Outwitting Forrest: The Tupelo Campaign in Mississippi, June 22 - July 23, 1864

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Edwin C. Bearss/David A. Powell (editor)
Pub Date:
August 2023
20 images, 12 maps, 192 pp
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About the Book

Few students of the Civil War know that legendary historian Edwin C. Bearss produced a classic study on the little-known but significant Tupelo Campaign. The fighting in Mississippi has been overshadowed by Nathan Bedford Forrest’s more spectacular victory at Brice’s Crossroads a month earlier. Bearss performed the research and writing for the Department of the Interior in 1969, and only a handful of softcover copies were produced and circulated. It is published here for the first time, with the assistance of award-winning author David A. Powell, as Outwitting Forrest: The Tupelo Campaign in Mississippi, June 22 - July 23, 1864.

The engagement came about when Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith marched a Federal expeditionary force consisting of his 16th Army Corps into northern Mississippi in early July. The thrust forced a response, the largest of which was delivered by the combined Confederate cavalry commands of Stephen D. Lee (who was in general command) and Forrest.

The tactical result was a Union defensive success. The larger Confederate strategic play, however—one that might have changed the course of the war in the Western Theater—would have been to unleash Forrest on a raid into Middle Tennessee to destroy the single line of railroad track feeding and suppling the Union armies of William T. Sherman in his ongoing operations around Atlanta. Instead, his men were contained with the Magnolia State, where his combat effectiveness was severely damaged.

Editor Powell has left Bearss’ prose and notes intact, while adding additional sources and commentary of his own. The result is an exceptional study that has finally been made available to the general reading public as part of the Savas Beatie Battles & Leaders Series.


Advance Praise


“Ed Bearss was a rockstar in the Civil War and historical community. Best known for his three-volume Vicksburg Campaign study and work (both written and literally hands on) with the USS Cairo, Ed also wrote an astounding number of reports, articles, essays, and monographs on many aspects of the Civil War. One of the fuller treatments is his rare Tupelo study. Its publication here—with Dave Powell’s careful editing and annotations—adds yet another classic Bearss work to the volumes available by this truly remarkable historian.” — Timothy B. Smith, author of Shiloh: Conquer or Perish and The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi


“This little-known work by the late Edwin C. Bearss—the Civil War’s premier historiographer—was released as an in-house publication by the National Park Service, and few copies, even within the agency, are known to exist. Available now to the general public for the first time, this work details the multifaceted Tupelo Campaign of 1864 and highlights the extent to which Nathan Bedford Forrest—‘Wizard of the Saddle’— impacted military operations throughout the Western Theater during this crucial year of combat. The value of this work will be instantly recognized by all who read it.” — Terrence J. Winschel, Historian (ret.), Vicksburg National Military Park


“No character in the Civil War so captivates the public’s imagination as that of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Yet, he was not ten feet tall, and he had his vulnerabilities. In this fast-paced narrative, Ed Bearss explains not only what happened, but why it happened, and why it was so important. This is Ed Bearss at his best.” — Larry J. Daniel, author of Conquered: Why the Army of Tennessee Failed


“Ed Bearss was a pioneer in so many aspects of interpretation for the National Park Service. Nowhere is this more evident than in his 1969 monograph of the Tupelo Campaign, the first serious, unbiased look at the operations in Mississippi during the summer of 1864. In the 105 years that followed, none of the books, memoirs, or articles that preceded his came close to unlocking the truth of the campaign, which several authors had willingly obscured. My own account of Tupelo/Harrisburg was made that much easier by following the trail blazed by my friend Ed.” — Thomas E. Parson, author of Work for Giants: The Campaign and Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg, Mississippi, June–July 1864



Edwin C. Bearss was a world-renowned military historian, author, preservationist, and tour guide best known for his work on the Civil War. While serving in the Marines during WWII, Ed was severely wounded at “Suicide Creek” in New Britain and spent more than two years in military hospitals. He served as the Chief Historian for both Vicksburg National Military Park and the National Park Service, authored dozens of books and articles, and led scores of battlefield tours each year. Ed is credited with discovering and helping raise the Union gunboat USS Cairo from the Yazoo River, which is now on display at Vicksburg National Military Park. Ed passed away on September 15, 2020, at the age of 97. David A. Powell is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (1983) with a BA in history. He has published many articles in various magazines, and more than fifteen historical simulations. For the past decade David’s focus has been on the epic battle of Chickamauga, and he is nationally recognized for his tours of that important battlefield. He is the author of many books including The Chickamauga Campaign trilogy, The Maps of Chickamauga, and Failure in the Saddle. He is currently finishing the first of what promises to be a five-volume history of the Atlanta Campaign. David and his wife Anne live with their brace of Bloodhounds in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He is Vice President of Airsped, Inc., a specialized delivery firm.