Parkers Crossroads in Henderson County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
Prelude to Battle/December 31, 1862—the Battle/Union and Confederate Forces
Union troops in West Tennessee and north Mississippi depended on the railroad. The Confederate high command ordered General Nathan Bedford Forrest to cut that supply line. Forrest left Columbia on December 11, 1862, with approximately 1,700 men. He added 430 men when Colonel Alonzo Napier joined him near Trenton.
Forrest Strikes, November 1862
Union General Jeremiah Sullivan, commander of the District of Jackson, Tennessee, knew that Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was on the move, but did not know where he was or the size of his force. At Lexington on December 18, Forrest's cavalry captured 148 soldiers and two artillery pieces. Forrest then sent part of his force to wreck railroad track and attacked the Union garrison at Jackson with the rest. After an hour's fight at Salem Cemetery just east of the city, Sullivan retreated.
Union Forces Move Out
On December 20, Sullivan set out to find Forrest. As Union troops marched to Trenton, Forrest pushed north up the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. In four days, his cavalry wrecked bridges, trestles,
Dunham Finds Forrest
On December 29, the Union brigades met in Huntingdon, fifteen miles north of Parker's Crossroads. Colonel Cyrus Dunham had 1,554 men; Colonel John W. Fuller had 1,200 men. Each had three pieces of artillery. The next day, Dunham marched south. At Clarksburg, he learned that Forrest's cavalry was only five miles away.
Upper left: Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Forrest's cavalry left a trail of destruction in its wake. The damage to this bridge in Virginia is typical of that left behind by Confederate raiders.
Rails were stacked on piles of wood and burned. The fire warped the rails, rendering them useless.
Confederate troops destroyed tracks, burned buildings, and damaged water tanks at dozens of railroad depots.
Early on December 31, 1862, Colonel Cyrus Dunham sent a message to General Sullivan, urging him to hurry Colonel John Fuller's brigade south. He then marched out to meet General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The two forces clashed
"A vigorous attack was commenced
The main engagement of the Battle of Parker's Crossroads took place here, in this field. When Dunham reached the crossroads, he placed his brigade on this side and parallel to the Lexington-Huntingdon road. He sent his supply wagons to the rear and ordered a detachment of infantry to assault Forrest's vanguard. The Confederates brushed aside the Union advance and shifted east. In response, Dunham moved his line to a low ridge at the south end of this field. Forrest deployed his artillery and dismounted cavalry in an arc around and north of the Union position and the battle began in earnest.
An Unconventional Strategy
The most significant feature of the Battle of parker's Crossroads is Forrest's use of artillery. Generally, commanders deploy artillery behind a line of foot soldiers, where it was out of sight of the enemy and could fire from behind the troops, supporting their advance. Here, Forrest took an unconventional approach, placing his artillery in front: "[I] dismounted a portion of my cavalry to support my artillery and attacked in front while I could flank them on each side and get Col. Russell's regiment in their rear." Forrest
Dunham attempted to disable the Confederate guns, but had only infantry to send against them. The unrelenting artillery fire forced the Union troops to retreat to a split-rail fence at the edge of a wood. The Confederates flanked the Union position. Then, as Forrest demanded surrender, Fuller's brigade arrived behind the Confederate position. Completely surprised, Forrest turned to attack the Union reinforcements. His action slowed the Federal assault and allowed the Confederates to escape the battlefield.
Opening Stage of the Battle of Parker's Crossroads
Main Engagement of the Battle of Parker's Crossroads
Union Troops at Parker's Crossroads
3rd Brigade, District of Jackson, Tennessee
Colonel Cyrus Dunham, commanding
50th Indiana Infantry Lieut. Col. Samuel T. Wells
18th Illinois Infantry (Cos. A & C) Capt. John Davis
122nd Illinois Infantry Col. Henry J.B. Cummings
7th Wisconsin Independent Light Artillery (three guns) Lieut. Arthur B. Wheelock
Col. John W. Fuller, commanding
27th Ohio Infantry Lieut. Col. Zephaniah S. Spaulding
39th Ohio Infantry Col. Edward F. Noyes
63rd Ohio Infantry Col. John W. Sprague
7th Wisconsin Independent Light Artillery (three guns) Lieut. Galen E. Green
Col. Cyrus Dunham
Col. John Rinaker
Lieut. Arthur B. Wheelock
Col. Henry J.B. Cummings
Col. John W. Fuller
Col. Edward F. Noyes
Col. John W. Sprague
Confederate Troops at Parker's Crossroads
General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Commanding
4th Tennessee Cavalry Col. James W. Starnes
8th Tennessee Cavalry Col. George Dibrell
9th Tennessee Cavalry Col. Jacob Biffle
4th Alabama Cavalry Col. Alfred Russell
Freeman's Battery (two 6-pounder smoothbore cannon and two 12-pounder howitzers) Capt. Samuel L. Freeman
Lieut. John W. Morton (two three-inch ordnance rifles captured at Lexington, Tennessee, on Dec 18, 1862)
2nd Battalion Tennessee Cavalry Maj. Nichola Cox
10th Tennessee Cavalry (two 12-pounder mountain howitzers) Col. Alonzo Napier
Kentucky Cavalry Capt. Thomas G. Woodward
General Forrest's Scouts Capt. William Forrest
General Forrest's Escort
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest
Col. George Dibrell
Col. Jacob Biffle
Col. Alfred A. Russell
Col. James W. Starnes
Lieut. John W. Morton
Maj. Nicholas N. Cox
Capt. Thomas G. Woodward
Capt. William M. Forrest
Erected 2015 by Parker's Crossroads Battlefield Association.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. A significant historical date for this entry is December 31, 1862.
Location. 35° 47.609′ N, 88° 23.296′ W. Marker is in Parkers Crossroads, Tennessee, in Henderson County. Marker is on Wildersville Road 0.2 miles east of Tennessee Route 22, on the right when traveling east. Marker is located along the North Battlefield Trail Extension, south of Wildersville Road. The North Battlefield Trail begins at the Parker's Crossroads City Park: Auto Tour Stop No. 1 of the Parker's Crossroads Battlefield Auto Tour. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Wildersville TN 38388, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Civil War Artillery (within shouting distance of this marker); Manning the Guns (within shouting distance of this marker); The Battle Begins (within shouting distance of this marker); A Panicked Stampede (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Forrest's Artillery Leads the Attack (about 500 feet away); Confederate Horseholders (about 500 feet away); Forrest's Big Show (about 500 feet away); Dunham's Artillery is Forced to Withdraw (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Parkers Crossroads.
Also see . . . Parker's Crossroads Battlefield Association. (Submitted on June 4, 2021.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 4, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 30, 2021, by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 36 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 30, 2021, by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. 4. submitted on June 4, 2021, by David Austin of Scotts Hill, Tennessee. 5. submitted on May 30, 2021, by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.