April 21, 1863: Streight’s Mule Raid Begins

In reviewing the history of this ill-fated expedition, I am convinced that had we been furnished at Nashville with 800 good horses, instead of poor, young mules, we would have been successful, in spite of all other drawbacks; or if General Dodge had succeeded in detaining Forrest one day longer, we would have been successful, even with our poor outfit.

Colonel Abel Streight

Streight's_Raid_route

One of the more unsuccessful raids of the Civil War, Colonel Abel Streight’s Mule Raid was filled with high drama and low comedy.  Go here for a first rate video presentation of the raid.

A bookseller in Indianapolis at the beginning of the war, Streight was Colonel of the 51rst Indiana Infantry in 1863.  He hit upon the idea of a raid through Northern Alabama.  With Union loyalist Alabamians as guides, Streight planned to drive through Northern Alabama and on into Northern Georgia to destroy the rail hub of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which would have cripple the ability of the Confederates to supply their forces in Tennessee.  The raid was not intended as a cavalry raid, most of Streight’s force to consist of mounted infantry, their mounts being used for transportation and not to be fought from.  Streight was given command for his raid of a brigade of 1700 men, consisting of  two companies of the First West Tennessee and First Alabama Cavalry regiments, and the Third Ohio, Fifty-First Indiana and Eightieth Illinois Infantry regiments.

Signs that the expedition was ill-fated began when most of the men were mounted on temperamental, is there any other type?, mules.  Riding a mule can be a trial even for a skilled rider, and most of Streight’s men were novices.  Confederates during the expedition had great fun laughing at the “Jackass Cavalry” as Streight’s men were deemed, and Union morale suffered as a result.  The constant braying of the mules made finding the raiders an easy task for the Confederates during the raid, as well as getting on the nerves of their unfortunate riders.  The slow pace of the mules made certain that any Confederate force mounted on horses was going to be much faster.  Streight recognized the problem with the mules from the outset, and objected to them prior to the raid, to no avail.  To make the fiasco complete, about 200 of Streight’s men had no mounts at all at the beginning of the raid. (more…)

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