Richmond, April 15, 1862, Jacob C. Blacklidge, Special Corespondent
At a press conference today in the War Department, Presidential Press Secretary, John A. Taliaferro, provided detailed information on the latest debacle in West Tennessee. He ended with the news that General Beauregard has both claimed victory and retreated into Mississippi. The amount of posted and telegraphic reports are so extensive that we will offer our readers a summary of the information and a timeline of recent events. While it is too early to make a final judgment, the sentiments of the War Department and the Chief Executive are that this has been a complete disaster. In addition, given the self-serving comments of the last two generals, Floyd and Pillow, after they fled West Tennessee, the truth of the situation should be told before another general claims all is well and promises he will soon return to avenge Southern honor.
A Year Ago: Fort Sumter
Ironically, one year ago was General B’s triumph at Fort Sumter. Back then his was a name to conjure up thoughts of victory and a flood of recruits, who roared “Bory’s Coming!” Now the good people of Mississippi may cry out, “Bory’s coming, and who is coming after him?” Very likely, in rapid pursuit, will be a huge army led by “Unconditional Surrender” Grant and “Cump” Sherman. They have in two months routed all our armies from Middle and Western Tennessee! Two months! Are Chattanooga and Atlanta to be next?
Our Southern McClellan
We formerly laughed at how “Old Abe” had been burdened for six months with a stationary army in Alexandria, Virginia. Observers have estimated over a hundred thousand troops have spent the winter, for some their last winter, in the unhealthy flats and swamps outside Mr. Lincoln’s capital. The hallmark of McClellan has been his endless call for supplies; he is currently entrenching a vast army somewhere near Yorktown. Little did we know that the McClellan disease commonly called “the slows” would infect our forces again. Slow to realize that Forts Henry and Donelson would be either flooded or subject to river gunboats, slow to realize Nashville could not be defended, then slow to realize that the only way to stop the Federals was to stop their landing and deployment. When they were most vulnerable in their boats, they were challenged by one Mississippi Regiment. Given three weeks to land and deploy, only then were the Yankees attacked in force, two days after thousands of reinforcements were within one day’s march. Needless, to say the gallant General B. arrived two days late and fought a three day battle with all of the Federals in play.
A Timeline of Events
February 7-11 Bowling Green, Kentucky evacuated by General Albert Sidney Johnston.
February 12 General B. writes General A. S. Johnston to urge the evacuation of General Polk from Columbus, Kentucky, as Fort Henry has fallen. He sees artillery batteries emplaced on Island No. 10 as only the only defense of the Upper Mississippi. The line of defense should be along the major railroad lines linking Decatur, Tuscumbia, and Iuka, Mississippi.
February 15 General B. leaves Nashville and heads to Corinth, Mississippi where he arrives on the 16th.
February 16 General B. learns that Fort Donelson fell at 2:00 A.M. surrendered by General Buckner to General Grant after the senior officers, Generals Pillow and Floyd, had fled to avoid arrest.
February 19 The War Department agrees to the evacuation of Columbus, Kentucky.
Late February-early March General B. at his headquarters in Jackson, Tennessee.
March 2 General B. urges General J. to move his forces from Fayetteville, Tennessee to Corinth, Mississippi.
March 4 General B. asks for two major-generals and five brigadiers to train undisciplined troops. He is told none are available at present. He then says his health is such he may have to resign his command.
March 5 General B. issues orders to his troops “to resist the subjugation, spoliation, and dishonor of our people. Our mothers and wives, our sisters and children, expect us to do our duty, even to the sacrifice of our lives. … Should anyone in this army be unequal to the task before us, let him transfer his arms and equipments at once to braver, firmer hands, and return to his home.”
March 11 General B. asks for ten generals, and cannot be held responsible for what is about to happen at New Madrid if control of the river is taken by the enemy.
March 13 Federal forces arrive at Savannah, Tennessee, 12 miles below Pittsburg Landing. General B. believes that Corinth is their intended target.
March 16 General Sherman lands at Pittsburg Landing and moves troops to within 10 miles of Corinth. He then returns after this reconnoissance and disembarks.
March 22 General A. S. Johnston arrives at Corinth. General B. reports that General J. wants to turn over the command to him, but General B. believes a victory will raise both General J’s spirits and reputation.
March 27 General J.’s troops arrive from Tennessee.
March 29 General J. issues General Orders which designate General B. as second in command and General Bragg as Chief of the General Staff.
April 1 date designated date for movement of the army to avoid the linking up of Federal forces led by General Buell who was in Franklin, Tennessee and was certain to be delayed perhaps by several days due to the destruction of the large bridge on the Duck River at Columbia. General says he lacked everything including competent engineers to get the army in motion.
April 2 news of contact with Federal forces led by General Lew. Wallace at Bethel Station, some 24 miles north of Corinth. General Cheatham relays this news to General Polk who sends it on to General J. with the notation, “Now is the time to advance, and strike the enemy at Pittsburg Landing.”
April 3 the General Orders for the army to move as the enemy is believed to be about one mile from Shiloh Church.
The Army is to advance beginning at 3:00 beginning with the Third Corps, but General Polk misunderstands the verbal orders and waits for printed orders, and his First Corps blocks the way for all the troops on the afternoon of April 3rd.
April 4 the Army advances only ten miles north of Corinth during this day with heavy rainfall in the evening.
April 5 there is more rain, and at 2:00 P.M. the Army arrives and goes into position, too late to advance and attack the enemy. The supply wagons with five days of uncooked rations are now far behind the troops. At a conference with General J. and the corps commanders, Generql B. reviews the situation.