CORINTH INFORMATION DATABASE VERSION 1.3

(c) 1995 Milton Sandy, Jr.

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TRAINS IN THE EVACUATION OF CORINTH

After the Battle of Shiloh on April 6th and 7th, 1862, the
confederates and their many wounded returned to Corinth to rest and
recuperate from their great endeavor. It quickly became evident that
the Northern troops intended to take Corinth, which had not entirely
been won by the battle just ensued. The Southern troops being
exhausted and disheartened over their great loss, waited and watched
cautiously as the Northern troops slowly but surely entrenched and
advanced toward the city. Being badly outnumbered, and without
reinforcements a Confederate retreat from the city was inevitable.
Preparations were made as the enemy came closer everyday. The
Southern troops mislead and deceived the enemy with great success
until May 29th, 1862, at which time the evacuation of Corinth by the
Southern troops, became a necessary part of the great war. This
withdrawal of troops from Corinth, without a doubt prolonged the war
for greater battles to be won or lost and did damage the
transportation system of the southern states greatly.

On May 28th a requisition was made by Military Superintendent,
Major R.B. Hurt, for as many train engines and cars as could be
furnished, to be sent to Corinth for immediate use. In response to
this order, many trains hurriedly responded. On the evening of the
29th, so many engines and cars appeared that great confusion resulted
and another order was sent. The contents of this order asked for no
other engines or cars to be sent. Mass confusion slowed the process
of withdrawal from the city. So many trains were in use that long
waiting periods occurred at the crossing of the Memphis and
Charleston track with the Mobile and Ohio. All evacuation should have
been completed by approximately midnight of the 29th but due to the
confusion the last train did not leave until 4:30 a.m. on the 30th.

During the day of the 29th, trains were ordered to different
parts of Corinth for the purpose of loading food, medicine, arms,
sick men and anything of value. Major O'Bannon supervised the loading
of the cars on that day and reportedly told workers not to leave a
single car empty.

Corinth's heavy siege guns were loaded onto a train, by Major
Smith commanding artillery at Corinth, about 3:30 a.m., May 30th, and
the train was placed on the Mobile and Ohio tracks and was sent
south.

The depot was emptied of all valuable freight, the office
cleared of all books, papers and office furniture. It was then set on
fire after the last train left Corinth. On the night of the 29th
Capt. Falkner, commanding officer at Cypress Bridge, Tenn., received
the following order from Col. Lindsay, commanding officer at
Chewalla, Tenn.:

"Captain Falkner, commanding at Cypress Bridge, will immediately
bring his company and Captain Elliott's company of infantry to
Chewalla. Captain Falkner will leave Lieutenant Prather and 10 men,
with orders to burn the railroad bridge over Cypress at daylight in
the morning. Lieutenant Prather will see that the bridge is
thoroughly burned, and then proceed to Kossuth directly south of
Chewalla. Do not burn the bridge until daylight; many trains will
pass to-night."

Captain Falkner was readying himself to leave for Kossuth when
before daylight on that morning, a man approached and reported that
he had been directed to find Captain Prather by Col. Searcy
commanding infantry at Chewalla, to instruct him not to burn the
bridges until latter as several trains had not yet arrived from
Corinth. He stated that the order was not in writing and said that
Col. Searcy said that it wasn't necessary that it should be. This
unknown man's message was undoubtedly questioned and ignored by Col.
Falkner. An hour after sunrise another man approached Captain Falkner
on horseback and asked the way and how to find Captain Prather. Capt.
Falkner told him where to find Captain Prather. This man had an order
fom Col. Lindsay. He went off toward the Tuscumbia Bridge but soon
after, smoke was seen coming from the area.

Seven trains approached Chewalla about 5:00 a.m.. Engines named
the Maury, the J.R. Mason, the Columbia, the Madison, the Jones, the
Powhatan, and the Memphis, were only a few of those leaving Corinth
that night but were the ones destined for Chewalla. The Maury was the
leading train and ran into problems first. It had gone forward across
the Cypress Bridge to the Tuscumbia to give notice of the fact that
other trains were behind and to prevent the burning of the bridges if
possible. Upon arriving at the Tuscumbia it was discovered that the
bridge was already engulfed in flames. This engine returned to
Chewalla to report the burning of the Tuscumbia Bridge and to receive
instructions. A decision was made for all trains to follow the Maury
across the Cypress bridge to the Tuscumbia crossing and to cross the
Tuscumbia on a temporary trestle. Even though it would have taken a
day and a half to build this trestle, it seemed a must because the
trains were very valuable to the confederacy and would have been in
great danger if they returned to Corinth and were placed on the
Mobile and Ohio track. Upon reaching the Cypress Bridge on the return
trip, they saw in disbelief that the Cypress Bridge had also been set
on fire.

It was now 6:00 a.m. on the 30th and heavy firing was being
heard above and below Corinth. Hearing the firing it was decided that
no time should be lost and the order was given by Charles S.
Williams, Assistant Superintendent of the Memphis and Charleston
Railroad, to run the engines off the tracks, and to render them
useless to the enemy by removing parts and strewing them in the
swamp.

The order was then given to burn the entire group of trains
which consisted of 7 engines, 62 box cars and 1 passenger car. The
wounded and sick aboard the trains ran off into the swamp and were
never seen again.

Since the goods that were loaded onto the trains were loaded
hastily and without record the exact loss to the confederacy will
never be known. It is known however that the cars were heavily loaded
with Government freight. Two car loads of hospital stores, a large
quantity of sugar and molasses, a small quantity of bacon, salt, and
coffee; some flour, rice and a brass cannon, mounted, with its
caisson was seen by C.S. Williams. The cannon was dismounted and
buried and the carriage and caisson burned. There were also reports
that several hundred small arms were buried in the swamp and that
their was a great deal of whiskey aboard the trains.


All information for this article was taken from the War of the
Rebellion. Series I. Vol 10. Part 1. National Historical Society

Written by Paul S. Pardue. 1/9/1992


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