Here are some facts that might help you sort through the "fog":
1. Major-General Price was engaging Ord's forces to his front, north of Iuka, when he learned of Rosecrans' force approaching from the south on the Jacinto road.
2. Price ordered Brigadier-General Little to detach Brigadier-General Hebert's Second Brigade and send it down the Jacinto road to stop, or at least slow down, Rosecrans' advance from the south. Heberts brigade was chosen because it was the only unit not committed to the line opposite Ord's forces.
3. Hebert's brigade stopped Rosecrans' force and threw it into confusion, but lacked the troops needed to mount an all out attack.
4. Brigadier-General Little arrived next to lend a hand with the Fourth Brigade commanded by Colonel John D. Martin. The Fourth Brigade consisted of the 37th Miss., 38th Miss., 36th Miss., and 37th Ala.
5. Brigadier-General Little ordered Col. Martin to take the 36th Miss. and 37th Ala. to support the extreme left flank of the line. Little said that he would take command of the 37th & 38th Miss. and support the extreme right flank of the line with the 37th Miss. being on the outer limit of the line, which was drawing fire from a Union artillery battery across an open field.
6. Shortly after giving the 37th & 38th Miss. their marching orders, Brigadier-General Little was reviewing the situation with Major-General Price when a bullet struck him in the head, killing him instantly. With the death of Little, command of the division devolved to Brigadier-General Hebert, who was busy fighting the battle to his front.
7. With the death of Little, the 37th & 38th Miss., were left in limbo. They were detached from their brigade commander, Col. Martin, who was on the extreme opposite flank directing the movements of the 36th Miss. & 37th Ala. They were awaiting orders from Little, who had been killed before he could give any futher orders and was the only commanding officer who knew where the regiments were or what their orders entailed. Hebert was now the division commander, but he had no knowledge of what orders Little had issued. In short, the 37th & 38th Miss. were on their own.
8. Cozzens makes this point:
“If Little’s death had not produces a pause in the Confederate assault, Hamilton’s entire division might have been routed,” historian Albert Castel has asserted. His claim has merit. Little fell just as the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Mississippi regiments were about to make their presence felt against the Federal left flank. Separated from their brigade commander, whom Little had sent to the left to direct the movements of the Thirty-sixth Mississippi and the Thirty-seventh Alabama, the two Mississippi colonels looked to Little for instructions. When he died, they were forgotten. Hébert was too busy with his own brigade to shoulder the responsibilities of division command, and Price neither gave the Mississippians orders nor reminded Hébert of his larger duty. (Peter Cozzens - “The Darkest Days Of The War, The Battles Of Iuka & Corinth”, pages 100-101)
9. As Cozzens explains, the 38th Miss. fell back:
Had he been a man of initiative, Col. Fleming W. Adams of the Thirty-eighth Mississippi might have contributed something to the Confederate attack. In keeping with his last orders from Little, Adams had his command advancing with its left flank touching the Jacinto road to reinforce the stalled assault on the Eleventh Ohio Battery. Just as the regiment ascended a low rise in the woods to the right and rear of Colonel Whitfield’s First Texas Legion, someone commanded the Thirty-eighth to fall back. Colonel Adams was perplexed: “I asked who the command came from, but was unable to ascertain.” Unfortunately he chose to obey the anonymous order. He withdrew his Mississippians sixty yards at precisely the moment when their continued presence might have hastened to capture of the Eleventh Ohio Battery and provided the crucial reserves needed to carry the assault over the ridge and into Sullivan’s dispersed brigade. As it was, the Thirty-eighth Mississippi took no further part in the battle. (Peter Cozzens - “The Darkest Days Of The War, The Battles Of Iuka & Corinth”, page 101)
10. And the 37th Miss. attempted to advance:
Col. Robert McLain of the Thirty-seventh Mississippi found himself in a predicament far graver than the “very embarrassing situation” Colonel Adams of the Thirty-eighth later tried to explain away in his report. General Little had ordered him “to move forward on the extreme right, with instructions not to fire, as there was a brigade of our own troops between us and the enemy.” That was true when Little gave the order, but the situation had changed markedly. The First Texas Legion, which had stood directly in front of the Thirty-seventh Mississippi, had inclined toward the Eleventh Ohio Battery as it advanced, unmasking McLain’s left companies. Nonetheless, McLain moved in accordance with Little’s order. He followed the initial path of the First Texas Legion, evident by trampled brush and broken branches.
For 250 yards McLain’s Mississippians tripped through what one veteran called “the thickest place I ever saw of vines, bushes, and briars” before striking the southeast corner of the Yow field. A high wooden fence bordered the field. McLain ordered his men over it. While they were climbing, the Mississippians were stunned by a heavy and unexpected fire delivered into their right flank from the far side of the field, some 400 yard away. At that range few were hit, and Colonel McLain fell back to reform the regiment and await instructions from Little. None came; not a single courier appeared to inform McLain of Little’s fate or to offer guidance. Unlike Colonel Adams, McLain took matters upon himself. After restoring order he elected to challenge the Federals, who were arrayed on a ridge along the field’s western fringe. The Mississippian conducted a half wheel to the right and marched his regiment due west into the open, away from the rest of the division and the fight for the Eleventh Ohio Battery. McLain’s decision cost him dearly. A sharp frontal volley of musketry and crushing salvo of canister met his men midway across the field. Then an irregular but well-aimed fire erupted from the forest 200 yards to their left. The accuracy and increasing volume of the Yankee volleys convinced the Mississippians that they confronted a whole brigade – Capt. Absalom Dantzler guessed they faced four times their number – and the men fell to the ground to return the fire the best they could.
In the thickening twilight it was easy to exaggerate the strength of an enemy only dimly seen, even at close range. In reality McLain confronted only Col. Nicholas Perczel’s Tenth Iowa, the two-gun section of Immell’s Twelfth Wisconsin Battery that had accompanied the Tenth on its reconnaissance up the settlement road, and the left companies of the disorganized Fourth Minnesota. (Peter Cozzens - “The Darkest Days Of The War, The Battles Of Iuka & Corinth”, pages 101-102)
The Rebel fire was less effective than Immell portrayed it. Lying down and firing uphill, burying their heads to dodge the canister that raked their line, the Mississippians aimed badly and hit little. And they were angry. The Thirty-eighth Mississippi had disappeared from their left at the same time McLain’s men took their first volley from that direction, leading them to conclude that their fellow Mississippians had run. Fighting alone and taking fire from two directions, McLain conceded the contest as dusk settled over the field. The Thirty-seventh reformed in the timber and delivered a few more volleys, until darkness ended the pointless exchange. McLain’s futile sally into the Yow field had cost him seventy-eight men. (Peter Cozzens - “The Darkest Days Of The War, The Battles Of Iuka & Corinth”, pages 102-103)
11. Lastly, to address the myth about the 37th Miss. not returning fire because they thought the were firing on their own troops, Cozzen states:
The Missourians got off the first volley. No response came from the Rebels. Instead, said Weber, a confused Confederate ran into Federal ranks screaming, "For God's sake, stop firing into your own men; you are firing into the Thirty-seventh Mississippi." The Missourians collared the man, raised a cheer, and released a second volley "more terrific than the first." The Confederates returned the fire, but their bullets largely passed over the Missourians, who were on lower ground.
Major Weber had misunderstood the bewildered Rebel who had tried to call off his men. He was not fighting the Thirty-seventh Mississippi but, rather, the Thirty-seventh Alabama and the Thirty-sixth Mississippi regiments, which Col. John Martin finally had brought to bear to the left of Hébert. Martin had been slow in coming up; perhaps the death of Little interrupted his advance. Had he moved fifteen minutes earlier, he would have outflanked the Fifth Iowa, caught the Eleventh Missouri in route column in the Ricks field, and perhaps rolled up Rosecrans's entire right flank. As it was, the two lines settled into a fierce firefight after sunset. (Peter Cozzens - “The Darkest Days Of The War, The Battles Of Iuka & Corinth”, page 112)
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