Battle of Shiloh Civil War
Shiloh and Pittsburg Landing
by William Swinton
(War correspondent for the New York Times newspaper)
Twelve Decisive Battles Of The War
Originally Published in 1867
|Civil War Battle of Shiloh Map
|Shiloh Battle and Pittsburg Landing Civil War Battlefield Map
|Battle of Shiloh Civil War Map
|Western Campaign with Battle of Shiloh and Pittsburg Landing Civil War Map
PRELUDE TO SHILOH.On
the westerly bank of the Tennessee, 219 miles from its mouth, is the historic spot of Pittsburg Landing. Its site is just
below that great bend in the river, where, having trended many miles along the boundary-line of Alabama, it sweeps northerly
in a majestic curve, and thence flowing past Fort Henry, pours its waters into the Ohio. The neighboring country is undulating,
broken into hills and ravines, and wooded for the most part with tall oak-trees and occasional patches of undergrowth. Fens
and swamps, too, intervene, and, at the spring freshets, the back-water swells the creeks, inundating the roads near the river's
margin. It is, in general, a rough and unprepossessing region, wherein cultivated clearings seldom break the continuity of
forest. Pittsburg Landing, scarcely laying claim, with its two log cabins, even to the dignity of a. hamlet, is distant a
dozen miles north-easterly from the crossing of the three State lines of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee--a mere point
of steamboat freighting and debarkation for Corinth, eighteen miles south-west, for Purdy, about as far north-west, and for
similar towns on the adjoining railroads. The river banks at the Landing rise quite eighty feet, but are cloven by a series
of ravines, through one of which runs the main road thence to Corinth, forking to Purdy. Beyond the crest of the acclivity
stretches back a kind of table-land, rolling and ridgy, cleared near the shores, but wooded and rough further from the river.
A rude log chapel, three miles out, is called Shiloh Church; and, just beyond, rise not far from each other two petty streams,
Owl Creek and Lick Creek, which, thence diverging, run windingly into the Tennessee, five miles apart, on either side of the
On this rugged, elevated plateau, encompassed by the river and its little
tributaries like a picture in its frame, lay encamped on the night of the 5th of April, 1862, five divisions of General Grant's
Army of West Tennessee; with a sixth, five miles down the bank, at Crump's Landing. Thrust though it was far out into the
enemy's domain, yet the very scene of its encampment told more strongly than any language how absolutely secure this army
felt from any hostile visit, and how unsuspicious it was of any shock of battle. The camps had been fixed on the bank nearest
the enemy, while the other was equally available. The five divisions, irregularly grouped between the creeks and river, were
palpably positioned without any regard to order of battle or to possible attack. Behind, rolled a broad and deep river, without
fords, without bridges, without transportation. Before, not a single spadeful of earth had been thrown up for intrenchment
during the month's sojourn, whether in front of the advance divisions, or across the roads leading into the camp, or at the
fords on the flanks. Not a single cavalryman patrolled the outer walks; the scanty infantry outposts lay within a mile of
the main line, and their unconcealed camp-fires flared high and cheerily into the damp April air. The few sentinels were wont
to chat and laugh aloud, and, whenever morning came, their pieces were irregularly discharged, merely to clear them of their
loads. Within the noiseless rows of white tents lining and dotting the rough plateau, the slumberous army now dreamt peacefully
of home, or of that day yet distant when it would march on the enemy's stronghold at Corinth, joined by the column of Buell.
At that moment, the leading division of Buell's army of the Ohio lay at Savannah, nine miles down the river on the other bank.
Wearied that night with their four days' march from Columbia, Nelson's men slept heavily. A long rest had been promised to
them, to be broken only the next day by a formal Sunday inspection, and leisurely during the week ensuing it would join the
associate army of West Tennessee; for transportation had not yet been made ready for its passage of the river, nor had General
Halleck yet come down from St. Louis to direct the movement on Corinth, for which it had marched. Behind Nelson, the rest
of Buell's army trailed that night its line of bivouac fires full thirty miles backward on the road to Columbia.
Silent in Shiloh woods yonder, within sight of Grant's camp-fires and within
sound of his noisy pickets, lay grimly awaiting the dawn, 40,000 Confederate soldiers. It was the third of the three great
armies drawn together that night towards Pittsburg Landing,--an army supposed by its fourscore thousand dormant foes, from
Commanding-General to drummer-boy, to be lying perdu behind its Corinth fieldworks, twenty miles away. It had crept
close to the Union lines, three fourths of a mile from the pickets, less than two from the main camp--so close that, throughout
the night, the bivouac hum and stir and the noisy random shots of untrained sentinels on the opposing lines indistinguishably
mingled. This stealthily-moved host lay on its arms, weary after a hard day's march over miry roads on the 4th, a day's forming
on the 5th, and a bivouac in the drenching rain of the night intervening. No fires were lighted on the advanced lines, and,
farther back, the few embers, glowing here and there, were hidden in holes dug in the ground. Most of the men lay awake, prone
in their blankets, or chatted in low tones, grouped around the stacked arms, awaiting the supplies which commissaries and
staff-officers were hurrying from the rear; for, with the improvidence of raw troops, they had already spent their five days'
rations at the end of three, and, were ill-prepared to give battle. But others oppressed with sleep, had for the time forgotten
both cold and hunger.
Sheltered in the gloom of tall trees, and under the watch and ward of chosen
sentinels, patrolling and challenging with low, steady voice, a council of Confederate generals gathered in the cleared spot
which, at converging paths, formed the head-quarters. A small fire of logs crackling and sputtering in the centre threw a
strange light on the surrounding figures. A drum served for writing-desk near the firelight, and a few camp-stools for furniture,
eked out by blankets spread upon the ground.
Foremost in the group stood Albert Sydney Johnston, the Commander-in-Chief.
Tall, erect, well-knit, and powerful, his dignified and martial figure gained effect by the gray military cloak which protected
it from the chilly evening. His face, bronzed and set by the campaigns of two and forty years in the Black Hawk war, in the
Texan struggle for independence, in the war with Mexico, and for many years past in Indian outpost service through Utah and
California, was a trustworthy index to the man. The firm mouth and chin and the steadfast, sunken eyes, showed a soldier resolute,
self-controlled, thoughtful, and fearless. Grave, modest, and reticent always, he seemed at this council even more abstracted
than his wont. Often he moved from the fire to the edge of the group as if walking away to ruminate his own thoughts, and
anon returned to take part in the discussion. He was, indeed, greatly impressed with his responsibility; and in his supreme
devotion to his cause, had no moment to spare for personal forebodings. Before another sunset, this soldier was fated to have
fought his last battle.
In marked contrast to the Scotch features and bearing of Johnston, was his
associate, Beauregard. Walking rapidly to and fro, with his lithe and slender figure divested of its outer cloak, he spoke
tersely and spiritedly with a tinge of French accent, on the prospects of the morrow. His face, with its small, regular features,
pointed beard, and keen eyes, showed somewhat the effect of the illness under which he was still laboring; but his bearing
was entirely soldierly, his short step was energetic and firm, his voice clear and strong. Obviously vexed at the day's mishaps
of manoeuvre, he only awaited anxiously for success in the coming battle, in which he had a personal as well as a patriotic
stake. For already the brilliant promise of his youthful Mexican career had come to fruition, and with the laurels of Fort
Sumter and Manassas still fresh upon him, he had come to restore the Confederate fortunes in the West.
Near by was Hardee, whose corps lay closest to the Union outposts, a Georgian,
but matching the inherited foreign air of Beauregard, by one acquired by long military education in France. As compiler of
the Infantry Tactics, and Commandant of Cadets at West Point, and as a fine theoretical soldier, his opinions received due
weight. Physically, he appeared tall, broad-shouldered, and muscular, and from his good-humored face did not seem to take
amiss a little rallying, which even the grave occasion did not forbid a brother officer from indulging, on his gallantry in
other fields than those of war.
Breckinridge, commander of the reserves, and rather of forensic than of martial
renown, a man of fine features and imposing appearance, lay silent upon his blanket, and did not obtrude his views upon older
soldiers. In truth, his general opinions were well-known to be like Beauregard's, strongly aggressive. Vice-President, and
almost President of the Union, little more than a twelvemonth gone, he was still quite as much Kentuckian as Confederate;
and to "redeem" Kentucky he had urged, long before the fall of Fort Henry, an offensive campaign against Louisville.
Bragg, proud of his well-drilled Pensacola corps, and vaunting in general
the power of discipline, was, nevertheless, in marked physical contrast to the uniform military bearing of the others. His
face was wan and haggard, its features being rude and irregular, and his body stooping. His beard was iron-gray, and growing
together over the bridge of his nose were a pair of bushy black eyebrows, under which his sharp and restless eyes seemed befitting
to his character as a thorough disciplinarian, and to his well-known tartness of temper. Even before the war his fame was
national, and his name, and that of his battery, as inseparably linked as Taylor's with the historic field of Buena Vista.
Lieutenant General Polk, whilom Bishop of Louisiana who,--a West Pointer by
education,--had exchanged the crosier for the sword, was the last of the main figures of the group. He was above the middle
height, and broad-chested, and his open face denoted courtesy and courage as well as a fine intelligence.
The council was long and animated. Beauregard and Bragg, the chief speakers,
talked often and earnestly, while Polk and Breckinridge said little, in the presence of these more famous soldiers. There
was much that was vexatious. The weather had been contrary from the start, the country was hostile to campaigning, the raw
troops were unused to marching and manoeuvre, their officers not less so. Already a day had been lost; for the night before,
the rain descending in torrents, had drenched the men in bivouac and made the narrow and tortuous roads, always bad at best,
next to impassable. The artillery and trains and even the infantry columns struggled painfully through the mire, so that what
with raw troops and raw officers, with carelessly examined ground and roads twisting confusingly through brake and swamp,
joined to some misapprehensions on the part of corps commanders, two days had been expended in getting hither from Corinth.
Instead of attacking at dawn of the 5th, dusk found the troops wet, hungry, and exhausted, and just brought into position.
The whole move had been based on striking a blow before Buell should come up, and every minute was golden.
The wretched organization of the army was another subject of discussion, and
of ill-boding. Two days' experience had shown its lamentable defects. Bragg openly declared that many officers in the army
were not equal to the men whom they were expected to command; Beauregard regretted the want of engineers to inform him of
the terrain of the morrow's battle-field; and all the generals found much to apprehend from the imperfect staff organization,
while the responsibility for these and other failings, was by more than one speaker laid directly at the door of the Richmond
authorities, where unquestionably it belonged.
As the discussion, however, went on, and the encouraging omens were in turn
reviewed, the tone of the council became firm and confident. The enemy had been secretly approached and the surprise would
be complete. He was found most lamentably unprepared--the general absent at his head-quarters, nine miles down the river,
and on the other shore at that, with his camp unintrenched, not one cavalry picket out, with his outposts near his main line,
with his troops badly placed, and finally, with no pontoons or transportation on the river, to which it was proposed to drive
him. Anxious inquiry was made, indeed, concerning the whereabouts of Buell; but on this all important point, Beauregard, from
the last report of the spies, who had brought him fresh news of each day's march of Buell, and each night's bivouac, was able
to declare him at least one day's march from the battlefield, and with no boats ready to cross him. Moreover, the Confederate
troops, despite their hard initiation, were full of fire and confident of victory. In numbers, they were nearly equal to Grant's
forces, who were, also, for the most part raw and indifferently organized; while against the conquerors at Donelson, could
be matched Bragg's fine corps from Pensacola.
Ten o'clock came and passed before the officers had all separated, but at
length the early start arranged for the morrow, provoked the suggestion of retirement. All parted with high hopes. Of the
associate commanders, Johnston was clearly resolved to wipe out the hasty and unjust reproach cast on him after Donelson,
while Beauregard, forgetting alike his sickness and his disappointment at the ill-omened delay, pointing the departing officers
towards the Tennessee, said, with a confident smile, "Gentlemen, to-morrow night we sleep in the enemy's camp."
It was the eve of Shiloh.
situation just portrayed had followed upon a noteworthy chain of events. With the fall of Fort Donelson, crumbled forever
the entire first line of Tennessee defence--the line of the Cumberland, as it may be called--stretching due east from Columbus,
through Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Nashville, to Mill Spring, and onward to the Alleghanies. But the recoil was slight,
for a secondary line had already been stretched out and was a-fortifying, "select a defensive position below;" and the point
chosen was forty miles down the Mississippi, embracing, Island No. 10, the main land in Madrid Bend, and the village there.
This, being rapidly intretched, became the point d'appui for the left of what was hastily pencilled as the second grand
Confederate line for the defence of the easterly slope of the Mississippi Valley. From Island No. 10 it was at first popularly
believed the cordon would strike easterly through Jackson, the head-quarters of one Confederate army, to Murfreesboro, the
head-quarters of another, and thence to Cumberland Gap, thus retiring the Confederate right and centre through a vast segment,
and abandoning all East Kentucky and much of Tennessee, but keeping the left strong and fast as with the death-clutch on the
Mississippi, and fairly protruding the line at Island No. 10. But great events forced the abandonment of this line before
it had acquired consistency. The fall of Donelson had developed a new problem for the Union commanders, since two lines of
advance into the Confederacy were now presented by the physical geography of the region. One runs south-easterly through Nashville
to the rocky eyrie of Chattanooga, the future route of Rosecrans--thence onward to the ocean, the future path of Sherman:
the other is the line of the Mississippi. It was needful to fight them both out in conquering the Confederacy, and, accordingly,
the absolute importance of neither could be overrated. But, it having been wisely resolved no longer, as at the outset, to
move over both at once, it remained to give to one or other the priority in time. The choice fell upon the Mississippi route,
for many potent reasons. The repossession of the Mississippi was one of those grand national ideas which are so powerful in
moving a people to patriotic effort. It was to reopen the Mississippi to navigation, that the West had risen en masse,
recognizing in its obstruction by insurgent batteries an act quite as astounding as the men on the other flank of the Alleghanies
had discovered in the menaced siege of Washington. Such a success would be more palpable and grander than the mere penetration
of half a dozen States in any other direction--and proportionally add prestige to the Union arms, dishearten the Confederates,
and challenge the applause of the world. These were general considerations: there were special ones more important. The campaign
on the Mississippi allowed naval co-operation; not so that towards Chattanooga. The latter required grand preparations of
supplies and reinforcement, and the opening and holding of long lines of railroad communication. All that was conquered of
the river could be easily held--not so, as Buell found, with the road to Chattanooga; for a move to the south-east, besides
exposing the flanks and rear of the column itself, would leave all Western Kentucky and Tennessee to the returning enemy,
and unravel the victorious campaign as far back as Louisville or Cairo. Finally, it ran the hazard of a series of battles
deep in the recesses of the Confederacy.
There was still another class of weighty and special circumstances. The Confederates
were holding points all along the Mississippi--at Columbus, Island 10, Fort Pillow, Memphis,-- and a column moving down the
left bank would cut them all off, with their garrisons, armaments, and strategic positions. It might even interpose between
Johnston's Tennessee army at Murfreesboro', and Beauregard's Mississippi army at Corinth, and attack one before the other
could come up. Now the second line of Confederate defence chosen by Johnston was that of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad--too
obvious an one for a doubt of its selection to rest in the minds of either of the contestants. It is true that, as we shall
presently see, Beauregard was undermining all these schemes and reducing this second line to one of little moment, his primary
thought being a new offensive campaign, which should provide its own parry in its reeling stroke. But this conception the
Union generals did not know; and never, indeed, discovered it till its consummation on the battle-ground of Shiloh. What they
did learn, after their plans were formed, was that Johnston had joined Beauregard, and hence so much of the scheme as contemplated
the separation of these officers, had come too tardy off. But there was, then, of course, only the more urgency for the original
plan, that of concentrating everything on the Mississippi line, so as to cut off Memphis and the river forts, to seize another
section of the river, and, above all, to sever the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. The importance of this great Southern
central line of transportation between East and West proclaims itself, without need of description, along its whole length,
from the Mississippi to the sea. All the leading Union generals urged a snapping of that railroad chain--Buell urged it, Halleck
urged it, Grant urged it. Indeed, the two latter officers at first moved without waiting for a concentration of force, and
only Johnston's junction with Beauregard warned them of its necessity: then, Buell's army, which had already been pressingly
tendered several times, was at last joined in the grand campaign.
The great railroad line which Halleck was now bent on permanently securing,
as the main object of the campaign, could have been tapped at any one of several points. But everything pointed to an advance
up the Tennessee as the most practicable. It was the shortest route thitherward; and, besides, being so largely accomplished
in transports, and with a water line of communication kept open by the navy, it would not consume the spring with vast preparations
of troops and trains for a land advance. Moreover, it threatened the rear of all the enemy's positions on the Mississippi--Memphis,
Randolph, New Madrid, Island No. 10--and directly co-operated with Pope and Foote, who were hammering and tunnelling their
way down the river, first at and around Columbus, and afterwards at Island 10. But, above all, it was as if, straight from
Fort Henry, there lay a direct highway, patent, possible, even now opened up through Tennessee to Alabama, and directly beckoning
to conquest--a broad highway whereon the gun-boats--those terrors of the Confederates, and inestimable Union allies--could
carry their flag unchallenged fourscore miles into the enemy's domain.
Up the broad stream, accordingly, Halleck promptly pushed the conquerors of
Donelson. This fort surrendered on the 16th day of February; and five divisions of Grant's army were made ready, and embarked
on transports early in March. On the 4th of March (for reasons it is needless to exhume) General Grant was ordered to turn
over his forces to General C. F. Smith. Halleck's original design was to establish the expedition as far up the river as Florence,
to which point Phelps's gunboat reconnoissance with the Tyler and Lexington had penetrated on the 8th of February preceding.
But a reconnoissance of the same boats on the 1st of March, was checked by a hostile battery at Pittsburgh Landing, and had
disclosed the enemy in a formidable position at Corinth; so that it became out of the question to go higher up. Indeed, the
first point of landing and depot of supplies was very wisely fixed on the right or easterly bank of the Tennessee, at Savannah.
Thence it was resolved to cross the army to Pittsburgh Landing, in support of two columns to be despatched to cut the railroad,
one above and the other below Corinth; and if these were successful, to move at once against the enemy's position. Accordingly,
the Tyler steamed to Danville Bridge, twenty-one miles above Fort Henry, to await the transports; and these, arriving on the
9th, with General Smith and a large portion of his army, and Sherman's division in advance, were conveyed without molestation
to Savannah, where they debarked during the 11th. The next night Wallace's division was put ashore at Crump's Landing, five
miles below Pittsburgh Landing; on the 14th, at the latter point, they were quickly joined by Smith's own division and those
of McClernand and Prentiss, and the movement was then complete. Instantly on landing, General Wallace was sent out on the
direct road from Crumps's to Purdy, and, without opposition, tore up, a few miles north of that village, half a mile of the
Mobile and Ohio Railroad, which runs from Corinth to Columbus. But the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was too far beyond
for him to attack; and Sherman's column, sent against the latter road, south of Corinth, proved unsuccessful, because the
river rising rapidly had overflowed in deep back water between him and his objective. At this time, unhappily, General Smith
fell sick of a mortal illness. "That elegant soldier," said McClellan; that "gallant and elegant officer!" said Sherman admiringly,
four years later, adding: "Had he lived, probably some of us younger fellows would not have attained our present positions."
Smith's own division was turned over to General W. H. L. Wallace; and, meanwhile, the command of the whole expedition had
again devolved upon General Grant, who, emerging from his brief cloud, was restored to command on the 14th, and arrived at
the head-quarters at Savannah on the 17th of March. Thereupon three weeks of inactivity elapsed, broken only by the battle-thunders
Meanwhile, a second army was faring forth to the field. March had found Buell
and Halleck in parallel commands, the one at St. Louis, in the, Department of the Missouri, the other at Nashville, in the
Department of the Ohio. Buell, first to detect the clandestine withdrawal of Johnston from his front to the Memphis and Charleston
Railroad, urgently suggested a movement up the Tennessee in force, which movement, however, General Halleck had already thought
of. Finding their views in unison, Buell next repeatedly tendered, by telegram, his own forces for co-operation; and at length
an excellent opportunity for accepting this proposal came on the 12th of March, when the two departments were united as the
Department of the Mississippi, under General Halleck. The latter officer then telegraphed Buell to move, and Buell on the
very same night, the 15th, put in motion his cavalry, followed next morning by McCook's division of infantry. McCook reached
Columbia on the 17th, but found that, while all the other bridges on the route had been saved by the promptness of Buell's
march, those over Duck River had been destroyed by the enemy. The river was then forty feet deep, and though gradually receding,
it would not do to wait till it became fordable; and the engineer corps worked strenuously at building a bridge, which, however,
was not finished till the 31st, when all five divisions again moved forward briskly and handsomely to Savannah, the point
of rendezvous fixed by General Halleck. There, Buell was led to expect, according to his instructions, that he would find
General Grant and his army. On the 28th, General Halleck informed General Buell that Grant would attack the enemy "as soon
as the roads are passable," and that the latter was receiving reinforcements for that purpose. Buell had assigned the 5th
day of April for the arrival of his advance division, Nelson's at Savannah. But, on the 4th, General Grant sent Nelson a despatch,
stating that he need not hurry, as the transportation for taking him across to the left bank was not yet ready, and would
not be ready till the 8th; the day, by the way, after the closing battle of Shiloh. The next day, in response to a suggestion
from Buell, that perhaps it would be well to strike the river twenty miles higher up than Savannah, by the Waynesboro' road,
which would have brought him opposite Hamburg,--Halleck telegraphed "You are right about concentrating at Waynesboro'; future
movements must depend on those of the enemy." A hundred such indications show, like that of the position of Grant's army,
already spoken of, how all the Union generals supposed their task was to be one of attack, not of defence,--a deliberate forward
movement on Corinth, to be undertaken some days later. But, as good fortune would have it, Halleck's despatch did not reach
Buell till he had pushed beyond Waynesboro' in his hasty strides, and Nelson also pressed on to Savannah at Buell's originally
appointed time, instead of making the delay which the despatch from Grant had authorized. Despite the rains and the bad roads
(which, at this same time, lost the Confederates the fatal twenty-four hours in their march from Corinth), the eighty-two
miles from Columbia to Savannah were made by Nelson in four days, and his division lay at Savannah on the eve of Shiloh. Behind,
at convenient distances, were the divisions of Crittenden, McCook, Wood, and Thomas.
While the Union Generals were thus eager with their plot, their antagonists
had secretly dressed a counterplot, the master-spirit in whose devising was Beauregard. This was, in a word, to rapidly gather
an army at Corinth, and fling it upon the reckless camp at Pittsburg Landing before Buell's arrival, and, that succeeding,
to march northward in aggressive campaign. The plan was as prompt of adoption as it was bold in conception, and to Corinth
quickly flowed from all directions, troops for the army of invasion. The Gulf States were dredged of their garrisons from
Memphis to Apalachicola, and the trans-Mississippi states, from Missouri to Texas, poured their troops out at Beauregard's
command. Supplies and material, forage and subsistence, were brought on all railroads, while, ordnance lacking, Beauregard
begged their bells of churches and families, and many batteries were cast from the metal so collected.
The concentration of troops began on the first of March. The first process
was to strip the great forts of all their foolish accumulations of troops; for on arriving West, Beauregard had found Columbus
full of troops, and its works built for 14,000. His comment was pointed; "with such a force shut up within a fort, how many
troops do you plan to have outside? Fort Donelson, indefensible, and badly defended, has fallen, as well it might, its works
being, nothing. Unless you have strong works, and troops capable of defending them to the last, it is better not to have forts."
His plan, accordingly, was to withdraw their garrisons from the neighboring forts, leave 2,000 men at one strong point on
the river above Memphis, with provisions enough for sixty days, spread torpedoes, and, with the aid of gun-boats, set these
men to hold the river. All the other works should set free their troops to join in an aggressive movement, and having concentrated
everything, he would take the initiative, and seize a victory. Accordingly, he had ordered Polk to withdraw from Columbus
to Island 10, which had been prepared for his reception. The latter point he designed to hold only till he could prepare Fort
Pillow, still further down, which he had selected as the real river defence of Memphis; and, in fact, it was finished on the
very day when Island 10 was evacuated. Polk's corps of two divisions soon joined Beauregard from Columbus, and Bragg's fine
corps, also of two divisions, came up from Mobile and Pensacola. The latter had been well drilled by that disciplinarian,
and were pronounced the best troops in the Confederacy; though in reality, they were not the superiors of the Virginian army
of Joe Johnston; but those were the early days of the war, when the skirmishes and picket duty around Santa Rosa and Ship
Island, and the threatening of Fort Pickens were supposed to season recruits into veterans. The Governors of Tennessee, Mississippi,
Alabama, and Louisiana were called on for volunteers, and issued at once strenuous alarum-cries, so that in speedy response
their people flocked towards Corinth by regiments, companies, squads, or unarmed and singly. All these were slowly crystallized
into the Army of the Mississippi, and to these Johnston added all his forces, forming Hardee's corps, himself assuming supreme
command, with Beauregard as second.
The march of Buell hastened preparations, but most of the troops were entirely
raw, and hence the army took its shape slowly. Above all, it lacked the appliances of organization; for the Richmond authorities,
usually self-sufficient, narrowminded, and wrong-headed past all belief, in their conduct of affairs, yet went to no such
inconceivable lengths of folly and stupidity, as in their reluctance to organize their armies, and in their jealousy of conferring
such ordinary military rank and such latitude of power as is necessary for the assembling of an army, and the gradation of
its component parts. The first condition Beauregard had made in going West, was a fixed number of troops to fight with, but
these, of course, he did not get, nor any approximation thereto. The second condition was the detail to him of a staff corps,
and some such officers of a higher grade as could aid him in his task of remodelling the Western army. He got that no more
than the other, though both were promised with equal distinctness: his fixed number of colonels and lieutenant-colonels, which
were to have been sent, never came. These necessities were doubly felt when the problem was to assort and mould the fragmentary
bodies of volunteers pouring into Corinth. However, by laying the shoulder to the wheel in steady work, the 1st of April arrived
with some approximation--though a vexatiously imperfect one--to the task undertaken, for the troops were at last in good condition
and very confident. Johnston's forces lay chiefly along the railroad easterly from Corinth to Iuka, northerly from Corinth
to Bethel. Spies and officious people in the region had brought daily and nightly news of the progress of Buell, and the position
of each division's bivouac, and equally minute and positive details were known of Grant's army. When Buell's bridge over Duck
River was built, it was felt that the blow must be struck at once; and when, just before midnight of the 2d of April, a courier
brought news of Buell's rapid stride from Columbia, the advance was instantly ordered. It was already a day later than originally
intended, and then the dispositions for guarding the depots of supplies and the roads around Corinth and Purdy had to be made.
But on the 3d, the remainder of the army, about 40,000 strong, moved straight forward over the practicable roads towards the
river, where, sixteen miles distant, lay Grant's army at Pittsburg Landing. The advance was to march "till within sight of
the enemy's outposts."
Immediately on starting the roads were found in wretched condition, --an evil
augmented by the rawness of the troops in marching. By the night of the 4th, however, the main interval had been passed, and
the troops ordered to attack at dawn of the 5th. The advance cavalry flushed and eager, had already got upon the Union outposts,
and been repulsed by Sherman's advance, for their pains. But, about 2 o'clock on the 5th, a furious rain-storm fell, and continuing
for hours, drenched the whole army as it lay in bivouac, filled the creeks, spoiled the roads, and rendered attack impossible.
In addition, the bad organization delayed the troops from getting into position. Intolerably vexatious as was this loss of
a whole day, it only remained to endure it. The lines were moved up still nearer, till the advance was but three fourths of
a mile from the Union pickets, and but two miles from the main camp. The troops were in three lines, according to the order
of attack. Hardee's corps of two divisions covered the intersection of the Pittsburg and Hamburg roads, with half its cavalry
on either flank, between Owl and Lick creeks; Gladden's brigade of Withers' division of Bragg's corps filling up the space
to the latter stream. Eight hundred yards behind him lay the rest of Bragg's two divisions in the second line. With a little
wider interval, Polk's corps formed the third, and reserve line, with Breckinridge's reserve divisions upon its right and
rear. The roads were cleared, and the attack ordered betimes in the morning; and so passed the eve of Shiloh.
THE BATTLE OF SHILOH.
[First Day - Sunday, April 6, 1862]
The morning of
Sunday, April 6th, broke clear and pleasant after the rains of the days preceding, and found the Union army still peacefully
sleeping in its camps along the Tennessee. The general topography of the rugged plateau, which, seamed with ravines, but mainly
ninety or a hundred feet above the road-bottom, contained the encampment, has already been drawn: it was at once camp and
battle-ground. Its southerly limit is Lick Creek, which, rising, a few miles in the interior, runs between very high banks
easterly to the Tennessee, at right angles with the latter, three miles above the landing. Near its source, Owl Creek, bending
like an arm around the camping-ground, forms the westerly and northerly boundary of the plateau, and emptying into Snake Creek,
joins the Tennessee at right angles, two miles below the Landing. The drift or slope of the land is, in general, from the
bluffs of Lick Creek across to the banks of Owl Creek; but the enclosure is uneven, and lesser rivulets, of course, swell
those already mentioned. The battle-ground is from three to five miles wide, and as much in length. The troops were posted
with reference to the roads from the Landing. The main road winding up the top of the hill, there branches, and the right
hand one leads along the river across Snake Creek to Crump's Landing. Further on, a mile from the Landing, the main road sends
out another branch, this time to the south, up the shore across Lick Creek to Hamburg. Continuing inland, it once more divides,
this time into two roads, both leading to Corinth, of which the one nearest the Hamburg road is called the Ridge road, from
its elevation. Shiloh Church is three miles out from the Landing, on the further road to Corinth, near Owl Creek, and thence
a road runs north-westerly to Purdy. The many cross-roads and interlacing paths need not be described.
The divisions of McClernand, Prentiss, and Sherman, formed the advance line
of Grant's army; those of Hurlburt and W. H. L. Wallace the forces at the Landing. Sherman's division, facing south, covered
the Corinth road at Shiloh Church, with one brigade on each side of the road, and one on the extreme right guarding the bridge
on the Purdy road over Owl Creek; while, detached to the extreme left of the whole army, Sherman had a brigade, under Colonel
Stuart, guarding the Hamburg road at Lick Creek Ford, near the Tennessee. Prentiss, on Sherman's left, was guarding the Ridge
road, facing southerly and south-westerly. McClernand was on Sherman's left and rear, on the Purdy road--his line and Sherman's
forming an acute angle, by the extension of their left wings. Hurlburt and W. H. L. Wallace were back at the bluff near the
Landing, where were all the supplies,--the forage, subsistence, stores, and trains. Lew Wallace lay at Crump's Landing, with
his brigades posted conveniently on the road running thence to Purdy.
Ere the gray of dawn, the advanced line of Johnston's army, composed of Hardee's
corps, strengthened on its right by Gladden's brigade from Bragg's, stealthily crept through the narrow belt of woods, beyond
which all night they had seen their innocent enemy's camp-fires blazing. No fife or drum was allowed; the cavalry bugles sounded
no reveille; but with suppressed voices, the subordinate officers roused their men, for many of whom, indeed, the knowledge
of what was to come, had proved too exciting for sound slumber. Bragg's line as quickly followed, and, in suit, the line of
Polk and Breckinridge.
By one of those undefinable impulses or misgivings which detect the approach
of catastrophe without physical warning of it, it happened that Colonel Peabody, of the 25th Missouri, commanding the first
brigade of Prentiss's division, became convinced that all was not right in front. Very early Sunday morning, therefore, he
sent out three companies of his own regiment and two of Major Powell's 12th Michigan, under Powell's command, to reconnoitre,
and to seize on some advance squads of the enemy, who had been reported flitting about, one and a half miles distant from
camp on the main Corinth road. It was the gray of dawn when they reached the spot indicated; and almost immediately, from
long dense lines of men, coming swiftly through the tall trees, opened a rattling fire of musketry. It was the enemy in force.
The little band fell back in haste, firing as best they might. Close on their heels pressed the whole of Hardee's line, and
enveloping the left of Prentiss's camp, stretched in a broad swathe across to the gap between his division and Sherman's,
and thence onward across Sherman's. Instantly the woods were alive with the rattle of musketry right and left, on front and
flank. The Confederate batteries, galloping up on every practicable road and path, unlimbered in hot haste, and poured their
shot over the head of the infantry in the direction of the tents now faintly gleaming ahead. The startled infantry outposts,
mechanically returning a straggling fire, yielded overborne by the mighty rush of their enemy, and then streamed straight
back to the main camps. The divisions of Sherman, Prentiss, and McClernand started from their peaceful slumbers amid the roar
and smoke of battle. The exultant Confederates, creeping so long with painful reticence, now woke the forests with their fierce,
long-pent yells. The flying pickets served, like avant-couriers to point the way for their pursuers. And thus, with the breaking
light of day, overhung by sulphurous battle-clouds, through which darted the cannon-flash, while the dim smoke curled forward
through every ravine and road, and enveloped the camps, Grant's army woke to the battle of Shiloh.
So rude an awakening might well unnerve veterans, and much more these raw
troops thus thrust invitingly out for attack, many of whom were unused even to loading their own muskets. But instantly, from
all the tents, amid the long-roll of drums, the quick cries of "turn out," and "fall in," from company-officers and sergeants,
the rapid rollcalls of the orderlies, the clink of rammer and gunstock, the orders mingling everywhere, in all tones, from
officers of all grades, the astounded troops of Sherman, Prentiss, and McClernand hurried half dressed into line; while commanders
were hastily fastening on swords, or mounting horses, and aids were flying back to rouse the men of Hurlbut and Wallace in
At the height of the shouting, the forming of the troops, the spurring hither
and thither of the aids, the fastening of belts and boxes, and the dressing of the laggards, the enemy's advance with loud
yells swept through the intervening forest, and burst upon the camps.
It was now about 7 o'clock, and the resistance of the Union picket line, feeble
as it necessarily was, had been of priceless service in gaining time, while the rough and impracticable interval over which
the Confederates had to pass served to breakup somewhat as well as to extend and thin their lines. There seems to have been
no special tactical formation, nor any massing of men on a key-point--the key-point, if any there was, had not been discovered.
The movement in short, was predicated on a surprise, and the method, to fling the three corps-deep lines of the Army of the
Mississippi straight against the Union army from creek to creek; to "drive it back into the Tennessee." As for the Union generals,
overwhelmed with surprise and chagrin, they could only strike back where the enemy struck, seeking above all to save the camps.
Such was the nature of the confused, irregular, but bloody series of conflicts, which now raged for three hours, during which
time the Union troops succumbed, and yielded the first breadth of debatable ground.
Prentiss' division occupied the Union left (except for the detached brigade
of Stuart), and covered the Corinth ridge road. Against him rushed Hardee's right and Gladden's brigade, but it was a full
hour before the outposts of Peabody's brigade had been driven back into Prentiss' camps. By that time Prentiss had his line
hastily formed. About 7 o'clock, Gladden moved upon Prentiss' centre, and soon the roar of artillery and musketry on both
sides proclaimed general battle. Meanwhile, Hardee's line having been protracted and divided all along the Union front, Bragg
threw the second line by detachments, into the gaps, to reinforce it. Before half past seven o'clock, therefore, Bragg's line
had moved up, and was fighting, intermingled with Hardee's. Now the right of Bragg's two divisions was the division of Withers,
one brigade of which, Gladden's, had the night before been put into the first line, on Hardee's right. The whole three brigades
were now fighting together against Prentiss' division. Chalmers' brigade swept around to Prentiss' left flank; Gladden's pushed
at his centre, and Jackson's struck his left, and began to pour through the gap between Prentiss and Sherman. The batteries
on both sides being run to the front, plowed through the opposing ranks; Gladden was struck by a cannon shot and mortally
wounded, charging at the head of his brigade; Peabody was mortally wounded in the Union lines. The Confederates pressed on,
gaining little by little on either flank, till the fire from their three batteries, as well as the infantry fire of their
three brigades began to cross in Prentiss' lines. Regiments gave ground here and there, now on the left, now on the right,
now in front, and before nine o'clock, the Confederates having driven Prentiss from all his camps, were masters of the field.
The camps were quickly despoiled, accoutrements, clothing, rations just cooked, and plunder of all sorts even, seized. With
difficulty the officers drew their men together, and Withers's triumphant division was re-formed, to move once more on the
new line of the Union left.
Simultaneously, Hardee's centre and left had been attacking the Union right,
or the division of Sherman, whose line ran across the other Corinth road. The centre was at Shiloh Church, and Sherman had
put two batteries there, those of Taylor and Waterhouse, and two brigades, Hildebrand's on the left of the road, and Buckland's
on the right. On the right of Buckland was McDowell's brigade, with Behr's battery on the right and rear, on the Purdy road.
McClernand, just in rear of Sherman, had promptly sent three regiments to the support of Hildebrand, on Sherman's left, and
three batteries soon after moved over. By seven o'clock, the Confederate advance showed through the woods, and opened a stragggling
Half an hour later, the whole Confederate force was up; the three brigades
of Hardee's corps--Hindman's, Cleburne's, and Wood's, formed the right of the line which burst upon Sherman. Bragg's original
second line of two divisions had already been separated, as we have seen, and the right one, Withers's, thrown against Prentiss.
His left division, that of Ruggles, was formed on Hardee's left, its three brigades being Gibson's, Anderson's, and Pond's.
Before eight o'clock, the battle was raging with fury at all points; for,
in dogged determination to drive their foe to the river, the line of Confederate advance was determined simply by what might
yield to their onset. For an hour the contest was severe, the Union batteries being well posted and extremely well served,
and inflicting grievous punishment upon the Confederates, whenever the latter appeared from the cover. Sherman himself was
indefatigable in remedying the misfortunes of the surprise; he moved in every part of the field, attended personally to the
fire of batteries, held up raw regiments to their task, and, long before noon, became the central figure on the Union side
at Shiloh. Towards his left, when Hindman, Cleburne, and Wood gradually passed in between himself and Prentiss, and swung
upon his left flank, the firing was so hot (for Sherman clung to this point with bull-dog, tenacity, regarding it as the key-point
to his position) that Bragg threw Gibson's brigade of Ruggles's division across to Hindman's support. Sherman's batteries,
however, tore this column badly while it marched across by the right flank to its new position; the other two brigades of
Ruggles, those of Anderson and Pond, remained and attacked Sherman's right, under McDowell. Polk's third, or reserve line
was not long kept from the contest. Three regiments, and several batteries from McClernand, and four regiments from Hurlburt
had early arrived on Sherman's left, and enabled him to withstand the Confederate attack there. Seeing this heavy reinforcement
at an important point, Johnston, who had ridden to the front, and who, according to Polk, at once showed "the ardor and energy
of a true soldier," and promised victory in "the vigor with which he pressed forward his troops"--Johnston himself called
on Polk for a brigade to support the right. Stewart's brigade of Clark's division was given to him, and he took it in person.
Beauregard next demanded a brigade for the left to help Ruggles, and Cheatham led one to that point. Finally, Polk threw his
two remaining brigades against Sherman's centre. The Confederate troops, being now all in action, soon served Sherman as they
were serving Prentiss. The latter, at nine o'clock, had been driven from his camps, and the brigade of Polk's corps, which
Johnston led into the gap between Prentiss and Sherman, completely turned the latter's left flank. The rush which finally
broke Prentiss, also broke up Hildebrand, and his two left regiments fell back in great disorder and disappeared from the
field." Instantly the Confederates swooped upon Waterhouse's battery, and Sherman's left was turned. He gallantly clung a
little longer to Shiloh Church, and held up McDowell and Buckland, together with the two brigades sent from McClernand's division.
Polk's two brigades, however, now moved up, and, with those of Anderson and Pond, attacked the two Union divisions, and carried
Behr's battery in an instant. Meanwhile, the Confederates hurried their artillery down along the brook in the gap on Sherman's
left and rear, and routed his troops with an enfilading fire. Sherman then fell back, and, before ten o'clock, had surrendered
his whole camp. General Polk says that the forces of Sherman and McClernand immediately opposed to him, "fought with determined
courage, and contested every inch of ground," and that "the resistance at this point was as stubborn as at any other on the
We have now, at ten o'clock, reached a sort of epoch in the battle. The first
onset of the Confederates has been successful, and the divisions of Sherman and Prentiss, supported in part by those of Hurlburt
and W. H. L. Wallace, have been driven from their camps. There was neither at this time nor later, any positive lull in the
battle; but the retreat of the Union forces caused the taking up of a new and concentrated line, and a portion of the Confederates
paused in unsoldierly fashion for plundering the captured camps, before they essayed the sequel of their task. Sherman, on
losing his camps and two batteries, had two brigades left to work with, McDowell's and Buckland's, and Taylor's battery. As
for Hildebrand's brigade, they had mostly long since fled, and were running towards the Tennessee, on whose banks an immense
throng of fugitives from the various divisions, in detachments of all sizes from regiments down to groups of fours, was already
collecting, and swelling each hour. Sherman's remaining troops retreated to McClernand's right, where they were halted, and
got in hand to renew the contest. The Union line was so confused and irregular thenceforth, and so constantly swaying and
shifting, that it would be uninstructive as well as uncandid, to pretend to draw it in detail. In general, however, Sherman's
residue of troops was on the right; next, McClernand's division; next, Wallace's; next (after recovering), Prentiss's; next,
Hurlburt's; finally, Stuart's detached brigade of Sherman's division. A word will explain how this disposition was reached.
The stress of the opening attack on Prentiss and Sherman was very naturally along the two Corinth roads across which they
lay. Between the roads was an unguarded interval, into which the Confederates had passed, and by which they had flanked both
divisions. McClernand, Hurlburt and Wallace had instantly moved up to relieve the stress on this worst point--which supposing
we assign to the first Union positions the dignity of a line,--would be called the centre. There they substantially remained,
receiving the shock of battle as they came up--McClernand first, because nearest, and the others quickly after. Sherman, on
being driven back, had naturally fallen on the right of McClernand, so as not to impede his fire. McClernand had moved forward
in detachments, as we have seen, to Sherman's left, in instant answer to an urgent call for help. Now, by the abandonment
of the camps two advance divisions, he was stoutly holding his own, having swung around so as to face nearly south-east, on
the main Corinth road. Wallace's shortest road up from the landing brought him to the left of McClernand, where he arrived
in time to receive the direct impact of the dense column pouring down the Corinth road after turning Prentiss out of his tents.
Hurlburt, at 7 1/2 o'clock, had received a message from Sherman that "he was already attacked in force, heavily upon his left."
We have seen that the main battle began about seven. Hurlburt within ten minutes had Veatch's brigade on the march to Sherman's
left, where it soon arrived, and went into action, together with the column from McClernand. In the new alignment it became
separated, half being formed on MeClernand's right, and half on his left. A few minutes later, came similar tidings from Prentiss,
and Hurlburt then took forward his two remaining brigades, those of Williams and Laumann. He marched to the rear and left
of Prentiss, and met an appalling sight. "His regiments drifted through my advance," Prentiss gallantly striving, but in vain,
to rally them. Fortunately, Hurlburt's men were not broken up by this perforation of their columns, and their line was rapidly
formed. Behind Hurlburt, Prentiss "succeeded in rallying a considerable portion of his command," and then, says the former,
"I permitted him to pass to the front of the right of my third brigade, when they redeemed their honor."
Stuart's brigade, or what was left of it, for he had suffered like Sherman
and Prentiss from the independent volition of some subordinates, in moving their commands to the rear--was on Hurlburt's left.
Weeks before, when this whole camping-ground had been occupied with a view to moving on Corinth, Sherman had stretched his
command over the front, along Owl and Lick creeks,--a space of three or four miles, the other divisions being placed as already
indicated, in quasi support. Stuart, accordingly, was off on the left on the Hamburg road, which crosses Lick Creek near the
Tennessee. At 7 1/2 o'clock he had received from Prentiss a verbal message like that sent to Hurlburt. "In a very short time,"
he adds, "I discovered the pelican flag advancing in the rear of General Prentiss's head-quarters." So quickly was the latter
officer's camp turned on the left. Stuart formed his three regiments, and, in answer to a request, Hurlburt in fifteen minutes
had a battery and a regiment in the long interval between Stuart and Prentiss. Half an hour elapsed, during which the enemy
got a battery in a commanding position, and opened a fire of shells on Stuart's camp. Before long, the Confederates began
to move across upon him from Prentiss's left and against his other flank. The ground is the highest on the whole field, and
defensible by a small force. Riding to the right, Stuart found that "the battery had left without firing a gun, and the battalion
on its right had disappeared." Riding to the left, he found his own regiment there had also departed, as he was told, to "a
ridge of ground very defensible for infantry" in the rear. "But," he expressively adds, "I could not find them, and had no
intimation as to where they had gone." Several hours later, it is pleasant to know, that his search was rewarded, by discovering
"seventeen or eighteen men" of this force, who, under the adjutant, joined him.
For five hours, now, the battle went confusedly on. Its general tenor was
the forcing back of the Union troops more or less slowly to the landing. Had the terrain been other than it was, the
result might have been more quickly accomplished. But rolling and wooded, cleft and cut up by ravines, with here and there
a commanding and defensible ridge but no salient positions, it afforded opportunity for protracted, irregular, and severe
fighting. Both in attack and defence it threw upon subordinate officers the care of their own commands. It prevented also
the decision of the day by a stroke on either side, and neither a blow nor a counter-blow was of necessity fatal. In this
irregular and fragmentary fighting, however, the chief brunt fell upon Wallace, McClernand, and Hurlburt,--not only because
the divisions of the two former had had the experience of Donelson, while the other three divisions were mostly raw, but also
because the troops of Sherman and Prentiss had become disorganized and used up by the morning's surprise. General Grant came
upon the field as soon as he could arrive from Savannah, where he had heard the roar of battle. It took a considerable time
to reach the Landing, but not long afterwards to ride to the point to which his troops had been driven from their camps.
The Confederate lines had, meanwhile, been not much less confused than those
of their enemy. They had advanced with three lines of battle and a reserve; in two hours they had thrown everything in, by
divisions, brigades, or even regiments, just where it happened to be wanted. As some of the Union divisions had at times portions
of three or four divisions under their control in the confused disorganization, so it was precisely with the Confederate corps
commanders. Polk's corps was divided from one end of the line to the other. At length, he sought out General Bragg, and it
was arranged that Bragg henceforth should take charge of the right, Polk of the centre, and Hardee of the left, independent
of former dispositions. This was at half past ten o'clock, and the commands so continued thenceforth through the day. From
that time till three the conflict went on with vigor. The Confederate leaders now positioned troops, now encouraged them,
now personally led them. The right of the Confederate line under Breckinridge had for several hours a long and obstinate contest
with Hurlburt, aided by Prentiss. But the Union centre, held by Wallace, and the left by McClernand, were especially aimed
at by the Confederates, in order to cut their way through to the Landing. Here was the Confederate centre, which has been
described as flanking Sherman on the left and Prentiss on the right,--Hardee's line, with the brigades of Hindman, Cleburne,
and Wood, three brigades of Polk's corps, under Cheatham, and Gibson's brigade of Ruggles's division. Bragg and Polk again
and again tried to force this position. Wallace had the three batteries of Cavender's battalion well posted on commanding
ridges and well served, and his infantry behaved well. McClernand did the same for his three batteries, those of Schwartz,
Dresser, and McAllister. Under Wallace's vigorous command, Bragg's efforts long failed. On the left, however, Polk and Hardee,
attacking with the brigades of Pond and Anderson, and a portion of the centre, had already found easier work. Sherman's disordered
line in that quarter could with difficulty be recovered from the shock of the morning. It was formed of parts of Buckland's
and McDowell's brigades. The former officer says that, in forming line again on the Purdy road, "the fleeing mass from the
left broke through our lines, and many of our men caught the infection and fled with the crowd." One regiment, Cockerill's,
was kept in something like organization; but as to the rest, "we made every effort to rally our men, with but poor success.
They had become scattered in every direction." The Confederates accordingly turned the Union right, and possessed themselves
of McClernand's camps, and half the guns of his three batteries. McClernand and the rest of Sherman fell back to the right
of Wallace, who still held fast to his camp near the Landing.
So far as the Confederates had a tactical plan now, it was to turn the Union
left, and, sweeping along the bank, capture their base at the Landing, and drive them down the river. On the Confederate right,
opposite Hurlburt and Stuart, were the divisions of Breckinridge, Withers, and Cheatham, under the direction of Johnston himself,
who, energetic and determined, was exerting his personal influence with his men. The Confederate General became frequently
exposed to the hot fire of artillery and musketry rolling from Hurlburt's line. One of the latter's batteries, indeed, had
been instantly abandoned by its officers and men, as he says, "with the common impulse of disgraceful cowardice." The other
two, however, had an effective fire from commanding positions, while several of his infantry regiments exhausted their ammunition
for a time. For a time the Confederates made tremendous charges against this position, and, amid the hot fire which was returned,
about two o'clock a ball struck Johnston as he sat on his horse, eagerly regarding the movement. He refused to notice it,
and gave orders as before; but it was the death-wound. Governor Harris, his volunteer aid, riding up, found him reeling in
the saddle. "Are you hurt?" "Yes, I fear mortally." And, with these words, stretching out his arms, he fell upon his companion,
and a few minutes later expired.
Of the military character of Sydney Johnston, it is difficult to speak with
surety. He has certainly left a great fame; but this probably has its foundation rather in what was anticipated of him than
in what he achieved. He was a man of a high order of character, just, generous, chivalrous, and brave. He had an eminent administrative
faculty, and Davis highly regarded his political talent. But it is doubtful whether he would have risen to the rank of such
men as Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, or Jackson. His manner of defending the frontier committed to him was very faulty, and the
readiness with which he followed the suggestions of Beauregard shows that he had but little power of initiative and but slight
appreciation of grand war.
It was now three o'clock, and the battle was at its height. Dissatisfied with
his reception by Wallace, on the Corinth road, Bragg, on hearing of Johnston's fall, on the right, determined to move round
thither and try his success anew. He gathered up the three divisions already spoken of, and, with specific orders of attack,
flung them against Hurlburt, Stuart, and Prentiss. The assault was irresistible, and the whole left of the Union position
giving way, Bragg's column drove Stuart and Hurlburt to the Landing, swept through Hurlburt's camp, pillaging it like those
of Prentiss, Sherman, Stuart, and McClernand. Simultaneously, Polk and Hardee, rolling in from the Confederate left, forced
back the Union right, and drove all Wallace's division, with what was left of Sherman, back to the Landing,--the brave W.
H. L. Wallace falling, in breasting this whelming flood. Swooping over the field, right and left, the Confederates gathered
up entire the remainder of Prentiss's division about 3000 in number--with that officer himself, and hurried them triumphantly
At five o'clock the fate of the Union army was extremely critical. Its enemy
had driven it by persistent fighting out of five camps, and for miles over every ridge and across every road, stream, and
ravine, in its chosen camping-ground. Full 3000 prisoners and many wounded were left in his hands, and a great part of the
artillery with much other spoils, to grace his triumph. Bragg's order, "Forward, let every order be forward;" Beauregard's
order, "Forward boys, and drive them into the Tennessee," had been filled almost to the letter, since near at hand rolled
the river, with no transportation for reinforcements or for retreat. Before, an enemy flushed with conquest, called on their
leaders for the coup de grace. What can be done with the Union troops? Surely the being at bay will give desperation.
Unhappily the whole army greatly disorganized all day, was now an absolute wreck; and such broken regiments and disordered
battalions as attempted to rally at the Landing, often found the officers gone on whom they were wont to rely. Not the divisions
alone but the brigades, the regiments, the companies, were mixed up in hopeless confusion, and it was only a heterogeneous
mass of hot and exhausted men, with or without guns as might be, that converged on the riverbank. The fugitives covered the
shore down as far as Crump's, where guards were at length posted to try to catch some of them and drive them back. The constant
"disappearance," as the generals have it, of regiments and parts of regiments since morning, added to thousands of individual
movements to the rear, had swarmed the Landing with troops enough--enough in numbers--to have driven the enemy back to Corinth.
Their words were singularly uniform--"We are all cut to pieces." General Grant says he had a dozen officers arrested for cowardice
on the first day's battle. General Rousseau speaks of "10,000 fugitives, who lined the banks of the river and filled the woods
adjacent to the Landing." General Buell, before the final disaster, found at the Landing, stragglers by "whole companies and
almost regiments; and at the Landing the bank swarmed with a confused mass of men of various regiments. There could not have
been less than 4000 or 5000. Late in the day it became much greater." At five o'clock "the throng of disorganized and demoralized
troops increased continually by fresh fugitives," and intermingled "were great numbers of teams, all striving to get as near
as possible to the river. With few exceptions, all efforts to form the troops and move them forward to the fight utterly failed."
Nelson says, "I found cowering under the river-bank, when I crossed, from 7000 to 10,000 men, frantic with fright, and utterly
demoralized." Of the troops lately driven back, he expressed the want of organization by saying the last position "formed
a semicircle of artillery totally unsupported by infantry, whose fire was the only check to the audacious approach of the
enemy." Even this was not all. The Confederates sweeping the whole field down to the bluff above the Landing, were already
almost upon the latter point. Such was the outlook for the gallant fragments of the Union army at 5 o'clock on Sunday.
But Grant's star was fixed in the ascendant. It chanced that the Confederates,
by sweeping away Prentiss on the Union left, had been thrown chiefly towards the southerly side of the Landing. Now, at that
point, as has been described, intervenes a precipitous wooded ravine, "deep, and impassable for artillery or cavalry," says
General Grant, "and very difficult for infantry." And it was precisely here, that, as that commander explains, "a desperate
effort was made by the enemy to turn our left and get possession of the landing, transports, etc." A hard task, therefore,
was set the Confederates at the end of their day's toil. In addition, the Union gun-boats now reinforced the troops, and at
half past five furiously raked the hostile lines which had drawn towards the Landing. The moral effect of these shells on
both the armies, was even greater, as so often at that stage of the war, than the physical. A third piece of fortune favored
the Union armies. It chanced that, on the bluff, had been deposited and parked many siege guns, with heavy ordnance of various
sorts, designed as a part of the train for that future move upon Corinth, which to-day had been so unexpectedly barred. No
artillerists, of course, had yet been prepared for the guns; but Colonel Webster, of General Grant's staff, energetically
called for volunteers to get these pieces into position and essay work with them; and plenty of cannoneers he found whose
field artillery had been captured during the day.
As the fragments of light batteries came galloping in, these were ranged with
the heavy guns, and, in short, a formidable semicircle of forty or fifty guns, or more, of all sizes, soon girdled the Landing,
along the brow of the ravine, which formed an excellent defence. This latter, indeed, stretched far beyond the bluff, and
winding around, continued its protection quite to the Corinth road, the guns dotting its edge, all along. On the right of
the guns all effort was made to disentangle the army that had rushed pell-mell in that direction, while, on the left, the
gun-boats partly covered the artillery position.
At this crisis, also, and to assure the fortune of the army so lately trembling
in the balance, Buell's advance rushed with loud cheers upon the scene. It was Nelson's division, which had arrived thirty
hours before at General Grant's head-quarters, but, finding no transportation ready, had been kept all day from the battle.
But, stimulated by the ever-nearing roar of battle, Nelson's men had hurried along the overflowed roads of the west bank,
and Buell, finding the artillery-wheels sticking hub-deep in mire, had authorized Nelson to drop his trains and push on. So,
by effort and expedient, Nelson got up the river, was ferried across, and his well-drilled men, disregarding what they saw
and heard, rushed spiritedly to the front, and Ammen's brigade deployed in support of the artillery at the point of danger.
The glad news of reinforcement spread like wildfire in the driven army.
Already now, the Confederates were surging and recoiling in a desperate series
of final charges. Warned by the descending sun to do quickly what remained to be done, they threw forward everything to the
attempt. Their batteries, run to the front, crowned the inferior crest of the ravine, and opened a defiant fire from ridge
to ridge, and threw shells even across the river into the woods on the other bank. Their infantry, wasted by the day's slaughter,
had become almost disorganized by the plunder of the last two Union camps, and a fatal loss of time ensued while their officers
pulled them out from the spoils. The men, still spirited, gazed somewhat aghast at the gun-crowned slope above them, whence
Webster's artillery thundered across the ravine, while their right flank was swept by broadsides of 8-inch shells from the
Lexington and Tyler. "Forward" was the word throughout the Confederate line. Bragg held the right, on the southerly slope
of the ravine, extending near the river, but prevented from reaching it by the gun-boat fire; Polk the centre, nearer the
head of the ravine; while Hardee carried the left beyond the Corinth road. At the latter point, the line was half a mile from
the water, and four hundred yards from the artillery on the bluffs. There were few organizations even of regiments, on the
Union side, but a straggling line from Wallace's and other commands, voluntarily rallying near the guns, was already opening
an independent but annoying fire: and these resolute soldiers were as safe as the torrent of fugitives incessantly pouring
down to the Landing, among whom the Confederate shells were bursting. Again and again, through the fire of the artillery,
the gun-boats and Ammen's fresh brigade and the severe flanking fire of troops rallying on the Union right, the Confederates
streamed down the ravine and clambered up the dense thickets on the other slope. Again and again they were repulsed with perfect
ease, and amid great loss; for besides their natural exhaustion, the commands had been so broken up by the victory of the
day and by the scramble for the spoils, that while some brigades were forming others were charging, and there was no concerted
attack, but only spontaneous rushes by subdivisions, speedily checked by flank fire. And, when once some of Breckenridge's
troops, on the right, did nearly turn the artillery position, so that some of the gunners abandoned their pieces, Ammen, who
had just deployed, again and finally drove the assailants down the slope.
Confident still, flushed with past success, and observing the Union dÚdÔle
behind the artillery, Bragg and Polk urged a fresh and more compact assault, on the ground that the nearer they drew to the
Union position, the less perilous were the siege guns and gun-boats. But the commander-in-chief had been struck down, and
Beauregard, succeeding to supreme responsibility, decided otherwise. Bitterly then he recalled the lack of discipline and
organization in his army, entailed by the jealousy and ill-timed punctiliousness of Richmond. Victory itself had fatally disordered
his lines, and the last hard task of assault had thrown them back in confusion from the almost impregnable position. Better
to withdraw with victory than hazard final defeat; for already the sun was in the horizon, and the musket-flashes lit up the
woods. The troops were all intermingled, and several brigade commanders had been encountered by the general, who did not know
where their brigades were. Since darkness already threatened to leave the army in dense thickets under the enemy's murderous
fire, all that was left of the day would be required in withdrawing so disorganized a force. Buell could not have got more
than one division along those miry roads to the river. It was a day's work well done: to-morrow should be sealed what had
auspiciously begun. Thus reasoning, Beauregard called off the troops just as they were starting on another charge, and ordered
them out of range. Then night and rain fell on the field of Shiloh.
[Second Day - Monday, April 7, 1862]
the astounded Confederates beheld a fresh enemy in the lines whence they had expelled a former the day preceding. Surely the
Union host was hydra-like, with a new and deadlier crest springing on the trunk from which the other had been shorn: or like
the mystic wrestler who rose refreshed from mother-earth, whenever he was flung there, spent and bleeding. The new foe was
the army of Buell; and as Beauregard caught sight of its handsomely deployed columns, he instantly felt that in counting on
possible tardiness or want of skill in its commander, he had reckoned without his host. Buell, so soon as his restless troops
could be thrown across Duck river, had (though unsuspicious of the need) driven them on with such soldierly celerity to Savannah
that, had the attack of Beauregard been expected and prepared for, Nelson's division was in season to have been posted far
out in the woods at Shiloh Church; for they were at Grant's head-quarters eighteen hours before the battle. With like energy,
Buell at the first roar of battle had despatched couriers to all his other divisions to drop their trains and move up by forced
marches; so that, on Monday morning, three divisions and three batteries were present to redeem the lost laurels of Sunday.
Lew Wallace's division, too, was up from Crump's Landing. Hearing, the guns on Sunday at Shiloh, he drew up his troops to
march, and impatiently awaited the orders, which, in effect, came at 11 1/2 o'clock, bidding him push over to Snake Creek,
cross it, and form on the Union right. Quickly his troops were off, but on the road they met three officers of Grant's staff,
who were travelling that way. For Wallace they brought no orders, but they did bring such vivid tidings of the day's disaster
and gloom, that Wallace learned that what was once the Union right was now in the Confederate rear. Instantly halting, he
retraced his steps, crossed Snake Creek by the river road, nearer the Landing, and arrived at nightfall, after the battle
What with the arrival of Buell's troops and Lew Wallace's, and the untying,
from its almost Gordian knot of the army of Grant, there was a busy stir on Monday morning. Of Grant's forces, after eliminating
the dead who lay on the field, the wounded who all night lay there, still more pitiable, and the hopelessly fugitive, there
was still a respectable remainder; and the batteries were assorted and patched, and the artillerists rallied, for of these
there were more than enough for the guns. As for the Confederate army, it rose from bivouac in sorry plight, and the day's
work obvious before them was not of a sort to freshen their spirits. At least, however, Beauregard had fulfilled his promise
to "sleep in the enemy's camp," for his lines were in those of Prentiss, McClernand, and Sherman, and the latter's head-quarters
had been usurped by Beauregard. But it was an uneasy slumber they had seized, in camps hardly worth the winning; for throughout
the night the gun-boats had thrown eight-inch shells towards the camps at intervals of ten and fifteen minutes, which, as
Beauregard reports, "had broken the rest of the men." At midnight, too, a drenching rain had fallen upon them; and so, tired,
wet, faint with hunger, and with no rations for the coming day, at dawn they rose again for battle with a new army.
Monday was Buell's opportunity; and he proposed to drive the enemy across
Owl Creek, to whence he came. Having thrown heavy pickets well out, and formed Nelson's and Crittenden's divisions in advance
of Grant's line, he give orders to attack at dawn. Four fresh divisions could be counted on--Nelson's, Crittenden's, and McCook's,
of Buell's army, and Lew Wallace's, of Grant's--about 27,000 strong; while a large force of Grant's troops were gradually
brought up as supports, and, indeed, subsequently took part in the battle. While many of Buell's troops were unaccustomed
to battle, they were all well drilled and well managed, and, accordingly, were sure of a better fortune than that of their
comrades of yesterday. Whatever, indeed, the amount of disorgranization and disaster on the day before, as at Bull Run, nothing
could be said against the courage or manliness of the troops; for the fault was chiefly in the negligence and inexperience
of their officers: it was fine material, but it had not been finely used, and many of the same regiments which then behaved
badly, afterwards, when better disciplined and directed, made themselves an honorable name. The troops of Buell and Wallace
were somewhat exhausted by the previous day's marches and a restless night; for Wallace, like Beauregard, noted that "it stormed
all night terribly"; and that the gun-boat fire made "sleep almost impossible"; but they were in good condition and confident.
Behind them formed the troops engaged before, and moved up as the former advanced, and, as Buell writes, "rendered willing
and efficient service during the day." Against nearly 50,000, the Confederates could now oppose less than 30,000 jaded men.
Beauregard, too, had suffered, though not as much as Grant, from straggling, for his troops were raw, and his troops had broken
by hundreds from the ranks and strayed back towards Corinth, till a provost-guard drove them back. The killed and wounded
on Monday had amounted to 6000 or 8000, and the exhausted and stragglers swelled the troops hors du combat to 10,000,
to be subtracted from the original 40,000. There was trouble, too, from the want of ammunition and rations.
By half-past five, Nelson and Crittenden were both moving their main lines,
with soldierly precision, upon the Confederate position. As the troops passed the interval, the profuse battle-wrecks, the
plundered camps, the dead and wounded friend and foe, instructed, as says Rousseau, "the most ignorant soldier that the army
had been driven in by the enemy till within a few hundred yards of the river." While, on the march, it could be seen how the
gun-boat shells had fired the underbrush wherein the maimed and dying of both sides lay, and how the rain from heaven had
at length mercifully quenched the flames when help from man there was none. Nelson quickly flushed the covey of Confederate
pickets, and at six developed the main line. In the ensuing halt, Crittenden got up on Nelson's right and the division lines
were dressed, while the batteries of Mendenhall and Bartlett woke up and amused the Confederate artillery. The formation made,
McCook's advance brigade, Rousseau's, appeared and drew up on Crittenden's right, soon followed by Kirk's, on Rousseau's right,
and later, after a rapid march, by Gibson's, on the right of Kirk. On the opposite side of the plateau, near Owl Creek, Lew
Wallace was forming his full division, composing the Union right, while between Wallace and Buell the forces engaged on Sunday
were brought up. McClernand very promptly rallied his men, and moved them forward so far as to be engaged even in the early
skirmishes. Later, at ten o'clock, Sherman put what was left of his two remaining brigades, Buckland's and Stuart's, and of
his batteries, between McClernand's right and Wallace' s left, while, half an hour earlier, Hurlburt supported McClernand
on the left by Williams's brigade and a battery, and on the right by Veatch's and Laumann's. But all these troops were chiefly
relied upon for support; and, though the gallantry of the men got them hotly engaged during the day, they were not pushed
beyond endurance: the stress fell upon Buell and Wallace. The former, arranging his line between six and seven o'clock, "found
upon the ground parts of two regiments, perhaps 1000 men, and subsequently a similar fragment came up of General Grant's force."
He put the first on McCook's right, and the second on his left, and afterwards "sent other straggling troops of General Grant's
force" to McCook's right. These dispositions made, skirmishers thrown out, and reserves to each brigade provided, the whole
of Buell's three divisions went forward. For a short interval the line progressed rapidly. Then, at seven o'clock, it reached
Beauregard's main front, and met a determined resistance.
The ground on which the Confederates stood was substantially that of the camps
of Prentiss, Sherman, and McClernand, which having been occupied in bivouac the night preceding, now lay a little in rear
of the line of battle. This line stretched in front of Lick and Owl Creeks, and across all the roads so often described. The
dawn of day found the Confederates very much disorganized. No time, however, was lost. The early advance of Nelson caused
a rapid gathering and assorting of the disordered and shattered fragments of Beauregard, who met the onset with so firm a
front that Nelson found himself checked. At length Crittenden's division came up to Nelson's right, and Mendenhall's battery,
hurrying across, engaged the Confederate batteries, and stayed the infantry advance. Despite their fatigue, Beauregard was
already hurling his concentrated columns to an attack on his right: he had engaged all of Nelson and Crittenden, and before
eight o'clock had also fallen upon Rousseau's brigade of McCook's division, which had just then completed its formation on
Crittenden's right. At eight o'clock, Cheatham's division, which had been posted hitherto, awaiting orders, in the rear of
Shiloh church, was thrown in, in front of Buell, on Breckinridge's line. The fire on the Confederate right which had before
been hot, was now redoubled, and rolled across all three of Buell's divisions. So severe was the artillery fire that Hazen's
brigade was thrown across the open field into the fringe of woods where two batteries were posted, in order to dislodge them.
Buell was then at Hazen's position, and in person gave the command "forward!" which ran echoing along the line, and was obeyed
with a cheer. These troops had never before been in battle, but were in splendid drill and discipline, and moved forward in
the best possible order. They soon caught the enemy's volleys, but did not slacken their pace; for it was a novel experience,
and they did not resort, like veterans, to trees or cover. Driving in some outlying infantry supports, of whom not a few were
sent as prisoners to the rear, Hazen, after half a mile of advance, got upon the batteries themselves. But at this moment
the gallant brigade received a cross fire from both flanks from the rallied enemy, and being without support on either hand,
was forced to fall back, with a loss of one third of its men. The sally had been a little too impetuous, so much so as to
break up the organization; but it was one quite natural at so early a day in the war, and was a mistake in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the Confederates had fiercely engaged, by nine o'clock, all Nelson's
line, and despite the rough ground on his left, succeeded in turning that flank, it being unprotected by artillery. But Ammen's
brigade held on stubbornly, till Terrill's guns, not long before landed, dashing down the Hamburg road, went into battery
on Nelson's left, silenced the Confederate pieces, and relieved the position. Angry at being baffled, the Confederates quickly
charged Terrill and dislodged and drove in his battery with the loss of a caisson. But the effort was amongst the last which
the Confederates could endure in this corner of the field. Moreover, Lew Wallace and Grant's other forces on the right had
so pressed upon the Confederate left, endangering the line of retreat, that Beauregard moved Cheatham's entire division by
the left flank back past Shiloh Church, to form on his left, where Bragg was briskly engaged. About ten o'clock, accordingly,
Nelson found the pressure in his front relaxed, and no longer at a halt or receding as before, he began to gain ground. Beatty's
regiment from Boyle's brigade, hitherto held in reserve behind Crittenden, was quickly thrown in by Buell to turn the scale;
while the Union batteries and men ran to the front, and at length successively silenced the battery which had annoyed Buell's
left, and then those playing upon his centre. At the same time Crittenden's left got to the woods in its front and drove out
the Confederates. In a word, Buell at length rolling heavily upon the Confederate right, Beauregard abandoned his ground in
that direction, and shortened and concentrated his line across the two Corinth roads. Eight hundred yards in rear of his first
position, Breckenridge halted on a new line and opened artillery fire; but Crittenden, emerging from the woods, fell on the
battery, and seized a part of it before it could be run off. However, the ground beyond was subsequently so hotly contested,
that the Confederates recovered their lost guns in an advance which swept back all of Buell's line; but again they...were
captured. As for Nelson, by one o'clock his left had swung easily around the Confederate right, moved at trail arms in the
double quick over the ridges, and took possession of that part of the field.
Let us turn now to McCook. On Crittenden's right Rousseau's brigade was early
engaged sustaining the attack of 8 o'clock, and the heavier succeeding ones. Meanwhile, Kirk's brigade and apart of Gibson's,
had been ferried across from Savannah, hurried to the ground, and were deployed by McCook in short supporting distance to
the right and rear of Rousseau. Willich's regiment he held in reserve behind his second line. McCook shared the varying fortunes
of the morning, till the gradual giving way of the Confederate right by 10 o'clock. Then Rousseau, finding his advance no
longer checked, moved onward till he encountered the troops withdrawn to the Corinth road from Nelson's front. Here a fierce
and long contested engagement took place, the Confederates forming in McClernand's camp to which they clung with desperation;
but which at length they were forced to abandon to Rousseau, together with a battery captured the day before, of which one
section had been playing on Rousseau's advance. But as the Union line swept forward, McCook and Crittenden had become separated,
and a counter-attack on McCook's left threatened to turn it, and was the signal for a fierce struggle. There then came a lull,
and at one o'clock the battle began with fresh fury. McCook had reached a key-point in the Confederate line, a green wood
about five hundred yards east of the church. Two batteries, one next the church and the other nearer the Hamburg road, swept
the open space with grape, and canister in front of the green wood, and the musketry fire was very severe. Grant hurried forward
what aid he could to McClernand, Hurlburt putting in the remainder of his division, and Sherman appearing with his brigades.
"Here," says Sherman, "at the point where the Corinth road crosses the line of General McClernand's camp, I saw for the first
time, the well-ordered and compact Kentucky forces of General Buell, whose soldierly movement at once gave confidence to our
newer and less disciplined forces. Here, I saw Willich's regiment advance upon a point of water-oaks and thicket, behind which
I knew the enemy was in great strength, and enter it in beautiful style. Then arose the severest musketry-fire I ever heard,
and lasted some twenty minutes, when this splendid regiment had to fall back." Indeed, the conflict, arising on McCook's left,
had spread all along his front and over that of Crittenden. Willich's regiment having passed through Kirk's brigade, to the
front, was thrown across to the green wood, in double column on the centre, with the flank companies skirmishing in advance.
Then it received the overpowering attack which Sherman witnessed. At this juncture, Kirk's brigade got into position on McCook's
left, and Rousseau, who had expended all his ammunition in the morning's battle, retired through it to the rear for a fresh
supply. Gibson was next thrown in on Kirk's left. For an hour a terrific contest went on, the Confederates holding their position
tenaciously, and sometimes even taking the offensive. Finally, at two o'clock, Rousseau's brigade again moved to the front,
supported by one of Hurlburt's brigades on the left, and by McClernand on the right. McCook had no artillery; but the three
uncaptured guns of Wood's battery and two of McAllister's were turned by McClernand and Sherman against the enemy. Finding
the Confederates at last giving way before him, McCook ordered a general advance, and Rousseau's brigade "beautifully deployed,"
says Sherman, "entered this dreaded wood, and moved in splendid order steadily to the front, sweeping everything before it."
Indeed, the battle was already decided. At 1 1/2 o'clock, Beauregard had issued orders to withdraw from the field. The last
desperate fighting covered the attempt, and the final Union advance at two o'clock was comparatively unresisted. The withdrawal
commenced on the Confederate right, in front of Nelson, and was transmitted to the left. At the latter point, Lew Wallace
had steadily swung forward, participating in the varying fortunes of the day. His division also, at two o'clock, finding the
obstinate enemy giving way, burst through the woods, easily carrying all before them. The Confederate retreat was conducted
with perfect order and precision. Half a mile distant from Shiloh Church, on a commanding ridge, a reserve, selected for that
purpose, was drawn up in line of battle for the expected attack.
It did not come. Having waited half an hour, the line was withdrawn a mile
further. Here the artillery played for a time upon a small Union column advanced in pursuit; but no engagement took place,
and even this desultory firing ceased by four o'clock. The Battle of Shiloh was over.
RESULTS OF SHILOH.The
story of the Southern war is filled with the records of great battles, whose immediate fortunes were divided with such equal
band that both sides claimed the victory--each protesting itself perfectly satisfied with the result. And certes, it must
be conceded that an obvious indecisiveness stamps many grand battles of the war, whose duration therefore they did not affect.
In many cases, what were accounted great victories by either antagonist did not alter the fighting power of the vanquished,
and merely led up to a really decisive action, which happening a little later, furnished in itself the best proof possible
that the earlier struggle was but preliminary and preparatory, and not therefore the decisive action of the campaign. Such,
for a single example, were the battles of Chantilly and second Bull Run, in a campaign which culminated on the decisive plains
of Antietam; such Burnside's assault on Fredericksburg, and Hooker's engagement at Chancellorsville, which preceded the decisive
struggle at Gettysburg. Neither the fury of the contest nor the mournful catalogue of losses, nor the mere overrunning of
territory, in such cases, is the question at issue, which turns, rather, upon the success or the failure of the attempt to
permanently change the conditions of the war. In like manner, a great victory may be but the legitimate consequence of a decisive
triumph preceding, as when Port Hudson followed the fall of Vicksburg; and here, too, it is not the mere corollary which must
be pronounced the decisive action, since, though the fruit dropped, the bough had first to be shaken.
Our present concern, however, is chiefly with that class of actions which,
regarded at the time as drawn at best, came to show themselves at length so thoroughly decisive on the subsequent course of
the contest, that we cannot figure to ourselves what the war might have been had these battles matured to opposite issues.
Pre-eminent among such contests looms up the battle of Shiloh. In this famous
action--the most terrific and deadly of the war up to that time--both parties claimed to be satisfied with the result. The
Confederates, on the one hand, pointed to the fact that they had completely surprised the Union camps, had captured and possessed
them, together with many guns and flags and trophies, and in an even fight from dawn till dusk had driven their enemy in demoralized
mass to the shelter of his gun-boats, his siege-train, and his reinforcements. And, though it was true that on the second
day the fortune of battle was reversed, yet it was a credit rather than a disgrace--a victory of morale--to fall back
stubbornly and in good order before 25,000 fresh troops; and, finally, while the Confederate loss had been by official account-
10,699, the Union loss on both days, including prisoners, was nearly 15,000.
The Union forces, on their part, without seeking to conceal their chagrin
over the first day's battle, justly claimed victory in the second. Accordingly, thanksgivings went up all over the North for
the timely arrival of Buell, and his final repulse of the Confederate army; and never was gratitude, for what seemed a providential
interposition, more fittingly rendered.
It was not, however, until much later that the true import of the battle of
Shiloh was discovered; and it was found that the immediate revelations of the battle-field were of small consequence compared
with subsequent developments. In order to comprehend the full significance of Shiloh, we must know, on the one hand, the great
Confederate possibilities which were forever buried on that field, and, on the other hand, the great Union actualities which
thence took rise and grew to maturity.
It is difficult to picture the keen disappointment with which, on Monday afternoon,
Beauregard having given the reluctant orders to withdraw from Shiloh, turned his horse's head towards Corinth and rode through
the gloomy forest aisles. His hopes were entirely dashed to the ground; and a well-founded expectation of carrying the war
into the North was for him entirely gone. Called from Virginia to the West by a deputation of its despairing citizens, headed
by Colonel Pryor, who fancied that in the hero of Sumter and Manassas, they saw their deliverer from the perils that compassed
them, he had promptly accepted the summons, and went to Tennessee with the purpose of setting afoot an aggressive campaign.
Before he could accomplish this intent, fort Henry and fort Donelson fell, with all the superincumbent defensive line. Annoyed,
but not in despair, he commenced afresh; and, discovering that he had been shamefully deceived as to the force he would find
ready to take the field in the West, he bent himself to creating those numbers which in Virginia he had demanded as a prerequisite
for starting. The disaster at Donelson he accounted severe, but not irreparable. His original plan was to concentrate all
available forces between Humboldt and Bowling Green, and fall on Buell, whose advance he then regarded as much more dangerous
than Grant's. The fall of Donelson and the prompt Union demonstrations up the Tennessee and Cumberland, left no doubt of the
course to be adopted thereafter. It was clear that Grant was determined to push on to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad--a
line of supply important to be kept intact. Beauregard therefore resolved that everything should be abandoned in Central Tennessee
for the moment, and all concentrated on some point near the western terminus of the Memphis road. These forces, while gathering,
would naturally defend the road (though that, in his plan, was of secondary importance), and, at the earliest moment should
be hurled forward in an offensive movement through Tennessee and Kentucky, falling on each of the Union armies in turn, and
crushing them both. This plan he suggested at once to General Johnston, proposing at the same time to serve as second in command.
Beauregard's courier met Johnston before the latter had got to Murfreesboro', on his way from Nashville, and that officer,
accordingly, continued his retreat south-easterly towards the Tennessee, to join Beauregard, with the view to march "onward
to t he Ohio."
Thus weighty was the purport of the battle delivered at Pittsburg Landing.
The genius of Beauregard had effected a double change in Confederate policy, making concentration take the place of distribution,
and the campaign no longer defensive, but offensive. Before his day the Confederate popular idea of military defence had been
primitive and juvenile. It was to ridge and stripe the broad valley with numberless lines of parallel earthworks, behind which
forces were to be deployed from flank to flank; when one line should be carried, retreat would be had to another and another,
even to the last row of parapets. Both parties indeed began by planning campaigns in metaphor; and if the one had its dream
of an "anaconda coil," the other clung not less closely to its whimsical fancy of a "last ditch." But when Beauregard arrived,
what he found marked out for a second offensive line, he cut short, strengthened and assumed as the base of an aggressive
campaign. His inspiration was the true one; and, with proper support, it had met success. As it was, it barely failed. So
complete wap the surprise, that General Grant himself writes that he had not thought an attack possible until several days
later, and, when the assault began, "did not believe that they intended to make a determined attack but simply to make a reconnoissance
in force." Sherman, too, avers that he did not discover the enemy were attacking in force until long after he had sent back
Such, then, was the dangerous movement, which, but for an unexpected turn
of fortune, might have carried, in the words of Buel[l], "the remnant of Grant's army prisoners into the enemy's camps." What
limit to its onward roll might have been opposed thereafter, it is hard to say. Being frustrated at the start, the Confederate
leaders concealed, as far as possible, the true intent of the campaign, and Beauregard, by adroit phrases, covered up the
depth of his disappointment; but Bragg, less reticent, declared it, in his official report, a movement "which would have changed
the entire complexion of the war." Such it indeed was. I symbolize Shiloh to myself as the representation of the South rampant
and flaming in the house of Mars. It was a fierce massing and hurling forward of everything to gain a supreme object--the
conquest of the Mississippi Valley. But it spent its fury and its force in vain; and it is a notable fact, that never again
in the Valley of the Mississippi were the Confederates able to take the offensive.
I presume that my opinion of this action on the Union side will already have
been disclosed in the recital of the battle; but lest there should be any doubt touching this, I shall state in precise terms
what judgments seem to be warranted by the facts. The retaining the troops on the left bank of the Tennessee River (unless
for immediate advance, which was the object General C. F. Smith had in view when he placed the army there weeks before), and
that, too, without any appliances of defence, was undeniably a great error on the part of General Grant. Nor can this verdict
be regarded as traversed by a pungent statement made by General Sherman: "It was necessary," says he, "that a combat fierce
and bitter, to test the manhood of the two armies, should come off, and that was as good a place as any. It was not then a
question of military skill and strategy, but of courage and pluck." Now, with the deference due the opinion of a soldier so
eminent as General Sherman, I submit that this declaration is specious rather than sound; for precisely in proportion to the
importance of the result of this primal "test of the manhood of the two armies," was it incumbent on the Union commander to
make such dispositions as would gain for his army the advantage in this "test." Of the tactics of the battle-field there is
nothing to be said. The subordinate commanders acted on their own motion, according to the extent of their ability. The men
fought stubbornly, and with no lack of solid pluck; but nothing could repair the original faults of disposition and the effect
of the surprise. It is impossible to overrate the importance of Buell's arrival on the field at the close of the first day.
And, as partizan malignity has tried to make it appear that Buell's oncoming was tardy, it is a simple act of justice to add
that, on the contrary, his zeal in the previous marches caused him greatly to outstrip his orders. Moreover, not only did
the weight he threw into the scale on the 7th redeem the field; but his proximity on the 6th--a proximity known to the Confederate
commanders--relaxed the nerve of Beauregard's attack during the latter part of that well-nigh fatal day.
It now remains to speak of the territorial results of this battle. As the
fall of fort Donelson was the signal for a general abandonment of the first Confederate valley line of defence, so the repulse
of Shiloh was followed by the abandonment of the second. In order to concentrate troops at Corinth, Beauregard had been compelled
to arrange the evacuation of Island No. Ten. On the morning after the battle of Shiloh, Gen. Mackall surrendered this famous
but overrated position, with its remaining garrison, its magazines, artillery, camps, and camp equipages--everything in short
which had not been previously transferred to fort Pillow. Immediately thereafter, the Union fleets passed down the Mississippi
towards the latter point, and simultaneously General Halleck moved cautiously upon Corinth, with the three columns of Buell,
Grant, and Pope. But Beauregard was already convinced that the campaign was lost in the West, and only sought to delay his
opponent by a show of resistance, compelling him to lose time in making siege approaches. The theatre of war, therefore, presented
at either wing the spectacle of a Union army laboriously spading its way towards the fortified position of its enemy, McClellan
before Yorktown, and Halleck before Corinth. At length, however, the pantomime was over, and Beauregard, having held Corinth
from the 7th of April to the 29th of May, evacuated it on the night of the latter day. The retreat had been made leisurely,
and, under the cover of strong picket lines, Beauregard had sent south every possible thing that could be of value to him
in Corinth. The remaining material he blew up in a tremendous explosion, which served as a signal that the Union troops might
enter[.] In the capture of Corinth, which Beauregard himself declared "the strategic point of the campaign," the success of
Shiloh was now rounded out and complete.
Even here, however, the results of that battle-field had not ceased. The fall
of Corinth rendered fort Randolph and fort Pillow, river positions of great strength, and which had justified Beauregard's
selection by the repulse of the Union fleet, exposed to a land attack in the rear. Both these positions accordingly were surrendered
to the triumphant Union columns. Deprived of its river defences on the one hand, and the army which covered it on the other,
Memphis, the most important city yet unconquered on the Mississippi, was forced to capitulate, and thus, in fine, the mighty
tide of Union triumph rolled adown the shores of the great river. The operations around Corinth and Memphis had been, moreover,
of very great assistance to the magnificent stroke of Farragut at New Orleans. The gathering of troops from all the Gulf States
to Corinth, the accumulation of gun-boats, naval supplies, artillery and handicraft-men to Memphis and its forts, had been
loudly complained of at New Orleans; and it had been with too much justice apprehended that the attention paid to barring
the river at the north would result in leaving it unbarred at the south.
Inland, however, as well as on the river banks, the results of Shiloh were
of portentous magnitude. The concentration and defeat at Shiloh and Corinth had uncovered all Central and Eastern Tennessee
to the Union columns. The latter, raiding in every direction, found their progress comparatively unopposed, and began for
the first time to make acquaintance with the interior of the Confederacy. As for the Memphis and Charleston road, that great
object of the campaign had long since been secured, and was penetrated and broken in many places. With great facility, Mitchell's
column, projected by Buell from Nashville long before Shiloh, reached and permanently broke up the railroad at Huntsville,
five days after that battle. This energetic officer and others now marched boldly hither and thither in Tennessee, Mississippi
and Alabama. It was felt on all hands that vast as was the area to be reduced to the dominion of the Union, a great segment
had already been overrun, and patience and stout hearts were all that the conquest of the remainder demanded.
|Shiloh Civil War Battle Map
|Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, Map
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…
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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: The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations
Engaged (Hardcover). Description: How
can an essential "cornerstone of Shiloh historiography" remain unavailable to the general
public for so long? That's what I kept thinking as I was reading this reprint of the 1913 edition of David W. Reed's “The
Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged.” Reed, a veteran of the Battle of Shiloh and the first historian of
the Shiloh National
Military Park, was tabbed to
write the official history of the battle, and this book was the result. Reed wrote a short, concise history of the fighting
and included quite a bit of other valuable information in the pages that followed. The large and impressive maps that accompanied
the original text are here converted into digital format and included in a CD located within a flap at the back of the book.
Author and former Shiloh Park Ranger Timothy Smith is responsible for bringing this important reference work back from obscurity.
His introduction to the book also places it in the proper historical framework. Continued below…
Reed's history of the campaign and battle covers only seventeen pages and is meant to be a brief history of the subject.
The detail is revealed in the rest of the book. And what detail there is! Reed's order of battle for Shiloh goes down to the regimental
and battery level. He includes the names of the leaders of each organization where known, including whether or not these men
were killed, wounded, captured, or suffered some other fate. In a touch not often seen in modern studies, the author also
states the original regiment of brigade commanders. In another nice piece of detail following the order of battle, staff officers
for each brigade and higher organization are listed. The book's main point and where it truly shines is in the section entitled
"Detailed Movements of Organizations". Reed follows each unit in their movements during the battle. Reading this section along
with referring to the computerized maps gives one a solid foundation for future study of Shiloh.
Forty-five pages cover the brigades of all three armies present at Shiloh.
Wargamers and buffs will love the "Abstract of Field Returns". This section lists Present for Duty, engaged, and casualties
for each regiment and battery in an easy to read table format. Grant's entire Army of the Tennessee has Present for Duty strengths. Buell's Army of the Ohio is also counted well. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi
is counted less accurately, usually only going down to brigade level and many times relying only on engaged strengths. That
said, buy this book if you are looking for a good reference work for help with your order of battle.
In what I believe is an unprecedented move in Civil War literature, the University
of Tennessee Press made the somewhat unusual decision to include Reed's
detailed maps of the campaign and battle in a CD which is included in a plastic sleeve inside the back cover of the book.
The cost of reproducing the large maps and including them as foldouts or in a pocket in the book must have been prohibitive,
necessitating this interesting use of a CD. The maps were simple to view and came in a PDF format. All you'll need is Adobe
Acrobat Reader, a free program, to view these. It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit. Maps are an
integral part of military history, and this solution is far better than deciding to include poor maps or no maps at all. The
Read Me file that came with the CD relays the following information:
The maps contained on this CD are scans of the original oversized maps printed in the 1913 edition of D. W. Reed's The
Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged. The original maps, which were in a very large format and folded out of the
pages of this edition, are of varying sizes, up to 23 inches by 25 inches. They were originally created in 1901 by the Shiloh National Military Park under the direction of its historian,
David W. Reed. They are the most accurate Shiloh battle maps in existence.
The maps on the CD are saved as PDF (Portable Document Format) files and can be read on any operating system (Windows,
Macintosh, Linux) by utilizing Adobe Acrobat Reader. Visit http://www.adobe.com to download Acrobat Reader if you do not have
it installed on your system.
Map 1. The Field of Operations from Which the Armies Were Concentrated at Shiloh, March
and April 1862
Map 2. The Territory between Corinth, Miss., and Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn., Showing Positions and Route of the Confederate
Army in Its Advance to Shiloh, April 3, 4, 5, & 6, 1862
Map 3. Positions on the First Day, April 6, 1862
Map 4. Positions on the Second Day, April 7, 1862
Complete captions appear on the maps.
Timothy Smith has done students of the Civil War an enormous favor by republishing this important early work on Shiloh. Relied on for generations by Park Rangers and other serious students of the battle, The Battle
of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged has been resurrected for a new generation of Civil War readers. This classic reference
work is an essential book for those interested in the Battle of Shiloh. Civil War buffs, wargamers, and those interested in
tactical minutiae will also find Reed's work to be a very good buy. Highly recommended.