Half sick in consequence of the hardships of the campaign, and satisfied there would be no more fighting of importance during the summer, I determined to go back to civilization. I returned to St. Louis by way of Springfield and Rolla. A wounded officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Herron (who afterward wore the stars of a major-general), was my traveling companion. Six days of weary toil over rough and muddy roads brought us to the railway, within twelve hours of St. Louis. It was my last campaign in that region. From that date the war in the Southwest had its chief interest in the country east of the Great River.
UP THE TENNESSEE AND AT PITTSBURG LANDING.
At St. Louis.–Progress of our Arms in the Great Valley.–Cairo.–Its Peculiarities and Attractions.–Its Commercial, Geographical, and Sanitary Advantages.–Up the Tennessee.–Movements Preliminary to the Great Battle.–The Rebels and their Plans.–Postponement of the Attack.–Disadvantages of our Position.–The Beginning of the Battle.–Results of the First Day.–Re-enforcements.–Disputes between Officers of our two Armies.–Beauregard’s Watering-Place.
On reaching St. Louis, three weeks after the battle of Pea Ridge, I found that public attention was centered upon the Tennessee River. Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Columbus, and Nashville had fallen, and our armies were pushing forward toward the Gulf, by the line of the Tennessee. General Pope was laying siege to Island Number Ten, having already occupied New Madrid, and placed his gun-boats in front of that point. General Grant’s army was at Pittsburg Landing, and General Buell’s army was moving from Nashville toward Savannah, Tennessee. The two armies were to be united at Pittsburg Landing, for a further advance into the Southern States. General Beauregard was at Corinth, where he had been joined by Price and Van Dorn from Arkansas, and by Albert Sidney Johnston from Kentucky. There was a promise of active hostilities in that quarter. I left St. Louis, after a few days’ rest, for the new scene of action.
Cairo lay in my route. I found it greatly changed from the Cairo of the previous autumn. Six months before, it had been the rendezvous of the forces watching the Lower Mississippi. The basin in which the town stood, was a vast military encampment. Officers of all rank thronged the hotels, and made themselves as comfortable as men could be in Cairo. All the leading journals of the country were represented, and the dispatches from Cairo were everywhere perused with interest, though they were not always entirety accurate.
March and April witnessed a material change. Where there had been twenty thousand soldiers in December, there were less than one thousand in April. Where a fleet of gun-boats, mortar-rafts, and transports had been tied to the levees during the winter months, the opening spring showed but a half-dozen steamers of all classes. The transports and the soldiers were up the Tennessee, the mortars were bombarding Island Number Ten, and the gun-boats were on duty where their services were most needed. The journalists had become war correspondents in earnest, and were scattered to the points of greatest interest.
Cairo had become a vast depot of supplies for the armies operating on the Mississippi and its tributaries. The commander of the post was more a forwarding agent than a military officer. The only steamers at the levee were loading for the armies. Cairo was a map of busy, muddy life.
The opening year found Cairo exulting in its deep and all-pervading mud. There was mud everywhere.
Levee, sidewalks, floors, windows, tables, bed-clothing, all were covered with it. On the levee it varied from six to thirty inches in depth. The luckless individual whose duties obliged him to make frequent journeys from the steamboat landing to the principal hotel, became intimately acquainted with its character.
Sad, unfortunate, derided Cairo! Your visitors depart with unpleasant memories. Only your inhabitants, who hold titles to corner lots, speak loudly in your praise. When it rains, and sometimes when it does not, your levee is unpleasant to walk upon. Your sidewalks are dangerous, and your streets are unclean. John Phenix declared you destitute of honesty. Dickens asserted that your physical and moral foundations were insecurely laid. Russell did not praise you, and Trollope uttered much to your discredit. Your musquitos are large, numerous, and hungry. Your atmosphere does not resemble the spicy breezes that blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle. Your energy and enterprise are commendable, and your geographical location is excellent, but you can never become a rival to Saratoga or Newport.
Cairo is built in a basin formed by constructing a levee to inclose the peninsula at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Before the erection of the levee, this peninsula was overflowed by the rise of either river. Sometimes, in unusual floods, the waters reach the top of the embankment, and manage to fill the basin. At the time of my visit, the Ohio was rising rapidly. The inhabitants were alarmed, as the water was gradually gaining upon them. After a time it took possession of the basin, enabling people to navigate the streets and front yards in skiffs, and exchange salutations from house-tops or upper windows. Many were driven from their houses by the flood, and forced to seek shelter elsewhere. In due time the waters receded and the city remained unharmed. It is not true that a steamer was lost in consequence of running against a chimney of the St. Charles Hotel.
Cairo has prospered during the war, and is now making an effort to fill her streets above the high-water level, and insure a dry foundation at all seasons of the year. This once accomplished, Cairo will become a city of no little importance.
Proceeding up the Tennessee, I reached Pittsburg Landing three days after the great battle which has made that locality famous.
The history of that battle has been many times written. Official reports have given the dry details,–the movements of division, brigade, regiment, and battery, all being fully portrayed. A few journalists who witnessed it gave the accounts which were circulated everywhere by the Press. The earliest of these was published by _The Herald._ The most complete and graphic was that of Mr. Reid, of _The Cincinnati Gazette._ Officers, soldiers, civilians, all with greater or less experience, wrote what they had heard and seen. So diverse have been the statements, that a general officer who was prominent in the battle, says he sometimes doubts if he was present.
In the official accounts there have been inharmonious deductions, and many statements of a contradictory character. Some of the participants have criticised unfavorably the conduct of others, and a bitterness continuing through and after the war has been the result.
In February of 1862, the Rebels commenced assembling an army at Corinth. General Beauregard was placed in command. Early in March, Price and Van Dorn were ordered to take their commands to Corinth, as their defeat at Pea Ridge had placed them on the defensive against General Curtis. General A. S. Johnston had moved thither, after the evacuation of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and from all quarters the Rebels were assembling a vast army. General Johnston became commander-in-chief on his arrival.
General Halleck, who then commanded the Western Department, ordered General Grant, after the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, to move to Pittsburg Landing, and seize that point as a base against Corinth. General Buell, with the Army of the Ohio, was ordered to join him from Nashville, and with other re-enforcements we would be ready to take the offensive.
Owing to the condition of the roads, General Buell moved very slowly, so that General Grant was in position at Pittsburg Landing several days before the former came up. This was the situation at the beginning of April; Grant encamped on the bank of the Tennessee nearest the enemy, and Buell slowly approaching the opposite bank. It was evidently the enemy’s opportunity to strike his blow before our two armies should be united.
On the 4th of April, the Rebels prepared to move from Corinth to attack General Grant’s camp, but, on account of rain, they delayed their advance till the morning of the 6th. At daylight of the 6th our pickets were driven in, and were followed by the advance of the Rebel army.
The division whose camp was nearest to Corinth, and therefore the first to receive the onset of the enemy, was composed of the newest troops in the army. Some of the regiments had received their arms less than two weeks before. The outposts were not sufficiently far from camp to allow much time for getting under arms after the first encounter. A portion of this division was attacked before it could form, but its commander, General Prentiss, promptly rallied his men, and made a vigorous fight. He succeeded, for a time, in staying the progress of the enemy, but the odds against him were too great. When his division was surrounded and fighting was no longer of use, he surrendered his command. At the time of surrender he had little more than a thousand men remaining out of a division six thousand strong. Five thousand were killed, wounded, or had fled to the rear.
General Grant had taken no precautions against attack. The vedettes were but a few hundred yards from our front, and we had no breast-works of any kind behind which to fight. The newest and least reliable soldiers were at the point where the enemy would make his first appearance. The positions of the various brigades and divisions were taken, more with reference to securing a good camping-ground, than for purposes of strategy. General Grant showed himself a soldier in the management of the army after the battle began, and he has since achieved a reputation as the greatest warrior of the age. Like the oculist who spoiled a hatful of eyes in learning to operate for the cataract, he improved his military knowledge by his experience at Shiloh. Never afterward did he place an army in the enemy’s country without making careful provision against assault.
One division, under General Wallace, was at Crump’s Landing, six miles below the battle-ground, and did not take part in the action till the following day. The other divisions were in line to meet the enemy soon after the fighting commenced on General Prentiss’s front, and made a stubborn resistance to the Rebel advance.
The Rebels well knew they would have no child’s play in that battle. They came prepared for hot, terrible work, in which thousands of men were to fall. The field attests our determined resistance; it attests their daring advance. A day’s fighting pushed us slowly, but steadily, toward the Tennessee. Our last line was formed less than a half mile from its bank. Sixty pieces of artillery composed a grand battery, against which the enemy rushed. General Grant’s officers claim that the enemy received a final check when he attacked that line. The Rebels claim that another hour of daylight, had we received no re-enforcements, would have seen our utter defeat. Darkness and a fresh division came to our aid.
General Buell was to arrive at Savannah, ten miles below Pittsburg, and on the opposite bank of the river, on the morning of the 6th. On the evening of the 5th, General Grant proceeded to Savannah to meet him, and was there when the battle began on the following morning. His boat was immediately headed for Pittsburg, and by nine o’clock the General was on the battle-field. From that time, the engagement received his personal attention. When he started from Savannah, some of General Buell’s forces were within two miles of the town. They were hurried forward as rapidly as possible, and arrived at Pittsburg, some by land and others by water, in season to take position on our left, just as the day was closing. Others came up in the night, and formed a part of the line on the morning of the 7th.
General Nelson’s Division was the first to cross the river and form on the left of Grant’s shattered army. As he landed, Nelson rode among the stragglers by the bank and endeavored to rally them. Hailing a captain of infantry, he told him to get his men together and fall into line. The captain’s face displayed the utmost terror. “My regiment is cut to pieces,” was the rejoinder; “every man of my company is killed.”
“Then why ain’t you killed, too, you d—-d coward?” thundered Nelson. “Gather some of these stragglers and go back into the battle.”
The man obeyed the order.
[Illustration: NELSON CROSSING THE TENNESSEE RIVER.]
General Nelson reported to General Grant with his division, received his orders, and then dashed about the field, wherever his presence was needed. The division was only slightly engaged before night came on and suspended the battle.
At dawn on the second day the enemy lay in the position it held When darkness ended the fight. The gun-boats had shelled the woods during the night, and prevented the Rebels from reaching the river on our left. A creek and ravine prevented their reaching it on the right. None of the Rebels stood on the bank of the Tennessee River on that occasion, except as prisoners of war.
As they had commenced the attack on the 6th, it was our turn to begin it on the 7th. A little past daylight we opened fire, and the fresh troops on the left, under General Buell, were put in motion. The Rebels had driven us on the 6th, so we drove them on the 7th. By noon of that day we held the ground lost on the day previous.
The camps which the enemy occupied during the night were comparatively uninjured, so confident were the Rebels that our defeat was assured.
It was the arrival of General Buell’s army that saved us. The history of that battle, as the Rebels have given it, shows that they expected to overpower General Grant before General Buell could come up. They would then cross the Tennessee, meet and defeat Buell, and recapture Nashville. The defeat of these two armies would have placed the Valley of the Ohio at the command of the Rebels. Louisville was to have been the next point of attack.
The dispute between the officers of the Army of the Tennessee and those of the Army of the Ohio is not likely to be terminated until this generation has passed away. The former contend that the Rebels were repulsed on the evening of the 6th of April, before the Army of the Ohio took part in the battle. The latter are equally earnest in declaring that the Army of the Tennessee would have been defeated had not the other army arrived. Both parties sustain their arguments by statements in proof, and by positive assertions. I believe it is the general opinion of impartial observers, that the salvation of General Grant’s army is due to the arrival of the army of General Buell. With the last attack on the evening of the 6th, in which our batteries repulsed the Rebels, the enemy did not retreat. Night came as the fighting ceased. Beauregard’s army slept where it had fought, and gave all possible indication of a readiness to renew the battle on the following day. So near was it to the river that our gun-boats threw shells during the night to prevent our left wing being flanked.
Beauregard is said to have sworn to water his horse in the Tennessee, or in Hell, on that night. It is certain that the animal did not quench his thirst in the terrestrial stream. If he drank from springs beyond the Styx, I am not informed.
SHILOH AND THE SIEGE OF CORINTH.
The Error of the Rebels.–Story of a Surgeon.–Experience of a Rebel Regiment.–Injury to the Rebel Army.–The Effect in our own Lines.–Daring of a Color-Bearer.–A Brave Soldier.–A Drummer-Boy’s Experience.–Gallantry of an Artillery Surgeon.–A Regiment Commanded by a Lieutenant.–Friend Meeting Friend and Brother Meeting Brother in the Opposing Lines.–The Scene of the Battle.–Fearful Traces of Musketry-Fire.–The Wounded.–The Labor of the Sanitary Commission.–Humanity a Yankee Trick.–Besieging Corinth.–A Cold-Water Battery.–Halleck and the Journalists.–Occupation of Corinth.
The fatal error of the Rebels, was their neglect to attack on the 4th, as originally intended. They were informed by their scouts that Buell could not reach Savannah before the 9th or 10th; and therefore a delay of two days would not change the situation. Buell was nearer than they supposed.
The surgeon of the Sixth Iowa Infantry fell into the enemy’s hands early on the morning of the first day of the battle, and established a hospital in our abandoned camp. His position was at a small log-house close by the principal road. Soon after he took possession, the enemy’s columns began to file past him, as they pressed our army. The surgeon says he noticed a Louisiana regiment that moved into battle eight hundred strong, its banners flying and the men elated at the prospect of success. About five o’clock in the afternoon this regiment was withdrawn, and went into bivouac a short distance from the surgeon’s hospital. It was then less than four hundred strong, but the spirit of the men was still the same. On the morning of the 7th, it once more went into battle. About noon it came out, less than a hundred strong, pressing in retreat toward Corinth. The men still clung to their flag, and declared their determination to be avenged.
The story of this regiment was the story of many others. Shattered and disorganized, their retreat to Corinth had but little order. Only the splendid rear-guard, commanded by General Bragg, saved them from utter confusion. The Rebels admitted that many of their regiments were unable to produce a fifth of their original numbers, until a week or more after the battle. The stragglers came in slowly from the surrounding country, and at length enabled the Rebels to estimate their loss. There were many who never returned to answer at roll-call.
In our army, the disorder was far from small. Large numbers of soldiers wandered for days about the camps, before they could ascertain their proper locations. It was fully a week, before all were correctly assigned. We refused to allow burying parties from the Rebels to come within our lines, preferring that they should not see the condition of our camp. Time was required to enable us to recuperate. I presume the enemy was as much in need of time as ourselves.
A volume could be filled with the stories of personal valor during that battle. General Lew Wallace says his division was, at a certain time, forming on one side of a field, while the Rebels were on the opposite side. The color-bearer of a Rebel regiment stepped in front of his own line, and waved his flag as a challenge to the color-bearer that faced him. Several of our soldiers wished to meet the challenge, but their officers forbade it. Again the Rebel stepped forward, and planted his flag-staff in the ground. There was no response, and again and again he advanced, until he had passed more than half the distance between the opposing lines. Our fire was reserved in admiration of the man’s daring, as he stood full in view, defiantly waving his banner. At last, when the struggle between the divisions commenced, it was impossible to save him, and he fell dead by the side of his colors.
On the morning of the second day’s fighting, the officers of one of our gun-boats saw a soldier on the river-bank on our extreme left, assisting another soldier who was severely wounded. A yawl was sent to bring away the wounded man and his companion. As it touched the side of the gun-boat on its return, the uninjured soldier asked to be sent back to land, that he might have further part in the battle. “I have,” said he, “been taking care of this man, who is my neighbor at home. He was wounded yesterday morning, and I have been by his side ever since. Neither of us has eaten any thing for thirty hours, but, if you will take good care of him, I will not stop now for myself. I want to get into the battle again at once.” The man’s request was complied with. I regret my inability to give his name.
A drummer-boy of the Fifteenth Iowa Infantry was wounded five times during the first day’s battle, but insisted upon going out on the second day. He had hardly started before he fainted from loss of blood, and was left to recover and crawl back to the camp.
Colonel Sweeney, of the Fifty-second Illinois Infantry, who lost an arm in Mexico and was wounded in the leg at Wilson Creek, received a wound in his arm on the first day of the battle. He kept his saddle, though he was unable to use his arm, and went to the hospital after the battle was over. When I saw him he was venting his indignation at the Rebels, because they had not wounded him in the stump of his amputated arm, instead of the locality which gave him so much inconvenience. It was this officer’s fortune to be wounded on nearly every occasion when he went into battle.
During the battle, Dr. Cornyn, surgeon of Major Cavender’s battalion of Missouri Artillery, saw a section of a battery whose commander had been killed. The doctor at once removed the surgeon’s badge from his hat and the sash from his waist, and took command of the guns. He placed them in position, and for several hours managed them with good effect. He was twice wounded, though not severely. “I was determined they should not kill or capture me as a surgeon when I had charge of that artillery,” said the doctor afterward, “and so removed every thing that marked my rank.”
The Rebels made some very desperate charges against our artillery, and lost heavily in each attack. Once they actually laid their hands on the muzzles of two guns in Captain Stone’s battery, but were unable to capture them.
General Hurlbut stated that his division fought all day on Sunday with heavy loss, but only one regiment broke. When he entered the battle on Monday morning, the Third Iowa Infantry was commanded by a first-lieutenant, all the field officers and captains having been disabled or captured. Several regiments were commanded by captains.
Colonel McHenry, of the Seventeenth Kentucky, said his regiment fought a Kentucky regiment which was raised in the county where his own was organized. The fight was very fierce. The men frequently called out from one to another, using taunting epithets. Two brothers recognized each other at the same moment, and came to a tree midway between the lines, where they conversed for several minutes.
The color-bearer of the Fifty-second Illinois was wounded early in the battle. A man who was under arrest for misdemeanor asked the privilege of carrying the colors. It was granted, and he behaved so admirably that he was released from arrest as soon as the battle was ended.
General Halleck arrived a week after the battle, and commenced a reorganization of the army. He found much confusion consequent upon the battle. In a short time the army was ready to take the offensive. We then commenced the advance upon Corinth, in which we were six weeks moving twenty-five miles. When our army first took position at Pittsburg Landing, and before the Rebels had effected their concentration, General Grant asked permission to capture Corinth. He felt confident of success, but was ordered not to bring on an engagement under any circumstances. Had the desired permission been given, there is little doubt he would have succeeded, and thus avoided the necessity of the battle of Shiloh.
The day following my arrival at Pittsburg Landing I rode over the battle-field. The ground was mostly wooded, the forest being one in which artillery could be well employed, but where cavalry was comparatively useless. The ascent from the river was up a steep bluff that led to a broken table-ground, in which there were many ravines, generally at right angles to the river. On this table-ground our camps were located, and it was there the battle took place.
Everywhere the trees were scarred and shattered, telling, as plainly as by words, of the shower of shot, shell, and bullets, that had fallen upon them. Within rifle range of the river, stood a tree marked by a cannon-shot, showing how much we were pressed back on the afternoon of the 6th. From the moment the crest of the bluff was gained, the traces of battle were apparent.
In front of the line where General Prentiss’s Division fought, there was a spot of level ground covered with a dense growth of small trees. The tops of these trees were from twelve to fifteen feet high, and had been almost mowed off by the shower of bullets which passed through them. I saw no place where there was greater evidence of severe work. There was everywhere full proof that the battle was a determined one. Assailant and defendant had done their best.
It was a ride of five miles among scarred trees, over ground cut by the wheels of guns and caissons, among shattered muskets, disabled cannon, broken wagons, and all the heavier debris of battle. Everywhere could be seen torn garments, haversacks, and other personal equipments of soldiers. There were tents where the wounded had been gathered, and where those who could not easily bear movement to the transports were still remaining. In every direction I moved, there were the graves of the slain, the National and the Rebel soldiers being buried side by side. Few of the graves were marked, as the hurry of interment had been great. I fear that many of those graves, undesignated and unfenced, have long since been leveled. A single year, with its rain and its rank vegetation, would leave but a small trace of those mounds.
All through that forest the camps of our army were scattered. During the first few days after the battle they showed much irregularity, but gradually took a more systematic shape. When the wounded had been sent to the transports, the regiments compacted, the camps cleared of superfluous baggage and _materiel_, and the weather became more propitious, the army assumed an attractive appearance.
When the news of the battle reached the principal cities of the West, the Sanitary Commission prepared to send relief. Within twenty-four hours, boats were dispatched from St. Louis and Cincinnati, and hurried to Pittsburg Landing with the utmost rapidity. The battle had not been altogether unexpected, but it found us without the proper preparation. Whatever we had was pushed forward without delay, and the sufferings of the wounded were alleviated as much as possible.
As fast as the boats arrived they were loaded with wounded, and sent to St. Louis and other points along the Mississippi, or to Cincinnati and places in its vicinity. Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati were the principal points represented in this work of humanity. Many prominent ladies of those cities passed week after week in the hospitals or on the transports, doing every thing in their power, and giving their attention to friend and foe alike.
In all cases the Rebels were treated with the same kindness that our own men received. Not only on the boats, but in the hospitals where the wounded were distributed, and until they were fully recovered, our suffering prisoners were faithfully nursed. The Rebel papers afterward admitted this kind treatment, but declared it was a Yankee trick to win the sympathies of our prisoners, and cause them to abandon the insurgent cause. The men who systematically starved their prisoners, and deprived them of shelter and clothing, could readily suspect the humanity of others. They were careful never to attempt to kill by kindness, those who were so unfortunate as to fall into their hands.
It was three weeks after the battle before all the wounded were sent away, and the army was ready for offensive work. When we were once more in fighting trim, our lines were slowly pushed forward. General Pope had been called from the vicinity of Fort Pillow, after his capture of Island Number Ten, and his army was placed in position on the left of the line already formed. When our advance began, we mustered a hundred and ten thousand men. Exclusive of those who do not take part in a battle, we could have easily brought eighty thousand men into action. We began the siege of Corinth with every confidence in our ability to succeed.
In this advance, we first learned how an army should intrench itself. Every time we took a new position, we proceeded to throw up earth-works. Before the siege was ended, our men had perfected themselves in the art of intrenching. The defenses we erected will long remain as monuments of the war in Western Tennessee. Since General Halleck, no other commander has shown such ability to fortify in an open field against an enemy that was acting on the defensive.
It was generally proclaimed that we were to capture Corinth with all its garrison of sixty or seventy thousand men. The civilian observers could not understand how this was to be accomplished, as the Rebels had two lines of railway open for a safe retreat. It was like the old story of “bagging Price” in Missouri. Every part of the bag, except the top and one side, was carefully closed and closely watched. Unmilitary men were skeptical, but the military heads assured them it was a piece of grand strategy, which the public must not be allowed to understand.
During the siege, there was very little for a journalist to record. One day was much like another. Occasionally there would be a collision with the enemy’s pickets, or a short struggle for a certain position, usually ending in our possession of the disputed point. The battle of Farmington, on the left of our line, was the only engagement worthy the name, and this was of comparatively short duration. Twenty-four hours after it transpired we ceased to talk about it, and made only occasional reference to the event. There were four weeks of monotony. An advance of a half mile daily was not calculated to excite the nerves.
The chaplains and the surgeons busied themselves in looking after the general health of the army. One day, a chaplain, noted for his advocacy of total abstinence, passed the camp of the First Michigan Battery. This company was raised in Coldwater, Michigan, and the camp-chests, caissons, and other property were marked “Loomis’s Coldwater Battery.” The chaplain at once sought Captain Loomis, and paid a high compliment to his moral courage in taking a firm and noble stand in favor of temperance. After the termination of the interview, the captain and several friends drank to the long life of the chaplain and the success of the “Coldwater Battery.”
Toward the end of the siege, General Halleck gave the journalists a sensation, by expelling them from his lines. The representatives of the Press held a meeting, and waited upon that officer, after the appearance of the order requiring their departure. They offered a protest, which was insolently rejected. We could not ascertain General Halleck’s purpose in excluding us just as the campaign was closing, but concluded he desired we should not witness the end of the siege in which so much had been promised and so little accomplished. A week after our departure, General Beauregard evacuated Corinth, and our army took possession. The fruits of the victory were an empty village, a few hundred stragglers, and a small quantity of war _materiel_.
From Corinth the Rebels retreated to Tupelo, Mississippi, where they threw up defensive works. The Rebel Government censured General Beauregard for abandoning Corinth. The evacuation of that point uncovered Memphis, and allowed it to fall into our hands.
Beauregard was removed from command. General Joseph E. Johnston was assigned to duty in his stead. This officer proceeded to reorganize his army, with a view to offensive operations against our lines. He made no demonstrations of importance until the summer months had passed away.
The capture of Corinth terminated the offensive portion of the campaign. Our army occupied the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railway from Corinth to Memphis, and made a visit to Holly Springs without encountering the enemy. A few cavalry expeditions were made into Mississippi, but they accomplished nothing of importance. The Army of the Tennessee went into summer-quarters. The Army of the Ohio, under General Buell, returned to its proper department, to confront the Rebel armies then assembling in Eastern Tennessee. General Halleck was summoned to Washington as commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States.
CAPTURE OF FORT PILLOW AND BATTLE OF MEMPHIS.
The Siege of Fort Pillow.–General Pope.–His Reputation for Veracity. –Capture of the “Ten Thousand.”–Naval Battle above Fort Pillow.–The John II. Dickey.–Occupation of the Fort.–General Forrest.–Strength of the Fortifications.–Their Location.–Randolph, Tennessee.–Memphis and her Last Ditch.–Opening of the Naval Combat.–Gallant Action of Colonel Ellet.–Fate of the Rebel Fleet.–The People Viewing the Battle.–Their Conduct.
While I was tarrying at Cairo, after the exodus of the journalists from the army before Corinth, the situation on the Mississippi became interesting. After the capture of Island Number Ten, General Pope was ordered to Pittsburg Landing with his command. When called away, he was preparing to lay siege to Fort Pillow, in order to open the river to Memphis. His success at Island Number Ten had won him much credit, and he was anxious to gain more of the same article. Had he taken Fort Pillow, he would have held the honor of being the captor of Memphis, as that city must have fallen with the strong fortifications which served as its protection.
The capture of Island Number Ten was marked by the only instance of a successful canal from one bend of the Mississippi to another. As soon as the channel was completed, General Pope took his transports below the island, ready for moving his men. Admiral Foote tried the first experiment of running his gun-boats past the Rebel batteries, and was completely successful. The Rebel transports could not escape, neither could transports or gun-boats come up from Memphis to remove the Rebel army. There was a lake in the rear of the Rebels which prevented their retreat. The whole force, some twenty-eight hundred, was surrendered, with all its arms and munitions of war. General Pope reported his captures somewhat larger than they really were, and received much applause for his success.
The reputation of this officer, on the score of veracity, has not been of the highest character. After he assumed command in Virginia, his “Order Number Five” drew upon him much ridicule. Probably the story of the capture of ten thousand prisoners, after the occupation of Corinth, has injured him more than all other exaggerations combined. The paternity of that choice bit of romance belongs to General Halleck, instead of General Pope. Colonel Elliott, who commanded the cavalry expedition, which General Pope sent out when Corinth was occupied, forwarded a dispatch to Pope, something like the following:–
“I am still pursuing the enemy. The woods are full of stragglers. Some of my officers estimate their number as high as ten thousand. Many have already come into my lines.”
[Illustration: THE CARONDELET RUNNING THE BATTERIES AT ISLAND NO. 10]
Pope sent this dispatch, without alteration, to General Halleck. From the latter it went to the country that “General Pope reported ten thousand prisoners captured below Corinth.” It served to cover up the barrenness of the Corinth occupation, and put the public in good-humor. General Halleck received credit for the success of his plans. When it came out that no prisoners of consequence had been taken, the real author of the story escaped unharmed.
At the time of his departure to re-enforce the army before Corinth, General Pope left but a single brigade of infantry, to act in conjunction with our naval forces in the siege of Fort Pillow. This brigade was encamped on the Arkansas shore opposite Fort Pillow, and did some very effective fighting against the musquitos, which that country produces in the greatest profusion. An attack on the fort, with such a small force, was out of the question, and the principal aggressive work was done by the navy at long range.
On the 10th of May, the Rebel fleet made an attack upon our navy, in which they sunk two of our gun-boats, the _Mound City_ and the _Cincinnati_, and returned to the protection of Fort Pillow with one of their own boats disabled, and two others somewhat damaged. Our sunken gun-boats were fortunately in shoal water, where they were speedily raised and repaired. Neither fleet had much to boast of as the result of that engagement.
The journalists who were watching Fort Pillow, had their head-quarters on board the steamer _John H. Dickey_, which was anchored in midstream. At the time of the approach of the Rebel gun-boats, the _Dickey_ was lying without sufficient steam to move her wheels, and the prospect was good that she might be captured or destroyed. Her commander, Captain Mussleman, declared he was _not_ in that place to stop cannon-shot, and made every exertion to get his boat in condition to move. His efforts were fully appreciated by the journalists, particularly as they were successful. The _Dickey_, under the same captain, afterward ran a battery near Randolph, Tennessee, and though pierced in every part by cannon-shot and musket-balls, she escaped without any loss of life.
As soon as the news of the evacuation of Corinth was received at Cairo, we looked for the speedy capture of Fort Pillow. Accordingly, on the 4th of June, I proceeded down the river, arriving off Fort Pillow on the morning of the 5th. The Rebels had left, as we expected, after spiking their guns and destroying most of their ammunition. The first boat to reach the abandoned fort was the _Hetty Gilmore_, one of the smallest transports in the fleet. She landed a little party, which took possession, hoisted the flag, and declared the fort, and all it contained, the property of the United States. The Rebels were, by this time, several miles distant, in full retreat to a safer location.
It was at this same fort, two years later, that the Rebel General Forrest ordered the massacre of a garrison that had surrendered after a prolonged defense. His only plea for this cold-blooded slaughter, was that some of his men had been fired upon after the white flag was raised. The testimony in proof of this barbarity was fully conclusive, and gave General Forrest and his men a reputation that no honorable soldier could desire.
In walking through the fort after its capture, I was struck by its strength and extent. It occupied the base of a bluff near the water’s edge. On the summit of the bluff there were breast-works running in a zigzag course for five or six miles, and inclosing a large area. The works along the river were very strong, and could easily hold a powerful fleet at bay.
From Fort Pillow to Randolph, ten miles lower down, was less than an hour’s steaming. Randolph was a small, worthless village, partly at the base of a bluff, and partly on its summit. Here the Rebels had erected a powerful fort, which they abandoned when they abandoned Fort Pillow. The inhabitants expressed much agreeable astonishment on finding that we did not verify all the statements of the Rebels, concerning the barbarity of the Yankees wherever they set foot on Southern soil. The town was most bitterly disloyal. It was afterward burned, in punishment for decoying a steamboat to the landing, and then attempting her capture and destruction. A series of blackened chimneys now marks the site of Randolph.
Our capture of these points occurred a short time after the Rebels issued the famous “cotton-burning order,” commanding all planters to burn their cotton, rather than allow it to fall into our hands. The people showed no particular desire to comply with the order, except in a few instances. Detachments of Rebel cavalry were sent to enforce obedience. They enforced it by setting fire to the cotton in presence of its owners. On both banks of the river, as we moved from Randolph to Memphis, we could see the smoke arising from plantations, or from secluded spots in the forest where cotton had been concealed. In many cases the bales were broken open and rolled into the river, dotting the stream with floating cotton. Had it then possessed the value that attached to it two years later, I fear there would have been many attempts to save it for transfer to a Northern market.
On the day before the evacuation of Fort Pillow, Memphis determined she would never surrender. In conjunction with other cities, she fitted up several gun-boats, that were expected to annihilate the Yankee fleet. In the event of the failure of this means of defense, the inhabitants were pledged to do many dreadful things before submitting to the invaders. Had we placed any confidence in the resolutions passed by the Memphians, we should have expected all the denizens of the Bluff City to commit _hari-kari_, after first setting fire to their dwellings.
On the morning of the 6th of June, the Rebel gun-boats, eight in number, took their position just above Memphis, and prepared for the advance of our fleet. The Rebel boats were the _Van Dorn_ (flag-ship), _General Price_, _General Bragg_, _General Lovell_, _Little Rebel_, _Jeff. Thompson_, _Sumter_, and _General Beauregard_. The _General Bragg_ was the New Orleans and Galveston steamer _Mexico_ in former days, and had been strengthened, plated, and, in other ways made as effective as possible for warlike purposes. The balance of the fleet consisted of tow-boats from the Lower Mississippi, fitted up as rams and gun-boats. They were supplied with very powerful engines, and were able to choose their positions in the battle. The Rebel fleet was commanded by Commodore Montgomery, who was well known to many persons on our own boats.
The National boats were the iron-clads _Benton, Carondelet, St. Louis, Louisville_, and _Cairo_. There was also the ram fleet, commanded by Colonel Ellet. It comprised the _Monarch, Queen of the West, Lioness, Switzerland, Mingo, Lancaster No. 3, Fulton, Horner_, and _Samson_. The _Monarch_ and _Queen of the West_ were the only boats of the ram fleet that took part in the action. Our forces were commanded by Flag-officer Charles H. Davis, who succeeded Admiral Foote at the time of the illness of the latter.
The land forces, acting in conjunction with our fleet, consisted of a single brigade of infantry, that was still at Fort Pillow. It did not arrive in the vicinity of Memphis until after the battle was over.
Early in the morning the battle began. It was opened by the gun-boats on the Rebel side, and for some minutes consisted of a cannonade at long range, in which very little was effected. Gradually the boats drew nearer to each other, and made better use of their guns.
Before they arrived at close quarters the rams _Monarch_ and _Queen of the West_ steamed forward and engaged in the fight. Their participation was most effective. The _Queen of the West_ struck and disabled one of the Rebel gun-boats, and was herself disabled by the force of the blow. The _Monarch_ steered straight for the _General Lovell_, and dealt her a tremendous blow, fairly in the side, just aft the wheel. The sides of the _Lovell_ were crushed as if they had been made of paper, and the boat sank in less than three minutes, in a spot where the plummet shows a depth of ninety feet.
Grappling with the _Beauregard_, the _Monarch_ opened upon her with a stream of hot water and a shower of rifle-balls, which effectually prevented the latter from using a gun. In a few moments she cast off and drifted a short distance down the river. Coming up on the other side, the _Monarch_ dealt her antagonist a blow that left her in a sinking condition. Herself comparatively uninjured, she paused to allow the gun-boats to take a part. Those insignificant and unwieldy rams had placed three of the enemy’s gun-boats _hors de combat_ in less than a quarter of an hour’s time.
Our gun-boats ceased firing as the rams entered the fight; but they now reopened. With shot and shell the guns were rapidly served. The effect was soon apparent. One Rebel boat was disabled and abandoned, after grounding opposite Memphis. A second was grounded and blown up, and two others were disabled, abandoned, and captured.
It was a good morning’s work. The first gun was fired at forty minutes past five o’clock, and the last at forty-three minutes past six. The Rebels boasted they would whip us before breakfast. We had taken no breakfast when the fight began. After the battle was over we enjoyed our morning meal with a relish that does not usually accompany defeat.
The following shows the condition of the two fleets after the battle:–
_General Beauregard_, sunk.
_General Lovell_, sunk.
_General Price_, injured and captured. _Little Rebel_, ” ” “
_Sumter_, ” ” “
_General Bragg_, ” ” “
_Jeff. Thompson_, burned.
_General Van Dorn_, escaped.
THE NATIONAL FLEET.
_St. Louis_, “
_Monarch_ (ram), unhurt.
_Queen of the West_ (ram), disabled.
The captured vessels were refitted, and, without alteration of names, attached to the National fleet. The _Sumter_ was lost a few months later, in consequence of running aground near the Rebel batteries in the vicinity of Bayou Sara. The _Bragg_ was one of the best boats in the service in point of speed, and proved of much value as a dispatch-steamer on the lower portion of the river.
The people of Memphis rose at an early hour to witness the naval combat. It had been generally known during the previous night that the battle would begin about sunrise. The first gun brought a large crowd to the bluff overlooking the river, whence a full view of the fight was obtained. Some of the spectators were loyal, and wished success to the National fleet, but the great majority were animated by a strong hope and expectation of our defeat.
A gentleman, who was of the lookers-on, subsequently told me of the conduct of the populace. As a matter of course, the disloyalists had all the conversation their own way. While they expressed their wishes in the loudest tones, no one uttered a word in opposition. Many offered wagers on the success of their fleet, and expressed a readiness to give large odds. No one dared accept these offers, as their acceptance would have been an evidence of sympathy for the Yankees. Americans generally, but particularly in the South, make their wagers as they hope or wish. In the present instance no man was allowed to “copper” on the Rebel flotilla.
IN MEMPHIS AND UNDER THE FLAG
Jeff. Thompson and his Predictions.–A Cry of Indignation.–Memphis Humiliated.–The Journalists in the Battle.–The Surrender.–A Fine Point of Law and Honor.–Going on Shore.–An Enraged Secessionist.–A Dangerous Enterprise.–Memphis and her Antecedents.–Her Loyalty.–An Amusing Incident.–How the Natives learned of the Capture of Fort Donelson.–The Last Ditch.–A Farmer-Abolitionist.–Disloyalty among the Women.–“Blessings in Disguise.”–An American Mark Tapley.
The somewhat widely (though not favorably) known Rebel chieftain, Jeff. Thompson, was in Memphis on the day of the battle, and boasted of the easy victory the Rebels would have over the National fleet.
“We will chaw them up in just an hour,” said Jeff., as the battle began.
“Are you sure of that?” asked a friend.
“Certainly I am; there is no doubt of it.” Turning to a servant, he sent for his horse, in order, as he said, to be able to move about rapidly to the best points for witnessing the engagement.
In an hour and three minutes the battle was over. Jeff, turned in his saddle, and bade his friend farewell, saying he had a note falling due that day at Holly Springs, and was going out to pay it. The “chawing up” of our fleet was not referred to again.
As the _Monarch_ struck the _Lovell_, sinking the latter in deep water, the crowd stood breathless. As the crew of the sunken boat were floating helplessly in the strong current, and our own skiffs were putting off to aid them, there was hardly a word uttered through all that multitude. As the Rebel boats, one after another, were sunk or captured, the sympathies of the spectators found vent in words. When, at length, the last of the Rebel fleet disappeared, and the Union flotilla spread its flags in triumph, there went up an almost universal yell of indignation from that vast crowd. Women tore their bonnets from their heads, and trampled them on the ground; men stamped and swore as only infuriated Rebels can, and called for all known misfortunes to settle upon the heads of their invaders. The profanity was not entirely monopolized by the men.
This scene of confusion lasted for some time, and ended in anxiety to know what we would do next. Some of the spectators turned away, and went, in sullen silence, to their homes. Others remained, out of curiosity, to witness the end of the day’s work. A few were secretly rejoicing at the result, but the time had not come when they could display their sympathies. The crowd eagerly watched our fleet, and noted every motion of the various boats.
The press correspondents occupied various positions during the engagement. Mr. Coffin, of the Boston _Journal_, was on the tug belonging to the flag-ship, and had a fine view of the whole affair. One of _The Herald_ correspondents was in the pilot-house of the gun-boat _Cairo_, while Mr. Colburn, of _The World_, was on the captured steamer _Sovereign_. “Junius,” of _The Tribune_, and Mr. Vizitelly, of the London _Illustrated News_, with several others, were on the transport _Dickey_, the general rendezvous of the journalists. The representative of the St. Louis _Republican_ and myself were on the _Platte Valley_, in rear of the line of battle. The _Platte Valley_ was the first private boat that touched the Memphis landing after the capture of the city.
The battle being over, we were anxious to get on shore and look at the people and city of Memphis. Shortly after the fighting ceased, Colonel Ellet sent the ram _Lioness_, under a flag-of-truce, to demand the surrender of the city. To this demand no response was given. A little later, Flag-Officer Davis sent the following note to the Mayor, at the hands of one of the officers of the gun-boat _Benton_:–
UNITED STATES FLAG-STEAMER BENTON,
OFF MEMPHIS, _June_ 6, 1862.
SIR:–I have respectfully to request that you will surrender the city of Memphis to the authority of the United States, which I have the honor to represent. I am, Mr. Mayor, with high respect, your most obedient servant, C. H. DAVIS, _Flag-Officer Commanding_.
To his Honor, the Mayor of Memphis.
To this note the following reply was received:–
MAYOR’S OFFICE, MEMPHIS, _June_ 6, 1862.
C. H. Davis, _Flag-Officer Commanding_:
SIR:–Your note of this date is received and contents noted. In reply I have only to say that, as the civil authorities have no means of defense, by the force of circumstances the city is in your hands. Respectfully, John Park, _Mayor of Memphis_.
At the meeting, four days before, the citizens of Memphis had solemnly pledged themselves never to surrender. There was a vague understanding that somebody was to do a large amount of fighting, whenever Memphis was attacked. If this fighting proved useless, the city was to be fired in every house, and only abandoned after its complete destruction. It will be seen that the note of the mayor, in response to a demand for surrender, vindicates the honor of Memphis. It merely informs the United States officer that the city has fallen “by the force of circumstances.” Since that day I have frequently heard its citizens boast that the place was not surrendered. “You came in,” say they, “and took possession, but we did not give up to you. We declared we would never surrender, and we kept our word.”
About eleven o’clock in the forenoon, the transports arrived with our infantry, and attempted to make a landing. As their mooring-lines were thrown on shore they were seized by dozens of persons in the crowd, and the crews were saved the trouble of making fast. This was an evidence that the laboring class, the men with blue shirts and shabby hats, were not disloyal. We had abundant evidence of this when our occupation became a fixed fact. It was generally the wealthy who adhered to the Rebel cause.
As a file of soldiers moved into the city, the people stood at a respectful distance, occasionally giving forth wordy expression of their anger. When I reached the office of _The Avalanche_, one of the leading journals of Memphis, and, of course, strongly disloyal, I found the soldiers removing a Rebel flag from the roof of the building. The owner of the banner made a very vehement objection to the proceeding. His indignation was so great that his friends were obliged to hold him, to prevent his throwing himself on the bayonet of the nearest soldier. I saw him several days later, when his anger had somewhat cooled. He found relief from his troubles, before the end of June, by joining the Rebel army at Holly Springs.
On the bluff above the levee was a tall flag-staff. The Rebels had endeavored to make sure of their courage by nailing a flag to the top of this staff. A sailor from one of the gun-boats volunteered to ascend the staff and bring down the banner. When he had ascended about twenty feet, he saw two rifles bearing upon him from the window of a neighboring building. The sailor concluded it was best to go no further, and descended at once. The staff was cut down and the obnoxious flag secured.
With the city in our possession, we had leisure to look about us. Memphis had been in the West what Charleston was in the East: an active worker in the secession cause. Her newspapers had teemed with abuse of every thing which opposed their heresy, and advocated the most summary measures. Lynching had been frequent and never rebuked, impressments were of daily and nightly occurrence, every foundery and manufactory had been constantly employed by the Rebel authorities, and every citizen had, in some manner, contributed to the insurrection. It was gratifying in the extreme to see the Memphis, of which we at Cairo and St. Louis had heard so much, brought under our control. The picture of five United States gun-boats lying in line before the city, their ports open and their guns shotted, was pleasing in the eyes of loyal men.
Outside of the poorer classes there were some loyal persons, but their number was not large. There were many professing loyalty, who possessed very little of the article, and whose record had been exceedingly doubtful. Prominent among these were the politicians, than whom none had been more self-sacrificing, if their own words could be believed.
There were many men of this class ready, no doubt, to swear allegiance to the victorious side, who joined our standard because they considered the Rebel cause a losing one. They may have become loyal since that time, but it has been only through the force of circumstances. In many cases our Government accepted their words as proof of loyalty, and granted these persons many exclusive privileges. It was a matter of comment that a newly converted loyalist could obtain favors at the hands of Government officials, that would be refused to men from the North. The acceptance of office under the Rebels, and the earnest advocacy he had shown for secession, were generally alleged to have taken place under compulsion, or in the interest of the really loyal men.
A Memphis gentleman gave me an amusing account of the reception of the news of the fall of Fort Donelson. Many boasts had been made of the terrible punishment that was in store for our army, if it ventured an attack upon Fort Donelson. No one would be allowed to escape to tell the tale. All were to be slaughtered, or lodged in Rebel prisons. Memphis was consequently waiting for the best tidings from the Cumberland, and did not think it possible a reverse could come to the Rebel cause.
One Sunday morning, the telegraph, without any previous announcement, flashed the intelligence that Fort Donelson, with twelve thousand men, had surrendered, and a portion of General Grant’s army was moving on Nashville, with every prospect of capturing that city. Memphis was in consternation. No one could tell how long the Yankee army would stop at Nashville before moving elsewhere, and it was certain that Memphis was uncovered by the fall of Fort Donelson.
My informant first learned the important tidings in the rotunda of the Gayoso House. Seeing a group of his acquaintances with faces depicting the utmost gloom, he asked what was the matter.
“Bad enough,” said one. “Fort Donelson has surrendered with nearly all its garrison.”
“That is terrible,” said my friend, assuming a look of agony, though he was inwardly elated.
“Yes, and the enemy are moving on Nashville.”
“Horrible news,” was the response; “but let us not be too despondent. Our men are good for them, one against three, and they will never get out of Nashville alive, if they should happen to take it.”
With another expression of deep sorrow at the misfortune which had befallen the Rebel army, this gentleman hastened to convey the glad news to his friends. “I reached home,” said he, “locked my front door, called my wife and sister into the parlor, and instantly jumped over the center-table. They both cried for joy when I told them the old flag floated over Donelson.”
The Secessionists in Memphis, like their brethren elsewhere, insisted that all the points we had captured were given up because they had no further use for them. The evacuation of Columbus, Fort Pillow, Fort Henry, and Bowling Green, with the surrender of Donelson, were parts of the grand strategy of the Rebel leaders, and served to lure us on to our destruction. They would never admit a defeat, but contended we had invariably suffered.
An uneducated farmer, on the route followed by one of our armies in Tennessee, told our officers that a Rebel general and his staff had taken dinner with him during the retreat from Nashville. The farmer was anxious to learn something about the military situation, and asked a Rebel major how the Confederate cause was progressing.
“Splendidly,” answered the major. “We have whipped the Yankees in every battle, and our independence will soon be recognized.”
The farmer was thoughtful for a minute or two, and then deliberately said:
“I don’t know much about war, but if we are always whipping the Yankees, how is it they keep coming down into our country after every battle?”
The major grew red in the face, and told the farmer that any man who asked such an absurd question was an Abolitionist, and deserved hanging to the nearest tree. The farmer was silenced, but not satisfied.
I had a fine illustration of the infatuation of the Rebel sympathizers, a few days after Memphis was captured. One evening, while making a visit at the house of an acquaintance, the hostess introduced me to a young lady of the strongest secession proclivities. Of course, I endeavored to avoid the topics on which we were certain to differ, but my new acquaintance was determined to provoke a discussion. With a few preliminaries, she throw out the question:
“Now, don’t you think the Southern soldiers have shown themselves the bravest people that ever lived, while the Yankees have proved the greatest cowards?”
“I can hardly agree with you,” I replied. “Your people have certainly established a reputation on the score of bravery, but we can claim quite as much.”
“But we have whipped you in every battle. We whipped you at Manassas and Ball’s Bluff, and we whipped General Grant at Belmont.”
“That is very true; but how was it at Shiloh?”
“At Shiloh we whipped you; we drove you to your gun-boats, which was all we wanted to do.”
“Ah, I beg your pardon; but what is your impression of Fort Donelson?”
“Fort Donelson!”–and my lady’s cheek flushed with either pride or indignation–“Fort Donelson was an unquestioned victory for the South. We stopped your army–all we wanted to; and then General Forrest, General Floyd, and all the troops we wished to bring off, came away. We only left General Buckner and three thousand men for you to capture.”
“It seems, then, we labored under a delusion at the North. We thought we had something to rejoice over when Fort Donelson fell. But, pray, what do you consider the capture of Island Number Ten and the naval battle here?”
“At Island Ten we defeated you” (how this was done she did not say), “and we were victorious here. You wanted to capture all our boats; but you only got four of them, and those were damaged.”
“In your view of the case,” I replied, “I admit the South to have been always victorious. Without wishing to be considered disloyal to the Nation, I can heartily wish you many similar victories.”
In the tour which Dickens records, Mark Tapley did not visit the Southern country, but the salient points of his character are possessed by the sons of the cavaliers. “Jolly” under the greatest misfortunes, and extracting comfort and happiness from all calamities, your true Rebel could never know adversity. The fire which consumes his dwelling is a personal boon, as he can readily explain. So is a devastating flood, or a widespread pestilence. The events which narrow-minded mudsills are apt to look upon as calamitous, are only “blessings in disguise” to every supporter and friend of the late “Confederacy.”
SUPERVISING A REBEL JOURNAL.
The Press of Memphis.–Flight of _The Appeal_.–A False Prediction.–_The Argus_ becomes Loyal.–Order from General Wallace.–Installed in Office.–Lecturing the Rebels.–“Trade follows the Flag.”–Abuses of Traffic.–Supplying the Rebels.–A Perilous Adventure.–Passing the Rebel Lines.–Eluding Watchful Eyes.
On the morning of the 6th of June, the newspaper publishers, like most other gentlemen of Memphis, were greatly alarmed. _The Avalanche_ and _The Argus_ announced that it was impossible for the Yankee fleet to cope successfully with the Rebels, and that victory was certain to perch upon the banners of the latter. The sheets were not dry before the Rebel fleet was a thing of the past. _The Appeal_ had not been as hopeful as its contemporaries, and thought it the wisest course to abandon the city. It moved to Grenada, Mississippi, a hundred miles distant, and resumed publication. It became a migratory sheet, and was at last captured by General Wilson at Columbus, Georgia. In ability it ranked among the best of the Rebel journals.
_The Avalanche_ and _The Argus_ continued publication, with a strong leaning to the Rebel side. The former was interfered with by our authorities; and, under the name of _The Bulletin_, with new editorial management, was allowed to reappear. _The Argus_ maintained its Rebel ground, though with moderation, until the military hand fell upon it. Memphis, in the early days of our occupation, changed its commander nearly every week. One of these changes brought Major-General Wallace into the city. This officer thought it proper to issue the following order:–
HEAD-QUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, RESERVED CORPS, ARMY OF TENNESSEE, MEMPHIS, _June_ 17,1862.
EDITORS DAILY ARGUS:–As the closing of your office might be injurious to you pecuniarily, I send two gentlemen–Messrs. A.D. Richardson and Thos. W. Knox, both of ample experience–to take charge of the editorial department of your paper. The business management of your office will be left to you.
_General Third Division, Reserved Corps._
The publishers of _The Argus_ printed this order at the head of their columns. Below it they announced that they were not responsible for any thing which should appear editorially, as long as the order was in force. The business management and the general miscellaneous and news matter were not interfered with.
Mr. Richardson and myself entered upon our new duties immediately. We had crossed the Plains together, had published a paper in the Rocky Mountains, had been through many adventures and perils side by side; but we had never before managed a newspaper in an insurrectionary district. The publishers of _The Argus_ greeted us cordially, and our whole intercourse with them was harmonious. They did not relish the intrusion of Northern men into their office, to compel the insertion of Union editorials, but they bore the inconvenience with an excellent grace. The foreman of the establishment displayed more mortification at the change, than any other person whom we met.
The editorials we published were of a positive character. We plainly announced the determination of the Government to assert itself and put down and punish treason. We told the Memphis people that the scheme of partisan warfare, which was then in its inception, would work more harm than good to the districts where guerrilla companies were organized. We insisted that the Union armies had entered Memphis and other parts of the South, to stay there, and that resistance to their power was useless. We credited the Rebels with much bravery and devotion to their cause, but asserted always that we had the right and the strong arm in our favor.
It is possible we did not make many conversions among the disloyal readers of _The Argus_, but we had the satisfaction of saying what we thought it necessary they should hear. The publishers said their subscribers were rapidly falling off, on account of the change of editorial tone. Like newspaper readers everywhere, they disliked to peruse what their consciences did not approve. We received letters, generally from women, denying our right to control the columns of the paper for our “base purposes.” Some of these letters were not written after the style of Chesterfield, but the majority of them were courteous.
There were many jests in Memphis, and throughout the country generally, concerning the appointment of representatives of _The Herald_ and _The Tribune_ to a position where they must work together. _The Herald_ and _The Tribune_ have not been famous, in the past twenty years, for an excess of good-nature toward each other. Mr. Bennett and Mr. Greeley are not supposed to partake habitually of the same dinners and wine, or to join in frequent games of billiards and poker. The compliments which the two great dailies occasionally exchange, are not calculated to promote an intimate friendship between the venerable gentlemen whose names are so well known to the public. No one expects these veteran editors to emulate the example of Damon and Pythias.
At the time Mr. Richardson and myself took charge of _The Argus, The Tribune_ and _The Herald_ were indulging in one of their well-known disputes. It was much like the Hibernian’s debate, “with sticks,” and attracted some attention, though it was generally voted a nuisance. Many, who did not know us, imagined that the new editors of _The Argus_ would follow the tendencies of the offices from which they bore credentials. Several Northern journals came to hand, in which this belief was expressed. A Chicago paper published two articles supposed to be in the same issue of _The Argus_, differing totally in every line of argument or statement of fact. One editor argued that the harmonious occupancy of contiguous desks by the representatives of _The Herald_ and _The Tribune_, betokened the approach of the millennium.
When he issued the order placing us in charge of _The Argus_, General Wallace assured its proprietors that he should remove the editorial supervision as soon as a Union paper was established in Memphis. This event occurred in a short time, and _The Argus_ was restored to its original management, according to promise.
As soon as the capture of Memphis was known at the North, there was an eager scramble to secure the trade of the long-blockaded port. Several boat-loads of goods were shipped from St. Louis and Cincinnati, and Memphis was so rapidly filled that the supply was far greater than the demand.
Army and Treasury regulations were soon established, and many restrictions placed upon traffic. The restrictions did not materially diminish the quantity of goods, but they served to throw the trade into a few hands, and thus open the way for much favoritism. Those who obtained permits, thought the system an excellent one. Those who were kept “out in the cold,” viewed the matter in a different light. A thousand stories of dishonesty, official and unofficial, were in constant circulation, and I fear that many of them came very near the truth.
In our occupation of cities along the Mississippi, the Rebels found a ready supply from our markets. This was especially the case at Memphis. Boots and shoes passed through the lines in great numbers, either by stealth or by open permit, and were taken at once to the Rebel army. Cloth, clothing, percussion-caps, and similar articles went in the same direction. General Grant and other prominent officers made a strong opposition to our policy, and advised the suppression of the Rebellion prior to the opening of trade, but their protestations were of no avail. We chastised the Rebels with one hand, while we fed and clothed them with the other.
After the capture of Memphis, Colonel Charles R. Ellet, with two boats of the ram fleet, proceeded to explore the river between Memphis and Vicksburg. It was not known what defenses the Rebels might have constructed along this distance of four hundred miles. Colonel Ellet found no hinderance to his progress, except a small field battery near Napoleon, Arkansas. When a few miles above Vicksburg, he ascertained that a portion of Admiral Farragut’s fleet was below that point, preparing to attack the city. He at once determined to open communication with the lower fleet.
Opposite Vicksburg there is a long and narrow peninsula, around which the Mississippi makes a bend. It is a mile and a quarter across the neck of this peninsula, while it is sixteen miles around by the course of the river. It was impossible to pass around by the Mississippi, on account of the batteries at Vicksburg. The Rebels were holding the peninsula with a small force of infantry and cavalry, to prevent our effecting a landing. By careful management it was possible to elude the sentinels, and cross from one side of the peninsula to the other.
Colonel Ellet armed himself to make the attempt. He took only a few documents to prove his identity as soon as he reached Admiral Farragut. A little before daylight, one morning, he started on his perilous journey. He waded through swamps, toiled among the thick undergrowth in a portion of the forest, was fired upon by a Rebel picket, and narrowly escaped drowning in crossing a bayou. He was compelled to make a wide detour, to avoid capture, and thus extended his journey to nearly a half-dozen miles.
On reaching the bank opposite one of our gun-boats, he found a yawl near the shore, by which he was promptly taken on board. The officers of this gun-boat suspected him of being a spy, and placed him under guard. It was not until the arrival of Admiral Farragut that his true character became known.
After a long interview with that officer he prepared to return. He concealed dispatches for the Navy Department and for Flag-Officer Davis in the lining of his boots and in the wristbands of his shirt. A file of marines escorted him as far as they could safely venture, and then bade him farewell. Near the place where he had left his own boat, Colonel Ellet found a small party of Rebels, carefully watching from a spot where they could not be easily discovered. It was a matter of some difficulty to elude these men, but he did it successfully, and reached his boat in safety. He proceeded at once to Memphis with his dispatches. Flag-Officer Davis immediately decided to co-operate with Admiral Farragut, in the attempt to capture Vicksburg.
Shortly after the capture of New Orleans, Admiral Farragut ascended the Mississippi as far as Vicksburg. At that time the defensive force was very small, and there were but few batteries erected. The Admiral felt confident of his ability to silence the Rebel guns, but he was unaccompanied by a land force to occupy the city after its capture. He was reluctantly compelled to return to New Orleans, and wait until troops could be spared from General Butler’s command. The Rebels improved their opportunities, and concentrated a large force to put Vicksburg in condition for defense. Heavy guns were brought from various points, earth-works were thrown up on all sides, and the town became a vast fortification. When the fleet returned at the end of June, the Rebels were ready to receive it. Their strongest works were on the banks of the Mississippi. They had no dread of an attack from the direction of Jackson, until long afterward.
Vicksburg was the key to the possession of the Mississippi. The Rebel authorities at Richmond ordered it defended as long as defense was possible.
THE FIRST SIEGE OF VICKSBURG.
From Memphis to Vicksburg.–Running the Batteries.–Our Inability to take Vicksburg by Assault.–Digging a Canal.–A Conversation with Resident Secessionists.–Their Arguments _pro_ and _con_, and the Answers they Received.–A Curiosity of Legislation.–An Expedition up the Yazoo.–Destruction of the Rebel Fleet.–The _Arkansas_ Running the Gauntlet.–A Spirited Encounter.–A Gallant Attempt.–Raising the Siege.–Fate of the _Arkansas_.
On the 1st of July, I left Memphis with the Mississippi flotilla, and arrived above Vicksburg late on the following day. Admiral Farragut’s fleet attempted the passage of the batteries on the 28th of June. A portion of the fleet succeeded in the attempt, under a heavy fire, and gained a position above the peninsula. Among the first to effect a passage was the flag-ship _Hartford_, with the “gallant old salamander” on board. The _Richmond, Iroquois_, and _Oneida_ were the sloops-of-war that accompanied the _Hartford_. The _Brooklyn_ and other heavy vessels remained below.
The history of that first siege of Vicksburg can be briefly told. Twenty-five hundred infantry, under General Williams, accompanied the fleet from New Orleans, with the design of occupying Vicksburg after the batteries had been silenced by our artillery. Most of the Rebel guns were located at such a height that it was found impossible to elevate our own guns so as to reach them. Thus the occupation by infantry was found impracticable. The passage of the batteries was followed by the bombardment, from the mortar-schooners of Admiral Farragut’s fleet and the mortar-rafts which Flag-Officer Davis had brought down. This continued steadily for several days, but Vicksburg did not fall.
A canal across the peninsula was proposed and commenced. The water fell as fast as the digging progressed, and the plan of leaving Vicksburg inland was abandoned for that time. Even had there been a flood in the river, the entrance to the canal was so located that success was impossible. The old steamboat-men laughed at the efforts of the Massachusetts engineer, to create a current in his canal by commencing it in an eddy.
Just as the canal project was agreed upon, I was present at a conversation between General Williams and several residents of the vicinity. The latter, fearing the channel of the river would be changed, visited the general to protest against the carrying out of his plan.
The citizens were six in number. They had selected no one to act as their leader. Each joined in the conversation as he saw fit. After a little preliminary talk, one of them said:
“Are you aware, general, there is no law of the State allowing you to make a cut-off, here?”
“I am sorry to say,” replied General Williams, “I am not familiar with the laws of Louisiana. Even if I were, I should not heed them. I believe Louisiana passed an act of secession. According to your own showing you have no claims on the Government now.”
This disposed of that objection. There was some hesitation, evidently embarrassing to the delegation, but not to General Williams. Citizen number one was silenced. Number two advanced an idea.
“You may remember, General, that you will subject the parish of Madison to an expenditure of ninety thousand dollars for new levees.”
This argument disturbed General Williams no more than the first one. He promptly replied:
“The parish of Madison gave a large majority in favor of secession; did it not?”
“I believe it did,” was the faltering response.
“Then you can learn that treason costs something. It will cost you far more before the war is over.”
Citizen number two said nothing more. It was the opportunity for number three to speak.
“If this cut-off is made, it will ruin the trade of Vicksburg. It has been a fine city for business, but this will spoil it. Boats will not be able to reach the town, but will find all the current through the short route.”
“That is just what we want,” said the General. “We are digging the canal for the very purpose of navigating the river without passing near Vicksburg.”
Number three went to the rear. Number four came forward.
“If you make this cut-off, all these plantations will be carried away. You will ruin the property of many loyal men.”
He was answered that loyal men would be paid for all property taken or destroyed, as soon as their loyalty was proved.
The fifth and last point in the protest was next advanced. It came from an individual who professed to practice law in De Soto township, and was as follows:
“The charter of the Vicksburg and Shreveport Railroad is perpetual, and so declared by act of the Louisiana Legislature. No one has any right to cut through the embankment.”
“That is true,” was the quiet answer. “The Constitution of the United States is also a perpetual charter, which it was treason to violate. When you and your leaders have no hesitation at breaking national faith, it is absurd to claim rights under the laws of a State which you deny to be in the Union.”
This was the end of the delegation. Its members retired without having gained a single point in their case. They were, doubtless, easier in mind when they ascertained, two weeks later, that the canal enterprise was a failure.
The last argument put forth on that occasion, to prevent the carrying out of our plans, is one of the curiosities of legislation. For a long time there were many parties in Louisiana who wished the channel of the Mississippi turned across the neck of the peninsula opposite Vicksburg, thus shortening the river fifteen miles, at least, and rendering the plantations above, less liable to overflow. As Vicksburg lay in another State, her interests were not regarded. She spent much money in the corrupt Legislature of Louisiana to defeat the scheme. As a last resort, it was proposed to build a railway, with a perpetual charter, from the end of the peninsula opposite Vicksburg, to some point in the interior. Much money was required. The capitalists of Vicksburg contributed the funds for lobbying the bill and commencing the road. Up to the time when the Rebellion began, it was rendered certain that no hand of man could legally turn the Mississippi across that peninsula.
The first siege of Vicksburg lasted but twenty days. Our fleet was unable to silence the batteries, and our land force was not sufficient for the work. During the progress of the siege, Colonel Ellet, with his ram fleet, ascended the Yazoo River, and compelled the Rebels to destroy three of their gun-boats, the _Livingston, Polk_, and _Van Dorn_, to prevent their falling into our hands. The _Van Dorn_ was the only boat that escaped, out of the fleet of eight Rebel gun-boats which met ours at Memphis on the 6th of June.
At the time of making this expedition, Colonel Ellet learned that the famous ram gun-boat _Arkansas_ was completed, and nearly ready to descend the river. He notified Admiral Farragut and Flag-Officer Davis, but they paid little attention to his warnings.
This Rebel gun-boat, which was expected to do so much toward the destruction of our naval forces on the Mississippi, was constructed at Memphis, and hurried from there in a partially finished condition, just before the capture of the city. She was towed to Yazoo City and there completed. The _Arkansas_ was a powerful iron-clad steamer, mounting ten guns, and carrying an iron beak, designed for penetrating the hulls of our gun-boats. Her engines were powerful, though they could not be worked with facility at the time of her appearance. Her model, construction, armament, and propelling force, made her equal to any boat of our upper flotilla, and her officers claimed to have full confidence in her abilities.
On the morning of the 15th of July, the _Arkansas_ emerged from the Yazoo River, fifteen miles above Vicksburg. A short distance up that stream she encountered two of our gun-boats, the _Carondelet_ and _Tyler_, and fought them until she reached our fleet at anchor above Vicksburg. The _Carondelet_ was one of our mail-clad gun-boats, built at St. Louis in 1861. The _Tyler_ was a wooden gun-boat, altered from an old transport, and was totally unfit for entering into battle. Both were perforated by the Rebel shell, the _Tyler_ receiving the larger number. The gallantry displayed by Captain Gwin, her commander, was worthy of special praise.
Our fleet was at anchor four or five miles above Vicksburg–some of the vessels lying in midstream, while others were fastened to the banks. The _Arkansas_ fired to the right and left as she passed through the fleet. Her shot disabled two of our boats, and slightly injured two or three others. She did not herself escape without damage. Many of our projectiles struck her sides, but glanced into the river. Two shells perforated her plating, and another entered a port, exploding over one of the guns. Ten men were killed and as many wounded.
The _Arkansas_ was not actually disabled, but her commander declined to enter into another action until she had undergone repairs. She reached a safe anchorage under protection of the Vicksburg batteries.
A few days later, a plan was arranged for her destruction. Colonel Ellet, with the ram _Queen of the West_, was to run down and strike the _Arkansas_ at her moorings. The gun-boat _Essex_ was to join in this effort, while the upper flotilla, assisted by the vessels of Admiral Farragut’s fleet, would shell the Rebel batteries.
The _Essex_ started first, but ran directly past the _Arkansas_, instead of stopping to engage her, as was expected. The _Essex_ fired three guns at the _Arkansas_ while in range, from one of which a shell crashed through the armor of the Rebel boat, disabling an entire gun-crew.
The _Queen of the West_ attempted to perform her part of the work, but the current was so strong where the _Arkansas_ lay that it was impossible to deal an effective blow. The upper flotilla did not open fire to engage the attention of the enemy, and thus the unfortunate _Queen of the West_ was obliged to receive all the fire from the Rebel batteries. She was repeatedly perforated, but fortunately escaped without damage to her machinery. The _Arkansas_ was not seriously injured in the encounter, though the completion of her repairs was somewhat delayed.
On the 25th of July the first siege of Vicksburg was raised. The upper flotilla of gun-boats, mortar-rafts, and transports, returned to Memphis and Helena. Admiral Farragut took his fleet to New Orleans. General Williams went, with his land forces, to Baton Rouge. That city was soon after attacked by General Breckinridge, with six thousand men. The Rebels were repulsed with heavy loss. In our own ranks the killed and wounded were not less than those of the enemy. General Williams was among the slain, and at one period our chances, of making a successful defense were very doubtful.
The _Arkansas_ had been ordered to proceed from Vicksburg to take part in this attack, the Rebels being confident she could overpower our three gun-boats at Baton Rouge. On the way down the river her machinery became deranged, and she was tied up to the bank for repairs. Seeing our gun-boats approaching, and knowing he was helpless against them; her commander ordered the _Arkansas_ to be abandoned and blown up. The order was obeyed, and this much-praised and really formidable gun-boat closed her brief but brilliant career.
The Rebels were greatly chagrined at her loss, as they had expected she would accomplish much toward driving the National fleet from the Mississippi. The joy with which they hailed her appearance was far less than the sorrow her destruction evoked.
THE MARCH THROUGH ARKANSAS.–THE SIEGE OF CINCINNATI.
General Curtis’s Army reaching Helena.–Its Wanderings.–The Arkansas Navy.–Troops and their Supplies “miss Connection.”–Rebel Reports.–Memphis in Midsummer.–“A Journey due North.”–Chicago.–Bragg’s Advance into Kentucky.–Kirby Smith in Front of Cincinnati.–The City under Martial Law.–The Squirrel Hunters.–War Correspondents in Comfortable Quarters.–Improvising an Army.–Raising the Siege.–Bragg’s Retreat.
About the middle of July, General Curtis’s army arrived at Helena, Arkansas, ninety miles below Memphis. After the battle of Pea Ridge, this army commenced its wanderings, moving first to Batesville, on the White River, where it lay for several weeks. Then it went to Jacksonport, further down that stream, and remained a short time. The guerrillas were in such strong force on General Curtis’s line of communications that they greatly restricted the receipt of supplies, and placed the army on very short rations. For nearly a month the public had no positive information concerning Curtis’s whereabouts. The Rebels were continually circulating stories that he had surrendered, or was terribly defeated.
The only reasons for doubting the truth of these stories were, first, that the Rebels had no force of any importance in Arkansas; and second, that our army, to use the expression of one of its officers, “wasn’t going round surrendering.” We expected it would turn up in some locality where the Rebels did not desire it, and had no fears of its surrender.
General Curtis constructed several boats at Batesville, which were usually spoken of as “the Arkansas navy.” These boats carried some six or eight hundred men, and were used to patrol the White River, as the army moved down its banks. In this way the column advanced from Batesville to Jacksonport, and afterward to St. Charles.
Supplies had been sent up the White River to meet the army. The transports and their convoy remained several days at St. Charles, but could get no tidings of General Curtis. The river was falling, and they finally returned. Twelve hours after their departure, the advance of the lost army arrived at St. Charles.
From St. Charles to Helena was a march of sixty miles, across a country destitute of every thing but water, and not even possessing a good supply of that article. The army reached Helena, weary and hungry, but it was speedily supplied with every thing needed, and put in condition to take the offensive. It was soon named in general orders “the Army of Arkansas,” and ultimately accomplished the occupation of the entire State.
During July and August there was little activity around Memphis. In the latter month, I found the climate exceedingly uncomfortable. Day after day the atmosphere was hot, still, stifling, and impregnated with the dust that rose in clouds from the parched earth. The inhabitants endured it easily, and made continual prophesy that the _hot_ weather “would come in September.” Those of us who were strangers wondered what the temperature must be, to constitute “hot” weather in the estimation of a native. The thermometer then stood at eighty-five degrees at midnight, and ninety-eight or one hundred at noon. Few people walked the streets in the day, and those who were obliged to do so generally moved at a snail’s pace. Cases of _coup-de-soleil_ were frequent. The temperature affected me personally, by changing my complexion to a deep yellow, and reducing my strength about sixty per cent.
I decided upon “A Journey due North.” Forty-eight hours after sweltering in Memphis, I was shivering on the shores of Lake Michigan. I exchanged the hot, fever-laden atmosphere of that city, for the cool and healthful air of Chicago. The activity, energy, and enterprise of Chicago, made a pleasing contrast to the idleness and gloom that pervaded Memphis. This was no place for me to exist in as an invalid. I found the saffron tint of my complexion rapidly disappearing, and my strength restored, under the influence of pure breezes and busy life. Ten days in that city prepared me for new scenes of war.
At that time the Rebel army, under General Bragg, was making its advance into Kentucky. General Buell was moving at the same time toward the Ohio River. The two armies were marching in nearly parallel lines, so that it became a race between them for Nashville and Louisville. Bragg divided his forces, threatening Louisville and Cincinnati at the same time. Defenses were thrown up around the former city, to assist in holding it in case of attack, but they were never brought into use. By rapid marching, General Buell reached Louisville in advance of Bragg, and rendered it useless for the latter to fling his army against the city.
Meantime, General Kirby Smith moved, under Bragg’s orders, to the siege of Cincinnati. His advance was slow, and gave some opportunity for preparation. The chief reliance for defense was upon the raw militia and such irregular forces as could be gathered for the occasion. The hills of Covington and Newport, opposite Cincinnati, were crowned with fortifications and seamed with rifle-pits, which were filled with these raw soldiers. The valor of these men was beyond question, but they were almost entirely without discipline. In front of the veteran regiments of the Rebel army our forces would have been at great disadvantage.
When I reached Cincinnati the Rebel army was within a few miles of the defenses. On the train which took me to the city, there were many of the country people going to offer their services to aid in repelling the enemy. They entered the cars at the various stations, bringing their rifles, which they well knew how to use. They were the famous “squirrel-hunters” of Ohio, who were afterward the subject of some derision on the part of the Rebels. Nearly twenty thousand of them volunteered for the occasion, and would have handled their rifles to advantage had the Rebels given them the opportunity.
At the time of my arrival at Cincinnati, Major-General Wallace was in command. The Queen City of the West was obliged to undergo some of the inconveniences of martial law. Business of nearly every kind was suspended. A provost-marshal’s pass was necessary to enable one to walk the streets in security. The same document was required of any person who wished to hire a carriage, or take a pleasant drive to the Kentucky side of the Ohio. Most of the able-bodied citizens voluntarily offered their services, and took their places in the rifle-pits, but there were some who refused to go. These were hunted out and taken to the front, much against their will. Some were found in or under beds; others were clad in women’s garments, and working at wash-tubs. Some tied up their hands as if disabled, and others plead baldness or indigestion to excuse a lack of patriotism. All was of no avail. The provost-marshal had no charity for human weakness.
This severity was not pleasant to the citizens, but it served an admirable purpose. When Kirby Smith arrived in front of the defenses, he found forty thousand men confronting him. Of these, not over six or eight thousand had borne arms more than a week or ten days. The volunteer militia of Cincinnati, and the squirrel-hunters from the interior of Ohio and Indiana, formed the balance of our forces. Our line of defenses encircled the cities of Covington and Newport, touching the Ohio above and below their extreme limits. Nearly every hill was crowned with a fortification. These fortifications were connected by rifle-pits, which were kept constantly filled with men. On the river we had a fleet of gun-boats, improvised from ordinary steamers by surrounding their vulnerable parts with bales of hay. The river was low, so that it was necessary to watch several places where fording was possible. A pontoon bridge was thrown across the Ohio, and continued there until the siege was ended.
It had been a matter of jest among the journalists at Memphis and other points in the Southwest, that the vicissitudes of war might some day enable us to witness military operations from the principal hotels in the Northern cities. “When we can write war letters from the Burnet or the Sherman House,” was the occasional remark, “there will be some personal comfort in being an army correspondent.” What we had said in jest was now proving true. We could take a carriage at the Burnet House, and in half an hour stand on our front lines and witness the operations of the skirmishers. Later in the war I was enabled to write letters upon interesting topics from Detroit and St. Paul.
The way in which our large defensive force was fed, was nearly as great a novelty as the celerity of its organization. It was very difficult to sever the red tape of the army regulations, and enable the commissary department to issue rations to men that belonged to no regiments or companies. The people of Cincinnati were very prompt to send contributions of cooked food to the Fifth Street Market-House, which was made a temporary restaurant for the defenders of the city. Wagons were sent daily through nearly all the streets to gather these contributed supplies, and the street-cars were free to all women and children going to or from the Market-House. Hundreds walked to the front, to carry the provisions they had prepared with their own hands. All the ordinary edibles of civilized life were brought forward in abundance. Had our men fought at all, they would have fought on full stomachs.
The arrival of General Buell’s army at Louisville rendered it impossible for Bragg to take that city. The defenders of Cincinnati were re-enforced by a division from General Grant’s army, which was then in West Tennessee. This arrival was followed by that of other trained regiments and brigades from various localities, so that we began to contemplate taking the offensive. The Rebels disappeared from our front, and a reconnoissance showed that they were falling back toward Lexington. They burned the turnpike and railway bridges as they retreated, showing conclusively that they had abandoned the siege.
As soon as the retirement of the Rebels was positively ascertained, a portion of our forces was ordered from Cincinnati to Louisville. General Buell’s army took the offensive, and pursued Bragg as he retreated toward the Tennessee River. General Wallace was relieved, and his command transferred to General Wright.
A change in the whole military situation soon transpired. From holding the defensive, our armies became the pursuers of the Rebels, the latter showing little inclination to risk an encounter. The battle of Perryville was the great battle of this Kentucky campaign. Its result gave neither army much opportunity for exultation.
In their retreat through Kentucky and Tennessee, the Rebels gathered all the supplies they could find, and carried them to their commissary depot at Knoxville. It was said that their trains included more than thirty thousand wagons, all of them heavily laden. Large droves of cattle and horses became the property of the Confederacy.
THE BATTLE OF CORINTH.
New Plans of the Rebels.–Their Design to Capture Corinth,–Advancing to the Attack.–Strong Defenses.–A Magnificent Charge.–Valor _vs._ Breast-Works.–The Repulse.–Retreat and Pursuit.–The National Arms Triumphant.
The Bragg campaign into Kentucky being barren of important results, the Rebel authorities ordered that an attempt should be made to drive us from West Tennessee. The Rebel army in Northern Mississippi commenced the aggressive late in September, while the retreat of Bragg was still in progress. The battle of Iuka resulted favorably to the Rebels, giving them possession of that point, and allowing a large quantity of supplies to fall into their hands. On the 4th of October was the famous battle of Corinth, the Rebels under General Van Dorn attacking General Rosecrans, who was commanding at Corinth.
The Rebels advanced from Holly Springs, striking Corinth on the western side of our lines. The movement was well executed, and challenged our admiration for its audacity and the valor the Rebel soldiery displayed. It was highly important for the success of the Rebel plans in the Southwest that we should be expelled from Corinth. Accordingly, they made a most determined effort, but met a signal defeat.
Some of the best fighting of the war occurred at this battle of Corinth. The Rebel line of battle was on the western and northern side of the town, cutting off our communications with General Grant at Jackson. The Rebels penetrated our line, and actually obtained possession of a portion of Corinth, but were driven out by hard, earnest work. It was a struggle for a great prize, in which neither party was inclined to yield as long as it had any strength remaining to strike a blow.
The key to our position was on the western side, where two earth-works had been thrown up to command the approaches in that direction. These works were known as “Battery Williams” and “Battery Robbinette,” so named in honor of the officers who superintended their erection and commanded their garrisons at the time of the assault. These works were on the summits of two small hills, where the ascent from the main road that skirted their base was very gentle. The timber on these slopes had been cut away to afford full sweep to our guns. An advancing force would be completely under our fire during the whole time of its ascent. Whether succeeding or failing, it must lose heavily.
[Illustration: THE REBEL CHARGE AT CORINTH.]
General Van Dorn gave Price’s Division the honor of assaulting these works. The division was composed of Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas regiments, and estimated at eight thousand strong. Price directed the movement in person, and briefly told his men that the position must be taken at all hazards. The line was formed on the wooded ground at the base of the hills on which our batteries stood. The advance was commenced simultaneously along the line.
As the Rebels emerged from the forest, our guns were opened. Officers who were in Battery Williams at the time of the assault, say the Rebels moved in splendid order. Grape and shell made frequent and wide gaps through their ranks, but the line did not break nor waver. The men moved directly forward, over the fallen timber that covered the ground, and at length came within range of our infantry, which had been placed in the forts to support the gunners. Our artillery had made fearful havoc among the Rebels from the moment they left the protection of the forest. Our infantry was waiting with impatience to play its part.
When the Rebels were fairly within range of our small-arms, the order was given for a simultaneous volley along our whole line. As the shower of bullets struck the Rebel front, hundreds of men went down. Many flags fell as the color-bearers were killed, but they were instantly seized and defiantly waved. With a wild cheer the Rebels dashed forward up to the very front of the forts, receiving without recoil a most deadly fire. They leaped the ditch and gained the parapet. They entered a bastion of Battery Williams, and for a minute held possession of one of our guns.
Of the dozen or more that gained the interior of the bastion, very few escaped. Nearly all were shot down while fighting for possession of the gun, or surrendered when the parapet was cleared of those ascending it. The retreat of the Rebels was hasty, but it was orderly. Even in a repulse their coolness did not forsake them. They left their dead scattered thickly in our front. In one group of seventeen, they lay so closely together that their bodies touched each other. An officer told me he could have walked along the entire front of Battery Williams, touching a dead or wounded Rebel at nearly every step. Two Rebel colonels were killed side by side, one of them falling with his hand over the edge of the ditch. They were buried where they died. In the attack in which the Rebels entered the edge of the town, the struggle was nearly as great. It required desperate fighting for them to gain possession of the spot, and equally desperate fighting on our part to retake it. All our officers who participated in this battle spoke in admiration of the courage displayed by the Rebels. Praise from an enemy is the greatest praise. The Rebels were not defeated on account of any lack of bravery or of recklessness. They were fully justified in retreating after the efforts they made. Our army was just as determined to hold Corinth as the Rebels were to capture it. Advantages of position turned the scale in our favor, and enabled us to repulse a force superior to our own.
Just before the battle, General Grant sent a division under General McPherson to re-enforce Corinth. The Rebels had cut the railway between the two points, so that the re-enforcement did not reach Corinth until the battle was over.
On the morning following the battle, our forces moved out in pursuit of the retreating Rebels. At the same time a column marched from Bolivar, so as to fall in their front. The Rebels were taken between the two columns, and brought to an engagement with each of them; but, by finding roads to the south, managed to escape without disorganization. Our forces returned to Corinth and Bolivar, thinking it useless to make further pursuit.
Thus terminated the campaign of the enemy against Corinth. There was no expectation that the Rebels would trouble us any more in that quarter for the present, unless we sought them out. Their defeat was sufficiently serious to compel them to relinquish all hope of expelling us from Corinth.
During the time of his occupation of West Tennessee, General Grant was much annoyed by the wandering sons of Israel, who thronged his lines in great numbers. They were engaged in all kinds of speculation in which money could be made. Many of them passed the lines into the enemy’s country, and purchased cotton, which they managed to bring to Memphis and other points on the river. Many were engaged in smuggling supplies to the Rebel armies, and several were caught while acting as spies.
On our side of the lines the Jews were Union men, and generally announced their desire for a prompt suppression of the Rebellion. When under the folds of the Rebel flag they were the most ardent Secessionists, and breathed undying hostility to the Yankees. Very few of them had any real sympathy with either side, and were ready, like Mr. Pickwick, to shout with the largest mob on all occasions, provided there was money to be made by the operation. Their number was very great. In the latter half of ’62, a traveler would have thought the lost tribes of Israel were holding a reunion at Memphis.
General Grant became indignant, and issued an order banishing the Jews from his lines. The order created much excitement among the Americans of Hebraic descent. The matter was placed before the President, and the obnoxious restriction promptly revoked. During the time it was in force a large number of the proscribed individuals were obliged to go North.
Sometimes the Rebels did not treat the Jews with the utmost courtesy. On one occasion a scouting party captured two Jews who were buying cotton. The Israelites were robbed of ten thousand dollars in gold and United States currency, and then forced to enter the ranks of the Rebel army. They did not escape until six months later.
In Chicago, in the first year of the war, a company of Jews was armed and equipped at the expense of their wealthier brethren. The men composing the company served their full time, and were highly praised for their gallantry.
The above case deserves mention, as it is an exception to the general conduct of the Jews.
THE CAMPAIGN FROM CORINTH.
Changes of Commanders.–Preparations for the Aggressive.–Marching from Corinth.–Talking with the People.–“You-uns and We-uns.”–Conservatism of a “Regular.”–Loyalty and Disloyalty.–Condition of the Rebel Army.–Foraging.–German Theology for American Soldiers.–A Modest Landlord.–A Boy without a Name.–The Freedmen’s Bureau.–Employing Negroes.–Holly Springs and its People.–An Argument for Secession.
Two weeks after the battle of Corinth, General Rosecrans was summoned to the Army of the Cumberland, to assume command in place of General Buell. General Grant was placed at the head of the Thirteenth Army Corps, including all the forces in West Tennessee. Preparations for an aggressive movement into the enemy’s country had been in progress for some time. Corinth, Bolivar, and Jackson were strongly fortified, so that a small force could defend them. The base of supply was at Columbus, Kentucky, eighty-five miles due north of Jackson, thus giving us a long line of railway to protect.
On the first of November the movement began, by the advance of a column from Corinth and another from Bolivar. These columns met at Grand Junction, twenty-five miles north of Holly Springs, and, after lying there for two weeks, advanced to the occupation of the latter