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.