As the nation reeled at the news of Antietam and its toll of 23,000 casualties, it would have been easy to overlook the news two days later of a battle in Iuka, Miss.
The numbers involved were far smaller — only about 4,500 Union troops under Gen. William S. Rosecrans against about 3,200 Confederates under Gen. Sterling Price. It wasn’t a big battle, at least compared to Antietam and Second Bull Run.
Price was moving to unite with Gen. Earl Van Dorn to attack U.S. Grant’s base at Corinth, however coordination between the two was poor, as they could not get a clear ruling on who was in command if they combined forces.
Grant’s job was to keep Price and Van Dorn from reinforcing Bragg.
Price had just forced the small Union garrison out of Iuka and his troops were looting the supplies left behind.
Grant sent two columns to trap Price. Rosecrans would attack from the South, while the other column, commanded by E.O.C. Ord and accompanied by Grant, would attack from the northwest when he heard the sound of the guns firing.
Rosecrans marched head-on into a brigade left behind by Price and a fierce fight ensued. The casualties reflect that, as Rosecrans had 790 total casualties, including 144 killed, 598 wounded and 40 captured or missing; while Price suffered 1,516 casualties, including 263 killed, 692 wounded and 561 captured or missing.
Grant was accompanying Ord. He became frustrated at not hearing the sound of the guns and thought Rosecrans had not attacked.
However, it turns out that a phenomenon known as an “acoustic shadow” prevented the sound from carrying to the three divisions commanded by Ord, leaving Rosecrans to fight alone against Price’s force.
After a hard-fought battle, Price withdrew, found a road that the Union forces left unguarded, and met up with Van Dorn for the attack on Corinth on Oct. 3 and 4.
Grant originally praised Rosecrans for his conduct of the battle, but later found out Rosecrans blamed him for failing to attack Price. Grant’s poor relations with Rosecrans date from this time and in his memoirs, Grant criticized Rosecrans.
In the aftermath of the battle of Antietam, news arrived about the 87th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the regiment commanded by Col. Henry B. Banning of Mount Vernon.
The 87th had been stationed at Harper’s Ferry and was part of the more than 12,000-man garrison captured by Robert E. Lee’s army when it headed into Maryland.
The 87th was paroled, which meant they went to a camp and did not participate again in the war until they were exchanged for prisoners taken by the Union.
The Banner reported that Banning had been in town for a couple days:
“He looks remarkably well, being in fine health and spirits. After the affair at Harper’s Ferry, the 87th Regiment came immediately home, and is now at Camp Delaware, under orders of the government. The regiment will be re-organized at once, its ranks filled out, with the view of being sent to the frontier for service against the Indians.
“Col. Banning has made efforts to procure our County Fair Grounds for a temporary encampment for his regiment; but we have understood that as yet he has not been successful.”
According to the unit biography compiled by Larry Stevens at www.ohiocivilwar.com, the 87th was a three-month regiment, organized in June 1862. It first went to Baltimore, but then was sent to Harper’s Ferry at the end of July and was nearing the end of its service when they were captured.
The unit was first sent to Annapolis, where the Union had a camp for parolees, then was sent to Columbus.
Stevens notes: “When the circumstances were known, the men were released from their parole and mustered out of the service at Camp Chase (Columbus) Sept. 20, 1962.”
You would think he would have mentioned something significant like that.
Banning was mustered out with his regiment, but re-enlisted and on Jan. 1, 1863, was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 125th Ohio Infantry. He was transferred to the 121st Ohio Infantry on April 5 of that year and promoted to colonel on Nov. 10, 1863. He would serve at Chickamauga, through the Atlanta campaign and at Nashville, before resigning from the army and returning home on Jan. 21, 1865.
After the war, he received brevet promotions to brigadier and major general rank. He served in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1866 and 67, then moved to Cincinnati in 1869 to practice law. He was elected as a Liberal Republican to the 43rd Congress and as a Democrat to the 44th and 45th Congress, serving from 1873 until 1879.
He died in Cincinnati on Dec. 10, 1881. He was inducted into the Ohio Veteran’s Hall of Fame in November 2004 by Gov. Bob Taft.
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