Halleck Assumes Command in the Field-The Advance upon Corinth-Occupation of Corinth- The Army Separated
arrived at Pittsburg landing
on the 11th of April and immediately assumed command in the field.
On the 21st General Pope
arrived with an army 30,000 strong, fresh from the capture of Island Number10
in the Mississippi River
He went into camp at Hamburg landing
five miles above Pittsburg
had now three armies: the Army of the Ohio, Buell
commanding; the Army of the Mississippi, Pope
commanding; and the Army of the Tennessee [Grant]. His orders divided the combined force into the right wing, reserve, centre and left wing. Major-General George H. Thomas
, who had been in Buell
's army, was transferred with his division to the Army of the Tennessee and given command of the right wing, composed of all of that army except McClernand
's and Lew. Wallace
was assigned to the command of the reserve, composed of his own and Lew. Wallace
commanded the centre, the Army of the Ohio; and Pope
the left wing, the Army of the Mississippi.
I was named second in command of the whole, and was also supposed to be in command of the right wing and reserve.
Orders were given to all the commanders engaged at Shiloh
to send in their reports without delay to department headquarters.
Those from officers of the Army of the Tennessee were sent through me; but from the Army of the Ohio they were sent by General Buell
without passing through my hands.
ordered me, verbally, to send in my report, but I positively declined on the ground that he had received the reports of a part of the army engaged at Shiloh
without their coming through me. He admitted that my refusal was justifiable under the circumstances, but explained that he had wanted to get the reports off before moving the command, and as fast as a report had come to him he had forwarded it to Washington
Preparations were at once made upon the arrival of the new commander for an advance on Corinth
, on our right, was bridged, and expeditions were sent to the north-west and west to ascertain if our position was being threatened from those quarters; the roads towards Corinth
were corduroyed and new ones made; lateral roads were also constructed, so that in case of necessity troops marching by different routes could reinforce each other.
All commanders were cautioned against bringing on an engagement and informed in so many words that it would be better to retreat than to fight.
By the 30th of April all preparations were complete; the country west to the Mobile and Ohio railroad had been reconnoitred, as well as the road to Corinth
as far as Monterey
twelve miles from Pittsburg
Everywhere small bodies of the enemy had been encountered, but they were observers and not in force to fight battles.
, lies in a south-westerly direction from Pittsburg landing
and about nineteen miles away as the bird would fly, but probably twenty-two by the nearest wagon-road.
It is about four miles south of the line dividing the States of Tennessee
, and at the junction of the Mississippi
and Chattanooga railroad with the Mobile
road which runs from Columbus
the land is rolling, but at no point reaching an elevation that makes high hills to pass over.
In 1862 the greater part of the country was covered with forest with intervening clearings and houses.
Underbrush was dense in the low grounds along the creeks and ravines, but generally not so thick on the high land as to prevent men passing through with ease.
There are two small creeks running from north of the town and connecting some four miles south, where they form Bridge Creek
which empties into the Tuscumbia River
is on the ridge between these streams and is a naturally strong defensive position.
The creeks are insignificant in
volume of water, but the stream to the east widens out in front of the town into a swamp, impassable in the presence of an enemy.
On the crest of the west bank of this stream the enemy was strongly intrenched.
was a valuable strategic point for the enemy to hold, and consequently a valuable one for us to possess ourselves of. We ought to have seized it immediately after the fall of Donelson
, when it could have been taken without a battle, but failing then it should have been taken, without delay, on the concentration of troops at Pittsburg landing
after the battle of Shiloh
In fact the arrival of Pope
should not have been awaited.
There was no time from the battle of Shiloh
up to the evacuation of Corinth
when the enemy would not have left if pushed.
The demoralization among the Confederates
from their defeats at Henry
; their long marches from Bowling Green
, and Nashville
, and their failure at Shiloh
; in fact from having been driven out of Kentucky
, was so great that a stand for the time would have been impossible.
made strenuous efforts to reinforce himself and partially succeeded.
He appealed to the people of the Southwest
for new regiments, and received a few. A. S. Johnston
had made efforts to reinforce in the same quarter, before the battle of Shiloh
, but in a different way. He had Negroes sent out to him to take the place of teamsters, company cooks and laborers in every capacity, so as to put all his white men into the ranks.
The people, while willing to send their sons to the field, were not willing to part with their Negroes.
It is only fair to state that they probably wanted their blacks to raise supplies for the army and for the families left at home.
, however, was reinforced by Van Dorn
immediately after Shiloh
with 17,000 men. Interior points, less exposed, were also depleted to add to the strength at Corinth
With these reinforcements and the new regiments, Beauregard
had, during the month of May, 1862, a large force on paper, but probably not much over 50,000 effective men. We estimated his strength at 70,000.
Our own was, in round numbers, 120,000.
The defensible nature of the ground at Corinth
, and the fortifications, made 50,000 then enough to maintain their position against double that number for an indefinite time but for the demoralization spoken of.
On the 30th of of April the grand army commenced its advance from Shiloh
The movement was a siege from the start to the close.
The National troops were always behind intrenchments, except of course the small reconnoitring parties sent to the front to
clear the way for an advance.
Even the commanders of these parties were cautioned, “not to bring on an engagement.”
“It is better to retreat than to fight.”
The enemy were constantly watching our advance, but as they were simply observers there were but few engagements that even threatened to become battles.
All the engagements fought ought to have served to encourage the enemy.
Roads were again made in our front, and again corduroyed; a line was intrenched, and the troops were advanced to the new position-Cross roads were constructed to these new positions to enable the troops to concentrate in case of attack.
The National armies were thoroughly intrenched all the way from the Tennessee River
For myself I was little more than an observer.
Orders were sent direct to the right wing or reserve, ignoring me, and advances were made from one line of intrenchments to another without notifying me. My position was so embarrassing in fact that I made several applications during the siege to be relieved.
kept his headquarters generally, if not all the time, with the right wing.
being on the extreme left did not see so much of his chief, and consequently got loose as it were at times.
On the 3d of May he was at Seven Mile Creek with the main body of his command, but threw forward a division to Farmington
, within four miles of Corinth
His troops had quite a little engagement at Farmington
on that day, but carried the place with considerable loss to the enemy.
There would then have been no difficulty in advancing the centre and right so as to form a new line well up to the enemy, but Pope
was ordered back to conform with the general line.
On the 8th of May he moved again, taking his whole force to Farmington
, and pushed out two divisions close to the rebel line.
Again he was ordered back.
By the 4th of May the centre and right wing reached Monterey
, twelve miles out. Their advance was slow from there, for they intrenched with every forward movement.
The left wing moved up again on the 25th of May and intrenched itself close to the enemy.
The creek, with the marsh before described, separated the two lines.
Skirmishers thirty feet apart could have maintained either line at this point.
Our centre and right were, at this time, extended so that the right of the right wing was probably five miles from Corinth
and four from the works in their front.
The creek, which was a formidable obstacle for either side to pass on our left, became a very slight obstacle on our right.
Here the enemy occupied two positions.
One of them, as much as two miles out from his main line, was on a commanding elevation
and defended by an intrenched battery with infantry supports.
A heavy wood intervened between this work and the National
In rear to the south there was a clearing extending a mile or more, and south of this clearing a log-house which had been loop-holed and was occupied by infantry.
's division carried these two positions with some loss to himself, but with probably greater to the enemy, on the 28th of May [27th], and on that day the investment of Corinth
was complete, or as complete as it was ever made.
' right now rested west on the Mobile and Ohio railroad.
's left commanded the Memphis and Charleston railroad east of Corinth
Some days before I had suggested to the commanding general
that I thought if he would move the Army of the Mississippi at night, by the rear of the centre and right, ready to advance at daylight, Pope
would find no natural obstacle in his front and, I believed, no serious artificial one.
The ground, or works, occupied by our left could be held by a thin picket line, owing to the stream and swamp in front.
To the right the troops would have a dry ridge to march over.
I was silenced so quickly that I felt that possibly I had suggested an unmilitary movement.
Later, probably on the 28th of May, General Logan
, whose command was then on the Mobile and Ohio railroad, said to me that the enemy had been evacuating for several days and that if allowed he could go into Corinth
with his brigade.
Trains of cars were heard coming in and going out of Corinth
Some of the men who had been engaged in various capacities on railroads before the war claimed that they could tell, by putting their ears to the rail, not only which way the trains were moving but which trains were loaded and which were empty.
They said loaded trains had been going out for several days and empty ones coming in. Subsequently events proved the correctness of their judgment.
published his orders for the evacuation of Corinth
on the 26th of May and fixed the 29th for the departure of his troops, and on the 30th of May General Halleck
had his whole army drawn up prepared for battle and announced in orders that there was every indication that our left was to be attacked that morning.
had already been evacuated and the National
troops marched on and took possession without opposition.
Everything had been destroyed or carried away.
The Confederate commander had instructed his soldiers to cheer on the arrival of every train to create the impression among the Yankees
that reinforcements were arriving.
There was not a sick or wounded man left by the Confederates
, nor stores of any kind.
Some ammunition had been blown up — not removed-but
the trophies of war were a few Quaker
guns, logs of about the diameter of ordinary cannon, mounted on wheels of wagons and pointed in the most threatening manner towards us.
The possession of Corinth
by the National
troops was of strategic importance, but the victory was barren in every other particular.
It was nearly bloodless.
It is a question whether the morale
of the Confederate
troops engaged at Corinth
was not improved by the immunity with which they were permitted to remove all public property and then withdraw themselves.
On our side I know officers and men of the Army of the Tennessee-and I presume the same is true of those of the other commands — were disappointed at the result.
They could not see how the mere occupation of places was to close the war while large and effective rebel armies existed.
They believed that a well-directed attack would at least have partially destroyed the army defending Corinth
For myself I am satisfied that Corinth
could have been captured in two days campaign commenced promptly on the arrival of reinforcements after the battle of Shiloh
at once commenced erecting fortifications around Corinth
on a scale to indicate that this one point must be held if it took the whole National army to do it. All commanding points two or three miles to the south, south-east and south-west were strongly fortified.
It was expected in case of necessity to connect these forts by rifle-pits.
They were laid out on a scale that would have required 100,000 men to fully man them.
It was probably thought that a final battle of the war would be fought at that point.
These fortifications were never used.
Immediately after the occupation of Corinth
by the National
troops, General Pope
was sent in pursuit of the retreating garrison and General Buell
was the senior of the two generals and commanded the entire column.
The pursuit was kept up for some thirty miles, but did not result in the capture of any material of war or prisoners, unless a few stragglers who had fallen behind and were willing captives.
On the 10th of June the pursuing column was all back at Corinth
The Army of the Tennessee was not engaged in any of these movements.
The Confederates were now driven out of West Tennessee
, and on the 6th of June, after a well-contested naval battle, the National
forces took possession of Memphis
and held the Mississippi river
from its source to that point.
The railroad from Columbus
was at once put in good condition and held by us. We had garrisons at Donelson
, on the Cumberland river
, and held the Tennessee river
from its mouth to Eastport
and Baton Rouge
had fallen into the possession of the National
forces, so that now the Confederates
at the west were narrowed down for all communication with Richmond
to the single line of road running east from Vicksburg
To dispossess them of this, therefore, became a matter of the first importance.
The possession of the Mississippi
by us from Memphis
to Baton Rouge
was also a most important object.
It would be equal to the amputation of a limb in its weakening effects upon the enemy.
After the capture of Corinth
a movable force of 80,000 men, besides enough to hold all the territory acquired, could have been set in motion for the accomplishment of any great campaign for the suppression of the rebellion.
In addition to this fresh troops were being raised to swell the effective force.
But the work of depletion commenced.
with the Army of the Ohio was sent east, following the line of the Memphis and Charleston railroad.
This he was ordered to repair as he advanced-only to have it destroyed by small guerilla bands or other troops as soon as he was out of the way. If he had been sent directly to Chattanooga
as rapidly as he could march, leaving two or three divisions along the line of the railroad from Nashville
forward, he could have arrived with but little fighting, and would have saved much of the loss of life which was afterwards incurred in gaining Chattanooga
would then not have had time to raise an army to contest the possession of middle
and east Tennessee
; the battles of Stone River
] and Chickamauga
would not necessarily have been fought; Burnside
would not have been besieged in Knoxville
without the power of helping himself or escaping; the battle of Chattanooga
would not have been fought.
These are the negative advantages, if the term negative is applicable, which would probably have resulted from prompt movements after Corinth
fell into the possession of the National
The positive results might have been: a bloodless advance to Atlanta
, to Vicksburg
, or to any other desired point south of Corinth
in the interior of Mississippi