Forrest's Raid

Historical Marker #517 in McCracken County recalls Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest's raid on Paducah in March 1864.

The journey to Paducah from western Tennessee began in the spring of 1864. Forrest was intent on reaching Kentucky to disrupt Union supply lines. He also hoped to secure supplies for his own command and to discourage African Americans from enlisting in the Union Army.

The raid began on the early afternoon of March 25, 1864, as Forrest's Confederates drove Union troops away from Eden’s Hill and into Paducah. The Federals, under the command of Colonel Stephen Hicks, retreated to Fort Anderson for protection. The fort, manned by more than 650 soldiers, was protected by two gunboats on the Ohio River, the "Peosta" and "Paw Paw." While some of Forrest's troops harassed the fort by firing into it from neighboring homes, the rest plundered Paducah, collecting supplies. After an hour of fighting, Forrest demanded an unconditional surrender from Hicks, who refused.

Shortly thereafter, Confederate Colonel Albert P. Thompson, a Paducah native, led an unauthorized and unsuccessful attack on the fort. Thompson was killed in the assault just a few miles from his home by a cannonball. After being driven back, the Confederate troops burned many of the military buildings in the town and collected more than 200 horses and mules. Ten hours after the raid started, Forrest and his troops withdrew to Mayfield.

Casualties from the raid and Battle of Paducah were relatively small. Fourteen Union soldiers were killed, forty-six wounded, and forty taken captive. It is estimated that the Confederates lost around 300 men. Approximately sixty homes were destroyed in Paducah along with some warehouses, a train depot, and a steamboat.