Up to Time and Up To Contract: A Missourian Recalls Corinth
In the aftermath of defeat at the Second Battle of Corinth, questions were raised within the rank and file of the Confederate army as to who was to blame for the disaster. One correspondent who served in a Missouri regiment of General Louis Hebert’s division was sure it wasn’t his fellow Missourians.
“The plan of attack for Saturday morning was that the whole Confederate line should, at a given signal, move forward and attack the enemy’s works so that the different wings of our army should mutually support each other. The left wing (General Price) was to open the battle by a cannonade; and then, at the same moment, a charge along our whole line was to be made. General Price did open the engagement as directed. The left wing held the position it had so nobly won for 40 minutes. Had this part of our lines been promptly and adequately supported by corresponding action on our right, Corinth was ours. The left wing, at least the Missouri part of it, had worked up to time and up to contract. Were the other portions of the enemy’s works carried? Who failed?”
The following letter written by “Observer” first saw publication in the October 18, 1862, edition of the Memphis Daily Appeal.
I am sure it will you afford you a gratification to publish a brief statement of facts designed as a simple act of justice to a portion of our army and to vindicate the truth of history.
On Friday afternoon, the day preceding the final conflict at Corinth, our left wing under General Sterling Price encountered fierce opposition in approaching Corinth and the Third Brigade (Missouri troops) including one regiment and one battalion of Mississippi troops commanding by Brigadier General Martin E. Green of Missouri contested the ground fiercely for one hour and 30 minutes in an engagement with the enemy’s infantry, which was at last dislodged and driven back to their entrenchments. The Third Brigade lost hundreds of men and many officers in this terrific strife. General Green’s horse was shot under him, and that brave man bounded like a deer and dashed forward on foot waving his sword and cheering his band. One line of the enemy’s defenses was carried, and several pieces of artillery taken. Colonels Eugene Erwin, Archibald MacFarlane, and others were seriously wounded.
|Colonel Eugene Erwin, 6th Missouri Infantry, C.S.A.|
The plan of attack for Saturday morning was that the whole Confederate line should, at a given signal, move forward and attack the enemy’s works so that the different wings of our army should mutually support each other. This plan must be borne in mind in order to have any intelligible understanding of the facts. The left wing (General Price) was to open the battle by a cannonade; and then, at the same moment, a charge along our whole line was to be made. General Price did open the engagement as directed. The Fourth Brigade (Mississippi, Colonel John D. Martin) was ordered to move on the enemy’s extreme right and bring on the engagement. This was done, and at the same time the First Brigade (Missouri troops, Colonel Elijah Gates) including the 16th Arkansas with Colonel Gates commanding and the Third Brigade under General Green, being in the center of the left wing, were ordered in accordance with the plan of attack, to storm the enemy’s works in their front.
The Federal position was defended by 40 pieces of artillery and heavy bodies of infantry posted behind the best and most formidable earthworks known to military engineering; the assailants had to charge for 600 yards over open ground, obstructed by felled timber without the assistance of a single piece of cannon and under a hail of lead and iron missiles. The earth shook, and the air was thick with the bolts of death. Never wavering, never halting, with a shout of defiance, these brigades moved straight on, leapt the breastworks, shot down the gunners and took the guns, driving the enemy like autumn leaves before this irresistible charge.
|Captain David Thompson, Co. H, 2nd Missouri Infantry, C.S.A. (Gates Brigade)|
Colonel Elijah Gates led the Missourians with drawn sword and rode his horse along the embankment cheering his comrades in arms. The brave Colonel James Pritchard of the 3rd Missouri was wounded in the trenches; Lieutenant Colonel Goss, next in command, was knocked down by a spent ball and rendered insensible. Major Hubbel, third in command, gallantly led the regiment and remained alone with the latest and last of our men who retired from that position. Major Hubbel’s determined valor elicited the admiration of the brigade commander. Colonel Francis Cockerell of the 2nd Missouri was conspicuous for his dauntless intrepidity, leading just where the danger was most imminent, while Major Sentey of the same regiment was wounded at his post.
What remained of General Green’s command carried everything before them and had advanced well into the town before the retreat began. Surely such a charge was never made before as Missourians made here. Sober reason would pronounce that two-thirds of the assailants must perish in such an undertaking. The 16th Arkansas, led by their gallant Colonel David Provence late of Fairfield, South Carolina, included in the First Missouri Brigade, behaved most gallantly and have won for themselves and their brave officers imperishable honor. The Missourians esteem those brave Arkansans as among “the best of their band.”
In this fearful assault upon the enemy’s works many a gallant spirit yielded up his life. It was here the heroic Colonel William D. Maupin (1st Missouri Cavalry, fighting as infantry) fell while bearing the flag of his command after two color bearers had fallen. Here fell Lieutenant Colonel Rischer of the 16th Arkansas and Adjutant Tutt of the same regiment. Many like officers gloriously fell. Captains Selby, Hall, Lieutenant Glanville, and many others are among the killed and wounded. The devotion of these troops- their daring, their heroic unfaltering courage, rises to the moral sublime. No record of history can show an instance where patriotic men have better won their title to immortality. Human nature is not capable of higher perfection in the attributes of moral courage and patriotic devotion.
|Brig. Gen. Martin E. Green|
General Maury’s brigade, beyond the range of observation, from this point we are informed, acted nobly, and execrated their part of the plan with distinguished gallantry. The left wing held the position it had so nobly won for 40 minutes. Had this part of our lines been promptly and adequately supported by corresponding action on our right, Corinth was ours. The left wing, at least the Missouri part of it, had worked up to time and up to contract. Were the other portions of the enemy’s works carried? Who failed? Having won these redoubts and fortifications, and the enemy’s lines on our right remaining, a terrible crossfire was opened upon our center and left, as well as a fire from other entrenchments still further in front; our support on the right having failed, it was a choice between falling back and being uselessly annihilated.
Your correspondent Ramrod without designing to do any justice in the absence of these facts would leave the public to infer it was the failure of the lines first falling back which caused the retreat. While the truth is, it was only the want of cooperation and support according to plan which prevented the left and center from driving the enemy across the Tennessee River. Men who fighting for Mississippi and the Confederacy a thousand miles from their own desolated homes in Missouri and who pour out their blood like water must feel a little sensitive under the implied censure of some of your correspondents. Your correspondent Ramrod gives the loss of General Lovell’s three brigades in killed and wounded as 380, while that of the First Brigade alone was 401 and that of the Third Brigade was nearly 700. These figures show the character of the fighting.
It is sad to think of the sacrifice of life and the abortive results of this battle, while 10,000 additional troops were at Jackson and had been there since the 16th of September whose presence would have insured success. One brigade to support the left wing after the enemy’s works were carried Saturday morning and we should now have held all Tennessee! Whose fault, Mr. Editor, that these troops were not sent forward? You are the sentinel on the walls. Enquire and let us know whose criminal dilly-dallying was it that brought this disaster upon us.
Letter from “Observer,” Green’s Brigade, Memphis Daily Appeal (Tennessee), October 18, 1862, pg. 2
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