Brices Cross Roads
National Battlefield Site
Mississippi
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The Battle of Brices Cross Roads, June 10, 1864

In the second half of 1863 Federal armies won important victories at Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga. Four of the 11 Confederate states were completely in Union hands. The strong positions Federal armies held all around the Confederacy only grew stronger early in 1864 as President Abraham Lincoln unified all commands and named Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant supreme commander of all Federal forces. As the 1864 campaigns began, Grant accompanied the Army of the Potomac and put Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman in charge of the western armies. This coordination saw two great Federal armies now set to advance into the South simultaneously.

In spring 1864 the Federal plan for war in the West was to bisect the South, east of the Mississippi River, with Sherman's armies working out of Chattanooga and Nashville. Their task: destroy the Confederate Army of Tennessee led by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, occupy Atlanta, and, if possible, go on to Savannah and Charleston. From May until September 1864, Sherman's troops fought doggedly through northern Georgia, finally forcing Atlanta's evacuation.

Early in the Atlanta Campaign the Confederate high command contemplated attacking Sherman's vulnerable main supply line—the 151-mile, single-track Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. Late in May, Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, commanding the Confederate Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, sent Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest to strike Sherman's line of supply. Forrest's mounted infantry knew how to wreck a railroad.

On June 1 Forrest put his horsemen in motion at Tupelo, Miss.; three days later they were in Russellville, Ala. Knowing his supply line vulnerable, Sherman ordered Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis and 8,100 Federal infantry and cavalry to move from Memphis into northern Mississippi to eliminate Forrest and his troopers. Alerted by Lee of Sturgis's intent, Forrest rushed back to Tupelo to concentrate his 3,500-man force along the Mobile & Ohio Railroad south and north of Brices Cross Roads. On the evening of June 9, Forrest learned that Sturgis's force was in camp 10 miles northwest of Brices. Both commanders were planning to march in the morning.

The Battle in Brief

Sturgis's army moved out southeast June 10 at dawn, cavalry leading. A mile-and-a-half from Brices they routed a Confederate patrol, pursuing it across rain-swollen Tishomingo Creek, through the crossroads, and a mile down the Baldwyn Road. There Forrest and a brigade of Kentuckians stopped them—and the Battle of Brices Cross Roads began about 9:30 am. By 11 am Forrest, reinforced now, began to push the Federals back toward the crossroads. The Federals held out long enough for Sturgis's infantry to arrive. Having set arcing battle lines around the Brices Cross Roads intersection, the forces battled for the next four hours.

By 5 pm, after enveloping both Federal flanks and launching a slashing frontal attack, Forrest had shattered Sturgis's line, forcing the Federals to abandon the field and retreat back to Memphis. An overturned wagon at the Tishomingo Creek bridge slowed the Federal's retreat, causing the loss of at least 16 artillery pieces and supply wagons of guns and ammunition. Thanks to defensive actions by several regiments of United States Colored Troops, most of Sturgis's army escaped almost certain capture.

Aftermath

Students of military tactics agree that the Brices Cross Roads engagement was marked by the hardest kind of fighting and that it marked a brilliant tactical victory for Forrest. But the battle brought no relief to the Confederacy. Sherman forestalled any attack on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad by sending small commands to northern Mississippi.

One of Sherman's objectives was to hunt down and kill "that devil Forrest." A Tennessee native with no formal military training, Forrest became one of the Civil War's leading cavalry commanders. When war broke out he enlisted in the Confederate army as a private and by 1864 was a major general with an independent command. Sherman called him "the most remarkable man the Civil War produced on either side" and feared that "there never will be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead." At the later Battle of Tupelo, Sherman almost got his wish.

U.S. Colored Troops at Brices Cross Roads and Tupelo

park map
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As the Emancipation Proclamation took effect January 1, 1863, former slaves and free black men could volunteer for U.S. military service. Formed into regiments commanded by white officers, these men were called the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Several USCT regiments commanded by Col. Edward Bouton played critical roles in the battles of Brices Cross Roads and Tupelo.

At Brices Cross Roads, Bouton's regiments, held in reserve until Forrest's troopers soundly defeated the Federal forces, made several critical stands that slowed the Confederate pursuit of the Federal retreat.

Before the Battle of Tupelo the USCT protected the supply train and served as rear guard for the Federal army. The USCT held off several Confederate attacks, which allowed the Federals to secure the most advantageous ground for the battle of July 14-15.

Soldiers! Amid your rejoicing do not forget the gallant dead upon these fields of glory. Many a noble comrade has fallen, a costly sacrifice The most you can do is cherish their memory.

—Nathan Bedford Forrest

Visiting the Battlefield

Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site is six miles west of Baldwyn, Miss., on Miss. 370. The park's one acre of land is surrounded by 1,390 acres of preserved battlefield owned by the Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Commission. Information is available at Brice's Crossroads Visitor and Interpretive Center in Baldwyn, owned and operated by the town of Baldwyn near the U.S. 45 and Miss. 370 intersection. It is closed Mondays and most major holidays. A small entrance fee is charged.

Source: NPS Brochure (2016)


Establishment

Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site — February 21, 1929


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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section

Documents

Foundation Document Overview, Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi/Alabama/Tennessee (December 2014)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

Brices Cross Roads (No. 271-3C) (William E. Cox, October 1, 1974)

Protecting Sherman's Lifeline: The Battle of Brices Cross Roads and Tupelo 1864 (Edwin C. Bearss, 1971)

State of the Park Report, Natchez Trace Parkway (incl. Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site and Tupelo National Battlefield), Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee State of the Park Series No. 31 (2016)



Handbooks ◆ Books expand section

Videos

Battle of Brice's Crossroads - Forrest's Greatest Victory: Gettysburg Winter Lecture 2014



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Last Updated: 01-May-2021