Over the course of twenty-seven and some odd years, I’ve had the honor of traveling across this grand land celebrating and recalling our history.
I have attended national events as well as very small reenactments and presentations. But I must say that the Raid on the Little General’s Farm will be my most memorable.
For the event honored the memory of a little girl by the name of Maggie Sue who was tragically taken from us at the age of three. She was and IS our Little General.
They came from all over Alabama for the love of Maggie Sue. They came from Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, to pay their respects and honor the littlest general.
They came from South Carolina for the love of our youngest general. In fact, a unit came all the way from Texas just to remember the child of destiny.
For Maggie Sue represents the best of us in an evil time. She represents family unity. Her innocence, purity of character, her genuine love for all that saw no racial barriers, and her ability to ‘Maggie-tize’ helped us realize that we are only temporal beings upon this earth.
Her gift of love and that of the family will continue to be offered for the rising generations.
On September 19-20, 2020, a celebration of the life of our Little General was held at her family’s farm in Gallant, Alabama. As I pulled into the parking area, I was overwhelmed to see so many children playing all over the yard. I noted that Maggie Sue’s resting place was the focal point of children’s laughter, play, and purity.
The opening ceremonies included offering pink floral arrangements to the family and then escorting them to Maggie’s gravesite.
A tribute was given in words as well as a volley in honor of her contributions to history. Tears of love were shed and memories were shared. That night several gathered around her grave that was illuminated by a pink spot light donated by April and Travis Stevens of Possum Holler Sutler.
The next morning saw a flurry of activities. The weekend agenda included an officer’s call, where the scenario for the battle was discussed.
A lovely ladies tea, was held as the soldiers drilled. Nurse Mackenzie Henderson and Major John Pelham (Peter Leavitt of Jacksonville, AL) offered rousing presentations, sharing love of God and Country.
The prelude to the battle was General Lee narrating the battle scenario, which followed the historical guidelines of Federal Colonel Straight’s raid (below).
After the battle, a salute was given honoring God, country, Veterans, 1st Responders, and ALL who serve the people. Stars harvested from American flags (following military protocol) was given to those men and women.
It was a very moving tribute. That evening a ball was held in the front yard with the Emmy Award winning band, Unreconstructed performing. All left tired but fully satisfied that they paid their full measure to Maggie’s memory.
Sunday was witnessed to church services by Chaplain Chaltas and Chaplain Jerry Smith, military drills, and presentations by Nurse MacKenzie Henderson and Peter the Patriot (Peter Leavitt), and a live auction was held to raise money for the preservation of the Little General’s gravesite with donations from Darryl Fowler, Ron Carpenter, Gregory Newsome, Suzan Black Amos, and The Old General.
Sunday’s battle proved to be one of the best this fielder has witnessed in several years.
Beginning with the kidnapping of a young girl by the Federals and the mother chasing after them, the skirmish began. General Forrest’s Cavalry gave chase and rescued the maiden.
Unfortunately, the young lady fell off the horse on two occasions, but was safely returned to the family though bruised. That brazen calloused act brought the fury of the Confederate forces down upon the heads of the Federals. For over forty minutes there was nonstop action.
The artillery roared, the drums of war beat, the sound of the bugle calls were continuous, as the horses went back and forth in front of the audience.
The Infantry fought in the wood line and then came up close to the spectators where they witnessed a continuous struggle. A parley was held to determine if a surrender was possible.
The Federals refused to surrender and the battle once again hit a pitched level of action. A final charge by the Confederates left the Union soldiers laying upon the ground. A pass and review was given to remember God, Country and those that served. After the salute, taps was performed and the event ended with a thank you offered by the event staff and three cheers for Maggie Sue.
A message from Coordinator Charles A. Bodenheimer: Thank you to Steve and Tanya Haessly and the entire family (Sarah, Daniel, Jakob, Andrew, Gabriel, Faith, Levi, Tiberius, Uriah), the entire 8th Confederate Cavalry, 1st Division of Southern Reenactors, Alabama Division, Gulf Coast Battalion, Possum Holler and Pete Christopher, Greasy Cove General Store, the many SCV camps and OCR chapters, all of our Sponsors, attendees, and spectators. Everyone make your plans for the next 50 years on the 3rd Weekend of September to come back to the Raid on the Little General’s Farm! www.8thConfederateCav.com/maggie and/or www.Facebook.com/MaggiesRaid
A Bluff Beats
A Straight Every Time
(April 7– May 3, 1863)
Spring was in the air, but so was the sound of distant bugles. These were not the sounds of heavenly trumpets but these war bugles foretold of a looming campaign that would determine the fate of Northern Alabama. The struggle between American Brothers continued.
Federal forces under the command of Abel Streight were given the directive of disrupting the supply lines from Alabama and Georgia that fed and supplied the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Streight felt that the destruction of the Western and Atlantic Railroad between Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Montgomery was the key to his mission.
He commenced assembling a force of approximately twenty-five hundred Cavalry and Infantry stationed in Middle Tennessee. The soldiers under his command were made up of the 80th Illinois Infantry, the 51st Indiana Infantry, the 73rd Indiana Infantry, the 3rd Ohio Infantry, a few companies of the 1st Middle Tennessee Union Cavalry, and two companies of the 1st Alabama Union Cavalry as guides. Colonel Streight tried to procure fresh mounts for his raiders, but due to the Federals having already exhausted the supply of fresh horses in the region, Streight had to settle for mules.
He assembled his small army and thus became (mostly due to the jocularity of Forrest’s men) affectionately known as The Jackass Brigade.
On April 7, 1863, the army left Nashville via boat and then by riding or marching with their mules to Fort Henry. From there they turned south towards Eastport, Mississippi.
The Colonel and his men made it into Alabama without being detected. He traveled to Tuscumbia from Bear Creek using US General Grenville Dodge’s Division as cover.
Confederate General Chalmers and Forrest engaged General Dodge just outside of Tuscumbia. In an effort to evade detection, Streight went around the Union right but the amount of noise made by 2,500 men and an equal amount of noisy mules caught the attention of General Forrest.
The ‘Wizard of the Saddle’ ordered General Chalmers to continue engaging General Dodge as Colonel Streight high-tailed it towards Cullman.
As he did at the Battle of Sacramento, he sought the help of locals and on April 30, Forrest caught Streight outside of Cullman, Alabama.
Forrest hit the rear of Streight’s men at a battle known as Day’s Gap. Though the Federals claimed victory, they yielded the field and headed towards Blountsville, Alabama post haste. It became a four-day running campaign from Day’s Gap, Hog Mountain, and Crooked Creek, with Streight trying to escape the clutches of that Devil Forrest.
On May 1, Colonel Streight made it to Blountsville. Both armies were deprived of sleep, food, and in the elements of a late Alabama spring with heat and rain for three days, but the fighting continued. Forrest was merciless in his attack upon Streight’s flanks and rear. The Federal forces were pushed onward towards Gadsden, Alabama.
On May 2, the fighting was intense as the Union Forces destroyed a bridge over Will’s Creek and again at the Coosa River. Colonel Streight tried to disrupt and destroy railroad lines just outside of Gadsden but once again Forrest’s men interrupted their mission, managing to only burn one warehouse. Forrest pursued the Yankee Colonel and his men through the Sansom Farm as the boys in blue crossed a bridge that ran across Black Creek. Streight ordered the small bridge over the rain-swollen creek burned to slow Forrest’s relentless pursuit. It did not take long for the bridge to become engulfed in flames and deemed unsafe to cross.
General Forrest realized that if he couldn’t find a ford over the river, the Federal forces would elude him. He rode back to the Sansom farm where he encountered a fifteen-year-old girl by the name of Emma Sansom. The young maiden was born on June 2, 1847, and when she was five years old, her family moved from Social Circle, Georgia, to their new farm on the outskirts of Gadsden, Alabama. She was a lovely young lass with blue eyes and auburn hair, and was said to have a fiery personality to match. The Union soldiers had stopped there and had arrested her older brother Rufus who was recuperating from a wound received in battle. That act did not set well with the family nor young Emma. As did Miss Mollie Morehead at Forrest’s First Fight at Sacramento, Kentucky, young Emma Sansom consented to direct Forrest and his men to a cattle ford that only she knew about.
Mrs. Sansom protested as she had already lost her husband when Emma was young and a son in the fighting in Virginia. General Forrest promised Mrs. Sansom that he would bring her daughter back to her safely and have her arrested son home within 24 hours. Emma’s mother knew of Forrest and his daring and though worried, relented to his request.
Young Emma hopped up on the back of Forrest’s horse, as she directed his path to the front of and around the enemy. When General Forrest returned her safely to her home, it was noted that Miss Emma’s dress had several bullet holes, as did General Forrest’s uniform, but the mission was successful. After the battle at Black Creek, General Forrest went back and thanked Miss Emma for her bravery. He asked for a lock of her hair and it is said that he kept it until his death on October 29, 1877.
On May 3 (Sixteen hours after the crossing at the Sansom Farm), at Cedar Bluff, Alabama, after losing more men and mules, Streight met in a parley with Forrest at a grassy knoll three miles east of Cedar Bluff. During that time Forrest once again showed his genius by a wondrous poker-style bluff, making it appear he had more men and equipment than he actually had. He had placed one cannon on the bluff and had his men move back and forth between the valleys, giving the appearance of a much larger army.
During the truce, Streight said, “In the Name of God! How many guns have you got? There’s fifteen I counted already,” to which Forrest replied, “I reckon that’s all that has kept up.” The Colonel surrendered his command, being only twenty-three miles from Rome, Georgia. The latest fighting had lasted four days (twenty-six days total and covered almost one hundred miles). When Colonel Streight discovered he had been ‘tricked’ he became furious and demanded his sword be returned and that they could fight it out like gentlemen. To this day if you listen to the sound of the Alabama wind, you can hear General Forrest say, “Ah Colonel, all is fair in love and war”. To add insult to injury, Colonel Streight’s own Adjutant summed it up the best, saying, “Cheer up Colonel, It’s not the first time a Bluff has beat a Streight.”
The annual Raid on the Little General’s Farm was a complete success! Next year’s event will be held on the third weekend in September 2021. For more information go to Facebook, RAID ON THE LITTLE GENERAL’S FARM or www.8thConfederateCav.com/maggie.