Battle Of Shiloh and General William J Hardee : A Civil War Shiloh Battlefield History

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Battle Of Shiloh, Or Pittsburg Landing,
April 6 And 7, 1862
by Lieutenant-General William J. Hardee,
Commanding Third Corps
The Confederate Soldier In The Civil War
Edited by Ben La Bree
Originally Published at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1895

HEADQUARTERS HARDEE'S CORPS,
ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,
TULLAHOMA, TENN., February 7, 1863.

AFTER the fall of Fort Donelson the commanding general, Albert Sidney Johnson, having successfully made his retreat through Tennessee amid many difficulties, rapidly concentrated all his remaining forces at Corinth,for the purpose of inflicting a decisive blow upon the enemy. The position was important from being the center of the railroad communications passing southwardly from the Ohio River through Western Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Mississippi River eastwardly to the Atlantic. Marshes and muddy streams in its vicinity rendered it difficult to approach, and made it strong and defensible.

The enemy, flushed with their recent success, moved forward to conquer the territory on the left of the Mississippi. Large forces were transported on steamers, conveyed by iron-clad gunboats, under the command of General Grant, to Pittsburg, while an army under General Buell, commanding the remaining forces of the United States in the west, moved from Nashville through Columbia, by land, to effect a junction with General Grant. General Johnston, having received information of these movements, resolved at once to defeat or dislodge General Grant before the arrival of the forces under General Buell. On Thursday, April 3d, the Army of the Mississippi was ordered to advance from Corinth toward Shiloh, a little country church near Pittsburg, around which the forces of General Grant were encamped.

The Third Corps, then under my command, marched in advance by the Bark Road toward Shiloh, and reached Mickey's house, about sixteen miles from Corinih and eight from Pittsburg, on the morning of April 4th. A portion of Brigadier-General Cleburne's command in the afternoon engaged the cavalry of the enemy and repulsed it promptly. We took some prisoners, and bivouacked for the night.

It was the purpose of the general to continue the movement at 3 A. M. the succeeding morning, but torrents of rain having fallen, a night march over the swollen streams and flooded ravines became impracticable. The advance was suspended until dawn, when my command again marched forward. About 10 o'clock on Saturday morning, April 5th, my corps reached the outposts and developed the lines of the enemy. It was immediately deployed in line of battle about a mile and a half east of Shiloh Church, where Lick Creek and Owl Creek approach most nearly. The right was extended toward Lick Creek, and the left rested near Owl Creek, which streams at that point are rather more than three miles apart.

The Tennessee River, runs nearly due north from above Lick Creek to the mouth of Owl Creek, which creeks, after flowing nearly parallel to each other, empty into the river about four miles apart. Pittsburg is situated near the foot of the hills, and nearly midway between the mouths of the two creeks, on the left bank of the river. This bank of the Tennessee is a range of bold, wooded hills, bordering the stream closely, which, as they recede from the river, gradually diminish, the slopes failing away from a ridge on the south toward Lick Creek, and on the north toward Owl Creek. From Mickey's, eight miles west from Pittsburg, rolling uplands, partially cultivated, interspersed with copses, thickets and forests, with small fields cultivated or abandoned, characterize the country from that point to the river.

The storm of the preceding night rendered the roads so miry that the different commands were not collected at Shiloh until 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon. This rendered it necessary to postpone the attack until the next day. Some of the troops having failed to provide themselves with provisions, or having improvidently consumed or lost them, the propriety of returning to Corinth without attacking the enemy was urged and considered; but the commanding general determined, regardless of all objections, to force a battle the succeeding morning. By the order of battle our troops were arranged in two parallel lines; the first, under my command, being composed of my corps, consisting of the brigades of Brigadier-Generals Hindman, Wood and Cleburne, numbering six thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine effective men, and the brigade of Brigadier-General Gladden, which was attached to my command to fill the interval between my right and Lick Creek. The second was composed of five brigades, under Major-General Bragg, one thousand yards in rear of mine; while four brigades, under Major-General Polk, supported the left, and three under Brigadier-General Breckinridge supported the right of the lines. The order was given to advance at daylight on Sunday, April 6th. The morning was bright and bracing. At early dawn the enemy attacked the skirmishers in front of my line, commanded by Major (now Colonel) Hardcastle, which was handsomely resisted by that promising young officer. My command advanced, and in half an hour the battle became fierce.

Hindman's brigade engaged the enemy with great vigor in the edge of a wood and drove him rapidly back over the field toward Pittsburg, while Gladden's brigade, on the right, about 8 o'clock, dashed upon the encampments of a division under the command of General Prentiss. At the same time Cleburne's brigade, with the Fifteenth Arkansas, deployed as skirmishers, and the Second Tennessee, en échelon on the left, moved quickly through the fields, and though far outflanked by the enemy on our left, rushed forward under a terrific fire from the serried ranks drawn up in front of the camp. A morass covered his front, and being difficult to pass, caused a break in the brigade. Deadly volleys were poured upon the men as they advanced, from behind bales of hay, logs and other defenses, and after a series of desperate charges the brigade was compelled to fall back.

In this charge the Sixth Mississippi, under Colonel Thornton, lost more than three hundred killed and wounded of an effective force of four hundred and twenty-five men. It was at this point also that Colonel (now Brigadier-General) Bates fell severely wounded while bravely leading his regiment.

Supported by the arrival of the second line, Cleburne, with the remainder of his troops, again advanced and entered the enemy's encampments, which had been forced on the center and right by the dashing charges of Gladden's, Wood's and Hindman's brigades. The brave Gladden had fallen by a cannon shot about 8 o'clock, at the instant the camp was carried, and the command devolved upon Colonel D. W. Adams, who continued the attack with signal courage.

About 2:30 o'clock Colonel Adams was wounded severely in the head, and the command devolved upon Colonel Z. C. Deas.

In the attack of the left center of my line Brigadier-General Wood charged an enemy's battery on a gentle acclivity, and captured six guns, with the Second and Twenty-seventh Tennessee and Sixteenth Alabama regiments.

In this attack Colonel Christopher H. Williams, of the Twenty-seventh Tennessee, was killed. The army and the Confederacy sustained a severe loss in the death of this gallant officer. General Wood, about the same time, was thrown from his horse and temporarily disabled. The command devolved upon Colonel Patterson, of the Eighth Arkansas, who led the brigade with courage and ability until about 2:30 o'clock, when General Wood returned to the field and resumed command. A portion of the brigade was afterward detached, with prisoners, to the rear, and the remainder, joining General Ruggles, drove back the enemy, capturing Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, of the Sixteenth Missouri, with some three hundred prisoners.

This brigade was by my order moved forward late in the afternoon in the direction of the heavy cannonade in front, but about sunset was ordered to withdraw by a staff officer from General Beauregard.

In the arrangement of my line of battle two brigades were intrusted to Brigadier-General Hindman; his own, under the immediate command of Colonel Shaver, who conducted his command to my satisfaction, and the other under command of Brigadier-General Wood.

The conduct of General Hindman on the field was marked by a courage which animated his soldiers and a skill which won their confidence. He was disabled in the action on Sunday. He has never transmitted his report, and I am not able to do justice to his brave command; but I can not omit to mention the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Dean, commanding the Seventh Arkansas, who fell in the fight on Sunday. He was a brave and deserving officer.

Nothing could be more brilliant than the attack. The fierce volleys of one hundred thousand muskets and the boom of two hundred cannon, receding steadily toward the river, marked, hour by hour, from dawn until night, our slow but ceaseless advance. The captured camps, rich in the spoils of war-in arms, horses, stores, munitions and baggage--with throngs of prisoners moving to the rear, showed the headlong fury with which our men had crushed the heavy columns of the foe.

General Johnston, about 11 o'clock, brought up the reserve under Breckinridge. Deploying it en échelon of brigades with admirable skill and rapidity, he turned the enemy's left, and conducting the division in person, swept down the river toward Pittsburg, cheering and animating the men and driving the enemy in wild disorder to the shelter of their gunboats.

At this moment of supreme interest it was our misfortune to lose the commanding general, who fell mortally wounded at 2:30 o'clock, and expired in a few minutes in a ravine near the spot where Breckinridge's division had charged under his eye.

This disaster caused a lull in the attack on the right, and precious hours were wasted. It is, in my opinion, the candid belief of intelligent men that but for this calamity we would have achieved before sunset a triumph signal not only in the annals of this war, but memorable in future history.

At the commencement of the battle my position was near the center of my command, but finding Brigadier-General Hindman conducting operations at that point to my satisfaction, I passed to the extreme right. Here General Johnston in person was directing the battle. A heavy cannonade soon attracted me to the left.

On my arrival in that quarter our forces were found hotly engaged with the lines of the enemy in front. Rapidly collecting four regiments under cover of a ravine, screening them from the view and fire of the enemy, I placed them in a position which outflanked their line. Availing myself of a critical moment when the enemy in front was much shaken, I ordered these regiments from the ravine, and hurled them against the right flank of their line, and it gave away in tumultuous rout.

At this juncture General Beauregard ordered me to push forward the cavalry, and I ordered Colonel Wharton to charge their fleeing battalions. The command was obeyed with promptitude, but in the ardor of the charge the cavalry fell into an ambuscade and was repulsed with some loss. The gallant Wharton himself was wounded. Simultaneously Morgan dashed forward with his usual daring on their left, and drove the scattered remnants of their regiments from the field.

Upon the death of General Johnston, the command having devolved upon General Beauregard, the conflict was continued until near sunset, and the advance divisions were within a few hundred yards of Pittsburg, where the enemy were huddled in confusion, when the order to withdraw was received. The troops were ordered to bivouac on the field of battle. Exhausted by fasting and the toils of the day, scattered and disordered by a continued combat of twelve hours, many straggled to find food amid the profuse stores of the enemy or shelter in the forest.

General Buell, hearing the cannonade, hurried heavy re-enforcements up the river in steamers to the succor of the beaten troops of Grant, and our wearied men found before them a fresh army to encounter.

On Monday, about 6 o'clock, portions of my command were formed upon an alignment with other troops on the left to resist the enemy, who soon opened a hot fire on our advanced lines. The battle reanimated our men, and the strong columns of the enemy were repulsed again and again by our tired and disordered, but brave and steadfast, troops.

The enemy brought up fresh re-enforcements, pouring them continually upon us. At times our lines recoiled as it were before the overwhelming physical weight of the enemy's forces; but the men rallied readily and fought with unconquerable spirit. Many of our best regiments, signalized in the battle of Sunday by their steady valor, reeled under the sanguinary struggle on the succeeding day. In one instance, that of the Second Texas Regiment, commanded by Colonel Moore, the men seemed appalled, fled from the field without apparent cause, and were so dismayed that my efforts to rally them were unavailing.

This fierce and indecisive struggle continued till about 1 o'clock, when General Beauregard determined to withdraw to Corinth. Lines of troops to cover the movement were deployed near Shiloh Church, but the enemy slackened in the attack and were unable to follow. Our artillery shelled the woods, but evoked no reply, while disordered regiments and stragglers, assembling, withdrew slowly, without pursuit or molestation, to the rear. Other positions further to the rear were successively taken to cover our columns; but no serious effort was made to follow, and we withdrew toward Corinth. Thus ended the battle of Shiloh.

My thanks are due to the officers and men for the courage and devotion they displayed in the battle. I refer to the reports of subordinate officers, which are transmitted, for a detailed account of operations and for the many signal instances of individual daring and disciplined valor which they commemorate.

It would, however, be unjust to my brave and enduring soldiers, who stood by their colors to the end, if I did not mention that many straggled from their ranks or fell back without orders. Some, allured by the rich plunder, halted in the conquered camps, and a few, terrified by the bloody scenes, fled toward Corinth. From these causes and the casualties of the battle we could not, on Monday, form in line of battle more than twenty thousand men.

During the action Brigadier-General Cleburne conducted his command with persevering valor. No repulse discouraged him; but after many bloody struggles he assembled the remnant of his brigade and was conspicuous for his gallantry to the end of the battle.

Brigadier-General Wood, though suffering from a fall from his horse, which compelled him to withdraw temporarily, returned to the field and bravely led his men.

The loss sustained by my corps (not including that suffered by Gladden's brigade) amounted to:   

Killed  404
Wounded  1,936
Missing  141
Total  2,481
 
W. J. HARDEE,
Lieutenant-General.

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Recommended Reading: Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862. Review: The bloody and decisive two-day battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) changed the entire course of the American Civil War. The stunning Northern victory thrust Union commander Ulysses S. Grant into the national spotlight, claimed the life of Confederate commander Albert S. Johnston, and forever buried the notion that the Civil War would be a short conflict. The conflagration at Shiloh had its roots in the strong Union advance during the winter of 1861-1862 that resulted in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. Continued below…

The offensive collapsed General Albert S. Johnston advanced line in Kentucky and forced him to withdraw all the way to northern Mississippi. Anxious to attack the enemy, Johnston began concentrating Southern forces at Corinth, a major railroad center just below the Tennessee border. His bold plan called for his Army of the Mississippi to march north and destroy General Grant's Army of the Tennessee before it could link up with another Union army on the way to join him. On the morning of April 6, Johnston boasted to his subordinates, "Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee!" They nearly did so. Johnston's sweeping attack hit the unsuspecting Federal camps at Pittsburg Landing and routed the enemy from position after position as they fell back toward the Tennessee River. Johnston's sudden death in the Peach Orchard, however, coupled with stubborn Federal resistance, widespread confusion, and Grant's dogged determination to hold the field, saved the Union army from destruction. The arrival of General Don C. Buell's reinforcements that night turned the tide of battle. The next day, Grant seized the initiative and attacked the Confederates, driving them from the field. Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, with nearly 24,000 men killed, wounded, and missing. Edward Cunningham, a young Ph.D. candidate studying under the legendary T. Harry Williams at Louisiana State University, researched and wrote Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 in 1966. Although it remained unpublished, many Shiloh experts and park rangers consider it to be the best overall examination of the battle ever written. Indeed, Shiloh historiography is just now catching up with Cunningham, who was decades ahead of modern scholarship. Western Civil War historians Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith have resurrected Cunningham's beautifully written and deeply researched manuscript from its undeserved obscurity. Fully edited and richly annotated with updated citations and observations, original maps, and a complete order of battle and table of losses, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 will be welcomed by everyone who enjoys battle history at its finest. Edward Cunningham, Ph.D., studied under T. Harry Williams at Louisiana State University. He was the author of The Port Hudson Campaign: 1862-1863 (LSU, 1963). Dr. Cunningham died in 1997. Gary D. Joiner, Ph.D. is the author of One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864, winner of the 2004 Albert Castel Award and the 2005 A. M. Pate, Jr., Award, and Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West. He lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. About the Author: Timothy B. Smith, Ph.D., is author of Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (winner of the 2004 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Non-fiction Award), The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield, and This Great Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park. A former ranger at Shiloh, Tim teaches history at the University of Tennessee.

 

Recommended Reading: Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War (Simon & Schuster). From Publishers Weekly: The bloodbath at Shiloh, Tenn. (April 6-7, 1862), brought an end to any remaining innocence in the Civil War. The combined 23,000 casualties that the two armies inflicted on each other in two days shocked North and South alike. Ulysses S. Grant kept his head and managed, with reinforcements, to win a hard-fought victory. Continued below…

Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston was wounded and bled to death, leaving P.G.T. Beauregard to disengage and retreat with a dispirited gray-clad army. Daniel (Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee) has crafted a superbly researched volume that will appeal to both the beginning Civil War reader as well as those already familiar with the course of fighting in the wooded terrain bordering the Tennessee River. His impressive research includes the judicious use of contemporary newspapers and extensive collections of unpublished letters and diaries. He offers a lengthy discussion of the overall strategic situation that preceded the battle, a survey of the generals and their armies and, within the notes, sharp analyses of the many controversies that Shiloh has spawned, including assessments of previous scholarship on the battle. This first new book on Shiloh in a generation concludes with a cogent chapter on the consequences of those two fatal days of conflict.

 

Recommended Reading: Shiloh--In Hell before Night. Description: James McDonough has written a good, readable and concise history of a battle that the author characterizes as one of the most important of the Civil War, and writes an interesting history of this decisive 1862 confrontation in the West. He blends first person and newspaper accounts to give the book a good balance between the general's view and the soldier's view of the battle. Continued below…

Particularly enlightening is his description of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander who was killed on the first day of the battle. McDonough makes a pretty convincing argument that Johnston fell far short of the image that many give him in contemporary and historical writings. He is usually portrayed as an experienced and decisive commander of men. This book shows that Johnston was a man of modest war and command experience, and that he rose to prominence shortly before the Civil War. His actions (or inaction) prior to the meeting at Shiloh -- offering to let his subordinate Beauregard take command for example -- reveal a man who had difficulty managing the responsibility fostered on him by his command. The author does a good job of presenting several other historical questions and problems like Johnston's reputation vs. reality that really add a lot of interest to the pages.

 

Recommended Reading: The Shiloh Campaign (Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland) (Hardcover). Description: Some 100,000 soldiers fought in the April 1862 battle of Shiloh, and nearly 20,000 men were killed or wounded; more Americans died on that Tennessee battlefield than had died in all the nation’s previous wars combined. In the first book in his new series, Steven E. Woodworth has brought together a group of superb historians to reassess this significant battle and provide in-depth analyses of key aspects of the campaign and its aftermath. The eight talented contributors dissect the campaign’s fundamental events, many of which have not received adequate attention before now. Continued below…

John R. Lundberg examines the role of Albert Sidney Johnston, the prized Confederate commander who recovered impressively after a less-than-stellar performance at forts Henry and Donelson only to die at Shiloh; Alexander Mendoza analyzes the crucial, and perhaps decisive, struggle to defend the Union’s left; Timothy B. Smith investigates the persistent legend that the Hornet’s Nest was the spot of the hottest fighting at Shiloh; Steven E. Woodworth follows Lew Wallace’s controversial march to the battlefield and shows why Ulysses S. Grant never forgave him; Gary D. Joiner provides the deepest analysis available of action by the Union gunboats; Grady McWhiney describes P. G. T. Beauregard’s decision to stop the first day’s attack and takes issue with his claim of victory; and Charles D. Grear shows the battle’s impact on Confederate soldiers, many of whom did not consider the battle a defeat for their side. In the final chapter, Brooks D. Simpson analyzes how command relationships—specifically the interactions among Grant, Henry Halleck, William T. Sherman, and Abraham Lincoln—affected the campaign and debunks commonly held beliefs about Grant’s reactions to Shiloh’s aftermath. The Shiloh Campaign will enhance readers’ understanding of a pivotal battle that helped unlock the western theater to Union conquest. It is sure to inspire further study of and debate about one of the American Civil War’s momentous campaigns.

 

Recommended Reading: Shiloh: A Novel, by Shelby Foote. Review: In the novel Shiloh, historian and Civil War expert Shelby Foote delivers a spare, unflinching account of the battle of Shiloh, which was fought over the course of two days in April 1862. By mirroring the troops' movements through the woods of Tennessee with the activity of each soldier's mind, Foote offers the reader a broad perspective of the battle and a detailed view of the issues behind it. Continued below…

The battle becomes tangible as Foote interweaves the observations of Union and Confederate officers, simple foot soldiers, brave men, and cowards and describes the roar of the muskets and the haze of the gun smoke. The author's vivid storytelling creates a rich chronicle of a pivotal battle in American history.

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