On this day in 1862, Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn attempt to recapture Corinth, a vital rail center in Mississippi. However, the following day, the Second Battle of Cornith ended in defeat for the Rebels.
Northern Mississippi was the scene of much maneuvering during the summer of 1862. The Confederates were forced to evacuate Corinth in May in the face of heavy Union pressure, but they maintained two armies in the area. On September 19, one of these armies, commanded by Van Dorn, was defeated by Union General William Rosecrans at the Battle of Iuka, 20 miles east of Corinth. Shortly after, Van Dorn combined his force with that of General Sterling Price to form a 22,000-man army that turned toward Corinth to launch another attack against Rosecrans, who had consolidated his forces there.
Van Dorn hurled his army at the outer defenses of Corinth on the morning of October 3. Over the course of the spring and summer, both Union and Confederate occupiers of Corinth had constructed concentric rings of trenches around the city. The Confederates were initially successful at capturing the outer defenses, driving the 23,000 defenders back nearly two miles. The battle lasted all day, and only nightfall brought relief to the battered Yankees.
The next day, the Confederates made a series of desperate assaults on the inner trenches. They suffered heavy losses and began to withdraw from Corinth by early afternoon. The Confederate defeat was devastating. The Union losses included 315 dead, 1,812 wounded, and 232 taken as prisoners, while the Confederate losses included 1,423 dead, 5,692 wounded, and 2,268 prisoners. The Confederate defeat at Corinth allowed the Union to focus attention on capturing Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last major Rebel stronghold on the Mississippi River.