‘REBEL’ Shrewdness At Corinth

Published in Daily Corinthian in May, 1954

Typed and submitted by: Vicki Burress Roach
NOTE: The following story consists of excerpts from a diary of a Federal army chaplain, F.W. Richman, 58th Ohio Volunteers, Army of the West. These entries were made from May 29 to June 1, 1862 and cover the period during which the chaplain’s regiment was in or near Corinth. When the account opens the writer is in the field somewhere north and east of Corinth, perhaps eight to ten miles out. The diary was written in the German language and this portion was translated by a relative at the request of Mrs. R.E. Price of Corinth.

May 29, 1862 (Ascension Day)

This morning at 3 a.m. the colonel ran thru the sleeping camp in his underclothing issuing the command to break camp and move up closer to the enemy line. So the Day of Ascension turns into the Day of Advance, and our reserve force has been ordered into an advanced position at the extreme right end of our troops. Within an hour the tents had disappeared, the wagons were loaded, horses saddled, and we were on the march. It was very hot, and every mile or two the troops were forced to rest. Some of the soldiers became completely exhausted. The quartermaster had provided me with a horse, so I rode at the head of the column with the colonel, encouraging the troops to occupy the time with singing. We sang songs like “Red Sunrise” etc., but soon the effort was given up simply because our tongues literally stuck to our gums, and we were satisfied just to be able to keep on the move.

About one o’clock this afternoon we arrived at our present camping “ground”. It was laid our partly in a “clearing”, partly in the woods. In this area a serious lack of water prevails and it looks as if we shall suffer great thrist. Due to exposure to the hot rays of the sun I have a severe headache. We set up our tents, the battery was erected up front, and pickets were sent out three or four miles in all directions. Tonight our bed is the bare ground. May 30th, Friday

At the break of dawn a terrific cannonade broke out from heavy artillery up at the front lines near Corinth, which was continued until now with only slight interruptions. Actually the center of our line began this attack on Corinth several days ago.

The pioneers (engineers) have again set up my cot, benches and table in my tent, so I am able to write once more. It is becoming increasingly important for me to keep up this diary faithfully, particularly in order that we do not forget what day it is. Just today we discovered that we were off a day in our calendar reckoning. The firing of cannon continued until 10 o’clock this morning, when a thick column of smoke, such as (is produced) by burning cotton, rose up in the vicinity of Corinth. This has always been the signal that it has gotten too hot for the rebels and that they could no longer hold their positions.

As we suspected, the enemy has “evacuated” Corinth, and been withdrawn to…..(This word was scratched out.) at two o’clock this afternoon we received the news of the fall of Corinth. (Then we recalled that) we had heard the whistles and the chugging of railroad locomotives already during the entire previous night, and instead of this disturbance signaling, as we thought, the arrival of reinforcements, it turned out that the enemy troops had been withdrawn, (leaving only enough of a force behind) this morning to carry out a mock defense, in order the better to cover up the retreat.

No sooner had we set up our camp than we were ordered to break it again; no sooner had the “train wagons” arrived, been unloaded and the abused army mules unharnessed, than they had to be harnessed up again, whereupon they set up a melancholy, complaining bray. We are to be ready to march “at a moment’s warning.” It is feared that the enemy may try a flanking movement against our right end, against which our own regiment, with a detachment of two cannon pieces is guarding itself with utmost caution, since it would be expected to withstand and throw back any initial attack. We wait by the hour for the order to go forward, but we wait in vain.

A mounted courier arrives with the news that instead of undertaking an attack on Memphis, (as we had assumed they would), the enemy has penetrated through to the rescue of Richmond (false rumor), joining up with the troops stationed there. One corps of the U(nion) A(rmy) under General Banks is said to have been repulsed back over the Potomac. General Beauregard is no longer supposed to be here, but is reported to have gone to Richmond sometime ago to participage in a council of war, while Bragg is supposed to have been defending Corinth here. (Actually Beauregard was sick.) The Secessionists in Baltimore are rumored to have come out once more in favor of Secession.

We spent the entire night with weapons at the ready, expecting any moment to hear: The enemy is here! Instead the night ended quietly, if we disregard the racket made by the mules, who (because they had to remain) harnessed constantly became tangled in their traces. God be praised and thanked that He has watched over us and permitted us to greet the new day with courage and vigor. May 31st, Saturday

We are still waiting, all packed up and saddled, but there is as yet no order to march. Today I succeeded in securing the services of a lad by the name of Leonard Bauer from Co. G. Without the aid of such an orderly I find it impossible to fulfill the duties of my office. He seems to be an honest Christian, a member of the State Church in Baden (Germany). In army life one meets all sorts of characters, especially a lot of scoundrels and thorough-going hypocrites.

A typical example of the latter I met in …..(here the chaplain digresses with a lengthy discourse regarding a male nurse whom he ran across previously in the army field hospital, which discourse, since it has nothing to do with the present campaign nor with Corinth, shall be omitted.)

This morning the Colonel ordered me to ride over to the headquarters of General (Lew) Wallace situated a few miles distant (in order to get more news).

There I learned that the enemy has not only left Corinth, but seems to have disappeared without leaving a trace. They pulled off their old trick of (setting up) wooden cannons, so that we were kept at a respectful distance for the last 14 days, erecting one earthwork fortification after another, the while Beauregard has had time to pull out his troops and leave (us) the frustration and the empty nest. What makes it so ridiculous is that we never noticed anything and haven’t the faintest idea where they went. In America it seems to be easier to find a counterfeiter or a horse thief than (to be able to track down) enemy troops. June 1st, Exaudi Sunday

At six o’clock this morning I conducted services in the English language, preaching a German sermon at six o’clock this evening. My text was the 16th chapter of Mark, verses 15-16. We choose these hours partly to avoid the intense heat of the day, partly because this is the only time that all the troops are together, since picket duty is carried on both during the day and at night. The soldiers have orders to attend (one of the) services, but they seem to be willing to listen with reverence to the sermon. This much is certain, many of these soldiers who at home no doubt spent the hour set aside for worship in a beerhall, are now in a much more receptive mood for God’s Word than they were when they were not exposed to physical danger. Supplement to Exacuation of Corinth

Corinth is about 15 miles south of the border of Tennessee in the State of Mississippi. It is a pretty, flourishing town which boasted a population of 1500 before the evacuation, but in which there are now hardly a dozen inhabitants left. It contains some substantial residences. Several of the public buildings were destroyed by fire, the only one still standing being the “female College Corona” set on a hill, and measuring approximately 100 by 150 feet. Here we met the principal, who cordially led us to the library; here very few scarce articles were to be found. The only furnishings otherwise left there were 10 pianos. In the garden roses, tulips, and other beautiful southern flowers were in bloom. Before we reached Corinth, we had passed three of our own fortications, which were separated from those of the enemy by only a mile. The enemy had only one fortication, and that a very superficial one.

(Here ends that part of the diary which deals with Corinth. The next day, Monday, June 2nd, the chaplain describes his departure and the removal of his regiment to Bolivar, Tennessee.)
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