Corinth, Missisippi

Corinth Trip

I had been wanting to visit Corinth, Mississippi, since moving to Alabama two years ago. The 156th Anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Corinth was on October 3 – 4, but I avoided going at that time due to the influx of re-enactors and large number of spectators expected to be there. I chose to go last weekend instead.

In 1862, the town of Corinth had about 1500 residents, 400 of which were slaves. Corinth possessed a keen strategic interest to both the Union and Confederate armies as two key railroads intersected in the center of town. From the Gulf of Mexico, heading north, was the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. Coming from west to east, starting at the Mississippi River was the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. These were the two longest railroads in the South and provided supplies to all of the armies of the Confederacy. Union General Henry Halleck stated that “Richmond & Corinth are now the great strategical points of the war”, and the Confederate Secretary of War, Leroy Pope Walker called the rail lines “the vertebrae of the Confederacy”.

In early 1862, Corinth was serving as a base for the Confederate Army of the Mississippi, while it trained and collected supplies to face the advance of the Union army under Ulysses Grant, which was closing in on the vicinity of a small country church named Shiloh Church.

After being defeated at Shiloh, the Confederates returned to Corinth. A reinforced Union Army was soon advancing on the Confederate camps at Corinth. Faced with confronting a now numerically superior foe, the Confederate Army slipped away from Corinth, leaving it for the Union Army to occupy.

The bulk of the Union Army soon moved on from Corinth to fight in other actions. An “army” of 23,000 men, under the command of William Rosecrans, was left to occupy Corinth. Anxious to recapture Corinth, a Confederate “Army” of similar size, led by General Earl Van Dorn, was closing in on the town, arriving in the vicinity in early October 1862.

Van Dorn attacked Rosecrans’ Yankees on October 3, 1862. The fighting raged around Corinth. On October 4th, the Rebels broke through two Union forts – Powell & Robinette – and advanced into the center of town. There was fierce fighting around the train station and the Tishimingo Hotel.
The Yankees regrouped, counter-attacked and drove the Rebels from the town and surrounding fields.

Corinth would remain under Union control until 1864. Union successes on other fronts rendered the rail junction inconsequential. Today the National Park at Corinth is part of the overall Shiloh National Battlefield Park. There are several homes in town that survive from the Civil War.

References for this post are:
The War of the Rebellion – The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
Blue & Gray Magazine: The General Series – Battles at Corinth & Iuka
The Darkest Days of the Civil War, the Battles at Iuka & Corinth by Peter Cozzens.


The rail crossing in Corinth today. Running from lower right to upper left would have been the Mobile & Ohio. Running from left to right would have been the Memphis & Charleston. I had to wait for a long freight train to pass before I could take this photo.

Corinth at time of the battle. Tishimingo Hotel and railyard
Fighting in town in front of hotel.
Fort Robinette today is part of the Park Office.
Confederate dead in front of Fort Robinette after the end of the battle.
The Verandah House served as headquarters for Confederate generals before Battle of Shiloh and for Union officers during occupation of Corinth.
The Oak House served same purpose as Verandah House. Headquarters for officers from both armies.
Another home that had served as officers quarters and then a hospital.
General William Rosecrans. A brilliant man, he had several patented inventions by the time of the Civil War. He conducted a brilliant campaign later in the war, consisting largely of flanking maneuvers which forced the Confederates out of Eastern Tennessee without a single battle. He was prone to excitability during battles which would sometimes cause him to ignore the bigger picture of a battle and focus on smaller unit details. He was also an insomniac, his lack of sleep would lead to him making bad decisions ending in the rout of his army at Chickamauga.
General Earl Van Dorn, leader of Confederate forces at Corinth. Personally brave, he had been wounded twice fighting Indians on the Western Plains. He had difficulty managing larger military units – Army size – but proved adept as a leader of cavalry after the battle of Corinth. He was quite the rake, becoming notorious for his womanizing. His philandering would prove to be his downfall. Van Dorn would be killed by a jealous husband after being caught kissing his wife.
This painting of the Confederate encampment at Corinth before the battle of Shiloh is very misleading. Conditions in Corinth were not quite so pleasant. Many soldiers died of disease. As one Confederate General remarked, “Corinth is fit for only snakes and alligators”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s