Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Battle of Salem Cemetery ~ Forrest's Second Tennessee Raid

Marker ID:  
Location: Marker can be reached from Cotton Grove Road 0.3 miles north of N Parkway East/Paul Coffman Drive, Jackson, TN
County: Madison
Coordinates: N 35° 37.766    W 088° 45.966
  35.62943333    -88.7661
Waymark: None


Battle of Salem Cemetery
Surprise Attack
Forrest's Second Tennessee Raid

Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led his cavalry brigade on a raid through West Tennessee, Dec. 15, 1962-Jan 3, 1863, destroying railroads and severing Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's supply line between Columbus, Kentucky, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Forrest crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton, defeated Union Col. Robert G. Ingersoll's cavalry at Lexington, captured Trenton and Union City, and ranged briefly into Kentucky. He raided back through Tennessee, evaded defeat at Parker's Cross Roads, and crossed the river again at Clifton. Grant changed his supply base to Memphis.

Alarmed by Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's early success in counties to the east, Union Col. Adolph Engelmann stationed his brigade here on both sides of Cotton Grove Road in an attempt to slow his progress. On the morning of December 19, 1862, Forrest's cavalry rode south toward Jackson, and as the column approached, Federal soldiers here fired a deadly volley. killing or wounding several men and horses.

Forrest's cavalrymen retreated to the next ridge north, leaving behind four dismounted troopers who used their dead horses for cover until captured. The Federals regrouped behind the cemetery's iron and wood fence and repelled a brisk cavalry charge, adding to the dead and wounded on the road. Forrest then unlimbered three guns and shelled the Federal position, but most of the rounds went over the heads of the prone Federals and exploded in the treetops.

As the Confederate gunners began to find their range, Engelmann, told that his outnumbered troops were in danger of being flanked, withdrew toward Jackson. Forrest confined the Federals to their fortifications there, freeing him to continue raids against Union rail and communication lines in West Tennessee. During the four-hour battle, Confederate losses totaled 65 killed, wounded, or missing, while Federal losses were 2 killed and 6 wounded. Except for the paving of Cotton Grove Road, the natural features surrounding the cemetery (established 1825) remain unchanged.

"In wild disorder they turned from the road to the right and left in the open fields, hurrying their shattered and broken ranks without the range of our guns. After a lapse of some fifteen minutes they commenced shelling the wood where we were stationed. The range of their guns was very exact, shells bursting all around us." - Col. Adoph Engelmann, 43 Illinois Infantry

Erected by Civil War Trails