The Civil War – Battle of Iuka and Mississippi Soldiers

Submitted C.J. Johnson

Beginning in mid-1862, the Confederate Army took the offensive, winning in Maryland, going into Kentucky, and then into middle Tennessee. In the fall of ’62, General Braxton Bragg ordered General Sterling Price (in northeast Mississippi at Tupelo) to stop Union reinforcements from joining Union troops under the command of Don Carlos Buell in middle Tennessee, and possibly moving into Kentucky. General Earl Van Dorn was also in Mississippi, able to assist Price when necessary.

Union General U. S. Grant and his forces were in the area as well. Price did little more than harass Grant with cavalry raids. In early September, Bragg instructed Price to prevent Buell (in retreat towards Nashville) from joining up with General William S. Rosecrans in Tennessee.

Price moved as far as Guntown on September 11, when he learned Rosecrans was at Iuka. Price headed his troops to Iuka to engage the Union forces, or follow them into Tennessee. After traveling all night, Price’s cavalry entered the little community of Iuka in the early morning hours of September 14th.

Grant decided to attack Price before Van Dorn could join forces with Price. Grant “had about the same number of men as Price, and decided to split his forces in two in an attempt to trap Price in Iuka. 8,000 men under General Ord were sent directly from Corinth towards Iuka, while a slightly larger force of 9,000 under General Rosecrans were sent to the south, to attack Price from his rear…

This plan did not work…Rosecrans did not get into position until the afternoon of 19 September, and by then Price was aware of his presence. He dispatched half of his troops in an attempt to deal with Rosecrans…Rosecrans was able to hold off two hours of determined Confederate attacks, inflicting more casualties than he suffered (144 killed and 598 wounded, compared to 263 and 692 on the Confederate side). Unfortunately, he failed to block all of the roads south out of Iuka, and overnight Price was able to escape…”

Several Mississippi units, including those with men from east central Mississippi, were involved at Iuka. The following information comes from the website for “Mississippians in the Confederate Army” at mississippiconfederates.wordpress.com. “The Mississippi infantry units that fought at Iuka were the 7th Mississippi Battalion and the 36th, 37th, 38th, 40th, and 43rd regiments. In addition, Wirt Adams regiment of Mississippi Cavalry, the 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers, 2nd Mississippi Cavalry and the 4th Mississippi Cavalry fought in the battle as well. The casualty reports are incomplete, but the Mississippi units that did list their casualties had a combined 20 killed, 91 wounded, and 21 missing.

For many of the Mississippians, Iuka was the first battle in which they “saw the elephant,” and the reality of war conflicted with the romantic notions of war that many inexperienced soldiers had. In a letter written just days after the battle, Captain James M. Fulghum of Company K, 36th Mississippi Infantry, wrote this heartfelt account of the horrors he witnessed: ‘I reckon we must have driven the Yankees about a quarter of a mile back when night closed in and put an end to the conflict. They fought until pitch dark and worse of all, we had to stay all night in the battlefield. That was a night of horror to us, to hear the cries of the wounded as they lay bleeding on the ground. I never want to spend another night in that manner. I will never forget it as long as I live. I never will forget it as long as I live.’

After Iuka, the two Confederate armies in Mississippi combined under the leadership of senior general Earl Van Dorn for an attack on Corinth, Mississippi.”