A Story of Real Stratagem
General Streight surrenders to General Forrest
In less than thirty minutes after Forrest crossed Black Creek, Streight's raiders were driven from the other side of the stream. The Federals hurried on to Gadsden, but they were followed by some of Forrest's army. The raiders destroyed some ammunition, set fires to several houses, and took all of the mules and horses that they could find. But before they had entirely destroyed the supplies that were stored there, Forrest's men arrived and drove them from the town.
For three days and nights Forrest's men rode and fought like madmen. Some of them went twenty-four hours without food. Toward the end of the march many of the poor fellows dropped from their saddles and slept in the road, while their comrades' horses walked over their bodies.
For the last fifteen miles Nathan B. Forrest kept the Federals on the run, although he had only a handful of worn-out men and poor, tired horses. Streight had twice as many men and a fresh supply of mules and horses which he had stolen from the farms along the way. Thirty-one miles from Gadsden, at a place called Lawrence, Streight allowed his men to stop for food and rest. By that time his men were too tired to feed their horses, and in a few minutes they were all sound asleep on the ground.
When a great noise was heard in the distance, the officers knew that Forrest's forces were coming. Wild efforts were made to awaken the sleeping Federal soldiers. Streight and his officers shook them and threatened them with punishment, but most of them slept on. Just before Forrest came in sight, about half of the command had aroused enough to shoulder arms. These were lined up and then ordered to lie down and shoot. When the gray-clad soldiers came near, Streight ordered, "Fire!" But his men did not fire. With their guns in their hands and their faces to the foe, the weary raiders went back to sleep. At that moment Streight raised a flag of truce and asked to speak with Forrest.
Forrest was no more anxious to fight than Streight was, for he had only a small part of his army left. But the Southern general ordered his foe to surrender as though he had a big army at his command.
"Immediate surrender" was what Forrest said.
"I should like to have a few minutes in which to ask advice of my officers," said Colonel Streight.
"All right," replied Forrest, "but you will not need much time. I have a column of fresh troops at hand. They are nearer Rome than you are. You cannot cross the river in your front, and I have enough men right here to run over you."
Now, Forrest had arranged a wonderful side show out in the woods near by. Around the enemy Forrest's troops were riding. Streight could not see them very well through the bushes, but to him there seemed to be thousands of mounted Confederates. It was really the same set of men who kept riding round and round and round. Colonel Streight thought that his army was surrounded, and his officers believed it too. They all advised their leader to surrender. Then Colonel Streight ordered his men to stack their arms and surrender.
Things to think about
What is the meaning of stratagem? Of surrender?
How did General Forrest make use of stratagem?
Something to do
Tell the story of Forrest's capture of Streight.
Let the class dramatize the story, beginning with the dialogue between Forrest and Streight.
Notice the location of Rome.
Write a paragraph on General Forrest's defense of North Alabama for your note book.