Civil War Book Review: Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation

Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation
by Timothy B. Smith

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (May 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070061852X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700618521


Railroads were the “super highways” of the Civil War.  Unlike today, railroads went into towns and/or towns went to railroads.  During the war, both sides expended considerable effort to break these lines.  Raids would cut the line for a few weeks at most.  The real destruction of major bridges or tunnels exceeded the abilities of most raiders.  The solution is to occupy the town thereby cutting the rail line once and for all.

Corinth Mississippi straddled major east/west and north/south rail lines.  In early 1862, the east/west line was a major objective.  The north/south line supported any advance or defense of the city.  Shiloh was the South’s major effort to hold Corinth.  Defeat at Shiloh put Corinth on the frontline.

This book starts with the North’s advance after Shiloh.  We follow one city from major objective to important supply point to of no great use but occupied.  In doing this, we gain an understanding of the Civil War’s impact on one Southern city.

We open with Halleck’s campaign to capture the city after Shiloh.  The conventional idea that Halleck slowly dug his way to Corinth is not the case.  This part of the book looks at a series of sharp engagement that proved the South was not beaten.  This section ends with the occupation of the city.

Next, we look at the battle of Iuka as the North consolidates control of the area.  This leads to an excellent history of the beginnings of the Grant/Rosecrans argument.

The Battle of Corinth, rightly, consumes the majority of attention.  We see how this battle is part of the South’s fall of 1862 offensive.  The book contains a detailed description of the battle with some good maps.  We follow the defeated Confederate’s retreat and the North’s effort to destroy their army.  The book has a good discussion of Rosecrans’ actions during the pursuit.  After the battle, Corinth became an occupied city.  The struggle is to keep the north/south trains running and pacify the area.  Van Doran’s raid on Holly Springs convinces Grant that the campaign for Vicksburg needs to center on the Mississippi River not on a rail line.

Corinth becomes a backwater post.  The rations are good; barracks well above average and the duty is easy for the most part.  The city is a center for recruiting and training the USCT.  The city becomes a major “contraband” encampment with the attendant missionaries.  A constant and nasty guerrilla war is the only drawback to this assignment.  From time to time, the city serves as a center for operations into Mississippi or Alabama.  The book ends with a short chapter on reconstruction, remembrance and preservation.

This is a good-looking well-done book.  The writing is excellent.  The illustrations and maps are in the right place.  The book contains a full set footnotes, index and bibliography.  This is the best history of this area that I have found.  Highly recommended, it will expand your knowledge of this little covered area.


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