By Roy Morris Jr. When Confederate Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his 3,000 battle-hardened troopers rode back into their homeland of West Tennessee in late March 1864, they were not in the best of moods. A horse-gathering raid into Kentucky had netted a haul of 400 horses and mules for a new division of Bluegrass cavalry, but it had also seen the death of Colonel A.P. Thompson during an unsuccessful—and unordered—attack on Union-held Fort Anderson on the Ohio River near Paducah. Forrest had already withdrawn from the smallpox-ravaged town before the attack, but that did not prevent pro-Northern newspapers from crowing about the comparatively minor skirmish at Forrest’s expense. The Louisville Journal, labeling the Paducah raid an abject failure, charged that Forrest’s men had been “gloriously drunk, and but little better than a mob.” The paper accused the raiders of “commencing an indiscriminate pillage of the houses” before making “several desperate charges” upon the fort. “The Federals met them with a withering fire, and in each onset the rebel columns were broken and driven back in confusion.” That was bad enough, but the staunchly abolitionist Chicago Tribune leveled the explosive accusation that Forrest’s men had “skedaddled, after killing as many Negroes as they could, which seems to have been their primary object in coming to Paducah.” Even worse in Southern eyes was the newspaper’s provocative claim that Forrest and his men ha


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