Submitted by C.J. Johnson
On April 21, the 5th day of “Grierson’s Raid,” Edward Hatch was
executing his orders to destroy rail lines between West Point and
Macon, and return to LaGrange, Tennessee. His successful efforts
allowed Grierson to reach Starkville, without interruption. Despite
bad weather, they made 25 miles, and camped on high ground in a
swampy area south of Starkville.
Slaves caught up with the Union force near Starkville. They provided
valuable information about the location of a large nearby tannery
producing leather goods for the Confederacy.
According to “Grierson’s Raid” by D. Alexander Brown, “Grierson chose
Major John Graham’s 1st Battalion of the 7th Illinois to make the
five-mile march to the tannery. Within a few minutes, Graham’s
battalion was saddling up to start a nightmare ride through almost
total darkness…found the tannery… a pine-board building recently
enlarged by the Confederate government…
Major Graham’s men quietly surrounded the factory…a startled
Confederate quartermaster and a group of workers checking supplies
for shipment to…Port Hudson, surrendered without resistance.
Grierson…was surprised at the quantity of boots, shoes, saddles, and
bridles already packed and marked for shipment to Vicksburg.
He ordered his men to set fire to the building, and as soon as it was
in full blaze, they turned back to rejoin the brigade, taking the
rebel quartermaster with them.” They caught up with Grierson as they
neared Louisville. Finally, the rain had stopped although the Union
riders now faced rising floodwaters. Grierson needed another diversion.
He chose Captain Henry Forbes’ Company B, 7th Illinois, and gave
orders to hit the railroad at Macon, about thirty miles east of their
location. Making it to Macon and scouting the situation, they
captured a young Rebel scout, who said a trainload of infantry and
artillery were expected anytime in Macon. In addition, Macon already
knew about Yanks at Starkville. On the night of the 22nd, Forbes
heard the train reach Macon, and decided it would be too much for his
Grierson and his men continued toward the railroad at Newton,
traveling on the Whitefield road, reaching Louisville late afternoon
on April 22. D. Brown continued, “Southward to Louisville the road
was little more than a crooking trail through gloomy cypress trees,
flooded in one place for six miles, the water standing motionless,
oily black, and forbidding…Louisville, being on a high road, had
received warning from the east of a possible Yankee raid.
Almost every house was closed, some windows were boarded up.
Louisville had never been invaded before and the people feared the
Yankees…The brigade moved through a silent town, deserted and still
as death, and in the darkness that had come suddenly there was an
eerie quality more disturbing to the Union men than the presence of
the unseen Southerners hidden behind locked doors and windows…
Four miles south of the town they began a long march through another
swamp…the water everywhere was three to four feet deep…At last, after
marching ten miles from Louisville in the darkness, they found dry
ground around Estes Plantation…after midnight; with scarcely a halt
they had covered at least fifty wearying and circuitous miles. And
now their prize…the Vicksburg railroad, lay only forty miles to the
south.” The next day, they moved through Philadelphia, stopping to
rest at 10 o’clock that evening.