Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site
The Battle of Brice's Cross Roads on June 10, 1864 was one of Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest's greatest victories. His cavalry was vastly outnumbered by his Union counterpart Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis' cavalry and infantry troops. Forrest aimed to take control of the railroad between Nashville and Chattanooga, the control of which was very important to the Union army's plan to drive southward on General Tecumshe Sherman's "March to the Sea" campaign. In the end, though the Confederates won they did not capture the majority of the Union force nor take control of railroad line, thereby allowing Sherman to continue his drive south. The battlefield site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is today a much smaller portion of what it once was.
Backstory and Context
Early in 1864 the goal for the Union was to separate the north from the south staring in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Savannah, Georgia and along the way take possession of Atlanta, Georgia which was known at the time as the “gate to the south”. Major General William T. Sherman was leading this so called “March to the Sea” against the south who were being led by General Joseph E. Johnston. Sherman’s plan heavily relied on Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. He knew that if he and his troops moved out of this area it would leave the railroad very vulnerable to the Confederates especially since he was aware of how well trained Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry were.
Forrest and his 3,500 troop cavalry left Tupelo, Mississippi heading for Chattanooga, TN on June 1st. When Sherman got word that Forrest and his men were drawing near to Tennessee, he ordered Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis to leave Memphis, Tennessee in search of Forrest and his men. When Confederate Johnston got word that the union had left Memphis, he ordered Forrest and his men to return to Tupelo. This put violent enemies, Sturgis and Forrest, within ten miles of each other and Brice’s Cross Roads. The next day would be June 10, 1864, the morning of the battle.
The week prior to the battle they had had very heavy rains that had torn up the roads and created very muddy conditions. It is said that Sturgis strategically chose Brice’s Cross Roads because the roads were so bad and the area was also heavily wooded. Forrest would use this to his advantage to hide the fact that he and his Confederate troops were vastly outnumbered by the union. Forrest was a very intelligent and logical officer who loved to battle and took no mercy and felt no remorse. Forrest ordered his 3,500 cavalry troops to attack Sturgis’ 3,300 cavalry troops that were leading the way. Forrest’s plan was to take out the union cavalry that would in turn cause the 4,800 infantrymen that followed to rush five miles to the battlefield tired, out of breath and have to jump in the fight without any type of rest or regrouping. Forrest relentlessly attacked the Union line all day. While Forrest’s men broke the Union line they left the battlefield with the Confederates still chasing them into the following day. The Union had over 200 deaths, 300 wounded, and over 1,600 captured. The Confederates only lost 96 troops and a little less than 400 wounded. The Confederates however, gained 16 cannons and over 150 supply wagons. Even though this battle was Forrest’s greatest military victory, gratefully for Sherman, his railroads were never touched by Forrest.
"Confederates score victory at the Battle of Brice's Cross Roads." History.com. Accessed April 21, 2017. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/Confederates-score-victory-at-the-battle-of-brices-crossr...
"Why the Battle Happened." National Park Service. April 21, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/brcr/why-brices-happened.htm.