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Battle of Iuka
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles


With the Confederate Invasion of Kentucky moving well into the Bluegrass State, Army of Tennessee commander Braxton Bragg worried about Ulysses S. Grant supporting Bragg's opponent Don Carlos Buell. Grant's Army of the Tennessee was spread out from Memphis to Corinth as it prepared for the First Vicksburg Campaign against General Earl Van Dorn. Bragg ordered Sterling Price, then in Tupelo, to do what he could to keep Grant from sending more than the two division he had already sent to Buell.

Price's Army of the West had a distinct disadvantage in going up against Grant. The Army of the Tennessee outnumbered Price's force by more than two to one. Price was unable to harass Grant with anything more than a few cavalry raids until September 11, 1862, when word reached Price that Major General William S. Rosecrans was moving towards Iuka in northeast Mississippi. Grant was afraid that Price might cross the Tennessee and strike the rear of Buell's army, cutting of his supply line. Price assumed that Rosecrans was moving at least a portion of the Army of the Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee

Early in the morning of September 14 Price's cavalry reached Iuka ahead of Rosecrans. They had been riding and arrived before a federal rearguard had time to destroy supplies at the Iuka depot. By noon, Price's entire force was in Iuka, and enjoyed themselves on the Yankee rations. From Iuka Price proposed to General Van Dorn that they make a joint attack on Rosecrans at Corinth.

When word reached Grant on September 16 that Price took Iuka he set in motion a plan proposed by Rosecrans. Two forces totaling 17,000 men would strike Iuka, 9,000 (under Rosecrans) would strike from the south while another 8,000 under General Edward O. C. Ord would strike from the northwest.

Ord arrived as ordered at the drop off point in Burnsville, 6 miles from Iuka, the night of September 18 and got in place to hit Iuka the next day. Unfortunately, Rosecrans' march went awry when a guide took Brigadier General David Stanley's division down the wrong road. As a result, on the night of September 18, 1862, Rosecrans' army was spread across a wide area to the south and west of Iuka. Rosecrans informed General Grant that he would not be in position at daybreak on September 19.

Grant, who had chosen to accompany Ord on the mission, received the telegram early on the morning of the 19th. Grant and Ord agreed that an attack on Iuka without Rosecrans' support would be foolish so Grant wired back that they would await the sounds of battle when Rosecrans arrived. All day Grant and Ord waited for the sound of Rosecrans striking Price from the south. About 4:00pm Grant ordered Ord to advance to within 4 miles of Iuka but added that Ord should "...await the sounds of engagement." Unknown to Grant or Ord, Rosecrans already was engaging the enemy.

Rosecrans never received Grant's reply to his telegram delaying the action on the morning of September 19. At daybreak, with his men sufficiently regrouped to move, Rosecrans sent the word to advance. By noon Old Rosy was 12 milles from Iuka and had not met much Rebel resistance. Still, the Union commander decided that splitting his army to march along the Fulton Road and Jacinto Road, which was the original plan approved by Grant, would be dangerous. Before reaching the intersection of the Jacinto Road and Bay Springs Road just south of Iuka Brigadier General Charles Hamilton division was hit by Price's cavalry pickets.

That Price stayed in Iuka was somewhat startling. His cavalry had reported a sizable force moving south from Burnsville on the evening of September 18. He had not received a reply from Van Dorn on his proposal to combine force for an attack on Corinth, but he had received two more urgent pleas for support from Bragg. As Price prepared to move into Tennessee he received word from Van Dorn that Jefferson Davis had become alarmed at the lack of cooperation between Price and Van Dorn and that the Confederate President had assigned Price's Army to Van Dorn. Davis also ordered Price to join up with Van Dorn at Rienzi, Mississippi, for a campaign into western Tennessee. Price was preparing to withdraw from Iuka when word reached him of the engagement south of the city.

On the morning of September 19, 1862, Sterling Price received an unusual communication from Edward Ord, the Union general in command of the troops moving from Burnsville. The telegram informed Price that General Robert E. Lee had suffered a serious defeat in Maryland (Antietam) and that the Confederate army would surrender in days.

Price stationed most of his men west of the city, not far from the first engagement. Luckily for the Rebels, they weren't that far from Price's headquarters, either. Hamilton's Union soldiers had problems forming a line against the unexpected Rebel attack. Because of Rosecrans choice of using a single road it was proving impossible for additional units to advance to support Hamilton or to advance needed artillery.

Price ordered a brigade from General Henry Little's command to the battle and ordered a second brigade to support in a matter of minutes. Price rode south with the second brigade and when he saw the size of the opposing force he personally returned to Little's HQ and told told the commander to move forward with his entire division. As Price was giving the order a bullet struck Little and killed him instantly.

The Rebel advance paused as they dealt with Little's death. Had this not happened the Confederates stood a good chance of dealing a terrible blow to Hamilton's division. As the Rebels recovered Price put Louis Hebert in change of Little's division and the men quickly moved south, where a full-fledged battle had erupted.

When Hebert and his men arrived they entered a line that was driving Hamilton's forces back. By the end of the day the Union forces were 600 hundred yards behind their original position during about 5 hours of battle. In his official report Rosecrans claimed to have lost 6 cannon during the Rebel drive while Price claimed to have taken 9. Price intended to continue the battle the next day. Assuming the force under Ord had been a ruse Price reassigned Dabney Maury from the northern area of Iuka to the south.

At daybreak on September 20, however, Confederate forces were leaving the city. The Confederate commanders convinced Price that disaster would ensue if he did not retreat immediately. The Confederate wagon were loaded with Union stores as a result of the battle. The fighting cost the Confederates 500 men while it cost the Union 800.

Links appearing on this page:

Antietam
Braxton Bragg
Confederate Invasion of Kentucky
Don Carlos Buell
Earl Van Dorn
First Vicksburg Campaign
Nashville, Tennessee
Sterling Price
Ulysses S. Grant
William S. Rosecrans

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles

Battle of Iuka was last changed on - January 10, 2009
Battle of Iuka was added on - December 31, 2008



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