As Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s expedition into West Tennessee neared its conclusion, Union Brig. Gen. Jeremiah C. Sullivan, with the brigades of Col. Cyrus L. Dunham and Col. John W. Fuller, attempted to cut Forrest off from withdrawing across the Tennessee River. Dunham’s and Forrest’s march routes, on December 31, 1862, brought them into contact at Parker’s Cross Roads. Skirmishing began about 9:00 am, with Forrest taking an initial position along a wooded ridge northwest of Dunham at the intersection. Confederate artillery gained an early advantage. Dunham pulled his brigade back a half mile and redeployed, facing north. His Federals repelled frontal feints until attacked on both flanks and rear by Forrest’s mounted and dismounted troops. During a lull, Forrest sent Dunham a demand for an unconditional surrender. Dunham refused and was preparing for Forrest’s next onset when Fuller’s Union brigade arrived from the north and surprised the Confederates with an attack on their rear; Confederate security detachments had failed to warn of Fuller’s approach. In the Official Records, Forrest's report to Gen. Braxton Bragg records his uncharacteristic "surprise and astonishment“ at the appearance of the un-reckoned with Federal force, but he responded to the shock with more typical boldness: "Charge ’em both ways,” he ordered. The Confederates briefly reversed front, repelled Fuller, then rushed past Dunham’s demoralized force and withdrew south to Lexington and then across the Tennessee River. Both sides claimed victory, but the Confederate claims appear to have more credence, as they were able to escape what should have been a perfect trap and Forrest lived to fight another day.
Join t Fight
Donate today to preserve Civil War battlefields and the nation’s history for generations to come.