After the battle of Iuka in September 1862, General Earl Van Dorn’s Confederates and those of General Sterling Price were combined. On October 3, 1862, this newly structured Confederate army under the leadership of Van Dorn attacked Union forces guarding the critical transportation hub of Corinth, Mississippi. After severe fighting, the Confederates exploited a gap in the Union line and continued to press the Federals until they fell back to an inner line of fortifications closer to Corinth.
Ulysses Grant, overall Union commander in the area, had not been sure where the Confederates would attack, so he remained at Jackson, Tennessee, far from the actual conflict. The Confederates attacked at Corinth, hoping that a victory would force Northern troops in Mississippi and western Tennessee to withdraw northward to Kentucky.