Report of Captain Rex Griffin, Commanding 77th Pennsylvania Volunteers, First Battalion, Frontier Brigade
of Corinth, October 5, 2005
Sir: I have the honor herewith to report that, having previously received orders to bring
the men of the 77th Pennsylvania Volunteers to a field just north of the city of Corinth, Mississippi, a state in Rebellion,
that I and my immediate entourage arrived on the morning of the 30th of September. Some soldiers had arrived the previous
day. (A complete list of soldiers in our company is appended to this report.) Unfortunately wagon trouble kept me at the livery
a good portion of the morning. Once organized, company and battalion drills kept the men busy throughout the day.
mid afternoon, scouts reported disloyal elements in force some distance to our front. On a bright, sunny, hot day, with the
sky a sparkling Union blue, the Brigade was formed in light marching order and stepped off down a road that stretched southeast,
across a wide open field and into a heavily wooded area. Taking advantage of the shade, the men were rested in the trees along
the forested dirt road.
To the North was a wide open field of several acres. To the Southeast was a much smaller open
area, with a narrow defile of the forest betwixt the two. Along with a small battery of artillery, we were ordered into the
smaller field. With great prescience, knowing the Rebs were strong in the area, Colonel Stan Prater ordered a work detail
and materials readied to clog the defile in case we had to skedaddle back that direction.
We were in high feather as
we marched in column of fours into the field. The field itself was encircled with forest, save for a small opening about four
men wide at the far end. Facing that opening, we deployed into line of battle, our left flank anchored by the woods, our right
in the air, my company being the Second Company of four. The artillery battery was behind us, and another company-sized group
of Federals, identified to me as men from the Army of the Pacific stood about 50 yards behind us and to our right.
and ready for a brawl, we waited expectantly for the Johnnies to come pouring through that small opening. But only sparingly
would the Rebs stick out their heads, only to yank them back like a startled tortoise when greeted with our fire.
platoon of the Fourth Company was detached and sent forward to either bring out or drive back the Sesh. But the Johnnies recoiled
again at the sight of blue. They seemed scared to come out and face us head on.
Around us, the unseen tramp of hundreds
of feet gave us the haunting sensation that the enemy was maneuvering inside the forest. On our left, the Fourth Company was
sent into the woods as skirmishers. Just out of sight, on the right our cavalry pushed forward to flank them. Exposed in the
field, we heard sharp, indignant fire explode all around us.
The Sesh now unmasked themselves in the opening to our
front and we unleashed a few volleys. With the inflamed firing of the skirmishers to our left and the cavalry to our right,
it was obvious the enemy was surrounding us on three sides. Suddenly we saw our cavalry come out of the woods, riding hard
to the rear.
We formed into column and tromped out of the field the way we had come. As we neared our entrance point,
we heard the hellish caterwaul of the Rebel Yell explode behind us. The Johnnies came pouring out of the woods and across
the field like the fire ants from a kicked mound, screaming and shooting all the way. We scrambled for safety in the trees.
an instant we were engulfed in a deafening cacophony. Artillery explosions, musket blasts, screams of the enemy and screams
of the wounded, urgent orders shouted above the din and inspired curses and prayers all contributed to the chaos.
company got separated from the Brigade. We and another fell back down the road we had come, while the rest of the Brigade
moved through the trees and into the open to the North, joining with the rest of the Army there.
The Johnnies tried
to follow us down the road. Since the road was narrow, we formed into column and began using street tactics, groups of four
or five men firing and falling back, revealing the next group at the ready. Our disciplined, deadly volleys abruptly halted
their pursuit, stopping them in their tracks.
The Sesh fell back out of sight and we caught our breath, sending a scout
into the trees to our left in case of movement on that flank. In an amazing instant we were alone, no enemy in our front,
no other blue troops within sight. The silence was striking. It was Lt. Alan Prendergast of the 1st US, I believe,
who found us and lead us through a narrow slot between the trees and out into the large open field.
When I stepped
out of the woods and into the field, it was like stepping into a different world. With one footstep I had gone from a quiet
moment in the trees to the enraged chaos of sight and sound that makes up a large battle. The change was so dramatic and the
whirlwind so violent that I did not comprehend it all and even now cannot recall all the details.
But I vividly recall
a massive horde of gray and butternut behind those blood-red flags, crawling across that field like a vast serpent, undulating
from back to front as they moved forward. I also recall the thunder of our artillery, lined up on the western end of the field,
belching fire and spitting murderous iron like they were intent on tearing the world apart. And I remember that the blast
from musket and cannon fire was so loud that I could hear nothing else, except the commands of Major Don Gross to fall in
on the First Company.
Soldiers falling on every side like autumn leaves, we raced across the field to take our place
in line of battle, a thin string of men to hold back a surge of Sesh.
We managed to fire off a very few volleys before
receiving orders to the rear. It was at this point I made a crucial error, exposing my men to horrendous enfilading fire,
costing the lives of some of the best, most loyal soldiers in the Army. The death of those men will be a burden I will carry
to the end of my days.
Major Gross managed to pull those few of us who remained from that fiery pit and off the battlefield.
We had been thoroughly whipped. My command had been decimated. But those of us left vowed that there would be another day,
another battle, another chance to pour out full retribution on the army of Rebellion.
Reinforcements arrived in camp
that evening. The men entertained themselves with the usual card games and lice races. Tall tales spun around the campfire.
Blessed sleep came easily.
As he blew Reveille that morning, the bugler was met with grumbled threats of assassination.
In his most melodious tones, 1st Sgt. Cleon Plunk gently coaxed all the "Pig Farmers, Sod Busters, Pushers and Pasty-Faced
Lawyers" out not only into our company street, but probably every company street of our army AND theirs.
was again the order of the day. We had no more finished drill than we were called to the Colors. The Sesh were at it again.
Under a fiercely fiery sun, we marched out of camp in light order, across an immense open field to a line of trees. There
the brigade was split to cover two small openings in the treeline, setting up an ambuscade to maul the Johnnies when they
tried to pass through.
But the wily Rebs sniffed out our trap and refused to take the bait. We were ordered to pass
through the openings ourselves, the other direction, and enter into another field where we expected to come to grips with
those people. When we entered, we barely glimpsed the Sesh as they melted into the trees. We crossed the field and formed
along a treeline on the southern edge. There we rested, mostly in the shade, for some time.
The few Rebels we saw were
either unarmed prisoners or too far away to shoot at. In the far distance, we saw a column of Johnnies headed away from us.
Eventually the men were marched across the fields and back to camp.
As before mentioned, the day was very hot. Pvt.
Scott Gray fell out with heat exhaustion and was administered to by the local emergency surgeons. They were able to save his
life and limbs, but he was unavailable when the Sesh began moving that afternoon. Pvt. Russell Gray, Scott's father, took
his place in line.
Whetting their appetite on the previous fighting, disloyal forces thought they would move in for
the kill. Expecting enemy activity, we were called to the Colors early in the afternoon.
Other elements of the Union
Army had taken positions in and around a redoubt called Battery Powell. Our Brigade was ordered to the right. The Second Battalion
was detached from the first and sent forward as skirmishers, all the way to a distant treeline. First Battalion was split
into companies, then platoons, and took their places in rifle pits forward and on the right flank of Battery Powell. First
Company took over the rifle pits slightly forward and to the right of my Second Company. Lt. Frisby was placed in command
of the second platoon, taking the rifle pit on the left, while I was in charge of the first platoon position in the other
Once in place, we had a chance to water down and survey the situation. We watched with admiration forward as our
skirmishers calmly exchanged fire with Johnnies just out of view. Never losing their discipline or their composure, and only
after many exchanges, Major Errick Weiser's Second Battalion began falling back toward our positions.
Behind the enemy
line of skirmishers, off slightly to our right, a massed column of gray and butternut emerged from the trees. As they came
into the open, hindered somewhat by our gallant cavalry, our artillery voiced a welcoming blast of steel and shot. Firing
over our heads, we cheered the deafening roar.
In our forward position, I needed to check on the men and make sure
of their firing discipline. Thus I ran from our rifle pit to that of the second platoon. From there, I could see an even larger
column of Johnnies on our left, quickstepping behind that blood red flag. It was headed directly toward the center of Battery
Powell. My second platoon, at the left oblique, took them under fire.
When I scampered back to the first rifle pit,
I realized the vagaries of the slope and contours of the ground hid the left enemy column from that point. As the Johnnies
advanced our skirmishers took a position behind us, just over the line of works in our rear.
When the enemy got within
range, our muskets exploded with a furious fire of lethal lead. In my command, our front ranks pulled triggers while the rear
ranks reloaded. I saw that the First Company was trying a different tactic, similar to street firing, where men shot and moved
to the rear, revealing the next line.
My first platoon still could not see the enemy column advancing on our left,
so that platoon fired at the right oblique, into the column advancing from that direction. Our disciplined and deadly barrage
tore the ranks of the advancing Sesh. The chilling Rebel Yell corkscrewed through the air as they came on. But a mighty roar
of cannon and musket drove them back in bloody heaps, leaving a carpet of red, gray and butternut strewn across the field.
On they came again, flags flying. A whirlwind of deadly iron swirled around us like so many maddened hornets. A roaring
racket of fire from us, at us, behind us and above us assaulted our ears. Our musket barrels grew hot as our cartridge boxes
grew empty. After seeming hours and innumerable charges, we finally received the order to fall back from the rifle pits. Like
a foot race, with the Johhnies gaining on us, we scrambled up the slippery slope of earth and into the works. Reloading rapidly,
we took a deep breath. Johnny hesitated to follow us, then came on with that banshee squall. We unleashed a single lethal
barrage that stopped them momentarily, then we turned and marched toward a creek in our rear.
An intense anger, starting
small but rapidly enveloping our hearts, surged through us. We had already lost one battle and we refused to retreat any further.
Under Col. Prater's courageous leadership, the enraged brigade turned on its pursuers and let go another tremendous blast
of lead. Then, with our own furious roar of determination, we surged back into the works and drove the enemy up and out.
left a trail of mangled bodies and moaning wounded from the top of the embankment all the way back to the treeline. We emptied
our cartridge boxes into their backsides. But their fight was expended and, finally, we let them go.
the heat, having poured out our last ounces of sweat and energy, we tramped wearily back up the slope and into camp. Major
Weiser had succumbed on the field and he, too, was headed for the surgeon.
As so often happens after a big battle,
rain clouds formed. Soon, cooling drops fell upon us, incongruously raising our spirits.
Another event raised our spirits,
also. Arriving from British Columbia, Pvt. Gordon Huneck, traveling the length and breadth of the North American continent,
surmounting numerous obstacles along the way, joined us in the field. In celebration, and also in recognition of Sgt. Devon
Woodruff's 37th birthday, several of us visited O'Douls.
I personally made the mistake of requesting tequila.
I lasted long enough, however, to see young Pvt. David Newman, known to us as High Pockets, taken in hand by Miss Tulia,
step into the back room as a boy and emerge a man.
Suffering from the effects of heat and libations, I stumbled back
to our company campfire to find some of our men sitting around it half naked. I stripped to the waist myself and joined the
group. Soon several men were reposing with us, similarly unclad, including--probably to his everlasting regret--our battalion
commander, Major Gross. (To head off any unkind rumors, it should be noted that what happens in camp stays in camp.)
top off the evening a severely inebriated Sgt. Woodruff staggered back into camp near midnight. Tossing the contents of his
cup into the fire, the flame shot several feet into the air, knocking us backwards off our seats. That just about closed the
The rain had cooled the air, so the next day was not quite so hot. But the rain had also driven the local
fauna, namely fire ants, to the surface. They were a nuisance all weekend.
Being the Sabbath, only cursory brigade
drill was planned. But, as the Sun moved through the sky, it became apparent Secession was no respecter of the Sabbath. Slightly
after noon, we were called to the Colors. The Rebels were about to attack Battery Robinette.
Marched out in light order
to the redoubt, our brigade was placed on the far right flank. It wasn't long before the minions of Secession appeared behind
their bloody flag, headed our direction.
At this point Pvt. Adam Baker flew the yellow feather and took off for the rear. Lt. Frisby and I were both taken by surprise,
so we didn't get off a shot at him. But moments later he came to his senses and took his place beside the rest of the men,
holding his own and doing his full duty throughout the rest of the engagement.
Dismounted, the cavalry forward and
to our right moved to intercept the Rebels. A dogged fight ensued in which our cavalry--which we often taunt and curse--proved
the very model of soldierly manhood. In all the battles I have seen and took part in, I have never seen a finer display of
courage and skill than that displayed by our dismounted cavalry on this day.
But, no matter how finely handled nor
how bravely fought, cavalry alone could not hold back the Sesh hordes. The cavalry took its toll and fell back in good order,
forming on our right. To our left, the cannons had already been belching forth fire and death into the advancing Johnnies.
Now it was our turn.
We unleashed a furious storm of lethal iron that decimated the Rebel ranks, ripping terrible gaping
holes in their lines. Forward over their bodies, they kept advancing. Our deadly metal found its marks again and again, leaving
a trail of bloody corpses strewn in the wake of the Rebs.
On they came. Directly in front of the battery redoubt, the
Johnnies threatened to surge over the wall. Our First Company was detached and sent into the works, while the rest of us formed
in column behind.
The Rebs entered the works. In a wink, it was hand-to-hand. Ours was the lead company. At charged
bayonets we stormed into the redoubt at the double quick, driving any Johnnies that could make it back over the parapet, taking
the remainder prisoner. We followed them out of the works and, once in the open, formed a line of battle. We visited their
retreating ranks with deadly accurate shot, their slain piling up in places several feet high. But the Rebs had finally had
enough. As they moved off and our fire died away, we watched the remnants of the once mighty Rebel army limping its way toward
home. The Battle of Corinth was over. This section, at least, of Rebellion's domain was once again in the hands of the Union.
submitting reports, officers are expected to distribute praise and censure where they are due. In my command, each and every
soldier performed his duty to the fullest extent, and all deserve unqualified praise for gallantry and courage. For that reason,
it may seem unfair to single out individuals for their performance, as all deserve recognition. But I would be remiss if I
did not mention the steady judgment, cool courage and bravery under fire of Lt. Wayne Frisby, 1st Sgt. Cleon Plunk, Pvt. David
Johnson and, most especially, Pvt. Tom Whiteside.
No one in this company, nor the company as a whole, deserves any censure whatsoever. If, at any time during any battle
described in this report, the company did not perform to its fullest expectations, it was only because they were given faulty
orders. Since it is incumbent upon me to distribute orders, any censure due the Second Company of the First Battalion of the
Frontier Brigade is mine and mine alone.
Those who participated with the Second Company:
Capt. Rex Griffin 77th Pennsylvania
Lt. Wayne Frisby 77th Pennsylvania
1st Sgt. Cleon Plunk 77th Pennsylvania
2nd Sgt. Devon Woodruff 77th Pennsylvania
Sgt. John Miller 77th Pennsylvania
Cpl. Bob Cromer 8th Missouri
Cpl. Tim Mountford 77th Pennsylvania
Cpl. Wayne Hood 77th Pennsylvania
Pvt. Adam Baker ?
Pvt. Joe Derodie 8th Missouri
Pvt. Russell Gray 77th Pennsylvania
Pvt. Scott Gray 77th Pennsylvania
Pvt. Tom Harris 10th Kansas
Pvt. Jeremiah Hawkins 77th Pennsylvania
Pvt. Gordon Huneck 77th Pennsylvania
Pvt. Bob Hurst 10th Kansas
Pvt. Donald Huskie 8th Missouri
Pvt. David Johnson 10th Kansas
Pvt. Daniel Lamoreux 77th Pennsylvania
Pvt. Davie Newman 8th Missouri
Pvt. Jesse Riggs 10th Kansas
Pvt. James Warren 77th Pennsylvania
Pvt. Tom Whiteside 13th US
Musician Claude Lamoreux 77th Pennsylvania
I have the honor to be your most humble and obedient servant,
Capt. Rex Griffin
Coy. E, 77th Pennsylvania
The Bell Guards