No. 76.-report of Lieut. Col. James Peckham, Eighth Missouri Infantry, of action at Russell's house, near Corinth, Miss., May 17.
headquarters Eighth Missouri Volunteers, On the Field, Three Miles Northeast from Russell's House.Sir: I have the honor to report the conduct of the Eighth Missouri in the action of Saturday, May 17, for the possession of a place known as Russeii's house. Russell's house is situated upon the summit of a rise of ground, or rather succession of ridges, about three-quarters of a mile from a partially-dry creek, which is located 14 miles from this camp. We left here with two days rations in haversacks at 3 o'clock on the afternoon of Saturday, May 17, in company with the other regiments of our brigade, taking our place in the rear of the column, and proceeded to the top of the hill this side of the creek, where we were halted. At this place I was ordered with my regiment to the front, where General Morgan L. Smith met me, and informed me that the pending fight was for the possession of Russell's house, beyond the creek; that I should march in column by company across the bottom-land, and when beyond the creek deploy in line of battle. This order was executed. Previous to executing which, however, I caused Company B, Lieutenant Moffett, and Company G, Capt. D. P. Grier, also Company A, Capt. William A. Johnson, to deploy as skirmishers, the latter as a reserve. At the summit of the first ridge beyond the creek our skirmishers met the fire of the enemy's pickets, but they did not halt. I at once deployed Company L (a detachment of sharpshooters. under Capt. Hugh Neill), who advanced upon the enemy's pickets. The latter retired, closely pursued by our skirmishers, but they were soon largely re-enforced, and severe fighting commenced about 200 yards from the creek. Between this point and Russell's house I caused Company E, Capt. Dennis T. Kirby, and Company C, Lieut. W. D. Murphy commanding, to deploy, which they did in excellent style and with admirable boldness. As the enemy retreated, which he did with great reluctance, he was reenforced largely, and was, because of his superior numbers, enabled to flank us. I called upon Colonel Smith, Fifty-fourth Ohio, to protect our right, which he at once did by deploying two companies on that flank. As we neared Russell's house we met cross-firing from our left, and by order of General Smith I called upon Colonel Stuart to send two companies of the Fifty-fifth Illinois in that direction. I reserved my own companies remaining in line to strengthen my skirmishers in front. As we reached Russell's house I caused Company i, Capt. A. Hart, to strengthen our skirmishers in front. Captain Hart deployed  ill double-quick and advanced to the front, cheering and shouting. The cheering was caught up by my three companies in reserve and by the battalions in the rear. At the same time the skirmishers kept up a steady fire, making every shot tell. Just at this time our artillery opened upon the rebels in the neighborhood of Russll's house, and five minutes thereafter the field was in our undisputed possession. Two hundred yards beyond Russell's our skirmishers halted, by order of General Smith, and remained in position during the night. The fight, which was stubbornly contested for two hours and a half, was not without its consequences on both sides. I lost some of my best and bravest men. William H. Dwyer, Company A, promoted to a lieutenancy on Saturday morning for previous courageous and skillful conduct in other fields, fell early in the struggle, gallantly urging his men to advance. In three instances the enemy set up a cheer and boldly rushed forward, but my men, undismayed by their pretensions and their boldness, advanced to meet them, and a steady nerve and prompt fire caused them to fall back in confusion. At Russell's the first discharge of our cannon spread panic in the enemy's ranks and they fled. At the same time our skirmishers moved to the right in haste, in order to avoid our own exploding shells. A rebel officer, abandoned by his men, looked out of the window of the house and, mistaking our movement for a flight, shouted to his men to come back, that the “damned cowardly Yankees were running.” A ball from the well-aimed rifle of Private R. M. Snyder, Company G, who was within 50 yards, sped its way to the head of the rebel, and deprived him forever of his command. I could mention many instances of individual heroism, but I have scarcely space. Corporal William Pritchard and Private James Gant, both of Company E, were shot early in the engagement, depriving each of them of the use of an arm, but they refused to fall to the rear, and loaded and fired upon the enemy with the use of only an arm and leg. At night they remained at their posts away in the advance, and in the morning it required my peremptory orders to make them return to camp. Company C took prisoner a man known to several of us, whose name is Hunt, formerly of Saint Louis. He has been delivered to General Sherman. General Morgan L. Smith was constantly in front, managing and urging on the skirmishers. He renewed the conduct of himself which so distinguished him at Donelson and at Shiloh. My men, one and all, officers and privates, did their duty. They were constantly under the eye of General Smith, and he knows this truth. The conduct of every one of my officers is worthy of special mention. My assistants upon the staff, Capts. William Hill and Giles A. Smith and Actg. Adjt. Edwin E. Furber, acted with judgment and courage. Captain Smith is capable of filling any position in the army.