This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, March 30: Forrest’s Confederate raiders occupy Paducah, Ky.
Forces of legendary Confederate cavalry leader Nathan Bedford Forrest swept into Paducah, Ky., on March 25, 1864, and briefly occupied the city — forcing a Union garrison of hundreds of troops to relocate defensively to a fort there. The Union garrison, backed by two gunboats on the nearby Ohio River, refused surrender and shelling of the Confederates by the gunboats ensued. Forrest’s raiders destroyed supplies and rounded up horses, sowing panic among retreating civilians. The Associated Press reported on the raid in a dispatch dated March 26, 1864. AP said an estimated force of 5,000 Confederates captured Paducah at 2 p.m. a day earlier, sacking the place and firing weapons. AP reported that a Union officer in charge of the garrison continued to occupy the fort below the city with about 800 men. “The rebels made four assaults on the fort, and were repulsed each time. Three of our gunboats opened on the city during its occupation by the enemy, much of which was burned,” The AP reported. Some 3,000 civilians had fled the Confederate advance, AP noted, adding that they returned home to find considerable damage once the raiders pulled out. AP added “Twenty-five houses around the fort were destroyed … as they were used by the rebel sharpshooters as a screen” during the incursion.