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Battle of Johnsonville

The Battle of Johnsonville was fought November 4–5, 1864, in Benton County, Tennessee, as part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of the American Civil War

In an effort to check the Union army’s advance through Georgia, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led a 23-day raid culminating in an attack on the Union supply base at Johnsonville, Tennessee. Swinging north from Corinth, Mississippi, toward the Kentucky border and temporarily blockading the Tennessee River at Fort Herman, Forrest moved southward along the Tennessee River’s west bank, capturing several U.S. steamers and a gunboat, which he later had to abandon. On November 4, Forrest positioned his artillery across the river from the Federal supply base and began landing at Johnsonville. In the afternoon, Federal observers discovered the Confederates finishing their entrenchments and battery emplacements. The Union gunboats and land batteries across the river engaged the Confederates in an artillery duel. The Rebel guns, however, were so well-positioned that the Federals were unable to hinder them, and Confederate artillery soon disabled the gunboats.

Fearing that the Rebels might cross the river and capture the transports, the Federals set fire to them. A strong wind extended the fire to piles of stores on the levee and to a nearby warehouse filled with supplies. Seeing the blaze, the Confederates began shelling the steamboats, barges, and warehouses to prevent the Federals from extinguishing the fire. An inferno illuminated Forrest’s night withdrawal, and he escaped Union clutches without serious loss. Damages totaled $2.2 million. The next morning, Confederate artillery bombarded the depot before departing. Although his brilliant victory strengthened Forrest’s reputation and destroyed a great amount of enemy war material, it failed to stem the tide of Union success in Georgia.

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