Civil War
Field Trip

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Battle of Iuka, MS

In the summer of 2010 I conducted a two week research * tour of Mississippi Civil War sites.  By the end of the tour, I had visited battlefields at Iuka, Corinth, Vicksburg and Port Gibson .... and also:
Port Hudson, Louisiana.  This page of CWFT covers what I saw and discovered of the lesser known (but fascinating) Battle of Iuka Springs. 

This battle of September 19, 1862 was "small" in both the number of troops engaged and in its timeframe but it produced a vicious close-up infantry fight that cost both sides dearly:  In his official report, Confederate Commanding General Sterling Price stated:  "The fight began and was waged with a sevrity I have never seen surassed."  On the Union side, General Charles S. Hamilton recalled, "I never saw a hotter or more destructive engagement."

* Research tour for the book project: 
   The Life and Times of James Berry

Iuka is located in Northeast Mississippi, where U.S. Highway 72 intersects State Highway 26 (about a holf hour drive East of Corinth). Starting point for this CWFT was Mineral Springs Park on Highway 172, near the middle of town.  The springs were the reason Iuka came into existence.  By the time the Civil War began, Iuka was well know in the South as a pleasant resort town where visitors could enjoy the "healing qualities" of the local spring water.
(Above Photo)
A 1902 monument to the Confederate sodiers who fought at Iuka in 1862 stands near the Old Courthouse.

In Mid-September of 1862 a small Confederate army commanded by General Sterling Price scattered a Union Cavalry detacment at Iuka, Mississippi.  The Southern soldiers were elated to discover that in their hurried exit, the Union troopers had left behind a wagon train full of food and supplies.  While his men enjoyed their prize and rested their tired feet, Price studied his next move.  Should he go North to Tennesse and join forces with General Braxtn Bragg for an invaision of Kentucky, or should he go East and team with General Earl Van Dorn for an attack on the Union forts at Corinth.

Three days later the Missioui General learned that he may have tarried too long in Iuka.  A Union army led by General Edward Ord was closing in from the northeast.  With Ord was General U.S. Grant, overall commander of all Fedral forces in Mississippi.  Price, who had proven his leadership ablitiy at Wilson's Creek and Pea Ridge was ready to stand and fight and was preparing to do so when word came that his picketts had been pushed back, South of Iuka. The push was coming from a second Union army headed by General William Rosecrans.  Now Price's little army was outnumbered and being squeezed from two sides.

Sterling Price was fortunate to have a talented young Brigadier in charge of his 1st Division.  General Henry Little was a veteran U.S. Army officer before the Civil War.  Although his home state of Maryland was being held in the Union by force, Little had made the tortured decision to resign his commission and join the Confederate service.  He had served Price well in the early victory at Wilson's Creek and at Pea Ridge his troops had held Curtis' Union army on the second day of the battle, thereby allowing the retreat of the rest of the Confederate army.  On the afternoon of September 19, 1862 Price called on Little again ... this time to counter attack Rosecrans troops in the woods South of Iuka.

Little had been very worried aout his wife and little daughter, trapped behind the Union lines in Missouri. Over the past few months he had been able to receive a few precious letters but just days before he had learned the Confederate agent who smuggled letters through the enemy's lines had been captured.  Little wrote in his diary:  ...goodbye to hearing from my darling wife and child."  It would be his last entry in the journal.
Little sent two brigades (Hebert's & Martins) to Price who took direct command at the battle South of town.  These Confederates captured 9 Union cannons and forced the Federal infanty to withdraw some 600 yards.  Then tragedy struck the Southern army.  Colonel Thomas Snead later wrote:  "After starting his men forward (his other two brigades), Little himself galloped to the front and joined General Price in the thickest of the fight.  While they were consulting, a minie-ball, crashing through Little's forehead, killed him instantly."

(Above Photo)  A Mississippi historical marker on the spot where Confederate Brigadier General Henry Little was killed in battle on September 19th, 1862. ______________________________________________________________
The Battle of Iuka had begun late on the afternoon of September 19th.  As darkness began to fall and word spread through the Confederate regiments that General Little had been killed, the fighting and killing came to an end.  General Price, stunned by the death of his close friend and most reliable officer called a meeting of his other Generals.  It was agreed that though the little Southern army had gotten the best of the Yankees in the days battle, it had also been a stroke of luck that Grant and Ord's troops had strangely remained idle.  Price could not count on that being the case the following day.  He gave the order for his army to retreat and quitely in the middle of the night Price's entire force (including the captured Union supply train) vanished, right under Grant's nose.

(Photo Above) The Cost of War.  In little Shady Grove Cemetery rest the remains of 263 of Price's Confederate soldiers, their names known only by God.  After each battle, Blue or Gray....the young soldiers' wifes, mothers, fathers and children waited for word on the fate of their precious loved one.  Too often, all they could learn was that he wasn't coming home from the war.

Battle of Iuka Casualties:
Confederate:  "....86 killed and 408 wounded.  In addition to these 200 of the Confederate sick were left at Iuka and on the road.  Price's loss, therefore, was about 700."
Union:  "...141 killed, 613 wounded, and 36 missing; total, 790."
* Quotes on Battle of Iuka losses:  CSA Colonel Thomas L. Snead, former member of General Sterling Price's staff, writing in Battles and Leaers after the war.

* Note: that the number of Unknown Condederates burried at Shady Grove far exceeds Colonel Snead's report of "86 killed..."  It is likely that many of the "408 wounded" and the "200 of the Confederate sick (that) were left at Iuka...." died later in the weeks following the battle.
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