Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/162

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

mined to assume the offensive and attempt the capture of Corinth before the arrival of Grant's hosts on the northern border of the State. An expedition was organized, consisting of a detachment from Bragg's army and such other forces as could be hastily gathered from various points, including Villipegue's brigade and a portion of the scattered cavalry already mentioned. The command of the expedition was entrusted to Major-General Earl Van Dorn. The regiment to which the writer belonged was ordered in the direction of Memphis, and did not accompany General Van Dorn. The attack on Corinth was made early in October, and failed. As the force employed was deemed adequate for the assault, many and diverse reasons for the failure were adduced by those who participated in the movement; but in the absence of all personal knowledge on the subject, none will be reproduced in this paper.

After his repulse at Corinth, General Van Dorn retired across the country to Holly Springs, to await the movement of the enemy which he had vainly tried to prevent. The troops, particularly the infantry, were much dispirited by hard marching and unsuccessful fighting, but fortunately a period of several weeks of inactivity ensued, affording ample opportunity for rest.

In the meantime, General Grant, reinforced by Sherman, who had recently returned to Memphis after an unsuccessful attack on Vicksburg, was massing a heavy force at various points on the Memphis and Charleston railroad. Early in November General Van Dorn retired across the Tallahatchie river with his infantry, artillery and wagon train, leaving the cavalry, General W. H. Jackson commanding, still posted north of Holly Springs. General Grant's advance was not as rapid as had been anticipated, but his heavy columns soon made their appearance. Our cavalry retired slowly, and, in a few days, rejoined the infantry near Oxford. So far no fighting had occurred, except a few unimportant skirmishes. The situation was gloomy. General Grant, with a magnificent army, 80,000 strong, was moving leisurely south through the interior of the State, repairing and using the railroad as he advanced. In front of him was about one-fourth of that number of dispirited Confederate troops and a crowd of fleeing citizens, carrying with them negroes, horses, mules, cattle, hogs and every imaginable kind of movable property.

After crossing the Tallahatchie, Grant's pursuit became more vigorous, and the multitude of refugees became a serious source of embarrassment, for their wagons had a knack of breaking down