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[463] of from ten to thirty men willing to fight, but unwilling to go far from home or into the infantry service. The arrival of Forrest was the signal for all these men to rally around him, and by the 23d of December he had collected a force of about three thousand men, all unarmed except about two hundred. In the meantime, General Hurlbut was not idle, and General Sherman, who was determined to capture Forrest if possible, was directing the movements against him.

The rains had been heavy and the streams were all full. The Tennessee was behind him and on his left, the Mississippi on his right, and before him were the Forked Deer, Hatchie and Wolf rivers, and General Hurlbut at Memphis, with twenty thousand troops, watching every probable crossing place of these rivers, while troops were moving from Union City, Fort Pillow and Paducah, on his flank and rear. Loaded down as he was with three thousand unarmed men and a heavy train of supplies, escape would have seemed impossible to a less daring and less wary man. But one of the greatest secrets of Forrest's success was his perfect system of scouts. He kept able and reliable scouts all around him and at great distances, and always knew where his enemy was, what he had, what he was doing, and very often for days in advance what he was about to do. While the enemy were watching for him at Purdy and Bolivar, he unexpectedly crossed the Hatchie at Estenaula — not, however, without some sharp fighting before he got away. And when they were expecting him to cross the Wolf near its headwaters, he made a bold dash for Memphis and crossed one regiment, having only two armed companies over Wolf river bridge, in nine miles of that city. By skillful handling of his five hundred armed men, and the occasional display of his large number unarmed, he fought several successful skirmishes, captured the bridge over Wolf river near Lafayatte station, on the Memphis and Charleston railroad, and held the enemy in check at Collierville until he passed into Mississippi, with thirty-five hundred men, forty wagons loaded with subsistence, two hundred beef cattle and three hundred hogs. The correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial, writing from Memphis, January 12, 1864, says: “Forrest, with less than four thousand men, has moved right through the Sixteenth army corps, has passed within nine miles of Memphis, carried off one hundred wagons, two hundred beef cattle, three thousand conscripts and innumerable stores, torn up railroad track, cut telegraph wire, burned and sacked towns, run over pickets with a single derringer pistol, and all, too, in the face of ten thousand men.”

General Forrest was met near Lafayette by General Chalmers, with twelve hundred men, who covered his further march into Mississippi, and who from then, until the close of the war, was his second in command.

The next month was occupied in obtaining arms for his recruits and reorganizing his command into four brigades. When this took

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Nathan Bedford Forrest (5)
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