By Robert L. Willett
The men of the 1st Alabama Cavalry (USA) played a dual role in the raid that was conducted by Union Colonel Abel D. Streight in April 1863. The raid had a mission to cut the Confederate railroad that ran between Atlanta and Chattanooga, supplying General Braxton Bragg's army located in Tennessee.
While Streight's Provisional Brigade, four regiments of infantry mounted on balky and unbroken Yankee mules, included two companies of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, the rest of the regiment was serving under General Grenville Dodge in Corinth, Mississippi. Streight's cavalry was in the Army of the Cumberland while Dodge's command was under General Ulysses Grant's Army of the Tennessee. Dodge's mission was to screen Streight as he moved from Tennessee by boat, landing in Eastport, Mississippi and then moving overland toward Georgia. Dodge ran into several skirmishes with Confederate cavalry, but joined Streight near Eastport on April 21. Shortly after, Dodge retreated to Corinth while Streight set out for his objective, Rome, Georgia.
General Streight's Sword on display at The Alabama Department of Archives & History
The raid was a disaster from the beginning. In Tennessee, Confederate cavalry legend Nathan Bedford Forrest discovered the raiders shortly after Dodge left the scene, and with four veteran regiments of cavalry began his pursuit on the poorly mounted Union raiders. The 1st Alabama scouts as the rearguard were under almost constant pressure from Forrest, and in spite of gallant conduct by the brigade exhaustion and lack of rations forced Streight to surrender to Forrest on May 3, 1863 near Cedar Bluff, Alabama.
In the week of the raid, the 1st Alabama Cavalry lost sixteen men killed, wounded, or missing. Captain David Smith, leader of the Streight Alabama companies was kept in Confederate prisons until finally released in early 1865. He died in the hospital in Annapolis, Maryland on April 18, 1865, nine days after Appomattox.
About the Author
Robert L. Willett is the author of several Civil War books including The Lightning Mule Brigade: Abel Streight's 1863 Raid Into Alabama.