12-14, 1862 - Description of the Federal river fleet's arrival at Savannah and expedition towards Purdy
UP THE TENNESSEE.
The Great Tennessee River Expedition.
Railroad Connections Destroyed.
Special Correspondence of the Cincinnati Gazette.
The Fleet Arrives at Its Final Destination.
Savannah, Tenn., March 12.- The greater part of the Tennessee river expedition arrived at Savannah, Tenn., on the evening and during the night of the 11th. As the sun rose over the canebrakes that line the river banks, it disclosed such a scene as neither that nor indeed any river on the continent ever witne3ssed before. For nearly two miles up and down the stream lay the fleet. More vessels were constantly arriving: the channel was filled with them, gliding about in search of landings near their perspective brigade headquarters, and the air was heavy with the murky smoke from hundreds of puffing chimneys.
The shores were covered with the disembarked soldiers, eagerly rushing everywhere and scrutinizing everything, with a genuine Yankee determination to see whatever might be worth seeing "away down here in Dixie."
Half a dozen regiments were brought out on dress parade, and the delighted inhabitant of the pleasant little country town of Savannah crowded into the streets or peeped out behind the curtains of second-story windows to see the unwonted sight, and convince their faltering faith that, beyond peradventure, the Yankees were there at least to defend them in their ill-concealed preference for the Union cause.
The expedition had indeed reached the sunny South. We were seventeen miles from the Mississippi line, and only twenty-five or thirty from the southwest corner of Alabama, precisely as far South as the northern line of South Carolina, and further down than any of our armies, excepting the small ones that have gone around by the sea-coat expeditions.
SOUTHERN TENNESSEE UNIONISM.
There was evidence through the day that they practical Union sentiment along the Tennessee was not wholly a myth. Some one hundred and fifty citizens of the town and county volunteered for the war to fill up the Donelson-thinned ranks of the Illinois regiments that were the first to disembark.
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Four Miles Above Savannah, Tenn., March 14.-Just in from an exhausting trip into the debatable territory between us and the enemy's forces, I can but realize once more the impossibility of conveying to civilian readers any adequate idea of the hardships [of] service in the field entails.
Plan of Operations.
The plan of the movement was briefly a this-At the two towns of Purdy in Tennessee, and Corinth in Mississippi, pretty strong Rebel forces were known to be posted, and between them was direct railroad communication. To attack one was, therefore, to attack both, till the railroad connection could be destroyed. A few mile south of Purdy was an important railroad bridge, with long trestle work one each side. From this bridge a good road led to a landing on the river, four or five miles above Savannah. General Wallace was to move up the river after nightfall, so as to throw the Rebel scouts off the scent, move out on the road six or eight miles with the infantry, and meantime send his cavalry ahead to destroy the bridge and trestle-work, and capture a passing train, if possible. The infantry would be within calling distance to support the cavalry in case of attack, or prevent their being cut off by a movement in the flank or rear.
The plan was carried out exactly according to the programme. In a night so dark that a rider could only see his horse by the frequent flashes of lighting, and under a pouring rain, Major Hayes, with a battalion of the Fifth Ohio Cavalry, guided by a Union man of the vicinity, marched some twenty-six miles, reached the bridge at an early hour, destroyed it and the track and trestle-work for half a mile, tired to catch the down train from Purdy, but were foiled by the conductor's having been advised by the people in the neighborhood of his presence in time, and got back to the point at which the infantry were resting at five o'clock in the afternoon.
The infantry march, though shorter, was still harder. The advance had hardly been disembarked and started off when a thunderstorm came up. Through the whole night it rained almost incessantly; the march was necessarily slow and one regiment was kept often standing for half an waiting in the mud and rain for some advance regiment to get out of the way; everybody was soaked before the march was half over, and when it was ended the blankets were so wet as to be useless.
Throughout the day General Wallace kept scouting parties out around the position of his infantry. The results of their labors were the capture of three Rebel privates and one Captain, and ascertaining that General Cheatham, with force, when all concentrated, amounted to fifteen thousand, had marched from Purdy the day before [13th] to take possession of the very landing at which we had disembarked, (where a high bluff gave a splendid position for artillery go command the river,) and that, foiled in this by our arrival, he was then lying within four-and-a-half miles of our positions. Our brigades were kept constantly changing their places; and if the Rebel scouts could make anything of General Wallace's dispositions or numbers they must have possessed extraordinary powers for combinations.
Gen. Cheatham was so astonished by our unaccountable demonstrations that he never dreamed of attacking us, and actually burned a little bridge between the positions to prevent us from attacking him.
Having successfully performed all that was required of him, Gen. Wallace started back to the boats about eleven o'clock at night. The rains were over, and the boys had a beautiful moon light march back. By two o'clock they were all aboard, and turned in for the night, after sever duty for thirty-six hours in succession.
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Philadelphia Inquirer, March 27, 1862.
13, "It is a nucleus around which a larger force may be gathered." An excerpt from R. V. Richardson's report commenting on the need to enforce Confederate conscription in West Tennessee
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During the time (about five months) in which I have been enlisting and organizing my regiment, we have killed about 50 of the enemy, have wounded about 100, and paroled about 700 men.
I believe that a force of 5,000 men can be raised in West Tennessee for the defense of this part of the State through the operations of the conscript law. My command is probably the first and only regiment of partisan rangers organized in Tennessee within the enemy's lines. It is a nucleus around which a larger force may be gathered. In West Tennessee there are large supplies, enough for the sustenance of an army sufficient to defend the country. These are lost to the cause unless a force is raised to defend the country. Here also are horses and mules; these are taken by the enemy whenever he makes a raid. My lines, now limited north by the Big Hatchie, might be extended north, and thus reach a region of country where there are many soldiers away from their commands and many conscripts. I suggest, would it not be well enough to encourage the raising of partisan corps within the enemy's lines, and thus avail yourself of a class of men now rendering no service to theirs country? I have made out a requisition for articles needed, and hope you will approve it and supply us as soon as practicable. Capt. Harrison and Lieut. [N.] McMullen will give all desirable information as to my wants and the exigencies of the service in this region.
R. V. RICHARDSON, Col. Comdg. First Tennessee Regt. [sic] Partisan Rangers, C. S. A.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 24, pt. I, p. 426.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214