Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Price was Wrong! (Iuka, Part Whatever)

Reb cavalry with silly uniforms
General Price moved up to Iuka and quickly overran the feeble Federal garrison there. I say feeble because the brigade sent to garrison the town had orders to defend Iuka and then, only if it seemed that Price was coming on in force, to set fire to the stores and make an orderly retreat. Colonel Murphy, the brigade's commander skipped right to the last bit the second Price's cavalry patrols came into view and pulled out of Iuka. Fortunately he was quickly sacked and replaced with a much more competent colonel.

Major General Edward Ord (USA)
Price moved into town unopposed and sent his cavalry further afield to find Grant's army. However, Grant had anticipated Price's move and was already taking the offensive. He split his command in two and sent the first army north under the command of General Edward Ord and then march on Price directly. He then sent his second army under General Rosecrans to approach the town from the south west and cut off Price's only route of retreat. With a little luck the two forces would converge on Iuka simultaneously.

Major General William Rosecrans (USA)
Price only had enough cavalry to run some recon missions in one direction, and since he gambled that Grant's force was entirely north of his position, he made a decision to commit them to that sector. He reasoned that Rosecrans would be kept in Corinth to protect the railroad junction there, so he'd only be dealing with Ord and Grant.The reb cavalry stumbled into Ord's picket line and fell back to report to Price. The general had anticipated this and readied his men to attack Ord. Grant's plan was working flawlessly,... except Rosencrans was badly behind schedule...

Covered bridge, Iuka MS
Turns out northeastern Mississippi is rather swampy and the roads there were narrow and crossed by small rivers. Furthermore the local scouts that Rosecrans relied upon for information were about as untrustworthy as a politician in an election year. The scouts frequently sent his lead regiments down wrong roads, causing no end of logistical trouble.

Finally, Rosecrans bumbled into the outskirts of Iuka at 4:30pm (he was supposed to be there at 2pm). The 3rd Michigan Cavalry were already skirmishing with dismounted Reb cavalry at Moore's Branch, a small whitewashed house owned by the widow Moore. Leading the infantry column of General Charles Hamilton's 3rd Division was Colonel John Sanborn's 1st Brigade, which included:
Colonel (later Brigadier General)
John B. Sanborn (USA)
  • 48th Indiana Regiment
  • 5th Iowa Regiment
  • 16th Iowa Regiment
  • 4th Minnesota Regiment
  • 26th Missouri Regiment
  • Ohio Light Artillery, 11th Battery
 The 5th Iowa was first into the fight and rushed the widow's house pushing the Reb cavalry back to Price's main battle line. During the battle the commander of General Hamilton's personal guard was shot dead off his horse by a confederate sniper. In a strange fit of rage, Hamilton ordered the widow's house burnt to the ground, an order that was reluctantly obeyed.
Major General Charles Hamilton, USA
(dick)

Obviously, Hamilton was a bit of a jerk and he really didn't get along with his men, his peers, and especially his superiors. Unfortunately, as often the case for jerks that manage to keep their job against all logic, Hamilton was connected politically, and therefore hung around like a bad stench.

Price now realized his mistake and quickly redeployed his troops to meet Rosecrans, leaving a small rearguard to face Ord. The battle for Iuka was about to kick off in a big way.

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