Submitted by C.J. Johnson
In the spring of 1862, following the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth, Federal troops occupied Corinth and her railroad junction, as well as nearby Booneville. While under occupation, Union forces had beefed up the defense works around Corinth, building concentric rings of trench fortifications. Federal forces numbered 23,000 men.
However, with two Rebel armies remaining in the general area, skirmishes and raids continued through the summer of 1862. Areas near Corinth and Booneville were involved, such as Rienzi, Hatchie Bridge, Bay Springs, Marietta, Burnsville, and Kossuth.
Following the Battle of Iuka in mid-September, senior officer General Earl Van Dorn took command of the newly organized Army of West Tennessee, around 22,000 men.
On October 3, Van Dorn ordered the attack on Corinth. With Union troops in place at the outer defenses, the fighting began mid- morning. At first, the Rebels had the upper hand, pushing the Yanks back almost two miles, to the inner defense line. Fighting was fierce and hand-to-hand. Sunset brought relief to the Union troops and left Van Dorn believing he could finish the fight the next day.
According to HistoryofWar.com, Federals had a surprise for the next day. “Leaked maps of Corinth had suggested that a key position (Battery Robinett) was not yet finished. In fact, it was a strong point of the defences…”
The next day, the Confederates’ start was delayed until 9 a.m. The National Park Service states, “As the Confederates moved forward, Union artillery swept the field causing heavy casualties, but the Rebels continued on. They stormed Battery Powell and closed on Battery Robinett, where desperate hand-to-hand fighting ensued. A few Rebels fought their way into Corinth, but the Federals quickly drove them out. The Federals continued on, recapturing Battery Powell, and forcing Van Dorn into a general retreat. Rosecrans postponed any pursuit until the next day. As a result, Van Dorn was defeated, but not destroyed or captured…”
Soldiers from Mississippi were in force at Corinth, including many units from east central Mississippi – Choctaw, Winston, and her neighboring counties. The Mississippi Confederates website documented the units involved, beginning with the infantry, “the 1st Battalion Mississippi Sharpshooters, 7th Mississippi Infantry Battalion, and the 6th, 15th, 22nd, 33rd, 35th, 36th, 37th, 38th, 39th, 40th, 43rd infantry regiments. In addition, the 2nd Confederate Infantry regiment fought at Corinth, and this unit had three companies from Mississippi.
Four cavalry units from the state participated in the battle: the 1st Mississippi cavalry, 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers, 2nd Mississippi Cavalry and Wirt Adams regiment of Mississippi cavalry.
There was also one artillery unit of Mississippians on the battlefield – Hudson’s Mississippi Battery. The soldiers from the Magnolia State suffered very heavily in the battle: casualty reports are incomplete, but the units that did list their killed and wounded had a combined 91 killed and 399 wounded.
In 1909, W.B. Brack, the captain of Company F, 35th Mississippi Infantry, wrote an account for the Dallas Morning News of the attack on Battery Robinett at Corinth. In the article he stated: “Rushing in with my company to within a few yards of the gun, a soldier attempted to fire. If he did it meant the ruin of our company, who were packed in the road directly in front of the gun. Checking up a moment, I fired my pistol at the man at the gun. He fell, whether killed or not I do not know. When within a few feet of the gun, another tried to fire it. I fired upon him with the same result. Then with a few more steps I was on the cannon. My men and others came on pell mell, and for a time it was close fighting.” Casualties were heavy: 315 Union killed; 1,812 wounded; over 300 missing or captured. Confederate losses were higher: over 500 killed; more than 2,000 wounded; over 2,000 missing or captured. The number of missing/ captured may indicate just how unorganized the retreat was.