Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Battle of Brice's Crossroads

The Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest had long been a thorn in the side of the Federal forces in the west. He had caused much trouble with his daring and relentless raids on the Union supply line. William Tecunseh Sherman decided to put this to end once and for all. He ordered Samuel Sturgis to lead a force of 8,500 men to destroy Forrest, then in northern Mississippi or Alabama. This column set out on June 1. Forrest correctly guessed that they were first headed to Tupelo, Mississippi, and decided to try to strike them without waiting for reinforcements. He planned to hit the Union cavalry, which led the column, at a place called Brice's Crossroads. When some infantry arrived to reinforce them, he planned to drive them west on a creek and destroy the force he was facing.

The battle began around 10:30 on June 10, 150 years ago today. According to plan, the Confederate troopers pushed the Union cavalry hard, their their commander, Benjamin Grierson, called for infantry reinforcements. These around around 1:30, and the presence of these troops gave the Union the upper hand for a short time. But then Forrest sprang the trap. He launched heavy attacks on the Union right and left flanks, and the Union men were driven into a tight semi-circle around the crossroads. The 2nd Tennessee cavalry attacked the bridge over which the Federal forces had crossed the creek. Although they were driven back, the Federal forces panicked and Sturgis ordered them to fall back. This retreat soon turned into a route with the Confederate troopers right on the heels of fleeing bluecoats. In this fight the Confederates lost 492 men, the Federals 2,240 – mostly captured. In Sturgis' attempt to capture Forrest he had been ambushed and whipped. The “Wizard of the Saddle” had won yet another victory.


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