Parker’s Crossroad Battlefield

Location: Parkers Crossroad, Tennessee

Webpage: Civil War Battlefield

General Description: In April, 1862, General Grant’s victory at Shiloh and subsequent capture of the railroad junction at Corinth, Mississippi in May opened up the opportunity to split the Confederates in the western theater of the Civil War.  From here, Grant captured Memphis in June and began moving down the Mississippi towards Vicksburg.  Nashville had been captured in February of 1862 and from there General Rosecrans was making plans to capture Chattanooga.  These Union victories in western Tennessee gave control of the critical railroads to the Union and were serious setbacks to the Confederacy.  However, the Confederates were not yet finished and began to lay plans to recapture western Tennessee.  One of these efforts was to disrupt Grants supply lines that were heavily dependent on the railroads.  On December 10, 1862 Confederate General Braxton Bragg ordered Brigadier General Nathan Forrest to lead 1800-2500 cavalry units into Union held western Tennessee to disrupt these supply lines.  Their objective was to dismantle segments of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad between Jackson, Tennessee and Columbia, Kentucky.  After crossing the Tennessee at Clifton on hastily built flatboats.  By December 18, Forrest had moved west to Jackson which was well fortified after routing the Federals at Lexington the day before.  Jackson was well fortified and held between 10,000-13,000 soldiers outnumbering Forest by 10-1.  Instead of attacking Jackson directly, Forrest sent soldiers both north and south to capture supplies and wreck the train stations and track of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.  Forrest fooled the Union forces into thinking he commanded a much larger force using a number of tactics.  On December 19, he made a feint towards Jackson with no intent to actually attack the town.  Instead he moved north along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad destroying track and supplies along the way to Trenton which was captured on December 21.  Union City was captured as well on December 22.  The entire force spent December 24 and 25 dismantling the trestle bridge across the Obion River.  Of course, the Union army was not sitting idle and by this point there were 12,000 troops in Trenton under hot pursuit.  Having completed their mission it was time to hightail it back across the Tennessee River.  By December 30 they were again nearing Lexington with the Federals in hot pursuit and another force to the northeast threatening to cut them off from the Tennessee.  On the morning of December 31, Colonel Dunham led his 1500 Federal troops south from Clarksburg towards Parker’s Crossorad, in an attempt to cut off Forrest.  He sent word to Colonel Fuller further north in Huntingdon to join him as quickly as possible.  Dunham got to the crossroads first and formed a line of battle northwest of the crossroads at Hick’s field.  Although the forces were approximately the same size, Dunham failed to realize just how well supplied Forrest was due to all the successful capture of Union supplies.  He now had 9 cannon with more ammunition then he could possibly need, as well as, ammunition for all the modern rifles they had captured.  The fighting at Hick’s field was a slaughter as the Confederates opened fire with their cannons.  Dunham withdrew his men back to the crossroads where they set their lines behind a picket fence southeast of the crossroads.  Forrest was in a hurry as he needed to defeat Dunham before Fuller could get there and boxed them in.  He arrayed his cannon along the front and both left and right flanks and began pounding the Union troops.  He had no intention of charging their lines depending upon the cannon to quickly destroy them.  The Union cannon could not answer as they had only 3 cannons, one of which was lost at Hick’s Field and soon ran out of ammunition.  Three times Dunham attempted to attack the cannon positions, but each time was repulsed by the Confederate dismounted cavalry protecting the cannon.  Since they had no plans to charge the Union lines they could concentrate on just protecting the cannon.  While this deadly bombardment continued, Forrest sent a force through a ravine to the Union rear and captured their supply wagons.  Dunham countered this threat and although he retook their supply wagons, he effectively split his force.  While leading this counterattack Forrest twice sent messengers to demand Dunham’s surrender.  Although Dunham refused to surrender, this cessation of fire from the Confederate cannon convinced many of the Union soldiers that they were surrendering and began to raise white flags.  While this was going on, Fuller arrived on the battlefield JUST in the nick of time.  Coming from the north he quickly attacked the reserves that were holding the horses for the cavalry.  This caused great confusion with the Confederates, especially since Forrest had left 3 companies to the north to warn him.  Forrest now found himself surrounded with Union soldiers to both the north and south.  He ordered his men to ” Charge them both ways!” and immediately led a charge of 75 men into the left flank of the Ohio Brigade.  This charge disrupted Fuller’s command just enough for Forrest to escape the south with nearly all of his men and supplies.  Especially since Dunham’s men were ready to surrender anyway they did not attempt to stop Forrest who was able to escape back across the Tennessee River at Clifton ahead of the large force coming from Jackson.  Thus ended the short battle at Parker’s Crossroad and Forrest VERY successful raid on the Union supply lines.  The Union would be months repairing the damage and General Grant pulled back to Memphis, this delaying his attack on Vicksburg until the following summer.  Forrest rejoined General Bragg with more soldiers then he left with due to recruiting they did of Confederate sympathizers along the way, more cannon, and certainly more supplies of every nature.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) They have done an excellent job of preserving the battlefield with a driving tour, interpretive signs, and paving walking trails.  While the Visitor Center is a nice building they don’t have much information or artifacts from the battle within the Visitor Center.  In addition, the short video they have about the battle does provide some background and overview of the battlefield, it really need some work.  Be sure to get the brochure of the driving tour, which includes all the information you really need.  We also purchased the driving tour CD, which for only $1 is a good deal. However, except for some music all it contained was the same information in the brochure and on the interpretive signs, generally word for word.

VisitorCenter

2) Be sure to stop at the Parkers Crossroads City Park, which is stop 1 on the tour and take the 1 mile walking North loop.  The trail is relatively flat and paved and the interpretive signs along the trail provide a great overview of the background and living conditions at the Parker’s farm prior to the battle.

NorthLoopTrail

3) The second stop is a little drive up to the Confederate position during the opening route of the Union at Hick’s field.  There is not much to see, however, the interpretive sign gives a description of the early morning action.

HicksField

4) The third stop is back at Parker’s Crossroads near the site of the house and is the trail head for another 1 mile paved loop through the Confederate cannon positions to the north of the Union that had retreated to behind the picket fence south of the crossroads.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to get much of sense of the battle from this vantage as I-40 cuts right through the battlefield between you and the Union line.

ArtilleryLoop

5) The fourth stop on the driving tour is the old Jones Cemetery and well, which is suppose to have been dug by the Indians before settlers entered the area.  You can also walk into Jones Cemetery to see the graves of the Parkers who were placed facing north and south rather then east and west.  This is because Parker, who was a Union supporter before the battle, that the Union refusal not to make his home the focal point of the battle turned his support and he wanted to be buried so when judgement day came he could rise ready to kick the Union back to the north.

OldWell

6) The next two stops on the tour are south of the Interstate and commemorate the locations of the Confederate attacks on the supply train in the rear of the Union and near the position of Dunham during the demands for surrender.

7) The last stop on the tour is probably the most important one since the South Loop Trail travels along the location of the picket fence behind which the Union tried to hide from the bombardment and then circles around to the rear along the ravine used by the Confederates to attack the supply train in the rear.  The trail is again just over a mile long, relatively flat, and mostly shaded.  There are a number of very informative interpretive signs along the trail as well.  Finally, they have brought in a log cabin from the that time period to represent the likely size and design of the Parker’s home which had burned down sometime following the battle.  It was also fortunate that TN-22 was moved to the west of the original crossroads, thus preserving the remnants of the old Lexington-Huntingdon road.