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Old 21-01-2013, 14:54
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Siege or 1st Battle of Corinth - May 1862

At the end of April, 1862, a Union Army group of almost 125,000 men, led by Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck, set out from Pittsburg and Hamburg landings towards Corinth. A Confederate force of about half that size, under the command of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, waited for them, behind five miles of newly-constructed earthworks. Both commanders knew the importance of the coming battle. Halleck claimed that the railroad centers in Richmond, Virginia, and Corinth were "the greatest strategic points of the war, and our success at these points should be insured at all hazards." Beauregard told his superiors: "If defeated here we will lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause . . . [and] our independence." 1

It took Halleck a month to travel the 22 miles to Corinth. The route crossed a series of low ridges covered with dense forests and cut by stream valleys and ravines. Moving his army through rugged country while keeping it aligned along a 10-mile front was slow and difficult work. The weather was bad and there was little good water. Dysentery and typhoid were common.

By May 4, the Union army was within 10 miles of Corinth and the railroads. The Confederates began a series of small scale attacks, keeping up a nearly constant harassment. Halleck, cautious by nature, established an elaborate procedure to protect his army as they advanced. As the troops moved up to a new position, they worked day and night digging trenches. These "were made to conform with the nature of the ground, following the crest of the ridges. . . . They consisted of a single ditch and a parapet . . . only designed to cover our infantry against the projectiles of the enemy."2 As each line of earthworks was finished, the men advanced about a mile and then started digging a new line of trenches. Eventually there were seven progressive lines and about 40 miles of trenches.

The Confederates waiting in Corinth were well aware of Halleck's slow, but constant, advance. In May, a Confederate soldier wrote his wife:

I can sit now in my tent and hear the drums & voices in the enemy lines, which cannot be more than two miles distant. We have . . . killed and wounded every day. . . . The Yanks are evidently making heavy preparation for the attack which cannot, I think, be postponed many days longer. . . . Everything betokens an early engagement so make it be, for I am more than anxious that it shall come without further delay.3
On May 21, Beauregard planned a counterattack, an attempt to "draw the enemy out of his entrenched positions and separate his closed masses for a battle."4 The gamble came to naught because of delays in getting the troops in position to attack.

By May 25, the long Union line was entrenched on high ground within a few thousand yards of the Confederate fortifications. From that range, Union guns shelled the Confederate defensive earthworks, and the supply base and railroad facilities in Corinth. Beauregard was outnumbered two to one. The water was bad. Typhoid and dysentery had felled thousands of his men. At a council of war, the Confederate officers concluded that they could not hold the railroad crossover.

Beauregard saved his army by a hoax. Some of the men were given three days' rations and ordered to prepare for an attack. As expected, one or two went over to the Union with that news. During the night of May 29, the Confederate army moved out. They used the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to carry the sick and wounded, the heavy artillery, and tons of supplies. When a train arrived, the troops cheered as though reinforcements were arriving. They set up dummy ("Quaker") guns along the defensive earthworks. Camp fires were kept burning, and buglers and drummers played. The rest of the men slipped away undetected. When Union patrols entered Corinth on the morning of May 30, they found the Confederates gone.

Most historians believe that the Union seizure of the strategic railroad crossover at Corinth led directly to the fall of Fort Pillow on the Mississippi, the loss of much of Middle and West Tennessee, the surrender of Memphis, and the opening of the lower Mississippi River to Federal gunboats as far south as Vicksburg. And no Confederate train ever again carried men and supplies from Chattanooga to Memphis.

1. Why did it take so long for Gen. Halleck to move his Union troops to Corinth?

2. Why do you think Gen. Beauregard thought it was important to draw the Union forces "out of their entrenched positions"?

3. How did Beauregard and his generals deceive the Union army?

4. How did he make use of the railroads?

5. What were the consequences of the Confederate loss of Corinth?

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Old 26-06-2013, 01:52
WGVSr WGVSr is offline
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Default Re: Siege or 1st Battle of Corinth - May 1862

I haven't been to this part of the forum in a while. I have a connection with Corinth as my several times great grandfather was discharged from the Confederate Army there in May of 1862, having fought with the 23rd TN at Shiloh. I've visited the area many times.

As you suspect, the railroads were strategically significant in the whole episode. The Memphis & Charleston [now the Norfolk Southern] and the Mobile and Ohio [now part of the Kansas City Southern] crossed at Corinth. The former was east/west and the latter roughly north/south. Beauregard used the latter to evacuate Corinth to the south. He didn't go far, he still had almost as many troops in Tupelo, about 50 mi S when replaced by Bragg in late July.

Strategically, cutting the railroad at Corinth cut the link from Memphis to Chattanooga but the Federals couldn't use it for lateral support as Price held the line at Iuka to the east and Confederate irregulars [and Forrest] cut it so often as to render it almost useless. Memphis was, however, far from cut off, having the Mississippi River to its front and the railroad to the south through Grenada and Jackson on to New Orleans. Only when the Navy destroyed the cottonclad fleet at Memphis was the city defenseless. While the Navy cut the South in half, east and west, the fall of Corinth had he effect of cutting the South, or at least the Western Theater, in quarters, north and south.

Halleck was a slow motion general. Remember, at the time, Grant, the victor at Corinth, was in semi-disgrace, ostensibly for being surprised by the CSA's initial attack at Shiloh but mainly because Hallaeck finally showed up to take charge, after the battle. Grant then served as Halleck's 2nd-in-command. Grant had been saved by Buell's timely arrival [and the Navy's two ironclad gunboats firing up Dill's Branch] late on April 6th.

It was common to ascribe huge numbers to one's opponents during the War, particularly on the Federal side [to wit, Little Mac before Richmond]. Halleck thought Beauregard had a substantial number of troops at Corinth. He also spent the best part of 3 weeks 'whipping' the Federal troops [who had just bested arguably the best Southern Army then in the field] into shape. He didn't begin to move toward Corinth until April 29th. In order to prevent a surprise like Grant's, Halleck moved slowly and somewhat ponderously to the southwest.

I can tell you that, even now, the country is somewhat rugged. It is sharply rolling and still heavily timbered. It took Halleck another 4 weeks to get to Corinth, only about 20 miles. He was slowed by small groups of Confederate skirmishers who would fire a few shots and bring the whole parade to a halt for the day. Hallleck essentially set up a moving siege although there were a couple of sharp skirmishes fought, especially once he got to the environs of Corinth.

Finally, after a show of bravado [the show of 'reinforcements', etal], the Confederates, who had been gradually moving south since mid-May, had the rear guard blow the supplies they couldn't carry, burn the bridges in the area and take all the road signs with them.
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Old 26-06-2013, 10:35
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Siege or 1st Battle of Corinth - May 1862

An absolutely cracking story Bill-you certainly do KNOW your history; and I am pleased and gratified that someone got around to reading this piece of American history.You may or may not have noticed that I have also included pieces on THE BATTLE OF SHILOH-Apr.62 and THE BATTLE OF CORINTH-Oct.62 in this Forum

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