Friday, June 18, 2010

Battle of Booneville - Booneville, Mississippi

On July 1, 1862, Confederate cavalry forces led by General James R. Chalmers attacked Union cavalry forces at Booneville, Mississippi. The battle that followed would lead to widespread acclaim in the North for Colonel "Little" Phil Sheridan and in part to his promotion to brigadier general.

As the story was told in the North, Sheridan was camped at Booneville with two regiments of Union cavalry, the Second Michigan and Second Iowa. On the morning of July 1, 1862, Confederate troops drove in his pickets on the outskirts of town and a full scale battle quickly developed. The Federals were initially driven back, but Sheridan saved the day by carrying out simultaneous attacks on both the Confederate flank and rear.

This much of the story is true, but word quickly spread that with only 700 or so men, Sheridan had stood down a devastating attack by from 4000 to 5000 Confederates. Not only was he credited with holding back the Southern attack, but the force at the colonel's command claimed to have killed 65 Confederates while losing only one man killed.

It was the story that made Sheridan a hero in the North and started him on the road that would lead to a careeer as one of the most determined and successful Union generals. The problem is that it might not be entirely true.

A report by Confederate General Braxton Bragg prior to the battle indicates that General Chalmers commanded a cavalry force of only 1,200 to 1,500 men, not the 4,000 - 5,000 claimed by Sheridan. Chalmers himself wrote that he sent only three regiments - the First Confederate Cavalry, the First Alabama cavalry and Wirt Adams' regiment from Mississippi - into the Battle of Booneville. In a letter written after the war he credited Sheridan with being a capable and brave general, but called the Northern version of the battle "simply ridiculous."

To learn more about the Battle of Booneville, please visit

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