Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Forrest Crosses Tennessee River

Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of East Water Street and Main St. on East Water St., Clifton, TN
County: Wayne
Coordinates: N 35° 23.238    W 087° 59.711
  35.3873    -87.99518333
Waymark: None


Forrest Crosses Tennessee River
“…pushing the horses off the bluff…”
— Forrest’s First West Tennessee Raid —

Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led his cavalry brigade on a raid through west Tennessee, Dec. 15, 1862- 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 Crossroads, and crossed the river again at Clifton. Forrest’s success forced Grant to switch his supply base to Memphis.

Confederate Gen. Nathan B. Forrest’s First West Tennessee Raid late in December 1862 began when his command arrived here on the night of December 15 to ferry approximately 2,100 soldiers across the Tennessee River. Forrest ordered the construction of two flatboats, each capable of carrying 25 men and their horses. The troops stayed out of sight, without fires, while sentries watched for Union gunboats. By December 17, the Confederates were over and riding westward.

A Confederate diarist described the movement across the river. “During the night we moved close to the river bank, which was a bluff… On our side, they were pushing the horses off the bluff, and about ten feet clear fall into the swift, icy cold water, the horses were going out of sight. When they came up the poor brutes would swim around in a circle until one would see the fire on the sandbar and strike out for it… We lost eight horses. My company had taken off their saddles and tied them together with their blankets, over coats, and private belongings, in as small, compact bundles as possible, to be carried to the island in canoes. We stood there in a cold drizzling rain until we were wet to the skin all over, and so numbed with cold we could barley stand. After about two hours in this condition, order came for us to saddle up and move up the river and cross on a flat boat, two of which Forrest’s vanguard had built and hidden. It was broad day when we got upon the opposite bank.”

Erected 2012 by Tennessee Civil War Trails.