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[Special correspondence of the Chicago Tribune.]
May 30, 1862.
Just after I had written my letter dated this morning a dispatch was received from General Halleck's headquarters stating that our flag waved over the court-house at Corinth. The news caused much surprise here, as it was wholly unexpected, for the rebels had been disputing the ground with us inch by inch during the past few days, and with a stubbornness that indicated an intention to make a desperate resistance behind their main works of defense. Whether the reasons of the evacuation were merely strategical or that the supply of provisions was running short yet remains to be seen. I learn from a professed Union man, a deserter from the rebels, that they had for some time been on short rations, the men getting only a quarter ration and the horses three ears of corn per day. Their animals are said to be in a very bad condition. The water in and around Corinth is also very bad. It smells so offensively that the men have to hold their noses while drinking it. As our men advanced they found the water much deteriorated and very difficult to obtain.
When our forces entered the place, about 7 a.m., after shelling it for some time, they found but two or three men and a few women and children in it. These were gathered around the little heaps of furniture they had snatched from the burning buildings. Whether the buildings were set on fire by our shells or the retreating rebels is not known. During the night our pickets, and indeed the entire advance of the army, heard repeated explosions, doubtless caused by the blowing up of the magazines. Nothing of any use to us whatever was found, not even a quaker gun. These were of no use, however, at Corinth, as they could not have been seen by us.
The retreat of the enemy was conducted in the best of order. Before our men had entered the place all had got off safely. General Halleck has thus achieved one of the most barren triumphs of the war. In fact, it is tantamount to a defeat. It gives the enemy an opportunity to select a new position as formidable as that at Corinth, and in which it will be far more difficult for us to attack him, on account of the distance our army will have to transport its supplies. Supposing the enemy take up their second position of defense at Grand Junction, about 60 miles from here, 4,000 additional wagons will be required. At $113 each this would involve an expense of nearly $500,000, to say nothing of mules, pay of teamsters, forage, &c. Then there is the fatigue to our men, the attacks of guerrilla parties in our rear, &c. I look upon the evacuation there as a victory for Beauregard, or at least as one of the most masterly pieces of strategy that has been displayed during this war. It prolongs the contest in the Southwest for at least six months.
It is rumored that the main body of the rebels is stationed at Kossuth, a few miles from Corinth, while some 25,000 have gone on to Grand Junction, which the enemy have been fortifying for some time past.
Up to last night the enemy kept up a display of force along his whole line, thus completely deceiving our generals.
I learn that the lines of fortification at Corinth are numerous and formidable, but I have yet no authentic statement of their real strength and condition.
General Halleck must feel deeply mortified at the evacuation. It clearly shows that he knew nothing of the position and strength of the enemy and of his ulterior designs. This in a great measure arises from the exclusion of contrabands from the camp. If this war is ever to be brought to a close it must be by making use of the negro in every possible way.
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 Volumes. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.
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