Sunday, December 19, 2021

Where Forrest whipped out a pistol on another Rebel general

Nathan B. Forrest confronted Frank Cheatham at the Duck River on Dec. 18, 1864. 
Above, looking south at the stone abutments for the bridge that once spanned the river
-- the Yankees destroyed it in 1862. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)

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Nothing quite says “holiday spirit” like a visit to the place where bad-ass Nathan B. Forrest threatened another Rebel commander with a pistol. So, I slide down a muddy slope for a close-up view of the Duck River at Columbia, Tenn.—ho, ho, ho, this is the 157th anniversary of the bedraggled Army of Tennessee’s crossing here on a pontoon bridge in the aftermath of its two-day butt-kicking from George Thomas’ United States Army at Nashville.

View of the bridge abutment looking north.
(Photo courtesy Neal Pulley)
Scene on Dec. 18, 1864: Ornery Forrest, the notorious slave trader who mortally wounded a Confederate officer in Columbia during an 1863 confrontation, tells General Frank Cheatham he’s taking his cavalry boys over the Duck River pontoon bridge first. Cheatham: Like hell you are. Forrest being Forrest, he whips out a pistol and says: “If you are a better man than I am, General Cheatham, your troops can cross ahead of mine.”

Cheatham—whose horse Old Isham was buried in Coffee County (Tenn.) where they don’t even have a Starbucks—says something to the effect of, “I am not afraid of any man in the Confederacy!” General Stephen Lee, wounded in the foot by shell fragments the day before, climbs from his ambulance and calms the generals, who apparently apologize. Did they hug this one out? Did they chuckle over the "Dust-up  at the Duck"? Who crossed the river first? Who knows?

What’s undeniable is, if I slip into the rain-swollen Duck, Mrs. B becomes a widow and my girls lose a papa. I stay long enough to examine the stone abutment of the bridge that stood here until the Yankees destroyed it in 1862.

Ho, ho, ho, indeed.

Another view looking south at stone abutments.

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  1. Thanks again John for that excellent post. I just spent the last hour or so happily disappearing down a dozen or so historic "rabbit holes." :)

    Rob FNQ,Au

  2. Leave it to Forrest to keep things interesting. Love the story.