Conclusion and Assessment
Van Dorn’s force had failed to cut off the Federal escape route as expected. In fact they failed to show up on the field at all. Bragg and Beauregard, although pleased with their success, lamented that the Union loss had not been more complete. When questioned Van Dorn excused his absence from the field stating that swamps and other natural obstacles had prevented him from getting into the proper position on time. Failure to communicate these difficulties allowed Ruggles to start the assault prematurely. It mattered little in the end as he had enough troops available to overpower the weak Federal defense.
The victory at Farmington, although small, had a significant impact on the remainder of the campaign. Halleck, once again reminded of the Confederate ability to surprise him, became even more cautious. He began to focus his energies on preparing for a defensive battle rather than continuing to move towards his objective. The unpredictable Pope remained a concern. The Federal high command began to wonder about Pope’s penchant for independent action. For his part Beauregard focused his attentions on the Union left in the hope that Pope would offer up another chance and he planned to be ready.
Beauregard, encouraged by the small triumph and the stalled Union approach, used the time to fabricate another plan for a blow at the Union left. The plan was very similar to the one he used to rout the Union troops from Farmington on the 9th. The primary differences being the increased strength of the attack and the initiation point. Despite his failure in the first flanking attempt Van Dorn, supported by Hardee, was to lead the Confederate flank move again and he would begin the assault. Once his flank attack was engaged a powerful main body would strike with corps in echelon in an effort to roll up the entire left wing of the Union line. This time it would not be a small scale affair. Beauregard began stripping away strength from the less active portions of his line to build a much larger strike force. In a complicated series of movements Beauregard shifted the majority of his army to his right flank undetected and waited.
His chance to conduct his counter offensive came on May 20th. As the Union right inched forward Pope’s position on the left became isolated and vulnerable. Beauregard ordered the strike for the 21st. Van Dorn argued that the flank march could not be conducted in the time allotted and requested that the attack be postponed for one day. Beauregard gave in with a stern warning that Van Dorn be on time. Every moment that the other portions of the line remained empty was a chance for the Federals to attack. About 0200 on the 22nd Van Dorn departed with the flank marchers while the main body waited for the sound of his guns. The appointed time came and nothing was heard from Van Dorn. At 0800 a note arrived at Beauregard’s headquarters. Van Dorn reported that he had been delayed by “bad management and stupidity of officers.” He also noted that the heavy overnight rains had created unexpected natural obstacles. Beauregard and the main body continued to wait. Hours passed and still nothing. Around noon another note arrived with news that left Beauregard crestfallen.
“Cannot attack and am returning.”
Without timely communications with Beauregard, Van Dorn decided to accept the responsibility of determining the fate of the attack himself. Still not in position by noon he determined that it was too late to initiate the attack and counter marched his troops towards the entrenchments. Once again Van Dorn’s failure had destroyed Beauregard’s carefully constructed plan. This failure could not be saved with a positive result by the other forces. Beauregard scrambled to get his army back into their trenches before the Federal commanders saw the weakness. But the damage was done and could not be repaired. Unable to seriously wound the Union army Beauregard realized the impossibility of defending the town from the trenches against the full Federal force. On May 30thCorinth was abandoned. Halleck’s excruciatingly slow advance proved a successful strategy for winning the objective. It was a relatively bloodless triumph thanks to Van Dorn’s failure.
Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation; Timothy B. Smith
The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster; Dennis W. Belcher
The Eagle Regiment: 8th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers; John M. Williams
Confederate Military History: Alabama and Mississippi; Clement A Evans
The Army of Tennessee; Stanley F. Horn
The Military Memoirs of General John Pope; John PopeBattle of Farmington (Campaign Series)