Monday, May 21, 2007

Iuka, MS

Date: 19 September, 1862


Union: Major General William Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Mississippi.

Confederate: Major General Sterling Price, commanding the Army of the West.

Prelude: This was an opportunity for the Confederates to gain some ground while everyone was occupied with General Braxton Bragg’s Kentucky invasion. The hope here was that a better defense against the Union advance could be maintained. If the Federals could be stopped, then a counteroffensive could be launched into Tennessee, and maybe even Western Kentucky.

14 September, 1862: Price takes 14000 and seizes Iuka.

The sudden appearance of a Confederate force that could cause trouble forced Major General Ulysses S. Grant to change some of his plans. He was planning to send reinforcements to assist Major General Don Carlos Buell’s efforts against Bragg. Instead, Grant devises a plan to take Price out. The army would be split in two; one group, led by Rosecrans, would swing south, and then head north east to strike Iuka. Grant would come from the north and northwest. This would place Price in a vise.

Iuka itself sits on a rail line 30 miles east of the town of Corinth, already in Union hands since 30 May. Federal possession of the rail line could help in operations into Alabama and beyond. Another advantage for the Federals would be that no other Confederate operations would interfere with future Union operations along the Mississippi River, especially the future campaign against Vicksburg.

19 September, 1862: In the afternoon, Rosecrans begins his approach to Iuka. At about 2:30 p.m., Confederate scouts spot the Union forces and quickly gets a message to Price. He orders the division of Brigadier General Lewis Henry Little to deploy and engage Rosecrans.

Little places his three brigades in a line southwest of the town, with artillery covering his flanks. Rosecrans places his two divisions in a line to meet Little, with heavy artillery support and cavalry covering the Union right flank. The artillery pounds the approaching Confederates.

4:00 p.m.: The center Confederate division launches an assault on the Union center, which was supported by a forward artillery battery. A seesaw battle over the possession of the battery ensues.

5:00 p.m.: A second Confederate brigade launches an assault on the Federal left, collapsing it and allowing the Federal battery to be seized. During this action Little is killed.

6:00 p.m.: The Federal left rallies and counterattacks, recapturing the battery. Until darkness falls, the battery changes hands several times.

As darkness falls, the fighting ends. At this point, Price receives word of the second Federal force coming from the north. He orders an immediate withdraw to the south, which is accomplished during the night.

20 September, 1862: Rosecrans orders an assault into Iuka, only to find the Confederates left during the night. A pursuit is ordered.

Price had marched south to the town of Baldwyn, where he receives a message from the new Confederate commander in Mississippi and East Louisiana, Lieutenant General Earl Van Dorn, ordering him to Ripley, where they will plan the next phase.

Iuka cost Price 535 causalities, mostly in Little’s brigade. Rosecrans lost 790.

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