| Occupation of Cornith, Mississippi, May , 1862
Army of the Ohio General Don Carlos Buell's Official Report
Source: Official Record, Vol XVII, 1, 24
|HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
Huntsville, Ala., August 1, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the army under my command in the recent campaign against the enemy's forces at Corinth:
The circumstances attending and following the battle of Shiloh sub jected my troops to the greatest discomfort for some ten days after that event. Rains and use rendered the roads almost impassable, so that the wagons and baggage that had been left behind on the forced march which was made to reach the battle-field on the 6th and 7th of April arrived very slowly. The troops, therefore, had not only to live in the open air in miry camps and frequent cold, drenching rains, but to carry their provisions some 2 miles from the river to the camps over roads so muddy as to be difficult even for horses.
These privations produced a serious effect on the health of the troops, and dysentery of a threatening type prevailed very generally among the officers and men. The arrival of our wagons and the removal of the troops to the high ground bordering Lick Creek, more remote from the impure water and atmosphere of the battle-field, soon wrought a favorable change in the health of the army.
During this period the ordinary outpost duties of an army in the vicinity of an enemy were shared by all the troops, but no other active service against the enemy was performed, excepting occasional reconnaissances by the cavalry and an expedition to destroy the bridge on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad at Bear Creek, 26 miles east of Corinth, in which General S.S. Fry's brigade, of Thomas' division, took an active part. These were, I believe, in each case successfully executed, but as they were conducted by officers not under my immediate command, I cannot detail them particularly.
The force which advanced against Corinth, under the command of Major-General Halleck, was composed of the Army of the Ohio, under my command; the Army of the Mississippi, under the command of Major-General Pope, and the Army of the Tennessee, under the immediate command of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. The first formed the center, the second the left, and the third the right of the combined force. General Thomas' division of my army was temporarily attached to the Army of the Tennessee, and continued with it until after the evacuation, and, indeed, is not at this time under my control. This left me with four divisions, commanded respectively by Maj. Gen. A. McD. McCook, Maj. Gen. William Nelson, Maj. Gen. T. L. Crittenden, and Brig. Gen. T. J. Wood, which, with the cavalry under Col. James S. Jackson, amounted in all to about 28,000 men.
The more immediate preparations for an advance commenced on the 29th of April. My army moved close up to Lick Creek, and preparations were commenced for crossing at two points, namely, at Atkins' and at Greer's. The creek was bridged at these points and the marshy bottom corduroyed for about three-quarters of a mile. Another crossing was made at an earlier day lower down, but that was made to open communication with General Pope, and not with a view to the final advance. The upper road was made by General McCook's division and the other two by General Wood's, assisted in each case by Colonel Innes' Michigan Regiment of Engineers and Mechanics, and under the supervision of Captain Michler, Topographical Engineers. At this time the Army of the Mississippi was a short distance out from Hamburg, on the south side of Lick Creek, which ran between it and the two armies composing the right and center. The average distance of the whole force from Corinth was about 15 miles.
From the positions occupied by the right and center armies two principal roads coming from Pittsburg Landing lead in the direction of Corinth. The one on the right crosses Lick Creek 6 miles from its mouth, passes through Monterey a mile south of the creek, and thence in a tolerably direct course to Corinth. The one on the left crosses the creek a mile lower down, at Atkins' or Burk's tan-yard, and unites with the first at Chambers Creek, 7 miles from Corinth. Other roads leaving Monterey bear more to the west and eventually fall into the Purdy road, which passes 2 miles west of Monterey and enters Corinth west of the road above described.
Two principal roads lead from Hamburg to Corinth. The one farthest west touches Lick Creek at Greer's, about a mile below Atkins', then bears off south, and unites with the Atkins road a mile and a half from the creek. The other, the Old Hamburg and Corinth road, as it is called, runs 2 miles and more east of the one just described, passes through Farmington, 3 miles from Corinth, and unites with the direct road from Monterey at Phillips' Creek, which runs a little east of south, and on the west side of which the enemy's works were constructed, about 1 mile east of Corinth. All the roads are narrow, unimproved, dirt roads. Several small creeks, bordered by miry bottom-land, flow from the west and cross the direct road from Monterey. The only ones that need be mentioned now are Chambers Creek, 6 miles, and Seven-mile Creek, as it is called on the military maps, 3 miles from the enemy's works. The country is thickly wooded and has a dense undergrowth. In the vicinity of the towns, which consist only of a few houses, the clearings are sometimes extensive. The ground can scarcely be said to be more than rolling; it is only along the larger creeks that it becomes a little hilly.
The roads across Lick Creek were completed on the 2d of May, and on that day the cavalry and Nelson's division crossed at Greer's and advanced to Mount Olivet Church, 12 miles from Corinth. On the following day the three other divisions crossed, McCook's at Atkins' and Crittenden's and Wood's at Greer's. Small bodies of the enemy's cavalry retired before us. His advance guard was at Chambers Creek, but apparently not in any great force. Work was at once commenced on the roads in front, but heavy rains on the 4th and 5th prevented the advance of the troops and destroyed much of the work that had been done both in front and in rear.
Heavy work was renewed on the main road and on two parallel roads on the east side, and on the 7th my divisions advanced on these roads to Chambers Creek, Wood's on the right, Nelson's on the left, McCook's in the center, and Crittenden's also in the center in reserve. The cavalry as a body remained 5 miles in rear, to be nearer forage, which the condition of the roads rendered it impossible to bring forward in sufficient quantities. As it was, much of it had to be brought forward from the river on the cavalry horses. For the same reason the reserve artillery remained several days longer in rear of Lick Creek. Some skirmishing occurred on the 6th between the enemy and Garfield's brigade, of Wood's division, without loss on our side. A few of the enemy were taken prisoners.
On the 8th the construction of roads across Chambers Creek and the marshy ground on either side was pushed forward vigorously by the divisions of McCook and Wood. The working parties of these divisions were attacked by the enemy, with a small loss on each side. Nelson was thrown to the left some 2 miles across Chambers Creek to Nichols' Ford, on Seven-mile Creek, to support a reconnaissance made by General Pope. He returned to his position at 4 o'clock a.m. on the 9th, and at 10.30 o'clock was summoned again to the support of General Pope, who reported that his advance guard had been attacked and driven from near Farmington, and that the enemy was advancing fiercely on his camp. Crittenden's division, which had been in reserve, was also moved to the left to support Pope. Nelson's pickets were attacked at Nichols' Ford, but the enemy soon retired from his immediate front and from the attack on Pope.
The distance between my left and General Pope's right being too great for prompt support, my whole force was on the 10th moved to the left some 3 miles. Nelson retained his position at Nichols' Ford; Wood closed on Nelson's right, crossing Chambers Creek, and McCook was placed in reserve, also across Chambers Creek. On the 12th Crittenden took post on Nelson's left. In this position the troops were employed in making roads across Seven Mile Creek.
On the 14th McCook's division was ordered to the front on reconnaissance, with Johnson's brigade in front and Rousseau's in reserve. Some skirmishing ensued, and the enemy's advanced troops fell back.
On the 17th General Pope and myself made a personal reconnaissance of the ground along and to the front of the Farmington and Purdy road, which runs about parallel with the enemy's lines, and on the evening of that day we moved our forces across Seven Mile Creek up to that road. Some skirmishing attended this movement, which was not completed until some time after dark. The right of Wood's division of my army rested at Driver's house, on the direct Monterey and Corinth road. Next came Nelson, and next Crittenden, with his left resting on the Farmington and Corinth road. McCook's division was in reserve. General Pope was on my left, with his left flank retired. T. W. Sherman's division, which formed the left of the Army of the Tennessee, was on my right. It was the division originally commanded by General Thomas, and temporarily transferred from my army. The length of my line was about a mile and three-quarters. In this position we were ordered by General Halleck to intrench.
We were now 2 miles from the enemy's works, with a diversified country between. Phillips' Creek, thickly wooded on our side, but for the most part open toward the enemy, ran parallel with and near the enemy's lines. In front of Sherman the ground sloped in an open field down half a mile to a small branch of Bridge Creek, which empties into Phillips' Creek half a mile below the Farmington and Corinth road, and was densely wooded on both sides. Between these two creeks, in front of Sherman's division, rose a thickly wooded and somewhat elevated hill, called Serratt's Hill, which at a distance of less than a thousand yards looked into the enemy's works beyond Phillips' Creek. Serratt's house was at the point where the direct road from Monterey crosses Bridge Creek in front of Sherman's left.
In front of Wood was an open field, bordered toward Bridge Creek by thickly-wooded spurs of the high land on which we were formed. In front of Nelson's right the ground, thickly wooded, sloped more gradually and unobstructedly down to the creek, which in its course receded from our line. In front of Crittenden the ground was thickly wooded for nearly a mile along a gentle spur, and then opened into a cleared space, which extended all the way down from the Farmington and Purdy road in front of Nelson's left in a gradual slope for more than a mile to the woods bordering Bridge Creek. Off to the left and front of Crittenden the ground was much more irregular, and after crossing some large open fields in front of Pope it was densely wooded along Phillips' Creek. The enemy occupied the woods in our front with strong lines of skirmishers on both sides of the creeks, and from this time until the evacuation skirmishing, mingled occasionally with artillery, was almost incessant along the whole front.
On the 18th Crittenden moved forward some 400 yards into the woods on his front. Nelson moved half a mile into the woods in front of his right. Batteries were established to sweep the open depression between Nelson and Crittenden, and Wood, with a part of his division, occupied the timbered spur in front of his right. All of these positions were intrenched.
On the 21st Colonel Sedgewick's brigade, of Nelson's division, with a battery of artillery, made a reconnaissance near Serratt's house. The enemy was found in considerable force at the creek, and a spirited skirmish ensued, in which Sedgewick had 26 men wounded, 3 mortally.
On the 27th McCook's division, which had been held in reserve, was moved in front of Wood and Sherman, and after some skirmishing drove the enemy across Bridge Creek. At the same time a heavy battery was established on high ground on the right, to enfilade the valley of Bridge Creek and the road on from Serratt's house.
On the 28th three of my divisions were advanced. McCook, with Rousseau's brigade leading, drove the enemy from and occupied Serratt's Hill. This secured to us a commanding and very important position less than a thousand yards from the enemy's works. It was, I presume, the nearest point occupied by any of the force in front of Corinth previous to the evacuation. Nelson drove the enemy from Bridge Creek and occupied that line, 1,300 yards from the enemy's works and Crittenden advanced three-quarters of a mile to support him. Wood's division retained its original position. These movements were attended with sharp skirmishing pretty much all day, but without much loss on our side. Colonel Sedgewick's brigade, of Nelson's division, carried the bridge across Bridge Creek, on the Farmington road, which was defended by artillery and infantry, and repulsed three attempts of the enemy to recover it. All the positions taken during the day were intrenched during the night. The distance from my left flank to my right, which was now entirely in front of T. W. Sherman's division, and within half a mile of the Corinth and Purdy road, was in a direct line two miles and two-thirds.
There was some skirmishing on the 29th. On the evening of that day I advised General Halleck of my purpose, with his approval, to crowd the enemy back and cross Bridge Creek with two and perhaps three more divisions, and suggested that General Pope should be prepared to advance also. He replied that General Pope was of opinion that he could not advance without bringing on a general attack, and he deemed it best, therefore, that Pope should hold on to his position until we felt the enemy more on the right and center. I accordingly gave specific instructions for the advance of my troops on the following morning. About 2 o'clock next morning I received dispatches from General Halleck and General Pope, informing me that the enemy were re-enforcing heavily on our left, which, it was stated, would undoubtedly be attacked at daylight, and desiring me to be prepared to support General Pope. Deeming the orders I had given the evening before sufficient for that contingency, if it should occur, I made no change in my dispositions. About 4.30 o'clock I received a message from General Nelson, to the effect that the enemy were evacuating Corinth and that he had ordered his troops to advance. In view of the dispatches I had received from General Halleck and General Pope only two hours and a half earlier, I deemed it proper to adhere to the instructions I had given the evening before, and accordingly sent word to General Nelson to advance at the time I had appointed. Very soon after the divisions of McCook and Nelson entered the enemy's works. About a hundred prisoners, the most of them sick, were found in the place, but no stores of any importance. The little that the enemy did not carry away he destroyed.
It appears that the officers from the right and left who entered Corinth on the morning of the 30th reported the fact promptly to General Halleck, who immediately telegraphed the reports to Washington, and the publicity given to them through the press has given rise to some rivalry as to which of the three armies first entered the enemy's works. I have no doubt myself that the honor is due to Major-General Nelson. It is certain that he discovered the enemy were evacuating when others supposed instead that they were preparing to attack. I did not, however, deem the question of priority of so much importance as to anticipate it, and therefore did not forward General Nelson's report for some time after it was received.
On the 30th my cavalry, under Colonel Jackson, with a battery of artillery, pursued and attacked the enemy's rear guard at a creek 5 miles out on the Kossuth road, but that road was so much obstructed by fallen trees and burned bridges as to render it impossible to make any effectual pursuit in that direction.
By General Halleck's order General Pope took up the pursuit with his whole force on the Booneville road, and on the 4th of June I was instructed to re-enforce him, in anticipation of an attack from the enemy. I joined him near Booneville, 26 miles south of Corinth, with Nelson's and Crittenden's divisions, but the enemy continued his retreat, and by General Halleck's direction the pursuit was discontinued.
My loss in the advance against Corinth was small, not, perhaps, exceeding 150 men killed and wounded, but the reports of my subordinate commanders are as yet incomplete in that particular, and I do not undertake to state it exactly.
The highest commendation is due to my division commanders and to other officers named in the subordinate reports for their ability and zeal, and to the officers and soldiers generally for their cheerful endurance of fatigue and their gallantry in action.
The services of the quartermaster's, subsistence, and medical departments were efficiently conducted; the first by Capt. A. C. Gillem until he was called to other duties, and afterwards by Captain Nigh, assistant quartermaster ; the second by Capt. Francis Darr, assistant commissary, and the third by Surg. Robert Murray, medical department. Capt. Nathaniel Michler, chief topographical engineer, rendered very important service in superintending the construction of roads and making maps of the country. The very accurate and minute maps which he is now preparing will add much to the intelligibility of this report. My chief of staff, Col. James B. Fry, at all times exhibited that ability and zeal which have been so valuable from the time he first joined me. Capt. J. H. Gilman, inspector of artillery, rendered most efficient service in his appropriate duties and in superintending the construction of batteries and other works. Lieut. Col. James Oakes, inspector of cavalry and commander of the regular cavalry, was capable and zealous, though suffering greatly from shattered health. The other members of my staff, Capt. C. C. Gilbert and Capt. H. C. Bankhead, inspectors of infantry, and Lieuts. C. L. Fitzhugh, A. F. Rockwell, and T. J. Bush, aides-de-camp, are all entitled to commendation for the intelligent and efficient manner in which they discharged their appropriate duties. The members of my escort, the Anderson Troop, under the command of Captain Palmer, rendered much valuable service as couriers and guards.
During the period embraced in this report detached portions of the Army of the Ohio were doing important service in other parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, but they should be made the subject of a separate report.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
The ADJUTANT-GENERAL U. S. ARMY,
|Sixth Division Commander General Thomas J Wood's Official Report|