Thursday, May 31, 2012

"All Aboard"

With the valuable crossroads of the Mobile & Ohio RR and the Memphis & Charleston RR in hand, Halleck calls for engineers to reconstruct the lines and get the trains running on this day in 1862.  For all of his hesitance to engage the enemy, "Old Brains" is wasting no time on this logistical problem.

Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
Corinth, May 31, 1862.

Main body of the enemy has moved south toward Okolona. General Pope, with 50,000, men is following him. I do not, however, propose to pursue him far into Mississippi. Having no baggage trains except railroad trains, he can moved much faster than we can pursue. I propose to immediately open the railroad to Decatur, Ala., and to Columbus, Ky. The fall of the Tennessee river will soon render the use of this road necessary to us for supplies. The destruction of the Decatur Bridge by General Mitchel was a most foolish operation. If that had not been done we could have had a connection with him in one week. As it is, we must receive our locomotives and cars from the Ohio River. I have ordered an examination of the road toward Florence, and I think a couple of locomotives landing at that place with cars could be immediately brought here, and be of great assistance to us in repairing the road to Columbus, Ky. Please inform me immediately if an agent of the War Department will act in this matter of procuring locomotives and cars or if I shall detail a quartermaster for that duty. There is no time to be lost in this matter.

Major-General, Commanding*

As for the three divisions  of the Army of the Ohio...

HEADQUARTERS, May 31, 1862.
Major-General BUELL:

It is now fully shown that the main body of the enemy is retreating south. The first thing now to be done is to open the railroad to Decatur. You will therefore immediately put your Engineer Regiment and such railroad officers and men as you may have on that duty, opening the road as rapidly as possible to Tuscumbia, to which point a force will be sent from Pittsburg. Send with them a sufficient force to supply guards for working parties. Supplies can be landed, as they advance, at Tyler's, Eastport, &c.
I shall immediately order working parties on the road toward Humboldt.


*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Occupation of Corinth

During the night of May 29th, General Beauregard completed his evacuation of Corinth, leaving only a small rear guard.  Their main assignment was to cheer and welcome each arriving train  as if it were loaded with reinforcements to disguise the fact that they were empty trains arriving to evacuate the Army of Mississippi.*  This tactic was apparently successful as indicated by the following note from Pope.

Major-General HALLECK:

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

Major-General, Commanding.**

Amidst a flurry of confused messages flying between Pope and Halleck  (ORE pp 225-231) on this morning, General Nelson, commanding Buell's Fourth Division, sends the most accurate communication of the day.

HEADQUARTERS FOURTH DIVISION, In the Lines, May 30, 1862-5 a.m.

The prisoner that accompanies this states that enemy have gone, and the town appears to me to be on fire. He says that the infantry was withdrawn last night at 9 p.m. and that cavalry replaced them. I have ordered my line of pickets to advance and attack the cavalry, and if the enemy are gone I'll be the first in at Corinth.


Led by Nelson, the Union's long awaited advance into the city met with little resistance, and on this day in 1862 General Halleck was able to wire Secretary Stanton that his advance guards had entered  Corinth.  The first regiment to arrive was the Seventeenth Kentucky and it was their flag that was planted on the high ground at approximately the camera's position in the photograph below.  This crowning achievement was accomplished by Sgt. William T. King and Capt. Robert M. Davis, both of Company I.***

View from Corinth's main fortification facing east.  The 17th Kentucky entered from the northeast and crossed this open field virtually unopposed.

Honorable E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War
Camp near Corinth, May 30, 1862.

Enemy's positions and works in front of Corinth were exceedingly strong. He cannot occupy stronger positions. In his flight this morning he destroyed an immense amount of public and private property-stores, provisions, wagons, tents, &c. For miles out of the town the roads are filled with arms, haversacks, &c., thrown away by his flying troops. A large number of prisoners and deserters have been captured, and estimated by General Pope at 2,000. General Beauregard evidently distrusts his army, or he would have defended so strong a position. His troops are generally much discouraged and demoralized. In all their engagements the last few days their resistance has been weak.


It has been almost two month's since Grant's victory at Shiloh.  During this time Halleck amassed a force of 120,000 men (10,000 more than the total number of combatants at Shiloh), and advanced them 22 miles in 32 days, stopping seven times to build field fortifications along the way.  Although his objective was achieved with minimal losses, he allowed Beauregard to reorganize and reinforce his army via the railroads before escaping almost intact.

It is not clear if Halleck ever understood that, except for a few aforementioned skirmishes, his massive army was mostly pitted against Beauregard's stragglers and skirmish bait.  Beauregard's rear guard were selected from those who were marginally able-bodied.  Throughout these two months, "Old Brains" consistently exaggerated both the strength of the enemy and the success of his own troops. For example, in the above telegram he purports to have demoralized Beauregard's troops based on interviews with deserters and the stragglers left behind as a rear guard. 

The Siege of Corinth proved to be the first and last campaign under the direct command of General H.W. Halleck in the American Civil War.  The result was a strategic victory for the Union and a disaster for the citizens of Corinth, but militarily proved to be a draw.  He was called back to Washington and placed in the administrative position of General-in-Chief of the Army.

For further reading, see

*ref: my Favorite Link, Seven Score and Ten, May 30, 2012 post

**ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

***Blackburn, John; A Hundred Miles, A Hundred Heartbreaks, 1972, self-published, LOC 72-93774

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Siege is On

On this, the 31st day of Halleck's advance toward Corinth, it is appropriate to review the position of the Federal troops as they prepare for the final assault.  Their line extends along the northeastern edge of the city from Sherman's position just south of the Russell house in southern Tennessee to Pope's left wing positioned south of Farmington.  Nelson's Fourth Division of Buell's Army of the Ohio supports Pope's right flank and is headed straight for the center of town.

The Confederates' main fortification is on the high ground overlooking the town center and the railroad junction with entrenched positions  arcing from this fort through out the countryside.

The primary fortification at Corinth, current site of the Corinth Interpretive Center

On this day in 1862, the Union line of 120,000 men is advancing through the perimeter fortifications and the Confederates, numbering about 70,000, are falling back toward the junction and the protection of their heavy guns.  Pope and Sherman are sending conflicting reports of the enemy both reinforcing and withdrawing from their positions throughout the day as they prepare to wrap around the perimeter of Corinth.  Buell, holds his forward position less than a mile from the edge of town.

BUELL'S, May 29, 1862.
General HALLECK:

We have had some skirmishing, but generally it has been quiet in my front. My troops have not changed position. McCook's right is without doubt within 1,000 yards of the enemy's works. If you approve, I will to-morrow crowd the enemy back with a strong line of skirmishers and probably establish two or three divisions on McCook's line, on other side of creek. It seems to me it might be well for Pope to be prepared to move up at the same time, but not be ordered absolutely.


* ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Monday, May 28, 2012

Skirmish at Bridge Creek

The Tenth Brigade of Nelson's Division, including the Seventeenth Kentucky, remains engaged in the Skirmish at Bridge Creek on this day in 1862, the 30th day of  Halleck's Advance on Corinth.  The creek currently separates the two foes, and it is so thickly wooded on either side that only skirmish lines are effective.  There is no space for maneuvering cavalry or artillery.

Their push up the middle toward Corinth is accompanied by similar efforts on either side.  Only Pope's army on the left flank is successful in exposing an artillery battery.

Camp on Corinth Road, May 28, 1862.

Three strong reconnoitering columns advanced this morning on the right center and left, to feel the enemy and unmask his batteries. Enemy hotly contested his ground at each point, but was driven back with considerable loss. The column on the left encountered the strongest opposition. Our loss there 25 killed and wounded. The enemy left 30 dead on the field. Losses at other points not yet ascertained. Some 5 or 6 officers and a number of privates captured. The fighting will probably be renewed tomorrow morning at daybreak. The whole country is so thickly wooded that we are compelled to fell our way.


At the end of the day, as they had for the previous 30 days of this campaign, the men spread their bed rolls on the ground and slept the sleep of the weary.  At least they again felt like soldiers, not prisoners on some God-forsaken chain gang.  The volunteers thought they had done enough chopping and digging for one lifetime.  They had joined the army to traverse roads and bridges, not build them.

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Go / Don't Go

General Buell was ready to advance on this day in 1862 if nothing changed, per orders from General Halleck.  However, all through the night the sound of signal guns and heavy traffic was heard on the railroad at Corinth.  W.T. Sherman from the right flank reports his perception that they were moving toward Memphis, J.N.Pope on the left believes they were heading south toward Mobile.  Needless to say, Halleck orders more reconnaissance.

Major-General BUELL:

You will make a forced reconnaissance on your front to-morrow morning to ascertain the position and strength of the enemy's works. There will be a general advance on the right and left. Keep me fully advised of your movements.


Meanwhile, General Buell, remembering Halleck's ire at his failure to take an assigned position, was already pressing forward as previously ordered and the Seventeenth is involved in some brisk action at Bridge Creek.

General HALLECK:

After some sharp skirmishing my troops have driven the enemy beyond Bridge Creek, opposite my right and Sherman's left. The enemy appear to be in some force on the high ground on the opposite side of Bridge Creek.


Halleck replies, almost dismissively, with no acknowledgement of the action or inquiry as to casualties.

Major-General D. C. BUELL:

All right. Feel the enemy on the other side; and, if possible, ascertain the position of his batteries. This may involve some risk, but we must ascertain in this way his strength and position.


*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Site, Ohio State's eHistory

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ready, Set...

Halleck is now convinced that he will have no further reinforcements so he prepares to pull the trigger of the starter's pistol to initiate the push up the middle with Buell's three divisions on this date in 1862.

General BUELL.

If nothing has occurred to change the state of affairs in front, you will to-morrow establish your heavy batteries near Mrs. Serratt's house and drive the enemy's forces behind Bridge Creek..


*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Friday, May 25, 2012

Running Out of Options

Note Halleck's defensive posturing in his response to the War Department and President Lincoln and his not-so-subtle criticism of the war effort on this day in 1862.  Halleck is yet bombarded by requests from O.M. Mitchel and George Morgan in their efforts to control northern Alabama and The Cumberland Gap respectively. In fact, he is in the process of giving General Mitchel independent command over his troops.

May 25, 1862-6 p. m.

I have asked for no re-enforcements, but only whether any were to be sent to me. If any were to be sent, I would wait for them; if not, I would venture an attack. We are now in immediate presence of the enemy, and the battle may occur at any moment. I have every confidence that we shall succeed, but dislike to run any risk, and therefore have waited to ascertain if any more troops can be hoped for. Permit me to remark that we are operating upon too many points. Richmond and Corinth are now the great strategical points of war, and our success at these points should be insured at all hazards. My army is daily improving in health and discipline.


General Halleck seems to be running out of options and is facing the inevitability of a great battle for Corinth in the near future.

* ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Request Denied

The wide-ranging fears of civilians in the field had produced several requests for reinforcements that had apparently made their way to the top of the War Department. Assistant Secretary Scott's exaggerated rumor mongering was discussed in earlier posts (May 6 & 7).  The president sends the following letter in response to Major General Halleck on this day in 1862.

Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
WAR DEPARTMENT, May 24, 1862.
Major-General HALLECK,
Near Corinth, Miss:

Several dispatches from Assistant Secretary Scott and one from Governor Morton, asking re-enforcements for you, have been received. I beg you to be assured we do the best we can. I mean to cast no blame when I tell you each of our commanders along our line from Richmond to Corinth supposes himself to be confronted by numbers superior to his own. Under this pressure we thinned the line on the Upper Potomac, until yesterday it was broken at heavy loss to us, and General Banks put in great peril, out of which he is not yet extricated, and may be actually captured. We need men to repair this breach, and have them not at hand. My dear general, I feel justified to rely very much on you. I believe you and the brave officer and men with you can and will get the victory at Corinth.


ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Study in Contrast

Compare the following letters, both written on this day in 1862. It is easy to appreciate the broad range of commitment to the cause expressed by the volunteers.  Surely, all were ready to go home by this point, but their sense of duty to God and country dictated their actions.

By order of the Secretary of War:
WAR DEPARTMENT, May 23, 1862.

Major-General H. W. HALLECK, Camp near Corinth:

Your dispatch of 10 yesterday forenoon received.* Neither the Sanitary Commission nor the Governors of States have any authority from this Department to removed troops, under pretense of sickness or any other cause, without your authority. You are authorized to make and enforce any regulation you deem proper in respect to the sick or wounded, and to prevent any interference or conflict with your own regulations. Three regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and two batteries of artillery have been ordered from Kansas to join you.


By contrast, Lieutenant Wilbur Condit (17th Ky, Co.A), who is currently sick and whose home state is under attack from rebel forces, is anxious to rejoin his company before the battle begins.  He truly reflects the image of a soldier we all can admire.  On this day he writes home with a description of his current situation, showing concern for the secessionist activity back home.  It must have been terribly frustrating for the Kentucky volunteers to hear of the impunity with which John Hunt Morgan was marauding their state while they were taking the battle to the heart of Dixie.

May 23rd

Nothing new this morning- not so much as a sign of a fight as there has been for a week past- I would not be surprised if we did not fight much here at all but we may be held here in suspense for a month and then have a hard battle- all our officers and men are in good spirits and confident of gaining the victory tho fact is we are bound to gain it- we are under strict discipline and are always on duty that is either on picket- in line of battle or ready to march at a moments warning.  I hope the fight will ever come off and when perhaps we will not have such a hard time of it- a great many then we will be sent back to Ky to suppress any out breaks which many fear there but I don't think we will go soon but if we conquer Corinth we will not have much more fighting to do. Tell all of my friends that I would be very glad to get a letter from any of them and would write to them but have actually have not time or opportunity- give my best respects to all of them collectively.  You must not let the  Seisch [secessionists] crow over you at home as we are suffering as much so much away down here in Dixie to protect all of you from all who have come out openly to rein our government.  I would rather do my fighting in Ky.  It is a hard life but we will do the best we can and hope for better times.  I expect to return to Ky. when the war is over as all that is dear to me in this life is there.  I am learning to appreciate the advantage of friends and the name of Father, Mother, Brother or Sister seems dearer than ever.  Tell Katy I have not forgotten her yet and would rather be waked up to a good breakfast a little too soon than to a  breakfast of sheet iron crackers and bacon with orders to arms at 4 o'clock.

Good bye to all- do write often,
Wil Condit**

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favoritye Link, Ohio State's eHistory

**Hart, Beth Chin, Torn Asunder, Civil War in Ohio County and the Green River Country, 2003, McDowell Publications, Utica, Kentucky  p 317

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Condit Letters

When the Seventeenth was being formed at Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky in November of 1861 two brothers, Wilbur and Isaac Condit, were among those who answered the call of their president and Col. John McHenry.  Isaac (Co.G), aged 24, died of measles and pneumonia on 12-18-1861 before the unit was officially mustered in to the U.S. Army.  Wilbur (Co.A), however, survived the war as did a number of the letters written to his family.

Cincinnatus Condit, the older brother of Wil and Isaac,  joined a Union regiment in Knoxville, TN and served as a sergeant until promoted to 2nd Lieutenant.  In 1864 his feelings toward the war began to change and he received a dishonorable discharge in August of that year.

The trials and tribulations of the Condit family in particular and Ohio County in general are preserved for modern readers in Beth Chin Harp's Torn Asunder, Civil War in Ohio County and the Green River Country, along with transcripts of many priceless letters from Wilbur and Cincinnatus.  Copies of Torn Asunder are available from Helen McKeown.

One letter from Wilbur Condit to his sister, written in the field near Corinth  is reprinted below to give a flavor of his writings.  Future posts will usually feature excerpts for the sake of brevity.  Wil also wrote to his parents and brother while recovering from illness on this day in 1862.

May 22nd 1862
In Camp 2 1/2 miles from Corinth

Dear Sister, I have just received your very welcome letter of the 13th and was very glad to learn you were all well.  I am not at present but hope to be able to enter Corinth with our regiment in a few days, our pickets have been fighting within 1/2 mile of us for a week but to day things appear to be rather quite[sic]- as we hear but little musketry and no artillery yet it is now about one o'clock and the fight may begin in earnest before night.  Our regt have taken 10 prisoners (or deserters rather) to day- they say that Ky or Tenn. Men are not trusted in picket as they will come over to us their best friends.  Sis, I cannot say when this horrid war will cease but I state hope to be home by the 4th of July. If I do not you may conclude your self that I am doing the best I can for myself and country if I should fall in this struggle I hope to meet you all beyond the narrow limits of time- give my best respects to all of my lady acquaintances, as I want to write a few lines to Mother and Father.  I will bid you farewell at present- write soon and often- you will hear from me after the fight.
     For the present I remain your affectionate brother Wil.*

*Hart, Beth Chin, Torn Asunder: Civil War in Ohio County and the Green River Country,  2003, McDowell Publications, Utica, KY
pp 315-316.

Rank Attrition

As is the case throughout the war, brave and devoted soldiers on both sides continue to be discharged and/or sent to remote hospitals for treatment of wounds and sickness. For example, the payment records for S.T. Brown indicate that he was absent-sick on the bi-monthly pay periods ending June 30th and August 31st, but had rejoined the Seventeenth Kentucky Infantry during the September-October pay period.  This constant flow of men into and out of the camps played havoc with regimental integrity as reported by the Governor of Indiana, in the field with his volunteers, on this day in 1862.

CAMP NEAR CORINTH, May 22, 1862-9 a.m.
Secretary of War:

General Halleck's army has been greatly reduced by sickness. The enemy are in great force at Corinth, and have recently received re-enforcements. They evidently intend to make a desperate struggle at that point, and from all I can learn their leaders have utmost confidence in the result. They are constantly at work upon their intrenchments, which are becoming of a formidable character. It is fearful to contemplate the consequences of a defeat of Corinth. In the opinion of many officers our forces are at present outnumbered. I would most earnestly ask that, if it be possible, ten more [regiments] be at once detached from [other] points and sent here, and also that no time should be lost doing this, if it can be [done].

Governor of Indiana.*

The effect of this force depletion can be seen in the following letter from Halleck to the Secretary of War.  Note Halleck mentions "further delaying" the attack, which implies his strategy has already been to delay the battle.

Honorable E. M. STANTON.
CAMP, CORINTH ROAD, May 22, 1862.

Daily skirmishing between our reconnoitering parties and the enemy.
General Buell lost 25 men killed and wounded yesterday. Country in our front marshy and densely wooded. I hear nothing of the Kansas troops. Have they been ordered here? All my re-enforcements will be here in about four days. Beyond that I have nothing to expect from this department, and if none from other sources, there will be no use in further delaying an attack. The Sanitary Commission and State Governors carry away troops faster than I can recruit. Men only slightly unwell or feigning sickness are carried away without any authority.


*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sharp Skirmish at Serratt's

After previously testing the strength of the Union's left and right flanks,  it was Buell's men who were the target of the rebels' attention on this day in 1862.

Major-General HALLECK:

My reconnoitering party met a strong line of the enemy's skirmishers at the Widow Serratt's house, and drove them back after some sharp skirmishing, in which we had some 25 men wounded, 3 of them however by the premature explosion of one of our shells. The enemy retired to the opposite side of a large field on the left-hand side of the road and were pressed no farther, their force being sufficient to make it inexpedient to cross the open ground in front. The woods of the opposite side is quite thick, but three regiments were seen supporting their skirmishers. They exhibited no artillery. I directed our regiments to remain on the ground taken and return at dark. It is 700 yards beyond our outposts.


Buell now understands the importance of remaining in Halleck's prescribed position.  A less experienced general advancing on a city might be tempted to keep the ground he had taken at the cost of 25 casualties.

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Incremental" Redefined

May 20 is the twenty-second day of  General Halleck's twenty-two mile advance on Corinth, MS, and the following status report was sent to the Secretary of War.

FARMINGTON, May 20, 1862-8 p.m.
Secretary of War:

Our forces have been within 4 miles of Corinth for two days past. Enemy not disposed to attack in force, but we have had brisk skirmishing yesterday and to-day. To-morrow some troops will be moved forward to reconnoiter position of enemy. Heavy rains this evening. Please reply to my message of Saturday.

Assistant Secretary of War.*

One wonders if the West Point graduate might have been absent from math class years ago when this classic problem was presented:  If you are 22 miles away from your destination and each day you travel 1/2 the remaining distance, how many days will it take to get there?

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Confederates Test the Right

Amid verifyable reports from McClernand and Sherman on the right of Halleck's formation that the enemy is massing for an attack, Halleck informs Buell to strengthen his position and be prepared to press the enemy in front as well detach forces to his right on this day in 1862- a challenge for the general who has only three divisions under his command in the present arrangement.

Major General BUELL, in Field:

Considering how much we have at stake, I do not think we ought to omit any measure of security. Our line is a very long one, and if the enemy should attempt to turn us, forces from the center must be detached. In that case intrenchments would be exceedingly important.

You will use your own discretion as to the location. Perhaps the ground may be such as to require them on only a part of your front Of this you will be the judge. Do all you can in the way of reconnoitering the ground in your front.

There are very important reasons, which I will explain verbally, why an attack should not be delayed many days. I therefore wish the line from Farmington to Russell's made as secure as possible, so that we can proceed to press the enemy in front.


Don't forget that Buell is still commanding the divisions of George W. Morgan (currently stretched thin and trying to control the Cumberland Gap while occupying Nashville to Lexington, KY) and Ormsby M. Mitchel (responsible for south-central TN and currently engaged near Florence, AL). 

Despite the great rattle and hum generated by the rebel movement a general attack is not forthcoming, merely a test of strength.  The Confederates are probably still hoping to push the Union forces back toward the bogs of the Tennessee River and corral them along a stretch with no viable riverboat landings.

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Friday, May 18, 2012

Halleck Not Yet Satisfied

It seems that General Buell has now incurred the displeasure of Major General Halleck and finds himself under the scrutiny of "Old Brains".  Could it be a coincidence that these critical observations are being made only six days after Buell echoed General Morgan's complaints to Secretary Stanton, failing to copy his commander?  In any case, the growing frustration of both generals is demonstrated in the communications from this day in 1862.

Major-General BUELL, in Field:

I have observed to-day that my instructions have not been carried out in two respects.

First. Your army corps does not occupy the position assigned to it. Your right was directed to occupy Driver's and hold the road at that place. As you did not take that position yesterday, General Thomas was obliged to secure it. He will be directed to move to the right at 10 a.m. to-morrow, and it is expected that you will occupy this place at that hour.

Second. In making the advance all the army corps were directed to intrench themselves on the Farmington and Purdy road. I find intrenchments on the right and left wings, but none on the center.


Major-General HALLECK:

I certainly have intended to carry out your instructions, but where they have not been specific I have supposed that you expected me to exercise my own judgment. I did not know that any directions had been given to intrench. I supposed the flanks were doing so on their own judgment, and I considered that, though perhaps essential for them, you might not think it necessary for the center, especially if it held strong ground.

Your dispatch stating that you desired to occupy the Purdy and Farmington road, inquiring when I could move, and adding that it would probably be necessary to intrench on that line, I did not understand as an order to intrench, or even as indicating that you had determined in your own mind in regard to it. The line I now occupy is at certain points, on account of their natural strength, in advance of the Purdy road. Shall I exercise my judgment in regard to the position of the line or will you send an officer to fix it definitely, as well as the character of the intrenchments? General Thomas has his camp somewhat to the left of the Corinth road, but the position of my troops is that with which I expected to rest the right of my line of battle on the road at Driver's.


As for the Seventeenth Kentucky, Nelson later summarized , "On May 18 moved forward on the Farmington road and took up the position which the division encamped on until the evacuation of Corinth; threw up heavy intrenchments on the commanding ground in front of the camps. The pickets were daily skirmishing with those of the enemy. Occasionally the enemy would throw shells into our lines."

*ORE communications courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movement Happens

Like long awaited relief from intestinal stalemate, on this day in 1862, amidst a flurry of communications, movement happens.  The following records have been truncated and edited for purposes of continuity  and space.   ORE, Series 1, Vol. 10 , part 2 (Shiloh) pp 196-200 tells the whole story, while this post concentrates on the movement of the Seventeenth Kentucky and the rest of the Army of the Ohio.

Pope to Halleck: 
General Buell was unwilling to move this morning until he examined the ground he was to occupy, and I have been out with him ever since early this morning. Is it not too late to reach and occupy properly the designated positions before dark? Unless you direct otherwise, the movement will be postponed till morning. I need the whole day to make myself secure. I think an order from you fixing the hour of moving, say 5 a. m., would be best for all.
Please reply, as my command will be held ready to move until I hear from you.

Halleck to Buell:
You were ordered to move at 8 o'clock this morning. The movements of the right wing were based upon that. I do not understand the reason for the delay.

Buell to Halleck:
The reason for the delay was, that after making the examination which was necessary there was not time to get the troops well on the ground. I did not know that any of the right was to move to-day, nor did I understand that it was deemed necessary nor even important that the move should be made to-day, as you left it to General Pope and myself to decide on the time. I supposed that you would approve of a modification which we thought necessary.

Halleck to Buell:
You are entirely mistaken in supposing that the time of moving was left to be decided by you and General Pope. The time was definitely fixed on to be 8 a. m. when you left, and my orders to the right wing were based on that fact. The proportion of the ground to be occupied by each between Driver's and Farmington was the only matter left to be settled between you and General Pope. I regret very much that you have made any change in the programme arranged last evening without giving me previous notice and your reasons, as it derages [sic] my plans.

Buell to Halleck:
General Pope informs me this moment that he has moved his command. I shall therefore move mine at once.

Halleck to Buell:
Your not moving this morning, as agreed upon, has caused great embarrassment. General Thomas reports that his left has no support from you, and I have been obliged to draw back General Shermand [sic] on the right. Advise me as soon as possible of your position.

General Buell's move was eventually accomplished and by nightfall the armies were arranged just as the old general had planned, forming a continuous line just north of Corinth.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

W.C. Fields Anticipated

The troop movement planned for the previous day is now promised for tomorrow on this day in 1862.  Perhaps Halleck is anticipating the advice of W.C. Fields:  "Never put off 'till tomorrow what you can put off 'till the day after just as well."

Assistant Secretary of War.
FARMINGTON, May 16, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

All the divisions will be up to permanent line tomorrow evening, after which active operations may be expected. I will be located in Farmington village. Flag of truce from Beauregard appeared at our line yesterday, in charge of Colonel Jacob Thompson, late Secretary of the Interior, with 61 of our prisoners, releasted [sic] on parole. To-day an other flag arrived by Colonel John Pegram, with 114 more.
Beauregard sends all our surgeons tomorrow for exchange. Halleck will return an equal number, and left paroles of those sent in by the enemy. One of our men in from Corinth to-night says the enemy are receiving re-enforcements every day. A full and well-uniformed regiment of 1,000 men arrived this morning. All quiet in front. Weather clear and road good. Army in excellent condition.

Assistant Secretary of War.*

* ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Awaiting Orders

Having followed General Halleck's instructions from the previous day, Buell has his Army of the Ohio in readiness to make an incremental advance in the direction of Corinth on this day in 1862.  With his army including the Seventeenth prepared to march, Buell awaits orders from Halleck. Growing impatient he sends this note to "Old Brains".

May 15, 1862.

General HALLECK:

The reconnaissance to-day only extended along the Purdy and Farmington road from Driver's to Farmington and half mile or so beyond that road. The enemy's outposts fell back to Widow Serrat's.


Later in the day, Buell provides another nudge to the old general with the following suggestion.

May 15, 1862.

Major-General HALLECK:

I can advance whenever it suits you, though perhaps better after tomorrow, as it is now late; if not, immediately. I will have a further examination made of the ground beyond by scouts. I should deprecate the necessity of intrenching. A man belonging to a picket guard which was left at Driver's, from Sherman's division, has come into my camp, and reports that the guard has been driven back by the enemy.


But on this, the 17th day of the advance, whether in spite of or because of the many communications of the previous day, nothing happens.

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Monday, May 14, 2012

Grant Issues Command

General Halleck decides to test Grant's mettle by allowing him to issue a command to his former troops on this day in 1862.  Notice that Halleck chooses to instruct his 2nd in command through an assistant and that this assistant is still uncertain of the order of William Tecumseh Sherman's names, as was noted in last months' posts.

May 14, 1862.
Major General U. S. GRANT:

Direct T. W.[sic] Sherman's, McKean's, and Davies' divisions to advance tomorrow to vicinity of Seven Mile Creek, the left resting on Corinth road. W. T Sherman's division will not advance beyond Russell's or will remain near its present position. One brigade of McClernand's will occupy road from near the Locusts Easel's.

The cavalry of McKean's, Davies', W. T. Sherman's divisions will be in readiness at 7 o'clock to report to Brigadier General A. J. Smith, at General W. T. Sherman's headquarters. General Hurlbut's division will be ready to support the right in case of an attack.

General McClernand's cavalry will make a reconnaissance on his right in the direction of Purdy. General Wallace will push a reconnaissance in the direction of Purdy, and toward Veal's and Stantonville.

Assistant Adjutant-General.*

Surely Grant felt the warm hug of his new best friend while reading these instructions.  Of greater significance, however, is that the all-important advance on Corinth is scheduled to move two miles forward on the morrow.  Of course, the troops will have to stop and build field fortifications at the end of the day.

For a better appreciation of how complicated it can be to "advance" such a large army toward a common goal, read the communications between the generals on this day before the actual troop movements begin.

Also on this date, Brig. General William S. Rosecrans is ordered to report to Halleck at Pittsburg Landing by the Secretary of War in Special Order No. 107.

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Buell Asks Stanton for Help

Major General Don Buell, having been copied on Gen. George Morgan's letter to Stanton, adds his comments in support of more troops to guard against raids on Union supply lines in his letter on this day in 1862.  It is significant that he also chooses to bypass his commanding officer, "Old Brains" Halleck.

(Received May 14, 1862-9.45 a. m.)
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

There is great and immediate need of more cavalry in Kentucky and Tennessee. The warfare has already assumed a guerrilla character in Tennessee, and it is to be renewed in Kentucky by marauding bands organized in the State, assisted by a few rebel troops. Kentucky ought to have at least three more regiments and Tennessee two more, if they can be spared from the East. I would recommend that they be sent immediately. They cannot be had elsewhere.


Buell's statement that the troops "cannot be had elsewhere" is an obvious comment on Halleck's organizational  maneuvers.  How long can Stanton continue to ignore the alarm bells tolling of Haleck's inadequacies as a field commander?

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Grant Effectively Marginalized

The back-and-forth between U.S. Grant and General Halleck is back, as evidenced in this correspondence from "Old Brains" to the brash young Major-General on this day in 1862.

Monterey, May 12, 1862.

Major-General GRANT,
Commanding, &c.:

GENERAL: Your position, as second in command of the entire forces here in the field, rendered it proper that you should be relieved from the direct charge of either the right wing or the reserve, both of which are mainly composed of your forces. Orders for movements in the field will be sent direct from these headquarters to commanders of army corps, divisions, brigades, or even regiments, if deemed necessary, and you will have no more cause of complaint on that score than others have.

I am very much surprised, general, that you should find any cause of complaint in the recent assignment of commands. You have precisely the position to which your rank entitles you. Had I given you the right wing or reserve only it would have been a reduction rather than increase of command, and I could not give you both without placing you in the position you now occupy.

You certainly will not suspect me of any intention to injure your feelings or reputation or to do you any injustice; if so, you will eventually change your mind on this subject. For the last three months I have done everything in my power to ward off the attacks which were made upon you. If you believe me your friend you will not require explanations; if not, explanations on my part would be of little avail.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Grant must have bristled at the circular argument that concludes the second paragraph, and there is no record of Halleck ever doing anything to defend Grant from the baseless accusations that had been hurled at him since his widely praised victories at Forts Henry and Donelson.  It was Halleck himself that had forwarded these rumors directly to Washington, D.C. with no attempted verification.  Although Halleck implies he has taken the general under his wing, to Grant it must feel more like a thumb.

*ORE correspondence courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kentucky's Neutrality in the Balance

General Halleck's decision to advance on Corinth with such overwhelming force is having far-reaching consequences on this the twelfth day of his twenty-two mile march.  He had assumed that light garrison forces would be sufficient to hold the vast areas of central Tennessee, southern Kentucky and northern Alabama that he now occupied.  From Forts Donelson and Henry, Clarksville, Nashville and southward through Columbia to Pittsburg Landing and Huntsville, Alabama, small groups of rebels are having free reign of the countryside making bold and daring attacks on the Union supply lines-  most notoriously the raids conducted by John Hunt Morgan.

The frustration at Halleck's continuing refusal to relinquish any of his Corinth armies to protect occupied Tennessee and neutral Kentucky from such incursions is demonstrated in these missives to Secretary of War Edward M. Stanton on this day in 1862.  The first is from Lincoln's Military Governor of Occupied Tennessee, Andrew Johnson.

NASHVILLE, May 11, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON:

I am compelled to repeat and call the attention of the Secretary of War to my former dispatches in regard to amount of military force which should have been left in and about this place, to be disposed of as circumstances might require. The very fact of the forces being withdrawn from this locality has inspired secession with insolence and confidence and Union men with distrust as to the power and intention of the Government to protect and defend them. They have not arms; secessionists have. If there had been a military force left at this place sufficient to meet and suppress any uprising of disunionists, combined with returning troops from Corinth and other points and that fact being well known and understood through the whole country, there would have been no further difficulty and trouble in Tennessee. The whole moral power has been lost, and, in fact, we are here now almost in a helpless condition. Had my request been complied with, there would have been no Morgan raids through Middle Tennessee and Kentucky-no battles at Lebanon. This evening we hear of the capture of a train at Cave City, Ky. If these things had [not] occurred, on tomorrow we would have one of the largest Union meetings ever held in the State. As it is, I think there will be a very decided demonstration, which will do much good. The people are in a condition when they are satisfied the Government will sustain them in their efforts to restore their former position in the Union. We are doing all we can, and think we have done much. May God crown your efforts to save the country with success.


John Hunt Morgan was born in northern Alabama and served as a lieutenant in the US Army before settling in Lexington, Kentucky and becoming a captain of his own militia.  When Kentucky failed to secede in 1861, Morgan went south  and as of April 4th was a colonel in the Confederate Army.  In the area between Lexington and Huntsville he had a great deal of local support and his familiarity with the terrain made his highly mobile force of 900 men an awesome problem for the Unionists.

Morgan's primary goal was to draw Kentucky into secession by demonstrating how little the United States was willing to commit to their defense.  General George Morgan (US) commanded a division of volunteers (under Buell) near Lexington and his previous appeals to Halleck and Stanton for support had no effect and Stanton chastised him for going over Halleck's head.  Wishing to spare no additional troops to preserve the political stability of Kentucky,  it had been finally been suggested that he call up a few hundred of Kentucky's own Home Guard to help protect the trains and highways.  It seems Lincoln's earlier statement  that he wanted Tennessee but must have Kentucky had not trickled down to his commanders in the western theater.

May 11, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

This morning John Morgan with 500 men, captured and destroyed three coaches and forty-seven other cars at Cave City, between Louisville and Nashville.

I would respectfully suggest that route should be guarded by a force of two regiments of cavalry and that a similar force should guard the road between this camp and Lexington. The presidend [sic] of the Military Board of Frankfort informs me that we cannot organize a cavalry force in the time designated. If there are cavalry regiments in Indiana or Ohio they should be ordered immediately to Kentucky.

This telegraph is also sent to General Buell, Governors Morton and Tod, and the president of the Military Board at Frankfort.*

Brigadier-General Volunteers.*

Notice the glaring omission of Maj. General Commanding the Department, Henry Wagner Halleck in the "copy to" List.  General Buell, Commanding the Army of the Ohio which was to protect the area surrounding the Ohio River, was included for information only.  Morgan was well aware that he was constrained by Halleck's orders. Remember that his army at Corinth has been reduced to three divisions, two of which are protecting Pope's exposed flank.  The copies to Frankfort's Military Board and Governors  Morton (Indiana) and Tod (Ohio) indicate that this letter was clearly meant to send a political message.

*ORE communications courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Success or Failure?

On this day, the results of the Confederates' misinformation campaign are becoming clear.  They tricked  Pope  into exposing his numbers by reconoitering in full force.This caused Halleck to order two-thirds of Buell's army to protect his exposed right and two divisions of The Army of the Tennessee to their left to occupy the positions vacated by Buell.  Pope's misguided exploits have effectively shifted the Union advance three miles to the east despite Sherman's warnings of the previous day that he was encountering the enemy in force on the west. 

Pope seems intent on attacking Corinth through Farmington which lies five miles to the east.  Is he merely experiencing the exuberance of  easy victories the rebels have provided?  Are the Confederates truly that weak or are they drawing him into a trap? Remember that Pope and Halleck arrived at Shiloh several days after the battle and have never confronted the strength of the CSA's representatives in the field. Also that Halleck has never amended his report to Stanton denying that the rebels surprised the Union forces on April 6th.  He claimed that his men had two or three days prior notice of the attack. Perhaps this thread of communications will shed more light on the character of these two newcomers.

MONTEREY, May 10, 1862.
Major-General POPE:

I have been through the right and center to General Nelson. Buell moves two divisions to the left. Enemy reconnoitering on the right, apparently in force, evidently disposed to dispute the passage of Seven Mile Creek.


Pope remains preoccupied with his recent successes and proudly proclaims his dominance in the area.

May 10, 1862.

Major-General HALLECK:

All quiet in my front. My pickets occupy Farmington, as usual, the grand guards being in the hills beyond the creek. I can cross without difficulty any day.
I had the whole country on my left, as far as the railroad, thoroughly scoured by cavalry to-day. No signs of any enemy or that he had been there recently.
I am making several crossings of the creek at different places and can readily pass it any day you name.

JNumbers POPE,
Major-General, Commanding.*

Near Farmington, May 10, 1862.

Major-General HALLECK:

Deserter from Louisiana regiment in skirmish yesterday just in. Rebel force 35,000, under Bragg, Van Dorn, Hardee, and Price, with thirty-five pieces of artillery. Their purpose was to overwhelm my command and pursue to Tennessee River. We are supposed to number 10,000. Their loss was heavy, both in officers and men. Our loss I will report as soon as I can get returns. The country is clear to Farmington and beyond.

JNumbers POPE,
Major-General, Commanding.*

*ORE reports courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Buell Covers Pope's Exposed Flank

After spending the previous seeking out the Confederate positions, General Pope had returned to his camps.  But on this day in 1862 he discovers even more about their positions.

FARMINGTON, May 9, 1862.
Major-General HALLECK:

The enemy has advanced in such heavy force that the infantry command on opposite side of creek could not retain their position, and I did not wish to support them too strongly, as it would have brought on a general engagement. I have therefore withdrawn them to this side, and my whole command is in battle order. I have not heard from Nelson nor Buell and have no idea where they are. The enemy may attempt to follow us; but, if so, we are able to hold our own for a long time.

JNumbers POPE,

With about 2 1/2 miles of wetlands between Pope's right and Buell's left, Halleck urgently demands that Buell send  Nelson's division to close this gap, less the enemy wedge themselves between the two armies.  Buell, who only has three divisions after Halleck's latest restructuring responds with his best judgement.

May 9, 1862.
General HALLECK:

I have sent two divisions over to support Pope's right flank, information having come to me that our pickets have been driven in at Nichols' Ford. If the enemy appears there in force I shall move my whole command there, as any success of the enemy which would intercept my route across Chambers Creek, on the Farmington road, might be a serious matter. If I leave my position here it ought to be immediately occupied by three divisions.


Nelson later summarizes his movements on this day, again with a note of frustration.
"At 10.30 o'clock received an order to march my division to the support of General Pope. Marched in quick-time in the direction indicated, the enemy having attacked the troops at Farmington. Received repeated messages urging my more rapid advance; also a letter from General Pope informing me that the enemy were advancing fiercely on his camp." Before I could get up the firing ceased, but messengers arriving with the intelligence that my picket had been attacked at Nichols' Ford, changed direction and moved to that point, to which point the camp was moved the day following."*

*ORE reports courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pope vs. Hardee

Early this morning, a new deserter from Corinth tells Pope that his attack on their right flank is expected, they are prepared for a fight and reinforcements are arriving. At 9:30AM Halleck sends an order to Buell to be prepared and cover Pope's retreat if that should become necessary, but gets no response and at 11:00AM sends this message to General Pope.

May 8, 1862-11 a. m.
General POPE:

Avoid any general engagement. I can get no reply from General Buell, and he may not have received my orders to support you.
Sherman's movement on the right shows enemy to be in force.


Nelson later reports this day's activity with a note of frustration. "On the 8th advanced to Nichols' Ford, on Seven Mile Creek, to support, as I was informed, a reconnaissance of General Pope. Left this position at midnight and returned to camp, which was reached at 4 a. m."

Meanwhile, the Confederates have sent skirmishers to test Pope's pickets near Farmington.  Buell reports his status as "...not advancing to-day, but am working roads to my front, rear, and left. I am now in line in rear of Chambers Creek. Stanley on the left of the main Corinth, with my outposts and vedettes, within a half a mile of the enemy and 4 1/2 miles of Corinth. I have thrown Nelson off to the left to support Pope's reconnaissance, in accordance with your instructions. The ground everywhere is intersected by creeks and marshy bottoms, over which corduroy roads have to be made, forming perfect defiles." 

May 8, 1862.
Major-General HALLECK:

I have been out all day, and only now received your dispatch. I find that Pope is reconnoitering with his whole force, 20,000 men, and has to march 7 miles. I will endeavor to cover his retreat if he should come to that, but it is proper to inform you that in doing so I must move some 3 miles to the left, and thus expose my camp and my right flank.


Despite these and other confusing reports which were generated by Scott, the well intentioned rumor-monger, Pope advancess and drives the main forces of the CSA back to Corinth before returning to his camp with 3 dead, several wounded and a better view of the Confederate fortifications.

*ORE reports courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fickle Fortunes

Back in Washington, E.M.Stanton is surely becoming concerned with the mental status of his assistant in the field when he receives the following report from Scott on this day in 1862.  Only yesterday the imminent arrival of the whole Confederate army was anticipated at Corinth. Scott fails to identify the source for his new "News from Corinth" and gives Stanton no opportunity to evaluate it's reliability as compared to the news in his previous telegram.  In this instance, Scott seems to be more of a gossip columnist than an intelligence analyst.

May 7, 1862-9 a. m.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

News from Corinth this morning is to the effect that Beauregard has been ordered by Jeff. Davis to change his position, and that re-enforcements on their way to Corinth have been stopped. Their new point for concentration is unknown. Reconnaissance in force will probably be made by General Pope this afternoon. I go with it, and will advise you from the field. All other movements progressing. Weather fine.

Assistant Secretary of War.*

Their fortunes seem to be changing as often as the weather.  Note in the following report to Halleck that Pope is as certain that the rebels are leaving Corinth as Scott was of the arrival of reinforcements just one day before.  This may be an example of not "seeing the elephant."  Corinth's  strategic importance was centered on the railway junction.  If it was serving the Confederates in that capacity, there would naturally be freight arriving from one direction and departing in another.  If only the arrivals were being observed one would assume an enormous consolidation of materials, while a report of only the departures would indicate a mass evacuation.  Whatever the cause, the Union leaders are clearly having problems interpreting the intelligence they are gathering.

May 7, 1862.
Major-General HALLECK:

Reports from the pickets assume such a form and come so continuously that the enemy is evacuating Corinth, that I think an examination in force will be desirable. It is certain that as early as last Thursday trains were leaving on both rooads [sic] of twenty and thirty cars each, loaded with supplies, and since that time men have not been permitted to go to the depot. A great quantity of subsistence stores have been carried off. I instructed General Paine to make as close an examination last night as possible, without moving his command, but have had no report from him. If one of Buell's divisions, say Nelson's, which is nearest to me, can be sent, with two days' rations in haversacks, to occupy my camps, I will make a reconnaissance to-day with my whole force.

Please advise immediately.
JNumbers POPE,

In response, Halleck informs Pope that Buell's Army of the Ohio is in line, having overcome the obstacles that were blocking their path, and instructs Pope to send out a strong reconnaissance to his left tomorrow and drive back the Confederate pickets toward Corinth.  Pope amends his request for support from Nelson's division. Now he asks simply for coverage of his right flank as he assails Hardee's (CSA) position on the rail line.  He feels no reconnaissance would be successful unless he can first drive Hardee's men back into the works at Corinth.  He also noted that Nelson's division (including our men of the Seventeenth Kentucky) is not yet in position to do so, being to his right and rear by a couple of miles, although Nelson's Division  had advanced their camp three miles on this day according to his final report.  The decision is postponed until tomorrow.

*ORE reports courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Sunday, May 6, 2012


As the advance toward Corinth continues to be slowed by the rain and terrain, the generals are gathering information from "deserters" and escaped slaves concerning the arrival of reinforcements at Corinth.  It must be pointed out that misinformation was often conveyed to the Union Army by apparent deserters that stayed in camp long enough to gather their own intelligence before running back to their camps. 

With New Orleans falling to the Federals last week and Baton Rouge being currently occupied, rebel troops had retreated up the Mississippi and the Union generals were rightly concerned with their whereabouts. Some reinforcements probably had arrived from South Carolina via the Memphis-Charleston Railroad. However, the story about the Confederates abandoning the eastern seaboard to concentrate on the western armies was hardly credible, and may be the biggest whopper swallowed on this day in 1862.

May 6, 1862-3 p. m.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

Weather clear this morning. Roads almost impassable. A number of deserters from Corinth came in yesterday. They report very large force well intrenched [sic], and say that Beauregard is receiving re-enforcements every day. A few days ago forces began to arrive from South Carolina. General Lovell is expecterd [sic] to-day with the forces he had at New Orleans, numbering about 3,000 effective men. It is now believed the rebels will leave Virginia, and endeavor to save the Mississippi Valley by crushing our Western army. Beauregard, by concentrating troops from New Orleans, Mobile, Memphis, Fort Pillow, and intermediate points, will certainly add 60,000 effective men to the army he had ten days ago, and this without any force from Virginia, South Carolina, or Georgia. The troops from those States all to come by rail, by way of Montgomery or Meridian or Mobile and Ohio road, thence to Corinth. With all these facts, as we believe them here, it becomes a grave question for you to consider as to whether a column of 40,000 or 50,000 men should not be sent from the East. I submit the case as now understood by all parties here. Halleck is proceeding with his advance movements, and will in a few days invest Corinth, then be governed by circumstances. Halleck just got message about Yorktown.

Assistant Secretary of War.*

*Thanks for this record from the ORE to my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Saturday, May 5, 2012


After two days of clear weather, the heavy spring rains so familiar to southerners returned to make life miserable for the Union soldiers as reported on this day in 1862.

MONTEREY, May 5, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

Heavy rains for the last twenty hours. Roads bad. Movement progressing slowly. Enemy still concentrating forces at Corinth. Nomination of Sherman for major-general gives great satisfaction. It was nobly gained upon the field of Shiloh.

Assistant Secretary of War.

Speaking of Sherman, his division on the western flank of the advance is becoming isolated by the bad roads.  The gravity of his situation is apparent in these orders, which indicate how tough a "normal" day in the infantry can be.

Camp No. 5, May 5, 1862.

Our situation from the rain and road has become difficult, and it becomes the duty of every officer and man to anticipate our danger and labor. Every ounce of food and forage must be regarded as precious as diamonds. Roads will be impassable and our bridges swept away. General Halleck and our superior officers will do all they can, but their power is limited by nature. We must do our part in full. Men must at once be limited in bread and meat. All live stock in our lines must be driven in and used, and all grass, wheat, and everything fit for forage gathered. Horses will be allowed to browse on bushes, and such as elm, cottonwood, and sassfras gatnered [sic] for this use at once. Particular attention must be given at once to our roads and defenses. Let every ax and spade be busy. At daybreak a party from each brigade will open a road by clearing the underbrush back to the Ridge road, following the highest ground back to the north and east. In front of the whole line underbrush must be cut to a distance of 300 yards, and heavy logs felled as a breastwork along the front of the artillery and camps; pickets, guards, and sentinels must be visited often, and the utmost vigilance maintained.

Monterey is the key point. We cannot be assailed by artillery, because the enemy cannot haul it up; we may be assailed by hordes of infantry, night or day, and therefore vigilance must be kept at all times, and any neglect promptly punished. If any sentinel will not be wakeful and intelligent, he must be made to work.

Our right is the point of danger, and will receive the personal attention of the general, but he can do nothing unless his orders are strictly observed; and these are, that all articles of provisions and forage be put under guard and dealt out at half rations; that the guard to our front be prepared with log breastworks and defenses, and underbrush cleared to our rear, to admit of prompt and easy communications, not to retreat on, but to afford means of assistance if necessary, and to move regiments from one point to anaother [sic] of our lines if need be.

Orders heretofore issued cover the whole ground, and this is only meant to remind all of their importance. Maps will at once be prepared and sent to brigadiers, who should furnish colonels and subordinates with copies.

By order of Brigadier General W. T. Sherman:
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Friday, May 4, 2012


In the center of the Union advance, Buell's corps finds nothing but more trouble as they try to move south.  Their contact with the enemy seems to be limited to rebuilding the roads and bridges he has destroyed.  The rebels' strategy for buying time seems to be quite effective as this report indicates.

May 4, 1862.
General HALLECK:

The reconnaissances toward Farmington found the bridge over Chambers Creek destroyed about 5 miles this side of Farmington. Road very bad through the creek bottom, requiring to be corduroyed. Enemy's pickets at Chambers Creek. They were on the same creek on the Corinth road yesterday. The reconnaissance on that road to-day has not yet returned.


The men of the Seventeenth are fighting this battle with axes, not guns.  To "corduroy" the road, trees are felled and their trunks laid down at right angles to the direction of the road to form a ribbed roadbed.  This was often done in boggy areas when the normal road became impassable.  It was necessarily bumpy and dangerous to men and horses because the unsecured logs were continually shifting underfoot.The trimming and maneuvering of these trunks must have been backbreaking work and it was done without gloves.  The men typically wrapped rags around their hands to protect their blisters.

*Reports courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Operations at Farmington and Purdy

While Halleck was warning his right flank of reported rebel troop movements toward Purdy, TN,  General Pope's Army of the Mississippi unexpectedly encounters the enemy at division strength on his left.  The following report to E.M. Stanton describes the encounter on this day in 1862.

May 3, 1862-9 p. m.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

Paine's division made a reconnaissance to Farmington to-day. Found about 4,500 of the enemy. Drove them in handsome style, killing 30, wounding many, capturing some prisoners, their tents, camp equipage, &c. At dark our cavalry was in pursuit of their artillery and a baggage train beyond Farmington, in the direction of Corinth. I witnessed the fight. Our men behaved splendidly. An artillery reconnaissance went to Glendale this morning, and destroyed two trestle bridges and some track of the Memphis and Charleston Road. It has been a splendid day's work for the left wing. Camp will be moved forward to Seven Mile Creek, within 1 mile of Farmington, tomorrow. Weather clear. Road becoming good.

Assistant Secretary of War.*

Meanwhile, Lew Wallace's Reserve Division has arrived at Purdy and encountered no resistance.  In the following letter, he seeks direction from headquarters.  Much like his earlier expedition to Crump's Landing in March, he is becoming isolated from the main body and faces little opposition from the enemy.

Purdy, May 3, 1862.

Assistant Adjutant-General:

SIR: Say to the general that I reached this place last evening in advance of my regiments, one of which has since arrived, while the others are momentarily expected.

My cavalry have been already sent forward to take possession of the Hatchie Bridge. They left for that purpose last night at 10 o'clock. Two citizens of Bolivar came in about midnight, sent to invite our forces to take possession of the town and protect it from the rebel cavalry, who are marauding in small parties, burning cotton, of which there is said to be in the county about $1,200,000 worth. There is an intense anxiety to have it saved, if possible.

The two citizens inform me that Grand Junction is unoccupied, and, save the marauding squads of cavalry, the entire army of Beauregard has gone southward, leaving no considerable body nearer than Holly Springs.

Communicate, if you please, with the general commanding, and inform me whether or not I shall send to take possession of Grand Junction, if I ascertain it unoccupied. I shall push on for Boliver instantly upon the arrival of a brigade.

My command was so scattered that the whole of it may not effect a junction at this place until toward evening.

My compliments to the general.

Very respectfully,
General Third Division, Reserve.*

*Thanks to my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory for today's links from the ORE