Streight's Alabama Raid

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Mark F. Jenkins

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Streight's Raid was a Union victory? Well, he did achieve his real objective - to draw Forrest off Grant's back while Grierson rode around Mississippi. Wirt Adams was good and so was Richardson, but they were not Forrest! He had a six of one, half a dozen of the other choice - leave Grierson to others or let Streight trash Alabama and Georgia and destroy a much needed foundry at Rome. Forrest's pursuit of Streight is the stuff of legends! (And darn good movies!)
I never really "got" Streight's raid until I read Bearss' trilogy on Vicksburg. I'd always heard about Streight out of context, as one of the "Oddities" (for the mules), or in the litany of Forrest's exploits. But in the context of Grant, Grierson, and... ack, retrieval failure, but it seems to me there was another, connected effort, Streight's raid makes a lot more sense. (The intent of it. The execution was somewhat less than stellar...)
 

diane

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That's an excellent point. I found that out quite a while ago while studying the battle of Trafalgar. Finally stumbled onto an author who wrote about Cornwallis in the Channel and the whole scope of what led up to the battle. A lot of Forrest 'lore' is much better in context. For example, his set-to with Gould. By itself, it seems that Forrest was a prideful savage but in context - especially in the context of Southern honor code - it becomes a much more complex and interesting episode.
 
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Eric Wittenberg

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Thanks for the idea, folks.

I think I have mentioned previously that I am in the midst of researching Grierson's Raid for a book-length study. I have lots of stuff that nobody has ever used, and I thought that would be enough to differentiate what I'm doing from Dee Brown's now 60-year-old classic on the raid.

I was already well aware of the Lightning Mule Raid, and was aware that it was timed to coincide with Grierson's Raid for the sole purpose of drawing off Forrest, but I think I am now going to include a detailed discussion of the Streight raid too, for purposes of placing both in their full context.

Thank you for the angle--I appreciate it very much.

For those interested in the Lightning Mule Raid, there's a decent book out there on it. It was self-published, but unlike a lot of self-published books, this one doesn't suck. It can be a bit hard to find, though.

http://www.amazon.com/Lightning-Mule-Brigade-Streights-Alabama/dp/1439219966/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416931792&sr=8-1&keywords=lightning mule raid
 

diane

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Streight's Raid is going to be your next book? :D That's great! Streight didn't do badly, really. Quite a few of Forrest's opponents were good - Wilder beat him every time, for instance.
 
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Eric Wittenberg

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Streight's Raid is going to be your next book? :D That's great! Streight didn't do badly, really. Quite a few of Forrest's opponents were good - Wilder beat him every time, for instance.
Not next, but it's in the queue. There is still quite a bit of research left to be done. I'm contacting every local historical society on Grierson's route, and it has taken time to identify and reach out to all of them.
 
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Carronade

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Was Streight's raid conceived, at higher command levels, as a deliberate sacrifice? Or was the idea to try several operations at once, so the enemy couldn't cope with all of them?

Grierson's raid had a clear exit strategy, to borrow a modern term - as he pressed deeper into Confederate territory, he'd also be heading towards his refuge at Baton Rouge. Streight on the other hand had no clear way home; the further he went, the less likely he could get back to Union lines.
 

Nathanb1

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Was Streight's raid conceived, at higher command levels, as a deliberate sacrifice? Or was the idea to try several operations at once, so the enemy couldn't cope with all of them?

Grierson's raid had a clear exit strategy, to borrow a modern term - as he pressed deeper into Confederate territory, he'd also be heading towards his refuge at Baton Rouge. Streight on the other hand had no clear way home; the further he went, the less likely he could get back to Union lines.
Actually the thought was that one or both might end up in the bag, so to speak. Obviously, the idea was to draw off Forrest--see which bait he went for first--and to tie up any local forces so Grant's operations could continue unabated.

Forrest went for Streight--and I would say not simply because he was handy, but because Grierson did such a great job of covering up his objective and exit point. Grierson, quite simply, rocked that assignment.
 

diane

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Was Streight's raid conceived, at higher command levels, as a deliberate sacrifice? Or was the idea to try several operations at once, so the enemy couldn't cope with all of them?

Grierson's raid had a clear exit strategy, to borrow a modern term - as he pressed deeper into Confederate territory, he'd also be heading towards his refuge at Baton Rouge. Streight on the other hand had no clear way home; the further he went, the less likely he could get back to Union lines.
I think the idea was basically what Van Dorn and Forrest had combined to do during Grant's first attempt at Vicksburg. Van Dorn had taken on the Holly Springs depot and Forrest got into Grant's rear to rip up the railroads. Sherman's debacle on the Yazoo and around abouts happened as a direct result of the co-ordinated Van Dorn and Forrest operations - he didn't know about Grant's retrograde movement and was expecting support. They more or less decided to do a Union version of the same, and draw away Confederate forces to the interior.

Grierson certainly held up his end of the bargain! He had a more important role, though, in going through Mississippi itself, and he had a crack band of intrepid scouts with him - the Butternut Guerrillas. It was clear he was the one with the most important mission - I think Grant expected Forrest to follow him. Streight, however, was less important. He wasn't a sacrifice exactly and did think he could accomplish something. He got the mules and complained they weren't saddle broken, some were sick and so on. There were a lot of blundering mistakes made, not by Streight but by others - that helped out Forrest a good deal. Forrest was never one to interrupt the enemy when he was making a mistake! Streight did have an exit strategy - he was planning, after destroying Rome's foundry, to head up toward Knoxville.
 
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TerryB

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Confederate newspapers complained that Streight's men were back in action before they were properly exchanged. Anything to that?
 

diane

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Confederate newspapers complained that Streight's men were back in action before they were properly exchanged. Anything to that?
Would they be complaining about his escape from Libby Prison? He and 107 others tunneled out of the place. Some of them drowned swimming the river but Streight was one that made it!
 

TerryB

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Would they be complaining about his escape from Libby Prison? He and 107 others tunneled out of the place. Some of them drowned swimming the river but Streight was one that made it!
I didn't know he escaped. So he wasn't paroled? Were any of his troopers? I'm always reading about people Wheeler or Forrest captured whom the papers accused of fighting before being exchanged. I always take the newspapers with a huge grain of salt, both sides engaging in hyperbole.
 
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diane

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I didn't know he escaped. So he wasn't paroled? Were any of his troopers? I'm always reading about people Wheeler or Forrest captured whom the papers accused of fighting before being exchanged. I always take the newspapers with a huge grain of salt, both sides engaging in hyperbole.
Yes, indeed he did. He was not the mastermind of the idea and it's one of the great escape stories of the CW! 107 officers went out the narrow little tunnel - only 59 escaped, though, the others were caught and a couple drowned - and Streight almost wasn't one of the escapees. He was a big man, 6'2" and 'tended to corpulence' as someone delicately put it. The tunnel at its widest was just a little over 2 ft. Libby Prison was infamous, as we know, and after 10 months there you can bet Streight made himself fit that tunnel! He was back in service at Franklin and Nashville. He wouldn't have been paroled, though, had he stayed. He was captured about the time prisoner exchanges were stopped. I don't know about his soldiers, but some of them did end up in Andersonville.
 

lelliott19

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Excerpt from Streight's Report to Brigadier General WILLIAM D. WHIPPLE, from Chattanooga, Tenn., August 22, 1864.

"The engagement at Blount's plantation revealed the fact that nearly all of our remaining ammunition was worthless, on account of having been wet. Much of that carried by the men had become useless by the paper wearing out and the powder sifting away. It was in this engagement that the gallant Colonel (Gilbert) Hathaway (Seventy-third Indiana) fell, mortally wounded, and in a few moments expired. Our country has seldom been called upon to mourn the loss of so brave and valuable an officer. His loss to me was irreparable. His men had almost worshiped him, and when he fell it cast a deep gloom of despondency over his regiment which was hard to overcome."
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Colonel Gilbert Hathaway

ABOUT THE BLOUNT PLANTATION
On May 2, 1863, the Blount Plantation was the site of a Civil War skirmish between the troops of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Colonel Abel D. Streight. After the Battle ended, the house was used as a field hospital where wounded Union and Confederate soldiers received treatment and care. The soldiers who were killed and who died from their wounds were buried on a hillside to the right of the Blount house. Colonel Gilbert Hathaway, of the Seventy-third Indiana was among the fatalities. (Hathaway's body was buried in the rose garden directly behind the house and was later retrieved by family and reinterred at Pine Lake Cemetery LaPorte, IN.) The day following the skirmish at Blount's Plantation, Colonel Streight surrendered to General Forrest at Lawrence in Cherokee County. When Colonel Streight surrendered with his 1,466 men, he was surprised to discover that General Forrest had only 600 men.

The Blount Plantation, which consisted of over a thousand acres, was sold by Major James G. Blount to Harry Hopkins in 1909. The Hopkins family turned the plantation into a beef cattle farm which contained the first white-faced hereford cattle in the Etowah County area. The Hopkin's sold the plantation to Joe McClain on July 29, 1944. The McClains's converted the beef cattle farm into a large dairy farm. The McClain's sold the plantation on November 3, 1950 to Ralph Bowman. Mr. Bowman changed the property into a beef cattle farm on a large scale. Ralph Bowman sold the house and farm to James B. Allen on July 12, 1954. The property was sold to Clyde and Henry McCleskey on November 28, 1956. The McCleskey brothers, who were reared on an adjoining farm, developed the Blount Plantation into the largest white-faced hereford cattle farm in Etowah County. The property is still owned by the family of Clyde McCleskey and the hosue still stands today.
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http://www.southerncookingwithandybedwell.com/blount-plantation.html
 
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lelliott19

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Brandon H. Beck has a new book out about Streight's Raid

"Streight's Foiled Raid on the Western & Atlantic Railroad: Emma Sansom’s Courage and Nathan Bedford Forrest's Pursuit"
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1626198624/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

About the author: Dr. Brandon H. Beck is director emeritus of the McCormick Civil War Institute at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. He is the author of ten books. Since retiring and moving to Columbus, Mississippi, he has written "Defending the Mississippi Prairie: The Battle of Okolona" and "Holly Springs: Van Dorn, the CSS Arkansas, and the Raid That Saved Vicksburg." He teaches part-time at East Mississippi Community College.

Here's the link to one of his previous books: "Holly Springs: Van Dorn, the CSS Arkansas and the Raid That Saved Vicksburg" http://www.amazon.com/dp/1609490495/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

And @DixieRifles here's the picture from above post that seems to have disappeared - Blount Plantation GPS coordinates 34.122042, -85.857755
Blount Plantation.JPG
 
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DixieRifles

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Brandon H. Beck has a new book out about Streight's Raid

"Streight's Foiled Raid on the Western & Atlantic Railroad: Emma Sansom’s Courage and Nathan Bedford Forrest's Pursuit"
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1626198624/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

About the author: Dr. Brandon H. Beck is director emeritus of the McCormick Civil War Institute at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. He is the author of ten books. Since retiring and moving to Columbus, Mississippi, he has written "Defending the Mississippi Prairie: The Battle of Okolona" and "Holly Springs: Van Dorn, the CSS Arkansas, and the Raid That Saved Vicksburg." He teaches part-time at East Mississippi Community College.

And @DixieRifles here's the picture from above post that seems to have disappeared - Blount Plantation GPS coordinates 34.122042, -85.857755
View attachment 98351

Thanks, lelliot. I wasn't sure if I could use the GPS coordinates in my iPhone Maps but it works. I hope to head out this morning after my coffee.

I saw Beck at the reenactment st Holly Springs selling his van Dorn's Raid book. No one was around and so I walked up and shook his hand like we were old pals. Then I saw the replica Willisms Gun over to the side and I said See ya later. I'm sure he was thinking do I know that guy??

I like his booklet on Okolona. At the 150th, I asked him to sign my copy and realized it was already signed. But I got an errata sheet & map to go with it.
 
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