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Tipton’s calvary soldiers

Chalmers’ raid, Oct. 1863, Part II

On Oct. 7th, Gen. James R. Chalmers moved his Rebel cavalry, 1,200 men and one cannon, toward Salem, arriving early on the eighth. Learning of a Federal force nearby, Chalmers deployed the 2d Missouri and the 7th Tennessee in battle formation. As hours passed, no attack came. Chalmers changed plans and left Hovis’ 1st Mississippi partisan rangers at Salem and with his main force headed for Collierville.

At noon, LaFayette McCrillis attacked Hovis’ Mississippian with the 9th Illinois, two mountain howitzers and the 6th West Tennessee U. S. Cavalry. Chalmers’ column had ridden 10 miles westward on the Holly Springs road when a dispatch from Hovis informed him that Federals were driving him from Salem along the road that Chalmers was on.

Chalmers sent McQuirk’s 3d Mississippi State Troops back to Salem to help Hovis. With the balance of his command, he took a parallel road hoping to catch the Federals in a flank or rear attack. Unable to do so, Chalmers sent his men in a frontal assault on the Yankee position. The ensuing battle was fiercely contested. Tipton’s men in the 7th Tennessee came into action late in the battle. Joseph Wharton, who had enlisted at Mason’s Depot in Co. K, was killed.

The historian of the 7th Tennessee wrote:

“The enemy was encountered at Oct. 8 at Salem, and a hot fight ensued. The 7th Regiment was in reserve in the rear of the 18th Mississippi until late in the action, when it was ordered to support the 2d Missouri and 18th Mississippi, which were being pressed back in the center. Arriving there and dismounting, the regiment charged vehemently on the enemy in front, driving them headlong from the field, and pursuing about two miles, until stopped by darkness. In this affair, the command lost…(at least four killed and 28 wounded). Union Gen. Thomas W. Sweeny reported on the engagement:

“On that day (8th October) our cavalry, under Col. McCrillis, with the mounted infantry and a section of Capt. Tannrath’s battery, under Col. Phillips, were attacked by the enemy at Salem, and driven back on the railroad with considerable loss.”

Chalmers estimated Union losses at 150 killed and wounded and captured five prisoners. McCrillis reported his own losses at “two killed, eight wounded severely and one missing.”

The Union commander estimated Confederate losses as “seven dead on the field and 44 so badly wounded that they were kept in barns nearby.”

John Johnston of the 7th Tennessee described the fight at Salem as a “sharp battle” in which his regiment “participated in the final charge on the enemy’s line.”

He recalled the Mississippi regiments suffering the most casualties. Following his battle with the 3d Michigan at New Albany, Miss., Col. R. V. Richardson spent Oct. 6 reorganizing his brigade and started for Holly Springs on the morning of the seventh. Passing through Holly Springs, Richardson moved his 950-man column to Scales’ Depot, per Chalmers’ orders.

A detachment of 20 Confederates was sent to scout toward Lamar, where they made contact with the 6th Illinois cavalry under Col. Edward Hatch. About dusk, Hatch was joined by the 7th Kansas and 7th Illinois cavalry regiments. About this time, Chalmers ordered Richardson’s command (including Tipton’s men in the 12th Tennessee) to Salem where they arrived at daylight Oct. 9.

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