On this day in 1862, Confederate cavalry leader General Nathan Bedford Forrest routs a Union force under the command of Colonel Robert Ingersoll on a raid into western Tennessee, an area held by the Union.
With the main Union army in the region occupying northern Mississippi, Confederate General Braxton Bragg ordered Forrest to cut the Federal supply lines in Tennessee. Forrest left Columbia, Tennessee, on December 11 and began crossing the Tennessee River on December 13. On December 16, Union General Jeremiah Sullivan dispatched Ingersoll and 200 men from Jackson to Lexington, where Ingersoll picked up 470 reinforcements. Most of the troops were raw recruits with no combat experience.
On December 17, Ingersoll’s scouts detected more than half of Forrest’s 2,500 men approaching Lexington from the south. Ingersoll guessed that Forrest would attack along one of two main roads, Old Stage Road and Lower Road. To impede the Confederate advance, Ingersoll ordered the destruction of a bridge across Beech Creek along Lower Road. He then concentrated the bulk of his force along Old Stage Road. Forrest pulled his force up to Lexington, but did not attack until December 18.
In the morning, Forrest advanced along Lower Road. Ingersoll’s scouts had failed to eliminate the bridge the day before, leaving the Confederates a clear path towards the smaller part of Ingersoll’s command. The Yankees swung around to stop the attack, but it was too late. Forrest’s troops overwhelmed the panicked Federals and captured more than 140 men, including Ingersoll. The rest of the Union force scattered into the countryside. Forrest also captured artilery pieces, horses,rifles, and supplies.
Forrest headed to Jackson, but found the city well defended. He continued his raid into Kentucky, destroying bridges and hampering supplies to the Union armies in Mississippi.