CORINTH INFORMATION DATABASE VERSION 1.3

(c) 1995 Milton Sandy, Jr.

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The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Sunday Morning, November 19, 1922

CORINTH, RICH IN MEMORIES OF WAR AND OF PEACE, WAS
FIRST TOWN IN SOUTH WHERE TWO RAILROADS CROSSED


Cross City as it Was Known to Early Residents Took
Classic Name at Suggestion of an Editor
Famous Battle of Shiloh Was Fought Within a Few Miles of Its Confines
and Maneuvers of Contending Armies Centered Around Its Environs.
Wealth and Beauty of the Old South Flourished There in Unrivaled
Fashion.
By George M. Moreland.

I visited a delightful place today -- a place so fraught with
historic associations that I stood as if in a dream while my fascinated
vision took in all the spendid historical associations which lay about
me. Every nook and corner of this place I visited today is filled with
forgotten places of history for, it seems, that men in their modern gay
rush of living sometimes forget this delightful old place so filled with
those historic haunts which were once the abode of heroes. I visited
Corinth -- not the old Greek city made memorable by the age-old legends
which cling in mystic fancy about its magic name and which have been
exaulted in song and in story since the days when the world was young.
No, not there, but to its proud namesake in our own sunny land and around
whose heroic name is hovering a halo and a romantic tale which makes it a
prototype in more than in name of its historic old god-mother over the
sea. Corinth is an interesting town. I am glad that I visited it. I
want you to come and take a stroll with me and let us ramble through its
wide, clean streets; let us bask in the soft sunshine which checkers
through the stately old trees which line with exquisite beauty its
avenues and read its beautiful history which is to be found emblazoned
wherever a corner is turned. Many people pass this old town by each day,
unmindful of the absorbing interest which clusters over it for so much
has been said of the history of more important but not less illustrious
places that the history of this old town has been allowed to sink into an
oblivion and the average man knows but little of its beautiful history.

Corinth didn't just happen to be. There was a well defined purpose
in the building of it. Some towns attain importance because of their
location on waterways, some because they are near to ports where come
from over the sea like white winged birds the ships which haul the
commerce of the world. But the building of two important lines of
railroad was the forerunner of the birth of Corinth. In 1854 was
commenced the construction of the old Memphis & Charleston Railroad,
leading from Memphis eastward, and shortly afterwards the Mobile & Ohio
was surveyed from the Ohio River southward to Mobile, and it so happened
that these two roads were destined to cross just below the Tennessee
state line in Mississippi. Now, this is the first instance of a railraod
crossing another in the south. The old towns of Rienzi, Jacinto,
Eastport and others, had flourished in the county since its organization
in 1836, but now that they were really to have something of which no
other place in the south could boast there sprang up as early as 1854 a
straggling settlement where the railroad crossing was destined to be and
it was called Cross City, in honor of the reason for its existence.


Editor Proposed the Name.

The railroad building progressed and as it did so Cross City
progressed also. Soon after the beginning of the new town a man named
G.W. Gibson arrived and settled there and became one of the new town's
first and best citizens. He was a man of scholarly-attainments and to
him belongs the distinction of starting the town's first newspaper,
which he called the Cross City, a most unusual name for his journal,
which laid the foundation for a journalistic town which still continues.
By 1855 Cross City had grown to such proportions that its incorporation
was requested, and at the suggestion of the town's first editor its name
was changed when it was incorporated to Corinth, after the ancient city
of Greece, which selection shows the scholarly inclinations of him who
named it.

In 1856 the railroad was completed from Memphis to Corinth and the
new town then occupied a position of envy in the new country. An amusing
incident occurred soon after the inauguration of train service on this
railroad. It is so interesting and unusual that it is worthy of
repetition here. A passenger train was approaching Corinth from the
east. The conductor rode in the rear coach and, to his consternation, he
discovered that the coach in which he rode was completely off the rails
and jumping along in frog-like fashion after the coach in front of it.
He at once signaled the engineer to stop the train, but before his signal
had been obeyed the truant coach jumped back on the track and the train
proceeded leisurely to Corinth, none the worse for its most unusual
experience.

In October, 1860, the Mobile & Ohio Railroad was completed. This
road had been started at Mobile and also simultaneously at the Ohio
River, and the two ends met at a point only a short distance above
Corinth. A train from Mobile brought Col. Baldwin, the road's president,
to the meeting point and another train brought others of the officials of
the new road from the north. Col. Baldwin then ceremoniously drove a
silver spike which connected the two lines, after which his train backed
into Corinth, closely followed by the train from the north. Great
festivities were held at Corinth in celebration of the event, which meant
so much to the thriving young town. The gentleman who gave me this
interesting bit of information was present at the driving of the silver
spike.


Then Came the War.

Corinth's future seemed now assured, and trains passed daily in
every direction and its people prospered and were happy. They set
themselves the task to build a city which would be the delight of all who
saw it and a pride to the generations which should come after them. But
before more than a few short months had passed away the dark clouds of
war gathered and Mars poured forth his furious breath over the idealistic
city of their dreams, crushing in its bud all the hopes these people had
for the future. The very railroads for which they had so much longed and
for which they had hoped would be of such incalculable service to them
was now the thorn which pricked their hearts. A poinst so strategic
could not be overlooked by the foe, and early in the war plans were being
consummated to capture this center of the transport service of Dixie.

Today I rode over this city and every time I turned a corner,
everywhere I looked, I saw markers telling a story of war in some of its
most ghastly forms and I found, too, unmarked spots which had their
tragedy of the dark days of 1862. It is not my purpose in the scope of
this short sketch to tell of all that happened here during those
troublous days of the '60's or even all that occurred on those two most
eventful days in 1862, when the intrepid Van Dorn made such noble efforts
to reclaim for the Southland this one jewel, which had been snatched from
Dixie's diadem by the Northern foe. It would seem, though that some
capable writer ought to tell this whole wonderful story, for it is
surprising, in poring over history's pages to note the inconsequential
efforts which have been made to tell this story of one of the most
important and far-reaching engagements during the great Civil War. But
that story I will leave for more capable hands. In a most interesting
drive, about the city today, accompanied by one of Corinth's oldest and
most distinguished sons, Colonel T.D.Duncan, and a most affable young
lady who drove us, I saw so much that inspired me that I am going to tell
you of a few of the historic haunts that one may see in this most
interesting old city.

Just west of the city and separated from it by a piece of pleasant
meadowland are some small hillocks and here was once the abode of heroes.
The federal army, which occupied the city, built on these elevations
three forts to protect themselves from the rebels who were approaching
the city from the westward towards Memphis. Today as we drove over the
road, which could be made much better, which extends across this
meadowland to where the old forts were located all seemed serene. Cattle
grazed in the fields and the mellow rays of an October sun fell around
us even as it fell, thought I, on that other October day, just 60 years
ago, when Van Dorn arrived in front of the forts in his gallant attempt
to wrest his country's pride city from the hands of the foe. The center
fort of the row became on that memorable day the hornet's nest of the
engagement. On this hillock stood Fort Robinette, named in honor of the
gallant young lieutenant who commanded it. A substantial fort had been
constructed, trees felled and an abatis placed in front of it, making it
nearly impregnable. In front of it in attack appeared the gallant Second
Texas infantry, commanded by Colonel William P. Rogers. He was an
Alabamian by birth, had fought in Mexico with a Mississippi regiment,
having had the distinction of being the first American over the walls of
the city of Monterey when the American Army captured the city. He now
appeared as a colonel of Texas infantry. It is not necessary to detail
this terrible strife that day, but the part this man played was so
unusual; was so wonderfully grand, that no story can be written about
Corinth without telling of his heroic exploits which places his name
forever on the scrolls of fame along with Leonidas, with Jeanne D'Arc and
the persevering Robert Bruce as among the world's great heroes. His
regiment charged Fort Robinette against a deadly fire passing over the
well-nigh impenetrable abatis and on, right on under the very muzzles of
the guns which belched forth fire and death in the faces of the colonel
and his dauntless band of his dauntless charge. They died on every side,
but they did not waver. Once the line swerved back, but encouragement
from Colonel Rogers brought them forward again in the face of a fusillade
of cannon and musket shot which fell about them like the falling of an
October rain. The color bearer fell, but the colonel grasped the colors,
waved them aloft and moved onward right over the top of the fort, taking
prisoner the brave Robinette, who had been wounded, and all his men who
had not been killed -- this, too, in the face of the fire of the army in
front of him as well as from an enfilade fire from the forts on his
flanks which had not been captured.


Is Buried With Honors.

But this was but detail of the terrible battle which was being
waged. From his elevated position the colonel could see the rebel
soldiers fighting in the very streets of Corinth. Then -- he saw them
waver and begin a retreat. Knowing the futility of holding Fort
Robinette longer he raised a white handkerchief as a signal of surrender,
waving it towards the Union Army which was rapidly approaching from
towards Corinth, a few hundred yards away. They did not see it continued
the fire. He ordered his men to retreat and as he was leaving the fort
with the flag of his regiment still waving he fell dead from a bullet
wound, the flag he had so gloriously defended on that autumn day winding
in graceful folds about his heroic form. A member of his command rescued
the flag but the brave colonel's body was left on the ground he had made
sacred to be found a few minutes later by the advancing foe when the fort
was re-occupid. General Rosecrans was so impressed by the signal bravery
of his foe that he at once issued an order that he be buried with all
military honors. A band of the noble sorrowing women of Corinth begged
of the general to let them take the body and tenderly bury it but to this
he would not agree, saying that on the glorious spot where he fell should
he be buried and there he was buried by the foe who, too, were Americans
and who were likewise proud of a hero whose dauntless courage and zeal
unsurpassed in the annals of warfare are now the common heritage of us
all.

I stood today by his grave and read on the marble which has been
erected there of his wonderful deeds which will live in the hearts of men
who love a hero long, long after the marble shaft above his ashes has
crumbled to dust. In the ages yet to come men will seek this secluded
corner near this quiet city's edge and will feel as I felt today a holy
veneration for a man who Horatio-like stood in defense of his land and
whose fame and glory can never, never die. I have stood in reverence by
the grave of Washington, but never before did I feel the reverential awe
I felt today as I stood there by the grave of this little known hero
whose fame deserves to be sung in dulcet notes which may echo around the
world. Mothers ought to tell the story to their boys who cluster around
their knees, fathers ought to cite to the youth his as an admirable
example to emulate and teachers throughout the land ought to keep his
memory fresh in the minds of the young but it is a saddening fact that a
great many of the youth of our land today who study every year the
history of our country know not anything of the wonderful heroism of
Colonel William P. Rogers of Texas.

The Daughters of the Confederacy, that organization of southern
women which we might fittingly describe as the embodiment of the soul of
patriotism, have attempted to form a little park where Fort Robinette
stood. The place is inclosed within a substantial iron fence. The grave
of Gen. Hogg, who died near there and who was the father of a later
governor of Texas, is also in the inclosure and marked by a fine granite
stone and the unknown soldiers who fell in the fray have all been buried
in one common sepulchre over which a monument has been erected with the
beautiful inscription written by a noted southern poet, which very
beautifully expresses the sentiment which surges unexpressed in every
patriotic heart who sees it:

"We care not from whence they came,
Dear in their lifeless clay;
Their cause and country still the same,
They died -- and wore the gray."

It is much to be regretted that this noble band of women who are
making efforts to beautify this sacred spot in Mississippi's history
cannot from some source receive assistance. They have not funds to keep
the weeds mowed away and to plant flowers and build walks which would add
to much to the beauty of the place, which is not now attractive save on
account of the heroic deeds performed there. This spot ought to be
perpetuated for all future generations to see to keep alive the story of
these heroes of the past as a stimulation to the generations who will yet
come to live in our reunited country.
Other Scenes of War

On Jackson Street I visited the old house which was used
successively by Gens. Bragg and Halleck as headquarters during their
soujourn in the city. Aside from being of historic interest this old
house is of itself an interesting place. It was built by a man named H.
Mask in 1858. It is of the old French colonial design, its builder going
to Louisiana for his design and bringing with him an architect from that
state to superintend its construction. The square columns extending all
the way around its spacious old porches give it a most comfortable and
inviting appearance. The fresco work on its interior walls is
wonderfully beautiful and is yet in an excellent condition, withstanding
all the ravages of both time and war, and exemplifies the refinement of
the age in which it was built and the artistic taste of its builder. The
house has recently been purchased by S.H.Curlee of St.Louis, a prominent
businessman of that city, but who is a native of Corinth, his father
having been one of the city's most influential citizens. Though having
the building altered somewhat happily he is retaining all the delightful
designs of the original builder and is thus preserving for all time to
the city of his birth one of its most interesting and historic landmarks.
The house on the site of the one occupied by Gens. Cheatham and
Grant as headquarters I also visited, as well as that occupied by Gens.
Beauregard and Rosecrans, but these houses have been so much altered in
recent years that they retain little of the interest attached to the once
distinguished occupants because it is only the site of where they lived
and not the house in which they lived.

In 1857 the Cumberland Presbyterians built a small brick church with
a quaint belfry above, and this house is probably now the oldest house
standing in Corinth. Wings have in recent years been added and it is now
being used as one of the three magnificent school buildings supported by
the city and state. It is hard to find in Corinth any old place which
was not connected in some way or other with the Civil War and this is
also true of this old church for during the war times it was used
successively by the Confederates and Federals as an ordnance storehouse.
In connection with this use of the old building during the war I
unearthed a strange and unusual story on my visit to Corinth for the
purpose of this sketch. In 1910, when excavations were being made about
the base of the building for the purpose of adding wings for the school
purposes, the workmen unearthed several large mines beneath the old
church. Some of the projectiles were removed and tested to determine if
they were still dangerous and they readily exploded., thus proving that
for 40 years the pious Presbyterians of Corinth had been devoutly
worshipping God above a nest of perfectly good and active mines.


E.W.Carmack Taught.

One of the early settlers of Corinth was Edward W. Carmack, who was
a school teacher of high reputation and who in 1870, when Alcorn County
was formed out of a part of Tishomingo, was employed by the new county to
transcibe the county records, which he did, accepting from the county the
old county courthouse at the now abandoned site of Jacinto, as payment
for his work. In 1871, he established a private school in this building,
which he operated most successfully until his death, which occurred in
1882. This item is of more interest since he was the uncle of that
silver tongued orator and writer of Tennessee who bore his name and whose
brilliant career was so tragically closed a few years ago before he had
reached the zenith of his fame.

For much of the data used in the preparation of this sketch I am
indebted to Col.T.D.Duncan and his charming wife, who have spent their
entire lives in Corinth and who take so much interest in the city they
love so well. Col. Duncan is a scholarly man and, although nearing now
the four-score mark he is still one of the city's most brilliant literary
men and some of his contributions to the historical literature of his
native city and state ought to and no doubt will be permanently
preserved. Col. Duncan is one of the few survivors of those dauntless
followers of Gen. Forrest, and during his brilliant career in the service
of his country he participated in no less than 52 engagements among them
being the imperishable name of Shiloh, where he fought in the contingent
led by Gen. Bragg. He has written a most interesting and valuable book
on the subject of the part he played in the troublous days of the '60's.

We have omitted much for the sake of brevity in this sketch which is
of intense interest. There are so many touching incidents which many of
the old citizens of Corinth tell of the dark days in her history that we
cannot include them all. They all show however, the same grand trait of
character, a kindliness to the foe, and a resignation in their
unhappiness which easily explains the grandeur of the delightful old
city's heroic past and is proof conclusive that a people who can suffer
and bear defeat and sorrow as did the people of Corinth of old will keep
in the future the same progressive step they at once took up when, after
the war clouds had rifted, they returned to their desolated homes, until
they will rise and rise to greater heights until this young Corinth of the
western world will rival in greatness the greatest day in the long and
brilliant history of that other Corinth over the sea from which she
borrowed her magic name. The lines the famous poet wrote of the olden
Corinth of Greece are fitting, too, of this once storm-swept city of
Mississippi when he sang:

"Many a varnished year and age,
And tempest's breath, and battle's rage,
Have swept o'er Corinth; yet she stands
A fortress formed to freedom's hands."


Pictures with this article under headline "Beautiful Shaft Marks Spot
Where Col. Rogers Who Died in Defence of the South, Sleeps in Corinth":

No.1- Interesting old house -- the headquarters during Civil War days of
Generals Gragg and Halleck. [Curlee house]
No.2- The Corinth National Cemetary.
No.3- Site of fort Robinette, the grave of Col.Rogers.
No.4- The oldest house in Corinth. [Cumberland Presbyterian Church
building, site of old Cruise Street School]


Capt. Thomas Dudley Duncan
b. 30 June 1846
d. 19 Sept 1931
m. 1868 in Huntsville, AL Juliette Elgin [b.21 Jan 1849, d 4
June 1936 {1925}] daughter of M/M Frederick Elgin of
Huntsville, AL and a sister to Charles P. Elgin who was the
father of Corinth Postmaster W.F.Elgin.
2 children: Mrs. S.H.Curlee of St.Louis
Mrs. W.P.Dobbins of Ft. Smith
Buried at Henry Cemetary. Died at Burkhalter home on Fillmore

Source: Weekly Corinthian 11 June 1925, p.7, c.3


Data transcription by: Milton Sandy, Jr. Corinth, MS - April 6, 1993


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