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Chapter 9:

The Missouri troops reached Corinth, Miss., the 11th of April, 1862, and a few days after were placed in camp at Rienzi, twelve miles south of Corinth. Here the work of reorganization from the State into the Confederate service proceeded. Price's command was the Second division of the Second corps of the army of the West. General Little received his commission as brigadier-general, and the organization of his brigade was complete. General Green's brigade, the Second, was in process of completion. Burbridge's regiment was the Second infantry, Pritchard's the Third, McFarland's the Fourth, McCown's the Fifth, and Irwin's the Sixth. Col. John S. Bowen's regiment, which was organized at Memphis some time before and was composed largely of men surrendered at Camp Jackson by Frost, was the First, as it was organized before any of the regiments from Price's command, and by virtue of its seniority was entitled to the first place as a Missouri Confederate organization.

The regiment had already made a reputation. It was organized originally with John S. Bowen, colonel; L. L. Rich, lieutenant-colonel; C. C. Campbell, major; Louis H. Kennerly, adjutant; Carey N. Hawes, surgeon; William [86] F. Howells, quartermaster, and James Quinlan, commissary. But on the 25th of December, Colonel Bowen was appointed brigadier-general, and the regiment was reorganized with Lieutenant-Colonel Rich, colonel; A. C. Riley, lieutenant-colonel; W. C. P. Carrington, adjutant; William McArthur, quartermaster; Joseph Pritchard, commissary, and was placed in General Bowen's brigade of Gen. John C. Breckinridge's division. It fought under Breckinridge at Shiloh, and was in the hottest of the fight from early in the morning until after night. The second day of the battle a company of the Washington artillery was charged and lost its guns; but only temporarily—the Missourians made a countercharge and retook them. The regiment went into the fight 1,000 strong, and lost 233 killed and wounded. Among the killed were Colonel Rich and Captain Sprague, and among the wounded, Lieutenants Kennerly, Boyce and Carrington. Again it was reorganized with Riley, colonel; Hugh A. Garland, lieutenant-colonel, and Robert J. Duffey, major. It was with Breckinridge at Baton Rouge, and added to the reputation it had before achieved. Among the changes made in the organization of the regiments already organized, Frank M. Cockrell was made lieutenant-colonel of the Second infantry, and W. R. Gause, lieutenant-colonel of the Third. Before leaving Des Arc the cavalry regiments were dismounted and their horses sent to Texas to graze. The horses belonged to the men, who as a general thing never heard of them afterward.

On the 6th of May the command took its place in the line of defenses around Corinth. General Halleck, who had succeeded to the command of the Federal army after the battle of Shiloh, was moving on the place by a slow system of parallel approaches. His effective force was estimated at 90,000, and that of General Beauregard, who commanded the Confederates, as slightly more than half that number. Two days after Price's command took position, [87] two divisions of Federals under Gen. John Pope occupied Farmington, and General Beauregard made an attempt to capture them. General Hardee was to attack their center and General Bragg their left wing, and hold them until Generals Van Dorn and Price could move around their left and get in their rear. General Hardee was too eager or the Federal commander too timid, for before Van Dorn and Price, who had to cross a heavy swamp, got in position, Pope became alarmed and retreated, leaving behind him his tent and some of his military accouterments. Price's soldiers only got a flying shot at the enemy as they escaped. The affair was described by General Pope in one of his dispatches, as a hard fight and a great victory, and has been the principal stock in trade of Gen. John M. Palmer, who was present as a subordinate officer, ever since.

Corinth is situated in a low, flat, marshy country, and General Beauregard's command suffered severely from sickness. The bad drinking-water and the constant exposure to which the men were subjected, were more deadly than the guns of the enemy. General Beauregard, having held the place as long as was necessary for military purposes, determined late in May to evacuate it, which he did so successfully that he did not leave a gun nor a wagon behind, and so quietly that the enemy did not know of his departure until he was entirely beyond their reach. In point of fact the enemy opened a heavy fire on the works the day after he left, supposing he was still there. The Missouri troops held the rear of the retreating army, but were not disturbed, because there was no pursuit.

Price's command went into camp at Baldwin, June 1st, remained there a week and then moved to Priceville, where they stayed a month, and then moved to Tupelo and finally, on the 29th of July, to Saltillo. From Tupelo what remained of the State Guard left for the TransMis-sissippi department, under command of General Parsons. [88] About the same time Col. John T. Hughes, appointed brigadier-general, left for Missouri on recruiting service. At Priceville Colonel Burbridge resigned the command of the Second infantry, and F. M. Cockrell became colonel of the regiment, with R. D. Dwyer lieutenant-colonel and P. S. Senteney major. At Tupelo General Price's division was reviewed by Generals Hardee and Bragg, and the men complimented on their soldierly bearing and the record they had made on the field.

When General Beauregard evacuated Corinth General Halleck did not follow him, and gradually the different commands that had constituted his army were sent to other fields of operation. In August General Beauregard was sick at Bladen Springs, Generals Polk and Hardee were operating under General Bragg from Chattanooga as a center, General Van Dorn had been given a department embracing Vicksburg and Baton Rouge, General Breckinridge had been sent to reinforce him, and General Price was left in command in northern Mississippi. His orders were to watch the Federal army at Corinth under Grant, to oppose him in any movement he might make down the Mississippi, and if he attempted to join Buell in Tennessee to hinder him and move his own force up and join Bragg. Price and Van Dorn each commanded a corps of two divisions. They were both in the State of Mississippi, and were independent of each other, though Van Dorn was the ranking officer. Their combined force amounted to about 25,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry. Van Dorn proposed that they combine their forces and drive the Federals out of Mississippi and West Tennessee. Price replied that he could not do so under his orders. But shortly afterward Price received information which led him to believe Grant was moving to the support of Buell, and he marched his force, nearly 16,000 strong, from Tupelo to Iuka, driving a small Federal force out of the place and capturing a considerable quantity of stores. But his information was misleading, and [89] he soon became satisfied that Grant had not moved, but was in a position on his left to cut him off from his base of supplies.

At this time Price received another proposition from Van Dorn, to join their forces and move against Grant at Corinth. A council of war was called, the proposition considered and it was determined to comply with it. The movement to join Van Dorn at Ripley was to have begun at daylight next morning. But the enemy were on the alert, and about four o'clock that evening Rosecrans with a heavy force appeared on Price's front and forced back a considerable body of new troops, but was checked in turn and driven back, with a loss of nine pieces of artillery, by the First Missouri brigade, the Third Louisiana regiment and Whitfield's Texas legion. ‘But one reflection saddened every heart,’ says Gen. Dabney H. Maury, in an account of the battle. ‘Gen. Henry Little had fallen dead in the very execution of the advance which had won the bloody field. He was conversing with General Price when he was shot through the head, and fell from his horse without a word. He was buried that night by torchlight in Iuka. No more efficient soldier than Henry Little ever fought for a good cause. The magnificent Missouri brigade, the finest body of men I had then ever seen, or have ever since seen, was the creation of his untiring devotion to duty and his remarkable qualities as a commander. In camp he was diligent in instructing his officers in their duty and providing for the comfort and efficiency of his men, and on the battlefield he was as steady, cool and able a commander as I have ever seen. His eyes closed forever on the happiest spectacle he could behold, and the last throbs of his heart were amidst the victorious shouts of his charging brigade.’ ‘The battle,’ adds General Maury, ‘had been brief, but was one of the fiercest and bloodiest of the war.’ The Third Louisiana lost nearly half its men killed and wounded, and Whitfield's legion suffered almost [90] as severely. It was these two commands and a little Arkansas battalion that charged and captured the nine cannon. General Price was elated at the victory he had gained, and was at first disposed to remain in Iuka and fight Grant's whole force, but on reflection he yielded to the representations of his officers, and during the night commenced to withdraw. The enemy made a feeble pursuit until they were checked by Bledsoe's battery and the Second Texas rifles, and charged by McCulloch's cavalry, which cooled their ardor to such an extent that they did not again fire a gun. The Confederate loss in these engagements was about 600 and that of the enemy was estimated at about 1,000. The retreating army reached Baldwin on the 22nd of September, and remained there four days, when it moved to Ripley to form a junction with Van Dorn's forces. General Price was now at liberty to co-operate with Van Dorn in an attack on Corinth. But his force, since the proposition was originally made, had been somewhat depleted, and Van Dorn's had been reduced nearly one-half. Then they could have taken the field with 25,000 or 30,000 men; now they could not muster more than 19,000. Breckinridge's division had been taken from Van Dorn's command, and 5,000 exchanged prisoners who had been promised had not yet been sent him. Price's force numbered about 12,000— nearly 10,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 42 guns. Van Dorn's strength was about 6,800—6,000 infantry and 800 cavalry. The two commands moved from Ripley on the 1st of October. On the 2nd they bivouacked at Chewalla, eight miles from Corinth, and at dawn on the 3rd they attacked the town, Price's command holding the left and Van Dorn's the right. The line of battle when formed on the north side of the railroad was three miles from Corinth. The enemy occupied the defenses constructed by Beauregard the previous spring. At ten o'clock the line moved forward and confronted the line of the enemy. The timber covering the slopes had been felled and [91] formed a serious obstruction. But the men forced their way through it, under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, and drove the enemy from every position held, capturing five pieces of artillery. The divisions of Maury and Hebert, composing Price's corps, continued to press on, fighting all the way, sometimes checked temporarily, but never yielding a foot of ground they had won. At sunset the enemy in front of Price's corps had been driven into the town, and the men, weary and exhausted and nearly famished, rested for the night.

During the night the Federals were heavily reinforced, and strengthened their position in every way possible. Two hours before daylight Price's artillery opened at short range with good effect. At daylight the guns were withdrawn, and the signal for attack impatiently awaited. The wait was a long one. Not until half-past 10 o'clock was the signal given. Then Price's line advanced, sweeping everything before it, the enemy being driven from their guns and their guns captured. Within twenty minutes from the time the movement began the Confederate flag was planted on the ramparts of Corinth. But that was all. The attack on the right had failed, or rather had not been made at all. ‘Since ten o'clock of the previous morning,’ says General Maury, ‘our right wing had made no decided advance or attack upon the enemy in its front.’

The result was that Rosecrans withdrew his force from in front of the right wing and concentrated it against the left wing. Price had penetrated to the center of the town, and was in a position to strike the enemy in flank and rear if he had been supported, but being unsupported he was overpowered and forced to retreat as best he could, after tremendous losses and prodigies of valor on the part of his men. Again, General Maury says of the Missouri troops: ‘Old General Price looked on the disorder of his darling troops with unmitigated anguish. The big tears coursed down the old man's bronzed face, and I [92] have never witnessed such a picture of mute despair and grief as his countenance wore when he looked upon the defeat of those magnificent troops. He had never before known them to fail, and they had never failed, to carry the lines of any enemy in their front; nor did they ever to the close of their noble career at Blakely on the 9th of April, 1865, fail to defeat the troops before them. I mean no disparagement to any troops of the Southern Confederacy when I say the Missouri troops of the army of the West were not surpassed by any troops in the world.’ Gen. Martin Green commanded the Missouri division, and Colonel Gates one brigade and Colonel Cockrell the other.

Late in the evening the army bivouacked at Chewalla, but the best and bravest of its officers and men lay dead within the lines of the enemy. Every effort was made to bring some sort of order out of the chaos. Price had lost half his force. The other half were sullen and savage. They slept on their arms, and all through the night could hear the whistle of locomotives, indicating the arrival of reinforcements for the enemy. The loss on both sides was heavy. The Confederates fought in the open and their loss was consequently the heaviest. Their loss was 4,858 killed, wounded and captured. Of these 2,000 were prisoners. The Federals lost in killed and wounded 2,100 and in prisoners 300.

The enemy pressed the retreating army vigorously. Rosecrans' victorious forces were behind it, and three divisions of infantry and several thousand cavalry had been sent by forced marches from Jackson, Tennessee, to get in its front. It was necessary for it to cross the Tombigbee river and then the Hatchie. The first was crossed without opposition, but when the second was reached it was found to be held by the enemy. Thus the army was hemmed in between two rivers and two armies—a river and an army before, and a river and an army behind it—and there was no other known avenue of escape. When [93] the crossing of the Hatchie at Davis' bridge was reached, Phifer's and Martin's brigades, of Van Dorn's corps, charged and forced a passage, but before they could form on the other side were charged by the Federals and driven back upon the river, where some were shot, some drowned and others escaped by swimming. The Federals immediately crossed, formed and continued the charge. Colonel Cockrell's brigade met and checked them. General Price ordered a retreat of 400 yards at a time, each time a new line of battle being formed. General Bowen held the rear, and he was as hard pressed as General Price was in front. He took advantage of every hill, tree and fence to protect his men, and contested every foot of ground over which he passed. Just before night he formed a line with a masked section of artillery supported by three regiments, and when the enemy got within close range the artillery opened on them and the infantry charged them, and they were hurled backward in confusion. This stopped the pursuit for the day.

During the night General Price learned of an obscure and unused road which led to a mill on the river about five miles below. There was neither bridge nor ford, but there was a dam, and Price concluded he could construct some sort of temporary bridge. He therefore marched the army there, and with the dam as a basis made a bridge of the logs and puncheons and other timber lying about, and shortly after midnight had the artillery, the train and the men safely across and on the march around the flank of the obstructing force. The march was continued until near Holly Springs, where the weary soldiers pitched their tents and rested. There the Missouri commands were reorganized, Col. F. M. Cockrell taking command of the First brigade, Col. Martin E. Green of the Second, and Gen. John S. Bowen of the division. The First and the Fourth Missouri infantry were consolidated, Col. Archibald McFarlane of the Fourth becoming colonel, and Col. A. C. Riley of the First, lieutenant-colonel. [94] Lieut.-Col. W. R. Gause succeeded Col. J. A. Pritchard, who had been mortally wounded at Corinth, as colonel of the Third, and Lieut.-Col. Pembroke Senteney was given charge of the Second, in place of Colonel Cockrell, commanding brigade.

The battle of Corinth ended the fighting, as far as the Mississippi troops were concerned, for the year 1862. The day before Christmas they, with other troops, were reviewed at Grenada by President Davis, Generals Johnston, Price, Pemberton and Loring, and the Missourians were highly complimented by the President on their soldierly qualities. Early in the new year General Price announced to his troops that he had solicited and obtained orders to report to the Trans-Mississippi department, and that he had the promise of the secretary of war that they should follow him in a short time. [95]

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