An awful day. At 4 o’clock, before day, our Brigade was ordered to the left about one-fourth of a mile, and halted, throwing out lines of skirmishers, which kept up a constant fire. A Battery in front of the right of our Regiment opened briskly, and the enemy replied the same. The cannonading was heavy for an hour and a half. Our Regiment lay down close, and stood it nobly. The shell flew thick and fast… It was extremely unpleasant, and I prayed for forgiveness of my sins, and made up my mind to go through…
At 10 ¼ o’clock, Col. Rogers came up by us, only saying “Alabama forces.” Our Regiment, with the Brigade rose, unmindful of the shell or shot, and moved forward, marching about 250 yards and rising the crest of a hill. The whole of Corinth, with its enormous fortifications, burst upon our view. The U.S. flag was floating over the forts and town. We were now met by a perfect storm of grape, canister, cannon balls and Minnie balls. Oh, God! I have never seen the like! The men fell like grass, even here. Giving one tremendous cheer, we dashed to the bottom of the hill on which the fortifications are situated. Here we found every foot of ground covered with large trees and brush, cut down to impede our progress. Looking to the right and left, I saw several Brigades charging at the same time. What a sight was there… They fell behind, beside, and within a few feet of me. I gave myself to God, and got ahead of my company. The ground was literally strewn with mangled corpses…
Ahead was one continuous blaze. I rushed to the ditch fo the fort, right between some large cannon. I grappled into it, and half way up the sloping wall…
Oh, we were butchered like dogs, as we were not supported. Some one placed a white handkerchief on Sergeant Buck’s musket, and he took it to a port hole. But the Yankees snatched it off and took him prisoner. The men fell 10 at a time…
Our troops formed in line in the woods, and advanced a second time to the charge with cheers. They began firing half-way, and I had to endure it all. I was feigning death. I was right between our own and the enemies [enemy’s] fire…
Thank God, I am unhurt, and I think it was a merciful Providence. Our troops charged by… Our boys were shot down like hogs, and could not stand it, and fell back each man for himself. Then the same scene was enacted as before. This time the Yankees charged after them, and as I had no chance at all, and all around we were surrendering, I was compelled to do so, as a rascal threatened to shoot me. I had to give up my sword to him.
Lieutenant Charles B. Labruzan, 42nd Alabama Infantry
Journal entry on October 4, 1862.
The Second Battle of Corinth
Corinth, Mississippi, had been captured by Union troops during the Spring of 1862. In the autumn, the Confederate Army of the West and the Confederate Army of West Tennessee united to attempt to recapture the city. Union General Rosecrans prepared to defend the city against the attacks by Confederate Generals Price and Van Dorn.
By October 3, 1862, the Southerners had pushed the Union troops into the strongly fortified city and believed victory was within their grasp. They launched assaults against Battery Powell and Battery Robinett on October 4, encountering heavy artillery fire from the Union guns. (Labruzan and the 42nd Alabama were part of the attack on Battery Robinett.)
A few Confederate soldiers entered the city, but they were quickly captured and no major breach was accomplished. The Second Battle of Corinth was a Union victory; total casualties for both sides were just over 7,000 dead, wounded, or missing.
Common Soldier Accounts
Although it’s fascinating to study the battle reports and more comprehensive primary sources, it is important to read the accounts by the “common and unknown” soldiers. What were they really experiencing as they charged and battled their way toward the fortifications?
Charles B. Labruzan’s account written on the day of the battle (assuming his journal entry date is correct) gives us a glimpse of the courage, terror, and grimness of battle.
As a lieutenant and a company commander for the 42nd Alabama Infantry, Labruzan was captured during the Battle of Corinth. He was eventually paroled, returned to his unit, and was captured again at the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863.
Death is inescapable in Labruzan’s account of this battle. Unlike accounts from 1861 or battle enthusiastic soldiers, his entry reveals the horror in a matter-of-fact tone. War was changing the way soldiers wrote and thought. He focuses on surviving – lying close to the ground and feigning death. There is still an element of unit pride and consciousness of courage, but this is no longer a “glory scene” or rose-colored image that’s sometimes found in earlier war accounts.