42nd Alabama at Corinth Day 2
Map of 42nd Alabama March to Corinth
42nd Alabama at Corinth - Day 2
As his pocket watch moved past midnight and into the first moments of October 4, General Van Dorn, confident of a victory, issued orders in preparations for the final push into Corinth. In the inky blackness the Confederate soldiers adjusted their lines of battle just outside Rosecran's interior positions. Lovell's division was on the right flank, with Maury in the center, and Hebert on the left flank. At 1 AM of 4 October, the 42nd Alabama shifted east approximately a quarter mile in preparation for the assault. The attack was to begin at 4 AM with the advance of General Hebert's division, signaling the general assault. Skirmishers from both sides pushed out and probed in the pre-dawn darkness. The artillery began promptly at 4 AM; however, the infantry attack did not begin until 10 AM, due to the supposed illness of General Hebert. He was relieved of command and replaced by General Green, the division's senior brigade commander. At 10:30 AM, Maury's division advanced in the center. Moore's brigade was on the right flank of the division. Phifer's Texas cavalry was dismounted and on Moore's left flank. Lovell's division would advance on Moore's right. However, Lovell's division did not participate in Van Dorn's general assault for unknown reasons.
Moore's brigade advanced with regiments in column by company. Within Moore's brigade, the 42nd Alabama was on the extreme right, the 2nd Texas was in the center, and the 35th Mississippi was on the left. The 15th and 23rd Arkansas trailed the brigade. After marching 250 yards, the regiment reached the crest of a hill and could view the town of Corinth behind the Union defenses. The Union defenses were very formidable, with cleared fields of fire and abatis positioned in front of the defender's ramparts. Captain Oscar L. Jackson, commander of Company H, 63rd Ohio Regiment, defended the immediate right of battery Robinett, reported Moore's advance, "The rebels began pouring out of the timber and forming storming columns. All the firing ceased and everything was silent as the grave. They formed one column . . . then another and crowding out of the woods another, and so on. I thought they would never stop coming out of the timber. While they were forming, the men were considerable distance from us but in plain sight and as soon as they were ready they started at us with a firm, slow, steady step."
The 42nd Alabama attacked between the Memphis Road and the Memphis and Charleston Railroad toward Battery Robinett. The 37th, 39th, 43rd, and 63rd Ohio and the 11th Missouri regiments supported the battery, which consisted of a three-gun redan under the command of Lt. Henry C. Robinett. The Robinett redan was 35 yards wide, triangular in shape with an open rear, and included seven-foot high parapets with a ditch in front. Captain George Foster, commander of Company A, led the regimental assault column toward the western portion of Battery Robinett. The 2nd Texas attacked directly toward Robinett along the Memphis Road. The 35th Mississippi attacked east of the Memphis Road. The 15th and 23rd Arkansas followed in trail. At 10:30 AM, Captain Foster shouted, "They shan't beat us to those breastworks . . . Forward Alabamians!" challenging his column to be the first soldiers to the enemy works. The 42nd Alabama moved forward toward Battery Robinett with the entirety of Moore's brigade. The artillery of Battery Robinett, supported by Battery Williams and the musketry of the infantry, opened on Moore's brigade with terrible effect. Union accounts reported, "great gaps were cut through their ranks . . . Dozens were slaughtered." Private James A. McKinstry, a 16-year-old member of D Company, described the initial assault, "We raised the rebel yell, and made a rush for the opening." The 42nd Alabama was "met by a deadly volley of shrapnel shells" and their "men fell dead and wounded all along the line." As the regiment continued toward Robinett, Lieutenant Charles R. Labruzan, acting commander of F Company, a former Mobile Merchant, husband and father of four, described the scene, "We were met by a perfect storm of grape, canister, cannon balls and minnie balls. Oh God! I have never seen the like! The men fell like grass ... Giving one tremendous cheer, we dashed to the brow of the hill on which the fortifications are situated...I saw men, running at full speed, stop suddenly and fall upon their faces, with their brains scattered all around; others, with legs and arms cut off, shrieking with agony. They fell behind, beside, and within a few feet of me. Labruzan described the air as full of "hissing" minie balls, canister, and grape shot and "the ground literally strewn with mangled corpses." Captain Foster died while leading his company during this attack on Battery Robinett. Lieutenant Labruzan remarked, "I saw poor Foster throw up his hands . . . The top of his head seemed to cave in, and the blood spouted straight up several feet." Captain George A. Williams, First U. S. Infantry, provided a detailed account of the attack of the 42nd Alabama, "My attention was drawn to the left side of the battery by the firing from Battery Robinett, where I saw a column advancing to storm it. After advancing a short distance they were repulsed, but immediately reformed, and, storming the work, gained the ditch, but were repulsed. During this charge 8 of the enemy, having placed a handkerchief on a bayonet and calling to the men in the battery not to shoot them, surrendered, and were allowed to come into the fort. They then reformed, and, restoring, carried the ditch and outside of the work."
Elements of the 42nd Alabama and the 2nd Texas drove the Union forces from Robinett and momentarily gained the ditch and ramparts of the redan. Deadly close quarters combat occurred on Robinett, "A terrific hand-to-hand combat ensued. . . . The carnage was dreadful. Bayonets were used, muskets clubbed, and men were felled with brawny fists." Private McKinstry described the carnage on Robinett, "I looked and, lo! Every one of the fifteen men who were standing with me had fallen in a heap." Corporal J. A. Going, an 18-year-old, carried the 42nd Alabama regimental colors until he was wounded-in-action in the assault. He then passed the colors to Private Crawford, who was also wounded-in-action on the ramparts of Robinett. General Moore remarked that the 42nd Alabama "mounted the parapet and planted their flag on the walls."
The 11th Missouri, positioned in reserve behind Robinett, counter-attacked and regained Robinett. Major Andrew J. Weber of the 11th Missouri reported the action, "The enemy took possession of the fort and were within 30 paces of my little line, when we arose with a yell and charged them. Though the enemy had thus far been successful, when met at the bayonet point he turned and fled ignominiously. We retook the fort and then fired our first shot, and having every advantage of the confusion of the enemy, piled the ground with his killed and wounded." Brigadier General David S. Stanley described the repulse of Moore's brigade, "The hill was cleared in an instant, the enemy leaving the ditch and grounds covered with his dead and wounded. Many threw down their arms and called for quarter."
The casualties of the 42nd Alabama were heavy near Robinett. Large portions of the regiment choose to surrender as opposed to the certain death by fleeing in front of the formidable Union guns. As Moore's lead regiments were repulsed at Robinett, Moore's two Arkansas regiments and the trail companies of the 42nd Alabama followed Phifer's brigade into Corinth as far as the Tishomingo Hotel. General Moore described the actions of his brigade east of Robinett and in the city of Corinth, "On reaching this point we charged and carried the enemy's works . . . penetrated to the very heart of Corinth, driving the enemy from house to house and frequently firing in at the windows and driving them out. The enemy was driven from the breastworks in great confusion, leaving their guns, some with teams still hitched, while others had their horses cut loose and ran off." Lieutenant Jefferson R. Stockdale described the actions of G company, "We went over the breastworks into Corinth and fought in the streets, grappling with the foe, in many instances hand to hand but overwhelming numbers forced us to retire, the killed and wounded on both sides was very great." Moore's brigade culminated in the town of Corinth at the railroad junction near the Tishomingo Hotel. They were "overwhelmed" by "massive reserves" and "melted under their fire like snow in thaw."
By 2:30 PM, Van Dorn found the situation desperate, a day that had began as a certain victory was now reduced to a struggle to extricate his army before the retreat routes are blocked by encroaching union forces. On the evening of 4 October, Van Dorn's Army of West Tennessee fell back toward Pocahontas, Tennessee, along the same route in which they had advanced. Van Dorn's challenge was to disengage his force in the face of the enemy while maintaining as much of his combat power as possible. Grant challenged Rosecrans to trap the retreating Army of West Tennessee and follow-up his victory.
Corinth was the first experience of combat for the 42nd Alabama. The 20th Century military historian S. L. A. Marshall discussed the impact of first combat on soldiers, "Their losses will become their great teacher. The weaker ones will be shaken out of the company by this first numbing experience . . . A majority of the strong will survive. In the next round with the enemy they will begin to accustom themselves to the nature of the field and they will learn by trail and error those things which need doing to make the most of their united strength."
Casualties were severe, General Sterling Price stated, "The history of this war contains no bloodier page perhaps than that which will record this fiercely contested battle." Of Van Dorn's total effective force of 22,000 soldiers, the Army of West Tennessee suffered 22 percent casualties. A Union correspondent described the aftermath of the violence, "Approaching Corinth from the north . . . you scent the battlefield from afar. Sickening exhalations from the carcasses of horses and men half stifle you. The battle of Corinth - a dreadful carnage . . . History will record that so many lives went out here; that so many splendid deeds of manlike gallantry were done."
Although this was the first engagement for the 42nd Alabama, the performance of the unit was excellent as reported by leaders and soldiers on both sides. General Moore described the 42nd Alabama as remaining steady under their first combat, "This regiment advanced with remarkable steadiness, this being their first engagement." Lieutenant Stockdale summed up the performance, "The Dixie Rebels fought with coolness and determination of veteran troops, was in the front from beginning to end, with deepest regret we mourn the loss of our brave boys who have fallen."
Oscar L. Jackson, The Colonel's Diary, (Sharon, PA, 1922), 71.
Stacy Allen, "Crossroads of the Western Confederacy", Blue & Gray Magazine, Summer 2002, 41.
Joseph E. Chance, The Second Texas Infantry: From Shiloh to Vicksburg. (Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1984), 71.
Frank Moore, Rebellion Record, A Diary of American Events, (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863) 5, 503.
James A. McKinstry, "With COL Rogers When He Fell", Confederate Veteran, (1896): 4, 221.
Oscar L. Jackson, The Colonel's Diary. (Sharon, PA, 1922), 71.
OR, 17.1, (Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901) 248.
Frank Moore, Rebellion Record, A Diary of American Events, Fifth Volume (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863), 503.
James A. McKinstry,"With COL Rogers When He Fell", Confederate Veteran, (1896): 4, 222.
OR, 17.1, (Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 399.
The Democratic Watchtower Vol. 23, No. 40 October 28, 1862.
OR, 17.1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 396.
Marshall, Men Against Fire, (Alexandria, VA: Byrrd Enterprises, Inc., 1947) 49.
OR, 17.1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 388.
Frank Moore, Rebellion Record, A Diary of American Events, (New York, G. P. Putnam, 1863) 5, 500.
OR, 17.1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 398.
The Democratic Watchtower Vol 23, No. 40 October 28, 1862.