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Tipton’s Cavalry soldiers Chalmers’ raid on Collierville, part III

Col. Robert V. Richardson’s brigade encamped at the Guy farm on the night of Oct. 9, 1863. His command consisted of the cavalry regiments of the 12th Mississippi, Col. William Inge; 12th Tennessee, Lt. Col. John U. Green of Covington; 13th Tennessee, Col. J. J. Neely; 14th Tennessee, Col. Francis Stewart; Reneau battery of 2 six-pounders, Capt. Baylor Palmer; Buckner, Miss. battery of four steel breech-loading 2-pounders, Lt. H. C. Holt. On the morning of Oct. 9, two Union columns converged on Salem, Hatch’s 6th and 7th Illinois and 7th Kansas (750 men) from Lamar and the 3rd Michigan from Corinth.

McCrillis’ command was in rapid retreat to La Grange. Once at Salem, local villagers told Hatch the Rebels had 4,000 troopers and 18 cannons. At once, Hatch sent a dispatch to Col. E. W. Rice at Davis’ Mill, to bring his two infantry regiments and section of artillery to Salem. With the infantry support, Hatch planned to attack Chalmers force.Union skirmishers were sent forward to out engage the Rebels until the infantry arrived. Later, Hatch learned that McCrillis’ men had retreated to La Grange. Gen. T. W. Sweeney suggested that Hatch retreat to Davis’ Mill; Hatch disengaged his skirmishers and headed his command to La Grange.

Chalmers’ line of battle was drawn up at Hamer’s two miles from Salem. His scouts trailed the retreating Federals five miles before returning. Chalmers’ command moved two miles toward Holly Springs and camped. Reaching Holly Springs on the morning of Oct. 10, Chalmers’ men spent the day drawing rations and ammunition. During the day he determined to attack the Federal garrison and Memphis and Charleston train depot at Collierville. Tennessee’s railroad network played a pivotal role in the military events of the Civil War.

The significance of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was of strategic importance to both armies. This rail line ran eastward from Memphis into Mississippi and across northern Alabama connecting with the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. This major rail route linked Memphis with the Atlantic and was heavily used to transport and supply armies during the War Between the States. (This track is now a busy main line of the Norfolk Southern Railway.)

Four small battles or engagements were fought during the war at Collierville. The five-hour engagement fought there on Sunday, Oct. 11, 1863, between 4,000 soldiers, was largest land battle in Shelby County. Union forces established a small fort and defenses at the depot, manned by the 66th Indiana Infantry, Col. D. C. Anthony. Detachments of the 6th and 7th Illinois Cavalry were encamped there as well. During the day, a train bearing Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and the 13th U.S. Infantry arrived at Collierville.

A writer described the action thus:

“The battle raged around the fort and depot, and eventually the Confederates drove all the Union forces into the fort, the depot or railroad cuts for protection. Neither side was able to gain control of the battle.”

Tipton’s soldiers of the 7th and 12th Tennessee regiments were among Gen. James Chalmers’ 2,000 cavalry engaged in the battle. They didn’t know it at the time however, but Gen. U. S. Grant’s most able subordinate, Gen. Sherman, was lurking within the grasp and bullet range of their Enfield rifles.

Tipton’s cavalry soldiers, Battle of Collierville to be continued next week.

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