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THIS WEEK IN THE CIVIL WAR / Union march toward Corinth; Virginia skirmish; 1862

In late April 1862, more than 100,000 Union soldiers under the command of Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck march out from Tennessee for Corinth, Miss., intent on wresting away from Confederate forces that key railroad junction for the South.

The journey into northern Mississippi means crossing thick forests and rugged country as many of Halleck's men come down with dysentery and typhoid -- common diseases of that era in the South. The 22-mile route took Halleck's forces weeks to cover as they endured bad weather and as illnesses felled many.

By early May 1862, the Union army would be within 10 miles of Corinth but then Confederate rivals began unleashing sporadic, small-scale attacks. Union forces would repeatedly dig and settle into trenches as they advanced mile by mile -- expecting to eventually approach Corinth.

The Confederates, whose soldiers also were falling ill in large numbers, would hang on until late May before stealthily withdrawing and leaving Corinth to Union forces to occupy. Until then, more than 40 miles of earthen trenches and breastworks would be built in the area during the weeks of confrontation.

Elsewhere, the Associated Press reported on May 4, 1862, that skirmishing had erupted near Williamsburg, Va. Union Gen. George B. McClellan now has a formidable fighting force arrayed in coastal Virginia and the skirmishing signals big battles soon to come.

AP reports that Union forces probing the Confederate fortifications at Williamsburg fire upon approaching rebel cavalry. It adds Union troops were suddenly "opened upon by a deadly fire from the artillery posted behind the (Confederate) works." When the Confederate cavalry charged, Union forces counterattacked and "in more instances than one it was a hand to hand encounter with the enemy's cavalry."