Here is a recorded account describing a pistol and saber fight between Major Charles W. Anderson, an aide on the staff of Nathan B. Forrest, and two Federal soldiers on the streets of Paducah on March 25th, 1864.  This account was written by Capt. B. L. Ridley from Murfreesboro, TN., which was described to him at the home of Major Anderson in Florence Depot, TN., and was recorded in the Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 4, in 1896 on pages 358-59. Major Anderson told the story, at first, as if he were a witness to the events, but he later identifies himself as the Confederate Officer in this fight. Afterwards, there is another account written by J. V. Grief in Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 5, page 4.

An Excerpt from:

Daring Deeds of Staff and Escort

by Capt. B. L. Ridley

“Maj. Anderson, in rejoinder, after a moment’s reflection, said: “I witnessed a most blood curdling venture at Paducah, Ky., in March, 1864. We had Bell’s and Buford’s Brigades of Cavalry with us and had determined to try and take the city, let the boys get some good clothes and get back, knowing that we could not hold it. By Gen. Forrest’s order, a few of the staff took nineteen of the escort and dashed through the city to the wharf. Two gunboats were there, the ‘Peosta’ and the ‘Paw Paw.’ The ‘Peosta’ steamed down to get in range of our command, but the ‘Paw Paw’ opened on our squad with shot and shell. We took shelter behind and in the houses and peppered her deck, and penetrated her portholes until she set sail and steamed away, allowing us to burn ninety bales of cotton. While some of our men were engaged in destroying the cotton, the first thing we knew of being nearly cut off was a peremptory order from Gen. Forrest to ‘Get out of there!’ The Federals were coming in different directions and scattered our squad. One of the staff was cut off entirely and, on entering a street, his only hope was to charge two cavalrymen. Like Richard, he had set his life upon a cast and concluded that he would stand the hazard of the die. He did so, and, when at close quarters, one Sir Knight dropped from his horse, severely wounded. A hand to hand encounter followed with the other, who at last broke and ran. The officer followed at his heels and threw at him one empty pistol. Thinking the fire exhausted, the Yankee suddenly wheeled on the Rebel, who then fired the two reserved cartridges from his other navy, but with no apparent effect. The Yankee also emptied his pistol at the officer. They then drew sabers; the tug of war had fairly come, swords gleamed in the sunlight and, like trained gladiators, the death struggle between them began. The Yankee must have been a skilled swordsman; the Rebel was not, but somehow parried his blows, struck him in the side of the neck, dropped him in the middle of the street and got away.

“I cannot give names of the cavalrymen I fought in the streets of Paducah, for the only compliments passed on the occasion were with pistols and sabers, and for the time it lasted, it was hot sharp work. I went into the Fort next morning with a ‘flag of truce,’ and was asked by a soldier from the parapets: “Aint you the man that fought two of our men in the streets yesterday?” I said, “Yes.” “Well,” said he, “are all Forrest’s men like you?” “No, they are not,” I replied, “for I am about the poorest in the deck, otherwise there would have been two less in this Fort at roll call last night.” He then said he was one of the men and answered at roll call, but that his comrade died soon after reaching the Fort. He expressed some surprise that out of all their shots none of them had touched me. I could have gratified him (but did not), by showing him four bullet holes in my coat.”

In another account of the incident, J. V. Grief wrote in the Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 5, p. 4:

Comrade Grief adds the following: F. G. Harlan, of Paducah, recalls the account of Maj. Anderson’s fight with two Federal soldiers in that city, March 25th, 1864. He says: “It was on Broadway and when they passed me there was but one Federal, and they went out Broadway fighting.”

On my return from the army in 1865, a cousin of mine, Geo. A. Fisher, then a boy and living on the corner of Seventh and Broadway, in speaking of Forrest, said, “I was standing at our gate when a Confederate officer and a Yankee came out Broadway fighting; both were mounted; the Confederate shot at the ‘Yank,’ missing him, and just after passing Seventh Street the ‘Yank’ turned across an open lot and the Confederate threw his pistol at him. I walked over to the lot; the Confederate was riding about looking for his pistol, which I picked up and handed to him.”

When he first saw them coming out the street there were three, two “Yanks” and one Confederate; one dropped out of the fight, and he was of the opinion that he ran away.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff. Capt. William Forrest, Capt. John W. Morton, Col. D. C. Kelley, Dr. J. B. Cowan, & Maj. C. W. Anderson. Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 16, p. xxvi.
Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff. Capt. William Forrest, Capt. John W. Morton, Col. D. C. Kelley, Dr. J. B. Cowan, & Maj. C. W. Anderson. Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 16, p. xxvi.
Major Anderson gunbattle at Battle of Paducah p 358
Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 4, page 358
Major Anderson gunbattle at Battle of Paducah p 359
Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 4, page 359
Anderson fight with two federals by J V Grief in Convederate Veteran Vol 5 p 4
Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 5, page 4
IMG_6635
Map of Paducah showing the movements of General Forrest’s troops during the Battle of Paducah. Photo taken at the Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.
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