Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center

3 02 2008

In June of 2007 I met up with some good friends to spend a few hot days stomping the battlefield of Shiloh.  (I wrote a little bit about it here.)  Our base of operations was in Corinth, MS.  Corinth saw more than its share of action during the war, and is a pretty cool destination for the ACW traveler itself.  The NPS recently opened the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, and it’s one of the spiffiest NPS facilities I’ve seen.

The entrance to the building, situated on the site of Battery Robinett which featured prominently in the battle of October, 1862, is via a winding footpath, along which are strewn bronze replicas of the detritus of battle, like the cartridge box and shell jacket below (click on the thumbnails for larger image):

corinth-cartidge.jpg corinth-jacket.jpg

Just outside the entrance is a sculpture in relief of soldiers on the march.  I was told by the staff at the center – by the way, just about the prettiest staff I’ve seen at an NPS facility – that all of the figures are based on NPS employees at Shiloh.  Below is a shot of the group, and details of the Tim Smith and Stacy Allen based soldiers:

corinth-soldiers.jpg corinth-tim-smith.jpg corinth-stacy-allen.jpg

Inside the Interpretive Center is open, bright and airy.  It features multi-media presentations on Corinth in the Civil War and the battle of Shiloh.  There’s a bookstore, where I purchased a print that I later had framed and now hangs over the fireplace in my family room (I wrote about it here).  And there’s a research library for public use, with a full set of ORs and essential reference sets like the Southern Historical Society Papers and The Union Army.

There’s also a cool display of the colors of the 6th Missouri Infantry (Confederate).  The flag was sewn by the wife of Col. Eugene Erwin, who was wounded at Corinth and killed at Vicksburg in June 1863.  She smuggled the banner and her husband’s uniform jacket out of Vicksburg after the city fell on July 4.  Below are images of the flag, Col. Erwin, and his jacket (I apologize for the poor quality – I’m buying a digital SLR so stuff like this won’t happen anymore):

corinth-6th-mo-colors.jpg corinth-col-eugene-erwin.jpg corinth-erwin-jacket.jpg

One of the most attractive aspects of the center is the water feature courtyard.  The feature consists of a water course, which begins with a waterfall flowing in 13 streams from a block etched with the words of the preamble to the Constitution.  The stream flows through tumbled blocks representing the major engagements of the Civil War, and ends with the reflecting pool of the reunited nation:

corinth-waterfall.jpg corinth-blocks.jpg corinth-br-block.jpg corinth-pool.jpg

Outside the center are some monuments to and gravesites of Confederates who fell at Battery Robinett.  Prominent among them is an obelisk to Col. William P. Rogers, an Alabamian who led Mississippians in the War with Mexico, signed the Texas Ordinance of Secession and fell at the head of the 2nd Texas Infantry at Corinth.  Included below is the only known photo of Confederate dead in the Western theater.  Col. Rogers has been identified as one of the bearded men in the foreground (here’s a link to his diary and letters):

corinth-rogers-photo.jpg corinth-rogers-monument-1.jpg corinth-rogers-monument-2.jpg

Learn more about the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center here and here.

Another interesting site in Corinth is the train station at the vital crossroads (nice museum inside):  

corinth-train-station

Also nearby is the site of the Corinth Contraband Camp, set up to accommodate the influx of African Americans into the Union occupied town after the issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.  The Contraband Camp started out as a tent city in the fall of 1862, and by mid-1863 took on the characteristics of a small town with a church, hospital, and dwellings.  Many of the adult males enlisted for military service, and the camp residents who remained behind collectively farmed 400 acres with cotton and vegetables.  At its peak, the camp was home to an estimated 6,000 people.  When the army pulled out of Corinth in January 1864, most of the freedmen abandoned the camp to follow.  Here’s the entrance to what remains of the camp:

Taking nothing away from the charm of Savannah, TN (the other base used by Shiloh pilgrims), Corinth has lots to offer the ACW traveler.  Be sure to block out some time to tour the town when you visit Shiloh.

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12 responses

3 02 2008
Mannie Gentile

Harry,

I love those bronze sculptures of the wreckage of battle. They are incredibly evocative. I’ve often thought how cool it would be to reproduce, in bronze, the pair of shoes that appears in the foreground of the Gardner photograph of the wreckage of the Richmond battery with Dunker Church in the background.

Those shoes in the photo mural at the Antietam visitors center elicit a great deal of comment.

Mannie

4 02 2008
Drew W.

Harry,
did you notice how those bronzes are anchored to the ground? In my part of the country, meth tweakers steal just about any piece of metal they can find. What a world…

4 02 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Mannie:

That sounds like a capital idea to me. But of course there is no more monumentation allowed at Antietam. Maybe you could turn the photo on the wall of the VC into a diorama of sorts?

BTW, I hope you weren’t too offended by my “prettiest staff” award. You and John are mighty purty too, OK?

Drew:

If you look closely, you can see that the bronzes are attached to some sort of metallic base in the grass. I don’t know how heavy they are,, but I understand the NPS has hired the ghost of Buford Pusser to guard the grounds so it shouldn’t be a problem.

5 02 2008
Susan Sweet

Harry I enjoyed your article on Corinth. I was this last June but of course Tom was off at a meeting. I love the bronzes items outside. It is a wonderful place to visit. I found several books in the bookstore I couldn’t leave without.
Susan

16 03 2008
ArtorBartinTampaFL

Set up “base camp” in Downtown Motel in Corinth in June 2000 on my 2nd of many ACW treks. Drove up to Shiloh, down to Brice’s Crossroads, drove through Iuka looking for markers, any sign of that engagement; found zilch! Anybody know of any progress in interpreting Iuka? Do need to come back to the northeasternest tip of Mississippi for another visit, expecially for the new VC. Many thanks for the preview, BR!

16 03 2008
Harry Smeltzer

No problem, Art. I didn’t get over to Iuka, so I don’t know what has been done there.

Thanks for stopping by, and come back often. And call me Harry.

6 08 2008
Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor’s Center « Bull Runnings

[...] it just didn’t appeal to me.  I may have been expecting too much after having seen the new Corinth Interpretive Center.  Anyway, here are some photos I took that hot, hot Saturday morning.  Click the thumbs for [...]

2 03 2009
Shiloh « Bull Runnings

[...] #5 – Corinth Interpretive Center.  See here. [...]

1 04 2010
Mike

Great write-up. I’m metal detecting in the area and actually sitting in the parking lot about to go in and browse the bookstore. HH

19 08 2011
John A. Miller

Hi Harry,

I work here at the South Mountain State Battlefield as the Park Historian and I am also the Historian for the Monterey Pass Battlefield site in Pa. I am working on designing an Interpretive Center for Monterey Pass Battlefield and I love those bronze replicas of the detritus of battle. Do you have any other photographs you can share or even send to me. I would like to do something simular for the wreckages of wagons that were attacked by the Union Cavalry.

21 08 2011
Harry Smeltzer

John, I’ll take a look and see if there were any other photos I didn’t post.

21 08 2011
John A. Miller

Thank you, Harry/

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