On his way from Memphis, Tennessee, to Rome, Georgia, Streight was met by the famous Confederate Gen. Nathan B. Forrest, who engaged the Union leader in a number of battles, ultimately leading to Streight’s surrender and imprisonment. Several of these conflicts, the Battle of Days Gap and the Battle of Hog Moutain, took place in what was to become Cullman County.
According to Streight’s account of the journey, written one year after the raid, the colonel and his command left Moulton, Alabama, on April 28, 1863, headed towards Blountsville via Day’s Gap. He wrote:
“We marched the next day (the 29th) to Day’s Gap, about 35 miles, and bivouacked for the night … we were now in the midst of devoted Union people. Many of Captain Smith’s men (Alabamians) were recruited near this place, and many were the happy greetings between them and their friends and relations.”
The next morning, Streight’s men came under attack roughly two miles from their campsite. According to local Civil War Historian Dan Fullenwider, several members of Streight’s rear guard were still clearing the campsite and finishing breakfast when the men of Captain William Forrest, Gen. Forrest’s brother, attacked.
“From that point on, it was a running battle,” Fullenwider said. “[General] Forrest caught up with Col. Streight and his men and had set up camp that night within sight of Streight’s campfires. If Streight had ever just turned and fought Forrest head on, he probably would’ve won, as he heavily outnumbered the Confederates. But, he kept on riding, occasionally stopping and setting up a battle line, such as at Day’s Gap and at Hog Mountain. Several other skirmishes occurred throughout the county whenever the two leaders met.”
As the fighting began, Streight’s men took up a defensive position between a ravine and a swampy area, hopefully to prevent their being flanked by the Confederates. Streight wrote:
“The country was open, sand ridges, very thinly wooded and afforded fine defensive positions … we dismounted and formed a line of battle on a ridge circling to the rear. Our right rested on a precipitous ravine and the left was protected by a marshy run that was easily held against the enemy. The mules were sent into a ravine to the rear of our right, where they were protected from our enemy’s bullets.”
The Battle of Day’s Gap lasted approximately five hours, from 6 a.m. on April 30th until about 11 a.m., leaving 23 Union soldiers dead and Confederate casualties numbering 65. One account, handed down by the family of Confederate soldier Pvt. Williams J. Ledbetter of the 4th Alabama Cavalry, states that the limestone rock in the area was so close to the surface that the Confederates could not bury their dead but instead were forced to roll their bodies into a steep ravine before following Streight south.
Following the Battle of Day’s Gap, Streight’s men proceeded south toward Blountsville but were again met by Forrest’s brigade. Streight wrote:
“We were not too soon in our movements, for the column had hardly passed a cross-road, some six miles from our first battle-ground, when the enemy were discovered advancing on our left. Sharp skirmishing commenced at Crooked Creek, which is about 10 miles south of Day’s Gap, and finally the enemy pressed our rear so hard that I was compelled to prepare for battle. I selected a strong position, about one mile south of the crossing of the creek, on a ridge called Hog Mountain. The whole force soon became engaged (about one hour before dark) … fighting continued until about 10 p.m., when the enemy were driven from our front, leaving a large number of killed and wounded on the field. I determined at once to resume our march, and as soon as possible, we moved out.”
Forrest’s relentless pursuit of Streight led the Union commander to attempt an ambush in an area now known as the Bethsadia Community. The 73rd Indiana Infantry, under the command of a Col. Hathaway, were serving as Streight’s rear guard. Streight wrote:
“The moon shone very brightly, and the country was an open woodland, with an occasional spot of thick undergrowth. In one of these thickets I placed the Seventy-third Indiana, lying down, and not more than 20 paces from the road, which was in plain view. The enemy approached. The head of his column passed without discovering our position. At this moment, the whole regiment opened a most destructive fire, causing a complete stampede of the enemy.”
Following the Hathaway ambush, Streight again attempted to surprise Forrest’s men, attacking them near Ryan’s Creek. Streight had little to say of this ambush, save to note that it was the last conflict in Cullman County. Fighting again resumed in neighboring Blount County, when Forrest’s men caught up with Streight in the town of Blountsville. Streight had this to say of the Ryan’s Creek ambush:
“We were not again disturbed until we had marched several miles, when they attacked out rear guard vigorously. I again succeeded in ambuscading them, which caused them to give up pursuit for the night. We continued our march and reached Blountsville about 10 o’clock in the morning.”
Streight’s raid continued through Alabama until he finally reached his destination at Rome, Georgia and was forced to surrender by Gen. Forrest, his entire command of 1,500 men captured. Although ultimately defeated, his daring raid unsuccessful, Streight was counted the victor in both of the major confrontations with Forrest in Cullman County. According to Dan Fullenwider, Forrest lost two of his favorite cannon at the Battle of Day’s Gap, both of which were prizes he had himself captured earlier in a conflict in Murphreesboro, Tennessee. According to Streight’s account, the ammunition captured with the two cannon was exhausted and he ordered the howitzers spiked and their carriages burned. Fullenwider notes that it is possible that the two cannon still remain buried in the Hog Mountain area as he said they were never recovered.