Shiloh National Military Park | CORINTH UNIT

Map of the National Park Properties at Corinth

Map of the National Park Properties at Corinth

The main attraction at the Corinth Unit of Shiloh National Military Park is the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, the unit’s visitor center. This is the visitor center and museum that should be at Shiloh. I say this because most people will begin their visit to the park at Shiloh, but there you will find an inferior museum with very little information on the battle. The Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center is a state-of-the-art facility that provides a wealth of information on the fighting at both Shiloh and Corinth, and it really should be where you start your visit to Shiloh National Military Park. The only thing missing is the excellent film on the battle, Shiloh: Fiery Trial, which is only available at the Shiloh Visitor Center. It is the best Civil War-based park film that I have seen.

No formal battlefield tours are possible at Corinth, for unlike at Shiloh, there is no intact battlefield, only bits and pieces of land that somehow escaped urban development and have been purchased by various organizations for preservation. The National Park Service owns a few of these parcels, including the Battery Robinett site just outside the Interpretive Center.

The most comprehensive tour is the Corinth Civil War Driving Tour developed by the city of Corinth. In addition to battle sites, the tour takes you to historic homes, landmarks, and museums. I can only recommend this tour in its entirety to the true Civil War buff who has a day to spend in Corinth because many of the downtown landmarks are closed to the public and the battle sites are nothing more than empty fields with an information panel describing what occurred at this site, sort of George Washington Slept Here experience. You can pick up the tour map the Interpretive Center. See the Corinth Civil War Driving Tour web page here on National Park Planner for information on each of the tour stops.

Brief History of the Events at Corinth

After retreating from the Shiloh battlefield on April 7, 1862, Confederate troops came back to the place where they started from: Corinth. The town was a major railroad hub and one of the key strategic targets on the Union Army’s radar. Union commander Ulysses Grant and his army had landed near Shiloh, Tennessee, in March 1862 with the intention of attacking Corinth as soon as General Don Carlos Buell and his Army of the Ohio arrived. In the meantime, in a preemptive strike, Confederate General Albert Johnston marched from Corinth to Shiloh, engaging the enemy starting on the morning of April 6th. After driving the Union troops all the way back to where they first landed (Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River) and having victory in hand as night fell, the Confederates, now under the command of General Pierre Beauregard after Johnston was killed earlier in the day, decided to finish matters in the morning. As bad luck would have it, Buell and his men arrived that night, and the next day the Union troops not only retook all of the ground they had lost the first day, but they also drove the Confederates from the field and sent scurrying them back to Corinth, though they did not pursue them.

At the end of April the Union Army was finally ready to move on Corinth. General Henry Halleck and 120,000 men began their twenty-mile march on April 29th. The Confederates had dug seven miles of defensive trenches around the north and east side of Corinth during the lull that followed after the fighting at Shiloh. Halleck, remembering the surprise attack and huge losses at Shiloh, moved very slowly, digging his own fortifications in a series of progressive steps as he moved towards Corinth. It wasn’t until May 17th that his men were within two miles of the Confederate trenches and four miles from Corinth.

The Confederate troops at Corinth numbered only 53,000 and lacked food, medicine, and other supplies. A counterattack on May 22nd failed, and soon the Union was within 1,000 yards of their trenches. Starring a massive defeat in the eye, Beauregard ordered the city to be abandoned, and his men slipped out of Corith and moved south towards Baldwyn, Mississippi, on May 29. Union troops occupied the town the next day. Since very little actual fighting took place, the event became known as the Siege of Corinth.

Now in control of the city, Union troops began digging their own fortifications south of Corinth to protect against any Confederate counterattack, and by October 1862, 23,000 troops were stationed in the town under the command of William Rosecrans. On September 29, 1862, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn, now in charge of all forces in Mississippi, launched an attempt to retake the town. On October 3rd the battle began. Always full of surprises, the Confederates actually circled around Union batteries and trenches designed to defend against an attack from the south and hit them from the north, quickly overrunning the Union troops and driving them back to within one mile of the town. By mid-afternoon the fighting intensified, and the Confederates were able to advance even further. By evening the Union troops were stationed at their last line of fortifications around the town. The next day the Confederates penetrated into downtown Corinth, but the offense soon faltered and the Union was once again able to drive them out. The attempt to retake the town had failed.

For more details on the Siege of Corinth (April 29 – May 30, 1862) and the Battle of Corinth (October 3-4, 1862), read the History of the Battle of Shiloh and Corinth essay here on National Park Planner.

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Last updated on February 3, 2022
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