Monday, June 4, 2012

The Road to Iuka and Bear Creek Bridge

On this day in 1862, the Seventeenth, with the rest of Ammen's Brigade and Nelson's entire division began a seven-day march from Corinth to Iuka. The first leg of this journey was a four-day march south along the Rienzi road to Smith's Cross-Roads. The wet southern spring had become a hot dusty summer and  the volunteers were beginning to wonder if there was ever any tolerable weather down here in the south.

Perhaps now it's appropriate for a word or two about the standard issue shoe of the Union Infantry, which most soldiers wore only until they could find a replacement.  The standard brogan had changed little from that issued in the Revolutionary War.  It was a square-toed, four-eyelet ankle boot with a pegged sole made of stiff leather and designed to fit either foot.  They were durable enough, but definitely not designed for comfort. 

Long days of chopping wood and rebuilding roads had already taken their toll on the infantry men's feet, as had the shortage of potable water- Beauregard had either taken or destroyed the supply of fresh water before leaving Corinth. When the Seventeenth arrived in that city, their blistered feet had been soaked in marsh water for most of the past month, with few chances to bathe.  Now they were about to set out on their first forced march of any significant distance.

John Blackburn, regimental historian, provides the following account of the march from Corinth to Iuka. "This march was made in terrible heat, and the dust was so thick at times the soldiers could see no more than a few feet distance.  Many fell out of ranks in complete exhaustion, some with serious nosebleed, and some even became unconscious.  The complaints against Generals Nelson and Ammen were often and bitterly expressed, but capable military leaders know well that objectives must be attained, even against such obstacles as the sacrifice of soldiers.  The leaders were of course right in moving forward."*

*Blackburn, John, A Hundred Miles, A Hundred Heartbreaks, 1972. Self-published, LOC 72-93774,

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