The Tupelo National Battlefield monument stands near the center of this now bustling small town. It takes a bit of imagination to see past the storefronts and sidewalks and envision Tupelo as it looked on July 14, 1864.
Major General William T. Sherman was determined to complete his “March to the Sea.” The federal troops had recently celebrated major victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga.
The only thing standing between Sherman and the Atlantic was Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his Confederate cavalry. Massed in northern Mississippi, Forrest’s men were poised to take out the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, a vital federal supply line.
Sherman ordered an assault on Forrest’s corps. When the first attacked was rebuffed, he ordered the troops to turn back and “follow Forrest to the death, if it cost 10,000 lives and breaks the Treasury."
On July 14, 14,000 Union soldiers arrived in Tupelo. The Confederate army, 6,000 strong, launched a series of attacks, which the Federal troops withstood. But it was hot, and the Union army had failed to bring enough food or ammunition for a long fight.
On the afternoon of July 15, the Federal troops turned back toward Memphis. As they camped on the banks of Old Town Creek, the Confederates attacked one last time. The Union army pushed back. Maj. Gen. Forrest, wounded, was forced back to Harrisburg, one of the 2,000 casualties of the Battle of Tupelo.