The battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg landing, has been perhaps
less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more
persistently misunderstood, than any other engagement between
National and Confederate troops during the entire rebellion.
Correct reports of the battle have been published, notably by
Sherman, Badeau and, in a speech before a meeting of veterans,
by General Prentiss; but all of these appeared long subsequent
to the close of the rebellion and after public opinion had been
most erroneously formed.

I myself made no report to General Halleck, further than was
contained in a letter, written immediately after the battle
informing him that an engagement had been fought and announcing
the result. A few days afterwards General Halleck moved his
headquarters to Pittsburg landing and assumed command of the
troops in the field. Although next to him in rank, and
nominally in command of my old district and army, I was ignored
as much as if I had been at the most distant point of territory
within my jurisdiction; and although I was in command of all the
troops engaged at Shiloh I was not permitted to see one of the
reports of General Buell or his subordinates in that battle,
until they were published by the War Department long after the
event. For this reason I never made a full official report of
this engagement.

CHAPTER XXVI.

HALLECK ASSUMES COMMAND IN THE FIELD–THE ADVANCE UPON
CORINTH–OCCUPATION OF CORINTH–THE ARMY SEPARATED.

General Halleck arrived at Pittsburg landing on the 11th of
April and immediately assumed command in the field. On the 21st
General Pope arrived with an army 30,000 strong, fresh from the
capture of Island Number Ten in the Mississippi River. He went
into camp at Hamburg landing five miles above Pittsburg. Halleck
had now three armies: the Army of the Ohio, Buell commanding;
the Army of the Mississippi, Pope commanding; and the Army of
the Tennessee. His orders divided the combined force into the
right wing, reserve, centre and left wing. Major-General George
H. Thomas, who had been in Buell’s army, was transferred with
his division to the Army of the Tennessee and given command of
the right wing, composed of all of that army except McClernand’s
and Lew. Wallace’s divisions. McClernand was assigned to the
command of the reserve, composed of his own and Lew. Wallace’s
divisions. Buell commanded the centre, the Army of the Ohio;
and Pope the left wing, the Army of the Mississippi. I was
named second in command of the whole, and was also supposed to
be in command of the right wing and reserve.

Orders were given to all the commanders engaged at Shiloh to
send in their reports without delay to department
headquarters. Those from officers of the Army of the Tennessee
were sent through me; but from the Army of the Ohio they were
sent by General Buell without passing through my hands. General
Halleck ordered me, verbally, to send in my report, but I
positively declined on the ground that he had received the
reports of a part of the army engaged at Shiloh without their
coming through me. He admitted that my refusal was justifiable
under the circumstances, but explained that he had wanted to get
the reports off before moving the command, and as fast as a
report had come to him he had forwarded it to Washington.

Preparations were at once made upon the arrival of the new
commander for an advance on Corinth. Owl Creek, on our right,
was bridged, and expeditions were sent to the north-west and
west to ascertain if our position was being threatened from
those quarters; the roads towards Corinth were corduroyed and
new ones made; lateral roads were also constructed, so that in
case of necessity troops marching by different routes could
reinforce each other. All commanders were cautioned against
bringing on an engagement and informed in so many words that it
would be better to retreat than to fight. By the 30th of April
all preparations were complete; the country west to the Mobile
and Ohio railroad had been reconnoitred, as well as the road to
Corinth as far as Monterey twelve miles from Pittsburg.
Everywhere small bodies of the enemy had been encountered, but
they were observers and not in force to fight battles.

Corinth, Mississippi, lies in a south-westerly direction from
Pittsburg landing and about nineteen miles away as the bird
would fly, but probably twenty-two by the nearest wagon-road. It
is about four miles south of the line dividing the States of
Tennessee and Mississippi, and at the junction of the
Mississippi and Chattanooga railroad with the Mobile and Ohio
road which runs from Columbus to Mobile. From Pittsburg to
Corinth the land is rolling, but at no point reaching an
elevation that makes high hills to pass over. In 1862 the
greater part of the country was covered with forest with
intervening clearings and houses. Underbrush was dense in the
low grounds along the creeks and ravines, but generally not so
thick on the high land as to prevent men passing through with
ease. There are two small creeks running from north of the town
and connecting some four miles south, where they form Bridge
Creek which empties into the Tuscumbia River. Corinth is on the
ridge between these streams and is a naturally strong defensive
position. The creeks are insignificant in volume of water, but
the stream to the east widens out in front of the town into a
swamp impassable in the presence of an enemy. On the crest of
the west bank of this stream the enemy was strongly intrenched.

Corinth was a valuable strategic point for the enemy to hold,
and consequently a valuable one for us to possess ourselves
of. We ought to have seized it immediately after the fall of
Donelson and Nashville, when it could have been taken without a
battle, but failing then it should have been taken, without
delay on the concentration of troops at Pittsburg landing after
the battle of Shiloh. In fact the arrival of Pope should not
have been awaited. There was no time from the battle of Shiloh
up to the evacuation of Corinth when the enemy would not have
left if pushed. The demoralization among the Confederates from
their defeats at Henry and Donelson; their long marches from
Bowling Green, Columbus, and Nashville, and their failure at
Shiloh; in fact from having been driven out of Kentucky and
Tennessee, was so great that a stand for the time would have
been impossible. Beauregard made strenuous efforts to reinforce
himself and partially succeeded. He appealed to the people of
the South-west for new regiments, and received a few. A. S.
Johnston had made efforts to reinforce in the same quarter,
before the battle of Shiloh, but in a different way. He had
negroes sent out to him to take the place of teamsters, company
cooks and laborers in every capacity, so as to put all his white
men into the ranks. The people, while willing to send their sons
to the field, were not willing to part with their negroes. It is
only fair to state that they probably wanted their blacks to
raise supplies for the army and for the families left at home.

Beauregard, however, was reinforced by Van Dorn immediately
after Shiloh with 17,000 men. Interior points, less exposed,
were also depleted to add to the strength at Corinth. With
these reinforcements and the new regiments, Beauregard had,
during the month of May, 1862, a large force on paper, but
probably not much over 50,000 effective men. We estimated his
strength at 70,000. Our own was, in round numbers, 120,000. The
defensible nature of the ground at Corinth, and the
fortifications, made 50,000 then enough to maintain their
position against double that number for an indefinite time but
for the demoralization spoken of.

On the 30th of April the grand army commenced its advance from
Shiloh upon Corinth. The movement was a siege from the start to
the close. The National troops were always behind intrenchments,
except of course the small reconnoitring parties sent to the
front to clear the way for an advance. Even the commanders of
these parties were cautioned, “not to bring on an engagement.”
“It is better to retreat than to fight.” The enemy were
constantly watching our advance, but as they were simply
observers there were but few engagements that even threatened to
become battles. All the engagements fought ought to have served
to encourage the enemy. Roads were again made in our front, and
again corduroyed; a line was intrenched, and the troops were
advanced to the new position. Cross roads were constructed to
these new positions to enable the troops to concentrate in case
of attack. The National armies were thoroughly intrenched all
the way from the Tennessee River to Corinth.

For myself I was little more than an observer. Orders were sent
direct to the right wing or reserve, ignoring me, and advances
were made from one line of intrenchments to another without
notifying me. My position was so embarrassing in fact that I
made several applications during the siege to be relieved.

General Halleck kept his headquarters generally, if not all the
time, with the right wing. Pope being on the extreme left did
not see so much of his chief, and consequently got loose as it
were at times. On the 3d of May he was at Seven Mile Creek with
the main body of his command, but threw forward a division to
Farmington, within four miles of Corinth. His troops had quite
a little engagement at Farmington on that day, but carried the
place with considerable loss to the enemy. There would then
have been no difficulty in advancing the centre and right so as
to form a new line well up to the enemy, but Pope was ordered
back to conform with the general line. On the 8th of May he
moved again, taking his whole force to Farmington, and pushed
out two divisions close to the rebel line. Again he was ordered
back. By the 4th of May the centre and right wing reached
Monterey, twelve miles out. Their advance was slow from there,
for they intrenched with every forward movement. The left wing
moved up again on the 25th of May and intrenched itself close to
the enemy. The creek with the marsh before described, separated
the two lines. Skirmishers thirty feet apart could have
maintained either line at this point.

Our centre and right were, at this time, extended so that the
right of the right wing was probably five miles from Corinth and
four from the works in their front. The creek, which was a
formidable obstacle for either side to pass on our left, became
a very slight obstacle on our right. Here the enemy occupied
two positions. One of them, as much as two miles out from his
main line, was on a commanding elevation and defended by an
intrenched battery with infantry supports. A heavy wood
intervened between this work and the National forces. In rear
to the south there was a clearing extending a mile or more, and
south of this clearing a log-house which had been loop-holed and
was occupied by infantry. Sherman’s division carried these two
positions with some loss to himself, but with probably greater
to the enemy, on the 28th of May, and on that day the investment
of Corinth was complete, or as complete as it was ever made.
Thomas’ right now rested west of the Mobile and Ohio railroad.
Pope’s left commanded the Memphis and Charleston railroad east
of Corinth.

Some days before I had suggested to the commanding general that
I thought if he would move the Army of the Mississippi at night,
by the rear of the centre and right, ready to advance at
daylight, Pope would find no natural obstacle in his front and,
I believed, no serious artificial one. The ground, or works,
occupied by our left could be held by a thin picket line, owing
to the stream and swamp in front. To the right the troops would
have a dry ridge to march over. I was silenced so quickly that I
felt that possibly I had suggested an unmilitary movement.

Later, probably on the 28th of May, General Logan, whose command
was then on the Mobile and Ohio railroad, said to me that the
enemy had been evacuating for several days and that if allowed
he could go into Corinth with his brigade. Trains of cars were
heard coming in and going out of Corinth constantly. Some of
the men who had been engaged in various capacities on railroads
before the war claimed that they could tell, by putting their
ears to the rail, not only which way the trains were moving but
which trains were loaded and which were empty. They said loaded
trains had been going out for several days and empty ones coming
in. Subsequent events proved the correctness of their
judgment. Beauregard published his orders for the evacuation of
Corinth on the 26th of May and fixed the 29th for the departure
of his troops, and on the 30th of May General Halleck had his
whole army drawn up prepared for battle and announced in orders
that there was every indication that our left was to be attacked
that morning. Corinth had already been evacuated and the
National troops marched on and took possession without
opposition. Everything had been destroyed or carried away. The
Confederate commander had instructed his soldiers to cheer on the
arrival of every train to create the impression among the Yankees
that reinforcements were arriving. There was not a sick or
wounded man left by the Confederates, nor stores of any kind.
Some ammunition had been blown up–not removed–but the trophies
of war were a few Quaker guns, logs of about the diameter of
ordinary cannon, mounted on wheels of wagons and pointed in the
most threatening manner towards us.

The possession of Corinth by the National troops was of
strategic importance, but the victory was barren in every other
particular. It was nearly bloodless. It is a question whether
the MORALE of the Confederate troops engaged at Corinth was not
improved by the immunity with which they were permitted to
remove all public property and then withdraw themselves. On our
side I know officers and men of the Army of the Tennessee–and I
presume the same is true of those of the other commands–were
disappointed at the result. They could not see how the mere
occupation of places was to close the war while large and
effective rebel armies existed. They believed that a well-
directed attack would at least have partially destroyed the army
defending Corinth. For myself I am satisfied that Corinth could
have been captured in a two days’ campaign commenced promptly on
the arrival of reinforcements after the battle of Shiloh.

General Halleck at once commenced erecting fortifications around
Corinth on a scale to indicate that this one point must be held
if it took the whole National army to do it. All commanding
points two or three miles to the south, south-east and
south-west were strongly fortified. It was expected in case of
necessity to connect these forts by rifle-pits. They were laid
out on a scale that would have required 100,000 men to fully man
them. It was probably thought that a final battle of the war
would be fought at that point. These fortifications were never
used. Immediately after the occupation of Corinth by the
National troops, General Pope was sent in pursuit of the
retreating garrison and General Buell soon followed. Buell was
the senior of the two generals and commanded the entire
column. The pursuit was kept up for some thirty miles, but did
not result in the capture of any material of war or prisoners,
unless a few stragglers who had fallen behind and were willing
captives. On the 10th of June the pursuing column was all back
at Corinth. The Army of the Tennessee was not engaged in any of
these movements.

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