The town of Corinth sat at the intersection of the Memphis-Charleston and Mobile-Ohio rail lines – a junction Confederate Secretary of War Roy LePope Walker described as the ‘vertebrae of the Confederacy’. To capture Corinth, the Union General Halleck had a force commensurate with its strategic importance, around 120,000 strong. But after the pyrrhic victory at Shiloh in early April, he advanced with extreme caution, aiming to minimize further casualties. This proved inadvertently astute. The Confederate defenders of Corinth, swelled by the wounded of Shiloh and outnumbered 2 to 1, were being ravaged far more effectively by typhoid and dysentery than by any Union artillery barrage. Once the barrage began, the Confederates fought staunchly, but by the end of May, their commander, General Beauregard recognized further resistance was untenable. He managed to camouflage his withdrawal from Corinth, thus avoiding the capture of his forces, but the Confederate ‘vertebrae’ had been broken.
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