Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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

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