Union General Andrew J. Smith was sent by William T. Sherman to Mississippi to negate the threat to his railroad supply line posed by Nathan B. Forrest’s marauding cavalry. Dug in around Tupelo, Smith had a strong numerical advantage, with 14,000 men, but stubbornly resisted Forrest’s attempts to lure him into assault. Reluctantly, the Confederates, under the divided command of Forrest and General Lee, decided to attack – uphill and over open ground. In fierce heat, and under intense fire, successive Confederate assaults were poorly coordinated and repulsed with heavy losses. At the end of the day, the Confederates withdrew and entrenched. Smith did not attempt a pursuit, using the lull to ‘scorch the earth’ of nearby Harrisburg. When Smith withdrew, Forrest, nettled by a rare reverse, attempted to counterattack Smith’s army, only to be once more repulsed and wounded in the engagement.
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