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בס"ד

Jacob C. Cohen, 27th Ohio Infantry

From Corinth, Miss.

Corinth, Miss., May 6th, 1863.

DEAR MESSENGER:

"For Sale."

Our little army here, having but shortly since returned from a two weeks' cruise in pursuit of the Confederates, I feel authorized to offer for sale on commission, to suit the times, a large and varied assortment of bags, suitable for catching "rebels." They are almost equal to new, have been used but a short time by their present owners; also, several works on Artesian Strategy and unfathomable science, designed to instruct the reader in the prolongation of Campaigns, and the conduct of a war of extermination. Persons desiring to purchase, can address "U.S.G.," "New Canal" or "Cut off, near Vicksburg, Miss." The sale is offered simply because the Left Wing of the Army of the Tennessee has pressed so hard on the heels of the retreating enemy that they have hemmed them in somewhere between the Potomac River and the Gulf of Mexico, and their General has no alternative left but to fight or let it alone, just as he pleases. If your readers can't see the sublimity of the Federal scheme to capture, it's because they don't understand Geography. The enemy being, as it were, served up between the two last water-courses I have named, has no possible chance of escape, except by getting away, and he will scarcely be enabled to do that, unless he can move his army, which cannot be done while said army remains in its present position.

"Strategy, My Boy!"

It seems to be pretty clearly demonstrated that the Army of the Tennessee wants a leader; that is, a man who is free from the prevalent disease of Canal on the brain; a man who can refrain from kicking Israelites out of his back door, while the enemy enter at the front; a man who is a man, and a General; one who is free from the bigoted principles which are demoralizing our army and rendering our success more uncertain and distant. As an evidence of some of the inscrutable strategy which prevails in this Department, I will cite part of our experience since my last: On the 20th ult., our garrison, which had previously been ordered to be in readiness to resist an attack at the first alarm, was suddenly surprised by the receipt of marching orders; our indefatigable Gen'l Grant having determined on a "raid." About the same time, as part of the program, Gen. Rosecrans sent a Brigade of mounted infantry across the country to rendezvous at Bear Creek, about forty miles souteast of this place. But a day was allowed for preparation, when the column was put in motion, consisting of all the troops of this District, supplied with two days' rations, without camp and garrison equipage, and officers, and men, without a change of clothing; two days' march brought them to Bear Creek where they awaited the arrival of the Brigade of Rosecrans; here the plan of the "raid" was developed.

Our troops were to press on to the Tuscumbia Valley, where Col. [P.D.] Rodd[e]y (C.S.A.) was supposed to be with about five thousand troops. Our forces were, by some of the most sublime strategy, to surround the "Confeds" and "bag" them, while the brigade from the Cumberland Army, under their commander, Col. [A.D.] Streight, was to push on through Alabama to a point in Georgia, for the purpose of destroying some important railroads, which would materially interfere with the forwarding of supplies to Bragg's Army at Tullahoma, and force him to retire from the latter position.

Castles in the Air.

This was the plan. Strategy that would do justice to old Mars himself. (?) Worthy of the fertile brain of Ulysses. Our forces moved forward. Suddenly they find themselves in the presence of the rag-tags of the Confederacy. But Gen. [Grenville M.] Dodge recollects the terrible warning of his superior, and "moves on" the enemy, as they don't happen to have any "works." A short but decisive skirmish ensues; our forces are forced to retire. In a short time, our columns are massed and again move forward. This time the enemy retire, and they do not stop retiring until they have traversed some thirty miles, when at Town Creek, about eighteen miles southeast of Tuscumbia, Ala., they make a stand. Gen. Dodge has no orders to proceed further, as he expected to find his game at Tuscumbia, so he also halts. Col. Streight makes a detour, gains the flank of Rodd[e]y, and content with escaping observation, shoots for the mountains, leaving Gen. Dodge to deal with the wary foe, while he seeks to accomplish the object of his expedition. What the precise nature of that is, and how he will succeed I must leave the Telegraph to inform you, as at present the information is contraband.

Gen. Dodge, finding that Rodd[e]y had out-generaled and dodged him, (though by what means has not yet been discovered), determined on returning within his fortifications at Corinth; on the 28th the "about face" was ordered, and on the 2nd inst. the column arrived here.

There Are A War

Attached to the expedition were the 7th Kansas Cavalry, the latter composed of refugees from the Northern and Eastern part of Alabama. Most of these men had been driven from their homes by the rebel conscription, and their houses and other property had either been destroyed or confiscated, consequently when they found themselves around the scenes of their sufferings and persecution, they began to wreak vengeance on all that came within their reach. Aided by the "Jayhawkers," whose desire for plunder only equaled their deviltry, they commenced a series of atrocities, the equal of which this army has probably never before been disgraced with.—So me of the finest mansions in the state were ruthlessly entered, their inmates abused and maltreated, property destroyed or pillaged, and then the buildings laid in a heap of smoldering ruins.

In fact, during the whole march from Town Creek to Iuka, these men destroyed everything they came to, burning houses, fences, outhouses, &c., without any consideration or judgment whatever, never asking whether the owner was a loyal man or not. That question was useless with them. As long as they could satisfy their spirit of destruction they were content. The whole route of Gen. Dodge is marked by desolated plantations and the ruins of buildings so wantonly destroyed by our soldiery. After it was all over, Gen. Dodge ordered that any man found thus plundering or burning, should be instantly shot. The orders came, however, too late, as many a citizen of the Tuscumbia Valley can bear witness to.

Again In Camp.

Since the return of the garrison here, everything has relapsed into its usual quiet—quiet as perfect as ever reigned on the Potomac, when the dove of peace hovered over the hosts of McClellan. It is truly a pleasant change. Our mails come regularly, the cars stop about a half mile from us, and once more we are enabled to get the morning papers, and know how the world and the war is rolling on. We go cheerfully through our round of daily duty, and nightly to our rest as quietly as if we were at home.

Nigger On The Brain

During the wet weather which has prevailed for the past few days, our camps were very muddy and disagreeable, and the ascent and descent of the steep hills around us anything but pleasant. It was no facilis descensus Avneri, by any means; but, however, as the darkies and their white pupils and imitators say, "The mud is all done gone," and long may it stay away. Things begin to assume an aspect of permanence, our camp ground is regularly laid out, ditched and put in trim order. In lieu of tents, officers and men have comfortable log houses, in many cases erected and finished with considerable architectural skill. We have a bakery which gives us bread instead of hard crackers, and we have commenced building a meeting house, wherein a chaplain can hold forth when ever one thinks proper to shed the light of his countenance upon us, which is not often.

As is the case, no doubt, in all parts of the army, there are men among us of every shade of political opinion, and many have been dissatisfied because our chaplain [John Eaton, Jr.], as they said, "preached too much nigger." Now I think that respect should be paid to the feelings, and even the prejudices of others, when all are embarked in a cause like ours. There are officers and men here, with whom I differ widely on the slavery question, and I think them wrong, as, no doubt, they think I am, but they do their duty manfully, like good soldiers; they love their Government, they have fought for it and will fight for it again if need be, and it is folly, to do anything which may cause dissension among brothers engaged in a common cause. Upon religious questions, however, our chaplain is quite circumspect, taking every care to avoid wounding the feelings of those who are not of the same creed as himself.

Fast Day

Though the regular garrison were absent on the above day, yet the troops temporarily here, observed the 30th ult., with marked attention. In the morning, religious exercises were held at the headquarters of the different Brigades here, the respective commands participating. It was a solemn occasion—a beautiful scene. Here, bent in all humility, were hundreds of men, many of them bearing all honors of earth, and clothed in the insignia of worldly power and authority. Here, heads were bared that had never lowered to a foe, and hearts melted which had been tempered by the fierce fires of war. After appropriate services and addresses on the part of the reverend gentlemen present, in which they touched on the greatness of our country, and the ruin which would inevitably follow its disruption, the religious observances were completed, and the officiating gentlemen announced that they left room for secular discussion, when two or three hours were spent in patriotic speeches by several of the officers present.

Miscellaneous

This place is becoming quite pleasant and comfortable. Spring has come, and heaven seems to smile on us. One thing very remarkable about Corinth (and it is by no means disagreeable) is that almost every dwelling in the town, and the quarters of the officers about it, is surrounded by a flower garden, in which trees, shrubbery and flowers grow in profusion, adding much to the health of the town.

Were it not for the smiling faces and fair forms of the ladies, which we are occasionally favored with a sight of, we should almost forget that we were once in a land where the refining influence of woman threw a softening halo around our pathway. I am glad to see that many of our officers' wives are coming down here, though I am inclined to think that nothing but the affection they bear their husbands could induce them to leave the land of milk and honey, and share the rough fortunes of war; but what won't a woman do for love and loved ones?

I fear this letter will prove monotonous to your readers. If you think so, put it in your basket, but you wanted me to write, and this is the result of a couple of hours' cogitation.

J.C.C.

Jacob C. Cohen Letters