09 July 2008 by Published in: Research and Writing 10 comments

Old friend Dave Powell left a comment on last night’s post suggesting that I include the July 13-14, 1864 Battle of Tupelo to bookend/contrast Brice’s Crossroads. Forrest was badly beaten at Tupelo, so it makes a great contrast to Brice’s Crossroads. After talking it over with Greg Biggs, I’ve decided to do just that. So, the project will now include both Brice’s Crossroads and Tupelo. It should be interesting. Thanks for the excellent suggestion, Dave.

According to the National Park Service website, there is a one-acre monument to the battle in Tupelo proper, but it appears that that one acre is about all that’s been formally preserved. Greg doesn’t know the battlefield, so the challenge is now to find someone who does. I dropped Prof. Brian Steel Wills, who wrote an excellent recent biography of Forrest, a note to inquire if he had any suggestions. If any of my readers have any suggestions as to someone who can show us the battlefield, I would be most grateful.

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  1. Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Perhaps you already know it, but the Bearss book is much more than just Brice’s Crossroads, so it should give you a good overview. It includes Forrest’s Memphis Raid, the Hatch Raid, Tupelo, and Smith’s followup raid that was stymied, among other things. One thing that should be mentioned about Tupelo is Forrest was not in command on that occasion. He was subordinated to S.D. Lee, who arrived with reinforcements and directed the horribly botched battle in person. Still not Forrest’s finest hour whichever way one looks at it, however! That will certainly reinforce one of your critical theses that Forrest did not perform well as a subordinate.

  2. Chris Van Blargan
    Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 9:57 pm


    Looking forward to this new endeavor. I just picked up a copy of Bearss’ classic from Morningside a few months ago and I am sorry to hear it is out of print. Even harder to find is Bearss’ “The Tupelo campaign, June 22-July 23, 1864: A Documented Narrative & Troop Movement Maps” which was published by the Department of the Interior back in 1969, and which looks like a great start to any inquiry into the battle.

    You may try author Michael B. Ballard for leads on arranging a tour. I don’t know him personally, but in addition to his Vicksburg studies and his Civil War Tour Guide of Mississipi he wrote an article back in 1996 entitled “The Battle of Tupelo: A Scholary Monograph” which was published in The Papers of the Blue and Gray Education Society. According to his biography, Ballard lives in nearby Ackerman, Mississippi. http://library.msstate.edu/msuauthors/mbb1/index.html

    Unfortunately, I get the impression that the battlefield is comparable to Franklin without the the benefit of a Winstead Hill-like elevation for an overview or a Carnton to give an impression of the terrain. The park is located within the Tupelo city limits, and the CWPT lists it as too late to save. Pictures and maps of the the park seem to support this, and its always a bad sign when the NPS references a Wal-Mart to help you locate its park. http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc/tupelo.htm

    Best wishes!


  3. Barry Summers
    Thu 10th Jul 2008 at 6:26 am

    Tupelo is my 3 girls favorite battlefield. 1 cannon and 1 arce.

  4. Sam Elliott
    Thu 10th Jul 2008 at 7:33 am

    I’m with Drew. Tupelo was more of S. D. Lee’s botched affair. Then, within a week or so, he’s botching things at Ezra Church.

  5. Dave Powell
    Thu 10th Jul 2008 at 8:06 am

    Lee’s hand at Tupelo is evident, and I agree – badly botched. However, Forrest’s role is also quite bad. Lee offered him tactical command, ironically, which Forrest declined – very unusual for NBF, who usually preferred to control things rather than be controlled.

    Then there is the argument about whether Lee was premature or Forrest late in supporting the Kentuckians.

    Overall, there is a huge unexplored gulf concerning what Lee and Forrest intended, if they agreed or not, and how they should proceed. Forrest bios tend to support the idea that NBF didn’t want to make the attack. Lee claimed (many years later) that Forrest was all for it. There is some evidence (Chalmers and Buford spring to mind, IIRC) that Forrest rebuked subordinates who expressed doubt and was publicly enthusiastic.

    I think Tupelo makes an excellent contrast to Bryce’s, and highlights some of the problems that dog NBF’s career.

    Of course, the Union opposition in each case is quite different, as well. Smith was not Sturgis, and – though cautious – was not about to make the kinds of mistakes Sturgis did.

    I have been to both Tupelo and Bryce’s (though I hardly claim field expertise there) and found them interesting. Tupelo is a classic roadside postage stamp, with several monuments and cannon crammed in along a US Hwy without much explanation.

  6. Thu 10th Jul 2008 at 8:38 am

    Dear Sir ,
    Forrest reportedly was suffering from boils while at Tupelo which may have had an effect on his behavior .
    all for the old flag,
    David Corbett

  7. Dave Powell
    Thu 10th Jul 2008 at 8:43 am

    Forrest must have had incredible stamina. He was recovering from a stab wound during tullahoma, was shot in the back (again) on Sept 10th, just before Chickamauga, and the above-mentioned boils. It didn’t seem to stop him in each case, certainly didn’t prevent him from making a risky midnight recon into the Union lines at Tupelo, but it might have slowed him a step or so in judgement.

    However, he rarely seemed to let wounds or injuries get the better of him.

    Dave Powell

  8. Jim Pearson
    Thu 10th Jul 2008 at 2:38 pm


    I was at both sites last year. The Tupelo site is a grass lot about the size of a home site located on a major street. It has the cannon and limited information. There is no visitor’s center.

    The battle site of Brice’s Crossroads is a few (10 to 20, I do not remeber exactly) miles north of Tupelo. It has a private or city-run visitor’s center which is small but nice.

    The battle site is actually a series of markers along a rural road which describe the action. This was a fast moving action so there are no static lines, just continous movement of the armies. The crossroads is there.

  9. Dave Powell
    Fri 11th Jul 2008 at 6:38 am

    The Tupelo site is actually managed by the nearest Natchez Trace Parkway HQ (and if you haven’t been on the trace, make a point of doing so some day.) The rangers there have some knowledge of the battle and can give you an overview, point out locations, etc.

  10. Dave Smith
    Mon 14th Jul 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Dave Powell’s recommendation regarding the Natchez Trace is well put. I seemed to be constantly off schedule trying to get to Vicksburg because of an endless need to pull off and check out the roadside markers and exhibits.

    Be carefull driving in the dark. Tons of deer and wildlife.

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