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Doc. 54.-battles of Corinth and Hatchie Bridge.1

Report of Major-General Van Dorn.2

headquarters army of West Tennessee Holly Springs, Miss., Oct. 20, 1862.
General: I have the honor to make the following report of the battle of Corinth:

Having established batteries at Port Hudson, secured the mouth of Red River and the navigation of the Mississippi River to Vicksburg, I turned my especial attention to affairs in the northern portion of my district.

On the thirtieth day of August I received a despatch from General Bragg, informing me that he was about to march into Kentucky, and would leave to General Price and myself the enemy in West Tennessee. On the fourth day of September I received a communication from General Price, in which was enclosed a copy of the despatch from General Bragg above named, making an offer to co-operate with me. At this time General Breckinridge was operating on the Mississippi River, between Baton Rouge and Port Hudson, with all the available force I had for the field; therefore I could not accept General Price's proposition. Upon the return, however, of General Breckinridge, I immediately addressed General Price, giving my views in full in regard to the campaign in West Tennessee, and stating that I was then ready to join him with all my troops. In the meantime orders were received by him, from General Bragg, to follow Rosecrans across the Tennessee River into Middle Tennessee, whither it was then supposed he had gone. Upon the receipt of this intelligence I felt at once that all my hopes of accomplishing anything in West Tennessee, with my small force, were marred. I nevertheless moved up to Davis' Mill, a few miles from Grand Junction, Tennessee, with the intention of defending my district to the best of my ability, and to make a demonstation in favor of General Price; to which latter end, also, I marched my whole command, on the twentieth day of September, to within seven miles of Bolivar, driving three brigades of the enemy back to that place, and forcing the return from Corinth of one division (Ross's) which had been sent there to strengthen Grant's army.

General Price, in obedience to his orders, marched in the direction of Iuka, to cross the Tennessee, but was not long in discovering that Rosecrans had not crossed that stream. This officer, in connection with Grant, attacked him on the nineteenth day of September, and compelled him to fall back towards Baldwin, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. On the twenty-fifth day of the same month I received a despatch, by courier, from General Price, stating that he was at Baldwin, and was then ready to join me with his forces in an attack on Corinth, as had been previously suggested by me. We met at Ripley, on the twenty-eighth of September, according to agreement, and marched the next morning towards Pocahontas, which place we reached on the first of October. From all the information I could obtain, the following was the “situation” of the Federal army at that time: Sherman at Memphis, with about six thousand men; Hurlbert, afterwards Ord, at Bolivar, with about eight thousand; Grant (headquarters at Jackson), with about three thousand; Rosecrans at Corinth, with about fifteen thousand; together with the following outposts, viz.: [635] Rienzi, twenty-five hundred; Burnville, Jacinto, and Iuka, about six thousand. At important bridges, and on garrison duty, about two or three thousand, making in the aggregate about forty-two thousand (42,000) men in West Tennessee. Memphis, Jackson, Bolivar, and Corinth were fortified, the works mounting siege guns, the outposts slightly fortified, having field-pieces. Memphis, Bolivar, and Corinth are in the arc of a circle, the chord of which, from Memphis to Corinth, makes an angle with due east line about fifteen degrees south. Bolivar is about equidistant from Memphis and Corinth, somewhat nearer the latter, and is at the intersection of the Hatchie River and the Mississippi Central and Ohio Railroad. Corinth is the strongest, but the most salient point. Surveying the whole field of operations before me, calmly and dispassionately, the conclusion forced itself irresistibly upon my mind that the taking of Corinth was a condition precedental to the accomplishment of anything in West Tennessee. To take Memphis would be to destroy an immense amount of property, without any adequate military advantage, even admitting that it could be held, without heavy guns, against the enemy's guns and mortar boats. The line of fortifications around Boliver is intersected by the Hatchie River, rendering it impossible to take the place by quick assault, and reinforcements could be thrown in from Jackson by railroad, and, situated as it is, in the angle of the three fortified places, an advance upon it would expose both my flanks and rear to an attack from the forces at Memphis and Corinth.

It was clear, to my mind, that if a successful attack could be made upon Corinth from the west and north-west, the forces there driven back on the Tennessee and cut off, Bolivar and Jackson would easily fall, and then, upon the arrival of the exchange prisoners of war, West Tennessee would soon be in our possession, and communication with General Bragg effected through Middle Tennessee. The attack on Corinth was a military necessity, requiring prompt and vigorous action. It was being strengthened daily under that astute soldier,

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