Weather short-circuits Battle of Tupelo re-enactment

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Battle of Brice’s Crossroads
* June 10, 1864
* Confederates – Led by Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest
* Union – Led by Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis
* The Confederate victory was a significant victory for Forrest, but its long-term effect on the war proved costly for the Confederates. Brice’s Crossroads is an excellent example of winning the battle, but losing the war.
* Estimated casualties – 3,105 total (U.S. 2,610; C.S. 495)
Battle of Tupelo
* July 14-15, 1864
* Also known as the Battle of Harrisburg
* Confederates – Led by Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee and Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest
* Union – Led by Maj. Gen. A.J. Smith
* The Battle of Tupelo was a Union victory over Confederate forces in northern Mississippi, which ensured the safety of Gen. William T. Sherman’s supply lines.
* Estimated casualties – 1,948 total (U.S. 648; C.S. 1,300)
* SOURCE: National Park Service

By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal
BRICE’S CROSSROADS – Mother Nature was the clear winner in Sunday’s rained-out re-enactment of the Battle of Tupelo.
But through the torrents and lightning, officers and infantry with ladies in hoop-skirts waded through puddles, took down their tents and headed for home after a weekend focused on what re-enactors do.
In this case, it was the anniversary of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, located between Guntown and Baldwyn.
The Sheens of Texas and South Carolina took family photos before they departed. The ladies were in period costumes, the gents in their Confederate grey.
“We all enjoy history,” Holly Sheen explained, dressed in a red-and-white striped dress. “We really use these re-enactments for family reunions.”
The family of three women, a husband and elderly parents posed in front of the Brice’s Crossroads monument for some last-minute shots.
Down the muddy road, other long-skirted women stepped carefully around big puddles left from strong weekend rains.
Most Civil War item vendors were packing up by midday, but Jim Bishop of Baldwyn eyed at red shirt in one of the few shops still open next to the battlefield.
Bishop – a sergeant-major in Cleburne’s Division – expressed his pride as a member of the host unit, saying he and others had been at work preparing the event site since late last year.
“I think it was a success,” he said of the weekend, despite Mother Nature’s fury. He voiced regret that the Battle of Tupelo re-enactment was called off Sunday.
“We’ll do this again.”
In the historical context, the Battle of Tupelo occurred July 11-14, 1864, a month after the Confederate victory at Brice’s Crossroads, when the supply lines for Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s armies in Georgia became increasingly vulnerable. District commander, Cadwallader C. Washburn dispatched a force under Gen. Andrew J. Smith to deal with Confederate cavalier, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Smith was criticized for not destroying Forrest at Tupelo and although he was hasty to leave the field, the Union forces had in fact inflicted a tactical defeat on the legendary Forrest. Sherman’s supply lines had been protected from Confederate raids. Although Smith had achieved his main goal of the campaign, Forrest’s cavalry still remained at large as a viable force.
In late morning Sunday, 13-year-old Autumn Haut of Louisport, Ky., and her brother, Conner, 9, crouched beside a firepit, trying to get a campfire lit in the heavy moisture.
“We go to stuff like this all the time,” Autumn said, noting Brice’s Crossroads was her first out-of-state re-enactment.
Nearby, looking the mid-19th Century part, was Jack Key of Kisatchie, La., selling gunpowder to firearms enthusiasts.
Sitting with him at an authentic-looking sales table was Kendall Lasyon of Alexander, La., in his Confederate foot-soldier ensemble.
Unloading the gunpowder was Jamie Bordelon of Marksville, La., who said he’s been doing re-enactment since he was a child, starting with the Battle of New Orleans, part of the War of 1812 against the British.
Otherwise, the several dozen people left by late Sunday morning were doing their best to get packed and away from the mud. Dogs and horses were tethered as their masters got ready to go home.
Pat Arinder of Amory was one of the last, just sitting and enjoying the view from his small shelter overlooking the rolling hills of the battlefield.
Plinking on an old style banjo, he said he stays busy in retirement as a historical musician doing living histories.
“I like to let the kids come by and play the spoons with me,” Arinder said.
Part of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, he explained his leisurely posture. “I’d rather do music than running back and forth out on the field.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.