Saturday, March 18, 2006

Siege of Corinth

Next month will see Corinth's turn to be introduced by the Civil War Campaigns and Commanders series with Campaign for Corinth: Blood in Mississippi. Although the almost two month long campaign commonly called the 'Siege of Corinth' is introduced, the book's focus appears to be on the later events in the area during September and October of the same year--the battles of Iuka, Corinth, and Davis Bridge. Unfortunately, at least as far as I know, no book length study of the Siege of Corinth exists. This is a significant gap in the military historiography of the war. To me, the campaign is worthy of study on several levels:

  • The operation was massive in scale (up to 120,000 Federals and 75,000 Confederates); and who knows if these numbers are even accurate, and, additionally, I've never seen a detailed order-of-battle anywhere.

  • We have the interesting and unique opportunity to study Halleck as field commander; and, furthermore, all the 'big men' from the U.S. side--Pope, Grant, Buell, Thomas, Sherman--were in the field together for the only time during the war.

  • The Union advance was in short stages with the completion of fortified lines at each halt. This use of fortifications on the offensive was novel for the period and deserves a detailed examination. (We need Earl Hess here!)

  • The political, social, and military consequences of the war's first mass bloodletting at Shiloh (including the handling of Grant) could be studied to good effect at this moment.

  • It was perhaps during this campaign more than any other that disease had the greatest influence on the condition of the opposing armies. The swampy terrain's insect denizens and lack of potable water put men in the hospital by the tens of thousands. A medical study of this campaign could probably fill a book of its own.

  • The railroad junction at Corinth was one of the 'great points' of the Confederacy and a detailed reevaluation of the periods immediately before, during, and after the siege may provide some rich ground for a fresh strategic analysis.

The lack of a signature battle or truly any significant fighting at all (the fight at Farmington won't cut it) has probably contributed to this campaign being ignored relative to the other western campaigns in 1862. It's a shame.

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