As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I went to Jackson, Mississippi a couple of weeks ago, and decided to go a day early to drive up to Corinth. Not entirely sure why I picked Corinth instead of Oxford (forget the Civil War and focus on Faulkner) or one of the various sites that would have been more convenient (I knew I had a multiple ancestors at Vicksburg, for example — including John D. Craven (I’ll get to him eventually), who turns out to have also fought in the Siege and Battle of Jackson with the 23rd Iowa Infantry).
Nevertheless, rather than looking up who all would have been at Jackson and Vicksburg and other places closer to where I was going to be anyway, I decided to check out Corinth. The idea of the three Guess brothers at Corinth with two of them dying has been one of the more vivid bits of my own family’s Civil War history.
On my flight to Jackson, Mississippi, I finally got around to reading a book I’ve had for a while, Peter Cozzens’ The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth, in order to prepare for the trip. Because I’m feeling kind of lazy, here’s a brief summary of the book that does it some justice.
Before the Battles of Iuka or Corinth happened in September and October 1862, the Siege of Corinth occurred. Basically, the whole thing was over the control of the railroad lines. Union forces (including Grant) came in (after Shiloh) in April, engaged in a siege for control of the town and railroad junction for about a month (April 29-May 30, 1862, so just about exactly 155 years ago) and then held the town throughout the summer. As the Cozzens book and the helpful video at the Corinth Interpretative Center discussed, this led to a lot of deaths itself, as the water supply was poor, and it was hot and overcrowded, and dysentery and other illnesses were a huge problem. That’s actually how both Guess brothers died. Jacob died first, on July 22, 1862 (age 20) with the cause of death listed as febrile typhus. John, who was 29, with a wife Sarah (formerly Potts) and two young children, William (3) and Anna (1), died on August 3, 1862, cause of death listed as flux. Both were eventually buried at the Corinth National Cemetery.
Neither John nor Jacob (nor their brother Franklin, who survived the summer and the battles of Iuka and Corinth, and subsequent fighting in Mississippi and elsewhere) had been in the army long at that point. They all enlisted in the 80th Ohio Infantry at some point on or before 16 February 1862. (The 80th was organized between October 1861 and January 1862 and left Ohio in February, but the enlistment date for the three brothers is given as 16 February–I will have to research more about how this worked.) The enlistment would have been at Canal Dover, Ohio, not far from where they lived in Carroll County. In February, 1862, the 80th left Ohio and went to Paducah, Kentucky, where they were until April (the Union was in control of Paducah then and was using it as a supply depot. In April, they joined the Union forced going to Corinth — General Halleck started by building up a huge force, which is one of the elements covered in the Cozzens book. Then the siege/first battle of Corinth in April and May, and then the summer, waiting for the next battle to come. A couple of sources for the movements of the 80th Ohio Infantry are here and here.
And from AmericanCivilWar.com, here is a nice map of the western theater of the war in 1862 that shows somewhat the distance from Lee, Carroll, Ohio, down to the western bit of Kentucky where Paducah is located, and then to the area of Northern Mississippi where Corinth and Iuka are, and Vicksburg, which the Union victories in those battles helped set the stage for:
Finally, some photos from the Interpretative Center: