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Doc. 95.-occupation of Corinth, Miss.

Adjt.-General Hammond's report.1

headquarters Fifth division army of Tennessee, camp before Corinth, May 30.
Major-Gen. W. T. Sherman, commanding Fifth Division:
General: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to your orders, at half-past 6 A. M. today I started to join Brig.-Gen. M. L. Smith, commanding the First brigade, 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, Colonel T. Kirby Smith, commanding, in the advance. Skirmishers deployed two hundred and fifty yards on each side of the road and in the front. The town was on fire in various parts, and evidences of sudden flight were abundant, large quantities of quartermaster's and commissary stores being partially destroyed.

A citizen informed us that the main body of the rebel troops had left about two o'clock in the night, and the rear-guard at daybreak. We pushed on into the square, where we arrived about half-past 7 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 I sent back to you various orderlies to report the condition of things, and to ask that one or two sections 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.

The cavalry not arriving, I pushed on across town with some Iowa cavalry, and finding near College Hill a house with a number of females in it, I placed my only remaining orderly in charge, directing him to prevent stragglers from annoying them. In about fifteen minutes, Capt. Wooster, of the Fourth Illinois cavalry, came up and expressed his willingness to push on, but a little later the Colonel arriving stopped the company, and ordered it into line in an open space 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.

Seeing no indication of a movement on the part of the cavalry of our division, I followed the Second Iowa, and after a chase of nearly half a mile overtook it. It proved to be a detachment of Gen. Pope's body-guard, commanded by Capt. Kendrick, who very kindly detached ten men for me, and allowed me to go in the advance. We pushed on as fast as the horses could travel, with flankers out on both sides, capturing arms and small squads of prisoners in the road and in the woods adjoining. About two miles and a half from Corinth the road became a causeway through a morass, impassable on either side, but we pushed ahead, depending on a sudden rush if we came on the cannon, as we learned from the prisoners that the rear was straggling in small detachments.

A quarter of a mile of causeway brought us to a bridge, which was on fire in three places. I dismounted, and with the assistance of private Hass, of the body-guard, threw off the first pile of fire, when Capt. 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 was carrying was private property, and belonged to Major-Gen. Price, who had given it to him not more than fifteen minutes before. As fast as we collected a batch of eight or ten prisoners, they were sent back to General Pope, leaving us free, and we pushed on still more rapidly. A rattling, faint but decided, 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. Our horses' feet knocked the brands off, and a few minutes later we reached another rotten large bridge, where we rode upon four officers and nineteen men, hard at work piling wood, and with a fire alongside all ready. As the road made a sudden bend at this point, we were on them before they could make use of their arms. With [334] pistols pointed at their heads, they piled their guns and accoutrements on the road. At this moment, as I turned to place them under guard, I found that I had only three men, and the prisoners seeing the same, and no sign of any more, made for their guns. We opened fire on them, and they speedily ran into the swamp, where pursuit was impossible. I at once fell back into a clump of heavy timber with the three men, where we commanded the bridge, or had a fair aim at any one who might attempt to approach, and waited the approach of assistance, which arrived in five or ten minutes, with Capt. Kendrick in command. We pushed on at full gallop, scattering several small parties of armed men, but intent on the piece of cannon, which was less than two hundred yards off, and the road being a broken, rough and rather narrow causeway, which made progress for any thing on wheels, or even a poor rider, rather hazardous.

At a point from four to five miles from Corinth we came on a large bridge which was on fire at the end nearest us, and had twenty feet of the middle torn up. I discovered it when within twenty feet, the fire being under the bridge and only bursting through the floor. At the same time Captain Kendrick discovered a considerable number of the enemy in the brush at the other end of the bridge, and at once opened fire on them. They returned it with musketry and grape and canister. The man next me on the right, and between me and Capt. Kendrick, was severely wounded, and the two horses immediately behind us shot. There was no possibility of reaching the cannon unless by fording the creek, and as our small force of twenty-six men was entirely alone, and without a support to act on either side of the causeway, we could not get at the enemy. We therefore fell back for about two hundred yards to a point where a bend in the road, with heavy timber, placed us out of range. I requested Captain Kendrick with most of his men to go back and bring up any troops he could find, to prevent the return of the enemy to the three bridges we had chased them from.

Soon after the Captain left me, all the men scattered, and, as the position was very much exposed, I did not do more than ask them to remain. One only, private Henry Pine, company G, Third Kentucky cavalry, remained, and posting ourselves about twenty yards from the second bridge from Corinth, where no one could come to the bridge at all, unless under fire of the soldier's carbine and my double-barrel and revolver, we waited, expecting every second the return of a large force of our own men to occupy the bridges and adjoining woods, which were full of fugitives.

In this position we remained, perhaps, fifteen minutes, when Pine warned me to get off the edge of the road, which I did promptly. The next instant a shower of grape, fired from some distance, swept 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, half a mile to the rear, where I found Capt. Kendrick, who could obtain no support to bring to us. I felt sure that they had returned to burn the bridge I had been watching, and with Captain Kendrick, one or two more officers and ten men of the body-guard returned to ascertain the fact. The bridge was enveloped in flames.

In making this report I beg to say that while a pursuit by so small a number may seem rash, the circumstances justify it.

The enemy were scattered in small parties of from ten to fifty, and ran at the sight of horse-men. Every moment the number became larger, and a piece of artillery, if not two, were almost within our grasp. From the best information I could obtain, Gen. Price was not far off. It was perfectly reasonable to expect that our forces were within call, and I supposed (up to the time I returned to the cavalry and found it drawn up on the hill) that they were immediately in the rear and coming on. By driving away the bridge-burners a way was kept open for them.

To Capt. Kendrick I return sincere thanks for his kindness. He had only twenty-six men in all, and one who joined from the Third Kentucky cavalry, yet he sent in more than fifty prisoners, and dispersed a large number of armed parties. Private Hass, of the body-guard, and private Henry Glenn, company G, Third Kentucky cavalry, showed great courage both in saving the bridges 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 — principally Tennesseeans, and the first notice many of them had of the flight of the rebel army was our approach. Bodies of men were placed at each bridge with the means of burning it, and the road itself, although very much cut and broken, was either recently built, or recently repaired, and was so arranged as to assist a retreat and obstruct a pursuit. It has a general south-west direction, and crosses Tuscumbia Creek four times in less than two miles.

We crossed three well-built bridges and were driven away from the fourth, which is, I believe, nearly five miles from Corinth. The ground is very wet, and almost if not entirely impassable on both sides of the last two miles of the road.

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

J. H. Hammond,
Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief of Staff, Fifth Division.

1 see General Sherman's report, p. 151, ante.

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J. Miles Kendrick (18)
John Pope (6)
T. Kirby Smith (4)
W. T. Sherman (4)
Sterling Price (4)
Hass (4)
J. H. Hammond (4)
Wooster (2)
Thomas Kirby Smith (2)
Morgan L. Smith (2)
W. S. Rosecrans (2)
Henry Pine (2)
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May 30th (2)
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