General Sherman Between Shiloh and Memphis
MEMOIRS OF GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN
By William T. Sherman
SHILOH TO MEMPHIS-APRIL TO JULY, 1862
SHILOH TO MEMPHIS.
APRIL TO JULY, 1862.
While, the "Army of the Tennessee," under Generals Grant and C. F. Smith, was operating up the Tennessee River, another force, styled the "Army of the Mississippi," commanded by Major-General John Pope, was moving directly down the Mississippi River, against that portion of the rebel line which, under Generals Polk and Pillow, had fallen back from Columbus, Kentucky, to Island Number Ten and New Madrid. This army had the full cooperation of the gunboat fleet, commanded by Admiral Foote, and was assisted by the high flood of that season, which enabled General Pope, by great skill and industry, to open a canal from a point above Island Number Ten to New Madrid below, by which he interposed between the rebel army and its available line of supply and retreat. At the very time that we were fighting the bloody battle on the Tennessee River, General Pope and Admiral Foote were bombarding the batteries on Island Number Ten, and the Kentucky shore abreast of it; and General Pope having crossed over by steamers a part of his army to the east bank, captured a large part of this rebel army, at and near Tiptonville.
General Halleck still remained at St. Louis, whence he gave general directions to the armies of General Curtis, Generals Grant, Buell, and Pope; and instead of following up his most important and brilliant successes directly down the Mississippi, he concluded to bring General Pope's army around to the Tennessee, and to come in person to command there. The gunboat fleet pushed on down the Mississippi, but was brought up again all standing by the heavy batteries at Fort Pillow, about fifty miles above Memphis. About this time Admiral Farragut, with another large sea-going fleet, and with the cooperating army of General Butler, was entering the Mississippi River by the Passes, and preparing to reduce Forts Jackson and St, Philip in order to reach New Orleans; so that all minds were turned to the conquest of the Mississippi River, and surely adequate means were provided for the undertaking.
The battle of Shiloh had been fought, as described, on the 6th and 7th of April; and when the movement of the 8th had revealed that our enemy was gone, in full retreat, leaving killed, wounded, and much property by the way, we all experienced a feeling of relief. The struggle had been so long, so desperate and bloody, that the survivors seemed exhausted and nerveless; we appreciated the value of the victory, but realized also its great cost of life. The close of the battle had left the Army of the Tennessee on the right, and the Army of the Ohio on the left; but I believe neither General Grant nor Buell exercised command, the one over the other; each of them having his hands full in repairing damages. All the division, brigade, and regimental commanders were busy in collecting stragglers, regaining lost property, in burying dead men and horses, and in providing for their wounded. Some few new regiments came forward, and some changes of organization became necessary. Then, or very soon after, I consolidated my font brigades into three, which were commanded: First, Brigadier-General Morgan L: Smith; Second, Colonel John A. McDowell; Third, Brigadier-General J. W. Denver. About the same time I was promoted to major-general volunteers.
The Seventy-first Ohio was detached to Clarksville, Tennessee, and the Sixth and Eighth Missouri were transferred to my division.
In a few days after the battle, General Halleck arrived by steamboat from St. Louis, pitched his camp near the steamboat-landing, and assumed personal command of all the armies. He was attended by his staff, composed of General G. W. Cullum, U. S. Engineers, as his chief of staff; Colonel George Thom, U. S. Engineers; and Colonels Kelton and Kemper, adjutants-general. It soon became manifest that his mind had been prejudiced by the rumors which had gone forth to the detriment of General Grant; for in a few days he issued an order, reorganizing and rearranging the whole army. General Buell's Army of the Ohio constituted the centre; General Pope's army, then arriving at Hamburg Landing, was the left; the right was made up of mine and Hurlbut's divisions, belonging to the old Army of the Tennessee, and two new ones, made up from the fragments of the divisions of Prentiss and C. F. Smith, and of troops transferred thereto, commanded by Generals T. W. Sherman and Davies. General George H. Thomas was taken from Buell, to command the right. McClernand's and Lew Wallace's divisions were styled the reserve, to be commanded by McClernand. General Grant was substantially left out, and was named "second in command," according to some French notion, with no clear, well-defined command or authority. He still retained his old staff, composed of Rawlins, adjutant-general; Riggin, Lagow, and Hilyer, aides; and he had a small company of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry as an escort. For more than a month he thus remained, without any apparent authority, frequently visiting me and others, and rarely complaining; but I could see that he felt deeply the indignity, if not insult, heaped upon him.
General Thomas at once assumed command of the right wing, and, until we reached Corinth, I served immediately under his command. We were classmates, intimately acquainted, had served together before in the old army, and in Kentucky, and it made to us little difference who commanded the other, provided the good cause prevailed.
Corinth was about thirty miles distant, and we all knew that we should find there the same army with which we had so fiercely grappled at Shiloh, reorganized, reenforced, and commanded in chief by General Beauregard in place of Johnston, who had fallen at Shiloh. But we were also reenforced by Buell's and Pope's armies; so that before the end of April our army extended from Snake Creek on the right to the Tennessee River, at Hamburg, on the left, and must have numbered nearly one hundred thousand men.
Ample supplies of all kinds reached us by the Tennessee River, which had a good stage of water; but our wagon transportation was limited, and much confusion occurred in hauling supplies to the several camps. By the end of Aril, the several armies seemed to be ready, and the general forward movement on Corinth began. My division was on the extreme right of the right wing, and marched out by the "White House," leaving Monterey or Pea Ridge to the south. Crossing Lick Creek, we came into the main road about a mile south of Monterey, where we turned square to the right, and came into the Purdy road, near "Elams." Thence we followed the Purdy road to Corinth, my skirmishers reaching at all times the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. Of course our marches were governed by the main centre, which followed the direct road from Pittsburg Landing to Corinth; and this movement was provokingly slow. We fortified almost every camp at night, though we had encountered no serious opposition, except from cavalry, which gave ground easily as we advanced. The opposition increased as we neared Corinth, and at a place called Russell's we had a sharp affair of one brigade, under the immediate direction of Brigadier-General Morgan L. Smith, assisted by the brigade of General Denver. This affair occurred on the 19th of May, and our line was then within about two miles of the northern intrenchments of Corinth.
On the 27th I received orders from General Halleck "to send a force the next day to drive the rebels from the house in our front, on the Corinth road, to drive in their pickets as far as possible, and to make a strong demonstration on Corinth itself;" authorizing me to call on any adjacent division for assistance.
I reconnoitred the ground carefully, and found that the main road led forward along the fence of a large cotton-field to our right front, and ascended a wooded hill, occupied in some force by the enemy, on which was the farm-house referred to in General Halleck's orders. At the farther end of the field was a double log-house, whose chinking had been removed; so that it formed a good block house from which the enemy could fire on any person approaching from our quarter.
General Hurlbut's division was on my immediate left, and General McClernand's reserve on our right rear. I asked of each the assistance of a brigade. The former sent General Veatch's, and the latter General John A. Logan's brigade. I asked the former to support our left flank, and the latter our right flank. The next morning early, Morgan L. Smith's brigade was deployed under cover on the left, and Denver's on the right, ready to move forward rapidly at a signal. I had a battery of four twenty-pound Parrott guns, commanded by Captain Silversparre. Colonel Ezra Taylor, chief of artillery, had two of these guns moved up silently by hand behind a small knoll, from the crest of which the enemy's block-house and position could be distinctly seen; when all were ready, these guns were moved to the crest, and several quick rounds were fired at the house, followed after an interval by a single gum. This was the signal agreed on, and the troops responded beautifully, crossed the field in line of battle, preceded by their skirmishers who carried the position in good style, and pursued the enemy for half a mile beyond.
The main line halted on the crest of the ridge, from which we could look over the parapets of the rebel works at Corinth, and hear their drum and bugle calls. The rebel brigade had evidently been taken by surprise in our attack; it soon rallied and came back on us with the usual yell, driving in our skirmishers, but was quickly checked when it came within range of our guns and line of battle. Generals Grant and Thomas happened to be with me during this affair, and were well pleased at the handsome manner in which the troops behaved. That night we began the usual entrenchments, and the next day brought forward the artillery and the rest of the division, which then extended from the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, at Bowie Hill Out, to the Corinth & Purdy road, there connecting with Hurlbut's division. That night, viz., May 29th, we heard unusual sounds in Corinth, the constant whistling of locomotives, and soon after daylight occurred a series of explosions followed by a dense smoke rising high over the town. There was a telegraph line connecting my headquarters with those of General Halleck, about four miles off, on the Hamburg road. I inquired if he knew the cause of the explosions and of the smoke, and he answered to "advance with my division and feel the enemy if still in my front" I immediately dispatched two regiments from each of my three brigades to feel the immediate front, and in a very short time advanced with the whole division. Each brigade found the rebel parapets abandoned, and pushed straight for the town, which lies in the northeast angle of intersection of the Mobile & Ohio and Memphis & Charleston Railroads. Many buildings had been burned by the enemy on evacuation, which had begun the night before at 6 p.m., and continued through the night, the rear-guard burning their magazine at the time of withdrawing, about daybreak. Morgan L. Smith's brigade followed the retreating rear-guard some four miles to the Tuacumbia Bridge, which was found burned. I halted the other brigades at the college, about a mile to the southwest of the town, where I was overtaken by General Thomas in person.
The heads of all the columns had entered the rebel lines about the same time, and there was some rather foolish clamor for the first honors, but in fact there was no honor in the event. Beauregard had made a clean retreat to the south, and was only seriously pursued by cavalry from General Pope's flank. But he reached Tupelo, where he halted for reorganization; and there is no doubt that at the moment there was much disorganization in his ranks, for the woods were full of deserters whom we did not even take prisoners, but advised them to make their way home and stay there. We spent the day at and near the college, when General Thomas, who applied for orders at Halleck's headquarters, directed me to conduct my division back to the camp of the night before, where we had left our trains The advance on Corinth had occupied all of the month of May, the most beautiful and valuable month of the year for campaigning in this latitude. There had been little fighting, save on General Pope's left flank about Farmington; and on our right. I esteemed it a magnificent drill, as it served for the instruction of our men in guard and picket duty, and in habituating them to out-door life; and by the time we had reached Corinth I believe that army was the best then on this continent, and could have gone where it pleased. The four subdivisions were well commanded, as were the divisions and brigades of the whole army. General Halleck was a man of great capacity, of large acquirements, and at the time possessed the confidence of the country, and of most of the army. I held him in high estimation, and gave him credit for the combinations which had resulted in placing this magnificent army of a hundred thousand men, well equipped and provided, with a good base, at Corinth, from which he could move in any direction.
Had he held his force as a unit, he could have gone to Mobile, or Vicksburg, or anywhere in that region, which would by one move have solved the whole Mississippi problem; and, from what he then told me, I believe he intended such a campaign, but was overruled from Washington. Be that as it may, the army had no sooner settled down at Corinth before it was scattered: General Pope was called to the East, and his army distributed among the others; General Thomas was relieved from the command of the right wing, and reassigned to his division in the Army of the Ohio; and that whole army under General Buell was turned east along the Memphis & Charleston road, to march for Chattanooga. McClernand's "reserve" was turned west to Bolivar and Memphis. General Halleck took post himself at Corinth, assigned Lieutenant-Colonel McPherson to take charge of the railroads, with instructions to repair them as far as Columbus, Kentucky, and to collect cars and locomotives to operate them to Corinth and Grand Junction. I was soon dispatched with my own and Hurlbut's divisions northwest fourteen miles to Chewalla, to save what could be of any value out of six trains of cars belonging to the rebels which had been wrecked and partially burned at the time of the evacuation of Corinth.
A short time before leaving Corinth I rode from my camp to General Halleck's headquarters, then in tents just outside of the town, where we sat and gossiped for some time, when he mentioned to me casually that General Grant was going away the next morning. I inquired the cause, and he said that he did not know, but that Grant had applied for a thirty days' leave, which had been given him. Of course we all knew that he was chafing under the slights of his anomalous position, and I determined to see him on my way back. His camp was a short distance off the Monterey road, in the woods, and consisted of four or five tents, with a sapling railing around the front. As I rode up, Majors Rawlins, Lagow, and Hilyer, were in front of the camp, and piled up near them were the usual office and camp chests, all ready for a start in the morning. I inquired for the general, and was shown to his tent, where I found him seated on a camp-stool, with papers on a rude camp-table; he seemed to be employed in assorting letters, and tying them up with red tape into convenient bundles. After passing the usual compliments, I inquired if it were true that he was going away. He said, "Yes." I then inquired the reason, and he said "Sherman, you know. You know that I am in the way here. I have stood it as long as I can, and can endure it no longer." I inquired where he was going to, and he said, "St. Louis." I then asked if he had any business there, and he said, "Not a bit." I then begged him to stay, illustrating his case by my own.
Before the battle of Shiloh, I had been cast down by a mere newspaper assertion of "crazy;" but that single battle had given me new life, and now I was in high feather; and I argued with him that, if he went away, events would go right along, and he would be left out; whereas, if he remained, some happy accident might restore him to favor and his true place. He certainly appreciated my friendly advice, and promised to wait awhile; at all events, not to go without seeing me again, or communicating with me. Very soon after this, I was ordered to Chewalla, where, on the 6th of June, I received a note from him, saying that he had reconsidered his intention, and would remain. I cannot find the note, but my answer I have kept:
My orders at Chewalla were to rescue the wrecked trains there, to reconnoitre westward and estimate the amount of damage to the railroad as far as Grand Junction, about fifty miles. We camped our troops on high, healthy ground to the south of Chewalla, and after I had personally reconnoitred the country, details of men were made and volunteer locomotive engineers obtained to superintend the repairs. I found six locomotives and about sixty cars, thrown from the track, parts of the machinery detached and hidden in the surrounding swamp, and all damaged as much by fire as possible. It seems that these trains were inside of Corinth during the night of evacuation, loading up with all sorts of commissary stores, etc., and about daylight were started west; but the cavalry-picket stationed at the Tuscumbia bridge had, by mistake or panic, burned the bridge before the trains got to them. The trains, therefore, were caught, and the engineers and guards hastily scattered the stores into the swamp, and disabled the trains as far as they could, before our cavalry had discovered their critical situation. The weather was hot, and the swamp fairly stunk with the putrid flour and fermenting sugar and molasses; I was so much exposed there in the hot sun, pushing forward the work, that I got a touch of malarial fever, which hung on me for a month, and forced me to ride two days in an ambulance, the only time I ever did such a thing during the whole war. By the 7th I reported to General Halleck that the amount of work necessary to reestablish the railroad between Corinth and Grand Junction was so great, that he concluded not to attempt its repair, but to rely on the road back to Jackson (Tennessee), and forward to Grand Junction; and I was ordered to move to Grand Junction, to take up the repairs from there toward Memphis.
The evacuation of Corinth by Beauregard, and the movements of General McClernand's force toward Memphis, had necessitated the evacuation of Fort Pillow, which occurred about June 1st; soon followed by the further withdrawal of the Confederate army from Memphis, by reason of the destruction of the rebel gunboats in the bold and dashing attack by our gun-boats under command of Admiral Davis, who had succeeded Foote. This occurred June 7th. Admiral Farragut had also captured New Orleans after the terrible passage of Forts Jackson and St. Philip on May 24th, and had ascended the river as high as Vicksburg; so that it seemed as though, before the end of June, we should surely have full possession of the whole river. But it is now known that the progress of our Western armies had aroused the rebel government to the exercise of the most stupendous energy. Every man capable of bearing arms at the South was declared to be a soldier, and forced to act as such. All their armies were greatly reenforced, and the most despotic power was granted to enforce discipline and supplies. Beauregard was replaced by Bragg, a man of more ability—of greater powers of organization, of action, and discipline—but naturally exacting and severe, and not possessing the qualities to attract the love of his officers and men. He had a hard task to bring into order and discipline that mass of men to whose command he succeeded at Tupelo, with which he afterward fairly outmanoeuvred General Buell, and forced him back from Chattanooga to Louisville. It was a fatal mistake, however, that halted General Halleck at Corinth, and led him to disperse and scatter the best materials for a fighting army that, up to that date, had been assembled in the West.
During the latter part of June and first half of July, I had my own and Hurlbut's divisions about Grand Junction, Lagrange, Moscow, and Lafayette, building railroad-trestles and bridges, fighting off cavalry detachments coming from the south, and waging an everlasting quarrel with planters about their negroes and fences—they trying, in the midst of moving armies, to raise a crop of corn. On the 17th of June I sent a detachment of two brigades, under General M. L. Smith, to Holly Springs, in the belief that I could better protect the railroad from some point in front than by scattering our men along it; and, on the 23d, I was at Lafayette Station, when General Grant, with his staff and a very insignificant escort, arrived from Corinth en route for Memphis, to take command of that place and of the District of West Tennessee. He came very near falling into the hands of the enemy, who infested the whole country with small but bold detachments of cavalry. Up to that time I had received my orders direct from General Halleck at Corinth, but soon after I fell under the immediate command of General Grant and so continued to the end of the war; but, on the 29th, General Halleck notified me that "a division of troops under General C. S. Hamilton of 'Rosecrans's army corps,' had passed the Hatchie from Corinth," and was destined for Holly Springs, ordering me to "cooperate as far as advisable," but "not to neglect the protection of the road." I ordered General Hurlbut to leave detachments at Grand Junction and Lagrange, and to march for Holly Springs. I left detachments at Moscow and Lafayette, and, with about four thousand men, marched for the same point. Hurlbut and I met at Hudsonville, and thence marched to the Coldwater, within four miles of Holly Springs. We encountered only small detachments of rebel cavalry under Colonels Jackson and Pierson, and drove them into and through Holly Springs; but they hung about, and I kept an infantry brigade in Holly Springs to keep them out. I heard nothing from General Hamilton till the 5th of July, when I received a letter from him dated Rienzi, saying that he had been within nineteen miles of Holly Springs and had turned back for Corinth; and on the next day, July 6th, I got a telegraph order from General Halleck, of July 2d, sent me by courier from Moscow, "not to attempt to hold Holly Springs, but to fall back and protect the railroad." We accordingly marched back twenty-five miles—Hurlbut to Lagrange, and I to Moscow. The enemy had no infantry nearer than the Tallahatchee bridge, but their cavalry was saucy and active, superior to ours, and I despaired of ever protecting a railroad, preventing a broad front of one hundred miles, from their dashes.
About this time, we were taunted by the Confederate soldiers and citizens with the assertion that Lee had defeated McClellan at Richmond; that he would soon be in Washington; and that our turn would come next. The extreme caution of General Halleck also indicated that something had gone wrong, and, on the 16th of July, at Moscow, I received a dispatch from him, announcing that he had been summoned to Washington, which he seemed to regret, and which at that moment I most deeply deplored. He announced that his command would devolve on General Grant, who had been summoned around from Memphis to Corinth by way of Columbus, Kentucky, and that I was to go into Memphis to take command of the District of West Tennessee, vacated by General Grant. By this time, also, I was made aware that the great, army that had assembled at Corinth at the end of May had been scattered and dissipated, and that terrible disasters had befallen our other armies in Virginia and the East.
I soon received orders to move to Memphis, taking Hurlbut's division along. We reached Memphis on the 21st, and on the 22d I posted my three brigades mostly in and near Fort Dickering, and Hurlbut's division next below on the river-bank by reason of the scarcity of water, except in the Mississippi River itself. The weather was intensely hot. The same order that took us to Memphis required me to send the division of General Lew Wallace (then commanded by Brigadier-General A. P. Hovey) to Helena, Arkansas, to report to General Curtis, which was easily accomplished by steamboat. I made my own camp in a vacant lot, near Mr. Moon's house, and gave my chief attention to the construction of Fort Pickering, then in charge of Major Prime, United States Engineers; to perfecting the drill and discipline of the two divisions under my command; and to the administration of civil affairs.
At the time when General Halleck was summoned from Corinth to Washington, to succeed McClellan as commander-in-chief, I surely expected of him immediate and important results. The Army of the Ohio was at the time marching toward Chattanooga, and was strung from Eastport by Huntsville to Bridgeport, under the command of General Buell. In like manner, the Army of the Tennessee was strung along the same general line, from Memphis to Tuscumbia, and was commanded by General Grant, with no common commander for both these forces: so that the great army which General Halleck had so well assembled at Corinth, was put on the defensive, with a frontage of three hundred miles. Soon thereafter the rebels displayed peculiar energy and military skill. General Bragg had reorganized the army of Beauregard at Tupelo, carried it rapidly and skillfully toward Chattanooga, whence he boldly assumed the offensive, moving straight for Nashville and Louisville, and compelling General Buell to fall back to the Ohio River at Louisville.
The army of Van Dorn and Price had been brought from the trans-Mississippi Department to the east of the river, and was collected at and about Holly Springs, where, reenforced by Armstrong's and Forrests cavalry, it amounted to about forty thousand brave and hardy soldiers. These were General Grant's immediate antagonists, and so many and large detachments had been drawn from him, that for a time he was put on the defensive. In person he had his headquarters at Corinth, with the three divisions of Hamilton, Davies, and McKean, under the immediate orders of General Rosecrans. General Ord had succeeded to the division of McClernand (who had also gone to Washington), and held Bolivar and Grand Junction. I had in Memphis my own and Hurlbut's divisions, and other smaller detachments were strung along the Memphis & Charleston road. But the enemy's detachments could strike this road at so many points, that no use could be made of it, and General Grant had to employ the railroads, from Columbus, Kentucky, to Corinth and Grand Junction, by way of Jackson, Tennessee, a point common to both roads, and held in some force.
In the early part of September the enemy in our front manifested great activity, feeling with cavalry at all points, and on the 13th General Van Dorn threatened Corinth, while General Price seized the town of Iuka, which was promptly abandoned by a small garrison under Colonel Murphy. Price's force was about eight thousand men, and the general impression was that he was en route for Eastport, with the purpose to cross the Tennessee River in the direction of Nashville, in aid of General Bragg, then in full career for Kentucky. General Grant determined to attack him in force, prepared to regain Corinth before Van Dorn could reach it. He had drawn Ord to Corinth, and moved him, by Burnsville, on Iuka, by the main road, twenty-six miles. General Grant accompanied this column as far as Burnsville. At the same time he had dispatched Rosecrans by roads to the south, via Jacinto, with orders to approach Iuka by the two main roads, coming into Iuka from the south, viz., they Jacinto and Fulton roads.
On the 18th General Ord encountered the enemy about four miles out of Iuka. His orders contemplated that he should not make a serious attack, until Rosecrans had gained his position on the south; but, as usual, Rosecrans had encountered difficulties in the confusion of roads, his head of column did not reach the vicinity of Iuka till 4 p.m. of the 19th, and then his troops were long drawn out on the single Jacinto road, leaving the Fulton road clear for Price's use. Price perceived his advantage, and attacked with vehemence the head of Rosecrans's column, Hamilton's division, beating it back, capturing a battery, and killing and disabling seven hundred and thirty-six men, so that when night closed in Rosecrans was driven to the defensive, and Price, perceiving his danger, deliberately withdrew by the Fulton road, and the next morning was gone. Although General Ord must have been within four or six miles of this battle, he did not hear a sound; and he or General Grant did not know of it till advised the next morning by a courier who had made a wide circuit to reach them. General Grant was much offended with General Rosecrans because of this affair, but in my experience these concerted movements generally fail, unless with the very best kind of troops, and then in a country on whose roads some reliance can be placed, which is not the case in Northern Mississippi. If Price was aiming for Tennessee; he failed, and was therefore beaten. He made a wide circuit by the south, and again joined Van Dorn.
On the 6th of September, at Memphis, I received an order from General Grant dated the 2d, to send Hurlbut's division to Brownsville, in the direction of Bolivar, thence to report by letter to him at Jackson. The division started the same day, and, as our men and officers had been together side by side from the first landing at Shiloh, we felt the parting like the breaking up of a family. But General Grant was forced to use every man, for he knew well that Van Dorn could attack him at pleasure, at any point of his long line. To be the better prepared, on the 23d of September he took post himself at Jackson, Tennessee, with a small reserve force, and gave Rosecrans command of Corinth, with his three divisions and some detachments, aggregating about twenty thousand men. He posted General Ord with his own and Hurlbut'a divisions at Bolivar, with outposts toward Grand Junction and Lagrange. These amounted to nine or ten thousand men, and I held Memphis with my own division, amounting to about six thousand men. The whole of General Grant's men at that time may have aggregated fifty thousand, but he had to defend a frontage of a hundred and fifty miles, guard some two hundred miles of railway, and as much river. Van Dom had forty thousand men, united, at perfect liberty to move in any direction, and to choose his own point of attack, under cover of woods, and a superior body of cavalry, familiar with every foot of the ground. Therefore General Grant had good reason for telegraphing to General Halleck, on the 1st of October, that his position was precarious, "but I hope to get out of it all right." In Memphis my business was to hold fast that important flank, and by that date Fort Dickering had been made very strong, and capable of perfect defense by a single brigade. I therefore endeavored by excursions to threaten Van Dorn's detachments to the southeast and east. I repeatedly sent out strong detachments toward Holly Springs, which was his main depot of supply; and General Grierson, with his Sixth Illinois, the only cavalry I had, made some bold and successful dashes at the Coldwater, compelling Van Dorn to cover it by Armstrong's whole division of cavalry. Still, by the 1st of October, General Grant was satisfied that the enemy was meditating an attack in force on Bolivar or Corinth; and on the 2d Van Dorn made his appearance near Corinth, with his entire army. On the 3d he moved down on that place from the north and northwest, General Rosecrans went out some four miles to meet him, but was worsted and compelled to fall back within the line of his forts. These had been began under General Halleck, but were much strengthened by General Grant, and consisted of several detached redoubts, bearing on each other, and inclosing the town and the depots of stores at the intersection of the two railroads. Van Dorn closed down on the forts by the evening of the 3d, and on the morning of the 4th assaulted with great vehemence. Our men, covered by good parapets, fought gallantly, and defended their posts well, inflicting terrible losses on the enemy, so that by noon the rebels were repulsed at all points, and drew off, leaving their dead and wounded in our hands. Their losses, were variously estimated, but the whole truth will probably never be known, for in that army reports and returns were not the fashion. General Rosecrans admitted his own loss to be three hundred and fifteen killed, eighteen hundred and twelve wounded, and two hundred and thirty-two missing or prisoners, and claimed on the part of the rebels fourteen hundred and twenty-three dead, two thousand and twenty-five prisoners and wounded. Of course, most of the wounded must have gone off or been carried off, so that, beyond doubt, the rebel army lost at Corinth fully six thousand men.
Meantime, General Grant, at Jackson, had dispatched Brigadier-General McPherson, with a brigade, directly for Corinth, which reached General Rosecrans after the battle; and, in anticipation of his victory, had ordered him to pursue instantly, notifying him that he had ordered Ord's and Hurlbut's divisions rapidly across to Pocahontas, so as to strike the rebels in flank. On the morning of the 5th, General Ord reached the Hatchie River, at Davies bridge, with four thousand men; crossed over and encountered the retreating army, captured a battery and several hundred prisoners, dispersing the rebel advance, and forcing the main column to make a wide circuit by the south in order to cross the Hatchie River. Had General Rosecrans pursued promptly, and been on the heels of this mass of confused and routed men, Van Dorn's army would surely have been utterly ruined; as it was, Van Dom regained Holly Springs somewhat demoralized.
General Rosecrans did not begin his pursuit till the next morning, the 5th, and it was then too late. General Grant was again displeased with him, and never became fully reconciled. General Rosecrans was soon after relieved, and transferred to the Army of the Cumberland, in Tennessee, of which he afterward obtained the command, in place of General Buell, who was removed.
The effect of the battle of Corinth was very great. It was, indeed, a decisive blow to the Confederate cause in our quarter, and changed the whole aspect of affairs in West Tennessee. From the timid defensive we were at once enabled to assume the bold offensive. In Memphis I could see its effects upon the citizens, and they openly admitted that their cause had sustained a death-blow. But the rebel government was then at its maximum strength; Van Dorn was reenforced, and very soon Lieutenant-General J. C. Pemberton arrived and assumed the command, adopting for his line the Tallahatchie River, with an advance-guard along the Coldwater, and smaller detachments forward at Grand Junction and Hernando. General Grant, in like manner, was reenforced by new regiments.
Out of those which were assigned to Memphis, I organized two new brigades, and placed them under officers who had gained skill and experience during the previous campaign.
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