Special to the Chicago Tribune.
CAIRO, April 10.
We are just beginning to get some reliable details from the great battle at Pittsburg. From several gentlemen who were on the field afterwards on in the fight, the following are gathered and sent. Our informant left the battle field on Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock:
The rebels Attacked Prentiss’s brigade 4 o’clock on Sunday morning, while they were at breakfast. It consisted of the 61st Illinois, 16th Wisconsin, 24th Indiana and 71st Ohio. The rebels were said to be 120,000 strong. Prentiss had no artillery. His brigade was cut to pieces, and forced to retire, with Prentiss and many other prisoners. At 12 m. the entire line was fiercely engaged, but in full retreat.
At 4 p. m. the enemy had taken Swartz’s battery – 6 guns, Dresden’s, of 4 guns, Waterhouse’s battery, 2 rifled Ohio 56-guns, and another Ohio battery. Thousands of our soldiers had taken refuge under the bank of the river, and utterly refused to fight – in fact they could not, for officers and men were in inextricable confusion, and the army seemed utterly demoralized.
Gen. Mitchell’s [sic] division, about this time arrived on the opposite shore with 15,000 men, who were ferried across during the night.
The gunboats Lexington and Tyler opened a tremendous fire of shell upon the enemy, and kept it up every half hour during the night, saving the army from utter ruin. – They set the woods on fire, and many of the rebels were burned. At 7 the firing generally ceased. At midnight the rebels attempted to plant a battery within three hundred yards of our siege guns, but they were driven back by the gunboats and siege guns, supported by three regiments of Mitchell’s division.
Our informants persist in estimating our loss on Sunday at 3,000 killed and 5,000 wounded as a low figure. It was undoubtedly tremendous. During the night the rebels were reinforced by Price and Van Dorn from Arkansas, with a very large force.
Gen. Lew Wallace came up from Crump’s Landing with the 18th and 23d Ind., 44th Ill., 8th Mo and Willard’s battery, and in the morning fiercely attacked the left wing of the enemy. They went into the fight on the double quick with tremendous shouts, and did terrible execution. By 10 o’clock they had driven the rebels back two miles. The battery performed prodigies of valor.
About 10 o’clock the rebels were reinforced, and for a few minutes our gallant boys were forced to yield.
The other divisions of Buell’s army now appeared and at once became fully engaged, and for two hours all the destructive elements of earth seamed striving for the mastery on that fatal field. Southern chivalry proved no match for the unflinching courage of the army of freedom, and the rebels fled in all directions with some 12,000 troops. Gen. Buell followed the fugitives taking thousands of prisoners and smiting without mercy those who would not surrender. He was reported to have taken Corinth with all the immense stores of arms and ammunition. Carson, the scout had his head torn off on Monday by a round shot.
The rebel troops were mostly from Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, with many from Georgia and Alabama. They fought like tigers. Our informant could ride through the battle field where our forces were posted, but the dead were so thick in the enemy’s line that they could not do it. They assure us that the rebels surprised our camps on Sunday night, took care of our sick and wounded, but destroyed nothing, expecting confidently to have our entire army the next day. They thought the battle already won on Sunday.
Gen. McClernand cut his way through the enemy that had surrounded him. Most of his troops behaved with great gallantry; but the 53rd Ohio was ordered to the rear in disgrace for refusing to fight.
Capt. Harvy of Bloomington, Illinois is among the killed.
Our informants were assured by those who know the man, that John C. Breckenridge was taken Prisoner. They saw him pass to the General’s quarters.
It is impossible to get lists of the killed and wounded.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Saturday Morning, April 12, 1862, p. 2