The Battle of Farmington, Mississippi – Part 1


Little has been written about the post-Shiloh Union advance on Corinth, Mississippi until now. With the release of Timothy B. Smith’s new volume on this campaign; Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation that has changed. Once thought to be an overly cautious, glacially paced period of inaction this period has been brought to life. Included in this new work is a description of the small battle near Farmington, Mississippi that caught my attention. The seemingly insignificant affair had consequences far beyond the short fight and led to a lost Confederate opportunity.

As a wary MG Henry Halleck inched his way forward with his Union host, comprised of MG John Pope’s Army of the Mississippi, MG George Thomas’ Army of the Tennessee, and MG Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio, the Confederate leader faced a difficult choice. In the important railroad junction town of Corinth MG P.G.T. Beauregard realized to wait for the Federal arrival would mean certain failure in the face of Halleck’s multitudes. He understood that while he must prepare the defenses of the town he also had to create a means to strike a blow against any portion of the Federal juggernaut that exposed itself to even the odds. To locate such an opportunity he placed brigade sized elements well forward on the flanks of the Union advance. These units would keep an eye open for the chance that Beauregard was waiting for. The chance to strike was slow in coming.  Halleck operating under the watchful eye of Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott was determined to avoid another Shiloh like surprise moved forward in well-coordinated moves followed by entrenchment at every stop. The painfully cautious advance was made even slower by the onset of violent rains that made the roads a miry mess. Nevertheless Halleck trudged forward is short spurts leaving little chance for successful implementation of his desire to strike. The Confederate outposts were driven back by the sheer weight of the solid blue wall. As the Federals armies approached Corinth the Confederate leader adjusted his defenses but continued to look for a chance to attack.

The approaches to Corinth were laced with water barriers that posed serious obstacles to the Union advance in the wet weather. They would force the Union army to break away from their unified formation to make use of the available crossings. Halleck was cognizant of the dangers the crossings posed and warned against a lack of vigilance whenever they were confronted. Any portion of his army that crossed would be semi-isolated from assistance by the inability to cross large bodies of support troops in an emergency. To avoid catastrophe he insisted on thorough reconnaissance before any passage would be made. These reconnaissance were then to cross back to the safe side of the river to make their report.

As John Pope’s left wing approached Seven Mile Creek during the first week of May Beauregard sensed the opportunity he had been waiting for. Knowing that Pope would have to conduct a reconnaissance in the area south to Bridge Creek he laid out his plan to trap the Federals between the two streams. When the Union foray came Braxton Bragg would confront them with two divisions (Ruggles and Trapier) while Earl Van Dorn with three divisions (Jones, Price, and McCown) marched to an area south of Farmington. When the Federals focused their attention on Bragg their flank would be open and Van Dorn could roll them up with an attack from the south. It was a simple plan but had every chance of being successful if the Union commanders acted as expected. There was no bait necessary, Halleck was coming for Corinth and to get there he had to enter the target area of operations. The only question were when he would do so; in what strength; and how careful they would be when they did so.

Battle of Farmington (Campaign Series)





5 responses to “The Battle of Farmington, Mississippi – Part 1”

  1. Chris Coleman Avatar

    I just read Dan O’Connell’s first post on the post-Shiloh Corinth advance and look forward to more. On linkedin I have been commenting on a Shiloh discussion, arguing that while Beauregard’s handling of the second day of Shiloh may have left something to be desired, his strategic defense of Corinth was skillful, given how badly he was outnumbered by Halleck. My view of Halleck’s generalship, by contrast, more or less mirrors Ambrose Bierce’s views on “Old Brains.” I have penned a bio of Ambrose Bierce’s war career which is in the hands of the editor now and hopefully should be out either later this year or early next, and given that Bierce was involved in almost every major battle of the Army of Ohio/Army of the Cumberland’s, it covers quite a bit of the western theatre operations. One of these days I will get around to reading Mr. Smith’s book on Corinth; in the meantime I Look forward to Mr. O’Connell’s future posts.

    1. Brett Schulte Avatar


      Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading. Keep me posted on your Bierce bio. Back in 2006 or so I commented on a book of Bierce’s short stories here at TOCWOC. He was an incredibly interesting guy, especially his mysterious end.


    2. Dan O'Connell Avatar
      Dan O’Connell

      Thanks for reading along. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.

  2. Dean West Avatar
    Dean West

    Brett & Dan,
    I enjoy reading the articles by both of you. Good information. Will have to purchase Smith’s book on the seige of Corinth.

    Thnaks for the hard work you do to keep us informed.

    Dean West

  3. Rachel McKay Avatar
    Rachel McKay

    I am working on transcribing my great-grandfathers CW letter. He was a doctor with General Popes Army from what I am reading in the first few letters. They start in late April of 1862. Here is one draft that I am working on: In Camp Near Farmington
    7 miles from Corrinth May 5 62
    Dear Emeline

    Yesterday we again
    moved forward. Some there miles,
    but about 2’clock it commenced
    raining & continued with out
    intermission until this morning. &
    and now the clouds are beginning to
    scatter & it will probably clear up
    again. Rain during a march
    is a very disaparable thing. We
    try to take our sick with us, &
    yesterday morning – we loaded
    as many into our ambulances
    as they would hold – & when we
    reached our present camp – an
    order was given for two regiments of
    our brigade to move, forward, as
    skirmishes – the ambulances had
    to follow. & our sick were t?
    tumbled out in the woods under
    a tree. & the rain coming in a


    very uncomfortable manner – our tents
    had not yet come up, the ground
    was covered with the thick growth of
    scrub oak and hickory – well it expended?
    my sympathies very much. to see the
    sick in such a condition – so as sco?
    as the wagons came up – by the
    kind assistance of our excellent Qu-
    artermaster – in detailing a f?
    men to assist in cleaning the ground
    after about two hours – toiling in
    the rain and mud, we succeeded in
    getting one of the one larger Hospital
    tents up – & the mere some, sixteen in
    number, into it , not comfortable
    but they were out of the rain – and
    many of the poor fellows – left in
    their wet blankets, on the damp gr-
    found – soon drop to sleep – & I believe
    this morning they are generally better
    no o has died from sickness in
    this regiment since I came -. I was
    very tired last night, having walked


    out here. eat but little dinner, & worked
    hard, in the rain, two hours – but, I got
    my tent up a little after dark, had
    a supper of hot coffee – sage tea, b?
    little boiled ham, went to bed.
    slept, very good – got up at six when
    it had quit raining – washed, went
    through with my sick call, prescribed
    for some. Seventy men – ate my
    breakfast. & now feel first rate
    day before yesterday a reconnaissance
    was made, a mile or two beyond
    when we now ar – a battery was. Moved
    out & a large detachment of men. Cavarly
    & infantry – they discovered a small
    rebel battery – & some. Rebel infantry &
    calvary – & there upon the cannon fired?
    up, the first I had heard of any
    importance, the firing was some
    miles from our Camp – but I
    could hear it very distinctly, there
    was about one hundred shots fired
    the rebels were driven from works there


    & forced to return – I learned between
    thirty & forty of them were killed
    most of them by our sharp shooters
    how many were wounded – we could
    not ascertain – a few of our men
    were wounded – but none killed
    there is still doubt as to whether
    ?? battle will be fought ??
    ??? believe the Enemy are receiving
    large reinforcements – while others
    think they are already fallen back
    there is but little doubt but we
    will know which of these opinions
    are correct before this reaches you,
    although I might & talk freely with
    the officers of on regiment, they do not
    ? to know any more than I do
    as ??? ??? to do the
    fighting & talks any part in the
    management of this Grand Army
    I ??? that to those whose ???
    it is – my experience here in the ???
    of the variety & character of dis???
    prevented. I consider of great valor
    If in ? camp life – if the weather
    was pleasant rather agreeable – the
    fare? I can get along with very well but
    if I had a pound of your butter once weekly?
    it would add ???gh to the relish – when
    we will move from here I do not know
    good by Em yours ? MJ Hormell

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