Young James J. Haynie penned his remembrance of the Mississippi battlefield:

“Boy, though I was, when the Battle of Harrisburg took place, I shall never forget the next day…for I was on my way to Tupelo with a fresh horse for my brother, traveling overland, having started from home not knowing that a battle was eminent…When within about ten miles of Tupelo, on the west side of the (Mobile and Ohio) Railroad, I heard the tread ahead of me, it seemed, of a million head or horses, and as many voices carrying the old and familiar church song of “Am I a Soldier of the Cross, a Follower of the Lamb,” and my surprise when a little further on they appeared in sight, and my sorrow when meeting them when I was told that they had been in battle and had lost nearly all of their commissioned officers and were retreating…

“I remember…meeting the command, (they were riding in fours and the procession about a half-mile long), of the fate of brother Andrew, and when told that Capt. Harper’s company was further back in line and that my brother, whom all knew because he was the youngest and smallest member of the regiment, was along, having come out of battle unharmed, my joy knew no bounds...There were quite a number in line who had been only slightly wounded the more seriously, wounded having been left behind.  

“This was the first time I had seen the regiment since the time they were in winter quarters at West Point,…and taking…(this)…visit as a standpoint from which to judge, one could hardly be made to believe that the soldiers were the same ones I met at West Point…(where) there was one practical joke after another perpetrated on some poor fellow and the giving of him the horse laugh, never giving religious matters a thought, while now every man seemed imbued with the religious spirit, not a word, deed or action betraying otherwise.

“The song they, were singing and which sounded Heavenly with so many voices, was in honor of the dead and mortally wounded they left on the field, Isham Harrison, the regiment’s colonel, having been among the number killed.”

Had this command done no other service during the war, their valor and deeds in the Battle of Harrisburg were enough to immortalize the regiment, this battle having gone into history as one exemplifying the valor of the Confederate soldier…”

A grim assessment of the battle from a Rebel soldier’s perspective was penned by John Johnston when an old veteran.  Johnston, of Colonel James Neely’s West Tennessee Brigade and comrade of Tipton’s soldiers in the 12th and 15th Cavalry regiments, wrote:

“The battle of Harrisburg was a terrible blunder on the part of the Confederate commander…We could not have had more than 5 – 6,000 men actually engaged while the enemy’s force, 12,000…and held a fine position protected by fortifications.  The result was a terrible slaughter of the flower of Forrest’s Cavalry…Stephen D. Lee was in command…Gen. Forrest seems never to have attempted to shift the blame on him.”

In his report, General N. B. Forrest wrote: “The Battle…will furnish the historian a bloody record, but it will also stamp with immortality the gallant dead and the living heroes it has made.”  Citing the deaths of his regimental officers, he wrote of their “high courage and ardent patriotism.”  In closing he proclaimed their names “will shine in fadeless splendor,” and that “future generations will never weary in hanging garlands upon their graves.”   

 Continued.

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​

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