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Chapter 24:


After the battle of Shiloh the Confederate troops resumed their former positions, except the forces under General Breckinridge, composing the rear guard, which for several days remained at Mickey's house,1 some three or four miles from the battlefield, until proper dispositions of the cavalry could be made for their withdrawal. Chalmers's brigade, at Monterey, was also withdrawn at that time to a position nearer to Corinth.

On the day following the retreat, General Beauregard made application [377] to the War Department for two additional majorgen-erals, four brigadier-generals, and a competent chief of artillery. He also, in the same despatch, urgently recommended Major-General Bragg for promotion. His gallant behavior on the battlefield had justified General Beauregard in the hope that, as an army commander, he would show more than ordinary ability. That he was a conscientious officer and a hard fighter, though too rigid a disciplinarian at times, is known to all, especially to those who served directly under him.

Under the same date (April 8th) a telegram was forwarded by General Beauregard to the Adjutant-General's office at Richmond, giving an account of the second day's battle; and shortly afterwards (April 11th) a preliminary report2 was likewise sent by him, for the immediate use of the War Department. It was incomplete, and, in many respects, imperfect, as it was written on the spur of the moment, for the instant information of the government, and before any of the reports of the corps commanders had yet reached army headquarters. General Beauregard's intention was to write a full and final narrative of the battle (as he had done of the battle of Manassas), for the files of the War Department, as soon as these reports should be forwarded to him; but, for reasons still unexplained, he never saw them until the winter of 1863-64,3 when the rapid and exciting events we were then passing through prevented him from devoting any time to the preparation of that important document. It may not be useless briefly to notice here, what there is of marked significance in the incident just touched upon.

From the date of the battle of Shiloh until General Beauregard was relieved of the command of the army at Tupelo, in June, 1862, he frequently called on Generals Polk, Bragg, Hardee, and Breckinridge, for their reports of the battle, but always in vain; their constant answer being that they had been unable, as yet, to get official detailed information from the regiment, brigade, and division commanders under them. The consequence was, that the reports we refer to were not transmitted until many months after the battle, and one of them—General Polk's—was delayed until nearly a year had elapsed. They were all addressed to the War [378] Department, without passing through the regular channel; in other words, without being first submitted to General Beauregard, who was thus deprived of his unquestionable right of correction, approval, or disapproval. And we will further state that General Bragg's report, though transmitted, as were the others, without the commanding general's endorsement, bore date April 30th, 1862, as if regularly made to General Beauregard, through Colonel Thomas Jordan, his Chief of Staff, when, in reality, it was not completed and despatched from army headquarters until the 25th of July, 1862.4 None of the general officers who thus openly violated the well-established rule of military etiquette were ignorant of its acknowledged necessity. From the Adjutant-General at Richmond, who received the documents thus irregularly transmitted, to the very corps commanders who forwarded them, all were trained soldiers, all, except General Breckinridge, had belonged to the Regular army before the war, where ‘red-tape’ routine, in every military bureau, had ever been strictly insisted upon and invariably practised. It was by the act of a friend5 that General Beauregard's attention was attracted to the singular manner in which these reports had been written and sent to the War Department. And he had cognizance of them only after repeatedly applying for copies, which were finally furnished him from Richmond, but unaccompanied by any of the subordinate reports purporting to substantiate them. The result is, that the official reports of the corps commanders at Shiloh (with the exception of General Breckinridge's, which we have never seen), instead of serving as a basis for history, are, on the contrary, erroneous in many important particulars, and differ widely from those of the other generals and subordinate officers who participated in the battle, as we have already conclusively shown.6

Commodore Hollins, on duty near Fort Pillow, was requested, on the 8th, to propose an exchange of prisoners in General Beauregard's name. Most of those we had taken immediately before and since the battle of Shiloh had been sent temporarily to Memphis, [379] to be forwarded thence to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where it was thought they might find better accommodations. General Pope made an evasive answer to General Beauregard's overture, and nothing satisfactory was effected.7 It was about the same time that General Beauregard wrote to General Grant concerning the burial of the Confederate dead on the field of Shiloh, and sent to him, under flag of truce, a mounted party, accompanied by several citizens, especially from Louisiana, who were anxious to recover and give proper interment to the remains of near relatives known to have fallen during the battle. General Grant denied the privilege thus requested, and said that he had already performed that sad duty to our dead, and was taking all necessary care of the wounded.

On the 11th, that is to say, four days after the battle of Shiloh, General Van Dorn's forces began to enter Memphis, MajorGen-eral Price's division arriving first. General Rust's brigade was immediately sent to Fort Pillow, as already explained, and General Little's command ordered to Rienzi, some twelve miles from Corinth, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance and securing a good encampment and suitable defensive positions in case of a retrograde movement in that direction.

On the day following, Major-General E. K. Smith, then commanding in east Tennessee, received from General Beauregard a despatch, in these terms:

Six regiments on way from General Pemberton, South Carolina, to join me. Three of yours failed to get by Huntsville. Could you not gather the nine, add artillery, and push on Huntsville, taking enemy in reverse? All quiet in front.

The South Carolina regiments above mentioned were being sent by the War Department, at the request of General Beauregard, to reinforce him at or near Corinth. The burning of a bridge on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad prevented the execution of this plan, and different orders were issued in regard to them. [380]

The thread of our narrative would be too disconnected and its interest impaired were we to follow too closely, in their order, the various events that occurred during the first two weeks after the retreat of the Confederate forces to Corinth. But the Appendix to this chapter will impart all such additional information as cannot be appropriately inserted within the limits of the text. Reference is here made particularly to General Beauregard's instructions to Generals Breckinridge and Chalmers, at Mickey's house and Monterey; to the list of officers forwarded to the President for promotion; to his further correspondence with General Grant relative to the exchange of prisoners, and the distinction to be made between colonels commanding brigades and brigadiergenerals duly commissioned as such; also, to the difference to be established between medical officers and other officers of the Confederate and Federal armies.

Perhaps the most difficult feat to accomplish in war is to compel an adversary to abandon the movement upon which he is engaged and adopt another by which his plans may be eventually frustrated. Such a diversion, even with a well-trained army, possessing every requisite for rapid motion, requires more than ordinary skill on the part of the general devising it. Greater still is the hazard of the undertaking, when that army is, as compared to the one confronting it, weaker in numbers, reduced by disease, and wanting in the necessary means of transportation.

An effort of this kind, however, was determined upon by General Beauregard, as soon as it became evident to him that his inferior forces were no match for the too powerful and daily increasing army under General Halleck. With a view to this, Generals Van Dorn and Price were invited to a conference at Corinth, ahead of their troops, then hourly arriving in Memphis.

A promising cavalry officer, Captain John H. Morgan, commanding two Kentucky companies belonging to General A. S. Johnston's army, with which he had arrived from Bowling Green, had highly distinguished himself, during the retreat to Corinth, by his great energy and efficiency. He had kept the commanding general thoroughly advised of the movements of the enemy, and had performed many acts indicating high military ability. Having thus had occasion to judge of his capacity and resources, General Beauregard resolved to send him, with four companies of [381] cavalry,8 into middle Tennessee and Kentucky; there to cause as much damage as possible to the enemy's railroads, bridges, and telegraph lines. He was authorized to raise his battalion to a regiment and even to a brigade, if he could. General Beauregard supplied him with a sum of fifteen thousand dollars,9 to start with, and carry him into Kentucky, where he was, eventually, to live on the enemy. This was the beginning of the brilliant career of that intrepid partisan officer. His usefulness was afterwards greatly impaired when General Bragg attempted to make of him and his renowned brigade part of a regular command of cavalry. Upon the recommendation of General Beauregard, he was promoted to the rank of colonel before he had organized his regiment; and when he left, with his four companies, upon his hazardous expedition, he was furnished by General Beauregard with one of the ablest telegraph operators in the service—Mr. Ellsworth—in order that he might bewilder the enemy—as he so effectually did—by sending false despatches from the various telegraph stations during his raids into Tennessee and Kentucky.

General Beauregard hoped that this expedition under Colonel Morgan, together with the operations in Kentucky suggested by General E. Kirby Smith, and strongly urged by General Beauregard on the War Department,10 would force General Halleck, who was plodding away slowly in his advance on Corinth, to send back a part, if not all, of General Buell's army into Tennessee and Kentucky. A third expedition of two regiments of cavalry, under Colonels Claiborne and Jackson, was also thought of and organized against Paducah, western Kentucky, to aid in the same purpose, and would halve been a great success but for the notorious incapacity of the officer in command.11 However, General Beauregard was not wholly disappointed in his expectations with regard to his diversion movements, for, immediately after the evacuation of Corinth by the Confederate army (May 30th), General [382] Buell's entire force was ordered into middle Tennessee and Kentucky.

On the arrival of the rest of General Van Dorn's forces at Corinth they were located—including General Little's brigade from Rienzi—on the right and rear of the defensive lines, along the south side of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, on several small heights which commanded the approaches to the lines, and afforded a good position for taking in flank any attack of the Federals in that direction. Those lines extended about three miles in advance of Corinth, from the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, on the right, to the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, on the left, and were situated on rather high grounds immediately in rear of a small creek, forming the head-waters of Bridge Creek, with somewhat swampy sides. They had been located by General Bragg and his engineers, before General Beauregard reached Corinth, and were defective on the left, near the Mobile and Ohio Railroad; thereby giving decided advantage to the enemy at that point. They were subsequently corrected by General Beauregard, but, in view of the time and labor already bestowed on them, were not sufficiently altered entirely to remedy their original defect.12

General Hardee's corps extended along and from the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, in front of General Van Dorn's position, to the left, where it rested on the right of General Bragg, whose left in turn rested on the right of General Polk's corps, stretching across the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The left of this command occupied some woods protected by abatis and rifle-pits: each corps holding a few brigades in reserve.

General Breckinridge's division formed a general reserve, and was posted at first on or near the seminary hill (if we may so call it) immediately in rear of Corinth, which is situated at the intersection of the two railroads already mentioned.

Our small force of cavalry was stationed on the flanks of the lines, with part of it in front, to guard the approaches to Corinth.

General Halleck, notwithstanding his large superiority in numbers, was too cautions to bring about an immediate conflict between the two opposing forces. He preferred advancing slowly [383] and gradually; a method which might have answered against a well-fortified position, held by a correspondingly strong garrison, but which, under the circumstances, exhibited, on his part, most extraordinary prudence, and even timidity.

Meanwhile, the deficiency in good water, and the natural unhealthfulness of the place, began to tell sadly on the Confederate officers and men. They were, moreover, but scantily supplied with food, and that of an inferior quality. This was owing to the chronic mismanagement of the Chief Commissary at Richmond, a fact which General Beauregard had more than once pointed out to the War Department, and which he again brought home to it by the following despatch:13

Corinth, Miss., April 24th, 1862.
General S. Cooper, Adjutant-General, Richmond:
The false views of administration—to say the least—of Colonel Northrop will starve out this army unless I make other arrangements, which I have done. I trust it may not be altogether too late, and that the government will sustain me with means.

The truth is, it was almost impossible to have regular issues of fresh provisions made to the Confederate troops at that time, until General Beauregard took the matter into his own hands, and sent agents to northern Texas and Arkansas, where he bought large herds of cattle, which soon relieved the pressing necessities of his army. Part of these supplies, however, he was afterwards compelled to transfer to the General Subsistence Department, for other armies in the field.

It soon became apparent to General Beauregard that the insalubrity of Corinth would increase as the season advanced, and that, apart from the danger of being overwhelmed by a steadily growing army in his front, he would have to select another strategic position, by which he could hold the enemy in check and protect the country in his rear as well as Fort Pillow, which still closed the passage of the river. The idea of moving westward, to Grand Junction,14 had at first been entertained; but the lack of good water there, and the fear of losing Fort Pillow, fifty-nine miles above [384] Memphis, led to a change of plan. Nor must it be forgotten that the defences and river batteries at Vicksburg were then just begun, as we have already shown,15 and that, Fort Pillow falling, nothing could prevent the enemy from enjoying the free use of the Mississippi as far down as New Orleans, where a base of abundant supplies would, no doubt, soon be established. These considerations impelled General Beauregard to hold on to his position at Corinth until forced from it by his adversary.

Meanwhile, he caused thorough reconnoissances to be made along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, for a good defensive position, well supplied with pure water, and occupying a healthy region of country. None could be found nearer than Tupelo, where begins the fertile and salubrious ‘black-land’ region of Mississippi.

There were not many running springs at Tupelo, but excellent water could be had by digging wells from ten to fifteen feet deep. He ordered them dug at once, where it was probable the troops would take up their positions, in rear of some low lands, easily defended and of difficult passage to an army on the offensive.

It was during these reconnoissances and preparations that General Beauregard first turned his attention to the necessity of defending Vicksburg, as has already been shown in the preceding chapter, by the telegrams and letters contained in it and its Appendix. That to him, and neither to General Lovell nor to Governor Pettus, is due the credit of having originated the idea of this defence, is further proved by the following telegrams:


Have seen Lieutenant Brown. Have ordered a work at Vicksburg. Please hold ready to send there sand-bags, guns, carriages, platforms, etc., when called for by Chief-Engineer, Captain D. B. Harris.

Have you constructed traverses and blindages at your forts?


Corinth, April 23d, 1862.
General S. Cooper, Adjutant-General, Richmond, Va.:
Services of General Sam. Jones are absolutely required here as soon as practicable. Having obtained guns for Vicksburg, am going to fortify it. But require engineers. I recommend John M. Reid, Louisiana, as captain, and J. H. Reid, Louisiana, as lieutenant. Am well acquainted with them, they having worked many years under my orders.



Two 10-inch and four rifled guns are under orders to you from Mobile. Do you want them? If not, say so to General S. Jones, and order them to Vicksburg.


Corinth, April 25th, 1862.
Captain D. B. Harris:
In consequence of news from Louisiana, put works below Vicksburg, to prevent passage of river from New Orleans. Put guns in position first, then construct works. System preferred is one main work, and detached batteries, not too far from each other. Should you not have time, send guns to Jackson, Mississippi, and be ready to destroy railroad between two places, when necessary.


Please send immediately to Vicksburg, to report to commanding officer there, one regiment of unarmed or partially armed volunteers. Also, one to Columbus, Mississippi. They will be armed as soon as possible.

It is needless to accumulate further evidence. Other telegrams and letters to the same effect will be found in the Appendix to this chapter.

On his arrival near Pittsburg Landing, General Pope established himself behind Seven Miles Creek, a stream that lies seven miles from the Tennessee River. The Federal forces, as then reorganized, subdivided, and located, amounted, as we have already stated, to about one hundred and twenty-five thousand men, with General Halleck, as first, and General Grant, as second, in command.16 The Confederate army, under General Beauregard, with the reinforcement of Van Dorn's seventeen thousand men, numbered about fifty thousand, but was daily decreasing on account of sickness.

General Pope's recent successes on the Mississippi River had given him an overweening opinion of his capacities as a commander. He was an officer of intelligence and activity, but inclined to undertake almost any movement without sufficiently considering the consequences that might follow. The expression [386] used by him in his first order, upon taking command in Virginia —‘Headquarters in the Saddle’—which is even more than a boastful cavalry officer might venture to announce, is indicative of the undue self-esteem characterizing the man.

Hardly had he taken up his new position in front of Hamburg, when, in order, no doubt, to hurry on and anticipate General Halleck's advance against our forces, he determined to make an offensive movement towards Corinth. Four miles from the latter place was an elevated position, where stood the small village of Farmington, then occupied by an insignificant force of Confederate infantry and cavalry, with one battery of artillery. That force was suddenly attacked on the 3d of May, by one or two Federal divisions, and driven back across a narrow creek, west, and in the near vicinity, of Farmington.

General Pope, ambitious now to accomplish something worthy of the reputation he had acquired at New Madrid and Madrid Bend, moved on the 8th, with his whole force, on the abovemen-tioned village. As he was entirely separated from General Buell, on his right, by the head of Seven Miles Creek, which was lined with low, swampy grounds, rendered difficult to cross by recent rains, General Beauregard determined, by a sudden and rapid attack in heavy force, to cut him off from his base, before he could fortify his position at Farmington.

The Confederate corps and reserve commanders were, accordingly, called together at army headquarters, where special and specific instructions were given them by General Beauregard, relative to the movement about to be executed.

All our troops were to be held ready for battle. General Van Dorn, on the right, was to move before daylight, by his right flank, until his centre should be opposite General Pope's left flank, at Farmington, where he was facing in the direction of Corinth. At dawn of day General Van Dorn, with his left and centre, was to attack vigorously whatever force might be in his front, and, with his right overlapping General Pope's left, take it in rear and cut off the Federal line of retreat to Farmington.

At the same hour, General Bragg, with two divisions, was to advance on the Farmington road, which crossed his line of defences, and, by a front attack, co-operate with General Van Dorn, but only after the latter should have taken up his position and should be prepared to execute the movement intrusted to him. [387]

General Hardee was to guard the partly vacated lines of Generals Van Dorn and Bragg, by extending his command to the right and left, and be ready to support the attack if necessary.

General Polk was to take a position in advance of his lines, and attack any Federal troops attempting to pass in his front. And General Breckinridge's reserve was to occupy, temporarily, a central position within the Confederate lines, and support any part of the field of battle which might require his assistance.

Through the inefficiency of his leading guide, and the slowness of one of his major-generals, General Van Dorn did not get his troops in position at the time prescribed. The result was that when the Federals discovered the flanking movement threatening them, they began retiring hastily to their position behind Seven Miles Creek. General Van Dorn threw what forces he had in hand against the enemy in his front, and, aided by the simultaneous attack of General Ruggles (Bragg's corps), very nearly captured two brigades forming the rear of General Pope's command. The enemy lost quite a number in killed and wounded, and a considerable amount of camp equipage, arms, and equipments. Our loss was insignificant, and consisted of some two hundred killed and wounded, in both commands. The Confederate troops behaved with great spirit, and appeared anxious to punish the enemy for compelling them to prolong their sojourn at Corinth, which all were eager to leave.17

General Beauregard was disappointed in the result of the expedition, and thought the enemy would soon attempt to reoccupy the prominent position from which we had driven him; that a large Confederate force would then be necessary to hold it; and that, strong as such a force might be, it could be cut off by superior numbers before assistance could be brought up from other points of our weak and extended lines. He therefore instructed his subordinate commanders to be prepared to renew the attack at any moment; for he was anxious to strike another blow on the enemy, if only to blind him as to the future movements he now had in contemplation.

None more than he appreciated the strategic value of Corinth. Its local features for defence and the fact of its being at the intersection [388] of two important railroads made it a very desirable point to hold, as long as it was safe to do so. But the great odds in his front and the persistent though over-cautious advance of General Halleck, convinced General Beauregard that his withdrawal from Corinth would, ere long, become a necessity.

General Pope having again, on the 18th, advanced towards Farmington, and our scouts reporting all the creeks and their swampy sides overflowed from late heavy rains, another concerted movement was prepared by General Beauregard, wherein the corps and reserve commanders were all, more or less, to participate. The object was, as previously, to attack General Pope's forces and cut off their line of retreat upon the main body of the Federal army. Steady and continuous bad weather, however, delayed the execution of the plan from day to day, and, on the 22d of May, finding that General Van Dorn could not accomplish his part of the proposed plan, General Beauregard, after a conference with him, ordered the troops back to their former positions.

From General Van Dorn's statement to him after the failure of this movement, General Beauregard concluded that any further idea of the offensive must be abandoned, and that he must now rest content with holding our lines, while he made arrangements for an orderly retreat.

Meantime, General Halleck had not ceased advancing his successive lines, from his left to his right, notwithstanding the opposition we offered him.

On the 25th, General Beauregard called his subordinate commanders together—namely, Generals Bragg, Van Dorn, Polk, Hardee, Breckinridge, and, by request, Major-General Price—to discuss the necessity of evacuating Corinth, and determine the time and method of so doing. He gave an elaborate exposition of his views, and said that, situated as he was at Corinth, with the advantages it afforded for defence, and the communication it kept open to us, he had considered it a duty to hold his position as long as possible, without danger of being overwhelmed; but that, besides the rapid decrease of our forces from sickness, the increase of the enemy's strength in our front—not to speak of General Halleck's persistent advance upon us—had led him to the conclusion that it would be unwise to endeavor further to maintain our ground, with such manifest odds against us. The result of a battle, at this juncture, and even of a siege, would, he feared, amount to more [389] than defeat on our part, and might bring about the annihilation of our forces. By a retreat we would, no doubt, lose a strategic position of uncommon value, but by persisting in holding it we might suffer a still greater loss.

The important question submitted at this council of war, if we may so consider it, was freely and exhaustively examined by the different generals present. But one opinion prevailed among them: the evacuation of Corinth had now become imperative.18

After carefully listening to the views expressed by his subordinate commanders, General Beauregard requested them to get ready for the movement as if it were already ordered, but to avoid all mention of it except to their respective Chiefs of Staff. He told them to state publicly that we were about to take the offensive against the enemy and bring on a general engagement with him, and to begin at once sending off, to different points in our rear, such as Baldwin, Tupelo, and others, their sick, their heavy baggage, and such additional camp equipage as might encumber the projected retreat. Immediate orders were issued to that effect from army headquarters, and all things were prepared for removing the heavy guns and ammunition to those places, and even farther, at a moment's notice.

When General Beauregard's orders and instructions were completed, he once more summoned his corps commanders to army headquarters, and there carefully explained to each one individually the part he would be called upon to perform in the designed movement, which was to commence with General Van Dorn, on the right, and end with General Polk, on the left—General Breckinridge being in reserve, and occupying a more or less central position, in rear of the other commands. Each sub-commander was made, by General Beauregard, to go over and repeat what he and the others were expected to do, until they became perfectly familiar with every detail of the plan adopted. They were thus thoroughly drilled, as it were, and prepared for any emergency. The result showed that General Beauregard had not taken this trouble in vain. No other retreat during the war was conducted in so systematic and masterly a manner, especially when we consider the [390] comparative rawness of some of our troops, and the disparity of numbers and resources between the two confronting armies.

The time fixed for the evacuation was 3 o'clock A. M. on the 29th. Delays occurred, however, which caused it to be postponed until 1 o'clock A. M. on the 30th. The wagon-trains and rearmost troops had been started about 11 P. M. on the 29th, so as to clear the way.

To deceive the enemy as to our intentions, General Beauregard ordered that an empty train should be run occasionally during the night, towards the right, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and another, towards the left, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, as far as they could safely go; and that whenever they reached that point, the troops stationed there should cheer loudly and vigorously, as though to welcome reinforcements. This stratagem was carried out to the letter, and proved very successful; for General Pope, notwithstanding his false despatches forwarded after the event, telegraphed General Halleck on the 30th of May, at 1 o'clock A. M., as follows:

The enemy are reinforcing heavily in my front and left. The cars are running constantly, and the cheering is immense every time they unload in front of me. I have no doubt, from all appearances, that I shall be attacked in heavy force at daylight.19

At the very moment when the foregoing despatch was penned by General Pope the Confederate forces were actively evacuating their lines, leaving skirmishers only in them, and some cavalry in front, to hold the enemy at bay until the entire movement should be completed.

The retreat was effected with great order and precision, the enemy remaining in utter ignorance of it. The troops were halted temporarily behind the Tuscumbia River, some six miles from Corinth, to concentrate and give battle if pursued; but no pursuit being attempted, the movement was quietly continued to Rienzi and Booneville, where another halt was made for the same purpose, and with a like result. The march was then resumed and the army soon reached Baldwin, thirty miles from Corinth, where another position was taken, and held until the 7th of June, to await an advance of the enemy. It being apparent that no attack would be made, General Beauregard again put his army in motion, [391] the main portion of it arriving at Tupelo, fifty-two miles from Corinth, on the 9th of June. There was found, as expected, a salubrious region, pure water, and all the requirements of a good defensive position.

The following extracts are from General Beauregard's official report20 of the evacuation of Corinth. After giving his reasons for withdrawing his army, and explaining his various orders to that effect, he says:

. . . At the time finally prescribed the movement commenced, and was accomplished without the knowledge of the enemy, who only began to suspect the evacuation after broad daylight on the morning of May 30th, when, having opened on our lines from his formidable batteries of heavy and long-range guns, erected the night previous, he received no answer from any direction; but, as our cavalry pickets still maintained their positions of the preceding day, he was not apparently fully satisfied of our movements, until some stores, of little value, in the town, were burned, which could not be moved. It was then, to his surprise, the enemy became satisfied that a large army, approached and invested with such extraordinary preparations, expense, labor, and timidity, had disappeared from his front with all its munitions and heavy guns, leaving him without knowledge, as I am assured, whither it had gone, for his scouts were scattered everywhere, as I have since ascertained, to inquire what directions our forces had taken. . . . The troops moved off in good spirits and order, prepared to give battle if pursued, but no serious pursuit was attempted . . . . While at Rienzi, half-way to Baldwin, I was informed that on the morning of the 30th ultimo a detachment of the enemy's cavalry had penetrated to Booneville, eight miles south of Rienzi, and had captured and burned a railroad train of ammunition, baggage, and subsistence, delayed there some forty-eight hours by mismanagement. I regret to add that the enemy also burned the railroad depot, in which were at the moment a number of dead bodies and at least four sick soldiers of this army, who were consumed — an act of barbarism scarcely credible, and without a precedent, to my knowledge, in civilized warfare. Upon the opportune appearance, in a short time, however, of an inferior force of our cavalry, the enemy left in great haste and confusion, after having received one volley. Only one of our men was carried away by him. Quite a number of stragglers, and of our sick and convalescents, en route to Southern hospitals, who for a few moments had fallen into the enemy's hands, were rescued. These are the two thousand men untruthfully reported by Generals Pope and Halleck to their War Department, as captured and paroled on that occasion. . . . Equally inaccurate, reckless, and unworthy are the statements of these Federal commanders in their several official reports by telegraph, bearing dates of May 30th and 31st, and June 1st, 2d, and 4th, as published in Cincinnati and Chicago [392] journals, touching the amount of property and stores destroyed by us at Corinth, and General Pope's alleged pressing pursuit. Major-General Halleck's despatch of June 4th may particularly be characterized as disgracefully untrue. Possibly, however, he was duped by his subordinate. Nothing, for example, can be wider from the truth than that ten thousand men and fifteen thousand small arms of this army were captured or lost in addition to those destroyed at Booneville. Some five hundred inferior small arms were accidentally left by convalescents in a camp four miles south of Corinth. No artillery of any description was lost, no clothing, no tents worth removal were left standing. In fine, the letters of newspaper correspondents, enclosed, give a correct statement both as to the conduct of the retreat, the scanty spoils of war left behind, the actual barrenness of substantial results to the enemy, and exhibit his doubt, perplexity, and ignorance concerning the movements of this army.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I feel authorized to say, by the evacuation the plan of campaign of the enemy was utterly foiled, his delay of seven weeks and vast expenditures were of little value, and he has reached Corinth to find it a barren locality, which he must abandon as wholly worthless for his purposes.

We now refer the reader to the following extract from the letter of a correspondent to a Northern newspaper—the Chicago Tribune—written at Pittsburg Landing, May 30th, 1862, wherein are correctly described some of the most important events relative to the evacuation of Corinth:21

. . . The retreat of the enemy was conducted in the best of order. Before our men had entered the place all had got off safely. General Halleck has thus achieved one of the most barren triumphs of the war. In fact, it is tantamount to a defeat. It gives the enemy an opportunity to select a new position as formidable as that at Corinth, and in which it will be far more difficult for us to attack him, on account of the distance our army will have to transport its supplies. Supposing the enemy take up their second position of defense at Grand Junction, about sixty miles from here, four thousand additional wagons will be required. . . . Then there is the fatigue of our men, the attacks of guerilla parties in our rear, etc. I look upon the evacuation there as a victory for Beauregard, or, at least, as one of the most masterly pieces of strategy that has been displayed during this war. It prolongs the contest in the Southwest for at least six months. . . . Up to last night the enemy kept up a display of force along his whole line, thus completely deceiving our generals. . . .

General Halleck must feel deeply mortified at the evacuation. It clearly shows that he knew nothing of the position and strength of the enemy and of his ulterior designs.


From ‘Kappa,’ the correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial, we have the following letter, dated at Corinth, Mississippi, May 30th, 1862:22

. . . On the day the second division moved out, advances, with heavy cannonading, were made by Thomas and Pope on the left, but not a response in kind was elicited from the enemy. During that night we could hear teams being driven off and boxes being nailed in the rebel, camp. Deserters, however, I understand, reported that they were making a stand and would fight the next day. Considerable cannonading was done by our forces, and yet no response, and yesterday the same. Last night the same band sounded retreat, tattoo, and taps all along the rebel lines, moving from place to place, and this morning suspicion was ripened into certainty when we saw dense volumes of smoke arise in the direction of Corinth, and heard the report of an exploding magazine. Corinth was evacuated, and Beauregard had achieved another triumph.

I do not know how the matter strikes abler military men, but I think we have been fooled, etc.

Van Horne, in his ‘History of the Army of the Cumberland,’23 speaks of General Halleck's superior numbers at Corinth, and of his gradual approaches, step by step, to his objective. He also describes several heavy skirmishes and other sharp fighting, by strong lines of the contending forces, in which the Federals, he adds, were not always the aggressors. Referring afterwards to the evacuation, he says:

This seeming boldness in aggression was only a feint to cover the retreat of General Beauregard's whole army from Corinth. . . . The explosions at Corinth, early in the morning of May 30th, revealed General Beauregard's purpose and its accomplishment. For several days he had been sending off his munitions and stores, and during the night of the 29th he had so quietly and secretly withdrawn his army that his own pickets did not know that they had been left a sacrifice for the safety of their comrades.

It is surprising that General Force, whose fairness of appreciation we have noticed on several previous occasions, should apparently have founded his version of these events upon the incorrect despatches forwarded by Generals Halleck and Pope. Had he sifted the matter with greater care, he would undoubtedly have avoided all mention of the imaginary pursuit by General Pope's army, first to Rienzi, then to Baldwin, then to Blackland, where, [394] he says, an order to attack had already been issued, when General Buell arrived at the front and suspended it.24 But General Force himself must have been aware of the weakness of his authority, for after endorsing, to some extent, the report about the ‘ten thousand prisoners’ and ‘fifteen thousand stand of arms’ captured by General Pope's forty thousand men, he makes the following remarks: ‘The prisoners taken were few, and Pope was censured for making a statement of fact which he neither made nor authorized.’25

General Badeau, after speaking of the evacuation of Corinth and the ‘ineffectual pursuit’ by the Federal army, terminating, on the 10th of June, by the withdrawal of General Buell's forces towards Chattanooga, uses the following language:

And thus the great and tangible success, which was thrown so directly in General Halleck's path that it seemed impossible for any one even to avoid a victory, was allowed, nay, compelled, in his unskilful grasp to dissolve away, like a shadow in the hands of him who stretches out to embrace what is not. Even after the rebels had eluded him at Corinth, it was possible, with Halleck's immense preponderance of force, to follow up and destroy the retreating enemy; and when this opportunity was also lost, by his subordinate and counterpart, the army that had been concentrated with so much care and labor was still available for a concentrated campaign.26

Whoever considers the retreat from Corinth with a disinterested and unbiassed mind, is forced to acknowledge that it amounted, in reality, to a decided Confederate victory. It was so looked upon both in Europe and in this country. It was effected, from the beginning to the end, as it had been planned. It deceived the enemy to the last, and so completely that, while the evacuation had already begun, and was, in fact, all but accomplished, General Halleck himself is known to have forwarded this information to his command: ‘There is every indication that the enemy will attack our left this morning, as troops have been moving in that direction for some time.’ And, says General Badeau, ‘the largest army ever assembled west of the Alleghanies was drawn out in line of battle, awaiting an assault.’27 An army of nearly fifty thousand,28 [395] invested by an army of fully one hundred and twenty-five thousand,29 disappeared from the front of the latter quietly, noiselessly, successfully, frustrating the plans of its adversary, carrying with it all its munitions of war, and suffering in its retreat no material loss whatever. And yet, so little was this result appreciated by the War Department, that hardly had General Beauregard marched his forces to Tupelo when a despatch from Richmond, indicative rather of censure than of commendation, was forwarded to him, requiring an immediate explanation of his movement.

It read as follows:

June 12th, 1862.
To General G. T. Beauregard:
The President has been expecting a communication explaining your last movement. It has not yet arrived.

To this the following answer was sent:

Have had no time to write report. Busy organizing and preparing for battle if pursued. Will write it soon, however. Halleck's despatch nearly all false. Retreat was a most brilliant and successful one.

It is proper here to state that the evacuation had not taken place without notification to the government, for a telegram of the 28th of May had been forwarded to General Cooper, in these words:

Circumstances compel me to retire from this place to a position further in the interior, on Mobile and Ohio Railroad, about thirty-five miles. I shall leave here as soon as possible. I hope there to be able to beat the enemy in detail.30

But this was not the only information General Beauregard had given of his movement. On the 3d of June, from Baldwin, he had also telegraphed to General Cooper: [396]

We evacuated Corinth successfully on 30th ultimo. A complete surprise to the enemy. Rear guards arrived here, unmolested, last night. We brought away all our heavy guns, tents, etc., 49 – 2– 36 – a – 133 – 1 – 126 – 309 – 1 – 35 – 87.1.22 – – 154 1.8 – 207.2.14 – 171.2.5 – getting – 307 – 1.22 – a.

These telegrams, together with General Beauregard's letter of May 19th, and General Lee's authorized answer to the same,32 approving the line of retreat suggested, should have sufficed the authorities at Richmond, and caused Mr. Davis to refrain from all further questioning, until General Beauregard could command leisure from the important duties then engrossing his mind.

To show that there is no mistake in ascribing to the government an unfriendly feeling towards General Beauregard, about this matter, a list of interrogatories intrusted by Mr. Davis to Colonel W. P. Johnston, his aide-de-camp, is given, with General Beauregard's answers appended to the several questions. It was dated Richmond, June 14th, and was presented, in the President's name, to General Beauregard, after his departure from Tupelo. We may add that no such inquiries were ever addressed to Generals A. S. Johnston, Lee, Bragg, Hood, Pemberton, and other Confederate generals, even after they had met with serious disasters.

Question No. 1.—I desire to know what were the circumstances and purposes of the retreat from the Charleston and Memphis Railroad to the position now occupied?

Answer No. 1.—My detailed report of the evacuation of Corinth was sent by special messenger to the War Department on the 13th instant (about one week since). The retreat was not of choice, but of necessity. The position had been held as long as prudence and the necessity of the case required. We had received our last available reinforcements. Our force was reduced by sickness and other causes to about forty-five thousand effective men of all arms, exclusive of the cavalry scattered over a large extent of country to watch the movements of the enemy and protect our railroad communications, while his force was known to be at least twice as strong as ours, better disciplined, and more amply supplied in every respect.

But before adopting so important a measure, it was submitted to a meeting of general officers, composed of Generals Bragg, Polk, Van Dorn, Hardee, Price, and Breckinridge, who unanimously approved of the movement.

In retiring towards Tupelo, it was hoped the enemy would have followed [397] the movement with a part of his forces, affording me the opportunity of taking the offensive with a lesser disparity of numbers, and offered me the chances of cutting off his line of communication.

‘The retrograde movement was made in preference along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, because it was the true line of retreat, covering our main depots and lines of communication with the East, and was approved by General R. E. Lee, Acting General-in-Chief, in his letter of the 26th ultimo.’

Question No. 2.—What is the plan of future operations and whether an advance of the army is contemplated, and what prospect there is of a recovery of the territory which has been yielded?’

Answer No. 2.—The plan of future operations must depend to a great extent on the movements of the enemy; should he divide his forces, the offensive must be taken as soon as the condition of our troops and our means of transportation will permit; but should he keep his forces together he must be made to divide them by demonstrations on his right or left, and false reports in the newspapers.’

Question No. 3.—Why was it not deemed advisable to occupy the hills north and east of Corinth, and could not a stronger line than that around Corinth have been selected?’

Answer No. 3.—The defensive lines at Corinth were selected by General Bragg and his engineer, and were approved by General A. S. Johnston and myself when we arrived there. They consisted of a series of elevated ridges, protected in front and flank by extensive forests and two creeks and “bottoms,” which the enemy had to cross immediately under the guns and musketry of the lines. The best proof of the judgment shown in their selection is, that they compelled him to advance by a system approximating to regular approaches, against a force only half as strong as his own, and much inferior in discipline and all the appurtenances of war. These lines were mere rifle-pits with slightly constructed batteries, enfilading the roads from the front. Hills are not per se defensive lines, especially when nothing more than “elevated positions;” isolated by ravines, thick woods, and underbrush, and situated in a country made easily passable in every direction with a little labor. They are also badly supplied with water for a large force. Whereas, in the lines adopted, the defensive forces were more concentrated around the intersection of the Memphis and Charleston with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and within easy supporting distance of each other; they were also nearer to the Tuscumbia Creek, which afforded a good line to retire behind, whenever it should become necessary to abandon Corinth. If a stronger line could have been taken in the vicinity of Corinth, answering the same purposes, Generals Johnston, Bragg, and myself were unable to discover it.’

Question No. 4.—What was the cause of the sickness at Camp Corinth? Would it have been avoided by occupying the higher grounds in front? Has it been avoided by retiring to the present position?’

Answer No. 4.—There were several causes for this sickness. First, the want of good water. Second, the want of proper food (the salt meat furnished to the troops being often not fit to eat), also the almost total want of fresh beef and vegetables, beef having been furnished once a week or every ten days, instead [398] of five times a week as ordered. The Commissary-General assured General Johnston, a few days before the battle of Shiloh, that he had made ample provisions for the supply of fresh beef to this army, requested that the matter should be left solely to his own (Colonel Northrop's) agents; this supply has since been ascertained to have been about sixteen thousand head of poor cattle, collected in the parish of Calcasieu, Louisiana, for the purpose of fattening, and now substantially cut off, by the fall of the Mississippi River into the hands of the enemy. Every effort is now being made, by the Commissary of Department No. 2, to relieve the wants of the troops. I will mention here that some of our troops were affected with the commencement of scurvy. It is doubtful in my mind whether the health of the army would have been much benefited by the occupation of the hills referred to, even had it been practicable in a military point of view; General Van Dorn's army corps occupied the hills three or four miles southeast of Corinth—a beautiful location to look at—but was as sickly as the troops located nearer the depot.

‘The present position at Tupelo, on the verge of the prairies, is considered very healthy; the water appears very good; a greater quantity of cattle are being obtained from the vicinity; and a marked improvement seemed to have already taken place in the condition of the troops, when I left there on the 17th instant.’

Question No. 5.—Was it at no time practicable to have cut the enemy's line of communication, so as to compel him to abandon the Tennessee River, or to permit us to reoccupy Nashville?’

Answer No. 5.—If it had been possible to effect either object I would not have been slow in attempting it. I shall never be accused of being too slow in taking the offensive or in carrying the “war into Africa,” whenever practicable with any prospect of success. Several attempts were made by me about the beginning of May (especially on the 9th and 19th to 22d) to draw the enemy out of his intrenched positions, and separate his closed masses for a battle; but he was too prudent to separate from his heavy guns, and his adopted system of “regular approaches;” he steadily declined coming to an engagement until he had accumulated all his available forces in front of Corinth.’

Question No. 6.—What means were employed, after the fall of Island No.10, to prevent the descent of the Mississippi River by the enemy's gunboats? What dispositions were made to defend Memphis, and what was the cause of a failure to preserve that most important of our lines of communication?’

Answer No. 6.—By fortifying Fort Pillow, as was done, and sending there the best troops and most energetic young officer at my command—Brigadier-General Villepigue—who with open batteries effectually defied and held at bay the enemy's gun and mortar boats as long as the operations of the campaign permitted him to hold that position.

‘The best way to defend Memphis, having no forces or guns to send there, was to hold Fort Pillow and Corinth; its fate had necessarily to follow that of those two places, which fell, like so many other most important positions, from the want of sufficient means (men and materials) to hold them longer than was done.’ [399]

Question No. 7.—What loss of troops, stores, or arms occurred at the time of the retreat from Corinth?’

Answer No. 7.—This loss is slight and trifling in comparison to the importance of the object effected. My Inspectors General have been engaged in determining the facts called for; as soon as ascertained they shall be communicated to the War Department. I suppose about two hundred stragglers and deserters, about fifteen hundred arms burned at Booneville, and about five hundred left in the dark at a convalescent camp four miles south of Corinth, will cover those two items of losses. With regard to the ordnance stores and provisions, I could obtain no return from the respective chiefs of those departments, although repeatedly called for by me, before leaving Tupelo.

I firmly believe that all we lost at Corinth and during the retreat would amount to much less than one day's expenses of the enemy's army in this quarter.

1 General Force, in his book, ‘From Fort Henry to Corinth,’ p. 182, says: ‘. . . Breckinridge remained at Mickey's three days, guarding the rear, and by the end of the week Beauregard's army was again in Corinth. The battle sobered both armies.’

2 This Report is given in full in the Appendix to Chapter XX.

3 General Beauregard has never seen General Breckinridge's Report, notwithstanding repeated efforts to procure it, both during and after the war.

4 ‘Campaigns of Lieutenant-General Forrest,’ p. 134, note.

5 That friend was General Breckinridge, who, in a letter to General Beauregard, stated that the corps commanders had been instructed to address their reports directly to the War Department, and that General Beauregard had better ascertain the contents of those documents.

6 See Chapters XX. and XXII., and their Appendices.

7 See General Villepigue's telegram to General Beauregard, in Appendix to Chapter XXIII.

8 Two of which were his own, and the two others under Captain, afterwards Colonel, Robert T. Wood, of New Orleans, a grandson of General Zachary Taylor.

9 See, in Appendix, letter of General Beauregard to Major McLean, dated April 24th, 1862.

10 See his telegrams of April 14th, to Generals Cooper and E. K. Smith.

11 See, in Appendix, General Beauregard's instructions to Colonel Claiborne.

12 The lines referred to were mostly armed with 42-, 82-, and 24-pounders, brought from Pensacola and Mobile.

13 See also, in Appendix, letter of General Beauregard to General Cooper, dated April 16th, 1862.

14 At the intersection of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad with the Mississippi Central, fifty miles west of Corinth.

15 See Chapter XXIII.

16 See ‘History of the Army of the Cumberland,’ by Van Horne, vol. i. pp. 126-130.

17 For further particulars of the Farmington affair, see Report of General D. Ruggles, ‘Southern Historical Society Papers,’ vol. VII. pp. 330-33.

18 See, in Appendix, General Hardee's views of the situation, as given in a letter to General Beauregard (May 25th), and the latter's endorsement thereon.

19 Report of the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War.

20 The entire report, dated June 13th, 1862, will be found in the Appendix to this chapter.

21 The entire letter, a very interesting one, is to be found in the ‘Confederate Military Reports,’ 1860-1865—as compiled by order of Congress—vol. III. part. 2, pp. 739, 740.

22 ‘Confederate Military Reports, 1860-1865,’ vol. III. part 2, p. 741.

23 Vol. i. pp. 128, 129.

24 ‘From Fort Henry to Corinth,’ by General Force, p. 190.

25 Ibid. p. 191.

26 ‘Military History of U. S. Grant,’ vol. i. p. 106. The italics are curs.

27 ‘Military History of U. S. Grant,’ vol. i. p. 102. The italics are ours.

28 General Beauregard says forty-five thousand effective, exclusive of cavalry.

29 General Badeau puts the number at ‘one hundred and twenty thousand bayonets,’ and refers to the field returns of General Halleck's forces at Corinth.

30 This telegram was in cipher; General Cooper being referred to a letter of May 25th for the key.

31 The key to this ciphered telegram is not in our possession.

32 The two letters referred to will be found in the Appendix.

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