The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka & Corinth

The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka & Corinth

The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka & Corinth

The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka & Corinth


Peter Cozzens here presents the first book-length study of the battles of Iuka and Corinth. Fought under brutal conditions and resulting in extremely heavy casualties relative to the numbers engaged - at Iuka, nearly one-third of those engaged fell - Iuka and Corinth proved to be two of the most vicious battles of the war. Drawing on extensive primary research, Cozzens details the tactical aspects of each battle, analyzing troop movements down to the regimental level. In addition to a vivid and detailed battle narrative, Cozzens provides compelling portraits of the campaign's key leaders: Generals Grant, Rosecrans, Van Dorn, and Price. He exposes the consequences of their clashing ambitions and antipathies. Finally, Cozzens analyzes the larger, strategic implications of the northern Mississippi campaign, exploring the repercussions of the Confederate defeats suffered at Iuka and Corinth.


People have asked me why I chose to write on the relatively obscure northern Mississippi campaign that culminated in the Battle of Corinth, on October 3-4, 1862. I tell them I selected this topic precisely because of its obscurity, which derives solely from a want of scholarly attention -- the campaign itself was far from unimportant.

Glance at any map of the Confederacy depicting its railroads, and your eye is naturally drawn to Corinth. It stood at the junction of two of the best railroads in the South. Take and hold Corinth, and Union armies would sever the most viable Confederate line of communications and supply between the eastern seaboard and the vast trans-Mississippi region. Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck recognized this, and he counted the capture of Corinth more important than the destruction of the Confederate western armies.

Corinth was also of great importance to Federal plans of conquest. the town lay between the two strategic invasion routes into the Deep South: the Mississippi River Valley corridor leading to Vicksburg, and the Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta avenue into the interior of Georgia. With Corinth in their possession, the Federals would be able to transport supplies and reinforcements to armies operating along either route.

The autumn 1862 campaign had consequences for the war in the West not generally appreciated. the utter defeat at Corinth of the Confederate forces (comprised of the combined armies of Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price, the whole under Van Dorn's leadership) eliminated the only mobile Southern command standing between Ulysses S. Grant's Union army and Vicksburg. After Corinth, the way was clear for Grant to proceed on his great march of conquest.

Southern defeat in northern Mississippi also contributed to the collapse of Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky. Bragg himself said it was a determining factor in his discomfiture. Undoubtedly Bragg exaggerated the impact of events in northern Mississippi to deflect criticism from his own errors, but there is much truth to his assertion. Bragg had counted on Van Dorn and Price to prevent Federal reinforcements from crossing the Tennessee River to oppose him and to strike north themselves to protect his strategic left flank. Van Dorn and Price disappointed him on both counts. and while Bragg already had fought and lost the Battle of Perryville by the time he learned of the defeat at Corinth, the news convinced him he must abandon Kentucky. the ruination of Van Dorn's army left . . .

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