Writing and Researching the battle of Corinth

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What I love about writing historical fiction is that I get to dramatize the little things that I dredge up in my research. Reading the after action reports on Corinth and heavy note taking I often find little things that tie people and events together. One of them is from the 63rd Ohio’s report and that of Major General Price and Captain Hoxton regarding a mishap that occurs early on the morning of October 4, 1862 in front of Corinth.

General Price was desirous that any and all advantage be gained from the position the Confederates occupied almost surrounding Corinth, close up to the town and under the cover of woods and ridges that shielded them from the incomplete defensive works Rosecrans had ordered built to command the Mobile and Ohio rail line, the Memphis road, the Chewalla road, and the cross point of the Memphis and Charleston rail line; a series of fortified positions that were spread out 800 yards apart containing heavy caliber cannon. Rosecrans never suspected that these would be the positions he’d have to use to defend the town with from a numerically superior force but that the outer former Confederate works would be.

The ground around the town and the cover allowed Price and Van Dorn to marshall their divisions close to the Union positions without being subject to artillery fire. Hoxton and several other batteries were ordered to take positions upon the ridges to the northwest of the town and before first light begin to shell the town and anything that they could engage, as the battle was to be initiated at first light.

Hoxton’s section under the command of Lieutenant Tobin was busily moving his section into place when two companies of the 63rd Ohio blundered into them. Companies B and G were ordered to buttress the skirmishers of the 27th Ohio of Fuller’s Ohio brigade and to push up the Chewalla road up to the trees and ensure that they controlled the road. The two companies were just as surprised as Tobin was to run into the enemy, only that running into a battery in the blind was a prize seized too easily.

Tobin’s section lost a gun and himself and his bugler as prisoners of war and the two companies were soon beset by Price’s skirmishers and the troopers of the 7th Tennessee cavalry who nearly bagged the whole lot themselves.

It is the little anecdotes like this that I love envisioning and dramatizing through the use of historical characters doing what they would have done. This little episode will be features in the third novel of the Shiloh Series, Iuka to Corinth.

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Gods and Generals: Chancellorsville

I’ve gotten to the end of the movie, through some of the more droll scenes in between Fredericksburg and the final engagement of the movie. The portrayal is a little stilted, only showing Jackson’s Corps assault on the 11th Corps and not the other fighting until it leads up to Jackson’s wounding, but I appreciated the construction of those scenes, the reenactor extras who took time to run silently out of the trees tens of times to get the scene right, and the view where this video spot starts of several brigades worth of Confederates at right shoulder shift arms at the double quick showing how it probably looked had one been there to witness it.

Visiting the battlefield is interesting. There are gun emplacements still visible, emplacements that were dug before the battle started pointing to something of Hooker’s mindset at the time. These emplacements had to be repositioned, faced in a direction Hooker suspected he might be attacked and they had to be swiveled as Jackson’s attack drove the 11th Corps in on the III Corps positions. These are small burms now, preserved and cut into the earth to protect field batteries. They are sort of unique for this time period on a civil war battlefield save for Petersburg and Vickburg where long term siege lines were constructed. Emplacements such as this were constructed when one thought they were going to occupy this spot for more than a day.

Union Artillery facing Hazel Grove’s confederate batteries, dug in emplacements in the foreground facing towards the Orange Plank road.
View of Union Artillery positions looking towards Hazel Grove, emplacements in the background.

Joseph Hooker had stolen a march on Lee, placing the bulk of the Army of the Potomac on Lee’s flank and leaving two corps back on Stafford Heights overlooking Fredericksburg to demonstrate – which Sedgewick does and takes Maryes Heights finally. Why Hooker paused and waited and why he waited for Lee to make the next move is up for debate. The fighting was ¬†a precursor to what fighting would be like in a year when Grant pushes the AoP into the Wilderness and Lee meets him again near the site of the bitter two day struggle known as Chancellorsville. Jackson’s attack is commenced with limited daylight left and is able to push in the 11th Corps but is unable to do more, the other attacks by Lee’s army also fail to drive into the Union left and center and a stalemate ensues the continuing day with neither side gaining any advantage. Hooker finally pulls back across the Rappahanock river and the rest is history leading up to the invasion of Pennsylvania and Gettysburg.

At the bottom is a Google Maps view of land that the Civil War Trust is trying to save on the Jackson Sneak Attack and marshaling area. You can see from the patchwork of colors that this area is only partially preserved. This battlefield is hemmed in by lots of development and a fight was waged several years ago to prevent a Walmart going in on ground that abutted the park.

In other news, work on Iuka to Corinth has gone into its final phases, the first pass edit has come back from the editor and I’m busy rewriting a few chapters to flesh out the Michael Greirson character introduced first in They Met at Shiloh and his involvement with the renowned 2nd Texas Infantry. The rewrite is always an interesting exersize as you cover stuff you are already over familiar with but need to read with a new eye for the detail that needs to be added. The conflict had already been set when I first wrote the manuscript out and fortunately this is just bringing certain things out and not a full alteration of the text.

ARC versions of Iuka to Corinth will be available soon, if you’re interested in a copy in electronic format, sign up for the news letter as I’ll be letting members have first stab at copies.

 

Satellite view of Jackson’s Flank attack, noting the land preserved by the Civil War Trust (blue), CVBT (brown), and the National Park Service (green). The 2013 target properties are highlighted in yellow. (Google Earth)