Tipton’s cavalry at Collierville
Oct. 11, 1863
The 7th Tennessee Confederate Cavalry was ordered to recapture the train “and burn it at all hazards.” Col. W. L. Duckworth’s men burned the two rear cars, using shirts of Sherman and his staff for kindling the fire; “the other cars could not be fired for want of combustibles.” A counterattack of 41 men of the 13th U. S. infantry drove the Rebel demolition team away while the Union regimental band played “Rally Around the Flag” (the only time during the war the 13th Infantry charged to music).
Duckworth ordered his men to retreat. John Johnston wrote:
“…the whole regiment moved back to the attack and went as far as the railroad. Here we were met by a terrible fire from the fort and some of our best men were killed and wounded…(after helping a wounded comrade)…I got off the field as fast as I could. The shots were flying like hail as I ran back, but I was unhurt. Capt. Alex Duckworth was badly wounded…”
Duckworth’s men had captured and partially burned a Yankee train, put Sherman and his staff to flight, losing their personal baggage and horses, and allegedly 135 prisoners. Duckworth’s losses were three killed, 48 wounded (of these the 7th Tennessee suffered two killed and 13 wounded). Tipton’s Co.I lost Capt. Armour and Augustus Washington “Gus” Walk was wounded.
Union reinforcements forced the Confederates to disengage and retire southward.
Three days later Gen. Sherman wrote:
“Chalmers’ force that attacked Collierville was evidently composed of militia. There was not a military man along, I know, from their mode of attack. The artillery was handled as bad as possible, not an enfilading shot thrown at the fort or train of cars. It was a big scramble for plunder and bunglingly managed throughout.”
Capt. James Dinkins of Chalmers staff concluded:
“Had McGuirk (and his Mississippians) moved on and captured the fort, instead of allowing his men to halt in (the cavalry) camp, or had Maj. Cousins cut the road…Sherman would almost certainly have been captured, and the story of the burning of churches, convents, and school-houses, and the destruction of every thing to eat along his line of march in Georgia, without a foe in his front, would never have been told, and future generation, would not have read how helpless women, often sick and destitute, appealed to him to spare their houses and a few rations of meal, and how contemptuously they were pushed aside. The houses were burned as well as all their provisions. Had we captured Sherman, he never would have had the opportunity to make himself famous…”
Total casualties reported: Union – 164; Confederate – 128.
A Covington newspaper in 1875 recorded a “ludicrous event” regarding a Tiptonian in the battle:
“The hero of this story is an excellent citizen of this county, a son of Erin, with just enough brogue to impart melody to a commanding voice. At the battle of Collierville, he succeeded in obtaining a favorable position, where he was perfectly safe in the midst of a heavy firing of musketry, being protected in a road ditch; but unfortunately for him the tube of his musket was stopped up. Again and again, he tried to fire his piece but without success; he had nothing with which to pick the tube. He could reach none of his comrades without exposing himself. In this dilemma he saw his brigade commander, Gen. Richardson, passing a short distance in the rear, when he hailed him with, ‘Gen. Richardson, have you got a pin?’ The general, though under fire, stopped, examined the lapel of his coat, and said, ‘Yes, sir, I have.’
‘Well, sir,’ said our hero, ‘then bring it to me, general,’ which the general, without a word, proceeded to do, and after this little episode hastened on his way.”