Battle of Corinth, 3-4 October 1862

The second and final battle of the attempted Confederate invasion of west Tennessee during the autumn of 1862 (American Civil War). After escaping from a Union trap at Iuka, General Price had joined his Army of the West with General Van Dorn’s Army of West Tennessee, to produce a combined force of about 22,000 men.

Corinth and Iuka, 1862

Van Dorn took command, and moved to attack Rosecrans at Corinth. This was always something of a gamble. Rosecrans had 23,000 men, and two lines of defence at Corinth. Nevertheless, the Confederate attack on 3 October forced Rosecrans to pull back into the inner defences. There, the Union forces sprang a nasty surprise on the Confederates. 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 and inflicted heavy casualties on the surprised Confederates.

Nevertheless, Van Dorn tried again on the next day. This time he came closer to success. Price’s men broke through the inner defences and entered Corinth itself. Van Dorn threw all of his reserves into the battle, but the streets of Corinth proved to be almost as effective an obstacle as the defences has, and the attack eventually ran out of steam.

Van Dorn might have stayed to try again the next day, but at about 4.00 p.m. 5,000 more Federal troops under General James McPherson arrived on the scene. Van Dorn was now forced to retreat in the face of superior numbers. After another skirmish at Pocahontas on the Hatchie River on the next day (Hatchie Bridge), the Confederate army escaped back into the south.

Both sides suffered heavy casualties at Corinth. Union losses were 355 killed, 1841 wound and 324 captured and missing, compared to Confederate losses of 505 killed, 2150 wounded and 4838 captured and missing. The higher number of Confederate dead and wounded reflects the difficulties inherent in attacking defended positions; the large number of missing shows how chaotic the retreat was. Despite this, Iuka and Corinth were not celebrated as victories in the north. After the glorious victories earlier in the year, the simple fact that there had been a Confederate attack to defeat made sure of that. Nevertheless, Iuka and Corinth were the last serious Confederate attacks along the Mississippi. From the Confederate retreat from Corinth, to the final surrender of Vicksburg on 4 July 1863, the initiative on the Mississippi belonged to Grant and the Union.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 September 2006),Battle of Corinth, 3-4 October 1862,

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