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.
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