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American History Stories, Volume IV by  Mara L. Pratt


 

 

AFFAIRS IN THE WEST

While all these defeats and losses were going on, out in the far West our soldiers were winning laurels for themselves.

[96] Gen. Bragg, a Confederate officer, had cut round behind a part of our army, and had got his forces well into Kentucky. For six weeks this army marched about from place to place, destroying everything and pretty nearly everybody that came in its way.

At last he began collecting his forces with a view to swooping down upon St. Louis. The people of this city were frightened indeed. A panic would surely have followed but for Gen. Lew Wallace. He at once took charge of everything; called for troops, built defences, and, indeed, so quickly did he work, that by the time one of Bragg's divisions reached there, everything was ready for them. The advancing general saw they were ready—indeed, too ready, he thought; so when darkness fell, he turned his troops and marched back to join Gen. Bragg.

I want you to remember this Gen. Lew Wallace; for you are sure to hear of him by and by as you grow older, not so much as a soldier, but as an author. Haven't you seen your mamma or papa reading a book called "Ben Hur?" Or haven't you heard them speak of it? It is a wonderful book, and I fancy Gen. Lew Wallace and his beautiful story will be remembered long after the bugles of this war are half forgotten. Some day when you are older you will read "Ben Hur," and then you will remember that the writer of that book was a general in this Civil War, about which you read when you were little boys and girls.

[97] Bragg had all this time been loading himself with riches in Kentucky. He had fitted out his army with shoes and clothing, had filled his wagons with food, and had seized the splendid Kentucky horses for his cavalry; more than this, he had sent car-load after car-load of these things to the South.

Gen. Buell went against Bragg, but, as usual, fortune seemed to smile on the Confederate side. Gen. Rosecrans then went against a division of Bragg's army. A terrible battle, lasting all one day, took place at Corinth. During the night the Union troops, with their contraband helpers, threw up new defences and strengthened the old one. Early the next morning, with a terrible yell, called in this war the "rebel yell," the Confederates charged upon the Union ranks.

At first the Unionists fell back; but gathering themselves up, they closed round the enemy. Now the field was a scene of terrible slaughter. The Confederates fled, the Unionists at their heels, pouring in their shot upon them as they ran. At last the Unionists had won a victory.

Now Rosecrans was sent to take charge of the "Army of the Cumberland," as this western army was called.

Bragg had settled down at a place called Murfreesboro', and Jefferson Davis had come on to visit him. A grand, good time Bragg and the men were having; giving parties, [98] attending balls, and giving themselves up generally to a good time.

But all this time the wise Rosecrans was laying in a store of provisions, and getting himself ready for a long fight if necessary.

An attack came. A terrible attack it was, too. A hot battle; and much bravery was shown on both sides.

Up and down rode Rosecrans, crying, "We must win this battle, boys!" no matter what he saw or what he heard. For two long days this battle raged, and at last the Confederates gave way, and in a few hours Bragg marched away, bag and baggage, leaving the field to the Union soldiers.


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