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Chapter 19:

At the ensuing nightfall our victorious army retired from the front and abandoned its vantage ground on the bluffs, which had been won at such a cost of blood. The enemy thereby had room and opportunity to come out from their corner, reoccupy the strong positions from which they had been driven, and dispose their troops on much more favorable ground. Called off by staff officers, who gave no specific instructions, our brigades, according to circumstances, bivouacked on the battlefield, marched to the rear, or made themselves comfortable on the profuse spoils of the enemy's encampments. General Buell says:
Of the army of not less than fifty thousand effective men, which Grant had on the west bank of the Tennessee River, not more than five thousand were in ranks and available on the battlefield at nightfall on the 6th, exclusive of Lew Wallace's division, say eight thousand five hundred men that only came up during the night. The rest were either killed, wounded, captured, or scattered in inextricable and hopeless confusion for miles along the banks of the river.

In addition to the arrival of Wallace's division, the entire divisions of Nelson and Crittenden got across the river during the night, and by daylight that of McCook began to arrive; all but the first named belonged to Buell's army. The work of reorganization of fragments of Grant's force also occupied the night. In the morning the arrival of reenforcements to the enemy continued.

On the morning of the 7th the enemy advanced about six o'clock, and opened a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, such as gave assurance that the reenforcements had arrived, to anticipate which the battle of the 6th had been fought. A series of combats ensued, in which the Confederates showed their usual valor; however, after the junction had been effected between Grant and Buell, which Johnston's movement was made to prevent, our force was unequal to resist the combined armies, and retreat was a necessity. [58]

The field return of the army of Mississippi before and after the battle of Shiloh was as follows: infantry and artillery effective before the battle, 35,953; cavalry, 4,382; total, 40,335. Infantry and artillery effective after the battle, 25,555; cavalry, 4,081; total, 29,636. Difference, 10,699. Casualties in battle: killed, 1,728; wounded, 8,012; missing, 959.

The effective force of General Grant's army engaged in the battles of April 6th and 7th at Shiloh was 49,314; reenforcements of General Buell, 21,579; total, 70,893. The casualties in the battle of April 6th in Grant's force were as follows: killed, 1,500; wounded, 6,634; missing, 3,086; total, 11,220; leaving for duty on the 7th, 59,673.

On April 9th Major General H. W. Halleck left St. Louis and proceeded to Pittsburg Landing to assume command of the enemy's forces in the field. A reorganization was effected, in which General Grant's divisions formed the right wing, those of General Buell the center, and those of General Pope, brought from the west side of the Mississippi, the left wing; an advance on Corinth was commenced.

Corinth, the position from which our forces had advanced to Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing, and to which they had now retired, was a small village in the northeast corner of the state of Mississippi. It was ninety miles east of Memphis and twenty or twenty-two west of the Tennessee River. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad ran from west to east through it, and the Mobile and Ohio road from south to north. The country between it and the Tennessee River was quite rugged, broken into ridges, and covered with a heavy forest. The position itself was flat, the water poor. Being the point at which two principal railroads crossed, it served admirably for the concentration of our forces.

Corinth was a strategic point of importance, and it was intended to be held as long as circumstances would permit; it was untenable, however, in the face of a largely superior force, owing to the ease with which the railroad communications in the rear could be cut by the enemy's cavalry. The small streams and contiguous flats in its front formed some obstacles which were not passed by the enemy until after the retreat of our army. The defenses were slight, consisting of rifle pits and earthworks of little elevation or strength.

The movement of General Halleck against this position commenced from Pittsburg Landing on April 28th with a force exceeding eighty-five thousand effectives. On May 3d he had reached within eight miles of Corinth, and on the 21st his batteries were within three miles. This slow progress was probably the result of a conviction that our force was very large, rather than of the bad state of the roads. So great were his [59] precautions that every night his army lay in an entrenched camp, and by day it was assailed by skirmishers from our army in more or less force.

General Sherman, in his report of May 30th, says:

My division has constructed seven distinct intrenched camps since leaving Shiloh, the men working cheerfully and well all the time, night and day. Hardly had we finished one camp before we were called on to move forward and build another. But I have been delighted at this feature in the character of my division, and take this method of making it known. Our intrenchments near Corinth and at Russell's, each built substantially in one night, are stronger works of art than the much-boasted forts of the enemy at Corinth.

The line of railroad on the north and east had been cut by the enemy, and an attempt made on the south. But so well was his apprehension of our strength maintained that he continued his entrenched approaches until within one thousand yards of our main works.

General Sherman says:

By 9 A. M. of the 29th our works were substantially done, and our artillery in position, and at 4 P. M. the siege-train was brought forward. . . . So near was the enemy that we could hear the sound of his drums and sometimes of voices in command; and the railroad-cars arriving and departing at Corinth were easily distinguished. For some days and nights cars have been arriving and departing very frequently, especially in the night; but last night (the 29th) more so than usual, and my suspicions were aroused. Before daybreak I instructed the brigade commanders and the field-officer of the day to feel forward as far as possible; but all reported the enemy's pickets still in force in the dense woods to our front. But about 6 A. M. a curious explosion, sounding like a volley of large siege-pieces, followed by others, singly, and in twos and threes, arrested our attention, and soon after a large smoke arose from the direction of Corinth, when I telegraphed to General Halleck to ascertain the cause. He answered that he could not explain it, but ordered me to advance my division and feel the enemy, if still in my front. I immediately put in motion two regiments of each brigade, by different roads, and soon after followed with the whole division—infantry, artillery, and cavalry. General M. L. Smith's brigade moved rapidly down the main road, entering the first redoubt of the enemy at 7 A. M. It was completely evacuated, and by 8 A. M. all my division was at Corinth and beyond.

The force of General Beauregard was less than forty-five thousand effective men. He estimated that of the enemy to be between eighty-five and ninety thousand men. All the troops of the enemy in reserve in Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois were brought forward, except the force of Curtis, in Arkansas, and placed in front of our position. No definite idea of their number was formed. In the opinion of Beauregard, a general attack was not to be hazarded; on May 3d, however, an advance was made to attack the corps of General Pope, when only one of his divisions was in position, and that gave way so rapidly it could not be overtaken. Again on May 9th an advance was made, hoping to [60] surprise the enemy. But a division, which should have been in position at three o'clock in the morning, or early dawn, was detained until three in the afternoon by the mistakes of the guide. The enemy thus became informed of the movement, and no surprise could be effected. General Beauregard commenced the removal of his sick, preparatory to an evacuation, on May 26th; on the next day arrangements for falling back were made, and the work completed on the 29th. So complete was the evacuation that not only was the army successfully withdrawn, but also every piece of ordnance, only a quantity of damaged ammunition being left behind. The retreat was continued to Tupelo, without any serious conflict with the enemy; during the retreat seven locomotives were reported to be lost by the burning of a bridge, however, and a number of cars, most of which were loaded with stores, were ordered to be burned.

On June 14th orders were sent to General Bragg, from Richmond, to proceed to Jackson, Mississippi, and temporarily to assume command of the department then under command of General Lovell. The order concluded as follows:

After General Magruder joins, your further services there may be dispensed with. The necessity is urgent and absolute.

On application to General Beauregard for the necessary order, he replied:

You can not possibly go. My health does not permit me to remain in charge alone here. This evening my two physicians were insisting that I should go away for one or two weeks, furnishing me with another certificate for that purpose, and I had concluded to go—intending to see you to-morrow on the subject, and leave you in command.

The certificate of the physicians was as follows:

headquarters, Western Department, Tupelo, June 14, 1862.
We certify that, after attendance on General Beauregard for the past four months, and treatment of his case, in our professional opinion he is incapacitated physically for the arduous duties of his present command, and we urgently recommend rest and recreation.

R. L. Brodie, Surgeon, P. A. C. S. Sam Choppin, Surgeon, P. A. C. S.

These facts were telegraphed to me at once by General Bragg. Soon after, I sent a second dispatch to him, renewing the order and expressing my surprise that he should have hesitated to obey, when the original order stated ‘the necessity is urgent and absolute.’ Before this second [61] dispatch was received by General Bragg, General Beauregard had transferred the command to him, and had departed for Bladen Springs. General Bragg thus describes the subsequent proceedings:

Prepared to move, I telegraphed back to the President that the altered conditions induced me to await his further orders. In reply to this, I was immediately notified by telegraph of my assignment to the ‘permanent command of the army,’ and was directed to send General Van Dorn to execute my first instructions.

From this statement it appears—1. That General Beauregard was not, as has been alleged, harshly deprived of his command, but that he voluntarily surrendered it, after being furnished with medical certificates of his physical incapacity for its arduous duties. 2. That he did not even notify his government, still less ask permission to retire. 3. That the order, assigning another to the command he had abandoned, could not be sent through him, when he had departed and gone to a place where there was no telegraph, and rarely a mail. 4. That it is neither customary nor proper to send orders to the commander of an army through a general on sick leave, and that in this case it would have been very objectionable, as a similar order had just been sent and disobeyed.

Meanwhile some other events had occurred in the Western Department which should be mentioned. The movement of the forces of the enemy up the Tennessee River, as has been stated, thus flanking some of our positions on the Mississippi River, was followed by his fitting out a naval fleet to move down that river. This fleet, consisting of seven ironclads and one gunboat, ten mortar boats (each carrying a thirteeninch mortar), a coal barge, two ordnance steamers, and two transports with troops, left Cairo on March 14th, and arrived at Hickman that evening. A small force of our cavalry left upon its approach. Columbus, as has been stated, had previously been evacuated by our forces and occupied by the enemy. In the morning the fleet continued down toward Island No.10. The island is situated in that bend of the river which touches the border of Tennessee, a few miles further up the river than New Madrid, although nearly southeast of that point.

In the latter part of February a large force of the enemy under Major General Pope left Commerce, Missouri, and moved south about fifty miles to New Madrid, with the object of capturing that place. Aided by the gunboats of Commander Hollins, our small force repulsed the assaults of the enemy three times, but such was the disparity of numbers that it soon became manifest that our forces could not successfully hold the position, and it was evacuated on the night of March 13th. Its defenses consisted of two earthworks, in which about twenty guns were mounted. These were spiked and rendered unfit for use. [62]

The bombardment of Island No.10, above described, commenced on March 15th, and was continued night and day. Up to April 1st the enemy fired several thousand thirteen-inch and rifle shells. On March 17th a general attack with five gunboats and four mortar boats was made, and continued nine hours without any serious result. Finally the forces of the enemy were greatly increased, and began to occupy both banks of the river, and also the river above and below the island, when a portion of our force retired, and about April 7th the remainder surrendered.

The fleet, on April 12th, proceeded next to Fort Pillow, about one hundred eighty miles below Island No.10, and a bombardment was commenced the next day. This was continued without effect until the night of June 4th, when both Forts Pillow and Randolph, the latter some twelve miles below the former, were evacuated—these positions having become untenable in consequence of the withdrawal of our forces from Corinth and the adjacent portion of Tennessee.

Nothing now remained to oppose the enemy's fleet but our gunboats at Memphis, which were, say, seventy miles farther down the river. The gallantry and efficiency displayed by our improvised river navy at New Madrid and Island No.10 gave rise to hopes scarcely justified by the number of our vessels or their armament. Our boats had fewer guns than those of the enemy, and they were less substantially constructed, but their officers and crews took counsel of their country's need rather than of their own strength. They manfully engaged the enemy, and disabled one of his rams, but after an hour's conflict were compelled to retire.

The possession of Memphis being no longer disputed, its occupation by the enemy promptly followed.

At an early period of the war the government of the United States organized some naval and military expeditions, with a view to capturing our harbors, occupying an extensive tract of country in their vicinity, and especially obtaining possession of a portion of our cotton crop. The first movement of this kind was by a fleet of naval vessels and transports which appeared off Hatteras Inlet on August 27, 1861. This inlet is a gap in the sandy barrier that lines the coast of North Carolina about eighteen miles southwest of Cape Hatteras. It was the principal entrance to Pamlico Sound, a large body of water lying between the sandy beach and the mainland. The channel of the entrance had about seven feet of water, and was protected by two small forts constructed on the sand. Our forces were under the command of Captain Samuel Barron, an officer of distinction formerly in the United States Navy. After a short [63] bombardment which developed the strength of the enemy and his own comparative weakness, he capitulated.

A much larger fleet of naval vessels and transports, carrying fifteen thousand men, appeared off the harbor of Port Royal, South Carolina, on November 4, 1861. This harbor is situated midway between the cities of Charleston and Savannah. It is a broad estuary, into which flow some two or three streams, the interlacing of which with creeks forms a group of numerous islands. The parish of which these are the greater part constituted the richest agricultural district in the state, its staples being sea-island cotton and rice. The principal defenses were Fort Walker, a strong earthwork on Hilton Head, and Fort Beauregard on Philip's Island. The attack was made by the enemy on the 7th, by a fleet consisting of eight steamers and a sloop-of-war in tow. Some of the steamers were of the first class, as the Wabash and the Susquehanna. The conflict continued for four hours, when the forts, because untenable, were abandoned.

In the early part of 1862 several reconnaissances were sent out from Port Royal, and subsequently an expedition visited Darien and Brunswick in Georgia, and Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine in Florida. Its design was to take and keep under control this line of seacoast, especially in Georgia. Some small steamers and other vessels were captured, and some ports were occupied.

The system of coast defenses which was adopted and the preparations which had been at that time made by the government to resist these aggressions of the enemy should be stated. By reference to the topography of our coast it will be seen that, in the state of North Carolina, are Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, penetrating far into the interior, and then the Cape Fear River, connecting with the ocean by two channels, the southwest channel being defended by a small enclosed fort and a water battery. On the coast of South Carolina are Georgetown and Charleston harbors. A succession of islands extends along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, separated from the mainland by a channel which is navigable for vessels of moderate draft from Charleston to Fernandina, Florida. There are fewer assailable points on the Gulf than on the Atlantic. Pensacola, Mobile, and the mouth of the Mississippi were defended by works that had hitherto been regarded as sufficiently strong to repulse any naval attack that might be made upon them. Immediately after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the work of improving the seacoast defense was begun and carried forward as rapidly as the limited means of the government would permit.

The work that was now done has been so summarily and satisfactorily [64] described by General A. L. Long, chief of artillery, in a paper contributed to the Southern Historical Society, that I avail myself of a few extracts:1

Roanoke Island and other points on Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds were fortified. Batteries were established on the southeast entrance of Cape Fear River, and the works on the southwest entrance strengthened. Defenses were constructed at Georgetown, and at all assailable points on the northeast coast of South Carolina. The works of Charleston Harbor were greatly strengthened by earthworks and floating batteries. The defenses from Charleston down the coast of South Carolina and Georgia were confined chiefly to the islands and salient points bearing upon the channels leading inland. Defensive works were erected at all important points along the coast. Many of the defenses, being injudiciously located and hastily erected, offered but little resistance to the enemy when attacked. These defeats were not surprising, when we take into consideration the inexperience of the engineers, and the long line of seacoast to be defended. As soon as a sufficient naval force had been collected, an expedition under the command of General B. F. Butler was sent to the coast of North Carolina, and captured several important points. A second expedition, under Admiral Dupont and General Thomas W. Sherman, was sent to make a descent on the coast of South Carolina. On the 7th of November Dupont attacked the batteries that were designed to defend Port Royal harbor, as stated above, and almost without resistance carried them and gained possession of Port Royal. This is the best harbor in South Carolina, and is the strategic key to all the South Atlantic coast. Later, Burnside captured Roanoke Island, and established himself in eastern North Carolina without resistance. The rapid fall of Roanoke Island and Port Royal Harbor struck consternation into the hearts of the inhabitants along the entire coast. The capture of Port Royal gave to the Federals the entire possession of Beaufort Island, which afforded a secure place of rest for the army, while the harbor gave a safe anchorage for the fleet. Beaufort Island almost fills a deep indenture in the main shore, being separated the greater part of its extent by a narrow channel, which is navigable its entire circuit. Its northern extremity extends to within a few miles of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. The main road from Port Royal to Pocotaligo crosses the channel at this point. The evacuation of Hilton Head, on the southwestern extremity of Beaufort Island, followed the capture of Port Royal. This exposed Savannah, only about twentyfive miles distant, to an attack from that direction. At the same time, the Federals having command of Helena Bay, Charleston was liable to be assailed from North Edisto or Stono Inlet, and the railroad could have been reached without opposition by the route from Port Royal to Pocotaligo.

Such was the state of affairs when General Lee reached Charleston, about December 1, 1861, to assume the command of the Department of North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. His vigorous mind at once comprehended the situation, and, with his accustomed energy, he met the difficulties that presented themselves. Directing fortifications to be constructed on the Stono and the Edisto and the Combahee, he fixed his headquarters at Coosawhatchee, the point most threatened, and directed defenses to be erected opposite Hilton Head, and on the Broad and [65] Saltehatchie, to cover Savannah. These were the points requiring immediate attention. He superintended in person the works overlooking the approach to the railroad from Port Royal, and soon infused into his troops a part of his own energy. The works he had planned rose with magical rapidity. A few days after his arrival at Coosawhatchee, Dupont and Sherman sent their first reconnaissance in that direction, which was met and repulsed by shots from the newly erected batteries; and now, whether the Federals advanced toward the railroad or turned in the direction of Charleston or Savannah, they were arrested by our batteries. The people, seeing the Federals repulsed at every point, regained their confidence, and with it their energy.

The most important points being now secured against immediate attack, the General proceeded to organize a system of seacoast defense different from that which had been previously adopted. He withdrew the troops and material from those works which had been established on the islands and salient points which he could not defend to a strong interior line, where the effect of the Federal naval force would be neutralized. After a careful reconnaissance of the coast, he designated such points as he considered it necessary to fortify. The most important positions on this extensive line were Georgetown, Charleston, Pocotaligo, Coosawhatchee, and Savannah. Coosawhatchee, being central, could communicate with either Charleston or Savannah in two or three hours by railroad, and in case of an attack they could support each other. The positions between Coosawhatchee and Savannah, and those between the former and Charleston, could be reenforced from the positions contiguous to them; there was thus a defensive relation throughout the entire line, extending from Winyaw Bay to the mouth of St. Mary's River, in Georgia, a distance of about two hundred miles. These detached and supporting works covered a most important agricultural country, and sufficed to defend it from the smaller expeditions made against that region.

About March 1st the gunboats of the enemy entered the Savannah River by way of the channel leading from Hilton Head. Our naval force was too weak to dispute the possession with them, and they thus cut off the communication of Fort Pulaski with the city. Soon after, the enemy landed a force, under General Gillmore, on the opposite side of the fort. By April 1st they had powerful batteries in position, and on that day opened fire on the fort. Having no hope of succor, Fort Pulaski, after striking a blow for honor, surrendered with about five hundred men.2

1 ‘Seacoast Defenses of the Carolinas and Georgia.’

2 General A. L. Long, in Historical Society Papers.

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