After the dramatic events of September 1862, including the bloodbath of Antietam and the political bombshell of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the nation’s attention was wrenched back to the western theater, where two battles in less than a week took center stage.
The first came on Oct. 3 and 4 at the railroad junction of Corinth, Mississippi. Confederate generals Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn, following Price’s defeat at Iuka, joined forces to attack Corinth.
The Union forces at Corinth were commanded by Gen. William S. Rosecrans, who had grown up in Homer in Licking County. Included in his forces was the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a part of Gen. Stanley’s division and commanded by Col. Joseph L. Kirby Smith, a cousin of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith.
Most of two companies was recruited in Knox County and the regiment had spent most of the previous winter camped at the fairgrounds in Mount Vernon. It had been part of Rosecrans’ force at Iuka, but was not involved in the heavy fighting.
The Confederate attack had two aims: Take back Corinth, but also keep theater commander U.S. Grant from sending any troops to aid Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s efforts to stop the Confederate movement into Kentucky.
Readers of the Democratic Banner read Gen. Grant’s initial dispatch, sent Oct. 5 from his headquarters in Jackson, Tenn., in the Oct. 14 issue. It began:
“Yesterday the rebels under Generals Price, Van Dorn and Lovell, were repulsed from their attack upon Corinth with great slaughter. The enemy are in full retreat, leaving their dead and wounded on the field, Rosecrans telegraphs that the loss is serious on our side, particularly in officers, but bears no comparison with that of the enemy.”
A later dispatch gave the Confederate losses as 800 killed and 1,500 to 1,800 wounded, with 1,500 prisoners. Union losses were given as 300 killed and 1,000 wounded.
Those number are not far off, but it was not until the Oct. 18 issue (Lecky Harper changed his day of publication from Tuesday to Saturday) that they read that one of the casualties was the commander of the 43rd OVI, Col. Kirby Smith. They also saw the names of 19 other members of the regiment who had been killed, including three from Company K, recruited in Knox County, and two from Company G, partly recruited in Knox County.
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