Even as late as 1864, northeast Mississippi was sparsely populated. Just thirty years earlier the whole area had belonged to the Chickasaw Nation, and many of the local white landowners had moved here after 1845. The Bethany Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, today the lone occupant of the Crossroads, was founded in 1852.
During the 1860s some of the land was used to grow cotton and corn, but much of the area remained wooded with dense underbrush. The battlefield of Brice's Crossroads, therefore, was as much forest as field, which greatly affected how soldiers could fight. Cavalry troops had to leave their horses in the rear and venture into the forest on foot. Soldiers might be just a few yards away from the enemy line and yet not able to see them through the underbrush.
"The day was extremely hot and sultry, the country was largely woodland, the roads very muddy, and the rapid march, under a scorching sun, had a very exhausting effect upon the men." —Sergeant C.F. Macdonald, 9th Minnesota Infantry
The Agnew Diaries
"Tippah Co. Life: When I first came here I was bewildered. Every way I looked I saw woods - no clearing. I saw for the first time bored wells. Saw many things which appeared very strange at first but all have become common place to me now." —Samuel A. Agnew diary. December 15, 1852