirmishers as we advanced. While we moved on the fort and kept the enemy employed, Gen. Buell was ransacking the town for medical supplies and surgical instruments.
We moved in line of battle across the commons until the houses were reached, when the different regiments moved in column down the streets – the Third Kentucky on the south side of Trimble Street to the west side of the fort, the Seventh and Eighth Kentucky on our left to the north side, and Faulkner’s Regiment and Forrest’s Battalion on our right to the south side of the fort. Col. Thompson remained with the Third Kentucky, and when in about three hundred feet of the fort the head of the column was turned into an alley between Fifth and Sixth Streets, in the rear of Robert Crow’s house. Col. Thompson had halted, and his horse stood across the street, his head to the south and his front feet in the street gutter. The Colonel held his cap in his right hand above his head when he was struck by a shell, which exploded as it struck him, literally tearing him to pieces and the saddle off his horse. Col. Thompson’s flesh and blood fell on the men near him. I was within ten feet of him when he was struck, and my old gray Confederate hat was covered with his blood; a large piece of flesh fell on the shoulder of my file leader, John Stockdale. Although Col. Thompson was surrounded by his staff and couriers, only he was hit.
As soon as we got in position in the alley we opened with a volley. The top of the works was black with heads; our first volley cleared them. At the crack of our guns a cloud of dust arose from the top of the works. After the first volley we fired at will.
Col. Ed Crossland, of the Seventh Kentucky, upon whom the command of the brigade devolved after the death of Col. Thompson, came into the alley on foot, and had just ordered us to fall back behind Long’s tobacco factory, one hundred and fifty yards distant, when he was struck in the right thigh by a rifle-ball. After we had fallen back Gen. Forrest sent in a demand for the surrender of the fort. On the enemy declining to surrender, we were ordered to advance in squads as sharpshooters and silence the guns. Lieut. Jarrett, with nine men, took a position protected by a frame cottage, and we held our corner down. Our gun was never loaded after we got in position until the enemy succeeded in bringing to bear on us a gun from some other part of the fort. The ball came through the house and I was knocked down. As I fell I heard Lieut. Jarrett order the squad to get out. I don’t know how long I was down, but when I got up all were gone. I followed, and, finding a good position behind a coal pile, I lay down beside Capt. Crit Edwards, telling him that I was hurt. He examined me, and said: “You are not shot.” It was a great relief to me to have the assurance that I was not hurt, for I was struck on the left jaw, and thought my jaw all gone. We did not again advance on the fort, but lay where we were until ordered to our horses.
Some of the men who were not satisfied took such positions as were most favorable for sharpshooting, to pick off the men in the fort. A number were in the second story of Long’s brick stemmery. This building was being used by the Federals as a hospital, and many sick were in the main part of the building. Our men were all in the L. The Federals shelled the building, killing some of their own men. One of our men, Ed Moss, Company D, Third Kentucky, was killed, and his remains were burned in the building on the morning of the 26th, when the Federals burned that end of the town. About sundown we fell back to our horses, and remained there in line until after nightfall. Company D, Third Kentucky, was from Paducah, and after the fighting was over we visited our homes. I found my father, mother, and children, with a number of the neighbors in the cellar at home, where they were amply protected from shot and shell.
We bivouacked on the night of the 25th six miles from Paducah on the Mayfield road, and on the morning of the 26th the Kentucky Brigade was disbanded, to enable them to visit their homes, with orders to assemble at Mayfield April 1.
In accounts published in Northern papers it was said: “The Confederates charged the fort, and were repulsed with heavy loss.” The facts are that we did not approach nearer than one square (about one hundred yards) and there never was an order or an intimation of an intention to charge the fort. The official report of Thompson’s Brigade showed our loss to be thirteen killed and wounded, four of the from Company D, Third Kentucky. We had a battery of four mountain Howitzers, which was placed on the river bank and popped away at the gun-boats. It is doubtful if the balls reached halfway; but they made a noise, and it looked like fighting. One artilleryman was killed on Broadway while cutting down a telegraph pole. It was never our intention to attempt the capture of the fort; we accomplished all we aimed. We had entire possession of the town, and held it as long as suited us.
I have just learned of the death of one of our squad: T. T. Ewell at Granbury, Tex.
Photos at the Lloyd Tilghman House & Civil War Museum: