On tbe Road to Corinth - Order to March - Joke on Sergeant Reed - First Earthworks - Second Advance - Camp Number Six - Engagement at the Russell House - Talk with the Rebel Pickets - Separation of Mother and Child - Last Line of Earthworks - Evacuation of Corinth - The Pursuit and Return - Comparison of the Two Armies.
APRIL 29th, we received marching orders, and moved with the Division towards Corinth, Miss., leaving a very large number of the Regiment sick in the tents, who were sent home a few days later by the Sanitary Commission.
We marched about six miles and camped. - May 1st, the following order was issued to the Army: "The troops will at once be prepared for a rapid march, and each soldier will carry three days' rations in his haversack, and the wagons four days' rations additional. The baggage will be limited to two tents for each company for all purposes, the allowance of axes and spades, and such cooking utensils as are absolutely necessary. The soldiers will carry their blankets only, leaving their knapsacks in camp. One hundred and forty rounds of ammunition will be taken along - forty rounds in the cartridge boxes, and one hundred rounds in the wagons; and on the eve of a battle forty additional rounds will be issued each man, to be carried on bis person."
During our stay here an amusing incident occurred. Serg't. Reed, of Co. B, received information from some wag in the Regiment that he had been promoted to Second Lieutenant. He immediately procured his shoulder-straps, and proposed to treat the Company in honor of the event, but on going to the sutler, he found that he had sold everything except some stale butter. In the absence of something better, he purchased fifteen or twenty pounds and distributed it to his Company. After he had aired his straps, to the delight of the Regiment, for several days, the joke leaked out, and none laughed more than he when he discovered the sell.
May 3d, we received two months' pay, being the second payment in the service. On the 4th, we received four days' rations. The crackers proved to be mouldy and worm-eaten. On the 5th we were ordered to advance, which we did with great caution, and camped toward evening. In the mean time a heavy rain set in and continued, without intermission, for fifteen hours. After we had selected our camp and made shelters to protect us from the rain, orders were received to send a strong force of the Regiment on picket, which was not agreeable news in the face of a driving rain. Through some misunderstanding we were taken to the wrong picket-line, and were afterward transferred to the reserve, in an open field, near a fence, which we used in making shelter. On returning to camp the following day, we learned that the high waters had swept away the bridges between us and the Landing; also, that the four days' damaged rations, issued on the 4th, would have to last us eight days. We cut the timber in our front, and constructed earthworks, but had scarcely completed them when we advanced one mile on the following day, and built a new line of defenses. Our arms were always stacked convenient while we were at work. Every morning at four o'clock we were in our fortifications, prepared for an attack, and remained there for two hours.
Capt. Frazee, having recovered from his sickness, returned for duty and took command of the Regiment. May 12th we occupied Camp Number Five, seven miles from Corinth. We spent every night in our rifle-pits, prepared for a night attack. The alarms and long-rolls were frequent, but did not lead to any general engagement. May 13th we advanced two miles and established a new line of defenses at Camp Number Six. May 17th we received orders to be ready for a reconnoisance in force with the 72d and 54th Ohio and 8th Missouri. We had proceeded but a short distance when the 54th Ohio, on our left, became hotly engaged.
The rebels were found in strong force at the Russell House. With the aid of artillery they were dislodged, and we drove them several miles. At dark we fell back a short distance, and bivouacked for the night. We had taken no rations, but they were sent to us the next morning; and at noon we were back in camp again.
Our works here were very formidable. There were several batteries of heavy and light artillery in position. The 53d Ohio was added to our brigade, which was now commanded by Geo. J. W. Denver, and occupied the right of Gen. Sherman's Division.
May 20th, we made another advance, and established a new line a considerable distance to the right, designated as Camp Number Seven, where, with our usual promptness, we were soon in position behind our new works.
May 26th, while on picket near the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, we discovered the rebel pickets on the opposite side. Quite a number of us advanced to within speaking distance, keeping well protected behind the trees; we then opened fire on them, which they returned, with the remark that we were firing too high. It was kept up until toward evening, when we proposed to them to quit firing during the night, to which they consented. We kept a sharp look-out, but everything was quiet until daylight, when we heard a pack of hounds on the trail of a deer. It was coming at full speed toward our lines. As soon as it came in sight, D. Edginton fired, killing it instantly. That day we had venison for dinner. Soon after, a rebel picket inquired whether we had a daily paper. One of our men had a Cincinnati Commercial of May 20, '62. It was proposed that they could have the paper by coming after it. They met us on the railroad, leaving all arms and ammunition behind. Quite an interesting conversation passed between us; among other things, we agreed to have no more picket-firing in future - which agreement was sacredly kept on our end of the line. They stated that they had plenty to eat, and received whisky and coffee twice a week; that they were fighting for their rights and liberties; that the Union was "played out," and that Gen. Beauregard was in command, and Gen. Bragg second in command, at Corinth, which was four and one-half miles from our camp; that they were ready for us, and although the prospects looked gloomy, they were the boys to fight it out. They also asked the very impertinent question, whether we did not think that they were right and we wrong in regard to the war? The discussion was getting quite warm, when by mutual consent we changed the subject. After a half-hour's conversation we separated and returned to our picket lines. They were in plain view frequently during the day, but we did not molest them.
After the evacuation of Corinth, a citizen related to us that he was in Corinth and heard the rebel pickets telling of their adventure on the picketline, the day after it took place. He said it was spoken of a great deal in the army, and the pickets were looked upon as the heroes of the day. In the evening we were relieved and returned to camp.
As we neared Corinth, the supply of water for the army became a problem. The water for man and beast was taken from the same stagnant pools in the almost dried-up small streams. The enemy, knowing our condition, fought desperately wherever a pond of any size was found.
During one of our advance movements, an interesting incident occurred. Lieut. Posegate, in command of Co. A, was sent forward as skirmishers. They had driven the rebels before them, and occupied a position between two farm houses. A woman left her child in the house alone, while she went on an errand to a neighbor's house, situated between her home and our lines. During her brief absence our army had advanced, leaving her in our lines, and her dwelling and child half-way between the two contending armies, with every indication of a battle at hand. The woman was almost frantic for the safety of her child. She had been led to believe that the Yankees murdered all that came in their way. But through the kindness of Lieut. Posegate, she reached her home in safety, and after thanking him for his services, she stated that no earthly consideration, except the thoughts of her child, would have induced her to pass between two armies facing each other, prepared for battle; and if her husband, who was in the Southern Army at Corinth, knew how kindly she had been treated by the Union soldiers, he wouldn't remain in arms against us another day! No doubt the woman and child were removed to a place of safety, as they were never seen again.
On the 29th we moved forward with the army, driving the rebel out-posts before us for about a mile, and establishing a new line in a strip of timber on a slight elevation, from which their batteries attempted to dislodge us, but did not succeed. After the troops were all in position, our Regiment was ordered to support the 4th Indiana Battery, which kept up a heavy cannonading until dark, when their firing ceased and work on the earthworks commenced. The night being very dark, and no lights allowed, the line for the rifle-pits was made by laying down rails six feet apart, and throwing out the ground between them. Our task was completed at midnight, when we lay upon our arms as usual, "to sleep, perchance to dream." A light breeze was blowing from the south, and during the night we could plainly hear the movement of trains on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, bands playing, and see the rockets ascending in the air, signaling their out-posts, which clearly indicated that they were evacuating.
While at breakfast the following morning, May 30th, we heard heavy explosions in the direction of Corinth. The rebels were evidently destroying what could not be carried away. Soon the word came, "Corinth is evacuated."
The 48th and 72d Ohio received orders to advance immediately. After passing the pickets, Companies A and B were sent forward as skirmishers, leaving Co. C at the right of the Regiment. After passing through a narrow strip of timber, we reached an open country, in which the fortifications of Corinth were located. When within fifty yards of their works we halted and gave three rousing cheers for the "old flag;" after which we advanced over the works on double-quick through dust and heat for about two miles, when we halted in sight of Corinth. As soon as the rest of our brigade arrived, we advanced again, the 48th and 72d taking the lead. We passed through Corinth, which we found smoldering in ruins, and halted a short distance beyond the town, near the forks of a road, where the rebels had gone to the trouble to put up a large fingerboard, with the inscription, "Take the road to the left." The enemy being out of our reach, and further pursuit by the infantry useless, we returned to our camp in the evening. The result of the capture of Corinth was the fall of Memphis and Fort Pillow. By getting in their rear it made both places untenable, and they fell an easy prey to the gunboat squadron.
The following description of the evacuation of Corinth is from a Southern history, "The War in the West :"
"Halleck dug and dug, and pulled his immense army forward slowly and painfully as a wounded snake. Steel met steel - gun answered gun in the pines around Hamburg, and the glitter of bright bayonets, away over to the left, told a busy story of Bragg's adventure and unceasing activity. But an enemy invaded the heart of Beauregard's camp, more terrible, more deadly, than Halleck's vast host, if it had been doubled. It was the soldier's enemy - disease. The sultry sun, the putrid water, the unwholesome food, the low, swampy country, the unceasing duty, the long, eternal battle, sapped the elan of the young volunteers, and filled the hospitals and the graveyards with the best blood of the South.
"Train after train carried the miserable sufferers southward, but train after train was still in demand, and the epidemic increased and the mortality was fearful. One hot, weary afternoon, Captain -- received orders to call in all his out-lying detachments, prepare three days rations, and march directly on Corinth. A battle was deemed inevitable, for latterly the skirmishes had been unusually severe, and ever and anon the hoarse voice of the heavy Parrots could be heard, loud above the noisy and more rapid discharges of the field artillery. Corinth was reached at nightfall, and the command slept on their arms just northward of the town, the sentinels halting in their mechanical beats long enough to catch the echoes of Halleck's distant signal-guns, and to watch the outpost cavalry rockets going up among the clouds.
"Before daylight the next morning, a vast, compact column, sixteen deep; came from Bragg's line on the left, and marched away in silence toward Tupelo, followed by artillery, wagons, cavalry, and a sickly train of pale faces and emaciated bodies. It was Beauregard, evacuating Corinth before the pestilence, but not from fear of Halleck. The living tide surged past, all the long, hot day, and every step was proud, and every gun glistened brightly in the sun-light. A death-like silence pervaded the deserted streets; the usual cannonading on the left had ceased. Van Dorn's stubborn pickets no longer plied their vengeful rifles, and the patrolling cavalry hushed the clank of sabers and the shrill neighing of their lonesome steeds. The last regiment who left the grave-girdled town, marched in skirmish order, with their loaded guns and bayonets fixed."
This shows that Gen. Beauregard's army was in a fearful condition, and all the hardships and privations of the siege that they endured would apply to our own army in a still greater degree, for we were on the offensive and not acclimated, while they were on the defensive, fighting within sight of their own homes. But the condition of our army was never better during the siege.
Of the splendid condition of our army when we entered Corinth, Gen. Sberman
says: - "I esteem it (the siege of Corinth ) a magnificent drill, as
it served for the instruction of our men in guard and picket duty, and in
habituating them to out-door life, and by the time we had reached Corinth,
I believe that army was the best then on this continent, and could have
gone where it pleased."