Forrest Reconnoitered

Historical Marker #617 in Providence notes the movements of Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry as it passed through Webster County in the fall of 1861.

The Kentucky legislature's declaration of allegiance to the Union in September 1861 caused the commonwealth to become further divided; not only in sentiment, but in geography as well. A long and tenuous Confederate defensive line developed that stretched from the Cumberland Gap in the southeast part of the state westward to Bowling Green, and then on west to Columbus, Kentucky, on the Mississippi River.

The fall of 1861 also saw a Confederate Kentucky state government formed at Russellville. The rump state government selected Bowling Green as the capital and Scott County's George W. Johnson as governor. During this period, various Confederate reconnaissance missions were made from points along the southern Kentucky defensive line to ascertain the exact location of the Union lines, better understand the opposition's strength, and obtain supplies for the Southern army.

Forrest's Tennessee cavalry started out on one such reconnaissance mission on November 24. Forrest's three hundred troopers left Hopkinsville and reached Greenville, where some Union weapons were found and an enemy soldier captured. They moved on to Madisonville and sent out different units to gather information. Forrest continued on to Providence in Webster County, where he reported "the people met us with smiles and cheers, and fed and greeted us kindly."

The Southerners eventually made it to Caseyville on the Ohio River where they turned back south toward Marion. Forrest sent some of his command back to Hopkinsville and then went to Eddyville where he learned that there had been no traffic on the Cumberland River for almost two weeks. Forrest's command was back in Hopkinsville by December 5.

The two-week long circular reconnaissance mission not only netted some significant military intelligence but also gained some valuable horses, cattle, and hogs for the Confederates encamped at Hopkinsville.