General N.B. Forrest & Emma Sansom
May 2, 1863
In the spring of 1863 Colonel Abel D. Streight of Indiana submitted a plan to General Rosecrans to transport 2000 soldiers by river boat from Nashville, to Eastport, Mississippi, and on from there to destroy the railroads in the interior of Alabama and Georgia. General Bragg, receiving news of the invading force, ordered General Nathan Bedford Forrest to stop the enemy's advance. Bragg had unleashed the most dangerous quick-striking force of the Confederate Army. On April 30th, General Forrest attacked the rear of the Federal column, completely surprising the startled soldiers in blue. Streight's men engaged a number of Forrest's regiments on horseback. Many horses and men were killed in the charge. Before Forrest could regroup his men and form them into a dismounted line of battle, Col. Streight's forces had remounted their mules and were on the run. So began a running gun battle that would go on for 4 days, 4 nights and cover 199 miles.
After two days and nights of fighting and fleeing, Col. Streight Crossed Black Creek Bridge heading for the safety of Rome. They burned the bridge and, believing Black Creek to be now impassible, Col. Streight eased his pace of retreat. His soldiers were worn down from fear, lack of sleep, and constant fighting, but at last they could feel safe. As General Forrest led his troopers in pursuit, they stopped at the home of Emma Sansom, a 16year-old southern girl whose brother had left home in 1861 to join the 19th Alabama Infantry. Emma told Forrest that the Yankees had burned the bridge down, but if a soldier could saddle her horse, she could show General Forrest a lost ford where his men could cross the creek. Emma would later write that General Forrest said, "There is not time to saddle a horse; get up here behind me." As they started off Emma's mother came running up, out of breath, wishing to know what was happening. Forrest said, "She is going to show me a ford where I can get my men over in time to catch those Yankees before they get to Rome. Don't be uneasy; I will bring her back safe." Emma led Forrest along a branch of the creek that emptied just above the lost ford and pointed out the crossing. He returned the young girl home, and asked for a lock of her hair, before riding back to the lost ford.
To Col. Streight's amazement and despair Forrest was back on his trail. Both forces again made an all night march. At about 9:00 AM on May 3rd, Streight reached the town of Lawrence. Streight deployed his men in defensive positions as Forrest attacked with his much smaller force. As the fighting subsided Forrest sent a flag of truce to the Federal commander, while at the same time, making his force appear larger than it was. Forrest and Streight met face to face. Forrest demanded the surrender of the Federals. When Streight asked Forrest how many men he had, Forrest bluffed saying he had a fresh column of troops arriving and enough men at hand to finish the job. Col. Streight and his command surrendered, and stacked their arms in a clearing as Forrest and his smaller force took them prisoner.
The story would be told over many a campfire of how the beautiful southern girl would help the "Wizard of the Saddle" ride down, defeat, and capture the northern invaders.