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Tupelo

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TUPELO, Battle of. In March 1864, Gen. N. B. Forrest, at the head of a large force of Confederate mounted infantry, advanced from Mississippi and made a raid through West Ten nessee to Paducah, Ky. Upon his return he assaulted and captured Fort Pillow (q.v.) on 12 April. General Sturgis set out from Memphis to pursue him, and was badly defeated by For rest, at Guntown (q.v.), 10 June, and pursued back to Memphis. On 5 July Gen. A. I. Smith, with Colonel Grierson's cavalry division, two infantry divisions of Gen. J. A. Mower and Col. D. Moore, of the 16th corps, and a brigade of colored troops, under Col. E. Bou ton, in all about 14,000 men-11,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry— and 24 guns, left La Grange, Tenn., to march southward against Forrest, then reported in the vicinity of Tupelo, Miss. On the evening of the 7th one of Grierson's cav alry brigades, when near Ripley, attacked a Confederate cavalry force of 500 men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hyams, driving it back and inflicting a loss of 35 killed and wounded, with a loss to itself of four wounded. Smith moved on through Ripley, crossed the Tallahatchie River at New Albany on the 9th and on the 10th encamped about five miles north of Pon totoc. Next morning the march was resumed and Pontotoc was found occupied by McCul loch's cavalry brigade, supported by a brigade on a hill immediately south. The Seventh Kansas cavalry were deployed as skirmishers and, sup ported by a brigade of infantry, advanced and drove in the Confederate skirmishers and at the same time Grierson's cavalry, gainin'g the east side of the town, attacked the Confederates in flank and drove them from the place and the hill beyond, leaving several dead and wounded. Gen. S. D. Lee joined Forrest and assumed com mand of all the Confederate forces. Smith remained at Pontotoc on the 12th and a recon noissance developed the fact that the main Confederate force was about nine miles south on the Okolona road, on the opposite side of a low, swampy bottom, through which ran two creeks, a position which he did not deem pru dent to attack, and upon which he demonstrated only. Early in the morning of the 13th he marched out of the town eastward for Tupelo, 18 miles distant, on the Mobile and Ohio Rail road. General Lee, informed of Smith's move ment, ordered it checked before the railroad was reached. Forrest, with a brigade and a regiment, made successive attacks upon the rear, which was covered by Bouton's colored brigade and the Seventh Kansas cavalry, but was repulsed and kept back, and Buford s and Chalmers' divisions attacked the train in flank, causing the destruction of a few wagons, but were driven back by Mower's division, which captured some prisoners and a battle-flag. At dark Smith camped at Harrisburg, a mile from Tupelo, in good position on a knoll almost clear of trees, beyond which was a growth of timber. Mower's division was drawn up on the right of the Pontotoc road, on which the army had marched, and Moore's division on the left of the road, with Bouton's colored brigade on the extreme left. Meanwhile Grier son's cavalry division had occupied Tupelo, proceeded to destroy the railroad and was then disposed on both flanks of the infantry. Early

in the morning of the 14th Lee ordered For rest to attack Smith's left, and at 7.30 A.M. Forrest, having dismounted his entire command, made an impetuous charge, with four brigades in line, supported by Chalmers' division and Lyons' brigade. The assault fell upon Moore's division and the left of Mower's, but failed to shake either, although four successive attempts were made. Between the assaults Forrest's artillery was very active, but was effectively replied to by two Union batteries, whose fire was so annoying that a brigade charged them but was repulsed. After a hard struggle of one and one-half hours Forrest withdrew from Moore's front, leaving many dead and wounded. He now marched to the left, crossed the Pon totoc road and advanced in three lines against Mower, whose men reserved their fire, until the charging lines, closed in mass, were quite near; then they opened upon them with musketry and canister, driving them back in disorder ; but they rallied and renewed the attack. For over two hours the battle raged on Mower's front; then he ordered his division to advance, which it did, capturing many pris oners and driving Forrest from the field about noon. The afternoon was spent caring for the wounded of both armies and burying the dead. About 9 o'clock in the evening Forrest made an attack upon the extreme left of the Union line, including Bouton's colored brigade. The attack was easily repulsed. At an early hour of the 15th Forrest's men advanced from the cover of the woods in front of Mower's division; Mower charged them and they fled to their horses and rode away. Meanwhile another advance was made on the extreme left, held by Bouton's brigade. For two hours there was sharp artillery firing, when Forrest, under cover of his guns, came forward, but was met by a counter-charge, led by Smith, which broke Forrest's, line and sent it in retreat. It was now past noon. Smith's ammunition had run low and he had a scant supply. of rations. Grier son had destroyed some miles of railroad and after the last repulse of Forrest Smith moved slowly northward about five miles and went into camp for the night at Old Town Creek. The men were settling themselves for a rest when shells from the rear fell and burst among them. Bell's brigade, with a battery, had closely followed the column and attacked; Mower turned upon them; Crossland's brigade came up and joined Bell; but both were repulsed by Mowet• with severe loss and fell back upon Mc Culloch's brigade, which held ground. McCul loch was desperately wounded, Forrest was wounded and some prominent officers were killed. Smith resumed his march next morning, followed for two days by two brigades of For rest's cavalry and reached Memphis on the 23d. Smith had about 14,000 men engaged and his losses, from the 11th to the 15th, were 77 killed, 559 wounded and 38 missing. The Confederate troops engaged numbered about 6,600; their losses, as reported by Forrest, were 210 killed and 1,116 wounded. Consult 'Official Records' (Vol. XXXIX) ; Wyeth, 'Life of Gen. N. B. Forrest' ; The Century Company's 'Battles and Leaders of the Civil War' (Vol. IV).