80 HISTORY OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT O.V.V.I.
Not enough of the Corinthians remained to welcome us or to give us any idea of the character of the mass of the citizens. A few poor persons, the druggist referred to, and the mayor's clerk, and two or three wealthy families, were all that could be found. The poor were nearly starved, and were disposed to welcome any change, as it might bring relief, but could not add to their sufferings. Their condition in any event could not be much worsted. They walked curiously around, observing the movements of the soldiers, astonished at the comparatively handsome uniform they wore, and gratified that the fears they had felt were not realized. The wealthy females looked from the windows of their mansions upon the Union troops, affecting the greatest scorn and contempt for the Yankees, who viewed them in return rather in a spirit of pity than of revenge.
Corinth is supplied with water from an artesian well, which has been lately completed, and is about 600 feet deep. It will afford sufficient water for the army, and is of good quality, but the distance to our lines will create considerable inconvenience. Artesian wells are usually huge bores, but it does not so happen in this instance. The benefit derived from it is substantial.
The rebel Generals determined to evacuate the place on the 27th, and therefore sent away all their baggage, and everything not actually needed for the subsistence of the troops or for a battle. The question of final evacuation was left open as circumstances might dictate; and in the meantime the army and the troops were to be cajoled into the belief that Corinth was the last ditch – the spot where General Pillow intended to die.
All the citizens of Corinth, and I believe of the rebel States, believed the place would be held at all hazards, and the chagrin and disappointment at its evacuation without a blow, were deep and bitter. I talked with several, who, up to that hour had never faltered in their faith, but who now look upon their cause as past the remotest chance of a resurrection, and are adapting themselves to their new and changed circumstances. They say that if the South could not hold and defend Corinth, they cannot hold their ground at any other point, and it is therefore useless to prolong a war which is now desolating twelve States.
On the 27th, General Beauregard went to Holly Springs, giving out the impression that it was to recruit his health, but the real intention was to select a camp for his army. Generals Pillow, Price and Hardee concurred with Beauregard to evacuate the place, but General Bragg and Van Dorn opposed it, as a movement absolutely destructive to their cause.
General Halleck was admired for his care, and fortifying every resting place about Corinth, but we cannot commend his watchfulness in not ascertaining the fact that the rebels were retreating, when we were within half a mile of their lines for forty-eight hours. A reconnoisance in force, at several points, to the distance of twenty-five rods beyond our pickets, would have discovered the whole facts. General Halleck's watchfulness will certainly be regarded as a military blunder.
True to their natural sentiments, the rebels could not leave the town without destroying a large amount of property. The depot and three large warehouses, containing provisions which they were unable to carry away, were fired, and before the arrival of the Union army, were consumed. The dense cloud of smoke which was seen in the morning as the army approached, led to the supposition that the town had been burned, but on our arrival it was found that all private residences, and such buildings as contained no army stores, were left unharmed.
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