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 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, generating panic among civilians before they withdrew. The Associated Press reported on the raid in a detailed 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 occupied 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 they returned home to considerable damages 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.