Battle of Brice’s Crossroads
At the beginning of June, 1864, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest set out with his cavalry corps of about 2,000 men to enter Middle Tennessee and destroy the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, which was carrying men and supplies to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman in Georgia. On June 10, 1864, Forrest’s smaller Confederate force defeated a much larger Union column under Brig. Gen. Samuel Sturgis at Brice’s Crossroads. This brilliant tactical victory against long odds cemented Forrest’s reputation as one of the foremost mounted infantry leaders of the war. The Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Commission has purchased 1600 acres of the hallowed ground and with the help of the Civil War Trust and local support, has interpreted seven sites on the battlefield. A one-acre site maintained by the National Park Service at the site of the Brice house contains a monument and two cannons which commemorate the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.
Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg
The first day of the Battle of Tupelo, which occurred at the historic town of Harrisburg, is interpreted by the National Park Service at the one-acre Tupelo National Battlefield on Main Street (Highway 6) in Tupelo.
On the morning of July 14, the Battle of Tupelo began at 7:30 a.m. when the Confederates began a series of uncoordinated charges against the Federal position. These attacks were beaten back with heavy losses. Failing to break the Federal center, the Confederates attacked the Federal right again without success. After dark, the Confederates made another attack from the south without significant effect. Although his troops had repulsed several Confederate attacks, General Smith (Federal) was alarmed. The heat was taking its toll on his soldiers. Also, due to bad planning, his men had little but coffee and worm-infested hardtack (crackers) to eat, and their ammunition supply was very low.
Old Town Creek
This site interprets the second day of fighting. It is located on 12 acres at the Creek, located on Mt. Vernon Road north of Tupelo. At 2 p.m. on July 15, after skirmishing with Confederates on the western and southern fronts, the Federals began marching north in the direction of Memphis. They marched four miles and crossed to the north side of Old Town Creek and camped in the late afternoon. At 5 p.m., from a commanding ridge south of Old Town Creek, Confederate forces surprised Smith’s troops with artillery and infantry fire. The Federals scrambled and formed a line that pushed the Confederates off the ridge and forced them to retreat to Harrisburg. The fight at Old Town Creek ended the Battle of Tupelo. Among the casualties was Forrest himself, who was kept out of action for three weeks. This site is owned and interpreted by the Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Commission. Both the first and second days of the Battle of Tupelo-Harrisburg are interpreted at the Mississippi’s Final Stands Interpretive Center at 607 Grisham Street in Baldwyn. These battles and the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads are considered the last stands of the Confederate cavalry in Northeast Mississippi in the summer of 1864 and are sites where military history was made.