The Corps was originally formed by gathering William Joseph Hardee's division from the Central Army of Kentucky, also known as the Army of central Kentucky. The Corps was named the III Corps, Army of Mississippi when the Corps went to Corinth and fought at the Battle of Shiloh. The 'Corps' was in reality a division, with three brigades and only 6,400 men it is small even for a division. The Corps was rather successful, driving Hulbert's division as well as W.H.L. Wallace's division.
The Corps was later engaged at Bloody Pond and assisted Breckinridge in the rearguard. Fighting at Corinth, the Corps served successfully for a few more months until it was renamed Cleburne's division when that officer took command when the four Corps were consolidated and the Corps discontinued.
The III Corps was re-constituted four more times following its abolition. First it was re-constituted when Edmund Kirby Smith's Corps from East Tennessee was attached to the Army of Tennessee. The Corps consisted of Carter Stevenson's Division, the largest at 10,000 men, John McCown's division of 5,500, Henry Heth commanded a division of 4,500 men and lastly Thomas Churchill commanded a division of 6,500 men all in all 26,500. The Corps never was fully engaged in any major battle, at Cumberland Gap the Corps was lightly engaged. The Corps would have fought at Stones River but Stevenson's division was ordered to Vicksburg, Heth and Churchill went to Knoxville which left only John McCown and his small division. This proved to be a key factor in the battle and many say if Braxton Bragg had Smith and his four divisions, he may have won decisively, not only tactically.
With that, the Corps broke up. McCown became a permanent part of the Army of Tennessee and Stevenson stayed at Vicksburg, the remaining divisions were put under new departments and thus the unofficial Corps was abolished.
The Corps was again reconstituted for was at the Siege of Vicksburg. With so many of the Army of Tennessee's units at Vicksburg area, the garrison seemed like part of their own army and additionally nearly the entire garrison fought with the Army of Tennessee sometime or another. The Corps consisted of Forney's division, 4,500 men, Martin Smith's division with another 6,500, William Loring's division of 6,000 more, John Bowen's division of 6,000 and Carter Stevenson's division of 10,000. The Corps all in all numbered 33,000 men. The Corps fought at Champion Hill, and the siege itself. Loring and his division broke out and later on served in two other Third Corps but the rest of the 'Corps', usually known as the Army of Mississippi, surrendered on July 4.
A Third Corps (although seldom so-called) was again re-constituted under Joseph Johnston during the Vicksburg campaign. The corps contained many troops from both the Army of Mississippi and the Army of Tennessee. The corps contained Loring's division after it broke out, 6,000, Wallker's division from Charleston with 10,000, John Breckinridge from the Army of Tennessee with 10,000 more, Jackson's division from the Army of Tennessee with 6,000 and finally a command of five disorganized brigades numbering 10,000 more. All in all 42,000 men at its height. This Corps though was dispersed and then was abolished though its fragments later became part of another III corps.
The Corps was reconstituted again during the Chickamauga Campaign. Braxton Bragg organized his army into the I, II, III and reserve Corps. The new III Corps was under Simon Bolivar Buckner with fragments of Kirby Smith's old Corps. Under new commanders, the three divisions were under Alexander P. Stewart with 4,500 men, William Preston with 5,000 and Burshod Johnson with 6,000 more. All in all 15,500 men. The corps was renamed 'Buckner's Corps' however once battle was joined and was shortly abolished.
The III Corps was re-raised for a fifth and final time. It was organized after the battle of Chattanooga when Leonidas Polk's Army of Mississippi went east to join the Army of Tennessee in the Atlanta Campaign. It contained divisions under William Loring with 6,500 men, veterans from the Vicksburg Campaign. It also contained a division of 7,500 under Samuel French from Mississippi and finally 6,000 men from Mobile under general Cantey (or Wathall). All in all, 20,000 men. This Corps took the right flank of the Army of Tennessee at Rocky Face Ridge and the left flank at Resaca. This corps, known as the III Corps or the Army of Mississippi fought also at Kennesaw Mountain where its commander, Leonidas Polk was killed.
The command switched hands five times during the campaign, first to William Wing Loring for the rest of the battle, but then Alexander P. Stewart took command briefly, but was overruled by Benjamin F. Cheatham who took command for nearly a month. After heavy fighting, the Corps finally went to Alexander P. Stewart again who commanded it until the surrender.
The Corps fought heavily at Peachtree Creek, where it broke through George Henry Thomas's lines. At Atlanta the Corps was in reserve and missed Ezra Church as well as Jonesboro. The Corps, while the smallest in the army suffered the least between the three Corps.
When army commander John Bell Hood invaded Tennessee, the III Corps went with it. It fought heavily at Altoona Pass, and assaulted the Union right at the disastrous Battle of Franklin. Suffering heavy losses, the corps was merely a large division once it arrived at Nashville. The III Corps was on the left flank for the first part of the battle, where it suffered heavily. It was later transferred to the center where it suffered lightly by muskets but fled the field.
The corps went to the Carolinas afterwards, fighting at the Battle of Bentonville. It surrendered with the rest of the army.
- Stanley Fitzgerald Horn (1941). The Army of Tennessee. University of Oklahoma Press, reprinted in 1993. 503 pages. ISBN 0-8061-2565-9, ISBN 978-0-8061-2565-7.
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