by Don Carlos Buell, Major General U. S. V.
Battles And Leaders Of The Civil War
Written By Leading Participants
Published in 1884-1887
TWENTY-THREE years ago the banks of the Tennessee witnessed a remarkable
occurrence. There was a wage of battle. Heavy blows were given and received, and the challenger failed to make his cause good.
But there were peculiar circumstances which distinguished the combat from other trials of strength in the rebellion: An army
comprising 70 regiments of infantry, 20 batteries of artillery, and a sufficiency of cavalry, lay for two weeks and more in
isolated camps, with a river in its rear and a hostile army claimed to be superior in numbers 20 miles distant in its front,
while the commander made his headquarters and passed his nights 9 miles away on the opposite side of the river. It had no
line or order of battle, no defensive works of any sort, no outposts, properly speaking, to give warning, or check the advance
of an enemy, and no recognized head during the absence of the regular commander. On a Saturday the hostile force arrived and
formed in order of battle, without detection or hindrance, within a mile and a half of the unguarded army, advanced upon it
the next morning, penetrated its disconnected lines, assaulted its camps in front and flank, drove its disjointed members
successively from position to position, capturing some and routing others, in spite of much heroic individual resistance,
and steadily drew near the landing and depot of its supplies in the pocket between the river and an impassable creek. At the
moment near the close of the day when the remnant of the retrograding army was driven to refuge in the midst of its magazines,
with the triumphant enemy at halfgunshot distance, the advance division of a reŽnforcing army arrived on the opposite bank
of the river, crossed, and took position under fire at the point of attack; the attacking force was checked, and the battle
ceased for the day. The next morning at dawn the reŽnforcing army and a fresh division belonging to the defeated force advanced
against the assailants, followed or accompanied by such of the broken columns of the previous day as had not lost all cohesion,
and after ten hours of conflict drove the enemy from the captured camps and the field.
Such are the salient points in the popular conception and historical record
of the battle of Shiloh. Scarcely less remarkable than the facts themselves are the means by which the responsible actors
in the critical drama have endeavored to counteract them. At society reunions and festive entertainments, in newspaper interviews
and dispatches, in letters and contributions to periodicals, afterthought official reports, biographies, memoirs, and other
popular sketches, the subject of Shiloh, from the first hour of the battle to the present time, has been invaded by pretensions
and exculpatory statements which revive the discussion only to confirm the memory of the grave faults that brought an army
into imminent peril. These defenses and assumptions, starting first, apparently half suggested, in the zeal of official attendants
and other partisans, were soon taken up more or less directly by the persons in whose behalf they were put forward; and now
it is virtually declared by the principals themselves, that the Army of the Ohio was an unnecessary intruder in the battle,
and that the blood of more than two thousand of its members shed on that field was a gratuitous sacrifice.
With the origin of the animadversions that were current at the time upon the
conduct of the battle, the Army of the Ohio had little to do, and it has not generally taken a willing part in the subsequent
discussion. They commenced in the ranks of the victims, and during all the years that have given unwonted influence to the
names which they affected, the witnesses of the first reports have without show of prejudice or much reiteration firmly adhered
to their earlier testimony. It does not impair the value of that testimony if extreme examples were cited to illustrate the
general fact; nor constitute a defense that such examples were not the general rule. I have myself, though many years ago,
made answer to the more formal pleas that concerned the army which I commanded, and I am now called upon in the same cause
to review the circumstances of my connection with the battle, and investigate its condition when it was taken up by the Army
of the Ohio.
WHEN by the separate or concurrent operations of the forces of the Department
of the Missouri, commanded by General Halleck, and of the Department of the Ohio, commanded by myself, the Confederate line
had been broken, first at Mill Springs by General Thomas, and afterward at Fort Henry and at Fort Donelson by General Grant
and the navy, and Nashville and Middle Tennessee were occupied by the Army of the Ohio, the shattered forces of the enemy
fell back for the formation of a new line, and the Union armies prepared to follow for a fresh attack. It was apparent in
advance that the Memphis and Charleston railroad between Memphis and Chattanooga would constitute the new line, and Corinth,
the point of intersection of the Memphis and Charleston road running east and west, and the Mobile and Ohio road running north
and south, soon developed as the main point of concentration.
While this new defense of the enemy and the means of assailing it by the Union
forces were maturing, General Halleck's troops, for the moment under the immediate command of General C. F. Smith, were transported
up the Tennessee by water to operate on the enemy's railroad communications. It was purely an expeditionary service, not intended
for the selection of a rendezvous or depot for future operations. After some attempts to debark at other points farther up
the river, Pittsburg Landing was finally chosen as the most eligible for the temporary object; but when the concentration
of the enemy at Corinth made that the objective point of a deliberate campaign, and the coŲperation of General Halleck's troops
and mine was arranged, Savannah, on the east bank of the river, was designated by Halleck as the point of rendezvous. This,
though not as advisable a point as Florence, or some point between Florence and Eastport, was in a general sense proper. It
placed the concentration under the shelter of the river and the gun-boats, and left the combined force at liberty to choose
its point of crossing and line of attack.
On the restoration of General Grant to the immediate command of the troops,
and his arrival at Savannah on the 17th of March, he converted the expeditionary encampment at Pittsburg Landing into the
point of rendezvous of the two armies, by placing his whole force on the west side of the river, apparently on the advice
of General Sherman, who, with his division, was already there. Nothing can be said upon any rule of military art or common
expediency to justify that arrangement. An invading army may, indeed, as a preliminary step, throw an inferior force in advance
upon the enemy's coast or across an intervening river to secure a harbor or other necessary foothold; but in such a case the
first duty of the advanced force is to make itself secure by suitable works. Pittsburg Landing was in no sense a point of
such necessity or desirability as to require any risk, or any great expenditure of means for its occupation. If the force
established there was not safe alone, it had no business there; but having been placed there, still less can any justification
be found for the neglect of all proper means to make it secure against a superior adversary. General Grant continued his headquarters
at Savannah, leaving General Sherman with a sort of control at Pittsburg Landing. Sherman's rank did not allow him the command,
but he was authorized to assign the arriving regiments to brigades and divisions as he might think best, and designate the
camping-grounds. In these and other ways he exercised an important influence upon the fate of the army.
The movement of the Army of the Ohio from Nashville (which I had occupied
on February 25th) for the appointed junction was commenced on the night of the 15th of March by a rapid march of cavalry to
secure the bridges in advance, which were then still guarded by the enemy. It was followed on the 16th and successive days
by the infantry divisions, McCook being in advance with instructions to move steadily forward; to ford the streams where they
were fordable, and when it was necessary to make repairs on the roads, such as building bridges over streams which were liable
to frequent interruption by high water, to leave only a sufficient working party and guard for that purpose; to use all possible
industry and energy, so as to move forward steadily and as rapidly as possible without forcing the march or straggling; and
to send forward at once to communicate with General Smith at Savannah, and learn his situation.
When the cavalry reached Columbia the bridge over Duck River was found in
flames, and the river at flood stage. General McCook immediately commenced the construction of a frame bridge, but finding,
after several days, that the work was progressing less rapidly than had been expected, I ordered the building of a boat bridge
also, and both were completed on the 30th. On the same day the river became fordable. I arrived at Columbia on the 26th. General
Nelson succeeded in getting a portion of his division across by fording on the 29th, and was given the advance. Most of his
troops crossed by fording on the 30th. The other divisions followed him on the march with intervals of six miles, so as not
to incommode one another in all 5 divisions; about 37,000 effective men. On the first day of April, General Halleck and General
Grant were notified that I would concentrate at Savannah on Sunday and Monday, the 6th and 7th, the distance being ninety
miles. On the 4th General Nelson received notification from General Grant that he need not hasten his march, as he could not
be put across the river before the following Tuesday; but the rate of march was not changed.
After seeing my divisions on the road, I left Columbia on the evening of the
3d, and arrived at Savannah on the evening of the 5th with my chief of staff, an aide-de-camp (Lieutenant C. L. Fitzhugh),
and an orderly, leaving the rest of my staff to follow rapidly with the headquarters train. Nelson had already arrived and
gone into camp, and Crittenden was close in his rear. We were there to form a junction for the contemplated forward movement
under the command of General Halleck in person, who was to leave St. Louis the first of the following week to join us. General
Grant had been at Nelson's camp before my arrival, and said he would send boats for the division "Monday or Tuesday, or some
time early in the week." "There will," he said, "be no fight at Pittsburg Landing; we will have to go to Corinth, where the
rebels are fortified. If they come to attack us we can whip them, as I have more than twice as many troops as I had at Fort
Donelson." I did not see General Grant that evening-probably because he was at Pittsburg Landing when I arrived, but he had
made an appointment to meet me next day.
We were finishing breakfast at Nelson's camp Sunday morning, when the sound
of artillery was heard up the river. We knew of no ground to apprehend a serious engagement, but the troops were promptly
prepared to march, and I walked with my chief of staff, Colonel James B. Fry, to Grant's quarters at Savannah, but he had
started up the river. I there saw General C. F. Smith, who was in his bed sick, but apparently not dangerously ill. He had
no apprehension about a battle, thought it an affair of outposts, and said that Grant had sixty thousand men. This would agree
approximately with the estimate which Grant himself made of his force, at Nelson's camp.
As the firing continued, and increased in volume, I determined to go to the
scene of action. Nelson only waited for the services of a guide to march by land. The river bottom between Savannah and Pittsburg
Landing was a labyrinth of roads from which the overflows had obliterated all recent signs of travel, and left them impassable
except in certain places, and it was with great difficulty that a guide could be obtained. The artillery had to be left behind
to be transported by water. After disposing of these matters and sending orders for the rear divisions to push forward without
their trains, I took a small steamer at the landing and proceeded up the river, accompanied only by my chief of staff. On
the way we were met by a descending steamer which came alongside and delivered a letter from General Grant addressed to the
"Commanding Officer, advanced forces, near Pittsburg, Tenn.," and couched in the following words:
"PITTSBURG, April 6, 1862.
"GENERAL: The attack on my forces has
been very spirited since early this morning. The appearance of fresh troops on the field now would have a powerful effect,
both by inspiring our men and disheartening the enemy. If you will get upon the field, leaving your baggage on the east bank
of the river, it will be a move to our advantage, and possibly save the day to us. The rebel forces are estimated at over
one hundred thousand men. My headquarters will be in the log-building on the top of the hill, where you will be furnished
a staff-officer to guide you to your place on the field.
Respectfully, &c., U. S. GRANT, Maj.-Gen."
About half-way up we met a stream of fugitives that poured in a constantly
swelling current along the west bank of the river. The mouth of Snake Creek was full of them swimming across. We arrived at
the landing about 1 o'clock. I inquired for General Grant and was informed that he was on his headquarters boat, nearly against
which we had landed. I went on board, and was met by him at the door of the ladies' cabin, in which there were besides himself
two or three members of his staff. Other officers may have entered afterward. He appeared to realize that he was beset by
a pressing danger, and manifested by manner more than in words that he was relieved by my arrival as indicating the near approach
of succor; but there was nothing in his deportment that the circumstances would not have justified without disparagement to
the character of a courageous soldier. Certainly there was none of that masterly confidence which has since been assumed with
reference to the occasion. After the first salutation, and as I walked to a seat, he remarked that he had just come in from
the front, and held up his sword to call my attention to an indentation which he said the scabbard had received from a shot.
I did not particularly notice it, and after inquiring about the progress of the battle and requesting him to send steamers
to bring up Crittenden's division, which was coming into Savannah as I left, I proposed that we should go ashore. As we reached
the gangway I noticed that the horses of himself and his staff were being taken ashore. He mounted and rode away, while I
walked up the bill; so that I saw him no more until the attack occurred at the landing late in the evening. I state these
particulars of our meeting with so much detail because a totally incorrect version of the place, manner, and substance of
the interview has been used to give a false impression of the state of the battle, and a false coloring to personal traits
which are assumed to have had the issue in control.
On the shore I encountered a scene which has often been described. The face
of the bluff was crowded with stragglers from the battle. The number there at different hours has been estimated at from five
thousand in the morning to fifteen thousand in the evening. The number at nightfall would not have fallen short of fifteen
thousand, including those who had passed down the river, and the less callous but still broken and demoralized fragments.
about the camps on the plateau near the landing. At the top of the bluff all was confusion. Men mounted and on foot, and wagons
with their teams and excited drivers, all struggling to force their way closer to the river, were mixed up in apparently inextricable
confusion with a battery of artillery which was standing in park without men or horses to man or move it. The increasing throng
already presented a barrier which it was evidently necessary to remove, in order to make way for the passage of my troops
when they should arrive. In looking about for assistance I fell upon one officer, the quartermaster of an Ohio regiment, who
preserved his senses, and was anxious to do something to abate the disorder. I instructed him to take control of the teams,
and move them down the hill by a side road which led to the narrow bottom below the landing, and there park them. He went
to work with alacrity and the efficiency of a strong will, and succeeded in clearing the ground of the wagons. It proved before
night to have been a more important service than I had expected, for it not only opened the way for Nelson's division, but
extricated the artillery and made it possible to get it into action when the attack occurred at the landing about sunset.
It is now time to glance at the circumstances which had brought about and
were urging on the state of affairs here imperfectly portrayed.
UPON learning on the 2d of April of the advance of the Army of the Ohio toward
Savannah, General Sidney Johnston determined to anticipate the junction of that army with General Grant's force, by attacking
the latter, and at once gave orders for the movement of his troops on the following day. It was his expectation to reach the
front of the army at Pittsburg Landing on Friday, the 4th, and make the attack at daylight on Saturday; but the condition
of the roads, and some confusion in the execution of orders, prevented him from getting into position for the attack until
3 o'clock P. M. on Saturday. This delay and an indiscreet reconnoissance which brought on a sharp engagement with the Federal
pickets, rendered it so improbable that the Union commander would not be prepared for the attack, that General Beauregard
advised the abandonment of the enterprise, to the success of which a surprise was deemed to be essential. General Johnston
overruled the proposition, however, and the attack was ordered for the following morning. The army was drawn up in three parallel
lines, covering the front of the Federal position. Hardee commanded the first line, Bragg the second, and Polk and Breckinridge
the third, the latter being intended as a reserve.
The locality on which the storm of battle was about to burst has often been
described with more or less of inaccuracy or incompleteness. It is an undulating table-land, quite broken in places, elevated
a hundred feet or thereabout above the river; an irregular triangle in outline, nearly equilateral, with the sides four miles
long, bordered on the east by the river, which, here runs nearly due north, on the north-west by Snake Creek and its tributary,
Owl Creek, and on the south, or south-west, by a range of hills which immediately border Lick Creek on the north bank, two
hundred feet or more in height, and sloping gradually toward the battle-field. In these bills rise the eastern tributaries
of Owl Creek, one of them called Oak Creek, extending half-way across the front or south side of the battle-field, and interlocking
with a ravine called Locust Grove Creek, which runs in the opposite direction into Lick Creek a mile from its mouth. Other
short, deep ravines start from the table-land and empty into the river, the principal among them being Dill's Branch, six
hundred yards above the landing. Midway in the front, at the foot of the Lick Creek hills, start a number of surface drains
which soon unite in somewhat difficult ravines and form Tillman's Creek, or Brier Creek. It runs almost due north, a mile
and a quarter from the river, in a deep hollow, which divides the table-land into two main ridges. Tillman's Creek empties
into Owl Creek half a mile above the Snake Creek bridge by which the division of Lew Wallace arrived. Short, abrupt ravines
break from the main ridges into Tillman's Hollow, and the broad surface of the west ridge is further broken by larger branches
which empty into Owl Creek. Tillman's Hollow, only about a mile long, is a marked feature in the topography, and is identified
with some important incidents of the battle.
Pittsburg Landing is three-quarters of a mile above the mouth of Snake Creek,
and two and a quarter miles below the mouth of Lick Creek. Shiloh Church is on Oak Creek two miles and a half south-west of
Pittsburg Landing. The table-land comes up boldly to the river at the landing and for a mile south. Beyond those limits the
river bends away from the high land, and the bottom gradually widens.
The principal roads are the River road, as it will here be called, which crosses
Snake Creek at the bridge before mentioned, and running a mile west of Pittsburg Landing, obliquely along the ridge east of
Tillman's Creek, crosses Lick Creek three-quarters of a mile from the river at the east end of the Lick Creek hills; the Hamburg
and Purdy road, which branches from the River road a mile and two-thirds in a straight line south of Pittsburg Landing, and
extends north-west 400 yards north of Shiloh Church; and two roads that start at the landing, cross the River road two-thirds
of a mile apart, and also cross or run into the Hamburg and Purdy road nearly opposite the church. In the official reports
these various roads are called with some confusion, but not altogether inaccurately, Crump's Landing road, Hamburg road, Corinth
road or Purdy road, even over the same space, according to the idea of the writer. The Corinth road from the landing has two
principal branches. The western branch passes by the church, and the eastern passes a mile east of the church into the Bark
road, which extends along the crest of the Lick Creek hills. The military maps show many other roads, some of them farm-roads,
and some only well-worn tracks made in hauling for the troops. In some places the old roads were quite obliterated, and are
improperly represented on the maps, as in the case of the River road, which is not shown on the official map between McArthur's
and Hurlbut's headquarters, immediately west of the landing. It is shown on Sherman's camp map, and its existence is not doubtful.
At the time of the battle, much the largest part of the ground was in forest, sometimes open, sometimes almost impenetrable
for horsemen, with occasional cleared fields of from 20 to 80 acres; and these variations operated in a signal manner upon
the fortune of the combatants. There was not a cleared field within the limits of the battle that has not its history.
We may now locate the troops in their encampments, for there is where the
battle found them, and its currents and eddies will frequently be discovered by the reference to certain camps in the official
reports. The camp map which I received from General Sherman will serve as a useful guide, subject to some necessary modifications,
to make a field sketch agree with an actual survey. But the regimental camps did not always conform to the lines laid down
for the brigades and divisions. Sometimes they were in front, sometimes in rear of the general line. I have not pretended
generally to introduce these variations into the map which I have prepared to accompany this article.
Starting at the landing, we find the Second Division, commanded by W. H. L.
Wallace, in the space bounded by the river, Snake Creek, the River road, and the right-hand road leading west from the landing.
Along that road are, in this order, the camps of the 12th, 7th, 14th, and 2d Iowa, and the 52d and 9th Illinois. At the point
where that road crosses the River road, in the south-west angle of the intersection, are the headquarters of General McArthur.
On the east side of the River road, north of McArthur are, first, the 14th Missouri, called "Birge's sharp-shooters" (not
on the Sherman camp map), and next the 81st Ohio. The 16th Wisconsin has been assigned to Prentiss's division since the Sherman
map was made, and the 13th Missouri has probably taken that ground. All these points are particularly mentioned in the reports
of the battle and have been verified.
On the left-hand road where it crosses the River road, three-quarters of a
mile from the landing, is the Fourth Division (Hurlbut's), its Third Brigade between the road and the river, and the line
of the two other brigades bearing off to the north-west. I have located the 3d Iowa, of that division, on the ground just
in front of which Crittenden's division was first formed in line Monday morning, because it was stated to me at the time that
General Prentiss was killed at that camp; the fact being that near that point Prentiss was captured and W. H. L. Wallace mortally
At the fork of the River road and the Hamburg and Purdy road, is the camp
of Sherman's Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Stuart, two miles from the division to which it belongs, and one mile from
Hurlbut's division. On both sides of the eastern Corinth road, half a mile south of the Hamburg and Purdy road, is Prentiss's
division (the Sixth) of 2 brigades. It is not shown on the Sherman map. Stretching across the western Corinth road at the
church, along Oak Creek, are the other three brigades of the Fifth Division (Sherman's)--Hildebrand's brigade being on the
east side of the road, Buckland's next on the west side, and John A. McDowell's next on Buckland's right. Only one regiment
(the 6th Iowa) of McDowell's brigade is shown on the Sherman map.
The official reports and other authority locate the First Division (McClernand's)
as follows: The right of the Third Brigade is at the point where the western Corinth road crosses the Hamburg and Purdy road,
500 yards from the church, and the left is 200 yards from Hildebrand's brigade, which is thus obliquely in its front. The
other 2 brigades, on a general line starting from the right of the Third, form an obtuse angle with the Third, and are along
the ridge nearly parallel with Tillman's Creek, the extreme right being not far from the bluff overlooking Owl Creek bottom.
The First Brigade is on the east side of the adjacent field instead of the west side, as the Sherman map, according to the
road, would seem to place it, though that map does not show the field. It remains to be added that 3 of the 5 divisions were
for that period of the war old and experienced troops. Hurlbut's Third Brigade belonged to the Army of the Ohio, and had been
sent to reŽnforce Grant before Donelson. Eight other regiments were furnished by me for the first movement up the Tennessee,
and remained with Grant's army. Sherman's division, one of the newest, had been under his command more than a month, and ought
to have been in a tolerably efficient state of discipline. Prentiss's division, composed largely of raw regiments, had only
been organized a few days; yet it was posted in the most exposed and assailable point on the front. The effective force at
the date of the battle, exclusive of Lew Wallace's division, which was at or near Crump's Landing, 6 miles below, is stated
by General Sherman at 32,000 men; by General Grant at 33,000. General Wallace left 2 regiments of his division and a piece
of artillery at Crump's Landing, and joined the army Sunday evening, with, as he states, not more than 5000 men.
I proceed now, in the light of the official reports and other evidence, to
explain briefly what happened: the object being not so much to criticise the manner of the battle, or give a detailed description
of it, as to trace it to its actual condition at the close of the first day, and outline its progress during the second. With
this object the question of a surprise has little to do. I stop, therefore, only to remark that each revival of that question
has placed the fact in a more glaring light. The enemy was known to be at hand, but no adequate steps were taken to ascertain
in what force or with what design. The call to arms blended with the crash of the assault, and when the whole forest on the
rising ground in front flashed with the gleam of bayonets, then General Sherman, as he reports, "became satisfied for the
first time that the enemy designed a determined attack." Yet among the more watchful officers in the front divisions, there
was a nervous feeling that their superiors were not giving due heed to the presence of hostile reconnoitering parties, though
they little imagined the magnitude of the danger that impended. On Saturday General Sherman was notified of these parties.
He answered that the pickets must be strengthened, and instructed to be vigilant; that he was embarrassed for the want of
cavalry; his cavalry had been ordered away, and the cavalry he was to have instead had not arrived; as soon as they reported
he would send them to the front and find out what was there. In one of his brigades the regimental commanders held a consultation,
at which it was determined to strengthen the pickets. These are curious revelations to a soldier's ear.
Prentiss's vigilance gave the first warning of the actual danger, and in fact
commenced the contest. On Saturday, disquieted by the frequent appearance of the enemy's cavalry, he increased his pickets,
though he had no evidence of the presence of a large force. Early Sunday morning one of these picket-guards, startled no doubt
by the hum of forty thousand men half a mile distant, waking up for battle, went forward to ascertain the cause, and soon
came upon the enemy's pickets, which it promptly attacked. It was then a quarter past 5 o'clock, and all things being ready,
the Confederate general, accepting the signal of the pickets, at once gave the order to advance. Previously, however, General
Prentiss, still apprehensive, had sent forward Colonel Moore of the 21st Missouri, with five companies to strengthen the picket-guard.
On the way out Colonel Moore met the guard returning to camp with a number of its men killed and wounded. Sending the latter
on to camp and calling for the remaining companies of his regiment, he proceeded to the front in time to take a good position
on the border of a cleared field and opened fire upon the enemy's skirmishers, checking them for a while; but the main body
forced him back upon the division with a considerable list of wounded, himself among the number. All this occurred in front
of Sherman's camp, not in front of Prentiss's. This spirited beginning, unexpected on both sides, gave the first alarm to
the divisions of Sherman and Prentiss. The latter promptly formed his division at the first news from the front, and moved
a quarter of a mile in advance of his camp, where he was attacked before Sherman was under arms. He held his position until
the enemy on his right passed him in attacking Sherman, whose left regiment immediately broke into rout. He then retired in
some disorder, renewing the resistance in his camp but forced back in still greater disorder, until at 9 o'clock he came upon
the line which Hurlbut and W. H. L. Wallace were forming half a mile in rear.
Upon the first alarm in his camp, which was simultaneous with the attack upon
Sherman, McClernand rapidly got under arms, and endeavored to support Sherman's left with his Third Brigade, only two hundred
yards in rear, while he placed his First and Second Brigades in inverted order still farther to the rear and left, to oppose
the enemy's columns pouring in upon his left flank through the opening on Sherman's left; but his Third Brigade was forced
back with the fugitives from Sherman's broken line by the advancing enemy, and endeavored with only partial success to form
on the right of McClernand's line, which at first was formed with the left a little south, and the center north of the Corinth
road. Before the formation was completed the line was compelled to retire by the pressure on its front and left flank, with
the loss of 6 pieces of artillery, but it re-formed 300 yards in rear.
Hildebrand's brigade had now disappeared in complete disorder from the front,
leaving three pieces of artillery in the hands of the enemy. Buckland formed promptly at the first alarm, and in order to
keep the enemy back endeavored by Sherman's direction to throw a regiment beyond Oak Creek, which covered his front at a distance
of two hundred yards, but on reaching the brow of the low hill bordering the stream the enemy was encountered on the hither
side. Nevertheless the brigade resisted effectively for about two hours the efforts of the assailants to cross the boggy stream
in force. The enemy suffered great loss in these efforts, but succeeded at last. Before being quite forced back, Buckland
received orders from Sherman to form line on the Purdy road four hundred yards in rear, to connect with McClernand's right.
Orders were also given to McDowell, who had not yet been engaged, to close to the left on the same line. These orders were
in effect defeated in both cases, and five pieces of artillery lost by faults in the execution and the rapid advance of the
enemy. Sherman's division as an organized body disappeared from the field from this time until the close of the day. McDowell's
brigade preserved a sort of identity for a while. Sherman reports that at "about 10: 30 A. M. the enemy had made a furious
attack on General McClernand's whole front. Finding him pressed, I moved McDowell's brigade against the left flank of the
enemy, forced him back some distance, and then directed the men to avail themselves of every cover--trees, fallen timber,
and a wooded valley to our right." It sounds like the signal to disperse, and a little after 1 o'clock the brigade and regiments
are seen no more. Some fragments of the division and the commander himself attached themselves to McClernand's command, which
now, owing to its composite and irregular organization, could hardly be denominated a division.
The contest which raged in McClernand's camp was of a fluctuating character.
The ground was lost and won more than once, but each ebb and flow of the struggle left the Union side in a worse condition.
In his fifth position McClernand was driven to the camp of his First Brigade, half of his command facing to the south and
half to the west, to meet the converging attack of the enemy. His nominal connection with the left wing of the army across
the head of Tillman's Hollow had been severed, by the dispersion or defeat of the detached commands that formed it. Another
reverse to his thinned ranks would drive him over the bluff into Owl Creek bottom, and perhaps cut him off from the river.
He determined, therefore, between 2 and 3 o'clock to retire across Tillman's Hollow in the direction of the landing. That
movement was effected with a good deal of irregularity, but with the repulse of a small body of pursuing cavalry, and a new
line was formed on the opposite ridge along the River road, north of Hurlbut's headquarters. I shall have occasion farther
along to remark upon the display of force on the right of this line in the vicinity of McArthur's headquarters. The movement
must have been completed about 3 o'clock. Leaving the right wing, as it may be called, in this position prior to the attack
of 4 o'clock, which drove it still farther back, we will return to the current of events in the left wing.
With Stuart on the extreme left, as with the other commanders, the presence
of the enemy was the first warning of danger. He was soon compelled to fall back from his camp to a new position, and presently
again to a third, which located him on the prolongation and extreme left of the line formed by Hurlbut and W. H. L. Wallace,
but without having any connection with it. As soon as the first advance of the enemy was known, these two commanders were
called upon by those in front for support. In the absence of .a common superior it was sent forward by regiments or brigades
in such manner as seemed proper to the officer appealed to, and after that was left to its own devices. It seldom formed the
connection desired, or came under the direction of a common superior. Indeed, the want of cohesion and concert in the Union
ranks is conspicuously indicated in the official reports. A regiment is rarely overcome in front, but falls back because the
regiment on its right or left has done so, and exposed its flank. It continues its backward movement at least until it is
well under shelter, thus exposing the flank of its neighbor, who then must also needs fall back. Once in operation, the process
repeats itself indefinitely. In a broken and covered country which affords occasional rallying-points and obstructs the pursuit,
it proceeds step by step. On an open field, in the presence of light artillery and cavalry, it would run rapidly into general
This outflanking, so common in the Union reports at Shiloh, is not a mere
excuse of the inferior commanders. It is the practical consequence of the absence of a common head, and the judicious use
of reserves to counteract partial reverses and preserve the front of battle. The want of a general direction is seen also
in the distribution of Hurlbut's and Wallace's divisions. Hurlbut sent a brigade under Colonel Veatch to support Sherman's
left; Wallace sent one under General McArthur to the opposite extreme to support Stuart; and the two remaining brigades of
each were between the extremes-- Wallace on Veatch's left but not in connection with it, and Hurlbut on McArthur's right,
also without connection. Stuart himself with his brigade was two miles to the left of Sherman's division to which he belonged.
When the three Confederate lines were brought together successively at the front, there was, of course, a great apparent mingling
of organizations; but it was not in their case attended with the confusion that might be supposed, because each division area
was thereby supplied with a triple complement of brigade and division officers, and the whole front was under the close supervision
of four remarkably efficient corps commanders. The evils of disjointed command are plainly to be seen in the arrangement of
the Federal line, but the position of the left wing after the forced correction of the first faulty disposition of Hurlbut's
brigades was exceedingly strong, and in the center was held without a break against oft-repeated assaults from 9 o'clock until
5 o'clock. From 12 until 2 it was identical with the second position taken by Nelson and Crittenden on Monday, and it was
equally formidable against attack from both directions. Its peculiar feature consisted in a wood in the center, with a thick
undergrowth, flanked on either side by open fields, and with open but sheltering woods in front and rear. The Confederates
gave the name of "Hornets' Nest" to the thicket part of it on Sunday, and it was in the open ground on the east flank that
General Sidney Johnston was killed.
On this line, between and under the shelter of Hurlbut and W. H. L. Wallace,
Prentiss rallied a considerable force, perhaps a thousand men, of his routed division at 9 o'clock, and fought stubbornly
until near the close of the day. By 3 o'clock the withdrawal of the right wing, accompanied by Veatch's brigade, exposed W.
H. L. Wallace's right flank, which also partially crumbled away; and the retirement of Stuart about the same hour before the
strong attack brought against him, and of Hurlbut at 4 o'clock under the same powerful pressure upon his left flank, left
Prentiss and Wallace with his remaining regiments isolated and unsupported. Still they held their ground while the enemy closed
upon each flank. As they were about being completely enveloped, Wallace endeavored to extricate his command, and was mortally
wounded in the attempt at 5 o'clock. Some of his regiments under Colonel Tuttle fought their way through the cross-fire of
the contracting lines of the enemy, but 6 regiments of the 2 divisions held fast until the encompassment was complete, and
one by one with Prentiss, between half-past 5 and 6 o'clock, they were forced to surrender. This gallant resistance, and the
delay caused by the necessary disposition of the captives, weakened the force of the attack which McClernand sustained in
his seventh position on the River road at 4 o'clock, and retarded the onward movement of the enemy for nearly 3 hours after
the retirement of the right wing from the west side of Tillman's Creek.
Before the incumbrance of their success was entirely put out of the way the
Confederates pressed forward to complete a seemingly assured victory, but it was too late. John K. Jackson's brigade and the
9th and 10th Mississippi of Chalmers's brigade crossed Dill's ravine, and their artillery on the South side swept the bluff
at the landing, the missiles falling into the river far beyond. Hurlbut had hurriedly got into line in rear of the siege-guns,
as they are called in the official reports posted half a mile from the river, but for five hundred yards from the landing
there was not a soldier in ranks or any organized means of defense. Just
as the danger was perceived, Colonel Webster, Grant's chief of artillery, rapidly approached Colonel Fry and myself. The idea
of getting the battery which was standing in park into action was expressed simultaneously by the three, and was promptly
executed by Colonel Webster's immediate exertion. General Grant came up a few minutes later, and a member of his escort was
killed in that position. Chalmers's skirmishers approached to within one hundred yards of the battery. The number in view
was not large, but the gunners were already abandoning their pieces, when Ammen's brigade, accompanied by Nelson, came into
action. The attack was repelled, and the engagement ended for the day.
In his report of April 9th, to Halleck, General Grant says of this incident:
"At a late hour in the afternoon a desperate effort was made by the
enemy to turn our left and get possession of the landing, transports, etc. This point was guarded by the gun-boats Tyler and
Lexington, Captains Gwin and Shirk, U. S. Navy, commanding, four 20-pounder Parrott gunsp and a battery of rifled guns. As
there is a deep and impassable ravine for artillery or cavalry, and very difficult for infantry, at this point, no troops
were stationed here, except the necessary artillerists and a small infantry force for their support. Just at this moment the
advance of Major-General Buell's column (a part of the division under General Nelson) arrived, the two generals named both
being present. An advance was immediately made upon the point of attack and the enemy soon driven back. In tnis repulse, much
is due to the presence of the gun-boats Tyler and Lexington, and their able commanders, Captains Gwin and Shirk."
My own official report is to the same effect. In a calm review of the battle,
not unfriendly to General Grant, and written some years after the occurrence, General Hurlbut said:
"About 6 P. M. this movement (for a final attack at the landing)
was reported to General Hurlbut. He at once took measures to change the front of 2 regiments, or parts of regiments, of which
the 55th Illinois was one, and to turn 6 pieces of artillery to bear upon the point of danger. At that instant, he being near
the head of the Landing road, General Grant came up from the river, closely followed by Ammen's brigade of Nelson's division.
Information of the expected attack was promptly given, and two of Ammen's regiments deployed into line, moved rapidly forward,
and after a few sharp exchanges of volleys from them, the enemy fell back, and the bloody series of engagements of Sunday
at Pittsburg Landing closed with that last repulse."
The reports of all the officers who took part in the action at the landing,
Nelson, Ammen, and the regimental commanders, fully sustain the main point in these accounts, and are totally at variance
with General Grant's statement in his "Century" article. I have myself
never described the attack at the landing as "a desperate effort" of the enemy; but I have said that the condition of affairs
at that point made the occasion critical. We know from the Confederate reports that the attack was undertaken by Jackson's
and Chalmers's brigades as above stated; that the reserve artillery could effect nothing against the attacking force under
the shelter of Dill's ravine; that the fire of the gunboats was equally harmless on account of the elevation which it was
necessary to give the guns in order to clear the top of the bluff; and that the final assault, owing to the show of resistance,
was delayed. Jackson's brigade made its advance without cartridges. When they came to the crest of the hill and found the
artillery supported by infantry, they shrank from the assault with bayonets alone, and Jackson went in search of coŲperation
and support. In the meantime the attack was superseded by the order of the Confederate commander calling off his troops for
the night. The attack was poorly organized, but it was not repelled until Ammen arrived, and it cannot be affirmed under the
circumstances that the action of his brigade in delaying and repelling the enemy was not of the most vital importance. Had
the attack been made before Nelson could arrive, with the means which the enemy had abundantly at hand, it would have succeeded
beyond all question.
As fast as Nelson's division arrived it was formed in line of battle in front
of Grant's troops, pickets were thrown across Dill's ravine, and the dawn of another day was awaited to begin the second stage
in the battle; or, speaking more correctly, to fight the second battle of Shiloh. Let us in the meantime examine more in detail
the condition in which the first day had left General Grant's command, and its prospects unaided for the morrow.
THE evidence relied upon to refute the accepted belief in the critical condition
of General Grant's command on Sunday evening is of two sorts: first, the official map, as it is called, and second,
the personal statements and assumptions of General Grant and General Sherman. I shall examine these data upon the evidence
of the official reports and my own observation.
The official map was prepared, after the arrival of General Halleck at Pittsburg
Landing, by his topographical engineer, General George Thom. The topographical part of it was made from an approximate survey,
and, though not strictly accurate, is sufficiently so for an intelligent study of the battle. For the errors in the location
of the troops General Thom cannot be supposed to be responsible, since he could have, no knowledge of the facts except what
he derived from the statements of others; but in what is given and what is withhold they are of a very misleading nature.
They consist, first, in the extension of Grant's line on the evening of the 6th a full half-mile to the west of its true limit--placing
Hurlbut's division on the front actually occupied by McClernand, McClernand on and four hundred yards beyond Sherman's ground,
and Sherman entirely on the west side of Tillman's Hollow on the right of the camping-ground of McClernand's division, and
within the lines occupied by the Confederates. On the morning of the 7th they place from left to right, McClernand, then Sherman,
then Lew Wallace, along the bluff bordering Owl Creek bottom, all west of Tillman's Creek, and on ground which we did not
possess until after four hours of fighting; followed on the left by Hurlbut's division; thus occupying a solid front of a
mile and a third, in comparison with which the undeveloped front of my army presents a very subordinate appearance. They give
no account of the positions during the battle, in which the right of that army was substantially in contact with Wallace's
division on the extreme right. They give two of its positions, one in the first formation before its front was developed,
and the other at the close of the day, when Grant's troops had taken possession of their camps again, and mine had been withdrawn
from the ground on which they fought. These two positions are taken from my official map, but not the intermediate positions
shown on that map. Below the copy of the Thom map, as published with General Grant's article in the February number of "The
Century" (1885), it was stated that "the positions of the troops were
indicated in accordance with information furnished at the time by Generals Grant, Buell, and Sherman." It would be presumed
that Grant and Sherman, the latter especially, in consequence of his intimate relations with Halleck's headquarters, were
consulted about the location of the troops; and it is not to be doubted that their information was the guide. If any information
of mine was adopted, it was only through the map that accompanied my report, and with reference to the position of my own
Nineteen years after the battle General Sherman revised the official map,
and deposited his version with the archives of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee for historical use. Ostensibly it
accepts the topography of the Thom map, but modifies the positions of the troops in the most radical manner. On the Thom map
the line of battle Sunday evening is represented as being along the righthand road leading west from the landing, with the
reserve artillery and Nelson's and Crittenden's divisions on the left, and Hurlbut, McClernand, and Sherman in the order mentioned,
toward the right. The modification of this position of the troops by the Sherman edition, may be described as follows [see
map]: Looking west over the map, we see a line on the east bank of the river marked "Buell." No part of my army is represented
on the west bank. On the west side of the river, 400 yards back from the landing and parallel with the river, is a line 100
yards long marked "Grant." Extending back from the river along Dill's Branch, is a line half a mile long marked "Detachments."
This might mean the reserve artillery. From the outer extremity of the "Detachments" is a line two-thirds of a mile long running
west, but swelling in the center well to the south, with its light resting on Tillman's Creek, and marked "Hurlbut." On the
right of Hurlbut extending in the same west course, and entirely on the west side of Tillman's Creek, is a double line one-eighth
of a mile long marked "McClernand." Then commencing one hundred yards north-west of McClernand's right and extending due north,
along the edge of the field in front of the camp of McClernand's First Brigade, is a line two-thirds of a mile long marked
"Sherman." On the right of this line are three houses covered in front by a sort of demi-lune and wing, between which and
the main Sherman line is a bastion-like arrangement. The demi-lune figure Sherman designates as a "strong flank," and says
it was occupied by Birge's sharpshooters. Off to the right is seen Lew Wallace's division crossing Snake Creek bridge, and
marching toward the demi-lune by a road which had no existence in fact or on the original Thom map. At the angle between Sherman
and McClernand is a ravine which extends into the camp of McClernand's division, and along the sides of this ravine from the
right and left respectively of McClernand and Sherman are two dotted lines terminating in a point at the head of the ravine.
In his speech submitting his map to the society, Sherman explains how that horn-like projection was formed, with other particulars,
"In the very crisis of the battle of April 6, about 4 o'clock P.
M., when my division occupied the line from Snake Creek bridge to the forks of the Corinth and Purdy road, there occurred
an incident I have never seen recorded. Birge's sharpshooters, or 'Squirrel Tails,' occupied the stables, granaries, and house
near the bridge as a strong flank. My division occupied a double line from it along what had once been a lane with its fences
thrown down, and the blackberry and sassafras bushes still marking the border of an open cotton-field in front, and the left
was in a ravine near which Major Ezra Taylor had assembled some ten or twelve guns. This ravine was densely wooded and extended
to the front near two hundred yards, and I feared it might be occupied by the enemy, who from behind the trees could drive
the gunners from their posts. I ordered the colonel of one of my regiments to occupy that ravine to anticipate the enemy,
but he did not quickly catch my meaning or comprehend the tactics by which he could fulfill every purpose. I remember
well that Colonel Thomas W. Sweeny, a one-armed officer who had lost an arm in the Mexican War and did not belong to my command,
stood near by and quickly spoke up: 'I understand perfectly what you want; let me do it.' ' Certainly,' said I, 'Sweeny, go
at once and occupy that ravine, converting it into a regular bastion.' He did it, and I attach more importance to that event
than to any of the hundred achievements which I have since heard 'saved the day,' for we held that line and ravine all night,
and the next morning advanced from them to certain victory."
And yet it will be seen that this new line, prepared with such elaboration
of detail and introduced with such richness of anecdotal embellishment, was a thorough delusion; that Birge's sharp-shooters
were not there, and that General Sherman was in a different place! Setting aside historical accuracy, however, the advantage
of the revised arrangement is obvious. It extended General Grant's territory a half-mile to the south, fully as much to the
west, taking in Tillman's Hollow, one-third of McClernand's captured camp, and a large part of the Confederate army, giving
a battle front of two miles and a half instead of one mile, and requiring no greater power of imagination to man it than to
devise it. In presenting his map to the Society, Sherman said: "The map as thus modified tells the story of the battle!"
There can be no doubt that General Sherman's position will carry unhesitating
credence to his naked assertion in the minds of a considerable number of persons; while the more cautious but still unsearching
readers will say that until the accuracy of the official map is disproved, it must be accepted as the standard representation
of the battle. It is proper, therefore, to cite the proof which rejects both, and establishes a materially different version.
The investigation may be confined, for the present, to the location of the Federal line of battle on Sunday evening. The other
errors in the maps will be developed incidentally as the general subject progresses. Moreover, the inquiry will be directed
specifically to the Sherman map, as that includes the faults of the Thom map as well as its own peculiar errors.
It is unnecessary to remark upon the exclusion of Nelson's leading brigade
from the west bank of the river on the Sherman map. Its presence there at the time in question is as notorious as the battle
itself. The distance from the landing to Dill's Branch is six hundred yards. Sherman places his "Detachments," i. e., the
"reserve artillery," exactly on the line of that branch, whereas they were five hundred yards north of it. During the engagement
the Confederates passed the ravine and reached the crest of the hill on the north side. After the engagement Nelson's division
occupied the ravine, and his pickets held ground beyond it during the night. None of Grant's troops were ever in that position.
In adducing evidence from the official reports to determine the further position
of the Union line, the extracts will be somewhat extended when the context is pertinent, in order to show at the same time
the number and condition of the troops occupying it. The reader will be spared the impression of some irrelevancy if he will
keep these additional objects in mind.
Of the position of General Hurlbut's division, the next on the right of the
"Detachments," that officer says in his official report:
"On reaching the 24-pounder siege-guns in battery near the river,
I again succeeded in forming line of battle in rear of the guns."
That brought his division on the line of the right-hand road leading back
from the river, but not entirely to the right of the artillery where the Thom map places it. He adds:
"I passed to the right and found myself in communication uith
General Sherman, and received his instructions. In a short time the enemy appeared on the crest of the ridge, led
by the l8th Louisiana," etc... "General Sherman's artillery also was rapidly engaged, and after an artillery contest
of some duration, the enemy fell back." . . . "About dark the firing ceased. I advanced my division one hundred yards to the
front, threw out pickets, and officers and men bivouacked in a heavy storm of rain. About 12 P. M. General Nelson's leading
columns passed through my line and went to the front, and I called in my advance-guard."
The next division in the regular order is McClernand's, though the reader
will not have failed to observe the presence of General Sherman, with at least a portion of his command, in communication
with Hurlbut's right. General Sherman, it will be remembered, locates this division (McClernand's) on the west side of Tillman's
Creek. We trace its retrogression step by step, from its permanent camp, across Tillman's Hollow, at the close of the day,
by the following extracts from General McClernand's report:
"Continuing this sanguinary conflict until several regiments of my
division had exhausted their ammunition, and its right flank bad been borne back, and it was in danger of being turned, the
remainder of my command...also fell back to the camp of the First Brigade. Here the portion that had first fallen back re-formed
parallel with the camp, and fronting the approach of the enemy from the west, while the other portion formed at right angles
with it, still fronting the approach of the enemy from the south.... It was 2 o'clock when my fifth line had been thus formed....
Deterred from direct advance, he (the enemy) moved a considerable force by the right flank, with the evident intention of
turning my left. To defeat this purpose, I ordered my command to fall back in the direction of the landing, across a deep
hollow, and to re-form on the east side of another field, in the skirts of a wood. This was my sixth line. Here we rested
a half-hour, continuing to supply our men with ammunition, until the enemy's cavalry were seen rapidly crossing the field
to the charge. Waiting until they approached within some thirty paces of our line, I ordered a fire, which was delivered with
great coolness and destructive effect. First halting, then wavering, they turned and fled in confusion, leaving behind a number
of riders and horses dead on the field. The 29th Illinois Infantry, inspired by the courageous example of their commanding
officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Ferrell, bore the chief part in this engagement.... In the meantime, under cover of this demonstration
strengthened by large additions from other portions of the field yielded by our forces, the enemy continued his endeavors
to turn the flanks of my line, and to cut me off from the landing. To prevent this I ordered my left wing to fall back a short
distance and form an obtuse angle with the center, opposing a double front to the enemy's approach. Thus disposed, my left
held the enemy in check, while my whole line slowly fell back to my seventh position. Here I re-formed the worn and famished
remnant of my division, on favorable ground along a north and south road, supported on my right by fragments of General Sherman's
division, and on my left by the [14th Illinois and 25th Indiana] under command of Colonel Veatch, acting
The identity of this seventh position of McClernand is determined by the following
extracts. Colonel Marsh, commanding McClernand's Second Brigade, says:
"At this time, my command having been reduced to a merely nominal
one, I received orders to fall a short distance to the rear and form a new line, detaining all stragglers, portions of
commands, and commands which should attempt to pass. In obedience to this, though with some difficulty as regarded portions
of some commands, whose officers seemed little inclined to halt short of the river.... I had gathered quite a force, and
formed a line near the camp of the Second Division, concealing my men in the timber facing an open field. I here requested
Colonel Davis, of the 46th Illinois, to take position on my right. He promptly and cheerfully responded.... In a short
time General McClernand, with portions of the First and Third Brigades of his own division, and two regiments of Ohio troops,
came up and formed on the left of the line I had already established."
Colonel Davis, of the 46th Illinois, says:
"It being now 1 o'clock, my ammunition exhausted, the men tired and
hungry, and myself exhausted, having lost my horse in the first engagement, and compelled to go on foot the balance of the
time, and finding myself within one-half mile of my regimental encampment, I marched my men to it and got dinner for them.
Calling my men into line immediately after dinner, I formed them upon the right of the brigade commanded by Colonel C. C.
Marsh, at his request, in front and to the left of my camp, where we again met the enemy on Sunday evening."
Colonel Engelmann, of the 43d Illinois, whose report in many respects is a
remarkably clear and interesting one, says:
"We now fell back by degrees [from McClernand's sixth position],
and a new line being formed, we found ourselves posted between the 46th Illinois and the 13th Missouri, our
position being midway between the encampments of the 46th and 9th Illinois."
Colonel Wright, 13th Missouri, of McArthur's brigade, Second Division, but
attached during the battle to Sherman's division, says:
"After advancing and falling back several times, the regiment was
forced to retire, with all the others there, to the road which crosses the Purdy road at right angles near General McArthur's
headquarters. We here took up quarters for the night, bivouacking without fires within four hundred yards of our regimental
The "Purdy road" here mentioned is the continuation of the right-hand road
leading from the landing. The camp of the 9th Illinois was in the north-east angle of the intersection of that road with the
River road, and General McArthur's headquarters were in the south-west angle of the same intersection. The camp of the 46th
Illinois was located in the south-east angle of the intersection of the River road and a middle road leading west from the
landing, about five hundred yards from McArthur's headquarters. These reports plainly identify General McClernand's seventh
position, of which General Sherman formed part, with the River road between McArthur's and Hurlbut's headquarters. It is a
full half-mile in rear of the position given to Sherman's division on the Thom map, and of the position which General Sherman
assigns to himself on his edition, with the deep hollow of Tillman's Creek intervening.
The struggle which drove General McClernand from his seventh position is described
by that officer as follows:
"The enemy renewed the contest by trying to shell us from our position.
Advancing in heavy columns led by the Louisiana Zouaves to break our center, we awaited his approach within sure range, and
opened a terrific fire upon him. The head of the column was instantly mowed down; the remainder of it swayed to and fro for
a few seconds, and turned and fled. This second success of the last two engagements terminated a conflict of ten and a half
hours' duration, from 6 o'clock A. M. to 4:30 o'clock P. M., and probably saved our army, transports and all, from capture.
Strange, however, at the very moment of the flight of the enemy, the right of our line gave way, and immediately after, notwithstanding
the indignant and heroic resistance of Colonel Veatch, the left, comprising the [14th Illinois and 25th Indiana] was irresistibly
swept back by the tide of fugitive soldiers and trains seeking vain security at the landing.... Left unsupported and alone,
the 20th and 17th Illinois, together with other portions of my division not borne back by the retreating multitude, retired
in good order under the immediate command of Colonel Marsh and Lieutenant-Colonel Wood, and re-formed under my direction,
the right resting near the former line, and the left at an acute angle with it. A more extended line, comprising portions
of regiments, brigades, and divisions, was soon formed on this nucleus by the efforts of General Sherman, myself, and other
officers. Here, in the eighth position occupied by my division during the day, we rested in line of battle upon our arms,
uncovered and exposed to a drenching rain during the night."
This last position would locate McClernand, excepting his First Brigade, perhaps
three hundred yards south of, and obliquely with reference to the right-hand road leading from the landing, facing a little
to the west. His First Brigade is traced to within half a mile of the river, where it was rallied by its commander "in front
of the camp-ground of the 14th Iowa," on the road to the landing. It did not join the division again until after the battle,
but acted in connection with my troops. Colonel Veatch, who was on McClernand's left with the 14th Illinois and 25th Indiana
in the seventh position, fell back and took "position on the road leading to the landing near the heavy siege-guns," and became
reunited there with Hurlbut's division, to which he belonged. The space along the road in rear of McClernand was filled in
with various fragments which constituted Sherman's command, including at last Buckland's two regiments. General Sherman says
that Colonel Sweeny was with him. No doubt some of Sweeny's men also were there. It was the camp-ground of his brigade--the
camp of his own regiment, the 52d Illinois, being immediately on the road. Two of his regiments were captured with Prentiss,
and the remainder had been driven back from W. H. L. Wallace's right and virtually broken up. One of his regiments, the 50th
Illinois, was sent in the morning to support Colonel Stuart on the extreme left, and shared the fate of the sufferers in that
quarter. The space along the road between Sherman and Hurlbut was occupied by the remnant of Colonel Tuttle's brigade and
a portion of McClernand's First Brigade which united itself to Tuttle. It was Tuttle's camp-ground. Two of his regiments had
been captured with Prentiss.
From the reports of the 13th Missouri and 43d Illinois it is inferred that
those two regiments did not move from their position on the River road in the last falling back. But that, if certain, is
not important. They were at any rate substantially on the general line above indicated. The same, in a careless reading, might
be presumed of the 46th Illinois, which was immediately on the left of the 43d. The report of that regiment says: "The
regiments both on my right and left fell back, but my line did not waver under the fire of the enemy." But it evidently
fell back at last, for the report continues: "After breakfast on Monday morning, still retaining my position on the right
of Colonel Marsh's brigade, I moved with him until I reached and went beyond the ground of our last engagement of Sunday,
where our pickets were driven in," etc. It remains now to determine the question of the extreme right of the general
General Sherman says, and his statement on that point is sustained by the
reports, that Birge's sharpshooters were immediately on his right and constituted the extreme right of the line. The official
report of that regiment shows that during the afternoon it occupied a "position near Colonel McArthur's headquarters" in
an open field. Its camp was in its rear along the opposite or east side of the River road. This would fix General Sherman's
right at the cross-roads near McArthur's headquarters. It is more than a mile from the Snake Creek bridge. Other evidence
confirms these positions. The official reports of Lew Wallace's division show that he marched along the River road from the
bridge, and formed in line of battle, facing Tillman's Creek in front of the camp of Birge's sharp-shooters and the 81st Ohio,
the right of the division being in front of the latter, and the left in front of the former; and that it came in actual contact
with the "sharp-shooters," who occupied their camp that night and received the new-comers with cheers. This is clearly and
more circumstantially explained by General Force in his book entitled "From Fort Henry to Corinth," page 163. He was present
and commanded the right regiment of Lew Wallace's division on that occasion. The position thus assigned to Wallace must have
taken his left well up to the cross-road at McArthur's headquarters, and covered the entire field toward the north; for the
distance from the cross-road to the right of the camp of the 81st Ohio was only half a mile.
It is particularly to be observed that in no report, either from Sherman's
division or from Lew Wallace's, is there any mention of actual contact or of any definite proximity of these two divisions
on the evening of the 6th, or earlier than 10 o'clock on the morning of the 7th. The inference is, that at the time of Wallace's
arrival and subsequently, no part of Sherman's division was on the River road, or anywhere along the heights of Tillman's
Creek north of McArthur's headquarters. General Sherman, in his report, says: "General Wallace arrived from Crump's Landing
shortly after dark and formed his line to my right and rear." That relative position could only exist by assuming that Sherman's
command was on the road leading to the landing east of McArthur's headquarters, and nearly at right angles with Wallace,--a
supposition which is strengthened by the condition indicated in Sherman's revised map, that Birge's sharp-shooters were on
his right--not entirely in his front, as they would have been if his front had been on the River road. It is also sustained
by General Buckland's statement in the "Journal of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee" for 1881, p. 82. "About dark,"
he says, "General Wallace's division commenced arriving, and formed to the right of my brigade." Buckland states in his report
and in the Journal" that he lay "on the road." If he had been on the River road, Wallace would have come in contact with him,
and when he formed in line would have been entirely in his front--not in rear or on his right. Buckland seems to know nothing
about Birge's sharp-shooters. The probable explanation is that when he came along the road from the bridge they were on the
west side of the road, in the field near McArthur's headquarters. After Lew Wallace arrived and formed in front of them, they
probably retired to their camp on the east side of the road. The explanation of Buckland's position is that, after the retreat
across Tillman's Creek from the west side, he found himself, as he says, near Snake Creek bridge "late in the afternoon, after
the repulse of the right of the line," entirely apart from the rest of the army, and that to reŽstablish his connection with
it he started on the road to the landing, where one of his regiments actually went and remained overnight; and that he came
upon the outer flank of the new line where General Sherman soon after found him, east of McArthur's headquarters, and thus
placed himself where he is described by Sherman as being, between Birge's sharp-shooters and the rest of the line.
The Confederate reports mention a considerable appearance of force in a camp
opposite their extreme left in the afternoon, evidently referring to McArthur's camp. The student of the reports will not
be misled by this appearance; it was the force that clustered with Sherman on McClernand's right near McArthur's headquarters;
by the 9th Illinois, 81st Ohio, and Birge's sharp-shooters, all belonging to McArthur's brigade; and by the movement of Buckland's
regiments from the bridge as already explained. The sharp-shooters and the 81st Ohio had been posted at the bridge, and returned
to their camps probably at the time of the retreat from the west side of Tillman's Creek. The 9th Illinois had during the
morning been engaged on the extreme left under its brigade commander. It had lost 250 men out of 550, and was ordered to its
camp "to replenish cartridge-boxes, clean guns, and be ready for action." While there at 3 o'clock it was ordered "to support
the right wing of General Sherman's division," as the report expresses it, and in the subsequent engagements retired to within
half a mile of the landing. Birge's sharp-shooters retained their position at or in front of their camp. The movements of
the 81st Ohio are not very clearly defined, but in the advance next morning it is found on McClernand's left. The "10 or 12
guns" mentioned by General Sherman in his map-presentation speech as being near a ravine on his left, Sunday afternoon, were
Taylor's battery, as it was called, though commanded by Captain Barrett, and Bouton's battery. The former had retired for
ammunition from McClernand's camp, probably to near McArthur's headquarters, but afterward evidently went near the river,
where it received "1 lieutenant and 24 men with 3 horses" from Fitch's battery. Bouton's battery was taken into action in
the field in front of McClernand's right about 4 o'clock, and was forced to retire, its support helping to draw off its guns.
Both the battery and the support went back toward the river, for in the advance next morning the support is found on McClernand's
left, and the battery was brought into service with McCook in the afternoon. Sherman had no artillery with him on Monday until
about 10 o'clock. Major Taylor then brought up three pieces of an Illinois battery under Lieutenant Wood, not belonging to
Sherman's command. The final retreat from McClernand's seventh position, Sunday evening, undoubtedly carried with it all of
the fragments connected with Sherman near McArthur's headquarters, along the road toward the river, where I found him about
dark, excepting Birge's sharp-shooters, the 13th Missouri, and the 43d Illinois. The latter belonged to McClernand's Third
Brigade, but remained with the 13th Missouri Sunday night. After crossing Tillman's Creek next morning, both were brought
into line on McClernand's left, and did not form with Sherman, though the 13th Missouri subsequently joined him.
My own observation as to the position and extent of General Grant's line accords
substantially with the evidence of the reports. In the dusk of the evening after the close of the engagement on Sunday, I
walked out with my chief-of-staff, following the road and the line of the troops. My object was to gain information by which
to determine the formation of my divisions, and I not only observed all that I could see at such an hour, but I made inquiry
as I passed along. I came to Hurlbut's left five hundred yards from the river; I passed along its front and came to troops
that answered as McClernand's, and which I supposed at the time to constitute his division, but which were probably his First
Brigade only; I passed to the front of these troops, and when I turned in toward the road again, I came upon Sherman's line,
as it happened, not far from where he was, and I was conducted to him. It was then growing dark. I judge the distance to have
been about three-quarters of a mile from the river--less than half a mile from Hurlbut's left, and I think now that it was
near the camp of Colonel Sweeny's regiment, the 52d Illinois, that I found General Sherman.
The impression made upon my mind by that interview has remained as vivid as
the circumstances were peculiar. I had no thought of seeing General Sherman when I set out, but on every score I was glad
to meet him, and I was there to gain information. By what precise words I sought and he gave it, I would not pretend at this
day to repeat. It is sufficient for the present to say that I learned the nature of the ground in front; that his right flank
was some three hundred yards from us; and that the bridge by which Lew Wallace was to cross Snake Creek was to his right and
rear at an angle, as he pointed, of about forty degrees. I do not know whether I asked the question, but I know now that it
was a mile and a quarter from his flank and that he did not cover it in any practical sense, though in advancing Wallace would
approach by his right and rear. I also see now that I was mistaken in supposing that these several commands retained a regular
organization and had distinct limits; whereas they were in fact much intermixed.
Of course we talked of other incidental matters. In all his career he has,
I venture to say, never appeared to better advantage. There was the frank, brave soldier, rather subdued, realizing the critical
situation in which causes of some sort, perchance his own fault chiefly, had placed him, but ready, without affectation or
bravado, to do anything that duty required of him. He asked me what the plans were for the morrow. I answered that I was going
to attack the enemy at daylight, and he expressed gratification at my reply, though apparently not because of any unmixed
confidence in the result. I had had no consultation with General Grant, and knew nothing of his purpose. I presumed that we
would be in accord, but I had been only a few hours within the limits of his authority, and I did not look upon him as my
commander, though I would zealously have obeyed his orders. General Sherman allowed me to take with me the map of which a
facsimile accompanies this article. I never imagined that in the future it would have the interest which now attaches to it,
and after the battle it was laid aside and forgotten.
Within two years after that meeting, quite contrary opinions developed themselves
between General Sherman and myself concerning the battle of Shiloh, and his Memoirs give a different account of the interview
above described. He says that he handed the map to my engineer-officer, Captain Michler, who, in fact, was not present, and
complains that it was never returned to him. He says that I grumbled about the stragglers, and that he feared I would not
bring my army across the river. One would suppose that his fears would have been allayed by the fact that, at that very moment,
my troops were arriving and covering his front as fast as legs and steamboats could carry them.
In the execution of the retreat described in the reports of McClernand and
Sherman, from the west to the east side of Tillman's Creek, there was a quite thorough disintegration of divisions and brigades,
lacking nothing but the pressure of a vigorous pursuit to convert it into a complete rout. In its seventh position, McClernand's
division recovered some force and preserved a recognized organization; but not so with Sherman's. Indeed, in that division
the disorganization occurred, as has already been stated, at an earlier period. In Hildebrand's brigade it was almost coincident
with the enemy's first assault. With McDowell's it commenced with the unsuccessful attempt to form line of battle along the
Purdy road, and was complete very soon after 1 o'clock; and these two brigades never recovered their aggregation again until
after the battle. With Buckland's brigade also it occurred at the miscarriage at the Purdy road about 10 o'clock, but it was
not so thorough as in the other brigades--at least it was afterward partially repaired during the first day, as his report
explains. He says, after the retreat from his camp about 10 o'clock:
"We formed line on the Purdy road, but the fleeing mass from the
left broke through our fines, and many of our men caught the infection and fled with the crowd. Colonel Cockerill became separated
from Colonel Sullivan and myself, and was afterward engaged with part of his command at McClernand's camp. Colonel Sullivan
and myself kept together, and made every effort to rally our men, but with very poor success. They had become scattered in
all directions. We were borne considerably to the left, but finally succeeded in forming a line, and had a short engagement
with the enemy, who made his appearance soon after our line was formed. The enemy fell back, and we proceeded to the road
where you [General Sherman] found us. At this point I was joined by Colonel Cockerill, and we there formed line of battle
and slept on our arms Sunday night. Colonel Sullivan, being out of ammunition, marched to the landing for a supply, and while
there was ordered to support a battery at that point.."
It is only after a close examination of the records that we can understand
the full significance of the following passage in General Sherman's report:
"In this position we rested for the night. My command had become
decidedly of a mixed character. Buckland's brigade was the only one with me that retained its organization. Colonel Hildebrand
was personally there, but his brigade was not. Colonel McDowell had been severely injured by a fall from his horse, and had
gone to the river, and the three regiments of his brigade were not in line. The 13th Missouri, Colonel Crafts J. Wright, had
reported to me on the field, and fought well, retaining its regimental organization, and it formed part of my line during
Sunday night and all of Monday; other fragments of regiments and companies had also fallen into my division, and acted with
it during the remainder of the battle."
It thus appears that from about 1 o'clock until the time when General Sherman
found Colonel Buckland with two regiments on the road from the bridge to the landing, not a single regiment of his division
excepting Cockerill's, and not one prominent individual representative of it excepting that officer and Colonel Hildebrand,
was present with him. The only body of troops besides Cockerill's regiment having any recognized organization was the 13th
Missouri, which belonged to another division. All the rest were squads or individual stragglers. In all the official reports,
not a regiment or part of a regiment is described as being with him at this juncture or for several hours before. Of the 9
regiments that composed the 3 brigades under his immediate command at the church, only 5 rendered reports, and 3 of these
were from Buckland's brigade. The division did not exist except in the person of its commander. Such is the story of the official
reports. The number of men present could not have been large. Less than 1000, including Buckland's 2 regiments after they
were found, would have told the number that lay on their arms in Sherman's ranks on Sunday night.
This explains the close relation of McClernand and Sherman during the last
five hours of Sunday, and the identity of their experiences. General Sherman has nothing to report of his own command distinctively.
Everything is conjunctive and general as between McClernand and himself. "We held this position, General McClernand
and myself acting in perfect concert." "General McClernand and I, on consultation, selected a new line." "We
fell back as well as we could." "The enemy's cavalry charged us, and was handsomely repulsed." General McClernand's
account of this incident has been quoted on a preceding page. When Colonel Hildebrand lost his brigade, it is not with General
Sherman that he is identified, but with McClernand, on whose staff he served part of the day. Hildebrand seems to have been
active, but not under the direction of his division commander. "About 3 o'clock," he says, "I assumed command of a regiment
already formed of fragmentary regiments. I marched in a north-western direction, where I aided a regiment of sharp-shooters
in defeating the enemy in an attempt to flank our rear." This movement was evidently made from McClernand's and Sherman's
seventh position, and the troops assisted were Birge's sharp-shooters. General Sherman makes no mention of this significant
if not important occurrence. His right flank was threatened, and the regiment of sharp-shooters posted in the field near McArthur's
headquarters met, and, in conjunction with Hildebrand's temporary regiment, repelled the danger.
We have in the official reports a good clew to the condition of McClernand's
division also. It was in a far better state. It was shattered and worn, but it was represented by at least some recognized
following of regiments and brigades. One of the brigades had five hundred men, and another. the commander reports, was "merely
nominal," not long before McClernand took up his seventh position. In the last collision, one of the brigades became entirely
separated from the division, and did not return to it until after the battle. Fifteen hundred, exclusive of that brigade,
would cover the number of men that rested that night under McClernand's colors.
Hurlbut's division was in a somewhat better condition than either of the others.
Its loss in killed and wounded was greater than McClernand's, but it had not, like the latter, been affected in its organization
by oft-repeated shocks sustained in a cramped and embarrassing position, and his command had received some accessions from
the driftings of other divisions. The estimate which he makes of his force is wholly fallacious. It could not have stood on
the space which he occupied. There may have been two thousand men in his line on the night of the 6th. These three divisions,
if they may be so called, and Tuttle's command, with Birge's sharp-shooters on the extreme right, and the reserve artillery
on the left, which, according to General Grant's report, consisted of "four 20-pounder Parrott guns and a battery of rifled
guns," constituted the line of battle, which extended a mile from the river. Five thousand men occupied it. Other partially
organized fragments were crowded together about the river and the camps on the plateau, and with proper effort could have
been fitted for good service; but no steps to that end were taken. The defect in the command that opened the way for the disaster,
facilitated its progress at every step--the want of a strong executive hand guided by a clear organizing head. Some of these
fragmentary commands sought places for themselves in the advance next day. The remnant of the Second Division under Colonel
Tuttle was one of these. Indeed, it deserves a higher name. It presented itself to me on the field without orders, and rendered
efficient service with my divisions. There may have been 1500 or 2000 men of these unrecognized commands that went to the
front on Monday without instructions. Seven thousand men at the utmost, besides Lew Wallace's 5000, were ready Sunday night
to take part in the struggle which was to be renewed in the morning. Of the original force, 7000 were killed or wounded, 3000
were prisoners, at least 15,000 were absent from the ranks and hopelessly disorganized, and about 30 pieces of artillery were
in the hands of the enemy.
The physical condition of the army was an exact type of its moral condition.
The ties of discipline, not yet of long enough duration or rigidly enough enforced to be very strong, were in much the largest
part of the army thoroughly severed. An unbroken tide of disaster had obliterated the distance between grades, and brought
all men to the standard of personal qualities. The feeble groups that still clung together were held by force of individual
character more than by discipline, and a disbelief in the ability of the army unaided to extricate itself from the peril that
environed it, was, I do not hesitate to affirm, universal. In my opinion, that feeling was shared by the commander himself.
A week after the battle the army had not recovered from its shattered and prostrated condition. On the 14th, three days after
Halleck's arrival, he instructed Grant: "Divisions and brigades should, where necessary, be reorganized and put in position,
and all stragglers returned to their companies and regiments. Your army is not now in condition to resist an attack." We are
told that the enemy had stragglers too. Yes, every cause which demands effort and sacrifice will have them; but there is a
difference between the straggling which is not restrained by the smile of fortune, and that which tries to elude the pursuit
of fate--it is the difference between victory and defeat. The Confederates in their official reports make no concealment of
their skeletons, but when the time for action arrived they were vital bodies, and, on Sunday, always in sufficient force to
do the work at last.
General McClernand, it will have been observed, ascribes the breaking up of
his seventh position to a panic among the troops, but the other reports show a different reason. Colonel Veatch on McClernand's
"Our men were much encouraged by the strength of our position, and
our fire was telling with terrible effect. Our forces were eager to advance and charge him [the enemy], when we were surprised
by his driving back the whole left wing of our army, and advancing close to our rear near General Hurlbut's headquarters.
A dense mass of baggage wagons and artillery crowded upon our ranks, while we were exposed to a heavy fire of the enemy both
in front and rear."
General Hurlbut thus describes the crisis at that stage of the battle:
"I had hoped to make a stand on the line of my camp, but masses of
the enemy were pressing rapidly on each flank, while their light artillery was closing rapidly in the rear. On reaching the
24-pounder siege-guns in battery near the river, I again succeeded in forming line of battle in rear of the guns."
We see here that there was a stern cause for the falling back. It was the
tide of defeat and pursuit from the left wing of the army, and was compulsory in the strictest sense. How fortunate that it
did not set in an hour earlier, and strike in flank the disorganized material of the right wing as it struggled across the
ravines of Tillman's Creek! How more than fortunate that the onward current of the victor was obstructed still an hour longer
by the unyielding tenacity of the remaining regiments of Wallace and Prentiss! From the self-assuring interview in which,
according to one of General Sherman's reminiscences, it was "agreed that the enemy had expended the furor of his attack" at
4 o'clock, and General Grant told the "anecdote of his Donelson battle," that officer was aroused by the renewal of the din
of the strife, and made his way to the river through the disorganized throng of his retreating army. While those mutual felicitations
were in progress, the enemy, a mile to the left, was disarming and marching six captured regiments to the rear. Thus disembarrassed,
his furor revived, and manifested itself at last at the very landing. What worse state of affairs than this could have
existed when at noon General Grant wrote: "If you will get upon the field, leaving all your baggage on the east bank of the
river, it will be a move to our advantage, and possibly save the day to us"?
Under the circumstances here described, General Grant and General Sherman
have said that reŽnforeements other than Lew Wallace's division were in nowise necessary at the close of the first day, and
that, without reference to them, General Grant would have assumed the offensive and defeated the Confederate army next morning.
Those who study the subject attentively will find no ground to accept that declaration as regards either the purpose or the
result. The former indeed presents an intangible question which it would seem to be useless to discuss. At the time it is
alleged to have been entertained, the reŽnforeements were actually at hand, and their presence gives to the announcement the
semblance of a vain boast, which could never have been put to the test of reality. That with the reŽnforeements from my army,
General Grant confidently expected that the enemy would be defeated the following day, it is impossible to doubt; but it was
not known, Sunday night, that the enemy had withdrawn from our immediate front, and the evidence establishes that General
Grant had not determined upon or had not promulgated a plan of action in the morning. Not an order was given or a note of
preparation sounded for the struggle which, with or without his assistance, was to begin at daybreak. To my certain knowledge,
if words and actions were not wholly misleading, General Sherman, when I saw him on the night of the 6th, did not consider
that any instructions had been given for battle, and if he had such instructions he did not obey them. His report sustains
the impression which I derived from our interview. "At daylight on Monday," he says, "I received General Grant's orders to
advance and recapture our original camps." Then only it was that he dispatched several members of his staff to bring up all
the men they could find. Is that the way in which General Sherman would have acquitted himself of the obligation of orders
received the day before to engage in battle? I answer unhesitatingly, No! The reports of the other division commanders are
to the same effect. General McClernand says: "Your [General Grant's] order of the morning of the 7th for a forward movement,"
etc. The hour of the delivery of this order is indicated approximately by the following passage in the report of Colonel Marsh:
"At daylight on Monday morning the men in line were supplied with
some provisions. While this was being done firing opened on our right, afterwards ascertained to come from a portion of General
Lew Wallace's command. Directly afterwards, firing commenced to our left and front, both artillery and musketry, supposed
by me to be a portion of General Buell's command, who, I had been informed during the night, had taken position on our left
and considerably in advance. I now received orders from General McClernand to throw out skirmishers and follow with my whole
We must presume that General McClernand proceeded to the execution of General
Grant's order as soon as it was received, which must then have been after the commencement of the battle in front of Nelson.
General Hurlbut says: "On Monday, about 8 A. M., my division was formed in
line close to the river-bank, and I obtained a few crackers for my men. About 9 A. M. I was ordered by General Grant to move
up to the support of General McClernand." Colonel Tuttle, commanding the Second Division, acted without any orders. He says:
"On Monday morning I collected all of the division that could be found, and such other detached regiments as volunteered to
join me, and formed them in column by battalion closed in mass as a reserve for General Buell." The action of General Lew
Wallace was not the result of orders, but proceeded from his own motion on discovering the enemy in his front at daylight
across Tillman's Hollow. While that action was in progress, General Grant came up and gave Wallace "the direction of his attack."
Nelson had been in motion an hour, and was sharply engaged before these orders were given.
General Grant's official reports of the battle are in accord with the subordinate
reports upon this question. In his first telegraphic announcement of the battle to General Halleck, he says:
"Yesterday the rebels attacked us here with an overwhelming force,
driving our troops in from their advanced position to near the landing. General Wallace was immediately ordered up from Crump's
Landing, and in the evening, one division of General Buell's army and General Buell in person arrived. During the night one
other division arrived, and still another to-day. This morning, at the break of day, I ordered an attack, which resulted
in a fight, which continued until late this afternoon, with severe loss on both sides, but a complete repulse of the enemy.
I shall follow to-morrow far enough to see that no immediate renewal of an attack is contemplated."
In his more detailed report of April 9th he says:
"During the night [Sunday] all was quiet, and feeling that a great
moral advantage would be gained by becoming the attacking party, an advance was ordered as soon as day dawned. The result
was a gradual repulse of the enemy at all parts of the line from morning until probably 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when it
became evident that the enemy was retreating. Before the close of the action the advance of General T. J. Wood's division
arrived in time to take part in the action. My force was too much fatigued, from two days' hard fighting and exposure in
the open air to a drenching rain during the intervening night, to pursue immediately. Night closed in cloudy and with
heavy rain, making the roads impracticable for artillery by the next morning. General Sherman, however, followed the enemy,
finding that the main part of the army had retreated in good order."Several
points worthy of note present themselves in these dispatches of General Grant. There is still, at the close of the second
day, the impression of the enemy's overwhelming force, which the day before he "estimated at over one hundred thousand men."
He felt on Monday, after the arrival of reŽnforeements to the number of 25,000 fresh troops, that "a great moral advantage
would be gained by becoming the attacking party." There was, then, a question in his mind, namely, to attack, or to await
attack; it was necessary to consider all the advantages, moral and physical; he concluded to secure the former at least, and
accordingly gave the order, not on Sunday, but on Monday "at break of day," to attack. The severity of the contest on Monday
is affirmed in both dispatches; it was of such a nature as to prevent an immediate pursuit, which at any rate he would only
make the next morning after the battle, far enough to see that no immediate renewal of the attack was contemplated. The pursuit
was made on that plan, and found "that the main part of the army had retreated in good order." If the fact were not duly authenticated,
one would wonder whether these dispatches were actually written by an officer who, twenty-three years afterward, said with
boastful assurance over his own signature, "Victory was assured when Wallace arrived with his division of 5000 effective veterans,
even if there had been no other support!"
With this tedious but necessary review of the results of the first day, I
take up the story of the second.
THE engagement was brought on, Monday morning, not by General Grant's order,
but by the advance of Nelson's division, along the River road in line of battle, at the first dawn of day, followed by Crittenden's
division in column. The enemy was encountered at 5:20 o'clock, and a little in advance of Hurlbut's camp Nelson was halted
while Crittenden came into line on his right. By this time the head of McCook's division came up and was formed on the right
of Crittenden. Before McCook's rear brigade was up the line moved forward, pushing back the enemy's light troops, until Nelson
and Crittenden reached the very position occupied by Hurlbut, Prentiss, and W. H. L. Wallace at 4 o'clock the previous day,
where the enemy was found in force. McCook was on the north side of the western Corinth road, and eventually swept across
half of McClernand's camp and released his headquarters from the grasp of the enemy. The "Hornets' Nest" was in front of Crittenden's
left brigade, and "the peach orchard'" and the ground where Albert Sidney Johnston fell were in front of Nelson.
Without following the vicissitudes of the struggle in this part of the field,
I enter with a little more detail, but still cursorily, upon the operations of Grant's troops, which have not been connectedly
explained in any official report. The action here was commenced by Lew Wallace, one of whose batteries at halfpast 5 o'clock
opened fire on the enemy, who was discovered on the high ground across Tillman's Hollow. There is some diversity of statement
among the official reports as to the priority of artillery firing in front of Nelson and Wallace. Colonel Hovey, who was in
immediate support of Wallace's battery, gives the priority to Nelson, while Colonel Marsh, who was half a mile farther to
the left, gives it to Wallace. But this is unimportant. Nelson was in motion three-quarters of an hour before that time, and
had been engaged with the enemy's light troops. The first artillery fire was from the enemy, Nelson at first having no artillery.
Wallace's action was not yet aggressive, no orders having been given for his advance; but while the firing was in progress
General Grant came up, and gave him his "direction of attack, which was formed at a right angle with the river, with which
at the time his line ran almost parallel." The enemy's battery and its supports having been driven from the opposite height
by the artillery of Wallace, the latter moved his line forward about 7 o'clock, crossed the hollow, and gained the crest of
the hill almost without opposition. "Here," he says, "as General Sherman's division, next on my left, had not made its appearance
to support my advance, a halt was ordered for it to come up." Wallace was now on the edge of the large oblong field which
was in front of the encampment of McClernand's right brigade.
The next of Grant's commands to advance was McClernand's. The orders to that
effect have already been cited, and their execution is explained by Colonel Marsh, into whose brigade what was present of
McClernand's division seems to have merged. He says:
"Moving steadily forward for half a mile, I discovered a movement
of troops on the hill nearly a quarter of a mile in front. Dispatching scouts to ascertain who they were, they were met by
a message from Colonel Smith, commanding a [the left] brigade of the Third Division [Wallace's], informing me that he would
take position on the right and wait my coming up."
Sherman, it thus appears, was not yet in motion. Hurlbut moved out about 9
o'clock, and formed one brigade on McClernand's left.
When Lew Wallace advanced across Tillman's Hollow, followed next on the left
by McClernand, the force opposed to him fell gradually back upon reŽnforeements beyond the field on the edge of which was
the encampment of McClernand's First Brigade; the enemy's left then clinging a little to the bluffs of Owl Creek in that quarter,
but yielding without a very stubborn resistance, chiefly because of McCook's vigorous pressure along the western Corinth road,
until it fell into a general line running through the center of McClernand's camp, and nearly parallel with the Hamburg and
Purdy road. This swinging back of the enemy's left, and the direction of the Owl Creek bluffs, naturally caused a change in
the direction of Wallace's front, until about 10 o'clock it faced south, at right angles to its direction in the beginning.
A sharp artillery contest and some infantry fighting had been going on all the time. It was at 10 o'clock, according to Sherman's
report, that McClernand formed line obliquely in rear of the camp of his First Brigade, to advance against the enemy's position.
Here for the first time Sherman's division appears in the movement, from which its absence at an earlier period is mentioned
by both McClernand and Wallace. The statement in General Sherman's report, in regard to its movements, is as follows:
"At daylight I received General Grant's orders to advance and recapture
our original camps. I dispatched several members of my staff to bring up all the men they could find, and especially the brigade
of Colonel Stuart, which had been separated from the division all the day before; and at the appointed time the division,
or, rather, what remained of it, with the 13th Missouri and other fragments, marched forward and reoccupied the ground on
the extreme right of General McClernand's camp, where we attracted the fire of a battery located near Colonel McDowell's former
headquarters. Here I remained patiently waiting for the sound of General Buell's advance upon the main Corinth road. About
10 A. M. the heavy firing in that direction and its steady approach satisfied me, and General Wallace being on our right flank
with his well-conducted division, I led the head of my column to General MeClernand's right, formed line of battle, facing
south, with Buckland's brigade directly across the ridge, and Stuart's brigade on its right in the woods, and thus advanced
slowly and steadily under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery."
The contest thus inaugurated in and around McClernand's camp involved the
whole of Grant's available force and McCook's division of the Army of the Ohio, and continued with great violence from 10
until 4 o'clock. The significant facts connected with it are, the narrowness of the space covered by the interior divisions,--McClernand's,
Hurlbut's, and Sherman's,--the lapping over them by McCook, so as to form, in fact, a connection with the division of Wallace
on the extreme right, and the decisive part ascribed to McCook's division in that part of the field in the reports of McClernand,
Wallace, and Sherman. General McClernand says:
"Here one of the severest conflicts ensued that occurred during the
two days. We drove the enemy back . . . to the edge of a field . . . where reserves came to his support. Our position at this
moment was most critical, and a repulse seemed inevitable; but fortunately the Louisville Legion, forming part of General
Rousseau's brigade, came up at my request and succored me. Extending and strengthening my line, this gallant body poured into
the enemy's ranks one of the most terrible fires I ever witnessed. Thus breaking its [his] center, it [he] fell back in disorder,
and thenceforth he was beaten at all points."
Wallace mentions particularly an important service rendered to the left of
his division at a crisis in its operations, by one of McCook's regiments.
Colonel McGinnis, of the 11th Indiana, whose regiment was on Wallace's extreme
left, describes this incident as follows:
"At 2: 30 o'clock I discovered that the Federal forces on our left
were falling back and the rebels advancing, and that they were nearly in rear of our left flank. I immediately notified you
(the brigade commander] of their position, changed front with our left wing, opened our fire upon them, and sent to you for
assistance. During this the most trying moment to us of the day, I received your order to fall back if it got too hot for
us.... Fortunately and much to our relief, at this critical moment the 32d Indiana, Colonel Willich, came up on our left,
and with their assistance the advancing enemy was compelled to retire."
General Sherman says:
"We advanced until we reached the point where the Corinth road crosses
the line of McClernand's camp, and here I saw for the first time the well-ordered and compact columns of General Buell's Kentucky
forces, whose soldierly movements at once gave confidence to our newer and less-disciplined forces. Here I saw Willich's regiment
advance upon a point of wateroaks 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, which lasted some twenty minutes, when this splendid regiment had
to fall back. This green point of timber is about five hundred yards east of Shiloh Meeting House, and it was evident that
here was to be the struggle. The enemy could be seen forming his lines to the south.... This was about 2 o'clock P. M. Willich's
regiment had been repulsed, but a whole brigade of McCook's division advanced beautifully, deployed, and entered this dreaded
woods. . . . Rousseau's brigade moved in splendid order steadily to the front, sweeping everything before it."
This occurred in front of Sherman, who was between McClernand and Wallace,
for he says: "I ordered my Second Brigade...to form on its right, and my Fourth Brigade, Colonel Buckland, on its right, all
to advance abreast with this Kentucky brigade." Of the action of McCook's division, General Sherman further says: "I concede
that General McCook's splendid division from Kentucky drove back the enemy along the Corinth road, which was the great central
line of this battle."
The conclusion to be drawn from these several reports is that at this stage
of the battle McCook's division reached across and practically connected the Army of the Ohio with Wallace's division, which
formed the extreme right of Grant's force, and that its steady valor and effective service, not without the cooperation of
McClernand's, Hurlbut's, and Sherman's commands, decided the issue of the conflict on that portion of the field. The result,
however, was not brought about without the concurrence of decisive action at other points.
While the battle was going on in McClernand's camp, it raged with great fury
from an earlier hour in front of Nelson and Crittenden on the left, and vigorously but with less destructive effects in front
of Wallace on the right. As soon as the enemy's right began to yield, the splendid batteries of Mendenhall and Terrill directed
an enfilading fire upon the Confederate batteries playing fiercely upon McCook, and they were soon silenced. General Sherman
ascribes that result to the action of two pieces of artillery to which he says he gave personal direction, but it is probable
that he mistook the principal cause. A Confederate view of the contest in front of Nelson and Crittenden is seen in the report
of Colonel Trabue, whose brigade at a certain stage of the battle (about 1 o'clock) was moved with Anderson's brigade to their
right, in front of Crittenden. The report describes the conflict at this point as terrific, the ground being crossed and recrossed
four times in the course of it. I refer to it, chiefly because in some accounts of the battle it has erroneously been identified
with McCook's front, where Trabue's brigade was first engaged.
Without going further into details in which the official reports abound, it
may be sufficient to add briefly, that at 4 o'clock the flag of the Union floated again upon the line from which it had been
driven the previous day, and General Grant's troops at once resumed their camps.
What more need be said? Must I sketch the scenes with twenty thousand of the
soldiers of the Army of the Ohio left out of their place in the combat, as it is described by General Grant and his own officers?
Shall I not, indeed, already have wearied the reader with the citation of evidence to substantiate a view of the case which
unbiased intelligence is forbidden to deny?
But if the Army of the Ohio had not arrived, and General Grant had remained
on the defensive, what then? Some of those who frankly acknowledge the reality of their discomfiture on Sunday, like now to
believe with natural pride, the difficulties that beset them then being far in the past, that they would have been more successful
the second day; and it has been argued that the withdrawal of the Confederates from their advanced positions on the night
of the 6th threw doubt upon the final result. A newspaper interviewer has even said for General Grant that they were then
preparing to retreat. The inconsistency of that observation is evident. A general who stops to fight a fresh army is not likely
to have had it in contemplation to flee before one that he had already defeated on the same ground. The published reports
show that the withdrawal on Sunday night did not proceed from any faltering of the Confederate commander. On the contrary,
he believed the victory to have been substantially won, and that the fruit would certainly be gathered the following day.
His confidence in that respect was shared in the fullest manner by his entire army, backed by a particularly able body of
high officers. All demanded to be led against the last position: not one doubted the result. We can imagine the effort such
an army would have put forth when animated by such a spirit.
With the usual apologies for defeat on Monday, they rated their strength at
20,000 men, but, with the fruits of victory in view, it will be safe to say they would have brought at least 25,000 into action;
and it has been claimed that 25,000, according to the Confederate method of computation, would have been equal to about 28,000
according to the Federal method. Their relative strength would have been materially increased by the large accession of captured
cannon. They had also improved their condition by having exchanged their inferior arms for better ones which they had captured.
Comparatively, the enemy was in a more efficient state than before the battle.
The Union ranks might have been swelled to 15,000--not more. That force on
such ground could not have ventured to cover a line of more than a mile -its left at the river, and its right near the ravines
of Tillman's Creek. The high ground beyond the creek, would have enfiladed it, and the ravines would have afforded a lodgment
and shelter for the enemy. Dill's ravine on the left might also have proved an element of weakness, and though that flank
could not be turned, the peculiar advantage of position that aided the Union troops on the left so much on Sunday, would not
have existed on Monday--the field of action in front was a uniform wooded surface.
Nowhere in history is the profane idea that, in a fair field fight, Providence
is on the side of the strongest battalions, more uniformly sustained than in our Civil War. It presents no example of the
triumph of 15,000 or even 20,000 men against 25,000. It affords some such instances where the stronger force was surprised
by rapid and unexpected movements, and still others where it was directed with a want of skill against chosen positions strengthened
by the art of defense; but nowhere else. The weaker force is uniformly defeated or compelled to retire. In this case the missiles
of the assailant would have found a target in the battle-line of the defense, and in the transportation and masses of stragglers
crowded together about the landing. The height of the bluff would have rendered the gun-boats powerless; the example of Belmont
could only have been partially repeated, if at all; the bulk of the defeated force must have laid down its arms. There are
those who argue that General Grant's personal qualities were a guarantee for his triumph. That is a poor sort of logic, and
thousands of patriotic citizens, not unfriendly to General Grant, would draw back in alarm from the contemplation of any contingency
that would have deprived the Union cause of its superior numbers at more than one period of his career.
IN the usual extravagant newspaper dispatches from the field of battle, there
was a statement of charges led by General Grant and his staff, which were assumed to have decided the fate of the day on Monday,
or at least to have given a crowning touch to the victory. It would be a satire to reproduce that statement in its original
form at this time. Its adoption, however, by various books and sketches, and especially the reference to such an incident
by General Grant in his recent "Century" article, makes it properly an
object of inquiry. Such an act as leading a charge is a conspicuous incident rarely resorted to by the commander of an army.
General Grant in some former newspaper interview is made to assume that General Sidney Johnston lost his life under such circumstances,
from which he argues the failing fortune of the Confederate attack on Sunday. General Johnston's conduct in that affair is
described in the Confederate reports. It was an outburst of impatient valor not caused by any crisis in the battle, though
an attack by his troops at a certain point had been repulsed. He did not lose his life in the attack, and the most substantial
successes of the Confederates were achieved at a later hour. We likewise naturally look in the official reports for a circumstantial
account of the charge said to have been led by General Grant, for no colonel of a regiment is likely to overlook the honor
of having been led in a charge by the commander of the army.
In the report of Colonel Veatch of Hurlbut's division, there occurs the following
passage: "Maj. Gen. Grant now ordered me forward to charge the enemy. I formed my brigade in column of battalions, and moved
forward in double-quick through our deserted camps and to the thick woods beyond our lines in pursuit of the retreating enemy,
following until we were in advance of our other forces, and were ordered to fall back by General Buell." It is proper to remark
that I witnessed this movement. I was in advance on the line toward which it was made, and understand its bearing. It does
not answer the description of a charge led by General Grant, since he is not said to have been present in it.
In the report of General Rousseau occurs the following:
"When thus repulsed, the enemy fell back and his retreat began soon
after which I saw two regiments of Government troops advancing in double-quick time across the open fields in our front, and
saw that one of them was the 1st Ohio, which had been moved to our left to wait for ammunition. I galloped to the regiment
and ordered it to halt, as I had not ordered the movement, but was informed that it was advancing by order of General Grant,
whom I then saw in rear of the line with his staff. I ordered the regiment to advance with the other, which it did some two
or three hundred yards farther, when it was halted, and a fire was opened upon it from one of our camps, then occupied by
the enemy. The fire was instantly returned, and the enemy soon fled, after wounding eight men of the 1st Ohio."
There is in the official reports no other mention of such an occurrence. This
must have been the charge referred to, though it does not satisfy the description, since it appears that General Grant was
not taken into the enemy's fire; and there is nothing in it which fills the definition of a charge. The professional soldier
at least understands that the term implies something more serious than a movement of troops upon the field of battle, even
at a rapid pace, in the presence of an enemy. But putting out of the question all appropriate distinctions in the use of terms,
there was nothing in the occasion or in these simple movements which promised any advantage, or entitled them to the slightest
prominence. The enemy had retired from the last line, and was believed to be in retreat; but he had withdrawn in good order,
and it is known that he halted a half-mile beyond, fully prepared to repel a careless pursuit. The topographical feature of
larger fields and intervening woods, made the left and left-center of the battle-field more difficult for attack than the
ground about McClernand's camp, as was illustrated by the battle of the previous day. The antagonists, except when in immediate
contact, were kept at a greater distance apart, and were more screened from the observation of each other. The resistance,
quelled for the moment, would be renewed unexpectedly by reŽnforeements or on a new line with increased vigor, and did not
always allow the assailant to retain the advantage he had gained.
Nelson and Crittenden were working their way step by step over this difficult
ground, when the cheers of victory commenced on the right where the enemy could be better observed. It was my misfortune to
know nothing about the topography in front, and when at that moment the enemy on the left was found to be yielding readily
to our advance, it was my mistake to suppose that the retirement was more precipitate and disordered than proved to be the
case. On that supposition Nelson was ordered rapidly to the lower ford of Lick Creek, by which I supposed a part of the enemy
had advanced and would retreat, and was thus out of position for the state of the case as it turned out. The last attack of
Crittenden was made through thick woods, and his division had become a good deal scattered; but a brigade of Wood's division
came up just then and was pushed forward on the eastern Corinth road. It soon came upon and engaged the enemy's skirmishers,
and was attracting a flank fire from a battery a considerable distance off on the right. The orderly withdrawal of the enemy
was now discovered, and indicated that a single brigade unsupported would be insufficient for a pursuit. Wood's brigade was
therefore halted while its skirmishers occupied the enemy's cavalry, and orders were sent to McCook and Crittenden to form
on the new line. Just at that moment a feeble column was seen to the right and rear of Wood's brigade, moving in a direction
which would bring it into the flank fire of the enemy's artillery on the right. I therefore ordered it to be halted until
other dispositions were made; but, misapprehending the object of the order, or deeming perhaps that enough had been done for
one day, it withdrew altogether, and, like the rest of Grant's troops, retired to its camp. Following the same example, and
most probably with General Grant's authority, McCook's division had started to the river. Before these misconceptions could
be corrected, and my divisions got into position, night came on, and the time for a further forward movement passed for the
day. Indeed, while my troops were being called up, I received from General Grant, who had retired to the landing, the following
"HEADQUARTERS DIST. of W. TENN., PITTSBURG, April 7,1862. MAJOR-GENERAL
D. C. BUELL.
GEN.: When I left the field this evening, my intention was to occupy the most advanced position possible for
the night, with the infantry engaged through the day, and follow up our success with cavalry and fresh troops expected to
arrive daring my last absence on the field. The great fatigue of our men--they having been engaged in two days' fight, and
subject to a march yesterday and a fight to-day--would preclude the idea of making any advance tonight without the arrival
of the expected reŽnforeements. My plan, therefore, will be to feel out in the morning, with all the troops on the outer lines,
until our cavalry force can be organized (one regiment of your army will finish crossing soon), and a sufficient artillery
and infantry support to follow them are ready for a move. Under the instructions which I have previously received, and a dispatch
also of to-day from Major-General Halleck, it will not then do to advance beyond Pea Ridge, or some point which we can reach
and return in a day. General Halleck will probably be here himself to-morrow. Instructions have been sent to the division
commanders not included in your command, to be ready in the morning either to find if an enemy was in front, or to advance.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant;
U. S. GRANT, Major-General Commanding."
This letter implies the hypothesis expressed also in General Grant's dispatch
of the same evening to General Halleck, that the enemy might still be in our front with the intention of renewing the attack.
I make no comment on that point further than to contrast it with the later pretensions with which the battle has been reviewed
by General Grant and his friends. The idea is again indicated in his orders to his division commanders on the 8th:
"I have instructed Taylor's cavalry to push out the road toward Corinth
to ascertain if the enemy have retreated.... Should they be retreating, I want all the cavalry to follow them."
Something in the same vein, which I would by no means be understood as dwelling
upon censoriously, is seen in a dispatch of the next day to Halleck.
"I do not" [he says] "like to suggest, but it appears to me that
it would be demoralizing upon our troops here to be forced to retire upon the opposite bank of the river, and unsafe to remain
on this many weeks without large reŽnforeements."
The passage is chiefly noteworthy as showing that the fault of Shiloh was
not in an excess of rashness or contempt for the adversary, and that the lesson of the occasion had not yet pointed out a
means of security other than in reŽnforcements or retreat. The introduction of the evidence is not to be ascribed to any motive
of disparagement. It is entirely pertinent to the subject under consideration.
General Grant has recently admitted that a pursuit ought to have been made,
and vaguely intimates that somebody else than himself was responsible that it was not done. The reason given in his letter
to me is, of course, insufficient. General McCook may have told him that his men were hungry and tired; but if the order had
been issued, both McCook and his troops would cheerfully have shown how much tired and hungry soldiers can do when an emergency
demands it. If General Grant meant to imply that I was responsible that the pursuit was not made, I might perhaps answer that
it is always to be expected that the chief officer in command will determine the course to be pursued at such a juncture,
when he is immediately upon the ground; but I inwardly imposed upon myself the obligation of employing the army under my command
as though the whole duty of the occasion rested upon it. There was no doubt in my mind or hesitation in my conduct as to the
propriety of continuing the action, at least as long as the enemy was in our presence, as I considered him still to be; and
I make no attempt to excuse myself or blame others when I say that General Grant's troops, the lowest individual among them
not more than the commander himself, appear to have thought that the object of the battle was sufficiently accomplished when
they were reinstated in their camps; and that in some way that idea obstructed the reorganization of my line until a further
advance that day became impracticable.
MUCH harsh criticism has been passed upon General Lew Wallace for having failed
to reach the field in time to participate in the battle on Sunday. The naked fact is apt to be judged severely, and the reports
made a year afterward by General Grant's staff-officers--the report of Colonel Rawlins especially--are calculated to increase
the unfavorable impression. But some qualification of that evidence must be made, on account of the anxiety produced in the
minds of those officers by their peculiar connection with the exciting circumstances of the battle. The statement of Rawlins
is particularly to be received with reservation. They found Wallace on a different road from the one by which they expected
him, and assumed that he was wrongfully there. Rawlins pretends to give the words of a verbal order that would have taken
him to a different place. Wallace denies that version of the order, and the circumstances do not sustain it. He was on the
road to and not far from the upper ford of Owl Creek, which would have brought him on the right flank of the Federal line,
as it was in the morning, and as he presumed it still to be. It would have been at least an honest if not a reasonable interpretation
of the order, that took him to a point where the responsibility and danger were liable to be greatly increased. The impression
of Major Rowley, repeated more strongly by General Grant in his "Century" article,
that when found he was farther from the battle-field than when he started, the map shows to have been incorrect. The statement
of Rawlins, that he did not make a mile and a half an hour, is also not correct of the whole day's march. He actually marched
nearly 15 miles in six hours and a half. That is not particularly rapid marching, but it does not indicate any loitering.
At the same time it must be said that, under the circumstances, the manner in which the order was given to Wallace is liable
to unqualified disapproval, both as it concerned the public interest and the good name of the officer.
To these qualifying facts it must be added that a presumption of honest endeavor
is due to Wallace's character. He did good service at Donelson, and at Shiloh on the 7th, and on no other occasion have his
zeal and courage been impugned. The verdict must perhaps remain that his action did not respond to the emergency as it turned
out, but that might fall far short of a technical criminality, unless under a more austere standard of discipline than prevailed
at that, or indeed at any other period of the war. If he had moved energetically after McPherson and Rawlins arrived and informed
him of the urgency of the occasion, no just censure could be cast upon his conduct. The reports of those officers imply that
he did not do so; but McPherson, who was more likely to be correct, is least positive on that point. It would probably be
easy in any of the armies to point to similar examples of a lack of ardent effort which led to grave disappointment without
being challenged, and to many more that would have been attended with serious consequences if any emergency bad arisen. It
was a defect in the discipline which it was not possible at that time to remedy completely.
WHEN this article was urged upon me by the recent revival of the discussion,
I was advised by friends in whose judgment I have great confidence, to write an impersonal account of the battle. The
idea was perfectly in harmony with my disposition, but a moment's reflection showed me that it was impracticable. It would
ignore the characteristics which have made the battle of Shiloh the most famous, and to both sides the most interesting of
the war. The whole theme is full of personality. The battle might be called, almost properly, a personal one. It was ushered
in by faults that were personal, and the resistance that prolonged it until succor came was personal. This does not pretend
to be a history of it, but only a review of some of the prominent facts which determined its character and foreshadowed its
result. Even this fragmentary treatment of the subject would be incomplete without a revision of the roll of honor. The task
is not difficult, for the evidence is not meager or doubtful. It says of McClernand, that, crippled at the start by the rudeness
of the unexpected attack and the wreck of the division in his front, before he had time well to establish his line, he struggled
gallantly and long with varying fortune to keep back the columns of the enemy; and though he failed in that, he was still
able to present an organized nucleus which attracted the disrupted elements of other divisions: of Hurlbut, that he posted
the two brigades under his immediate command, not in the strongest manner at first, but with judgment to afford prompt shelter
to the defeated division of Prentiss, and maintained his front with some serious reverses to his left flank, for 7 hours and
until his left was turned, with a greater list of mortality than any other division sustained: of W. H. L. Wallace, that,
never dislodged, he sacrificed his life in a heroic effort with Prentiss to maintain his front between the enemy and the landing:
of Prentiss, that with the rawest troops in the army his vigilance gave the earliest warning of the magnitude of the danger,
and offered a resolute resistance to its approach; that, though overwhelmed and broken in advance, he rallied in effective
force on the line of Hurlbut and Wallace, and firmly held his ground until completely surrounded and overpowered: and of Sherman,
that he, too, strove bravely, but from an early hour with a feeble and ineffective force, to stay the tide of disaster for
which his shortcoming in the position of an advanced guard was largely responsible; but it discloses no fact to justify the
announcement of General Halleck that he "saved the fortune of the day on the 6th." On the contrary it shows, that, of all
the division commanders, not one was less entitled to that distinction. This will be a strange and may seem like a harsh utterance
to many readers, but it is the verdict of the record. The similar indorsement of General Grant a year later, that "he held
the key-point to the landing," is equally alien to the evidence, and still further without intelligent meaning. If the key-point
was any other than the landing itself, it was on the left where the attack was strongest and the resistance longest maintained.
Into the list of brave men in the inferior grades--captains and even lieutenants
who for the moment led the wrecks of regiments and brigades, and field-officers who represented brigades and divisions, and
who poured out their lives on the field or survived its carnage--I cannot here pretend to enter, though it is a most interesting
chapter in the battle.
And of Grant himself--is nothing to be said? The record is silent and tradition
adverse to any marked influence that he exerted upon the fortune of the day. The contemporaneous and subsequent newspaper
accounts of personal adventure are alike destitute of authenticity and dignity. If he could have done anything in the beginning,
he was not on the ground in time. The determining act in the drama was completed by 10 o'clock. From Sherman's report and
later reminiscences we learn that he was with that officer about that hour, and again, it would seem, at 3 and 5 o'clock,
and he was with Prentiss between 10 and 11; but he is not seen anywhere else in front. We read of some indefinite or unimportant
directions given without effect to straggling bodies of troops in rear. That is all. But he was one of the many there who
would have resisted while resistance could avail. That is all that can be said, but it is an honorable record.
AIRDRIE, Kentucky, June, 1885.
Reading: Shiloh and the Western Campaign
of 1862. Review: The bloody and decisive two-day
battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) changed the entire course of the American Civil War. The
stunning Northern victory thrust Union commander Ulysses S. Grant into the national spotlight, claimed the life of Confederate
commander Albert S. Johnston, and forever buried the notion that the Civil War would be a short conflict. The conflagration
at Shiloh had its roots in the strong Union advance during the winter of 1861-1862 that resulted in the capture of Forts Henry
and Donelson in Tennessee. Continued below…
The offensive collapsed General Albert S. Johnston advanced line in Kentucky and forced him to withdraw all
the way to northern Mississippi. Anxious to attack the enemy,
Johnston began concentrating Southern forces at Corinth, a major
railroad center just below the Tennessee border. His bold
plan called for his Army of the Mississippi to march north and destroy General Grant's Army
of the Tennessee before it could link up with another Union
army on the way to join him. On the morning of April 6, Johnston boasted to his subordinates,
"Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee!" They
nearly did so. Johnston's sweeping attack hit the unsuspecting Federal camps at Pittsburg Landing
and routed the enemy from position after position as they fell back toward the Tennessee River.
Johnston's sudden death in the Peach Orchard, however, coupled
with stubborn Federal resistance, widespread confusion, and Grant's dogged determination to hold the field, saved the Union
army from destruction. The arrival of General Don C. Buell's reinforcements that night turned the tide of battle. The next
day, Grant seized the initiative and attacked the Confederates, driving them from the field. Shiloh
was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, with nearly 24,000 men killed, wounded, and missing. Edward Cunningham,
a young Ph.D. candidate studying under the legendary T. Harry Williams at Louisiana
State University, researched and wrote Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 in 1966. Although it remained unpublished, many Shiloh
experts and park rangers consider it to be the best overall examination of the battle ever written. Indeed, Shiloh
historiography is just now catching up with Cunningham, who was decades ahead of modern scholarship. Western Civil War historians
Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith have resurrected Cunningham's beautifully written and deeply researched manuscript from
its undeserved obscurity. Fully edited and richly annotated with updated citations and observations, original maps, and a
complete order of battle and table of losses, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 will
be welcomed by everyone who enjoys battle history at its finest. Edward Cunningham, Ph.D., studied under T. Harry Williams
at Louisiana State
University. He was the author of The Port Hudson Campaign: 1862-1863
(LSU, 1963). Dr. Cunningham died in 1997. Gary D. Joiner, Ph.D. is the author of One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The
Red River Campaign of 1864, winner of the 2004 Albert Castel Award and the 2005 A. M. Pate, Jr., Award, and Through the Howling
Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West. He lives in Shreveport,
Louisiana. About the Author: Timothy B. Smith, Ph.D., is author of Champion Hill:
Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (winner of the 2004 Mississippi
Institute of Arts and Letters Non-fiction Award), The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield, and This Great
Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park. A former ranger at Shiloh,
Tim teaches history at the University of Tennessee.
Recommended Reading: Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil
War (Simon & Schuster). From Publishers Weekly: The bloodbath at Shiloh, Tenn. (April 6-7, 1862), brought
an end to any remaining innocence in the Civil War. The combined 23,000 casualties that the two armies inflicted on each other
in two days shocked North and South alike. Ulysses S. Grant kept his head and managed, with reinforcements, to win a hard-fought
victory. Continued below…
general Albert Sidney Johnston was wounded and bled to death, leaving P.G.T. Beauregard to disengage and retreat with a dispirited
gray-clad army. Daniel (Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee) has crafted a superbly researched volume that will appeal to
both the beginning Civil War reader as well as those already familiar with the course of fighting in the wooded terrain bordering
the Tennessee River.
His impressive research includes the judicious use of contemporary newspapers and extensive collections of unpublished letters
and diaries. He offers a lengthy discussion of the overall strategic situation that preceded the battle, a survey of the generals
and their armies and, within the notes, sharp analyses of the many controversies that Shiloh
has spawned, including assessments of previous scholarship on the battle. This first new book on Shiloh
in a generation concludes with a cogent chapter on the consequences of those two fatal days of conflict.
Recommended Reading: Shiloh--In Hell before Night. Description: James McDonough has written a good, readable and concise history of a battle that the author
characterizes as one of the most important of the Civil War, and writes an interesting history of this decisive 1862 confrontation
in the West. He blends first person and newspaper accounts to give the book a good balance between the general's view and
the soldier's view of the battle. Continued below…
Particularly enlightening is his description of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander
who was killed on the first day of the battle. McDonough makes a pretty convincing argument that Johnston
fell far short of the image that many give him in contemporary and historical writings. He is usually portrayed as an experienced
and decisive commander of men. This book shows that Johnston
was a man of modest war and command experience, and that he rose to prominence shortly before the Civil War. His actions (or
inaction) prior to the meeting at Shiloh -- offering to let his subordinate Beauregard take command for example -- reveal
a man who had difficulty managing the responsibility fostered on him by his command. The author does a good job of presenting
several other historical questions and problems like Johnston's
reputation vs. reality that really add a lot of interest to the pages.
Recommended Reading: Seeing
the Elephant: RAW RECRUITS AT THE BATTLE OF SHILOH. Description: One of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War, the
two-day engagement near Shiloh, Tennessee,
in April 1862 left more than 23,000 casualties. Fighting alongside seasoned veterans were more than 160 newly recruited regiments
and other soldiers who had yet to encounter serious action. In the phrase of the time, these men came to Shiloh
to "see the elephant". Continued below…
the letters, diaries, and other reminiscences of these raw recruits on both sides of the conflict, "Seeing the Elephant" gives
a vivid and valuable primary account of the terrible struggle. From the wide range of voices included in this volume emerges
a nuanced picture of the psychology and motivations of the novice soldiers and the ways in which their attitudes toward the
war were affected by their experiences at Shiloh.
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.