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Chapter 18:

  • General Beauregard orders the collection of grain and provisions, and establishes depots of supplies.
  • -- his appeal to the people to procure metal for the casting of cannon. -- warning preparations of the enemy. -- arrival of federal divisions at Savannah. -- General Sherman's attempted raid to destroy the railroad. -- burning of small bridge near Bethel Station.-General Pope before New Madrid. -- the place abandoned. -- General Beauregard's instructions to General McCown. -- General MacKALLall relieves him. -- bombardment of Island no.10. -- what might have been the result had the enemy disembarked at once at Pittsburg Landing. -- the troops we had to oppose them. -- what General Johnston thought of Bolivar as a base of operation. -- recommends it as more advantageous than Corinth. -- why General Beauregard preferred Corinth. -- he presses concentration there, as soon as the intentions of the enemy become sufficiently developed. -- success of his plan. -- Co-operation of the governors of adjacent states. -- troops poorly armed and equipped. -- the enemy begins Landing at Pittsburg. -- arrival of Hurlbut's, Prentiss's, McClernand's, and the two Wallaces' divisions. -- force of the army opposing us. -- General Buell. -- his slow advance on Nashville. -- is at last aroused by order to unite his forces with those of General Grant. -- aggregate of Buell's forces in Tennessee and Kentucky. -- our only hope for success was to strike a sudden blow before the junction of Buell and Grant.

Looking to the evacuation of Columbus and the concentration of troops at and around Corinth, General Beauregard had ordered, early in March, the immediate collection of the requisite quantity of grain and provisions, at Union City, Humboldt, Jackson, and Henderson, in West Tennessee, and at Corinth, Grand Junction, and Iuka, in Mississippi, with the establishment of chief depots of supplies of all kinds, at Columbus, Mississippi, and Grenada. At this latter place he had endeavored to establish a percussion-cap manufactory, which he looked upon as very important, because the difficulty of procuring a proper supply of this essential part of our ammunition had become great; but he failed in his efforts to accomplish the purpose. Foreseeing also that the demand for powder would soon increase in the Mississippi Valley, he made a second—but likewise fruitless—effort to [255] start a powder factory at Meridian, a point he considered, and rightly so, safe from Federal intrusion, and one which, in fact, was held by the Confederates until the end of the war.

The need of metal for the casting of field-guns was already a subject of most serious consideration for our leaders. The guns the Confederacy had, in the field and elsewhere, were inadequate, and that more were required was evident to all. So lacking in enterprise and forethought, in that respect, had the government shown itself, that no reliance could be placed upon it to improve the situation. The people, not the government, were the source from which alone assistance could be had. Deeply convinced of this truth, General Beauregard issued an appeal to the good citizens of the Mississippi Valley, asking them to yield up their plantation bells, that more cannon might be made for the defence of their homes. They responded with alacrity to his call; and, so great was the enthusiasm pervading all classes of the population, that even religious congregations gave up their church-bells, while women offered their brass candlesticks and andirons.

By the 8th of March, the busy preparations of the enemy at Fort Henry, up the Tennessee River, indicated an early offensive movement, to meet which the greatest activity on our part was necessary. On the 13th, five Federal divisions arrived at Savannah, twelve miles below Pittsburg Landing, and on the opposite side of the river, followed, a few days later, by a reinforcement of some five thousand men. These troops, numbering now about forty thousand infantry, and three thousand artillery and cavalry, were commanded by Major-General C. F. Smith, a gallant and accomplished officer.1 General Grant, who, for a time after the capture of Fort Donelson, had been virtually suspended by General Halleck, for an alleged disobedience of orders, arrived on the 17th, and resumed command. Meanwhile, on the 14th, General Sherman's division, which had not been landed at Savannah, was detached up the river, under the protection of two gunboats, to destroy the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, near Eastport and Chickasaw Bluff, but evinced such extreme caution that he was deterred from landing by two companies of infantry, acting as artillery, with two 24-pounders. These companies belonged to a [256] regiment of General Chalmers's brigade. The brigade proper, composed of about two thousand five hundred men, was stationed at the time at or near Iuka, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and five or six miles back from the river. Sherman's force then retired a few miles, to the mouth of Yellow River, intending to move thence to destroy the railroad company's shops at Beirnsville, a small village eight miles west of Iuka. After landing and making an abortive attempt to reach Beirnsville, with nothing to oppose him but high water, General Sherman hurriedly reem-barked his troops and dropped down to Pittsburg Landing, on the night of the 14th, having made a useless demonstration, but one which confirmed General Beauregard in the opinion that Corinth would be the final objective point of the Federal movement.

On the 13th, General McClernand's division of C. F. Smith's forces was crossed over to Crump's (or McWilliams's) Landing, on the west bank of the river, five or six miles above Savannah, to destroy the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, between Corinth and Jackson. But no more was effected than the burning of a small bridge near Bethel Station, twenty-four miles north of Corinth. After this the division fell back to the landing and re-embarked, showing the same degree of nervousness that characterized the Sherman expedition.

General Pope, in co-operation with these movements on the Tennessee, had appeared before New Madrid, about the end of February, and attacked that place with artillery. Not being defended with the tenacity which afterwards distinguished the defence of Island No.10 and its neighboring batteries, that important position was abandoned during the night of the 14th. Its garrison was transferred to the opposite bank of the river, and a portion of it sent to reinforce the troops supporting the batteries at and about Island No.10. The guns left in position at New Madrid, not having been properly spiked, were immediately put in condition to cut off, from escape down the river, eight transports and the gunboat used by General McCown in the evacuation.

General Beauregard's instructions to that officer had been to hold those defences to the very last extremity, in order to give time for completing the works at Fort Pillow; to sink some of his transports in the Missouri-shore channel, so as to narrow it still more, or render it impassable; and to anchor a fire-raft in the middle of the wider Tennessee-shore channel, so as to prevent the enemy's [257] gunboats from passing, under cover of night, the batteries protecting it. He was cautioned not to allow his remaining transports and gunboats to fall into the hands of the enemy under any circumstances. Finally, he was informed that no reinforcements could possibly be sent him until after the impending battle in the vicinity of Corinth.

Somewhat later General Beauregard relieved General McCown from his duties, and General Mackall, the gallant and efficient Assistant Adjutant-General of General Johnston's army, was selected to command at Madrid Bend. The following note was his answer when first informed of General Beauregard's wish to that effect:

Decatur, Ala., MMarch 10th, 1862.
Dear General,—I thank you for my promotion. You are entitled to my services and shall always command them. But now this army is in trouble, and I cannot leave it, with honor, until it joins you.

Yours sincerely,

W. W. Mackall, A. A. G.

The junction having been effected, he left for his new post; and held the works under him until after the battle of Shiloh, several days longer than would have been done otherwise. It was too late, however, to accomplish the main object General Beauregard had had in view, in assigning him to that important position.

On the 16th, the Federal fleet of gun and mortar boats, under Commodore Foote, appeared, and began the prolonged attack and bombardment which rendered the defence of Island No.10 memorable in the history of the war.

Until the 10th of March, a large Federal army was intended to operate against Florence, about seventy miles farther south than Savannah, but on the 13th it landed at the latter place. Had that army been at once disembarked at Pittsburg Landing, twenty-two miles from Corinth, or, better still, at Hamburg, eight miles south of Pittsburg and two or three miles nearer to Corinth, it would have met with no serious opposition; for, at the time of the landing, General Beauregard had only one regiment of cavalry in observation, supported, at Monterey, about half-way to Corinth, by one or two regiments of infantry and a battery of field artillery; while at Hamburg he had only a strong picket of cavalry. At Corinth he had, then collected, not more than fifteen thousand men, who could have offered no great resistance, as they were in a [258] state of confusion, gathered, as they had been, from many different quarters, as fast as they could be brought by rail, and were in large part poorly armed and equipped. Some of the regiments were not yet formed into brigades, and only one or two divisions had been organized. General Beauregard is clearly of the opinion that, had the Federal forces been handled with confidence and offensively pressed forward, they must have dispersed the troops he had then assembled there, especially as more than half of the Federal army consisted of seasoned troops, fresh from the successes of Forts Henry and Donelson, with supports at convenient distances, and abundantly supplied with munitions for offensive operations. In fact, General Johnston, regarding Corinth as too close to the Tennessee River, as a point of concentration on our side, had telegraphed General Beauregard, recommending the south bank of the Hatchee River, near Bolivar, as offering greater security. His telegram read as follows:

(ciphered Telegram.)

Decatur, March 15th, 1862.
To General G. T. Beauregard:
Have you had the south bank of the Hatchee examined, near Bolivar. I recommend it to your attention. It has, besides other advantages, that of being further from enemy's base.

This is very much in contrast with the assertions of some of General Johnston's panegyrists, that, as early as January, 1862 (others have it on the 1st and 4th of February), he had designated Shiloh Church—some say Corinth—as the spot where ‘the great battle of the southwest would be fought.’ This erroneous statement merits—and will receive—attention before that part of our narrative referring to the campaign of the West is closed.

General Beauregard differed with General Johnston on that allimportant subject, because, while willing to admit that the south bank of the Hatchee River was, possibly, a good defensive line, it was by no means, in his opinion, a proper one for the offensive he proposed to take, and in view of which he would have even preferred Monterey to Corinth, owing to its still greater proximity to the anticipated landing-point of the enemy. Events, however, justified his selection of Corinth, favored as he was by the hesitancy and lack of enterprise of the opposing forces, which enabled him to proceed, unmolested, with the measures of concentration [259] he had so much at heart. General Beauregard's apparent temerity in selecting for his base of operations a point so near the ground chosen for the landing of a powerful enemy, was the result, not of rashness, but of close and sagacious observation. With the eye and daring of a true general—noting the timidity of the Federal forces in their attempts at incursions on the western bank of the Tennessee, and their disjointed manner of disembarking—he knew that the nearer he was to his opponents the better it would be for the handling of his troops and the success of his plan. From a point near his foe he could attack fractions instead of concentrated masses of the enemy, with the chances of success in his favor.

As soon as the movements of the enemy, on the Tennessee, had sufficiently developed his intentions, General Beauregard ordered an immediate concentration, by railroad, of all troops then available in West Tennessee and North Mississippi. Those at Grand Junction and Iuka he massed upon Corinth; those at Fort Pillow, and General Polk's forces at Humboldt and Lexington, he assembled at Bethel and Corinth, leaving detachments at Union City and Humboldt, to keep open the communications established, with great difficulty, between Island No.10 and Jackson. A line of cavalry pickets was left in place of the infantry outposts at Union City, Dresden, Huntington, and Lexington; their fronts and intermediate spaces being well patrolled by scouting parties, to give timely notice of any hostile advance; in case of which, the cavalry, if compelled to fall back, had orders to retire gradually on Bolivar, on the Mississippi Central Railroad, thirty-eight miles northwest of Corinth, keeping up constant communication with the forces at Bethel and Corinth.

By the middle of March, less than one month after General Beauregard's arrival at Jackson, Tennessee, he had succeeded in assembling, within easy concentrating distances of Corinth, some twenty-three thousand men of all arms, independently of the fourteen thousand, more or less, he had found in the district under General Polk, on the 17th of February. He hoped to be joined, before the end of March, by General Johnston's command, of about thirteen thousand men—exclusive of cavalry—then arriving at Decatur; and General Van Dorn, at Van Buren, Arkansas, had promised, at that time, his co-operation with an army of nearly twenty thousand. General Beauregard had sent Van Dorn all the [260] water transportation he could collect on the Mississippi River, with which to effect the junction. These movements of concentration were approved by General Johnston, but had received no encouragement from the War Department or the Chief Executive. They were brought about through the untiring efforts and perseverance of General Beauregard; through the cheerful and patriotic assistance of the governors of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana; through General Bragg, at Pensacola, and General Lovell, at New Orleans. Without their hearty and powerful aid it would have been impossible to collect, in time, a force of sufficient strength successfully to oppose the enemy, who, had he used his resources with ordinary vigor, must soon have obtained undisputed possession of the Mississippi River, and, consequently, of the entire valley, including New Orleans.

The State troops thus hastily assembled were, as we have said, poorly equipped, without drill, and badly armed, some of them only with the discarded flint-lock musket of former days; and great difficulty was experienced in procuring the proper quality of flints. Not a third of the cavalry had fire-arms, and those who had were ill-armed, with a medley of pistols, carbines, muskets, and shot-guns, chiefly the latter. Few of them had sabres. The personnel of this new levy, however, could not have been better. It was composed of the best young men, from the city and country, who had rushed to arms at the call of their States. Animated by a feeling of patriotism and high martial spirit, they gave fair promise of great efficiency, if well officered. As soon as their regiments arrived at the rendezvous assigned them they were brigaded, equipped for the field as well as our restricted means permitted, and, owing to the lack of time for better instruction, were exercised only—and but slightly—in company and battalion drills, while awaiting orders to march to the battle-field.

On the 16th of March, General Sherman, by order of General C. F. Smith, at Savannah, disembarked with his division at Pittsburg Landing, to make a reconnaissance in the direction of Monterey, twelve miles from the Landing and ten miles from Corinth. He marched a few miles into the interior, encountering only the regiment stationed there, which retired as he advanced. He, nevertheless, returned to the Landing and re-embarked with his division. On the 18th, Hurlbut's division landed and took position about a mile and a half from the river, near the fork of the roads, leading, [261] the one to Corinth, the other to Hamburg, five or six miles up the river. On the 19th, General Sherman again disembarked his division, taking post about three miles in the interior, with three of his brigades, at or near a little log meeting-house, covering the roads to Purdy, in a northwesterly, and to Corinth, in a southwesterly, direction. His fourth brigade was detached to a point more than two miles to his left rear, at the crossing of the Pittsburg and Hamburg road, over Lick Creek. ‘Within a few days,’ says General Sherman, in his memoirs, Prentiss's division arrived, and was camped on his left, filling the space between his third and fourth brigades, but some distance in advance of the latter; afterwards McClernand's and W. H. L. Wallace's divisions were landed, the first placing itself within supporting distance of Sherman, and the second on the right of Hurlbut, forming a third line, about a mile and a half from the Landing.

Thus it will be seen that if we had been able to carry out General Beauregard's original intention of concentrating his forces at Monterey, only nine miles from Sherman's position, we should have had several days during which to attack the isolated divisions of Sherman and Hurlbut, numbering about seven thousand men, according to Federal accounts, and with a large and rapid river in their rear. Such an opportunity for annihilating in detail the fractional part of a powerful enemy is seldom offered in a campaign.

Another division, under Lew. Wallace, about seven thousand strong, with twelve guns, had also landed, and occupied a position, five or six miles from Sherman's right, on the north side of Snake Creek, on a road leading from Crump's (McWilliams's) landing to Purdy, a small village half-way to the railroad station of Bethel, on the Mobile and Ohio road.

The five divisions in front of Pittsburg Landing were accompanied by twelve batteries of field artillery, of six pieces each, and four or five battalions of cavalry, distributed among the several commands, which then numbered, together, at least thirty-nine thousand infantry and artillery, with some fifteen hundred cavalry, forming a well-organized and fully equipped force of over forty-seven thousand men, including Lew. Wallace's division, which was watching and threatening in the direction of Purdy. This army, of which at least forty per cent. were flushed with recent victories, was soon to be reinforced by General Buell, already [262] on the march from Nashville to Savannah, with five divisions of the best organized, disciplined, and equipped troops in the Federal service, numbering fully thirty-seven thousand effectives.2

General Buell3 had entered Bowling Green on the 15th of February, the day after it was evacuated by the Confederates, and one day before the surrender of Fort Donelson. He had then advanced leisurely on Nashville, about seventy-five miles distant, arriving opposite that city, on the Cumberland River, on the 23d. It was surrendered to him on the 25th, by the civil authorities, and he occupied it the next day. The rear guard of the Confederate forces, under General Floyd, had left Nashville for Murfreesboroa, thirty-two miles distant in a southerly direction, on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, when the enemy appeared on the south side of the river.

General Buell remained at Nashville, a passive spectator of General Johnston's slow and quiet retreat, first to Murfreesboroa, thence to Fayetteville, Huntsville, and Decatur, making no apparent effort to harass him or prevent his junction with the forces collected, meanwhile, by General Beauregard, about Corinth. The Federal general's torpor does not seem to have been disturbed until about the middle of March, when he was instructed by General Halleck—who had been assigned, on the 11th, to the command in chief—to unite his forces with those of General Grant, at Savannah, on the Tennessee River. This point of concentration was afterwards changed to Pittsburg Landing, twelve miles higher up, on the opposite side of the river; but no immediate communication to that effect was made to General Buell. While on the march, however, he decided to move to Hamburg, about six miles above Pittsburg, and thence to the place of concentration, wherever it might be.

While at Nashville, Buell's whole force in Tennessee and Kentucky [263] consisted of seven divisions, with detached troops for guarding his communications, maintaining order, and otherwise providing for his safety, and amounted, in the aggregate, to 94,783 men of all arms. The army presented an effective force for the field of 73,472 men, of which 60,882 were infantry, 9237 cavalry, and 3368 artillery, with twenty-eight field and two siege batteries of six guns each.4

On the 15th Buell commenced his march, with five divisions, as already stated, to effect leisurely the junction ordered by General Halleck; while one division, the 7th, under General G. W. Morgan, went to East Tennessee, and another, the 3d, under General O. M. Mitchell, to pursue General Johnston and destroy the Memphis and Charleston Railroad south of Fayetteville. Neither of these last-named operations was performed with much celerity.

On arriving at Columbia, forty miles south of Nashville, General Buell found the bridge across Duck River destroyed, and the water too high to ford. He was delayed there until the morning of the 29th, when, the bridge having been rebuilt, he again started for Savannah, thence to Pittsburg Landing, a distance of about one hundred miles, which he accomplished in nine days, marching slightly more than eleven miles a day. His head of column, Nelson's division, arrived at Pittsburg Landing at 3 o'clock P. M. on the 6th of April, the march from Savannah having been hurried in order to reach the field of Shiloh, from which the sound of the battle was plainly heard.

The united armies of Grant and Buell (his five divisions) would have presented a well-disciplined and fully equipped force of about 84,000 men. Against this we could not possibly bring more than 38,500 infantry and artillery, 4300 cavalry, and fifty field guns. This estimate excludes 7000 men at Island No.10 and vicinity, who were indispensable to hold at bay Pope's army of over 20,000 men, and to keep control of the Mississippi River at that point. Moreover, the forces General Beauregard had hastily collected (about 25,000 strong) were imperfectly armed, insufficiently drilled, and only partly disciplined. They had but recently been organized into two corps, under Generals Polk and Bragg, composed of two divisions each. General Beauregard believed [264] that, under such circumstances, our only hope of success lay in striking a sudden, heavy blow before the enemy should concentrate all his forces. He therefore urged General Johnston to join him at Corinth at the earliest moment practicable, and he again telegraphed the War Department (as late as the 28th) to send him at once some of the field-officers he had so often called for. Those most needed then were a chief of artillery, a commander of cavalry, and a chief commissary, without whom his organization could not be completed. But, notwithstanding the persistence of his calls, only the last two were sent; and they arrived when our army was marching from Corinth, to fight the battle which proved to be one of the greatest and bloodiest of the war.

1 He had been Commandant at the United States Military Academy, while General Beauregard was a cadet there; and had at a later period served with distinction in the Mexican War.

2Buell himself, with five divisions, numbering nearly forty thousand men, was ordered from Nashville, to the support of Grant.’—Badeau's ‘Military History of U. S. Grant,’ vol. i. p. 68.

3 He was a contemporary of General Beauregard's at the United States Military Academy, and had done good service as a young officer in Mexico. He was on the staff of General A. S. Johnston, as Adjutant-General in the Utah expedition, shortly before the late war between the States. He was brave and intelligent, but was generally considered too much of a disciplinarian to effect great results with irregular troops.

4 See Van Horne's ‘Army of the Cumberland,’ vol. i. p. 99.

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