Battle of Brice's Crossroads

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Battle of Brice's Crossroads
Tishomingo Creek

June 10, 1864


Same day


Prentiss and Union Counties, Mississippi


Western Theater


Forrest’s Defense of Mississippi


Confederate victory

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Three-brigade division

Forrest's Cavalry Corps


Samuel D. Sturgis
Brigadier General, USA

Nathan Bedford Forrest
Major General, CSA








At the beginning of June 1864, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest set out with his cavalry corps of about 3,500 men to enter Middle Tennessee and destroy the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, which was carrying men and supplies to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman in Georgia. On June 10, 1864, Forrest’s smaller Confederate force defeated a much larger Union column under Brig. Gen. Samuel Sturgis at Brice's Cross Roads. This brilliant tactical victory against long odds cemented Forrest’s reputation as one of the foremost mounted infantry leaders of the war.


In 1863 Federal armies won important victories at Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga. In the spring of 1864 the Federal mission was to bisect the South from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the Atlantic coast at Savannah, Georgia. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman wanted to destroy the Confederate Army led by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and occupy Atlanta along the way as he executed his “March to the Sea.”

Sherman knew that his plan was vulnerable. To supply his large troop movement into north Georgia, he depended on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. This line could be most threatened by the excellent horseman of Confederate Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry corp. Sherman needed to keep Forrest in north Mississippi.

On June 1 Forrest put his 3,500 horsemen in motion at Tupelo, headed for Tennessee. By June 4 they had reached Russellville, Alabama. Meanwhile, a concerned Sherman ordered Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis and a force of 8,100 to move out of Memphis and threaten north Mississippi in hopes of drawing Forrest away from Sherman’s much needed railroad in Tennessee. It worked! Forrest was ordered by Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Lee to return to Tupelo. On the evening of June 9, Forrest learned that Sturgis’s forces were camped about 10 miles northwest of Brices Cross Roads. Both commanders knew that the next day would bring battle.


Sturgis's army moved out at dawn on June 10, 1864, headed southeast, the cavalry in the lead. About a half-mile east of the crossroads the lead elements of the Federal cavalry met the Confederate Kentucky brigade about 9:30 a.m. and the battle began. By 11:00 a.m. Forrest, now reinforced, began to push the Federals back toward the crossroads. The Federal horsemen held out long enough for infantry reinforcement. Having formed an arcing battle line around the crossroads, the two forces battled for the next 4 hours. By 5 p.m., after enveloping both Federal flanks and launching a slashing frontal attack, Forrest had shattered Sturgis's line, forcing the Federals to retreat back toward Memphis. An overturned wagon at the Tishomingo Creek bridge slowed the Federal retreat and resulted in the loss of 16 artillery pieces and supply wagons containing guns and ammunition. Thanks to a series of defensive actions by a brigade of United States Colored Troops, most of Sturgis's army was able to escape almost certain capture.

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