House to House Fighting in Corinth with the 50th Illinois
During the Corinth campaign, the 50th Illinois under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Swartout was part of Colonel Silas Baldwin’s Third Brigade of General Thomas Davies’ Second Division of the Army of West Tennessee. It served alongside the 7th and 57th Illinois regiments.
As related in the account below, the 50th Illinois was engaged on both days of the battle of Corinth and actually took part in the house-to-house fighting that swirled through the streets of town on October 4th. According to the author of this letter, Captain Timothy D. McGillicuddy, “the streets of Corinth were flooded with human gore.”
Captain McGillicuddy’s account of the Battle of Corinth saw publication in the September 22, 1888, edition of the Ohio Soldier, a newspaper similar to the National Tribune.
Camp of 50th Regt., Illinois Volunteers, Corinth, Mississippi
October 16, 1863
Having returned to camp after two days’ fighting and eight days’ chasing the Rebels, I embrace this opportunity of dropping you a few lines. I will be compelled to confine myself to the operations of our division, brigade, and regiment. I am well aware that abler pens have and can do the army here more justice. Nevertheless, the thought I would amuse myself in whiling away a few moments in social combat with friends at home.
It was evident for some time that the Rebels intended an attack on Corinth, and so sure were they of success that their generals said that 30 minutes’ hard fighting would ensure them six months’ supplies. On Friday morning October 3rd, our division marched from their camping ground to intercept the passage of the Rebels into Corinth. At 10 a.m., we became engaged and fought them all day in the woods about three miles from town.
Late in the afternoon, the Rebels forced a passage through the center of our line, thus cutting off our brigade (the Third) and the 17th Wisconsin regiment from the main body of our division. About this time, a charge was ordered in which the 7th, 50th, and 57th Illinois and the 17th Wisconsin participated, driving the enemy from one of its strongholds and holding it for the space of 40 minutes under the most galling fire that ever was inflicted on any body of soldiers. Learning that we were cut off, the enemy having outflanked us on our right, we were ordered to fall back. In falling back, we were compelled to cut our way through the enemy’s flanking line which had by this time entirely surrounded us. This being done, we wound our way through a circuitous route to Corinth. It now being dark, we proceeded to occupy the positions in town assigned us for the attack in the morning. Our position was in the front line behind a temporary breastwork on the northwest side of the town. Here we rested on our arms in line of battle for the night.
At 3 a.m. Saturday, the Rebels commenced shelling the town with but little effect. When our siege guns got their range, they soon silenced the feeble attempts of the Rebs. Skirmishing continued brisk along the line until 10 a.m. when a simultaneous charge was made on our whole line under a most galling crossfire from our siege guns and field artillery. Then came our line of infantry who poured volley after volley into their advancing line, but on they came, regardless of the havoc that was befalling them.
|Sergeant William Hasselwood of Co. D of the 50th Illinois was slightly wounded during the fighting on October 4th. He survived the war and later was promoted to the rank of captain.|
Our line was ordered back to take shelter behind houses which was done in a masterly manner. The Rebels came into the streets of Corinth and at one time we engaged them in a hand-to-hand fight. Then it was that the streets of Corinth were flooded with human gore. At this juncture, the 7th Kansas Cavalry made a charge and broke the Rebel lines, threw them into confusion, and they were compelled to retire to the woods from whence they came under the same fire in which they charged. They attempted to charge us again but a constant stream of musketry prevented them from coming to time.
They retired in disgust, leaving all their killed, wounded, and many hundred prisoners in our hands. We stood in line all night and on Sunday morning October 5th took up our line of march after the retreating Rebels, constantly skirmishing with their rear guard and so closely did we pursue them between the Tuscumbia and Hatchie rivers that they abandoned everything they had. The appearance of things between these rivers beggars description. Wagons, tents, cannons, guns, and camp equipage to supply a large army could be collected there. We continued the pursuit till we reached a town called Ripley. Here we lost all trace of an organized army. We stopped here two days then returned to Corinth.
At Ripley and all points on our return, poor, half-starved Rebel soldiers came in and gave themselves up. Some were alarmed lest they were too late to be received. Their rations in haversacks consisted of corn in the ear and acorns. From prisoners taken, we learned that it was the combined forces of Price, Van Dorn, Lovell, Villipigue, and Rust in person numbering, according to their own authority, 38,000 men that attacked Corinth, and a more complete repulse, defeat, and rout the annals of this war cannot afford.
The losses of the Rebels in killed and wounded will not fall short of 10,000 and we have at least 5,000 Rebel prisoners. [Both figures are gross exaggerations-DM] I am most positive that 1,000 killed and wounded cover our losses. Our regiment lost ten killed and 20 wounded. Lieutenant Corwin was shot through the heart while nobly cheering his men in action on Saturday. Captain Burnham was shot through the left lung while similarly engaged. Sergeant Sinclair Watts of Co. K, an ensign of the regiment, deserves special mention for his coolness and courage in action. He has few equals in the army.
Taking all in all, the Corinth affair was a most glorious victory to our army and should the Rebels try again to secure six months’ supplies with 30 minutes’ hard fighting, I will try and let you know how they made out. At present all’s quiet at Corinth.
T.D. McGillicuddy, Co. K, 50th Illinois Infantry
Letter from Captain Timothy D. McGillicuddy, Co. K, 50th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Ohio Soldier (Ohio), September 22, 1888, pgs. 81-82
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