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1864 April 2: Battle of Paducah

April 4, 2014

The Battle of Paducah was fought on March 25, 1864, in McCracken County, Kentucky.  Confederate cavalry troops under General Nathan B. Forrest conducted a successful raid from Mississippi through Tennessee and Kentucky, reaching Paducah on the Ohio River on March 25.  Forrest’s purpose in raiding was to to recruit soldiers, capture Union supplies to re-outfit his men, and disrupt Union activities.  The Union garrison in Paducah under the command of Colonel Stephen G. Hicks,¹ withdrew to Fort Anderson on the west end of the town.  Forrest’s troops began collecting supplies, unmolested by the Union troops in the fort.  But some of Forrest’s men who were from Kentucky decided to attack the fort; their attack constituted the Battle of Paducah.  The attack was repulsed and the Confederates suffered heavy—and needless—casualties.

This account of the battle is from the April 2, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.


Forrest Captures and Sacks Paduca [sic]
Repulsed in Storming the Fort—
Large amount of Property Burned.

CAIRO, Narch [sic] 26.—Reports circulate here this morning that the rebels under Forrest attacked Paducah, Ky., forty miles above here, yesterday.  They burned part of the town, but as telegraph communications are cut off, no reliable intelligence can be received from their [sic] at present.

The steamer Satan from Nashville, passed Paducah at five this morning, and the Joseph Pearce, which passed two hours later, bring the following account of affairs :

Forrest, with an estimated force of five thousand,² captured the place at two o’clock yesterday afternoon, and sacked and fired the city.

Col. Hicks,¹ commanding the post, occupied the fort below the city with about 800 men.²  The rebels made 4 assaults on the fort and were repulsed each time.  Three gunboats³ opened on the city during its occupation by the enemy, much of which was burned, including the marine Railway and steamer Arizona.  The wharf boat and about 2000 or 3000 of the inhabitants, moved across the the river upon leaning of the rebel approach.

When the Pearce passed, at 7 o’clock in the morning, the enemy had left.  People were returning, and the fires were dying out.  The amount of public and private property captured is unknown at present, but is supposed to be large.

Our loss is 12 killed and 40 wounded.  The enemy is reported o have lost 150 killed,² among them General Thomson [sic].4  Twenty-five houses around the fort were destroyed by our troops; they being used as screens for rebel sharpshooters.  Headquarters and Government store-houses were burned by the enemy.

Approaches and Defenses of Knoxville, … During the Siege, plate 48, map 2 (see footnote 5)

Sketch of Paducah, KY, and Vicinity, plate 6, map 2 (see footnote 5)

CAIRO, March 27.—A dispatch from Columbus says that Forrest and Faulkner6 are between that place and Mayfield.  Their forces are in a crippled condition.  Their strength is much greater that was at first estimated.  Mayfield is filled with rebel wounded from Paducah.  Twelve or fifteen hundred are said to have arrived there.  One regiment lost 101 and one company fifty killed.  The rebels were marching towards Clinton at last accounts.  Should they attack Columbus they will receive a still warmer reception than at Paducah.

The steamer Perry has arrived from below.  She was fired into while passing Hickman yesterday.  There were a large number of rebels in town, and a great number of shots were fired, but nobody was hurt.  The steamer Graham brought up 600 men from New Madrid who charged thro’ the town, but the rebels had fled.—They belonged to Faulkner’s command.

Three hundred rebels were killed at Paducah, and 1,200 wounded.²—Several citizens of the place were killed during the fight.  The city is nearly in ruins.

Memphis dates of the 26th say that cotton is unchanged.  Holders show no disposition to sell.  The steamer Des Arc was burned at Duval’s Bluff while lying at the levee.  She was towed into the stream and sunk in order to save a number of other boats.  A large quantity of government stores was on the landing.  She had 300 bales of cotton on board, most of which was destroyed.

A dispatch from Paducah says that a party of Home Guards surprised and captured Col. Croslan [sic]7 and seven of his guerrillas near Mayfield yesterday.

1.  Stephen G. Hicks (1809-1869) served in the army as a sergeant in the Black Hawk War, a captain in the Mexican War, and and a colonel in the Civil War. His father, John Hicks, was one of the seven men killed at the Battle of New Orleans (January 8, 1815). He served in the Kentucky state legislature from 1842 to 1848, studies law and was admitted to the bar. During the Civil War he enlisted in the 40th Illinois Infantry Regiment on July 22, 1861, and was honorably discharged on the July 24, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, and when recovered from his wound was appointed commander at Fort Anderson, Kentucky, in October 1863. Hicks was in command of the Fort during the Battle of Paducah and famously told Forrest that if he wanted the fort he would have to come take it.
2.  The Confederate force was less than 3,000, and the Union garrison was 650, according to the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program website for the Battle of Paducah. Estimated casualties were 90 Union and 50 Confederate (10 killed, 40 wounded), considerably less than the estimates listed here.
3.  Only two gunboats were involved, the USS Peosta and the USS Paw Paw.
4.   Albert P. Thompson (1829-1864), colonel of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry (Confederate), and also commanding the Third Brigade at Paducah, which included the 7th and 8th Kentucky Infantries in addition to the 3rd Kentucky. Colonel Thompson was killed by cannon fire while leading his troops. Before the Civil War, Thompson was a Paducah lawyer who served as McCracken County’s commonwealth attorney. During the War, Thompson had been severely wounded at the Battle of Baton Rouge.
5.  From the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, published under the direction of Redfield Proctor, Stephen B. Elkins, and Daniel S. Lamont, Secretaries of War, by George B. Davis, Leslie J. Perry, Joseph W. Kirkley, Board of Publication ; compiled by Calvin D. Cowles (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891-1895). Available in Special Collections, UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center (E 464 .U6), or digitally at Ohio State University’s eHistory.
6.  William Wallace Faulkner (1836-1865) was, at this time, colonel of the 12th Kentucky Cavalry (Confederate). He entered the Civil War as a 1st lieutenant in the Kentucky State Guard. In the spring of 1862, he recruited a unit known as Faulkner’s Partisan Rangers. They disrupted Union supply and communication lines in west Tennessee and northern Mississippi. He was captured at Island No. 10 in the fall of 1862, but was exchanged by the end of the year. He commanded Faulkner’s Kentucky Partisans during the siege of Vicksburg. In late 1863 he raised the 12th Kentucky Cavalry (CSA) and in December, the 12th joined Nathan B. Forrest’s command and were mustered into Confederate service on Jan. 28. 1864 with Faulkner as colonel. Faulkner’s 12th fought in all of Forrest’s campaigns in 1864 until Faulkner was wounded at the Battle of Harrisburg in August. In 1865, Faulkner and Captain Henry A. Tyler were murdered in Dresden, Tennessee, by deserters.
7.  Edward Crossland (1827-1881) was colonel of the 7th Kentucky Infantry (CSA). Before the Civil War he was a lawyer, sheriff, and member of the Kentucky House of Representatives (1857-1858). When the War started, he became a captain in the 1st Kentucky Infantry (CSA). He fought at the Battle of Dranesville, and was discharged after his one-year service ended. He then was elected colonel of the 7th Kentucky Infantry. In 1864 the 7th was mounted and assigned to Nathan B. Forrest’s cavalry corps. Crossland served under Forrest until the end of the War in May 1865. After the War he was elected as a judge of the court of common pleas (1867-1870) and was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives (1871-1875).

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