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.

Major Robert C. McCay. Accession number:  1962.210.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Major Robert C. McCay. Accession number: 1962.210.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

The last major battle fought in Mississippi during the Civil War was the Battle of Harrisburg, also known as the Battle of Tupelo, on July 14–15.  Still concerned about protecting his vital supply line in Tennessee, U.S. Major General William T. Sherman sent Major General A.J. Smith with fourteen thousand men down from LaGrange, Tennessee, to keep Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Mississippi. Eight thousand Confederate troops under the command of Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee and Forrest engaged Smith’s forces near Tupelo on the morning of July 14. Smith’s troops repulsed several uncoordinated attacks made by Lee and Forrest.

However the heat and lack of supplies took its toll on the Federal troops, and Smith began retreating toward Memphis on July 15, camping near Old Town Creek in the late afternoon. Confederate forces launched a surprise attack, but the Federal troops were able to form a defense and force a Confederate retreat to the town of Harrisburg. Confederates suffered a loss of 1,300 casualties, including Forrest, who was out of commission for several weeks, while Federal losses numbered 648.

Major Robert C. McCay's sash. Accession number: 1962.210.2 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Major Robert C. McCay’s sash. Accession number: 1962.210.2 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Pictured above is Major Robert C. McCay commander of the Thirty-Eighth Mississippi (mounted) Infantry, which fought in the Battle of Harrisburg. The Thirty-Eighth suffered heavy casualties during the battle, and Major McCay was killed. He was wearing the sash pictured above when he died.