RNase H enzymes sense the presence of ribonucleotides in the genome and initiate their removal by incising the ribonucleotide-containing strand of an RNA:DNA hybrid. Mycobacterium smegmatis encodes four RNase H enzymes: RnhA, RnhB, RnhC and RnhD. Here, we interrogate the biochemical activity and nucleic acid substrate specificity of RnhA. We report that RnhA (like RnhC characterized previously) is an RNase H1-type magnesium-dependent endonuclease with stringent specificity for RNA:DNA hybrid duplexes. Whereas RnhA does not incise an embedded mono-ribonucleotide, it can efficiently cleave within tracts of four or more ribonucleotides in duplex DNA. We gained genetic insights to the division of labor among mycobacterial RNases H by deleting the rnhA, rnhB, rnhC and rnhD genes, individually and in various combinations. The salient conclusions are that: (i) RNase H1 activity is essential for mycobacterial growth and can be provided by either RnhC or RnhA; (ii) the RNase H2 enzymes RnhB and RnhD are dispensable for growth and (iii) RnhB and RnhA collaborate to protect M. smegmatis against oxidative damage in stationary phase. Our findings highlight RnhC, the sole RNase H1 in pathogenic mycobacteria, as a candidate drug discovery target for tuberculosis and leprosy.