51st in Camp at Farmington, Mississippi, Mid-May 1862

Camp Near Farmington, Miss.,
Army of the Mississippi, May 14th, 1862.

The lines began to close up to and about Corinth. The right of the grand army, which was further from the rebel entrenchments than any other portion of our lines has been steadily pushed forward, until its extreme right brigade is but little further from Corinth than are General Pope's lines. At the same time the whole line has what may be termed "dressed up"—that is, closed the intervals between the three "corps-de-armees," and the divisions of the same. Gen. Nelson's division pickets rest upon the right of Gen. Paine's. Nelson's left flank, with Gen. Paine's right flank, form a wedge, of which smaller end rest where the pickets meet. Up this wedge Gen. Crittenden is moving, and will soon join his pickets next to General Paine's, when Nelson's pickets will be drawn more to the right, his lines having been more extended than will be necessary with Crittenden's advance. As with Nelson, so with the other divisions, all having moved across and nearer to Corinth. I rode to-day along Pope's pickets, and thus obtained a good idea of the position occupied by our army and the ground over which our final advance will be made.

Night before lat the pickets of our extreme left, occupied by Gen. Stanley's division, conversed with the right pickets of Gen. Mitchell's army. This settles the present whereabouts of that dashing and ubiquitous leader. It would seem probably that he is now making a flanking movement to the extreme left, with the very likely view of making a rapid march south of Corinth to some point upon the Ohio and Mobile Railroad, destroy the track and thus stop the retreat southward of the rebel army. If these conjectures are correct, and I believe they are, we shall bag the whole rebel army at or near Corinth.

Great activity evidently prevails in the rebel camp. The cars have been kept running constantly, and it is evident that large bodies of troops are being moved to some point, apparently to the est or right of our line. This would undoubtedly suggest their being alarmed by Halleck's movements on the right and centre, and preparing to meet the attack they there expect.

A reconnoissance was made by Gen. Paine to the right of Farmington, today, and under cover of it a battery of four 30-pound Parrot guns were planted in the position where the rebels will feel them. No large bodies of rebels was observed, though scouting parties were drive in. The woods were shelled in order to dislodge any lurking parties that might be there.

We had a most interesting ceremony this evening in the camp of the 51st Illinois. The superb stand of national and regimental colors, presented by citizens of Chicago to this regiment, were put in their possession by Mr. F. Munson, of Lake street, who was the committee sent for that purpose. An additional interest was added to the event, and lent it a poetic charm, by the circumstances under which it came off. Such an event under the ordinary surroundings of preparations for the moving from camp of instruction to the field, are significantly impressive to be long remembered by the parties participating in it. How much more so is a similar occurrence under present surroundings. The committee brought these colors from your city, hundreds of miles from the field of conflict, where only the anxiety of those in lonely homes, or the patriotic passion of loyalty can faintly realize the dread realities of war; brought to the soil of a State foremost in the rebellious array, to be placed in the ranks of those, but a few months since among you in the ordinary avocations of civil life. Such thoughts as these come to the minds of those who were present, and parties to the presentation. Thus, the details of the scene were equally as full of poetic feeling and fervor, and were all calculated to give an additional value to the beautiful gift, brought to the men but a few months of, but still veterans in the service. The colors are very handsome, and the regimental flag bears, according to the orders of Gen. Pope, on its blue folds, the words, "New Madrid" and "Island No. 10." The regiment was formed in a hollow square on the color line, and Mr. Munson addressed them, in substance, as follows—your correspondent and a fellow journalist being honored as temporary bearers of the colors:

Fellow-Citizens, Officers and Soldiers of the 51st Regiment Illinois Volunteers: We have the honor to appear before you in the capacity of representatives of your friends in the city of Chicago. We left home with orders to surprise your camp, but owing to the alertness of your scouts, we have found it impracticable to do so; while our disparity in numbers renders an attempt to storm your works entirely useless and the only course to pursue is, therefore, to surrender our colors, and retire in good order. Since you have taken the field, you may have thought you were forgotten at home. All such suppositions must be set down as "camp rumors," as these tokens will convince you. When you advanced from Cairo towards New Madrid, and were obliged to lie down to sleep in the mud under a pelting storm, we heard of it, and as far as possible you had our sympathy. When we learned that the 51st were cool under the fire of rebel batteries, were proud of you. When we heard that your regiment composed a part of the forces to whom the superior numbers of rebels from Island No. 10 laid down their arms, we rejoiced over your victory, made the more glorious because it was won without the loss of human life. We learned that you were without colors, and it was determined that the 51st should have as good as any other. In obedience to the order of General Pope, we have inscribed the words, "New Madrid" and "Island No. 10" upon tem—we have made the characters distinct so that "they who run may read," and we know that you will "give the devils their due" if it be in your power to overtake them. You will perceive that the American Eagle is uppermost in position. This is the bird which scratched the back of the British Lion, and which it now has by the throat, and will crush out the life of the rattlesnake emblem of the greatest and most wicket rebellion the world has ever seen.
     In one sense you are now posted upon classic ground. The town before you bears the historic name of Corinth. You know that St. Paul wrote the 1st and 2nd Epistles to the Corinthians, and when the third epistle is rendered to this great rebel army we trust they will find that it contains fifty-one chapters.
     Officers and soldiers of the 51st Illinois Volunteers! In behalf of your friends at home, I now place in your charge the Star Spangled Banner, and "Long may it wave, O'er the land of the free, And the home of the brave."

Mr. Munson unfurled the flags and presented them to Lieutenant Colonel Bradley by whom they were placed in charge of the Color Sergeants. Lt. Col. Bradley then replied:

Friends and Fellow-Citizens: In the name of the 51st regiment, I tender you our most heartfelt thanks for these beautiful colors which you have presented to us as a mark of your appreciation of our efforts. Nothing can be so gratifying to soldiers as this assurance of the confidence of loved ones at home reposed in us. OUr aim will always be to deserve that confidence. These magnificent colors will be to us at one and the same time a reminder of those loved ones, and of the duty we owe to he country which as soldiers we serve. We promise you that this token shall never be disgraced by the 51st. [If] it is our fortune to be in front of the battle, I promise these colors shall float firmly—a rally point for the regiment, and a symbol of victory over those who fight in this wicked and causeless rebellion, and for the officers and soldiers of the 51st, and in my own name I ask you to convey to our friends at home, our most grateful and heartfelt thanks for their kindness and be you to assure them of our determination to be worthy of their confidence and esteem. Say to them, we have been to New Madrid and Island No. 10, and purpose to carry these colors to Corinth. And now, let me say, that if anything could enhance the pleasure of this beautiful gift to me, it would be that you, my friend, (addressing Mr. Munson.,) whom I have known from boyhood, should be the bearer of this token. It is a double pleasure to receive them from your hands.

Lt. Col. Bradley then addressed the sergeants selected to bear the colors, charging them to defend them with their lives, assuring them that nothing in the regiment should be held more sacred and esteemed higher than the flags of our country and state, and that the lives of all were as nothing in comparison with the safety of these patriotic emblems. They (the bearers) had been selected because of good conduct and courage. It was an honor, he trusted, they would continue to deserve. If not willing to take these colors wherever ordered, and to defend them when there, he charged them to declare it now, and let other and worthier men take this post of trust and danger. "I take the colors!" said one of the men—a remark greeted by loud cheers. Lt. Col. Bradley again returned thanks to the committee, and with three cheers and a tiger the color bearers took their place in the ranks, the band playing the Star Spangled Banner. Chaplain Raymond then invoked the blessing of God in a fervent prayer, and the ceremonies closed with a stirring address from Col. Henderson of Stark county, Ill., who was in camp, and with three rousing cheers for friends present and absent.

I wish I could give my readers an adequate idea of the beauty and romance of our present surroundings. The surface of the country presents a succession of rolling hills, crowned with magnificent trees, with but little underbrush. Occasional clearings and farm buildings are to be seen, but like "angels' visits" to this sublunary sphere, these are few and far between. The trees are mostly oak, black walnut and hickory, with occasional maple, black ash, persimmon, sycamore, &c. The camps are scattered through these woods, which thus form a grateful shade for the men. This is a blessing fully appreciated by them in this warm climate. In front of Gen. Pope's position, and extending to the right of our lines, in front of Gen. Buell's army, is a broad reach of swampy land, covered with a luxuriant and tangled growth of underbrush. To the east and west of this, the country has been cleared up more extensively than I have seen it elsewhere in my trip. Flowery thickets in full bloom, fill the air with perfume. In the shade of these woods, and amidst the beauty and luxuriant stillness of the field and thickets our guards and pickets are posted, and our army slowly moves forward towards Corinth. In spite of the masses of men here assembled, the prevalent tone breathes only of luxurious calm and silent peaceful growth. All else seems foreign, though not inharmonious to the scene, and the shrill sound of the fife, the brisk rattle of the drum , the strain of the warlike bugle, or the rich resonance of near or distance brass band, all floating and mingling on the evening air, with the stir of camps and the hum of men, seems but the under tones which but add force and give grander effect to the principal key of that beautiful symphony which hereabouts nature chants. When the evening shades deepen and the cool dew descends to refresh the earth, the stir and hum gradually dies, while the full moon, mounting higher up the heavens, pours a flood of silvery radiance through the interlacing boughs of trees, lending additional charm and grace to the landscape. But words are poor and inadequate to picture the scene, which impresses itself more deeply when it is remembered what wild and opposite features any hour may bring forth in the midst of this sylvan beauty.

Farmington MS Terrain Farmington MS Terrain

Northeast Mississippi terrain around Farmington in the month of May. Some of the terrain around Farmington was, as the Tribune correspondent wrote, "a succession of rolling hills, crowned with magnificent trees, with but little underbrush." There was farmland immediately to the north and west of Farmington. The Fifty-First's approach to Farmington from Hamburg Landing on the Tennessee River crossed high hills, mud, and just to the east of the town "a broad reach of swampy land, covered with a luxuriant and tangled growth of underbrush," like that shown in the picture to the right.

Despite the lush green "sylvan beauty", the men of Pope's Army of the Mississippi never felt they had stumbled into a national park when they crossed into Mississippi. Days of heavy rain alternated with days of blazing sun. Some men suffered sunstroke; others developed civil-war fevers, agues, and other assorted miseries from sleeping in the rain. Albert Tilton of Company C said they slogged miles through mud on the approach to Farmington. His brother Robert said the water was so bad for drinking that they had to strain it through their teeth.

Farmington MS Terrain

Chicago Tribune, May 21, 1862.
Photographs by Amateur.


  1. The Tribune report was written on May 14 as Halleck's three-winged army under George Thomas, Don Carlos Buell, and John Pope began to tighten the circle around Beauregard's army at Corinth. The two big fights at Farmington, one on May 3 and one on May 9, were just past. Pope's Army of the Mississippi had moved back beyond the broad reach of swampy land and Seven Mile Creek, which acted as a barrier against easy attack.
  2. Before the war Francis Munson and Luther Bradley had worked together in Chicago running a book-selling/stationers business. Bradley joined the Fifty-First Illinois, Munson stayed behind in the city, and his establishment on Lake Street became a sort of regimental communications headquarters back home in Chicago.