previous next

No. 87.-report of Capt. J. H. Hammond, Assistant Adjutant-General, U. S. Army, of operations May 30.

Hdqrs. Fifth Division, Army of the Tennessee, Camp before Corinth, May 30, 1862.
General: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to your orders, at 6.30 a. m. to-day, I started to join Brig. Gen. M. L. Smith in his march on Corinth. Proceeding as rapidly as possible to about half a mile from the edge of the village I found him with the Fifty-fourth Ohio Volunteers, Col. T. Kilby Smith commanding, in the advance, skirmishers deployed 250 yards on each side of the road and in front. The town was on fire in various places, and evidences of sudden flight abundant, large quantities of quartermaster's and commissary stores being partially destroyed. A citizen informed us that the main body of troops had left about 2 o'clock in the morning and the rear guard at daybreak. We pushed on into the square before the railroad depot, which was on fire, where we arrived about 7.30 o'clock. General Smith caused guards to be placed over such property as was found, including a quantity of ammunition and a large iron safe in the hotel, and sent back to you several orderlies to report the condition of things, and to ask that one or two sections, if possible, of artillery might be sent to our support, to make an attempt on the rear guard of the enemy. At this juncture General Pope and General Rosecrans arrived from their camp on the Farmington road, and as they brought troops, I obtained permission from General Smith to pursue the enemy with our cavalry, which was sent for urgently. Some time elapsing without its arrival, I pushed on across the town with some Iowa cavalry, and finding near College Hill a house with a number of females in it, placed my remaining orderly in charge, directing him to prevent stragglers from annoy-Ing them. In about ten minutes Captain Worcester, Fourth Illinois [858] Cavalry, came up with his company, and expressed his willingness to push on, but the colonel arriving, ordered it into line in front of the college. I had learned from an old man captured by the Iowans that many of the enemy's pickets were but a little way on, and from a negro that a piece of cannon was not far ahead. As the cavalry of your division did not move, I followed some cavalry already in the advance, and after a run of half a mile I overtook it. It proved to be a detachment of Major-General Pope's body guard, commanded by Captain Kendrick, who very kindly allowed me to go in the advance with 10 men. We pushed on as fast as the horses could travel, with flankers out on both sides, capturing arms and small squads of prisoners on the road and in the woods adjoining.

About two miles and a half from Corinth the road becomes a causeway through a morass impassable on either side, but we pushed on, depending on a rush if we came on the cannon, as we learned from prisoners the rear was straggling and in small detachments. A quarter of a mile brought us to a bridge, which was on fire in three places. With the assistance of Private Hass, of the body guard, I threw off the first pile of brands, when Captain Kendrick arrived and immediately went to work with his men. As soon as we recovered from the effects of the smoke and heat we pushed through the creek below the bridge and continued the pursuit. In a few minutes we overtook a small party, one of whom stated that the gun he carried was private property and belonged to Major-General Price, who had given it to him not more than fifteen minutes before. As fast as we collected a squad of prisoners they were sent back to General Pope, leaving us free, and we pushed on still more rapidly, as a faint but decided sound announced that some sort of wheels were ahead of us. We came to one bridge just set on fire, and the half dozen incendiaries fled into the swamp. The hoofs of our horses knocked the brands off, and a few minutes later we rode upon 4 officers and 19 men on a large bridge, and with a fire alongside ready to apply. As the road made a sudden bend at this point, we were on them before they could use their arms. With pistols pointed at their heads they piled their guns and accouterments on the road, and as I turned to place them under guard I found that I had but 3 men, and the prisoners seeing the same, and no signs of any more, made a movement to take their arms. This we prevented by opening a rapid fire on them, when they fled into the swamp, where a horseman could not follow. I at once fell back into some heavy timber on the road-side, where we commanded all approach to the bridge, and waited the approach of assistance, which arrived in five or ten minutes, with Captain Kendrick in command. We at once pushed on at full gallop, scattering several small armed parties, but intent on the piece of artillery which was not far off, and the road being a broken and rough causeway and narrow, fast moving was rather hazardous for any wheeled vehicle, and even troublesome for horsemen.

At a point from 4 to 5 miles from Corinth we came on a large bridge, which was on fire at the end nearest us and had 20 feet of the middle torn up. I discovered this when about 20 feet off, the fire being entirely under the end of the bridge. At the same moment Captain Kendrick, who was on my right, discovered a considerable number of the enemy in the brush, and immediately opened fire on them. They returned it with musketry, and grape and canister from a piece of artillery apparently to the right of the road, not more than 100 yards distant. The man between me and Captain Kendrick was wounded severely and the two horses behind us shot. There was no possibility of reaching the gun [859] unless by fording the creek below the bridge, and our small force of 26 men was entirely alone, and without a support to act on both sides of the bridge we could not hope to drive the enemy away from the brush, where they were strongly posted. We therefore fell back about 200 yards to a point where a bend in the road with heavy timber placed us out of range. I requested Captain Kendrick to go back with most of his men and bring up any troops he could find, to prevent the return of the enemy to the bridges which we had saved.

Soon after the captain left me the men scattered, and as the place was very much exposed, I did no more than ask them to remain. One, a private, Henry Pine, Company G, Third Kentucky Cavalry, remained, and posting ourselves about 20 yards from the second bridge from Corinth, where no one could approach except under fire of the soldier's carbine and my double-barreled gun and revolver, we waited, expecting every instant the approach of a large force of our own men to occupy the bridges and scour the wood, which was full of fugitives. In this position we remained perhaps twenty minutes, when Pine warned me to move, which I did promptly. The next instant a shower of grape or canister swept over the road, and a sound followed indicating the approach of cavalry. We at once entered the swamp and made our way back to the high ground, where I found Captain Kendrick, who could not obtain assistance. I felt sure that the enemy were returning to burn the bridge I had been watching, and with the captain and 10 men I returned to ascertain the fact. The bridge was in flames.

In making this report I beg leave to say that while a pursuit by so small a force may seem rash, circumstances justified it. The enemy was scattered in small parties of from 10 to 50, and fled at the approach of horsemen. Every moment the numbers became larger, and a piece of artillery, if not two, were almost within our grasp, and from the best information I could obtain General Price was not far off. It was reasonable to expect that our forces were close at hand, and I supposed, up to the time that I returned to the cavalry (of several different regiments) and found it drawn up on the hill, that they were immediately in the rear and coming on. By driving away the bridge-burners the road was kept open for them.

To Captain Kendrick I return sincere thanks for his kindness. He had only 26 men in all, yet he sent in over 50 prisoners and dispersed a large number of armed parties. Private Hass, of the body guard, and Private Pine, of Company G, Third Kentucky Cavalry, showed great courage, both in saving the bridge and under fire close to the enemy. I commend them to the notice of their officers.

The enemy had evidently sacrificed the large body of men composing their pickets, and the first notice many of them had of the flight of the rebel army was the approach of our troops. Men were placed at each bridge with the means of burning it, and the road, although very much cut and broken, was either recently built or recently prepared, and was so arranged as to obstruct pursuit. It has a general southwest direction and crosses Tuscumbia Creek four times in 2 miles or less. We crossed three bridges with plank floors or covering, and were driven away from the fourth, which is, I believe, nearly 5 miles from Corinth. The ground is very wet, and almost if not entirely impassable for cav alry or wagons on both sides of the last 2 miles of the road.

I have the honor to be, with very great respect,

J. H. Hammond, Assistant Adjutant-General. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, Gomdg. Fifth Division.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Tuscumbia Creek (Arizona, United States) (1)
Iowa (Iowa, United States) (1)
Farmington (Mississippi, United States) (1)
College Hill (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 30th, 1862 AD (1)
May 30th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: