The 18th Arkansas Infantry Home Page

Charge on the Union Fortifications at Corinth Mississippi

   

    (Into the Mouth of The Cannon, 18th Arkansas), Book contains some information on 10th, 11th, 12th,14th,15th, 17th, 20th 23rd Arkansas, also1st Alabama, and 39th Mississippi.

   

 Synopsis and excerpts from the book:    18th Arkansas infantry was ordered to Fort Pillow, Tennessee. When the regiment left on their first assignment, they numbered about 1000 men strong. Unfortunately, the regiment begins to experience bad luck on their track to Fort Pillow, Tennessee. After departing Little Rock, Arkansas on their way to do DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, the regiment was devastated by a small box epidemic, which decimated their ranks. By the time they reach their assignment at Fort Pillow, their trail was marked by many graves of fallen comrades who had to be buried on the way.
Fort Pillow is located on the Mississippi River 60 miles above Memphis, Tennessee. The site was ideally located because it offered a strong defensive position, being situated on high bluffs overlooking the river. In 1861 the Confederate Army built extensive fortifications along these bluffs. This landmark on the river was known as the Cherokee Bluffs. The location offered a panoramic view of traffic on the river as commerce traveled up the Mississippi.
    During the time the 18th Arkansas infantry was assigned to this post, a series of naval engagements took place between Union gunboats and Confederate naval vessels call Rams. The Confederates were attempting to silence the heavy siege mortars the union had employed, throwing 13-inch bombs at the fortifications from a safe distance of two miles. Surprising, as it may seem, it wasn't the exploding shrapnel that threatened the regiment. The 18th continued to experience sickness and disease that was more deadly than the union artillery barrage.
The price of holding onto this strategic point by the Confederate defenders was apparently becoming too costly. On June 4, 1862, the Confederate command ordered the fort to be evacuated.
    After the evacuation of Fort Pillow, the 18th was ordered below Corinth, Mississippi. Their luck did not improve while assigned to Corinth. Bad weather plagued the troops, adding to their dilemma.
    The 18th Arkansas Regiment was part of Cabell's Brigade, commanded by General William. L. Cabell. This unit was assigned to General Price's army in Mississippi. On September 11, 1862, the Army moved out of its Guntown and Baldwyn area camps, located along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad north of Tupelo, Mississippi and marched towards the town of Iuka, Mississippi.
The 18th Arkansas infantry participated in the Battle of Iuka, fought on September19, 1862. During the battle, the 18th Arkansas infantry was held in reserve and acted as a rear guard preventing General Rosecrans' union army from pursuing Price's army, as Price retreated back to his Baldwyn base. The Battle of Iuka resulted in a Confederate defeat and must have been disheartening to the 18th Arkansas infantry. In spite of all the hardships that they had experienced, caused by disease and bad weather, they had trained hard for this engagement.
    The armies of General Earl Van Dorn and General Sterling Prize were ordered by the Confederate high command under General Bragg, to combine their strengths at Ripley, Mississippi. This build-up of Confederate troops was for the purpose of capturing the federal fortifications at Corinth.
    On the morning of September 29, 1862, the combined armies under the command of Van Dorn marched out of Ripley in the direction of Pocahontas, Mississippi. The movement was intended to create an illusion that an attack was coming against Bolivar, Tennessee, thus diverting General Grant's attention from the true objective. General Grant was closely watching the build-up of Confederate troops in the Ripley area and quickly began responding to this threat. His reconnaissance was reporting these movements and because of this, he began to reinforce the union army at Corinth preventing impending defeat. The two opposing armies were nearly equal now.
    The march from Ripley had taken its toll on the Confederate army. Temperatures had soared into the nineties, causing fatigue in the troops. By the 9.30 a.m. Van Dorn's Army had positioned itself close to the outer works of the fortifications. The Confederate divisions General Lowell, Maury and Hubert commenced the attack and by the evening they had fought their way to the old pre-existing Confederate earthen works that were constructed by the Southern Army in attempting fortify Corinth, before the federal capture of Corinth. Van Dorn met strong resistance from the union army that checked their advance. That night the two opposing armies tried to sleep and perhaps pray, as they waited for the morning that would bring added hostilities.
    On the morning of October 4, 1862, Johnny Reb woke up to the sound of Confederate cannon signaling that the battle was about to begin. The assault against the federal fortifications should have taken place soon after the artillery bombardment, directed at the enemy's batteries. General Louis Hubert was sick, delaying their anticipated victory that morning and had to be replaced by General Green. It wasn't until 10:00 that morning that the first assaulting waves of General Green command were directed at Battery Powell.
Three assaulting columns were thrown against batteries Robinett and Powell. It was on the last attack that Cabell's Brigade was ordered to reinforce Colonel Gates Missouri troops. The 18th Arkansas had been waiting for the anticipated order to move out and assist the first attack on Battery Powell.
    General Cabell wrote "About 11 a.m. I received an order from General Maury, delivered by Captain Floweree, adjutant General, to move rapidly to support of Colonel Gates, who had entered the enemy's breastworks and could not hold it for want of ammunition. This order was received with a shout by the whole brigade, we had stood this terrible cannonading for more than hour." (O R. Vol.XV11/1 Series 24)
Almost as one man it could be clearly heard the shouting of "Butler" as the 18th Arkansas under the command of Colonel John Daly moved out of the woods to face the mouth of the cannon. One the officers Lieutenant George W. Isaacs Co. H was aware of what he was about to face, for he was a veteran of three battles, and the memory of the fight at Oak's Hills Missouri must have been fresh on his mind. The 18th Arkansas infantry charged and closed in on the right of the Battery Powell. It was no longer sickness and disease that was thinning their ranks for the air was filled with deadly projectiles that carried the mark of death. Most of George's commanding officers were either wounded or killed including Colonel John Daly before they could reach the fortifications. George must have been able to clearly see that he was one of the few officers that were left to lead the few. Raising his sword even higher he beckoned the few forward. Bullets that severed three fingers, knocking his sword to the ground soon stopped his gesture. True to his resolve to lead, he reached down and picked up the sword with the other hand and said to men," Follow Me". This was a last request that Lieutenant George W. Isaacs asked his command. George died October 10, 1862 near Holly Springs, Mississippi. The remnants of General Earl Van Dorn and General Sterling Prize's armies retreated to Van Dorn's headquarters at Holly Springs, Mississippi to regroup.

    Special Orders Number One was issued by Brigadier General John S. Bowen's division camped near Lumpkins Mill, Mississippi, on October 21, 1862.  The order dealt with transporting several regiments by rail, including the 14th, 17th, 16th, 18th Infantry, Adams, and Jones Arkansas Infantry.  The order reads, "The following details of troops will be made from this division to report as soon as practicable at the Waterford Station, on the railroad.  They will be provided with three days' cooked rations:  will take all their baggage, tents with them."1  Waterford Station is located a few miles south of Holly Springs and not too far from Lumpkins Mill where the 18th was camped.  The Confederates were using the railroad station as a staging ground to transport troops south to Port Hudson, Louisiana.

    Port Hudson was of critical importance to the confederate defense of the Mississippi River. The fortifications built there by the confederate army were strategically located on high bluffs overlooking a sharp bend in the river. Any union naval gunboat was in clear view and had to slow down when making a turn at this point in the river. Because of its ideal location it could be easily be defended by confederate guns.
The siege of Port Hudson began on May 23, 1863. A vastly outnumbered force of determined southern defenders was pitted against 30,000 union soldiers. What began on that day was a siege that was to last for 48 days. This was the longest siege in United States military history. Ferocious assaults were thrown against the 6,800 brave defenders during the siege. These actions constituted some of the most severe and bloodiest fighting of the entire civil war. The siege took a heavy toll on both union, and confederate forces. Estimated casualties on the union side were over 5,000 men. The confederate forces suffered greatly also. Towards the end of the siege, the confederate army had exhausted their ammunition. They had to resort to eating mules, horses, and rats to keep from starving.
 

 

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Copyright 2007 by Robert Reynolds

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

First published by Author House 3/13/2007

Library of Congress Control Number: 2005910732