HEADQUARTERS FIFTH DIVISION,
Camp before Corinth, May 31, 1862.
The general commanding Fifth Division, right wing, takes this occasion to express to the officers and men of this command his great satisfaction with them for the courage, steadiness, and great industry displayed by them during the past month. Since leaving our memorable camp at Shiloh we have occupied and strongly intrenched seven distinct camps in a manner to excite the admiration and highest commendation of General Halleck. The division has occupied the right flank of the Grand Army, thereby being more exposed and calling for more hard work and larger guard details than from any other single division, and the commanding general reports that his officers and men have promptly and cheerfully fulfilled their duty, and have sprung to the musket or spade, according to the occasion, and have just reason to claim a large share in the honors that are due to the whole army for the glorious victory terminating at Corinth on yesterday, and it affords him great pleasure to bear full and willing testimony to the qualities of his command that have achieved this victory, a victory none the less decisive because attended with comparatively little loss of life.
But a few days ago a large and powerful army of rebels lay at Corinth, with outposts extending to our very camp at Shiloh. They held two railroads, extending north and south, east and west, across the whole extent of their country, with a vast number of locomotives and cars to bring to them speedily and certainly their re-enforcements and supplies. They called to their aid all their armies from every quarter, abandoning the sea-coast and the great river Mississippi, that they might overwhelm us with numbers in the place of their own choosing. They had their chosen leaders, men of high reputation and courage, and they dared us to leave the cover of our iron-clad gunboats to come and fight them in their trenches and still more dangerous ambuscades of their Southern swamps and forests. Their whole country, from Richmond to Memphis and from Nashville to Mobile, rung with their taunts and boastings as to how they would immolate the Yankees if they dared to leave the Tennessee River. They boldly and defiantly challenged us to meet them at Corinth. We accepted the challenge, and came slowly and without attempt at concealment to the very ground of their selection, and they have fled away. We yesterday marched unopposed through the burning embers of their destroyed camps and property and pursued them to their swamps, until burning bridges plainly confessed they had fled, and not marched away for better ground.
It is a victory as brilliant and important as any recorded in history, and every officer and soldier who has lent his aid has just reason to be proud of his part. No amount of sophistry or words from the leaders of the rebellion can succeed in giving the evacuation of Corinth under the circumstances any other title than that of a signal defeat, more humiliating to them and to their cause than if we had entered the place over the dead and mangled bodies of their soldiers. We are not here to kill and slay, but to vindicate the honor and just authority of that Government which has been bequeathed to us by our honored fathers, and to whom we would be recreant if we permitted their work to pass to our children weaned and spoiled by ambitious and wicked rebels.
The commanding general, while thus claiming for his division their just share in the glorious result, must at the same time remind them that much yet remains to be done, and that all must still continue the same vigilance, patience, industry, and obedience till the enemy lays down his arms and publicly acknowledges for their supposed grievances they must obey the laws of their country, and not attempt its overthrow by threats, by cruelty, and by war. They must be made to feel and acknowledge the power of a just and mighty nation. This result can only be accomplished by a cheerful and ready obedience to the orders and authority of our own leaders, in whom we now have just reason to feel the most implicit confidence. That the Fifth Division of the right wing will do this, and that in due time we will all go to our families and friends at home, is the earnest prayer and wish of your immediate commander,
W. T. SHERMAN,
SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume X, Part I (Serial No. 11), pages 233-4