The 2nd Battle of Corinth, Oct. 3-4, 1862
On Oct. 3rd, Col. John Fuller’s Ohio Brigade, including the 43rd OVI, arrived at Corinth, Mississippi after fighting had ceased for the day. They waited all night on the hill surrounding Battery Robinet for the battle to resume at daylight. The Confederates, amassed in the woods at the bottom of the hill, opened artillery fire before first light.
The fierceness of the battle on Oct. 4th was vividly summarized in Col. Fuller’s official report of his brigade’s impassioned defense of Battery Robinet: “…and every rebel who showed his head above the parapet of the fort, or attempted to enter it by the embrasures, got his head shot off.”
The battle was searingly remembered 52 years later by participant John H. Rhodes, then captain of the 43rd’s Company K, writing to Edwin Lybarger, then a sergeant in Company K. Shot in the knee, Lybarger was one of nine Company K men wounded that day, and the only one to survive his wounds.
“No regiment had a hotter place than the 43d Ohio at Corinth.”
At the reunion of Fuller’s Brigade held at Marietta, Ohio on Sept. 10, 1885, Edwin Lybarger delivered an address recounting the battle and the brigade’s role in the Union victory:
The battle of Corinth, fought Oct. 3d and 4th, 1862, was perhaps one of the most sanguinary, as well as one of the most decisive, battles in which the Ohio Brigade participated.
Our line of battle covering the town on the morning of Oct. 4th was that of a semi-circle, protected on the right flank by Forts Powell and Richardson and on the left by batteries Robinet and Williams. The 43rdOhio was on the left of Fuller’s Ohio Brigade, with the right resting against Robinett and the left extending to the railroad cut under the guns of battery Williams, and almost at right angles to the main line of battle.
Before daylight on the morning of the 4th the enemy opened fire with shell and shot from a field battery in front of Robinet and not more than three hundred yards distant. This battery was soon disabled, or at least silenced by our heavy guns, and one of the pieces subsequently hauled in by the 63d Ohio. After which everything was quiet until about 10 o’clock a.m., when the enemy made an impetuous and almost simultaneous attack along our entire line with the evident expectation of carrying every thing before him.
The 43d Regiment was so situated, the ground descending to the right, that we could look over the whole field. The left and center of the enemy emerging from the woods before and a little in advance of his right we had the opportunity, for a few minutes, of witnessing one of the most terrific scenes of blood and carnage that it was my lot to behold during the war.
The rebel lines massed in columns, moved forward with the steadiness, if not the precision of regiments at drill, whilst one of the most destructive and terrible fires over delivered on the field of battle, was being poured from artillery and musketry straight into their faces. The shell and shot from our batteries plowed through their ranks, making great gaps, literally mowing men down by hundreds, still their formation was preserved, their broken ranks quickly closed up, and on, on they come! But we who had been watching this scene from the left had not long to gaze upon so grand a panorama of war, for our attention was soon called to our immediate front. A desperate charge was coming and a determined effort to capture Robinet immediately followed.
The 43d changed front, on first company by a right half wheel, and gained the crest of the hill before the enemy, and poured a most effective and destructive fire into the advancing columns. It was the 43d and 63d Ohio that received the severest shock of this fierce onset, which was so promptly met and handsomely repulsed by the Ohio Brigade. The enemy was hurled back at this point into the woods in disorder only to reform and renew the attack with still greater vigor and determination.
The second assault was led by a brigade of the steadiest infantry of Price’s army, commanded by the brave and impetuous Col. Rogers, of Texas, who at the head of the assaulting column waving his word and encouraging his followers, fell dead under the very mouths of the guns of Robinet. I have always regretted that so intrepid a soldier, though a dangerous enemy, was doomed to die; and I doubt very much indeed if ever greater bravery or daring was displayed upon the field of battle by any Field Marshal of France, under the eye of the great Napoleon than was exhibited by Col. Rogers in his assault on Robinet, not excepting McDonald at Austerlitz, or the indomitable Ney, whose heroism attested on a hundred hard-fought fields, earned for him the proud distinction of “the bravest of the brave,” and who led the Old Guard in its last charge at Waterloo.
The fighting in front of Robinet was desperate in the extreme. Many of the gunners from the 1st Infantry were disabled, and when the canon ceased to belch forth its leaden hail, it was soldiers from captain Spanglers’ Co. A, 43rd Ohio who sprang into the fort, and assisted in manning the guns until the close of the struggle. It was during this last assault, and near its close, that the gallant 11thMo. Went into action and rendered such material aid. The terrific fire delivered from our musketry and the deadly missiles hurled in such rapid succession from our heavy guns soon settled the matter. No human courage could long withstand such fearful carnage as our guns were making, and again the enemy was compelled to fall back; this time in utter rout and disorder.
The loss of life on our side at this point, if not as great as that of the enemy, was very severe. The 43d Regt., according to my own diary, lost ninety-seven men in killed and wounded, but according to Comrade David Auld (now of Cleveland, Ohio) was one hundred and twenty-three. Comrade Auld was on the field from the beginning to the close of the engagement in the capacity of stretcher-bearer, and claims to have made an actual count of our loss, and his statement I consider entitled to great credit.
Among the gallant souls who fell that day was the accomplished and lamented Col. J. L. Kirby Smith, “whose sword shone as brightly and whose plume waved as proudly” on the field of battle as that of any soldier of the Army of the Mississippi.
The contest was sanguinary and raged fiercely on every part of the field. So terrific, indeed, was the onslaught on the right and center that our first line appeared to waver and give back and the elated rebels pressed forward, entered the suburbs of the village where they were promptly met by the reserves who sent them staggering to the rear. Being thus met and repulsed at every point, the enemy retired from the contest and retreated with his torn and bleeding columns, and decimated ranks, leaving his dead upon the field, and victory perching upon the stars and stripes.
Such is the idea I then had, and still have, of the battle of Corinth, without regard to historians or information from any source except my own diary; and whilst I would not knowingly detract one iota from the glory that belongs to every regiment that composed the Army of the Mississippi, I nevertheless, most confidently assert, that no regiment of that magnificent army had a hotter place, or maintained its position more courageously and heroically than the 43d Ohio at Corinth, nor was there any regiment of Stanley’s division whose casualties were half as great, except the 63d Ohio whose loss exceeded ours.