BGES Streight's Raid Tour Eastport MS to Cedar Bluff AL June 25-27, 2021

lelliott19

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This weekend, I had the opportunity to join @Norman Dasinger Jr and Dr. Brian Steel Wills on Blue & Gray Education Society's tour of Streight's Raid --- from Eastport, MS to Cedar Bluff, AL. It was my first time to join a BGES tour and it was an amazing learning experience!

The event began on Friday night at the host hotel with an introduction to the tour leaders, the characters, and the campaign. The tour was to begin on Saturday morning, and since I live nearby, I arrived just in time for the intro. I knew @Norman Dasinger Jr already -- he lives nearby and we have been friends for years. But I didn't know anyone else who was participating. The tour leaders and attendees were super welcoming and, even though I was the only woman in the group, I felt comfortable right away.
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Norman knows the engagements, the geography, and the stories. Dr. Brian Steel Wills knows Nathan Bedford Forrest - inside and out. We kind of made a joke that "Norman knows the land and Dr. Wills knows the man." The two of them combined to provide fantastic and unique perspectives on the events of the campaign. Being local, I already knew a pretty good bit about Streight's Raid, but I had a number of "AHA moments" and feel like Dr. Wills' perspectives on Forrest really added to my understanding of the campaign.

On Saturday morning we left the host hotel and drove to the Joseph Wheeler house near Courtland, AL. Norman gave a brief history of the house, its descent through the Wheeler family, and its donation to the State of Alabama by Annie Wheeler, Joe Wheeler's granddaughter. We reloaded the vans and continued on to Eastport, MS.
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Although I had read about the landing of Streight's men and mules at Eastport and the disasters that followed, I had never been to the place. The town of Eastport is gone now --- out there under the water. We saw the hill [behind the camera position] where the corral was located back in April 1863 -- where about 400 mules were stampeded by locals who threw two hornet nests, two wildcats, and a jar full of yellow jackets into the mix. 200 mules were drowned and 200 others went to the woods and had to be rounded up. It took 2 days to find them all!
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<To be continued>
 

lelliott19

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Eastport MS, located just across the AL/MS line, was our only stop in MS. After that, we followed Streight's men and mules back into Alabama. We traveled in two very nice (and surprisingly comfortable) mini-buses. At the start of the day Saturday, I was in the van with Dr. Wills and Norman rode in the other van. After lunch, our guides switched vans so Dr. Wills could share insight on Forrest with the people in the other van and Norman could share geography with us. It was a good plan that allowed all the attendees to experience the expertise of each guide.

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We picked up the "old road" once back in Alabama and followed it to Big Bear Creek, just across the State line. From here, we could see the bridge where Abel D. Streight met Grenville Dodge to announce his arrival.
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I live in Alabama and had no idea this was even a place, let alone that it could be seen from here. Above is the bridge where Streight met up with Dodge to announce that he (Streight) had (finally) arrived and the campaign could begin.

At this stop, Norman explained the objectives of the campaign. He said that Streight was the "quarterback" in this adventure and Dodge was just blocking for him. Dr. Wills picked up further on that theme and said it was "Streight's dance." Analogies like these, provided throughout the tour, were entertaining and engaging but also helped clarify the intent and roles of the various forces in the campaign.
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lelliott19

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We reloaded the vans and headed to Town Creek. Unfortunately, the marker has been damaged. But the intent is not lost. This Battle at Town Creek, AL marked the end of Grenville Dodge's screening activity. As Streight headed south through Russelville intent on Rome, GA; Dodge and his men engaged Nathan Bedford Forrest and Phillip Dale Roddey's (with an "e") Confederate Cavalry here at Town Creek, hoping to give Streight a head start. The diversion did not delay Forrest as long as had been hoped, nevertheless, Dodge was done and headed back to Iuka, MS.
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Next stop was Courtland AL. It's a charming little town with a beautiful square, some cool old buildings, and lots of old houses. I snapped a couple of pictures in the square including a picture of the group.
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lelliott19

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If you've ever heard of Streight's Raid, you probably know that a lot of it was a "running fight" and you may have heard of the Battle of Day's Gap? Well here's some stuff you probably didn't know. This is the Day Farm.
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The night of April 29th, Streight's men camped here at the Day Farm and the battle happened the next day. Day's Gap refers to the opening to the left in the mountain there in the background. There were lots of gaps on this mountain face and Streight was concerned about Confederate cavalry using other gaps and outflanking his men as they passed through the steep and narrow trail of Day's Gap. Turns out he was right and an engagement commenced before all the Federals had even gotten out of camp.
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Here at the Day Farm something amazing happened that only happens when you go on a tour with @Norman Dasinger Jr :D The owner of the Day Farm saw the vans out on the gravel road in front of his house and came out to see what we were doing. Once Norman told him, he invited us in!!!! Inside the fence and through the gate to see the location of a field hospital that was on the property. That rock chimney marks the spot where Union surgeons treated wounded Federals and Confederates. Most people know that Dr. William Spencer (Surgeon, 73rd​ IN) was left behind to tend the wounded at a field hospital. Link page 77 What you may not know is that Henry R King (Asst. Surgeon, 51st​ IN) was captured on the field and “sent back to Day’s Gap” as a prisoner.

These two surgeons are probably the ones who treated the wounded at the Day Farm. And those wounded Union and Confederates likely included William Forrest - NBF's brother who was badly wounded in the leg at the beginning of the Battle of Day's Gap. Link HERE to an account of the treatment of some wounded Federals at Day’s Gap.
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The owner of the place was pleased at our apparent interest and was happy to show us the Day Family Cemetery with all its recent improvements and good care. And there in the cemetery, he pointed out the graves, marked with stones, of 6 Confederate soldiers who died at the Field Hospital on the Day Farm.
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<to be continued>
 
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lelliott19

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This is great stuff. Y'all had really good weather too.
Thanks @bdtex It was fantastic!

From Day's Gap, we proceeded to Hog Mountain. The American Battlefield Trust has recently acquired property to interpret the Battle of Hog Mountain. It was easy to see the terrain and interpret the movements here and Norman provided some primary source accounts from both sides that helped in understanding what happened.
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I couldn't pass up this great photo op! The lighting was perfect and the background was excellent. We joked that our two guides were rarely in the frame together - each graciously stepping aside as the other provided interpretation. They complemented each other so well! And each recognized the other's strengths and wanted the focus to be on the one providing the interp. So we staged this photo and it turned out GREAT!
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The guides provided information and interpretation as we traveled back toward the host hotel at Gadsden, but this was our last "out of van" stop for Day 1. <Stay tuned for Day 2 of the tour. To be continued>
 

gjpratt

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@ucvrelics. Did you ever hunt the site or sites of the Days Gap battle? The growing consensus seems to be that the actual battle was fought a couple miles east of the traditional site. Recovery of battle relics, or lack of battle relics, would be extremely helpful confirmation of corroboration.
 

lelliott19

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As a value add, we also learned more about the wanton destruction by the scoundrel Col. Cornyn and the 1st Missouri (US) during Dodge's return
Yeah. Sorry about that. That part is kind of personal to me. Since they burned my family home, I have to agree that the 10th Missouri Cavalry and their commander Colonel Cornyn were indeed "scoundrels." :D

Day two of the tour began back in the buses as we drove from the host hotel in Gadsden out to Blountsville, AL to pick up the trail of Streight's mule brigade. At Blountsville, Streight ordered the burning of the wagons which had tended to slow his advance somewhat. Here, we learned that Streight's men had not yet realized the futility of their mission. At this point they were still optimistic that they could reach Rome, GA, disrupt the Western and Atlantic RR, and interfere with manufacturing at Rome.
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A short distance from Blountsville, Streight's men encountered the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River.
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Forrest chose not to press very hard as Streight's men made the difficult crossing, which allowed the Federals time to forage for food and.....other things. Three of them visited the Murphree sisters and demanded food as well as "mint juleps." One of the sisters, having just given birth, had on hand some medicine - possibly laudanum or other opiates. Mixing the medicine into the drink, the sisters served the drinks as directed and the soldiers were soon fast asleep. The sisters tied them up and took them to General Forrest as prisoners.
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ucvrelics

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@ucvrelics. Did you ever hunt the site or sites of the Days Gap battle? The growing consensus seems to be that the actual battle was fought a couple miles east of the traditional site. Recovery of battle relics, or lack of battle relics, would be extremely helpful confirmation of corroboration.
Due to landowner issues I only hunted the Days Gap area twice :cold: Didn't find near as much as we did at Hog Mt which is where the yankee read guard decided to try an hold Forrest.
 

lelliott19

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BUT where are you in the photos??
Im the one behind the camera taking all the pictures. :wink:

After the Murphree sisters marker at Battle Royal, we loaded back up in the vans and headed to Walnut Grove, AL where Forrest and his men encamped on the night of May 1st. Streight wasn't far ahead and it was here that Forrest's harassment of Streight became relentless.
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Sending small groups ahead to harass Streight's rear, Forrest kept the pressure on all night. One group would go ahead and cause havoc for a while, then return to camp to sleep, while another group headed out. Streight and his men got little if any sleep the night of May 1. We had a little fun here as Dr. Wills decided to imitate Norman's enthusiastic hand gestures. :D
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lelliott19

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On Saturday, Norman had shared that Sunday lunch was going to be at his parents' house. Most of the attendees didn't know that Norman is a real live BBQ judge - like the professional kind - and so is his dad. I knew. So when he mentioned that we were having lunch at his parents' and that ribs and butts were on the menu, I knew we were in for a treat. But I kept it to myself. :D Figured the rest would find out soon enough.
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By the time we reached Walnut Grove on Sunday, Day 2, it was lunch time. After a long day on Saturday, and exploring all morning, everyone was hungry, including me. We headed over to Norman's parents' house on the lake where a feast was laid out! Ribs, smoked butt, baked beans, potato salad and peanut butter/chocolate homemade ice cream. That was the BEST ice cream I've ever had!

Many thanks to Norman's mom and dad for their Southern hospitality! It was a wonderful treat and we all appreciated it so much!
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lelliott19

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After lunch, we could all barely make it back to the vans, but onward we pressed, as some of the best was yet to come. At the site of the Sansom home in Gadsden, AL Norman explained the story of Emma Sansom and NB Forrest --- how Forrest rode up and asked if there was another route that avoided the bridge just torched by Streight's men. How 15 yo Emma volunteered to show him the ford and the out of view route to get to it. How he promised to take care of her and bring her back safe to her mother. And, as they approached the ford where Streight's men were just yards away, how Forrest positioned Emma behind him, refusing to "make breastworks of her." :D We would see the ford next.

From the site of the Sansom home, the family graveyard now lies right in the median of Meighan Boulevard. Buried there is Pvt Robert Turner, of the 4th TN (IIRC) who was killed at the Black Creek crossing, laid out in the Sansom parlor, and buried in the family cemetery by the Sansom family.
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And then it was on to the famous Emma Sansom ford. From the Sansom house, traveling around to the north and behind a small knoll, Emma showed Forrest a depression that would secret his approach to the ford. This ditch comes around the small knoll all the way to Black Creek. It allowed them to approach the ford without being seen. I've been there lots of times before -- but I guess I was feeling like a hero or something on this trip? :D I crawled down into the ditch for the BEST shot ever of the ford.
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And just for the record, it is the BEST picture Ive ever taken of the ford. For comparison here below is a regular shot of the ford taken from the bank --- not from the ditch. See why I crawled down in there? Didn't even get poison ivy (yet.) :D
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lelliott19

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After seeing the ford at Black Creek, we went over to Broad Street in Gadsden where we saw the Emma Sansom monument -- still standing by a hairs breadth, after a 5 to 4 vote of the City Council last year. I don't talk much about monuments here, but still, I think everyone here knows where I stand on that issue. I'm one of those people who believe all historical monuments and memorials should remain. It's not about you or me; it's about the people who sacrificed to pay for the memorials and those who are memorialized. To be completely candid, if I had to choose just one single monument to be preserved, it'd be this one. The monument to Emma Sansom in downtown Gadsden, AL.
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Nearby is the monument to John Henry Wisdom -- the Paul Revere of the South. Returning to find his ferry sunk in the Coosa River at this location, Wisdom shouted across to ask what happened. The person on the Gadsden side of the river said that Yankees were headed to Rome, GA followed by Confederate Cavalry. John Henry Wisdom's mother lived in Rome.
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He took his one horse buggy and, switching out horses along the way, rode 67 miles as fast as he could, to warn the people of Rome that Streight was on the way intent upon destroying the city. He arrived in time to inform the military commander who gathered up all the old men and boys in town, a couple of old War of 1812 cannon, and stacked cotton bales on the bridges leading into the city. It was enough to make it appear that Rome was protected and that would factor into Streight's decision the next day.
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