Sunday, January 25, 2009
Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield - Baldwyn, Mississippi
One of the most dramatic Confederate victories of the Civil War was achieved by Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest at a rural crossroads just north of the modern city of Tupelo.
The Battle of Brices Cross Roads, fought on June 10, 1864, is studied by military officers to this day because of the sweeping victory obtained there by Forrest over a Union army twice the size of his own. More than 1,300 acres of the site are now preserved as the Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield. The visitor center is located in Baldwyn and the battlefield is just west of that town.
The battle took place when General William Tecumseh Sherman began his Atlanta Campaign. As his troops moved forward, they were forced to depend on a tenuous supply line more than 100 miles long. Sherman rightly feared that the Confederacy's "Wizard of the Saddle," Nathan Bedford Forrest, would move against his supply line, possibly bringing the campaign to a halt before it reached its objective. To counter such a move, he ordered Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis to move out from Memphis and invade Mississippi with an army large enough to deal with Forrest.
Sturgis left Memphis with 8,100 men and an impressive supply of field artillery and marched across the line into Mississippi. Forrest, who had already pushed into Alabama for a strike on Sherman's supply line, turned back to meet the new threat and the two forces collided at Brices Cross Roads on the morning of June 10, 1864.
With only 3,500 men, Forrest drove back Sturgis' force of more than 8,000 through the use of impressive battlefield tactics. By afternoon the Union general knew that he had been beaten and ordered a withdrawal. The retreat turned into a disaster when wagons overturned on the Tishomingo Creek Bridge, allowing Confederate troops to trap hundreds of wagons, hundreds of Union soldiers and 16 pieces of artillery. Sturgis is said to have exclaimed, "For God's sake, if Mr. Forrest will let me alone, I will let him alone!"
The Confederates lost 493 men in the battle, while inflicting a shocking loss of around 2,613 men on Sturgis' command.
To learn more about the Battle of Brices Cross Roads, please visit our new Brices Cross Roads page at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bricescrossroads.