General Beauregard, in his conversation with, me referred me for fuller and more detailed information of the events and circumstances attending the retreat from Corinth to his subordinates. The information derived from them and their concurrent opinion fully sustain his view as to the necessity of the evacuation of Corinth at the time it was performed. Another day's delay might have proved fatal to the army. The letter of General Hardee, approved by General Beauregard (marked H*) expresses the well-settled conviction of the most intelligent officer of the army. Bad food, neglect of police duty, inaction, and labor, and especially the water insufficient, and charged with magnesia and rotten limestone, had produced obstinate types of diarrhea and typhoid fever. No sound men were left. The attempt to bore artesian wells has failed. With an aggregate 112,092 the effective total had wasted way to 52,706 men. The sick and absent numbered 49,590, including officers. No sudden epidemic had smitten the camp; the sickness was the effect of causes evident from the day of the occupation of the position, and increased with an accelerated ratio. The value of Corinth as a temporary base from which to attack the enemy was vast, but as it untenable for permanent occupation on account of its unhealthfulness, it seems unfortunate that the army should have been retained there until a wreck only remained, to be crowded out by the steady pressure of the advancing, but cautions, foe. There was a time when the experiment of Shiloh might have been repeated with success. Our army had suffered at Shiloh, but they had won back their former prestige. The demoralization of troops flushed with victory could not have been so great as that of the retreating columns which were gathered at Corinth and precipitated on the Federals with such splendid results on Sunday, April 6. When General Van Dorn's army arrived his effective total was estimated at 17,000 men, which, added to the 32,212 men then reported, made an army of nearly 50,000 effective Southern soldiers. If this army-one third larger than that which fought at Shiloh-had been led against the disintegrated and demoralized battalions of the enemy before he recovered from the shock of Shiloh or received his re-enforcements of reserves and took his subsequent intrenched position at Farmington, his columns might again have been compelled to huddle under cover of their gunboats. When this opportunity has passed no other occurred. The enemy refused the offer of battle, preferring his own plan of campaign, by which he slowly, but surely, forced us from our chosen position. It appears evident, therefore, that Corinth could only be held by beating enemy, and that, so soon as he was allowed to take position at Farmington in such manner that we could not compel him to fight, Corinth was no longer tenable. Hence not only does the retreat of General Beauregard appear to have been at the time a necessity, but also that it might have been made with propriety a month earlier.
General Van Dorn's failure to attack on the 9th of May was attributed by General Beauregard to the wrong direction in which he was led by his guides. General Hardee, who was with General Van Dorn, informs me that the troops were brought to the point designated in the plan of battle, but that the approaches to the enemy's position were not such as were contemplated by General Beauregard. Instead of an open country, through which we could advance in line of battle on the enemy's flank, the choice was left to advance by the flank on a
*Not found herewith. It is probably Hardee's letter of May 25, in "Correspondence,etc.," pp.544,545, Series I, Vol. X, Part II.