by Margaret Greene Rogers for the Corinth Area Convention Visitors
Permission granted for use on this web site.
at the junction of the Memphis and Charleston and the Mobile
and Ohio Railroads, was recognized by both Confederate and Federal
Commanders as being of such strategic importance that the village
was occupied by one or the other of the forces from 1861 - 1865.
The resident population of the little town was 1,200; yet it
boasted 5 churches, Corona College, 3 large hotels, numerous
businesses and a number of fine homes.
1861, Corinth was a mobilization center for Confederate troops
moving to Mobile, AL, Pensacola, FL, Virginia and Bowling Green,
KY. After the fall of Fort Donelson, General Albert Sidney Johnston,
Commander of Confederate Armies in the West, recognized Corinth's
strategic value and made the Memphis and Charleston his line
of defense. He charged General P.G.T. Beauregard with the responsibility
of assembling troops at Corinth. As a result, New Orleans was
abandoned; the coastal defenses at Pensacola, Mobile, and Charleston
were striped; and northern Arkansas was abandoned.
Federal General W.H. Halleck also recognized Corinth's value.
He telegraphed Secretary of War Stanton, "Richmond and
Corinth are now the great strategical points of war, and our
success at these points should be insured at all hazards."
As the Confederate armies assembled in Corinth, Union forces
were concentrating at Pittsburg Landing, Corinth's nearest river
port on the Tennessee, in preparation for an attack on the small
northeastern Mississippi village.
Although the Trans-Mississippi armies had not reached Corinth,
General Johnston decided to strike the Federal forces, under
General U.S. Grant, before Grant was reinforced by General Don
Carlos Buell: Consequently the CSA forces left Corinth April
3, 1862, and by April 6, were in position to attack Union forces,
who were so positive the Confederates would not attack, they
had not bothered to entrench. The two-day battle, named for
Shiloh Church, ensued. On the second day, the Confederates were
forced to withdraw to Corinth.
Following Shiloh, Corinth became a vast Confederate hospital
center. Hotels, churches, residences, warehouses, and the college
were filled with wounded; but, more troops died of sickness
and diseases than wounds.
to the march on Shiloh, extensive breastworks, called the Beauregard
Line, had been begun on the eastern and northern side of Corinth.
Work on these breastworks and on an inner line consisting of
5 crescent shaped rifle pits was vigorously renewed. Beauregard
commanded a force of 112,100 after the Trans-Mississippi forces
under Generals Price and Van Dorn arrived; but, due to sickness
and desertion, his effective strength was under 60,000.
After Shiloh, Halleck superceded Grant and called for reinforcements.
Late in April, the Union Armies of the Ohio, the Tennessee and
the Mississippi, numbering 128,315 effectives, began inching
and entrenching their way toward Corinth, taking a month to
cover 20 miles. Finally, by May 28, Halleck had his army positioned
outside the newly constructed CSA Beauregard Line. The Union
Army of the Tennessee straddled the Mobile and Ohio Railroad
on the north; the Army of Ohio was in the center to the northeast;
and the Federal Army of Mississippi continued the eastern line
to the south of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. In terms
of aggregate numbers of troops involved, the Siege of Corinth
was the greatest in the history of the Western Hemisphere.
Meanwhile in Corinth, Beauregard, without siege guns, vastly
outnumbered and facing shortages of food and water, had called
a conference of his generals. Their decision was to fall back
southward down the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to Tupelo.
The evacuation was conducted with utmost secrecy. Troops with
3 days' cooked rations were ordered to the front and told they
were about to attack. A few timorous ones went over to the Federals
with the news.
The sick and wounded along with the military supplies and stores
were removed by rail. On May 29, of necessity, the front line
officers were told of the planned deception and added innovative
touches of their own. Quaker guns manned with dummy cannoneers
were placed along the lines, and wood was gathered for camp
fires. No smallest detail was neglected in the plan to fool
the Federals. During the night, as empty cars (trains) returned
to the station, soldiers cheered as if being reinforced. Cavalry
men kept camp fires burning and buglers moved along the deserted
works playing retreat, tattoo and taps. By daybreak of May 30,
all was quiet. Beauregard's forces, except for cavalry, had
withdrawn from Corinth. The Confederates has successfully completed
the greatest hoax of the war.
Halleck's Union forces were completely fooled. Next morning,
May 30, they cautiously entered Corinth only to find the village
deserted. The Chicago Tribune reported, "General Halleck
has achieved one of the most barren triumphs of the war - in
fact, tantamount to defeat." The Cincinnati Commercial
stated, "Beauregard achieved another triumph."
the Federal occupation of Corinth, Halleck began dispersing
his huge army. He ordered a series of batteries, A through F,
erected to continue the CSA Beauregard Line on the south and
west. Called to Washington in July to be Commander-In-Chief,
he left Grant in command of the western forces. During the summer,
an inner line of 5 batteries, known as the College Hill Line,
In July, CSA General Bragg, who had replaced Beauregard as CSA
Commander, moved to Chattanooga leaving Van Dorn and Price in
Mississippi. Van Dorn moved southward; Price remained in the
northern section to keep and eye on Grant.
Following the Battle of Iuka in September, Grant moved to Jackson,
Tennessee, leaving General Rosecrans with 4 divisions in Corinth.
Immediately, Rosecrans ordered the batteries in the College
Hill Line connected by breastworks and covered with abatis.
Work continued at Battery Powell, the only inner battery on
Late in September, Van Dorn and Price met at Ripley and decided
that the CSA Army of the West should attack Corinth despite
its impregnable defenses. Van Dorn felt the attack in Corinth
was a military necessity requiring prompt and vigorous action...
Corinth, so hurtful to us while in the possession of the enemy,
so advantageous to us in our own. Price believed Corinth warranted
more than the usual hazard of battle.
Van Dorn believed that if the Confederates could surprise Rosecrans
and storm the fortifications, they could take Corinth. His division,
under Lovell, led the way northward from Ripley. It was followed
by Price's two divisions under Maury and Hebert. Near Pocahontas,
the 22,000 Confederates turned east, repaired the Hatchie River
and Tuscumbia River bridges, skirmished with Union cavalry -
thereby losing the element of surprise, and continued to Chewalla
where they camped for the night of October 2. Meanwhile, Rosecrans,
aware that the Confederates were moving, had called his out-lying
troops nearer to Corinth. On the morning of October 3, he sent
three divisions to the old Beauregard Line. The fourth division
was placed mid-way on the Halleck Line.
Lovell's CSA Division south of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad
advanced against a hill honey-combed with rifle pits and crowned
with artillery supported by infantry. The division took the
hill; the Union forces retreated to Battery F. Two brigades
from Maury's division crossed the railroad and took the battery.
Price's two divisions advanced upon the entrenched Federals
and forced them back. When darkness fell, the Confederates were
within half-a-mile of the inner College Hill Line.
During the night, both commanders made preparations for the
morrow's conflict. Van Dorn's plan for the Confederates was
perform a pioneer-movement. Maury was to open with fire from
his batteries in the center. Hebert on the CSA left would move
forward, followed by Lovell on the right and Maury in the center.
The fighting on October 4 gave the Battle of Corinth its reputation
of being one of the most vicious of the Civil War. Opening with
an artillery duel, which ceased shortly before daylight, the
first attack was launched on the extreme left by the CSA forces
in the vicinity of Corinth High School. The Confederates were
repulsed and retired from this part of the field. Meanwhile
brigades from Hebert's and Maury's divisions broke through Federal
lines near the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Their assault carried
them down Polk, Jackson and Fillmore Streets to the railroad
intersection. There they were met by Union reserves. Hand-to-hand
fighting ensued. Battery Williams turned cannon fire into the
melee, and the Confederates began withdrawing.
In front of Robinett, Maury's brigades advanced through the
abatis and into withering fire from Robinett's cannon. Colonel
William P. Rodgers of the 2nd Texas led their third advance.
Just as he reached the parapet, he was killed; and the Confederates
began to retreat.
South of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, Lovell skirmished,
but never advanced. Van Dorn ordered him to cover the Confederate
retreat. By 2:00 p.m., the fatigued Confederates were retreating
toward the Hatchie River.
On October 5, they battled with Union troops under Ord and Hurlbut
before they finally crossed the Hatchie River at Crum's Mill
and retreated to Ripley.
reported Federal losses 315 killed, 1,812 wounded, and 232 prisoners
or missing; Confederate losses were 1,423 killed, 5,692 wounded,
and 2,268 prisoners.
The Battle of Corinth was one of the fiercest and bloodiest
of the war. Analysts consider it the beginning of the end of
the War in the West.
In January 1864, the Federals partially destroyed and abandoned
Corinth. During the ensuing year, CSA General Forrest repaired
the Mobile and Ohio Railroad tracks to the point mules could
pull the "cars" to Corinth. Then he repaired the M
and C tracks to Florence, Alabama. Later in the year, CSA General
Hood's army was in Corinth briefly. It was they who burned the
A conservative estimate of troops stationed in or around Corinth
during the war years numbered over 300,000. At least 200 top
Confederate or Federal generals were stationed in Corinth; and
over 100 skirmished and/or raids occurred in the area.