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Diary of Rev. J. G. Law.

Retreat from Corinth.

May 20th, 1862.—Received orders to cook five days rations, and prepare to march. The general impression is that we are going out to join battle with the enemy. The Rev. Dr. Palmer delivered an eloquent [23] and soul-stirring address to our brigade, and concluded with a fervent prayer for the safety of our army, and the success of our righteous cause. The scene was grandly inspiring. Thousands of soldiers stood with uncovered heads while the eloquent divine lifted up his voice to heaven for our protection, and when he read the infamous proclamation of General Butler not a word was spoken, but the firm, resolute look, the compressed lip, and flashing eye of every soldier, said plainer than words could say, that the insolent invaders of our sacred soil should never cross our intrenchments without walking over the dead bodies of sixty thousand determined and indignant men.

I record the infamous proclamation:

‘As officers and soldiers of the United States have been subjected to repeated insults from women, calling themselves ladies of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous, non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered, that hereafter, when any female shall by word, gesture, or movement, insult, or show contempt to any officer, or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and be held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.’

Oh! monster of iniquity. How long shall our mothers and sisters be subjected to the insults of the barbarian hordes of the North? The Southern heart is fired, and we will go forth baring our breasts to the steel of the foe, and never, no never return to our homes until the insolent invader is driven from our soil; our fair cities rid of his polluting presence, and the honor of the daughters of the South vindicated. General Polk said that we would go into battle with this motto: ‘Our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our wives, our country and our God.’

May 21st.—The regiment marched out to the Bridge's House this evening for picket duty. We carried with us two days rations, and left three in the wagons. We also carried with us two tents. We had reached our camping-ground, and were in the act of pitching tents when an order came to send everything back to camp that we could not march with. This indicated a forward movement, and tomorrow we may expect to see the Yankees, and may the Lord have mercy on their souls.

May 22nd.—The army marched out of the entrenchments this morning to attack the enemy. Our brigade, under General Donelson, moved out two miles and formed a line of battle; but for some reason the attack was not made, and we returned to camp to await further orders. [24]

Sunday, May 25th.—On picket. Guard duty is very heavy. Our company only report twenty-eight men for duty, and the detail for guard to-day is fifteen. The army again moved out this evening, but in a short time returned. Sharp skirmishing continues along the lines. Why does not Beauregard move upon Halleck? We would drive him into the Tennessee river at the point of the bayonet. Our movements are tantalizing.

May 26th.—The regiment received orders to burn all extra baggage, and allow only four tents to a company. What does it mean? Surely we are not going to retreat from Corinth? We were also ordered to cook two days rations. We moved out about one mile in advance of the breastworks, where the Maynard Rifles were thrown forward as sharp-shooters. We are on duty for twenty-four hours without relief. An old field separates us from the Yankee sharp-shooters, and we are exchanging shots rapidly.

May 27th.—Twelve o'clock. Half of the day has gone, and I am as yet unharmed by a Yankee bullet. Balls buzz like mosquitoes about my ears whenever I raise my head to see what the Yankees are about. Our position is rather uncomfortable, but it is the post of duty. Night. The long day has come to an end, and we are all safe. Again I have to thank our Heavenly Father for throwing around me the shield of His protection. For twenty-four hours we have been under a constant fire. All through the night and all through the day the sharp crack of the rifle has resounded along the lines of the belligerents, and death-dealing bullets have been aimed at human targets; and yet we are all here to answer to roll-call.

May 28th.—The enemy attacked us on the left with artillery about seven o'clock this morning, shelling our brigade (Donelson's, which was posted in line of battle about one mile in front of the breastworks. As we had no artillery, we were compelled to retire; but, receiving re-inforcements and a battery, advanced, and regained our former position, and held it during the day. The shot and shell fell thick and fast around us; the solid shot tearing up the ground at our feet, and the shell bursting over our heads, in front of us, and behind us. The fighting was severe on the right, where Price and Van Dorn drove the enemy back to their entrenchments. Our tents and baggage were all sent off to-day, and the general impression is that we are about to evacuate Corinth.

May 2 9th.—All quiet on the left. Heavy cannonading on the right all day. It is now sunset, and we are under orders to march in thirty minutes. [25]

May 30th.—Corinth was evacuated last night. We left there at eleven o'clock, and marched all night and all day, resting a few hours this morning. We are now encamped on the banks of a small stream, about twelve miles from Corinth. At Kossuth, Joe Park and I stopped at the house of a Georgia woman, and got a dinner of cornbread and buttermilk. I charged Joe with drinking six glasses of milk; Joe brought the same charge against me; the woman charged us both. We settled with the good woman, and our mutual charges vanished in smoke, as we went on our way rejoicing, and whiffed our cares away. It is a great relief to breathe the fresh, pure atmosphere of the country after living so long in the infected camp of Corinth. We do not relish the idea of turning our backs upon the enemy; but we must have confidence in our General, and believe that he is executing a strategical movement.

May 31st.—Left camp late this morning, after a long rest. Marched eight miles, and bivouacked on the banks of a small stream about twenty miles from Corinth. Our rations gave out, and we had no breakfast; but we sent our cook, ‘Uncle Tom,’ ahead, and the old darkey met us on the road with some corn-bread. After we halted, rations of flour, sugar, molasses and beef were issued. But we had no cooking utensils, and were obliged to resort to boards and bark in lieu of ovens and skillets. We broiled the beef on sticks. It was really amusing to see the improvised cooking utensils. Some would cover a stick with dough, and hold it over the fire until it was baked. Others would spread the dough on a piece of bark; and so, with the help of boards, bark, and sticks, we managed to get up a respectable feast. General Cheatham acted in the capacity of butcher, shooting the beeves with his pistol. About dark ‘Bob’ came in with mutton and corn-bread, on which we supped heartily; and, lighting my last cigar, I sat down on a log to whiff my cares away and think of the loved ones at home.

June 1st.—Marched fifteen miles. Left our bivouac at three o'clock A. M. and halted at two P. M. Here we came up with our wagons, and got our cooking utensils. Rye was issued, and I enjoyed a cup of rye coffee.

June 5th.—For the past few days rumors have been afloat in camp of a great battle in Virginia. This morning the news was confirmed. We gained a great victory near Richmond. President Davis and General Lee were on the field, and greatly encouraged the troops by their presence. General Jackson routed Banks, and is said to be approaching Washington. The Marylanders are flocking to his standard by the thousands. It is also reported that General Beauregard [26] has been advised of the intervention of France and England in American affairs. This is news enough for one day.

June 7th.—Resumed our march to-day. Left camp at two o'clock P. M., and halted at sunset. Marched about ten miles. Suffered more fatigue than on any previous march.

Sunday June 8th.—Left camp this morning at three o'clock, and halted at nine, having reached our destination. We are encamped in a beautiful grove of young oaks; a fine spring of clear water is close at hand, and we are all pleased with our location. Although greatly fatigued, I was detailed for fatigue duty, and worked all the morning, cleaning up the camp-ground. Mr. Chrisp, McKnight, Hill and I started out in the afternoon in search of a supper. About one mile and a half from camp we came up to a neat little cottage. It proved to be the residence of a minister. We were kindly received, and after resting an hour or so were invited into a real home supper. The table was spread with rich egg-bread, fried ham, and pure coffee with cream and sugar. We paid the good woman for her trouble, and returned to camp refreshed in body and soul.

June 9th.—My friend Pinckney Latham called to see me this morning, and we spent the afternoon sitting on an old bench near a country church talking about the good old times when we played marbles together. While we were thus pleasantly engaged, an ambulance came up, and we were requested by the driver to assist him in lifting out the corpse of a soldier who had died on the march. The poor fellow was a Mississippi volunteer and far away from friends and home, he was rudely buried in the little country church-yard; and a board with his name roughly inscribed on its unpolished surface marks his resting place. If his name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, it is a small matter whether it be inscribed here on a rough board or on a polished marble shaft.

June 10th.—Reveille this morning at two o'clock. Broke camp and resumed our march. Halted at one o'clock, worn out with a tiresome march of eighteen miles over a hot dusty road. We are encamped about four miles from Tupelo.

Sunday June 15th.—The day has been oppressively warm. Dr. Erskine, Major Bulkley, Frank Gowan and Bob Wright called to see me this morning. Spent the afternoon strolling through the woods and fields, meditating, and eating blackberries.

June 16th.—Spent the day playing chess with Dr. Erskine. Received a letter from home, written since the Federals have occupied Memphis

June 17th.—Hartsfield and I are on guard to-day at General Polk's [27] headquarters. The old 154th was to-day transferred to the brigade of General Preston Smith.

June 21st.—Our tents arrived from Okalona, and I will sleep under shelter to-night for the first time in a month. Graybacks have invaded our camp and are hard to repel. Mr. Chrisp was complaining of the invaders when Spivey claimed exemption from the common scourge. It was too much for the old gentleman, and bristling up, he gave Spivey a piece of his mind. ‘Spivey,’ he said, ‘if there is a soldier in this army who is not troubled with these pestilent campfollowers, there is something about that man that graybacks don't like, and that is all that I have to say about it.’ I think if Mr. Chrisp had the privilege of amending the book of prayer used in the Episcopal Church, he would have this clause inserted: ‘From graybacks and all kindred species, good Lord, deliver us,’ and Spivey would say, Amen.

July 1st.—This has been a delightful day. We were visited by a refreshing shower this morning which cooled the atmosphere, and revived the life of the camp. For several days past the air has been full of rumors of a great battle in Virginia, in which McClellan was signally defeated. Last night after we had all retired to our soldier couches, we were called up to hear a dispatch from General Randolph, Secretary of War, announcing a glorious victory for our arms. The battle commenced on Friday, and after two days desperate fighting, the enemy abandoned their camp, and fled. They recrossed the Chickahominy for the purpose of getting under the protection of their gunboats on the James river. Latest reports represent our army in hot pursuit of the retreating foe, and capturing many thousands of prisoners. I have been suffering for several days from an attack of acute rheumatism, but the good news puts me on my feet again.

July 4th.—The Fourth of July, 1862, has passed unobserved and almost unknown. The principles for which our forefathers contended have been trampled beneath the feet of their unworthy descendents of the North, and we, their sons of the South are fighting their battles over again. No booming of cannon is heard, unless it be in Virginia, the mother of statesmen, where the last scenes of one of the bloodiest tradegies ever enacted on the American Continent are about closing. The curtain will drop, and the victorious army of the South will prove to the North, and to the World, that a people determined to be free can never be conquered. When our independence is achieved, then we will celebrate our independence day. I am on guard at General [28] Polk's spring. Have spent the day reading ‘Georgia Scenes.’

July 5th.—This has been a day of rejoicing in camp. The deep-booming of cannon, the enthusiastic cheering of the troops, and the martial music of our regimental bands mingle together in a flood of harmony. The firing of cannon was by order of General Bragg in honor of our great victory in Virginia. Latest dispatches announce that we have captured two Major-Generals, four Brigadier-Generals, over seven thousand prisoners, seventy-five pieces of artillery, fifteen thousand stand of small arms, and that McClellan and the remnant of his army are surrounded by our forces, and would be compelled to capitulate. General Bragg's proclamation to the troops on assuming command of the army was read out on dress-parade this evening. Three cheers for our brave boys in Virginia.

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