Battle of Tupelo
The Battle of Tupelo, also known as the Battle of Harrisburg, was a battle of the American Civil War. It was fought from July 14 to 15, 1864, near Tupelo, Mississippi. The Union victory over Confederate forces in northeast Mississippi ensured the safety of Sherman's supply lines during the Atlanta Campaign.
The spring and summer of 1864 found the attention of the people of the United States and Confederate States focused on fighting in Virginia and Georgia. Interwoven with, and having important repercussions on, the fighting in northwestern Georgia were military operations in northeast Mississippi designed to prevent Confederate forces under Lieutenant-General S. D. Lee and Major-General N. B. Forrest from striking into middle Tennessee and destroying the single-track railroad over which Sherman's army drew its supplies. The battles of Brice's Crossroads and Tupelo were fought to protect the Union railroad.
The Right Wing, 16th Army Corps, commanded by Major-General A. J. Smith, advanced into north Mississippi from La Grange, Tennessee, on July 5th without much opposition in two columns until Pontotoc, Mississippi, was closely approached, when his advance was checked by Confederate Brigadier-General J. R. Chalmers, Forrest meanwhile making preparations for battle near Okolona. Lee was also with the forces, and assumed general command.
Three attempts to advance were checked by Forrest's men, on various roads, and on July 12th both columns turned off toward Tupelo. Lee then moved with the divisions of Chalmers and Brigadier-General A. Buford to attack Smith's flank, while Forrest with Mabry's Brigade, the escort, and his old regiment, assailed to the rear. A running fight was kept up for ten miles, but without any considerable advantage to either side except a brilliant dash made upon the Federal wagon train by Chalmers, with Rucker's Brigade, near Bartram's Shop. He had possession of the wagon train for a time and killed all the mules, so that the enemy were compelled to abandon and burn seven wagons, a caisson and two ambulances, but superior numbers soon compelled him to retire.
- Right Wing, 16th Army Corps: Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith
- First Division: Brig. Gen. J. A. Mower
- Third Division: Col. D. Moore
- Cavalry Division: Brig. Gen. B. H. Grierson
- Second Brigade: Col. E. F. Winslow
- Third Brigade: Col. D. E. Coon
- First Brigade, U. S. Colored Troops: Col. Ed. Bouton
- Forrest's Cavalry: Lieut. Gen. S. D. Lee, Maj. Gen. N. B. Forrest (w)
- First Division: Brig. Gen. J. R. Chalmers
- Second Division: Brig. Gen. A. Buford
On the morning of the 14th Smith took a strong position at Harrisburg, Mississippi, and entrenched. S. D. Lee reacted by forming lines with Roddey's Brigade on the right, Mabry's Brigade on the left, and Crossland's Brigade in the middle. Bell's Brigade, initially supporting Mabry, was put in the front line on Mabry's right. The troops were all dismounted. Both Chalmers' and Buford's divisions were held in reserve. The plan of attack seemed to be swing the right, but Lyon's Brigade became engaged first and was forced to fall back with heavy losses. Chalmers' Division, dismounted, was ordered forward and, after Mabry and Bell had been repulsed, Rucker's Brigade made an equally futile assault. The men were swept away by the fire of a superior and entrenched force, and many fell from exhaustion in the great heat of a July sun. A little after noon the Confederates fell back and entrenched, but were not molested by the Federals, who contented themselves with tearing up the railroad in the vicinity of Tupelo and burning the houses of Harrisburg.
On the 15th, it appearing Smith would not attack, Buford made a demonstration on his left flank. Soon afterward Smith began his retreat, and a vigorous pursuit was at once begun. At Old Town Creek Buford came up with the Union in line of battle and was driven back in confusion. McCulloch's Brigade was ordered to attack, but being sent in by regiments was speedily repulsed. Here General Forrest and Colonel McCulloch were both severely wounded, and the command of the forces in front devolved upon General Chalmers. Though the pursuit was continued, there was but slight skirmishing after this engagement.
Sherman, who was closing in on Atlanta, was irritated Smith had not pressed Forrest at Tupelo, believing he should not have been allowed to escape. If Forrest had been allowed to raid into middle Tennessee prior to the capture of Atlanta, it could have had disastrous consequences for the Union. Although Smith failed to destroy Forrest's Cavalry at Tupelo, he did break its combat effectiveness. Forrest would rally his cavalrymen for more daring raids, but never again would they be able to fight and defeat infantry. The battlefield has been partially preserved and is home to the Tupelo National Battlefield, established in 1929.
- List of American Civil War battles
- Mississippi in the American Civil War
- Western Theater of the American Civil War
- Bearss, Edwin C. (1971). Protecting Sherman's Lifeline: The Battles of Brices Cross Roads and Tupelo 1864. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office – via Internet Archive.
- —— & Hooker, Col. Charles E. (1899). Evans, [Brig.] Gen. Clement A., ed. Confederate Military History, Volume VII: Alabama and Mississippi. Atlanta, Ga.: Confederate Publishing Company. LCCN 02017198. OL 23290380M – via Internet Archive.
- Wynne, Ben (2006). Mississippi's Civil War: A Narrative History. State Narratives of Civil War. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0-88146-039-1. OCLC 74987902. OL 8173556M.
- Allman, Eugene H. (c. 1912). Map Showing the Battle Field at Harrisburg, Miss. July 13-15, 1864 (Map). Scale not given. Mobile, Ala.: Aynsley Litho. & Eng. Co. LCCN 99447417 – via Library of Congress.
- Berg, Gordon (May 2017). "Signals Crossed: Communication Failures Cost Forrest and the Rebels Dearly at Tupelo". America's Civil War. Vol. 30 no. 2. Vienna, Va.: HistoryNet. pp. 30–35. ISSN 1046-2899.
- Tucker, W. H. (1892). The Fourteenth Wisconsin Vet. Vol. Infantry (General A. J. Smith's Command) in the Expedition and Battle of Tupelo; Also, Wanderings Through the Wilds of Missouri and Arkansas in Pursuit of Price. Indianapolis, Ind.: F. E. Engle & Son. OL 25311138M – via Internet Archive.
- Battle of Tupelo at the American Battlefield Protection Program
- Battle of Tupelo at the Civil War Trust
- Battle of Tupelo at the National Park Service