On June 10, 1864, 3,500 Confederate Cavalry troopers under the command of Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest clashed with a Union force of 8,100 infantry and cavalry under the command of Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis at Brice’s Crossroads, a stop in the road near Baldwyn, Mississippi. Forrest and his troopers defeated the Federal Army capturing 1,600 Union soldiers, and sending Sturgis and the remainder of his force back to Memphis, Tennessee. The Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield was established in February 1929 with the intention of preserving one acre in commemoration of the battle. Since then, the Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Commission has purchased 1,600 additional acres of hallowed ground, and with the help of the Civil War Preservation Trust and local support they have preserved many other areas associated with the battle (NPS Brochure). What follows is a review of my recent trip there.
Brice’s Crossroads does not have a traditional visitor’s center that many see at most National Battlefields. Instead of an on-site Visitor's Center, the Visitor's Center at Natchez Trace Parkway, approximately 15 miles south of the battlefield, serves the purpose for Brice's Crossroads. I would instead suggest that if you wish to visit Brice’s Crossroads you visit the Mississippi Final Stands Interpretive Center, located at 607 Grisham St, Baldwyn, MS 38824, or at https://www.finalstands.com. The Interpretive center serves as a hub for Brice’s Crossroads as well as the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg. There you can watch a brief movie about the battle of Brice’s Crossroads and tour the small museum that contains artifacts, replicas and maps telling the story of the battle. By the main desk will be displays indicating the sign you should be mindful of, as there is one to denote the direction of travel that you will find on your journey. Make sure you grab a map of the driving tour as the National Park Service Map only indicates the location of the original one acre area. There is also a driving tour available to those that have a CD player in their vehicle. Take a walk around the building to the front where you will find an area with flags. There is a flag representing every state that participated in the battle, with the US Colored Troops being represented by the flag of the US Army. After completing the tour of the visitor center, you are ready to begin your battlefield tour. Note that stop one of the tour is the Interpretive Center, take a left onto 370 to head in the direction of stop number 2.
As you progress,, you will see this small arrow signs indicating which direction you should be traveling. Please note the signs are not that large and are smaller than a speed limit sign and can be easily missed. The only obvious indicator that there was a tour stop is the presence of a pull off on the side of the road so you can park your car to view the stop. Please be aware of your surroundings as most stops are off of main roads and only have small pull off areas to park. Also note that the markers are usually on or near private property, so be mindful not to trespass. Next I shall cover important tips for a few of the specific stops.
A note about the audio driving tour. The tour is about 27 minutes long and does not cover all of the stops on the driving tour as marked on the provided map. A problem that is more of a modern one associated with the tour is that the tour is available only on CD. If you have no way of playing the tour, there is not much of a reason to purchase the tour. I would also add that the audio tour is not as much of an enhancement to your experience, so purchasing the tour is not mandatory. If purchased, it is still a useful tool to help provide insight into the battle. Now to the notes on the tour stops.
Tour Stop 4 Old Blackland Road. I drove up and down this road and could find nothing as to a tour stop, so I am not entirely sure why this is a tour stop, as there is no natural way of getting to stop 5. I do not believe that you will miss anything if you omit this stop.
Tour Stop 12 Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Site is the location of the original area that was preserved. The area contains a pair of cannon as well as a monument to those that fought at the battle. Once you are at the monument, look to your right, where you will see a cemetery. Walk into the cemetery (Tour Stop 10) via the opening in the fence near the edge of the tree line, and proceed to the back left of the cemetery where the Confederate Mass Burial Site is located.
Tour Stop 16 Holland Ridge/2nd Line of USCT Rear Guard Action. There is a sign that is back off the road and if you are not looking for it, you can very easily miss this stop. It appears as though this area has plans for being developed but as of the present, it has a “Coming Soon” sign.
Tour Stop 17 Jourdan Grave Site. This one is tricky to get to because the road is on the left and the direction of travel sign, on the right side of the road, has apparently been hit. The direction sign is almost parallel to the ground pointing in the wrong direction. Travel down the hollow and the tour stop is on your left hand side.
There is a small monument to the 114th Illinois that can be found by driving past the Bethany Church with the church being on your left side, in the front yard of someone’s house. Please view the monument from the road as there is no pull off for this monument.
Brice’s Crossroads is a battlefield that I consider to be one of the easier battlefields to visit. The walking paths are fairly even, so the terrain presents few issues. The battlefield tour can be completed in a few hours and you will have seen everything that you would need and or want to see. I found that I was able to visit both the Tupelo and Brice’s Crossroads Battlefields in one day and have time to spare. Your length of visit will be based on your desires and schedule.
Brice’s Crossroads is another one of those battlefields that a visit can be incorporated into a trip centered on visiting Civil War sites. The Tupelo National Battlefield site and Corinth Interpretive Center are both within a half hour drive to Brice’s Crossroads. Shiloh National Military Park is an hour away. I drove from Vicksburg to the Interpretive Center, to Brice’s Crossroads, to Tupelo and then on to Shiloh in one day.
In conclusion I am very happy that I decided to stop at Brice’s Crossroads and take the tour.
Final Grade A-
The Good: Easy to travel around, the walking paths are maintained and the terrain is not difficult to traverse. Plenty of material to be read at each stop to help one get a better understanding of the battle.
The Bad: The direction of travel signs can be easily missed causing some unnecessary backtracking. Only two cannons of the battlefield.
The Ugly: Tour Stop 4, the Direction Sign for stop 17 being damaged, the sign indicating something is coming soon at tour stop 16.
My quibbles are minor and should not be interpreted as being a deterrent to visiting the battlefield.
Until my next trip, thank you for reading.
Materials Referenced: National Park Service Brochure, Brice's Crossroads Tour Map, Battle of Brice's Crossroads Wikipedia page.