An Alabama Heroine. Miss Emma Sansone, who piloted General Forrest across Black Creek, in his famous pursuit and capture of Col. A. D. Streight. With an account of the surrender by Gen. D. H. Maury.
The eloquent address of General Dabney H. Maury—‘The Wizard of the West’—lingers a delight in the minds of those who fortunately heard it. His vivid portrayal of the characteristics and stirring recital of the remarkable achievements of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, has re-incited deep interest in the phenomenal leader. Any illustration of his brilliant career, even unpretentious, may be deemed acceptable to the public. The narrative of a follower of the great soldier, which is presented, was sent the Editor by Mr. W. L. Fleming, a librarian of the A. & M. College, Auburn, Ala. In the early part of April, 1863, the commander of the Federal forces in Tennessee determined to send a strong raiding party around the Confederate forces under Gen. Bragg for the purpose of destroying the railroads and cutting off supplies and reinforcements, and also to destroy the extensive Confederate works then at Rome, Ga. For this daring purpose Col. Abel D. Streight, of Indiana, was selected, and he was given command of 2,000 picked Western men, well mounted and armed with the best arms in the Federal service. To this party was also attached a section of the 6th Ohio Light Battery. Streight's party was accompanied by a strong force of infantry and artillery as far as the Tennessee valley to create a diversion while he should pass the Confederates under Gen. N. B. Forrest. The combined commands of the Federals landed and crossed the Tennessee river below Tuscumbia, in the extreme northwestern part of the State of Alabama. They made their way up the valley, driving back the small cavalry force of the Confederates which was in their front; the Confederates then being scattered over the whole north line of Alabama. When Town creek was reached Forrest  made a stand, having received some reinforcements of cavalry, and with Ferrell's Battery and a section of Freman's Battery. The command was posted on the east side of Town creek, between the ford and railroad bridge. Here an artillery duel was kept up with the Federal host on the west side, which lasted nearly a whole day. During the day it seemed that the Yankees were trying to cross the creek at the ford, the creek being considerably swollen from recent rains. Gen. Forrest ordered the writer to take one of the guns of Ferrell's Battery and go down and drive the enemy from the ford. I took a twelve-pounder field-howitzer, and went down near the ford and scattered them effectually, and drove them back to their main lines, following them up with my shells as they retreated. For this service I was complimented by Gen. Forrest, who declared we did ‘the best shooting he ever saw.’ About the time I ceased firing it seemed that all the Yankee batteries had concentrated their fire on my little party, but fortunately they could not depress their guns sufficiently to harm us. Their shot and shells passed over our heads. Just before night our command moved back to Courtland. Big Nance creek being very high, the drivers swam their horses across at the ford and the cannoneers passed the pieces over the railroad bridge by hand. We remained in the streets of Courtland during the night. It seems that Colonel Streight left the main command while we were engaged in the artillery duel the day before, and General Forrest had ‘caught on’ to it, for we left Courtland early the next morning, and went up the mountain leaving a portion of General Roddy's command under Major Moreland in the valley. Here we first heard of the raiding party under Colonel Streight and got on his track. I remember General Forrest telling us that ‘they, the Yankees, were taking the rings off the gals fingers,’ and that ‘we would take them back when we caught them,’ after a rest of about an hour, the command moved forward at a lively gait as the trail was a warm one. We continued the pursuit in a southeasterly direction. We found that the Yankees had taken or destroyed everything in the way of food or forage as they passed. The flour and meal that they did not use was thrown into the road and well mixed with dirt and sand so as to be useless to us. In crossing a bad mud hole with ‘corduroy’ made of poles and fence rails where some one had broken his wagon and left it in the mire, the cannoneers being afoot, passed over on some logs lying by the fence when one spied some bacon sides lying just over the fence  in the bushes and briars; I told them to get it, and had a hole cut in them, and then had them put on the spindle of the spare wheel on our caissons. It proved to be a godsend, for we had nothing else to eat. That night we saw lights ahead on the mountain, which it seems was the camp of the raiders. Ferrell's Battery and a part of the command was sent to the right, while the section of Freeman's Battery and another part of the command went to the left. We on the right were apparently near enough to have reached their camp with our shells, and I was asked what I could do, but the elevation was too great for field pieces. Early the next morning we were ordered to move rapidly around the mountain to the left, where we heard heavy firing. It seems that Gen. Forrest had attacked them on the mountain at Day's gap with a part of his command and with the section of Freeman's Battery, and had been repulsed with the loss of Freeman's guns and a number of men. I think his brother, Bill Forrest, was either killed or severely wounded there. When we arrived the command immediately moved forward up the mountain, and on reaching the top our line was formed, and we moved forward. We soon came to the line of the Yankees, who gave us a heavy volley and retreated. ‘That's h—l, to let them all get away,’ I heard some one say just coming up behind me. I looked around, and saw it was Gen. Forrest. He ordered ‘forward,’ and away we went. We pressed them so closely that day that late in the evening they abandoned the guns that they had taken from Freeman. Streight made a stand at every creek or stream on the way, and burnt all the bridges. The battery was ordered up on most of these occasions, and after giving them a few rounds of shell or shrapnel, and sometimes cannister, the cavalry would charge them and carry the position, and so it would go to the next creek. Many of these streams were very difficult to cross with artillery. Often ammunition would have to be carried over by the cavalrymen, each man with a shell; and the men and horses, by the use of prolonge ropes, would drag the guns across these rough and rocky mountain streams. Late that night we came upon them in camp, it was very dark and the enemy's fires if they had any, were out, our line was moving along slowly, when General Forest suggested they were just in front of us. I could not tell whether my front was up hill or down, but had the first piece pointed by feeling along the gun with my hand, and fired, the guns to the left in the woods following, we drew a  heavy volley from the enemy on the first piece, we followed with several rounds of shot and shell and moved by hand to the front and gave them some canister; then the command moved forward with a sheet of flame and we passed through their camp. I saw a number of white signals made by their wounded while their horses and mules were neighing and braying. ‘Forward,’ was the order, and forward we went, in passing through the Yankee camp the men hastily grabbed up such things as scattered hard tack, little wallets of ground coffee, etc. I did not leave the road, and only found a clothes brush, which was lying with the bristles up, the row of white bristles around the outer edge had caught my eye, though the night was dark and I on horseback. I don't think that Streight ever attempted to go into camp again, or if he did he was not allowed to do so, for the chase was kept up day and night, and if they deprived us of something to eat we certainly kept them from sleeping. But at every creek or stream they would make a stand, and on all such occasions we would shell them and then charge, and so on we went, the battery to cross below or above the burning bridge as best we could. One day in passing a little farm in a valley where the whole family, ‘with their sisters and their cousins and their aunts,’ were standing out in the yard, as I rode up, one of the young women came rushing towards me with her arms open, crying ‘lora if yonder ain't buddy.’ I suggested that she was mistaken, as I had no sister. ‘Well,’ said she, ‘if you ain't buddy, you are just like him, and I will find you some bread,’ whereupon she rushed back to the house and brought me a small piece of bread, the first and only bread I had on the road from Tuscumbia to Rome. One night the command seemed to come to a halt. I tried to ‘nod’ on my horse, but could not do so satisfactorily, so I rode forward to see what the matter was. We were stopped in a branch or swampy place, the drivers were all nodding away on their horses. Just after getting out of the bottom I passed along the side of the hill in the woods, and I saw lying on the ground, asleep, Captain Ferrell, and a few feet farther lay General Forrest also asleep, I quietly dismounted and, with my arm through my bridle rein, lay down with my back as close to Captain Ferrell as I could get. It seemed that I had hardly got to sleep when I was aroused by the voice of General Forrest, ‘Captain Ferrell, move your battery forward,’ and forward we moved. Late one evening in crossing a stream where there was no bridge,  the Yankees had lost a box of hardtack (crackers) in the stream—of course they got wet but that did not soften them—this box of hardtack General Forrest issued out to the command with his own hands and of which I did not get one, as Captain Ferrell suggested that I ‘had been given a piece of bread the day before by a young woman.’ Our horses were ‘giving out’ and our teams being reduced, and no others to be had, until finally, all the guns and caissons had to be left except one six-pounder smoothbore and one twelve-pounder field Howitzer, and one caisson; with this section and the pick of the horses, we went forward at a somewhat better gait, having eight horses to each piece, but even then over the rough mountain roads with little or no rest and no food except what little scattered fodder the Yankee horses had left in their haste, our horses showed great distress. I had just dismounted and put my horse in the place of one that had gotten very lame in the battery and was leading him rather than to ride, when General Forrest came by and said: ‘Jones, when we catch them Yankees, you shall have the best horse they have got.’ At Blountsville the raiders stopped and fed, and issued out their ammunition and rations to their men, then corralled their wagons and set them on fire, our men were gathering up the scattered crumbs of crackers. I remember that early one morning, after the usual delay at a stream, we got the usual order by a courier, ‘Gen. Forrest says bring up the battery.’ There was hard firing in front, and spurring and whipping up the poor old jaded horses, we passed through a wooded section. I was riding in advance, and coming to a farm house on my right (I saw a burning bridge some distance in front), in the front yard I saw a beautiful young woman, who eagerly pointed me to a ford of the creek some distance above the burning bridge. She seemed to take an interest in our success, and ‘hoped we would catch the Yankees,’ etc. She had piloted Gen. Forrest to the ford, and had just got back to the yard as I rode up; indeed, I think she was going in at the gate when I first saw her. There was considerable contrast between her acts and words and some of the women we had met on our march. Some did not know which were Forrest's men nor which the Yankees, and cared less. But we had got over the mountains and were now in a more level country. I found the old cow ford a very rough one, and on riding over my horse bogged in the quicksand, so I had the horses unhitched and taken over, and by hitching to the prolonge rope and the men in the water at the  wheels, I got over and up the very steep little hill on the east side. I learned that the young lady who piloted us to the ford was Miss Emma Sansom, and for her services on this occasion the General Assembly of Alabama at the session of 1864, by joint resolution, directed the Governor of the State to issue a patent to her of 160 acres of land, and also to have prepared, with a suitable inscription thereon, a gold medal, and present the same in the name of the State of Alabama to her. See Acts of 1864. After crossing Black creek we passed on near by the town of Gadsden, and a few miles east of that place we had a few rounds with the raiders who it seems wanted to stop and feed, and rest a little at a beautiful grove on the way. It was here that Colonel Hathaway who commanded an Indiana regiment of Streight's command, was mortally wounded and fell from his horse. Farther on we came to a river over which was a burning bridge. The banks of this stream being very steep and the water being quite deep, we had to take out all the ammunition and packing from the chests, and have the cavalrymen carry them over on their horses. In crossing, our ammunition chests filled with water. The bank on the east side was so wet and slick and steep, that I had to hitch to the end of the prolong rope and all the men had to push at the wheels. As soon as the first piece had crossed and the water had run out of the chest, we packed the ammunition back. A courier came with orders ‘bring up the battery quick.’ Instructing Sergeant R. H. Jackson to cross as quickly as possible and follow, I ordered the piece ‘forward, trot, march’—easier said than done, for it was some time before we could get up a trot. But we hobbled along as best we could, the drivers spurring and whipping continually. We passed a cross road, I think it was Cedar Bluff, and some distance east of there the road passed through a wooded section. I was riding a little in advance of the piece, when suddenly looking up, I saw General Forrest, Captain Pointer, and one or two other of our officers, and Colonel Streight and several of his officers sitting down on the north side of the road. I also saw some little distance in front a road full of Yankees. Captain Pointer got up and motioned for me to halt, he then came up to me and said: ‘Colonel Streight objects to you coming up so close,’ and directed me to ‘drop back a piece.’ I asked him what was up, and if Streight was going to surrender. ‘He don't talk like it,’ said he, ‘but he cusses mightily’ (or like a trooper). I had the piece to move back, I suppose some 150 yards, and come to an ‘action front’ on the  south side of the narrow road, with one wheel in the road and the other in the edge of the woods with men to their posts. After a while Sergeant Jackson came up with the other piece and caisson, and took position in the battery on the other side of the road. After ‘so long a time,’ I saw the officers arise and then—move forward, I gave the command ‘limber to the front,’ and we marched by column of pieces forward. On arriving at the next house I came upon the Yankee battery standing in the road, and as I rode up the men dismounted and I ordered a detail of our men to take charge of it. The main body of Streight's men were stacking their arms in a field to the front and right of us. They were immediately moved off from their guns, and the officers separated from the men. This was done about as quickly as I can tell it. General Forrest ordered me to take command of the light section just captured, and come on and help guard the prisoners, and for Captain Ferrell to come on leisurely with his heavier guns. That night we had the prisoners in a small field of grain, and after taking position with my guns pointing on them, and organizing my detail so as to fire with ‘reduced numbers,’ I examined my ammunition and equipments, and finding no friction primers, lanyards or thumb-stalls, I went in among the prisoners and finally found the two gunners' haversacks containing all these indispensable articles. In going among the prisoners I found that they were all stalwart western men. I don't remember to have seen a foreigner among them. They seemed to be very mad, and cursed long and loud, and seemed to have felt that they were duped into surrendering to so small a party. We certainly had a light line around them that night. And if they had not been ‘tired and sleepy too,’ I don't know what might have happened; but the prisoners went to preparing their suppers. We didn't, for we had none to prepare, except a small piece of the aforesaid middling meat, which we ate ‘rare,’ and committed no waste by trimming or washing same-and it had no protection from dust and flying horse-hairs either. Two hundred of Streight's advance guard who had gone in sight of Rome were ordered back and surrendered. The next morning we entered Rome, and as soon as we crossed the bridge we saw the sidewalks, doors, windows, balconies and streets lined with men, women and children, and ‘Rome was saved.’ But one of the most attractive features to starving men was the waiters of biscuit and chicken that came from both sides of the streets as we passed. We brought up the rear with our light battery, and on  coming to the main street I turned up the street, while the prisoners were marched down the street towards the old railroad depot. A short distance up the main street I found a vacant space in front of the mansion of a Mr. Spurlock. There we parked our guns, took out the horses, and—all lay down on the ground to rest. I don't think I had slept long when I was aroused by Mr. Spurlock—think that was his name—who insisted that we should go over to his residence and take dinner. We thanked him, and insisted that we had had something to eat, but he would not take such an excuse. The truth is we were too dirty and ragged to feel at home in such a nice place. Finally Clay Ramsey consented to go with me, and we went over. The old gentleman enquired our names and introduced us to his daughters, very beautiful young ladies, who entertained us by singing and playing on the piano until dinner was announced. Then we escorted the young ladies down to the dining-room, and such a dinner we had not seen before in years. We tried to do our duty towards that dinner, and particularly to the turkey; anyhow, we ate with a relish. Captain Ferrell camped in another part of the town with his battery. While we were at Rome I thought I would get the horse promised me by General Forrest, and having great confidence in Captain Ferrell's judgment of horse flesh, I asked him to take one of the men with him and pick out one for me. He did so, and sent me a beautiful dapple gray horse which the prisoners informed us had belonged to Colonel Hathaway, who was killed on him in the engagement near Gadsden. I was very proud of my horse for he was indeed a beautiful animal. In Rome I met several persons that I knew, among them was Captain Frank Watkins, now of Opelika, who contributed something to my scant wardrobe. And old Nell, Captain Ferrell's servant, did some washing for me while I slept. I went to the old store house in Rome where the saddles and bridles belonging to Streight's command had been deposited, to pick me a saddle and bridle, and I never have seen so many saddles and bridles in one pile before or since. The house was literally full of them. Here our battery was made horse artillery, cannoneers being mounted on horse-back and having horse holders. We had planned to have a big time in Rome. The young people had arranged for several entertainments for our especial benefit, but alas, the best laid plans of men and mice, etc.  General Forrest had been ordered to go at once to Tennessee and take Van Dorn's place. We remained in Rome about thirty-six hours, when I was ordered with the light section to accompany Colonel Biffle with his regiment of cavalry to Tennessee. We left and made forced marches day and night, recrossed the mountains, and crossed the Tennessee river at Decatur and went down on the northeast side of the river. At Savannah I stopped and camped in the Fair Grounds with my section, and Colonel Biffle went on to the village and became engaged with a command of the Yankees on the opposite side of the river. After considerable firing, and he being unable to dislodge the enemy who were posted in a long row of cribs, stables and other log houses, he sent for the battery. We went down and sent a few shells crashing through the houses, and the enemy vacated the same and made tracks for the woods beyond the low grounds. I followed them with my shells until they reached the timber, when I ceased firing. A charge, however, was left in one of the pieces when the order to cease firing was given; pretty soon a man on horseback came out from the timber and waving his hat at us galloped down along the skirt of woods across in front of us in a very defiant manner. I caught hold of the trail handspike of the loaded gun and followed him. Then moved to where I supposed he would be by the time my shell would reach the point, and gave the order ‘fire.’ The man pulled the lanyard, and the shell, which had been cut to four seconds, was seen to explode in a direct line for him, and about thirty or forty yards short. I never saw him again. The dust and the smoke seemed to envelop him. The aim had been perfect, and a shout went up from our lines at this shot on the wing. After the Yankees had been run off, the cavalrymen procured a batteau from the opposite side of the river and went over and got all their horses and equipments and provisions, among which was a nice lot of hams, of which Colonel Biffle sent me a liberal share. After leaving Savannah (where poor ‘Coon’ Herndon of Ferrell's battery had been mortally wounded on a former occasion) we went down the river on a ‘still hunt’ for gunboats. We did not find any boats, but we did come across a nice party of Yankees on the opposite side of the river engaged in eating, bathing and playing cards. We came up behind a high lot fence, and peeping one of my little howitzers around the corner of the fence I opened on them with shell which exploded in their midst, they were taken completely by surprise and stampeded immediately leaving their grub, cards and clothing behind. As no boat of any sort could be found we had  to leave without crossing. From here we went on to Columbia where we again met General Forrest. From Columbia we moved to a beautiful poplar grove near Franklin, and here the command was reorganized and we had a rest.
The surrender of Colonel Streight.General Dabney Herndon Maury, who is the oldest surviving Major-General of the Confederate States Army, in his entertaining ‘Recollections of a Virginian’ (pp. 208-9), gives the following account of the surrender of Colonel Streight, which exhibits strikingly the confidence and subtle ability of Forrest:
When Forrest, with about twelve hundred men, set out in pursuit he was more than a day behind him. Streight had several hundred more men in the saddle than Forrest, and, being far in advance, could replace a broken-down horse by a fresh one from the farms through which his route lay, while Forrest, when he lust a horse, lost a soldier too; for no good horses were left for him. After a hot pursuit of five days and nights, during which he had lost two-thirds of his forces from broken-down horses, he overhauled his enemy and brought him to a parley. This conference took place in sight of a cut-off in the mountain road, Captain Morton and his horse-artillery, which had been so long with Forrest, passing in sight along the road till they came to the cut-off, into which they would turn, re-entering the road out of view, so that it seemed that a continous stream of artillery was passing by. Forrest had so arranged that he stood with his back to the guns, while Streight was facing them. Forrest, in his characteristic way, described the scene to me. He said: ‘I seen him all the time we was talking, looking over my shoulder and counting the guns. Presently he said, “Name of God! How many guns have you got? There's fifteen I have counted already!” Turning my head that way, I said, “I reckon that's all that has kept up.” Then he said, “I wont surrender till you tell me how many men you've got.” I said, “I've got enough to whip you out of your boots.” To which he said, “I wont surrender.” I turned to my bugler and said, “Sound to mount!” Then he cried out, “I'll surrender!” I told him, “Stack your arms right along there, Colonel, and march your men away down into that hollow.” ’  “When this was done,” continued Forrest, “I ordered my men to come forward and take possession of the arms.” When Streight saw they were barely four hundred, he did rare! demanded to have his arms back and that we should fight it out. I just laughed at him and patted him on the shoulder, and said, “Ah Colonel, all is fair in love and war, you known.”