Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation


In the spring of 1862, there was no more important place in the western Confederacy—perhaps in all the South—than the tiny town of Corinth, Mississippi.

Major General Henry W. Halleck, commander of Union forces in the Western Theater, reported to Washington that "Richmond and Corinth are now the great strategical points of war, and our success at these points should be insured at all hazards." In the same vein, Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard declared to Richmond that ...

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In the spring of 1862, there was no more important place in the western Confederacy—perhaps in all the South—than the tiny town of Corinth, Mississippi.

Major General Henry W. Halleck, commander of Union forces in the Western Theater, reported to Washington that "Richmond and Corinth are now the great strategical points of war, and our success at these points should be insured at all hazards." In the same vein, Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard declared to Richmond that "If defeated at Corinth, we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause." Those were odd sentiments concerning a town scarcely a decade old. By this time, however, it sat at the junction of the South's two most important rail lines and had become a major strategic locale.

Despite its significance, Corinth has received comparatively little attention from Civil War historians and has been largely overshadowed by events at Shiloh, Antietam, and Perryville. Timothy Smith's panoramic and vividly detailed new look at Corinth corrects that neglect, focusing on the nearly year-long campaign that opened the way to Vicksburg and presaged the Confederacy's defeat in the West.

Combining big-picture strategic and operational analysis with ground-level views, Smith covers the spring siege, the vicious attacks and counterattacks of the October battle, and the subsequent occupation. He has drawn extensively on hundreds of eyewitness accounts to capture the sights, sounds, and smells of battle and highlight the command decisions of Halleck, Beauregard, Ulysses S. Grant, Sterling Price, William S. Rosecrans, and Earl Van Dorn.

This is also the first in-depth examination of Corinth following the creation of a new National Park Service center located at the site. Weaving together an immensely compelling tale that places the reader in the midst of war's maelstrom, it substantially revises and enlarges our understanding of Corinth and its crucial importance in the Civil War.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an outstanding battle narrative, and it goes beyond the fighting. . . . Smith's book is an excellent commemoration of Civil War Corinth and a worthwhile addition to any Civil War library."—Blue & Gray Magazine
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700618521
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 4/25/2012
  • Series: Modern War Studies Series
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 421,973
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy B. Smith is author of a half dozen books, including Mississippi in the Civil War: The Homefront; Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg; and The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield. He currently teaches at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xi

Prologue: Crossroads xvii

1 The Great Rallying Point 1

2 "I Leave Here To-morrow Morning" 17

3 "The Ball Has Commenced" 32

4 "A Siege from the Start" 49

5 "A Constant Succession of Battles on a Small Scale" 63

6 "To the Last Extremity" 82

7 "Most Anxious Period of the War" 101

8 "A Deeper Design" 119

9 "My Position Is Precarious" 134

10 "We Were Obliged to Fall Back Gradually" 152

11 "Victorious So Far" 182

12 "Things Look Rather Blue To-night" 204

13 "A Dreadful Charge Up Hill" 221

14 "The Very Heart of Corinth" 239

15 "A Second Retreat" 258

16 "We Are Getting Things in Good Order Again" 276

17 "Establishing Friendly Relations with the Inhabitants" 288

Epilogue 303

Appendix: Order of Battle at the Battle of Corinth 309

Notes 315

Bibliography 395

Index 427

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  • Posted August 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent book, a must have for your library

    Railroads were the "super highways" of the Civil War. Unlike today, railroads went into towns and/or towns went to railroads. During the war, both sides expended considerable effort to break these lines. Raids would cut the line for a few weeks at most. The real destruction of major bridges or tunnels exceeded the abilities of most raiders. The solution is to occupy the town thereby cutting the rail line once and for all.
    Corinth Mississippi straddled major east/west and north/south rail lines. In early 1862, the east/west line was a major objective. The north/south line supported any advance or defense of the city. Shiloh was the South's major effort to hold Corinth. Defeat at Shiloh put Corinth on the frontline.
    This book starts with the North's advance after Shiloh. We follow one city from major objective to important supply point to of no great use but occupied. In doing this, we gain an understanding of the Civil War's impact on one Southern city.
    We open with Halleck's campaign to capture the city after Shiloh. The conventional idea that Halleck slowly dug his way to Corinth is not the case. This part of the book looks at a series of sharp engagement that proved the South was not beaten. This section ends with the occupation of the city.
    Next, we look at the battle of Iuka as the North consolidates control of the area. This leads to an excellent history of the beginnings of the Grant/Rosecrans argument.
    The Battle of Corinth, rightly, consumes the majority of attention. We see how this battle is part of the South's fall of 1862 offensive. The book contains a detailed description of the battle with some good maps. We follow the defeated Confederate's retreat and the North's effort to destroy their army. The book has a good discussion of Rosecrans' actions during the pursuit. After the battle, Corinth became an occupied city. The struggle is to keep the north/south trains running and pacify the area. Van Doran's raid on Holly Springs convinces Grant that the campaign for Vicksburg needs to center on the Mississippi River not on a rail line.
    Corinth becomes a backwater post. The rations are good; barracks well above average and the duty is easy for the most part. The city is a center for recruiting and training the USCT. The city becomes a major "contraband" encampment with the attendant missionaries. A constant and nasty guerrilla war is the only drawback to this assignment. From time to time, the city serves as a center for operations into Mississippi or Alabama. The book ends with a short chapter on reconstruction, remembrance and preservation.
    This is a good-looking well-done book. The writing is excellent. The illustrations and maps are in the right place. The book contains a full set footnotes, index and bibliography. This is the best history of this area that I have found. Highly recommended, it will expand your knowledge of this little covered area.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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