Memoir Chapter 9

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 9 – CORINTH

Sept. 27th. Broke camp, and made a short days march.

Sept. 30th. Arrived at Riply, Miss., at which point we met Gen. VanDorn with a large body of fine looking men under the command of Gen. Lovell.

Oct. 1st, Gen Van Dorn is in chief command. We are moving on to Corrinth, Miss.

Oct. 3rd. This morning the army formed a line of battle about three miles from the town of Corinth, at which place the enemy have their breastworks. The first line of breastworks were built by our own Southern troops, under the command of Gen. Beauregard, some six or eight months ago. The works are built in the midst of heavy timber, and every tree in front of the breastworks for one hundred and fifty yards, was cut down and such a tangled mass of brush and fallen timber can hardly be imagined. I would rather walk three miles on a good road, than undertake to go one hundred and fifty yards through that tangled mass of brush and fallen trees.

The 1st Mo. Brigade in line of battle marched to the edge of the abattis and before they emerged from the green undergrowth, in full view of the works, and the enemies line of battle behind them, Gen. Price, who was with the line, ordered them to lie down as there was a battery that opened fire upon them, just in their immediate front, and Wade’s Battery, that was only a few yards behind our line was ordered to forward and engage that battery and try and silence it. We moved a few yards, unlimbered and rolled our guns by hand to the edge of the open space; we were discovered and their fire was turned upon us, and the first round killed the two fine wheel horses on my gun. The shot grazed the legs of Jim Goddard, the driver. The horses had to be unharnessed and rolled out of the way, under fire, and another team placed to the wheel. We left most of this work to the drivers, as our other five guns had already opened fire. My gun was ordered to commence firing, and we soon got down to business, it was a duel to the death on our side at least. We were in close quarters, under the immediate eye of old Pap and our Mo. Brigade, and we did our best. The enemy had all the advantage, being in breastworks, but we did good shooting, and kept the dirt continually flying on his works around his guns. In about twenty minutes, which seemed hours to us, he ceased firing and abandoned his position, leaving his disabled guns.

Our loss was heavy, gun No. 2, managed by Sargent Floter had but one man left to load his gun. Our 1st Lieut. Samuel Farrington, had his head taken off by a shell. I had a strange presentement of his approaching end, some minutes before it happened. He was, I am sorry to say, not at all himself and quite angry at some man for not doing his duty as he saw it, and was swearing and cursing the man shamefully. He was about twenty feet from me and was easily heard amidst the roar of battle. I felt as if he was bound to be killed, I felt as if there was no escape. I do not remember ever having such an impression about any one. I was busy doing my duty as No. 4, on my gun, but his voice could be heard and it gave me trouble. Oh, how I did want him to hush. I had no time to turn my head to look at him, as we were very busy firing our guns and trying to silence the death dealing battery in our front; suddenly his voice was hushed; I felt, even knew, that the worst had come, and so it had, his head was carried away, with an oath upon his lips. He knew not what he was doing, as he was drunk. He was a brave man and a competent officer.

Just as soon as we had silenced the enemie’s battery in our front, our line of battle was ordered to advance; we ceased firing to let our infantry finish up the job, by driving the enemy out of the breastworks which were built by us and for our own use; to do that they must pass over and through that seemingly impenetrable abattis, made by our own labors, to entrap our foe. It seemed to be a rash and impossible undertaking. It looked to me as if every man would be shot down before our line could work its way through to the breastworks, as they were within easy range of the fatal minie balls every foot of the way. As the line rose up and started forward Old Pap rode up the line close behind the men, saying all the time, “go ahead boys, go ahead, it is only a short distance over there, and you will soon be there, go ahead, go ahead.” I heard him use these words as he passed my battery, going to the left of our line. He had a smile on his face, when our line struck the abattis. It was ordered to charge with a yell; they all rushed into the obstructions under heavy fire, and commenced to work their way through to the enemy’s works without firing a shot as they could not afford to get there with an empty gun. A continuous fusillade was kept up by the enemy upon our line, as it wormed its way slowly but surely to the enemies works. I stood quietly watching this unequal contest. When our line was about to emerge from the abattis on the opposite side, the enemy redoubled their fire, but to no purpose, so far as checking our advance; the men began to come out in squads of five, twenty, fifty, and one hundred, without haulting to form a line, made straight for the enemy’s works, as it was certain death to hault. They were within forty yards of the enemy, as they came out; the Rebel Yell was taken up and they rushed for the works, and as the foe did not care to risk a bayonet fight, they thought it best to retreat, and the works were ours.

This was the first time the Missouri boys ever fought the Northern Troops behind breastworks, and they have driven them out of works that seemed to be almost impregnable, on account of obstruction. It takes soldiers indeed to meet a foe of at least equal numbers and drive them from such a position. Our battery moved a short distance to the left, and got into a good road, which led into the enemies works, and followed up our advancing line. The day was very hot and our men suffered for water. I noticed some of our infantry boys, take their tin cups and dip up, and drink a few swallows, of the most filthy, black poisonous water to quench their thirst. As they advanced they met continued opposition, but were not checked until the enemy were driven into their second line of defence, at the edge of town. The roar of small arms was very heavy in front of the Mo. Troops, before sunset.

Wade’s Battery was placed on the extreme left, with Armstrong’s Cavelry, and were not further engaged on the 3rd, except throwing a few shells into a body of Yanks, that had gotten to our rear, through mistake, they made their escape. I saw a Mo. boy from our Brigade, come walking leisurely back from the front, while the battle was at its height with a musket on his shoulder, when he came among our boys, as we were in the road, we stopped him and asked him how the fight was going in front, he said the boys were doing well, but the Yanks were very strong and hard to drive. He was chewing his tobacco all the time, while talking, when he spit we noticed that it was blood instead of tobacco juice, and we remarked that you are wounded, and he then said in a very dry and indifferent manner, “yes, they have hit me in the mouth, and I would not have cared, if they had not knocked out my jaw teeth, so that I cannot chew my tobacco,” as he did not seem to have any other complaint and did not seem to mind the pain. He talked for some time about the fight, I examined his head and found the ball had come out, just above the edge of his hair, close to the center of his neck or head, and there was a white substance like brains protruding from the wound, but no blood was coming from it. After talking a while we urged him to go on and have his wound dressed, so he moved off in that same careless indifferent manner. I did not learn his name or company (perhaps did at the time but made no note of it). He was of medium size and red headed, his actions were so different and contrast so great, from the one that I had noticed but an hour ago. It was a young man, near six feet high, weighing about one hundred and seventy pounds, dark hair. He was going to the rear in a fast walk, with a bullet through his right arm, about half way between the waist and elbow. He had his sleeve rolled up, so the wound could plainly be seen, perhaps the bone was broken. He had grasped his wounded arm with his left hand, and was swinging it up and down every step he made and making a great outcry on account of his suffering and called upon the writer, as he passed to take him to the hospital. I had to laugh at the poor boys actions, and his request was rediculous, I told him he was going in the right direction and would soon be there. I gave him no further notice, as we were going into action. About sundown, the heavy firing in our front ceased and all was quiet by dark.

Oct. 4th. Before daylight, heavy cannonading commenced along the front of Gen. Price’s command, but ceased about sunrise and then quietude reigned until 10 o’clock, and then pandemonium reigned for one hour or more. Our fight that seemed at first to be such a success, was lost. Another Elk Horn Battle fought over again. At Elk Horn half of Van Dorn’s army did comparatively nothing, at Corrinth Gen. Price’s half of Van Dorn’s army, did all the hard fighting, won a great victory, at an awful sacrifice of brave men and then had to give it up, with all of its far reaching results, because the other half of Van Dorn’s army under Gen. Lovell, did comparatively nothing to help Price hold what he had gained. If Gen. Lovell, with his corps of six thousand brave men, who were standing in line, ready to be led, had moved forward, with Gen. Price’s corps, and enetered in the fight on the front, our victory would have been a glorious success. Lovell proved himself to be a complete failure, as a fighter at Corinth, as he had done, while in command at New Orleans. Incompetent officers lost the South her Independence. This is too plain to be denied, when applied to such officers as Van Dorn, Lovell, Pemberton, and Hood, and we might say that Beauregard and Bragg proved themselves to be very ordinary officers. Beauregard’s indecision, lost the great victory of Shilo, by not ending the fight the first day. Bragg was greatly out generaled in his Kentucky campaign and at Chickamauga. Hood was a good subordinate officer, but as a commander of an army, he was worse than a failure.

In order to show more fully and completely the part the Mo. army took in the destructive battle of Corinth, will take the libity to quote most of Gen. Maury’s account of that battle, as I find quoted by Col. R.S. Bevier, in his History of the 1st and 2nd Missouri Brigades, whose History was published in 1867, and is now out of print. Gen. Maury went over the breastworks at Corinth with his men and is a safe conservative writer, he says, “Corinth was the enemy’s strongest and most salient point. Its capture would decide the fate of West Tenn.” [Note 1]

 


Notes

      1. Bevier, P 137

Return to Table of Contents