Battle of Tupelo

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Battle of Tupelo
Part of the American Civil War
Tupelo NBS Monument.jpg
Battle of Tupelo National Historic Site
Date July 14-15, 1864
Location Near Tupelo, Mississippi
34°15′19″N 88°44′14″W / 34.25528°N 88.73722°W / 34.25528; -88.73722
Result United States victory
United States United States Confederate States of America Confederate States
Commanders and leaders
United States Andrew Smith

Confederate States of America Stephen Lee

Units involved
Right Wing, 16th Army Corps Forrest's Cavalry Corps
13,000 infantry
3,000 cavalry
24 guns
2,100 infantry
7,000 cavalry
20 guns
Casualties and losses
69 dead and 533 wounded or missing 215 dead and 1,125 wounded or missing
Tupelo is located in Mississippi
Location of Tupelo in Mississippi

The Battle of Tupelo (July 14–15, 1864) was fought near Tupelo, Mississippi during the American Civil War. It was a United States victory over Confederate forces in northeast Mississippi ensuring the safety of Major-General William Sherman's supply lines during the Atlanta Campaign.[1]


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 Stephen Lee and Major-General Nathan 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 that railroad.[1]


The Right Wing, 16th Army Corps, commanded by Major-General Andrew Smith, advanced into Mississippi from La Grange, Tennessee on July 5th without much opposition in two columns, ravaging the country as it moved, until Pontotoc, Mississippi was closely approached, when Smith's advance was checked by Brigadier-General James Chalmers.[1] Forrest meanwhile made preparations for battle near Okolona, Mississippi. Lieutenant-General Lee was also with the forces, and assumed general command. Three attempts to advance were checked by Forrest's forces, on various roads, and on July 12th both columns turned off toward Tupelo. Lee then moved with the divisions of Chalmers and Brigadier-General Abraham 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 of 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 the teamsters were compelled to abandon and burn seven wagons, one caisson, and two ambulances.[2]

The battle[edit]

On the morning of the 14th Smith took a strong position at Harrisburg, Mississippi and entrenched. 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. These 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 loss. Chalmers' Division, dismounted, was ordered forward and after Mabry and Bell had been repulsed, Rucker's Brigade made an equally futile assault. The men behaved with great courage, but 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.[2]

On the 15th, it appearing Smith would not attack, Buford's Division 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 Federals 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. Forrest and Colonel Robert McCulloch were both severely wounded, and command of the forces in front devolved upon Chalmers. Though the pursuit was continued, there was but slight skirmishing after this engagement.[2]


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.[3] If Forrest had been allowed to raid into middle Tennessee prior to the fall of Atlanta, it could have had disastrous consequences for the U.S. Although Smith failed to destroy Forrest's Cavalry Corps at Tupelo, he did break its combat effectiveness. Forrest would rally his horsemen for more daring raids, but never again would they be able to fight and defeat infantry.[1] The conflict is commemorated at the Battle of Tupelo National Historic Site, established in 1929.[1]

Order of battle[edit]

Battlefield monument
Monument to Confederate dead

United States[edit]

Confederate States[edit]

  • Forrest's Cavalry Corps: Lieut. Gen. Stephen Lee, Maj. Gen. Nathan Forrest (w)
    • First Division: Brig. Gen. James Chalmers
      • Roddey's Brigade: Col. Philip Roddey
      • Second Brigade: Col. Robert McCulloch (w)
      • Fourth Brigade: Col. Edmund Rucker (w), Col. William Duff
    • Second Division: Brig. Gen. Abraham Buford
      • Lyon's Brigade: Col. Edward Crossland (w)
      • Third Brigade: Col. Tyree Bell
      • Dismounted Brigade: Lieut. Col. Thomas Barnett

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bearss, Edwin C. (1971). "Protecting Sherman's Lifeline: The Battles of Brices Cross Roads and Tupelo 1864" (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. 
  2. ^ a b c —— & Hooker, Col. Charles E. (1899). Evans, [Brig.] Gen. Clement A., ed. Confederate Military History (PDF). Volume VII: Alabama and Mississippi. Atlanta, Ga.: Confederate Publishing Company. pp. 200,201. Retrieved October 11, 2015. 
  3. ^ Wynne, Ben (2006). Mississippi's Civil War: A Narrative History (1st ed.). Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. pp. 163,164. ISBN 978-0-88146-039-1. 

External links[edit]