Sunday, July 25, 2010

2LT G.W. Askew, the 42nd Alabama, and the Battle of Corinth

                A few years ago as I was working on my thesis involving the 42nd Alabama, I had the opportunity to visit the Battlefield at Corinth, Mississippi.  My father made the visit with me as we rediscovered the past.  Corinth was the first experience of combat for the 42nd Alabama.  The 42nd Alabama participated in the heaviest portions of the battle from 3-5 October 1862.  The regiment’s first combat occurred near Battery F on 3 October, the heaviest action occurred on 4 October during the attack on Battery Robinette and the unit saw its final fighting on 5 October at Davis Bridge during the retreat from Corinth.  The regiment suffered horrendous casualties over the course of these three days of constant fighting.  The severest killed-in-action rates occurred in companies A, B, and D.  Overall, the 42nd Alabama suffered 57 percent casualties, reducing the regiment from 700 to approximately 304 effectives.  The 42nd Alabama suffered the second highest casualty rate within its assigned Brigade, Commanded by General John C. Moore.  The 42nd Alabama incurred rates of 5.8 percent killed-in-action, 9.6 percent wounded-in-action, and 41 percent missing-in-action or captured.  Many of the regiment’s leaders were wounded-in-action, including the Regimental Commander, Colonel Portis and his deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Lanier.  Of the ten company commanders, Captain Foster was killed-in-action and Captain Knox died of wounds, this equated to a 20 percent killed in action rate for company commanders.  One other company commander, Captain Condry, was wounded-in-action and survived his wounds.  One First Sergeant was killed-in-action and two of ten First Sergeants were wounded-in-action.  In addition, one lieutenant was killed-in-action and six were wounded-in-action, one of these wounded was my GGGrandfather, G. W. Askew of F Company.  I have included a few eye witness accounts of the bloody action experienced by the 42nd Alabama.

Charles R. Labruzan, acting commander of F Company, a former Mobile Merchant, husband and father of four, described the scene near Battery Robinette: 

We were met by a perfect storm of grape, canister, cannon balls and minnie balls.  Oh God! I have never seen the like! The men fell like grass even here.  Giving one tremendous cheer, we dashed to the brow of the hill on which the fortifications are situated…I saw men, running at full speed, stop suddenly and fall upon their faces, with their brains scattered all around; others, with legs and arms cut off, shrieking with agony.  They fell behind, beside, and within a few feet of me.  (Oscar L. Jackson, The Colonel’s Diary. Sharon, PA, 1922, p. 71)

Lieutenant Jefferson R. Stockdale described the actions of G company, “We went over the breastworks into Corinth and fought in the streets, grappling with the foe, in many instances hand to hand but overwhelming numbers forced us to retire, the killed and wounded on both sides was very great.” (The Democratic Watchtower Vol. 23, No. 40 October 28, 1862)

The 42nd Alabama culminated in the town of Corinth at the railroad junction near the Tishomingo Hotel.  At their high tide, General Moore reported that they were “overwhelmed” by “massive reserves” and “melted under their fire like snow in thaw.” (OR, 17.1, Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, p. 396)

For more information on the 42nd Alabama’s actions during these three days of combat, feel free to read my articles:

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