War of the Rebellion: Serial 024 Page 0457 Chapter XXIX. CORINTH.

Search Civil War Official Records

condition of the enemy's left, and with a confessed ignorance of the force and position of the enemy's right, seeing, as he says, five regiments of the enemy retire toward their inner fortifications in confusion, he suggests that Corinth might have been taken by throwing my right wing in pursuit of them. The proof shows that at that time and for two or three hours afterward the center and left of my line, embracing General Price's corps, which constituted two-thirds of my army, was engaged in a terrific contest with the enemy, who disputed every inch of ground till sunset, when they ended the contest by retiring into their interior defenses. I do not doubt the gallantry of my accuser, but his criticisms as a brigade commander, confined in his knowledge to what appears before him, ignorant of the operations going on in two-thirds of the line of battle, and unoppressed of the plan of operations of the general in command, reminds me of Cowper's fly on the dome of St. Paul's, who, with a vision that extended only a few inches around him, was found discoursing on the architecture of the entire building.

It is said that I ought to have pursued the advantage gained by me in the afternoon of Friday by a night attack. I did not fail to consider that matter. I was anxious to deny the enemy the possibility of re-enforcements. I knew my antagonist-knew that he would avail himself of every resource in his power, but I could not prudently hazard a night attack. My troops were not veterans, though gallant as any commander ever led to battle. They were greatly exhausted by heat, by thirst, and by the fatigue which excess of valor created. The line of attack was a long one, and as it approached the interior defenses of the enemy that line must necessarily become contracted. There would have been imminent danger of mistaking friend for foe unless the utmost care was exercised in the advance. Besides it was impossible for me to ascertain the precise position of the enemy, and that fact was strong against a night attack.

It is charged that I did not, on the night of October 3, reconnoiter the position of the enemy. The fact is admitted by me, and the answer is, as the evidence shows, including that of my accuser, that it was impossible. The experiment was tried. One of my staff officers, Major Dillon was sent by me on that service, and he met the sharpshooters of the enemy in less than 100 yards of my line. If the noise of the wagons and cannon had clearly re-enforcements rather than evacuation there was no method by which I could have avoided the result.

The plan of the movement on Corinth was to take the place, not by siege or investment, but by coup de main. From all the sources, of information accessible to a commander I was satisfied that the force the force sources of information accessible to a commander I was satisfied that the force at Corinth, and its outposts did not much exceed 20,000 men. Some of their outposts were at a distance from Corinth of 15 or 20 miles. The forces in Corinth did not exceed 12,000 or 15,000. By a sudden and rapid attack on the place I expected to throw upon it a force superior to that of the enemy, and I hoped to carry the place before the re-enforcements of the outposts could be drawn in. To this end I masked my attack on Corinth by threatening Bolivar. My advance upon Bolivar had drawn the division of Ross from Corinth to that point. I marched suddenly from Ripley to Pocahontas, equidistant between Bolivar and Corinth. My cavalry was thrown forward toward both points. I turned quickly toward Corinth, masking my infantry with my cavalry up to Indian Creek, within a short distance of the exterior works of Corinth, making it uncertain which place was the object of