Collierville's location on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad made it strategically important throughout the Civil War. Frequently occupied by Union forces, the town found itself in the gun sights of Confederate cavalrymen intent on severing Federal lines of communications and supply.
On October 11, 1863, about 3,000 Confederate cavalrymen and artillerists under General James R. Chalmers drove north and attacked Union Colonel DeWitt Clinton Anthony's 600 men of the 66 Indiana Infantry, which was camped along the railroad. As the outnumbered Federals took up defensive positions, a train arrived on route from Memphis to Corinth, Mississippi. It was loaded with a battalion of the 13th U.S. Regulars, accompanied by General William T. Sherman and his staff. Chalmers sent a flag of truce to Anthony, demanding his surrender. Anthony delayed his refusal while the regulars detrained and occupied the nearby fort and rifle pits. Sherman ordered the train back to the depot and Chalmer's artillery opened fire, damaging the engine but with little other effect. The Federal infantry launched a charge that drove the Confederates away from the train, which they had boarded briefly. Chalmers retired late in the afternoon as Union General John M. Corse approached from Memphis with his brigade, keeping the railroad in Union hands.