The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1864 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.
In order to aid his advance into north Georgia, U.S. Major General William T. Sherman knew he had to protect his vital supply line, the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and he realized one of the greatest threats to it was Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had moved 3,500 cavalrymen towards the vital railroad. In order to draw Forrest back to north Mississippi, Sherman ordered Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis and his troops to move from Memphis to Mississippi, thus forcing Forrest to move his cavalry to meet him.
On the morning of June 10, the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads began near Baldwyn between Sturgis’ troops, which consisted of a three-brigade division of infantry and a division of cavalry (about 8,500 men), and Forrest’s significantly smaller cavalry corps. By the afternoon, the Confederates had decimated the Union line and forced a retreat back towards Memphis. The battle resulted in 2,600 U.S. casualties, with Confederate casualties numbering a much smaller 495. Although a decisive victory for Forrest, Sherman’s goal of keeping him away from the supply line was successful.
Pictured above is the battle flag of the Nineteenth Mississippi Cavalry Battalion, which was engaged in the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. The Nineteenth Cavalry Battalion was formed in 1863, under the command of Lt. Col. William Duff for the defense of north Mississippi and was transferred in January 1864 to the command of Colonel Jeffrey Forrest. The Nineteenth later became part of the Eighth Mississippi Cavalry. The flag, which was made by the women of Oxford, was captured on July 13, 1864, at Camargo Cross Roads by the Fourteenth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. William Barr, of Oxford, was carrying the flag when it was captured. The flag was donated to the Department of Archives and History by the state of Wisconsin in 1943.
Arms from Britain such as the cavalry carbine pictured above were heavily imported by the Confederacy during the Civil War. The carbine’s shorter length was made for cavalry use and could have been used in engagements such as the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.