| Camp at Sawyer's Cut, Tenn.
|June 19, 1862
|Capt. W. J. Ross
Superintendent Memphis & Charleston Railroad
| The following report of the
destruction of cars and engines on the Memphis and Charleston
Railroad, east of Cypress Bridge, on the morning of May 30, is
On May 28 and 29 requisition was made on the Memphis and Charleston
Railroad by Maj. R. B. Hurt, military superintendent, for as many
cars and engines as could be furnished; these were to be sent to
Corinth for immediate service. In pursuance of this order, trains
were sent forward as rapidly as possible to Corinth, until the
evening of the 29th, when, finding that the accumulation of engines
and cars was so great as to prevent their being usefully employed, I
ordered no more trains to be sent to Corinth.
| The accumulation of sick at
Corinth was so great that the mail train and a full train of box
cars, designed for the transportation of the sick, were both
detained, and did not leave until nearly night on the 29th.
| During the day (29th) cars
were ordered to different points near Corinth to be loaded--some to
the breastworks east of the town, others around the Y to the Mobile
and Ohio road, and others to each of our own platforms. Major
O'Bannon, who was actively employed in superintending the loading of
the cars on that day, repeatedly told me not to allow a single empty
car to leave Corinth.
| Two trains that arrived on
the day schedule on the 29th were ordered to the Mobile road, but
owing to the track being occupied, they were not able to go around
till nearly 8 o'clock at night, after which, having the main track
clear for the first time, we commenced making up our trains. The
manner in which the cars had been loaded, some being for the Mobile
road and others for own road, rendered much switching necessary, and
we were frequently blocked up at the Mobile crossing by trains
standing across. It was therefore 12 o'clock at night before two
trains were ready to leave.
| About this time I was
ordered to send immediately for the siege guns and carriages, which
were at the defenses east of the town. I did so, but the conductor
returned with the intelligence that they were not yet loaded. A
little past 2 o'clock on the morning of the 30th they were brought
in. I received conflicting orders as to the destination of
these guns, but about 3.30 o'clock was ordered by Major
Smith, in command of the artillery, to place them on the Mobile
road, which was done.
| In the mean time the trains
had been made up, and as all orders had now been executed and the
track was clear, the trains commenced leaving. Two trains had left
at 12 o'clock, and there remained five engines with trains attached
and two engines without trains, which were kept there for emergency,
to be used on either road.
| The last train left about
4.30 a.m., and carried all the cars remaining at Corinth up to that
time. The depot had been emptied of all valuable freight, the
offices cleared of all books, papers, and office furniture, and no
car of any description remained upon any of the tracks. I came out
on that train. We reached Chewalla about 5 a.m., where we found the
six preceding trains, and where we heard for the first time, and to
our utter astonishment, that the three bridges between Chewalla and
Pocahontas had been ordered to be burned at daylight. The Maury,
being the foremost engine, had, previous to my arrival, gone forward
across Cypress Creek to Tuscumbia Creek, to give notice of the fact
that the trains were behind, and prevent the burning if possible.
Upon arriving at Tuscumbia Bridge the engineer found it in flames,
and was compelled to return across Cypress Creek to Chewalla to his
| Upon receiving this
intelligence my first impulse was to endeavor to return to Corinth,
and endeavor to take all the trains down the Mobile and Ohio
Railroad; but a little reflection convinced me that, as all the
trains going south on that road had undoubtedly passed some of their
bridges, it was almost certain that they would be destroyed, and
that the position of our trains would be far worse under these
circumstances upon the Mobile road than upon our own. I determined,
therefore, to push forward to Tuscumbia Creek (supposing the bridge
across this to be the only one burned) and endeavor to cross this by
a temporary trestle. To this end all the trains were again set in
motion, and proceeded as far as Cypress Creek, where we found that
the bridge had been fired immediately after the recrossing of the
engine spoken of above, and had fallen.
| It was now nearly 6 o'clock;
we could go no farther, and the heavy firing, which now began to be
heard in the direction of Corinth and above and below that point,
admonished us that no time was to be lost. I accordingly ordered
each engineer to run his engine off the track, burn her or otherwise
dismantle her, so as to render her completely useless. The
locomotive Maury was thrown from the track down a bank and lay upon
her side; her links and other parts of her machinery were taken off
and buried or thrown into the creek. Locomotives J.R. Mason and
Columbia were burned. These belonged to the Nashville and Decatur
Railroad. I afterward learned that the flues of the Mason were made
of iron. If this is true, burning would not effectually disable her.
I did not, however, know this at the time. The Madison was stripped
of most of the essential parts of her machinery, such as links,
rods, &c., which were buried in various places through the
swamp. The remaining three engines, the Jones, Powhatan, and
Memphis, were stripped as far as possible. In some cases the
cylinder heads were broken, the eccentrics broken and rods removed,
and in others the links and valve stems and pumps were broken and
dismantled, and the parts buried and scattered through the swamp.
While the enginemen were engaged with their engines the conductors
were busy in burning the trains. I passed the entire length of all
the trains twice while they were burning, and think that this work
was thoroughly accomplished. Sixty-two cars were fired and one (a
passenger car) ran off crosswise of the track.
| It would be difficult,
indeed impossible, to give anything like an accurate inventory of
the contents of these trains. They were hastily loaded, mostly with
Government freight, and no notice given at the office either of the
contents of the cars or their destination. I noticed 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 caisson. The cannon was dismounted and buried
and the carriage and caisson burned.
| The company lost some 3
hogsheads of sugar and 7 barrels of molasses, with a quantity of
other miscellaneous freight taken from the depot at Corinth. I can
make no approximate estimate of the quantity or value of the freight
thus burned. I had not seen it until we arrived at Cypress, and had
no time to take note of it.
| I may add that one of the
great difficulties in getting the train away from Corinth was the
fact that empty trains were arriving constantly on the main track
behind trains that were loaded or loading, and the side tracks, as
well as the main track, so crowded that it was impossible to make up
trains without stopping the process of loading, which was, under the
circumstances, the most important of all other matters; hence the
last train that came in must be loaded and be the first to go out.
This will account, I hope satisfactorily, for so many trains being
together and the trains not leaving as they were loaded.
| I heard nothing from any
officer about destroying the bridges or trains until after I heard
of the destruction of the bridges. I then determined to destroy the
cars and engines, and did so. After the destruction was nearly
completed I received an order from Colonel Claiborne to destroy
| I left the train between 2
and 3 o'clock on the evening of the 30th. Up to that time I saw no
officer, nor did I hear of any, sent to destroy the trains.
Certainly no person came to destroy the trains up to the time I
left, and all that was done was done by my order, and the engines
and cars were as effectually destroyed as could be done with the
means at our command. Nor can I believe that any of the engines
could be put in condition to run without going into a machine-shop
and under going considerable repairs and refitting.
|Charles S. Williams
|Assistant Superintendent Memphis &