—Heritage Trails Enrichment Program —
Tupelo Baptist Church
As often happened in the middle of Civil War conflict, partisan lines became blurred when the care of wounded soldiers was necessary. A field hospital created by Union troops to treat their soldiers wounded in the engagements along Pontotoc Road was perilously close to the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg which broke out in the early morning hours of July 14, 1864. The conflict came so close to the field hospital that there was fear that the patients were in danger of being
hit by artillery and small arms fire. The patients were moved to the Tupelo Baptist Church about two miles away from the battle. Across the field of battle another field hospital had been established by the Confederacy on the battleground and at Calhoun Mansion. As the battle came to an end, wounded soldiers from the east side of the battlefield - Confederate and Union troops alike - were taken to Tupelo Baptist Church for care by the Union surgeons who performed amputations and life-saving operations.
Kind Treatment for the Wounded
In the early hours of July 15, General A.J. Smith made the decision to turn his army north and return to Tennessee. Most of the 505 wounded Union soldiers were loaded into wagons and ambulances for the journey. The surgeons determined
40 of the men were too gravely injured to survive the trip. The 40, along with hundreds of Confederate wounded, were made as comfortable as possible in the church as the army marched away. Two surgeons and a number of soldier/nurses were left behind to continue the aid until the Confederate army arrived. Major Thomas Tate of the 12th Kentucky Cavalry entered the hospital and observed his wounded had been "kindly treated by the enemy." Despite their best efforts, the extreme heat and scarcity of water resulted in abysmal conditions; freshly bandaged wounds were soon covered with flies and vermin. Conditions improved quickly with the arrival of the Confederate army and the transfer of many of the wounded to other sites. The Union surgeons and nurses kept separate from the other prisoners, were treated with kindness. When their duties were completed they were given safe passage to Vicksburg and passed through to Union lines.