Battle of Shiloh General Albert Sidney Johnston Killed Details Mortally Wounded Battlefield
Death Highest Ranking Confederate Officer Killed Civil War Name Location Facts Confederacy A S Johnston Army
Albert Sidney Johnston At Shiloh*
by Colonel William Preston Johnson
Battles And Leaders Of The Civil War
Written By Leading Participants
Originally Published in 1884-1887
the angry political strife which preceded the contest of arms, General Albert Sidney Johnston remained silent, stern, and sorrowful. He determined to stand at his post in
performing his full duty as an officer of the United States,
until events should require a decision as to his course. When Texas--his adopted State--passed
the ordinance of secession from the Union, the alternative was presented, and, on the day
he heard the news, he resigned his commission in the army. He kept the fact concealed, however, lest it might stir up disaffection
among the turbulent population of the Pacific Coast. He said, "I shall do my duty to the last, and, when absolved, shall take my course."
All honest and competent witnesses now accord that he carried out this purpose in letter and spirit. General Sumner, who relieved
him, reported that he found him "carrying out the orders of the Government."
Lincoln's Administration treated General Johnston with a distrust which wounded his pride to the quick, but afterward made
such amends as it could, by sending him a major-general's commission. He was also assured through confidential sources that
he would receive the highest command in the Federal army. But he declined to take part against his own people, and retired
to Los Angeles with the intention of farming. There he was
subjected to an irritating surveillance; while at the same time there came across mountain and desert the voice of the Southern
people calling to him for help in their extremity. His heart and intellect both recognized their claim upon his services, and he
obeyed. At this time he wrote, "No one could feel more sensibly the calamitous condition of our country than myself, and whatever
part I may take hereafter, it will always be a subject of gratulation with me that no act of mine ever contributed to bring
it about. I suppose the difficulties now will only be adjusted by the sword. In my humble judgment, that was not the remedy."
he arrived in the new Confederacy, his coming was welcomed with a spontaneous outburst of popular enthusiasm, and deputations
from the West preceded him to Richmond, entreating his assignment
to that department. President Davis said that he regarded his coming as of more worth than the accession of an army of ten
thousand men; and on the 10th of September, 1861, he was intrusted with the defense of that part of the Confederate States
which lay west of the Alleghany Mountains, except the Gulf Coast (Bragg having control of the coast of West Florida and Alabama,
and Mansfield Lovell of the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana). His command was imperial in extent, and his powers and discretion
as large as the theory of the Confederate Government permitted. He lacked nothing except men, munitions of war, and the means
of obtaining them. He had the right to ask for anything, and the State Executives had the power to withhold everything.
Mississippi River divided his department into two distinct theaters of war. West of the river,
Frťmont held Missouri with a force of from 60,000 to 80,000 Federals, confronted by Price and McCulloch in the extreme south-west
corner of the State with 6000 men, and by Hardee, in north-eastern Arkansas, with about as many raw recruits down with camp
diseases and unable to move. East of the Mississippi, the northern boundary of Tennessee was barely in his possession, and was held under sufferance
from an enemy who, for various reasons, hesitated to advance. The Mississippi
opened the way to a ruinous naval invasion unless it could be defended and held. Grant was at Cairo
and Paducah with 20,000 men; and Polk, to oppose his invasion, had seized Columbus, Ky., with about 11,000 Confederates, and had fortified
it. Tennessee was twice divided: first by the Tennessee River, and then by the Cumberland, both of which invited the advance of a hostile force. Some
small pretense of fortifications had been made on both rivers at Forts Henry and Donelson, near the boundary line, but practically
there was nothing to prevent the Federal army from capturing Nashville,
then the most important depot of supplies west of the Alleghanies. Hence the immediate and pressing question for General Johnston
was the defense of the Tennessee border. The mock neutrality
of Kentucky, which had served as a paper barrier, was terminated,
on the 13th of September, by a formal defiance from the Union Legislature of Kentucky. The United States Government had about
34,000 volunteers and about 6000 Kentucky Home Guards assembled in the State under General Robert Anderson, of Fort Sumter fame,
who had with him such enterprising corps commanders as Sherman, Thomas, and Nelson.
Confederacy had some four thousand ill-armed and ill-equipped troops at Cumberland Gap under General Zollicoffer, guarding
the only line of railroad communication between Virginia and Tennessee,
and overawing the Union population of East Tennessee. This hostile section penetrated the
heart of the Confederacy like a wedge and flanked and weakened General Johnston's line of defense, requiring, as it did, constant
vigilance and repression.
Zollicoffer's force, General Johnston found only 4000 men available to protect his whole line against 40,000 Federal troops.
There were, it is true, some four thousand more raw recruits in camps of instruction, but they were sick and not half armed.
Of course he might have abandoned the Mississippi River to Grant and brought Polk to his
aid, but he had no thought of that; that would have been all which the Federals could have asked. The boldest policy seemed
to him the best, and he resolved on a daring step. On September 17th he threw forward his whole force of four thousand men
under Buckner by rail into Kentucky and seized Bowling
Green. It was a mere skirmish line to mask his own weakness. But if he could maintain it, even temporarily,
it gave him immense strategic and political advantages, and, most of all, time to collect or create an army. And then (I hold
in spite of some dilettante criticism) it gave him a formidable line, with Cumberland Gap and Columbus
as the extremities and Bowling Green as the salient.
result more than answered his expectations. Buckner's advance produced the wildest consternation in the Federal lines. Even
Sherman, writing thirteen years later, speaks of a picket which burned a bridge thirty miles
from Louisville as a "division." As late as November 10th,
1861, he said: "If Johnston chooses, he could march into Louisville
any day." The effect of the movement was for a time to paralyze the Federal army and put it on the defensive.
Johnston had made the opportunity required by the South, if it meant seriously to maintain its independence. He had secured
time for preparation; but it neglected the chance, and never recovered it. He at once strongly fortified Bowling Green, and used every measure to stir up and rally the Kentuckians to his standard.
He brought Hardee with four thousand men from Arkansas,
and kept his little force in such constant motion as to produce the impression of a large army menacing an attack. Even before
Buckner advanced, General Johnston had sent to the Southern governors an appeal for arms and a call for fifty thousand men.
Harris of Tennessee alone responded heartily, and the Government at Richmond
seemed unable to reŽnforce him or to arm the troops he had. Many difficulties embarrassed it, and not half his men were armed
that winter; while up to the middle of November he received only three now regiments. General Johnston realized the magnitude
of the struggle, but the people of the South only awoke to it when it was too late. Calamity then stirred them to an ineffectual
resistance, the heroism of which removed the reproach of their early vainglory and apathy. General Johnston never was able
to assemble more than 22,000 men at Bowling Green, to confront
the 100,000 troops opposed to him on that line.
only battle of note that occurred that fall was at Belmont, opposite Columbus, in which Polk scored a victory over Grant. General Johnston wrote as follows to
the Secretary of War, on Christmas Day, from Bowling Green: "The position of General Zollicoffer on the Cumberland holds in
check the meditated invasion and hoped-for revolt in East Tennessee; but I can neither order Zollicoffer to join me here nor
withdraw any more force from Columbus without imperiling our communications toward Richmond or endangering Tennessee and the
Mississippi Valley. This I have resolved not to do, but have chosen, on the contrary, to post my inadequate force in such
a manner as to hold the enemy in check, guard the frontier, and hold the Barren [River] till the winter terminates the campaign;
or, if any fault in his movements is committed, or his lines become exposed when his force is developed, to attack him as
opportunity offers." This sums the situation.
January, 1862, General Johnston found himself confronted by Halleck in the West, and by Buell, who had succeeded Sherman, in Kentucky. With the exception
of the army under Curtis in Missouri, about twelve thousand strong, the whole resources of
the North-west, from Pennsylvania to the plains, were turned against General Johnston's lines
in Kentucky. Halleck, with armies at Cairo
and Paducah, under Grant and C. F. Smith, threatened equally Columbus,
the key of the Mississippi River, and the water-lines of the Cumberland and Tennessee, with their defenses, at Forts Donelson and Henry. Buell's right wing also menaced
Donelson and Henry, while his center was directed against Bowling Green, and his left was advancing
against Zollicoffer at Mill Springs, on the Upper Cumberland. If this last-named position
could be forced, the way seemed open to East Tennessee on the one hand, and to Nashville
on the other.
campaign opened with the defeat of the Confederates under Crittenden and Zollicoffer, January 19th, 1862, by General Thomas,
at Mill Springs, or Fishing Creek. The fighting was forced by the Confederates, but the whole affair was in disregard of General
Johnston's orders. The loss was not severe, but it ended in a rout which left General Johnston's right flank exposed.
has been much discussion as to who originated the movement up the Tennessee River. Grant
made it, and it made Grant. It was obvious enough to all the leaders on both sides. General Johnston wrote, January 22d:
with the facilities of movement by water which the well-filled rivers of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee give for active
operations, that they will suspend them in Tennessee and Kentucky during the winter months is a delusion. All the resources
of the Confederacy are now needed for the defense of Tennessee."
efforts were made to guard against it, but the popular fatuity and apathy prevented adequate preparations. General Polk says
in a report, "The principal difficulty in the way of a successful defense of the rivers in question was the want of an adequate
force." It was only one of a number of possible and equally fatal movements, which could not have been properly met and resisted
except by a larger force than was to be had. General Johnston could not reduce the force at Columbus
without imperiling the Mississippi River, and this was not even debatable. Nor could he hazard
the loss of Nashville, if it could be saved. He was compelled,
therefore, to take the risk at Forts Henry and Donelson. The thrust was made at Henry, and it fell.
soon as General Johnston learned of the movement against Fort Henry
he resolved to fall back to the line of the Cumberland, and make the defense of Nashville at Donelson. Buell was in his front with 90,000 men, and to save Nashville--Buell's objective point--he had to fall back upon it with part of his army. He
kept for this purpose 14,000 men, including his sick,--only 8500 effectives in all,--to confront Buell's 90,000 men, and concentrated
at Fort Donelson 17,000 men under Floyd, Pillow, and Buckner, his three most experienced generals, to meet Grant, who had
28,000 troops, but was reported as having only 12,000. He certainly reserved for himself the more difficult task, the place
of greater hazard, leaving the chance of glory to others. The proposition that he should have left Nashville open to capture
by Buell, and should have taken all his troops to Donelson, could not have been seriously considered by any general of even
moderate military capacity. General Beauregard alleges that he urged General Johnston to concentrate all his available forces
and attack Grant at Fort Henry.
Conclusive contemporary evidence demonstrates that General Beauregard's memory is at fault. But, this aside, no more fatal
plan of campaign could have been proposed. Such a concentration was impracticable within the limits of the time required for
success. The Confederates would have been met by a superior force under General Grant, whose position, flanked by the batteries
of Fort Henry,
covered by gun-boats, and to be approached only over causeways not then constructed, was absolutely impregnable. It requires
an utter disregard of facts seriously to consider such a project. Moreover, this movement would have been an abandonment to
Buell of Nashville, the objective point of the Federal campaign. And, finally, this desperate project, commended by General
Beauregard, was exactly what the Union generals were striving, hoping, planning, to compel General Johnston to do. The answer
to any criticism as to the loss of the army at Donelson is that it ought not to have been lost. That is all there is
midnight of February 15th-16th General Johnston received a telegram announcing a great victory at Donelson, and before daylight
information that it would be surrendered. His last troops were then arriving at Nashville from
Bowling Green. His first words were: "I must save this army."
He at once determined to abandon the line of the Cumberland, and concentrate all available
forces at Corinth, Mississippi,
for a renewed struggle. He had indicated this movement as a probable event to several distinguished officers some time previous;
it was now to be carried into effect. He had remaining only his little army from Bowling
Green, together with the fragments of Crittenden's army, and the fugitives from Donelson. These he
reorganized at Murfreesboro' within a week. He saved the most
of his valuable stores and munitions, which fully absorbed his railroad transportation to Stevenson,
Alabama, and moved his men over the mud roads to Corinth,
Mississippi, by way of Decatur,
in a wet and stormy season. Nevertheless, he assembled his army of 23,000--about 16,000 effectives--at Corinth, on the 25th day of March, full of enthusiasm and the spirit of combat. In the meantime
the Confederate Government lent him all the aid in its power, reŽnforcing him with an army ten thousand strong, from the Southern
coast, under General Braxton Bragg, who had been in command at Pensacola, and with such arms as could be procured.
Beauregard has claimed that he raised, concentrated, and organized the army which fought at Shiloh; that he persuaded General
Johnston to turn aside from a retreat toward Stevenson and join him at Corinth, and substituted an offensive campaign for
a defensive one projected by General Johnston; and that he likewise planned the battle of Shiloh, induced General Johnston
to fight it, and executed all the general movements on the field, and that General Johnston was merely the ostensible commander.
I have elsewhere fully confuted each of these absurd pretenses; and as this rapid survey is historical, not controversial,
the space at my disposal does not permit me to argue here the points involved; I shall, therefore, merely state the facts,
which rest upon unimpeachable contemporary evidence. The final verdict I am satisfied to leave to the soldiers of both armies
who fought there, to the careful analysis of impartial military criticism, or to the ultimate arbitrament of history.
the capture of Fort Henry separated Tennessee into two distinct theaters of war, General Johnston assigned the district west of the Tennessee River to General Beauregard, who had been sent to him for duty. This officer had suddenly
acquired a high reputation at the battle of Bun Run, and General Johnston naturally intrusted him with a large discretion.
He sent him with instructions to concentrate all available forces near Corinth,
a movement previously begun. His own plan was to defend Columbus
to the last extremity with a reduced garrison, and withdraw Polk and his army for active movements. Beauregard made the mistake,
however, of evacuating Columbus, and making his defense of the Mississippi
River at Island Number Ten, which proved untenable and soon surrendered with a garrison of 6000 or 7000 men. He
was ill most of the time and intrusted the actual command to Bragg, but did what he could from his sick-bed.
the reŽnforcements brought by Bragg, General Beauregard found in the western district 17,500 effectives under Polk, and at
or near Corinth 3000 men under Pope Walker and Chalmers, and 5000 under Ruggles sent from Louisiana by Lovell. He made eloquent
appeals, which brought him several regiments more. Thus he had nearly 40,000 men collected for him, 10,000 of whom he disposed
in river defenses, and the remainder to protect the railroads from Grant's force which was concentrating at Pittsburg Landing.
General Johnston's arrival increased the force at Corinth
to about 50,000 men, about 40,000 of whom were effectives.
the surrender at Donelson, the South, but especially the important State of Tennessee,
was in a delirium of rage and terror. As the retreat from Nashville to the Tennessee
River went on, the popular fury rose to a storm everywhere. The people who had refused to listen to his warnings,
or answer his appeals for aid, now denounced General Johnston as an idiot, coward, and traitor. Demagogues joined in the wild
hunt for a victim, and deputations waited on President Davis to demand his removal. To such a committee of congressmen he
replied: "If Sidney Johnston is not a general, I have none." General Johnston was too calm, too just, and too magnanimous
to misapprehend so natural a manifestation. His whole life had been a training for this occasion. To encounter suddenly and
endure calmly the obloquy of a whole nation is, to any man, a great burden. To do this with a serenity that shall not only
not falter in duty, but restore confidence and organize victory, is conclusive proof of greatness of soul.
while the storm of execration raged around him, the men who came into immediate contact with General Johnston never for a
moment doubted his ability to perform all that was possible to man in the circumstances. To a friend who urged him to publish
an explanation of his course he replied: "I cannot correspond with the people. What the people want is a battle and a victory.
That is the best explanation I can make. I require no vindication. I trust that to the future." General Johnston's plan of campaign may be summed up in a phrase. It was to
concentrate at Corinth and interpose his whole force in front of the great bend of the Tennessee, the natural base of the Federal army: this effected, to
crush Grant in battle before the arrival of Buell. This meant immediate and decisive action. The army he had brought from
Nashville was ready for the contest, but Generals Beauregard
and Bragg represented to him that the troops collected by them were unable to move without thorough reorganization. Ten days
were consumed in this work of reorganization. Moments were precious, but there was the hope of reŽnforcement by Van Dorn's
army, which might arrive before Buell joined Grant, and which did arrive only a day or two later. But Buell's movements were
closely watched, and, hearing of his approach on the 2d of April, General Johnston resolved to delay no longer, but to strike
at once a decisive blow.
the reorganization of the army, he assigned General Bragg as chief of staff, with command of a corps. To Beauregard he tendered
the immediate command of the army in the impending battle. Though General Beauregard declined the offer, he evidently misinterpreted
its spirit and intention. He imagined it was a confession of inadequacy for the duty, in which case he ought to have accepted
it. The truth was that, coming into this district which he had assigned to Beauregard, Johnston
felt disinclined to deprive him of any reputation he might acquire from a victory. He had not the slightest idea, however,
of abdicating the supreme command, and said to friends who remonstrated with him: "I will be there to see that all goes right."
He was willing to yield to another the glory, if thereby anything was added to the chance of victory. The offer was rather
quixotic, but characteristic; he had done the same thing in his victories on the Neches in
1840. He then gave General Beauregard the position of second in command, without special assignment. Indeed, as is shown by
his own frequent statements, General Beauregard was, from severe and protracted ill-health, inadequate to any more serious
Grant's army had been moved up the Tennessee River by boat, and had taken position on its
left bank at Pittsburg Landing. It had been landed by divisions, and Bragg had proposed to Beauregard to attack Grant before
he assembled his whole force. Beauregard forbade this, intending to await events, and attack him away from his base if possible,
though he now insists that his plan of campaign was offensive. Grant's first object was to destroy the railroads which centered
at Corinth, and, indeed, to capture that place if he could.
But his advance was only a part of a grand plan for a combined movement of his own and Buell's army. With Pittsburg Landing
as a base, this army was to occupy North Mississippi and Alabama, command the entire railroad
system of that section, and take Memphis in the rear, while Halleck forced his way down the
Mississippi River. General Johnston divined the movement before it was begun, and was there
to frustrate it. Indeed, Grant's army was assembled at Pittsburg Landing only one week before Johnston completed the concentration.
has been severely criticised for placing his army with the river at its back. But he was there to take the initiative. He
had the larger army, under cover, too, of his gun-boats; he was expecting Buell daily; and the ground was admirable for defense.
Indeed, his position was a natural stronghold. Flanked by Owl and Lick creeks, with their marshy margins, and with his front
protected by a swampy valley, he occupied a quadrilateral of great strength. His troops were stationed on wooded heights,
generally screened by heavy undergrowth and approached across boggy ravines or open fields. Each camp was a fortress in itself,
and the line of retreat afforded, at each step some like point to rally on. He did not fortify his camps, it is true; but
he was not there for defense, but for attack. It must be admitted that he undervalued his enemy's daring and celerity; but
he was a young general, exultant in his overwhelming victory at Donelson; and his generals and army shared his sense of security.
He had an army of 58,000 men in camp, nearly 50,000 of whom were effectives. Buell was near at hand with 37,000 more, and
Mitchel was moving against the railroad at Florence, Alabama,
not far distant, with an additional force of 18,000. In all Grant had 105,000 effectives. Opposed to him were 50,000 Confederate
troops, less than 40,000 of whom were available for combat. General Johnston's aggregate was 60,000 men, opposed to about
200,000 Federals in all, but the effective forces were as above. As these figures are disputed I invite a rigid examination
of the Official Records.
was the position on April 2d, when General Johnston, learning that Buell was rapidly approaching, resolved to advance next
day and attack Grant before his arrival. His general plan was very simple in outline. It seems to have been to march out and
attack the Federals, by columns of corps, to make the battle a decisive test, and to crush Grant utterly or lose all in the
attempt; this effected, to contend with Buell for the possession of Tennessee, Kentucky, and possibly the Northwest.
Beauregard also, it seems, had a plan, which, however, must have differed widely from that of General Johnston, as it was
evidently tentative in its nature,--"a reconnoissance in force," with a retreat on Corinth as one of its features,--and which
admitted the possibility of finishing on Monday a battle which had to be won on Sunday or never. This was not in any sense
General Johnston's plan, and much useless discussion has arisen from a confusion of the two. But, as General Johnston intended
to fight, and did fight, on his own plan as long as he lived, the battle may be considered his until Beauregard's order of
retreat, about 5 o'clock Sunday evening, substituted "the reconnoissance in force" in place of the decisive test of victory
Beauregard had been on the ground some six weeks, and his prestige as an engineer and a victor of Bull
Run warranted General Johnston in committing to him the elaboration of the details of the march and order of battle.
Unfortunately he changed what seems evidently General Johnston's original purpose of an assault by columns of corps into an
array in three parallel lines of battle, which produced extreme confusion when the second and third lines advanced to support
the first and intermingled with it. Johnston's original plan
is summed up in the following dispatch to President Davis:
"CORINTH, April 3d, 1862. General Buell in motion thirty thousand strong,
rapidly from Columbia by Clifton to Savannah. Mitchel behind him with ten thousand. Confederate forces--forty thousand--ordered
forward to offer battle near Pittsburg. Division from Bethel, main body from Corinth, reserve from Burnsville,
converging to-morrow near Monterey on Pittsburg.
Beauregard second in command, Polk the left, Bragg the center, Hardee the right wing, Breckinridge the reserve. Hope engagement
before Buell can form junction."
the original dispatch, the words italicised are in General Johnston's
own handwriting. The words, "the left," "the center," "the right wing," "the reserve," clearly point to a formation by columns
of corps. Moreover, owing to ignorance of the country, the march was so ordered that the corps interfered with each other
in their advance, and by a detention the battle was delayed an entire day, an almost fatal loss of time.
it be asked why General Johnston accepted and issued an order of march and battle which he had not contemplated, the reply
is that it had been prepared by his second in command, who was presumably more familiar with the country and the roads than
himself, and hence with the necessities of the case. But the overruling reason was the question of time. Buell was at hand,
and Johnston's plan was not to manoeuvre, but to attack; and
any plan which put him front to front with Grant was better than the best two days later. Besides, the written orders were
not shown him until the morning of the 4th, after he had mounted to start to the front, and when his advance was near its
position on the field. It was then obviously too late to apply a remedy.
Johnston did not undervalue the importance of details. No man regarded more closely all the details subsidiary to a great
result than he. But, important as were the preliminaries,--the maps, the roads, the methods of putting his army face to face
with the enemy, which General Johnston had to take on trust,--he knew that the chief strategy of the battle was in
the decision to fight. Once in the presence of the enemy, he knew that the result would depend on the way in which his
troops were handled. This was his part of the work, and he felt full confidence in his own ability to carry it out successfully.
The order was issued, as elaborated by Beauregard, and the army was moved against the enemy, April 3d, 1862. Said General
of that plan, arranged after General Sidney Johnston decided on delivering battle, and had given his instructions, were made
up and published to the army in full from the adjutant-general's office. My first knowledge of them was derived from this
general order, the authorship of which has been claimed by General Beauregard. ... In this case, as I understood then, and
still believe, Johnston gave verbal instructions for the general
movement.... Over his [Colonel Jordan, the adjutant-generals] signature, they reached the army. The general plan (General
Johnston's) was admirable - the elaboration simply execrable.
"When the time arrived for execution, you know well what occurred. In spite of
opposition and prediction of failure, Johnston firmly and
decidedly ordered and led the attack in the execution of his general plan, and, notwithstanding the faulty arrangement of
troops, was eminently successful up to the moment of his fall. The victory was won. How it was lost, the official reports
will show, and history has recorded." [Bragg to W. P. Johnston, December 16th, 1874.]
President of the Confederate States has repeatedly and positively asserted that he received from General Johnston a dispatch
which gave the plan of battle, exactly as it was fought, and that this dispatch was not that of April 3d already quoted, but
was lost. General Beauregard and his staff-officer, Colonel Jordan, have taken issue with Mr. Davis on this point, vehemently
insisting that no such dispatch was, or could have been, sent. Their denial rests merely upon a priori objections to
the probability of Mr. Davis's assertion. On the other hand, Mr. Davis's clear and positive statement made many years ago,
and often repeated since, is confirmed by contemporary documentary evidence. On April 5th he sent a telegram to General Johnston,
in which he acknowledges his telegram of "yesterday," April 4th. This telegram of "yesterday" was plainly the "lost dispatch,"
for "yesterday" was April 4th, not April 3d. If, as I have sought to show, important changes had occurred in the plan of battle,
nothing could be more natural and proper for the commanding general than instantly to inform his friend and commander-in-chief;
and even if no change had occurred, still it would have been right for him to keep his chief fully advised of the progress
of the movement. I have always said that General Johnston's original plan was probably to attack by columns of corps, as indicated
in his telegram of April 3d. Special Orders, No. 8 directed an attack in three lines parallel to the enemy's front. Jordan tells us General Johnston did not see these orders
as published until the morning of the 4th. What more natural than that he should then communicate the changes made, and add
his purpose to turn the enemy's left, not mentioned in the telegram of April 3d. A curious corroboration, hitherto unobserved,
occurs in Mr. Davis's telegram of April 5th, that it was in reply to a lost dispatch. On April 2d General Beauregard wrote
to General Johnston, saying that he had telegraphed to the War Department for generals, and adding, "Would it not be well
for you to telegraph also for the generals you may require?" We have no record of any such request made upon this suggestion,
but Mr. Davis, in his telegram of April 5th, says: "Brigadiers have been recently appointed; among them, Bowen. Do you require
others?" This seems to be a response to a request; Bowen was commanding a brigade in General Johnston's army. But as there
was no request in General Johnston's telegram of April 3d, it is reasonable to suppose that it was contained in one of the
4th, which has been lost. But I am giving an importance to this question which it would not merit except for the prominence
given it in the pages of "The Century Magazine." Whether sent or not, it is entirely irrelevant to the main issue. Its whole
importance consists in showing, not who made the plan of battle, but that the plan having been given to his subordinates,
General Johnston, so long as he lived, held them to the steady and successful execution of it. When General Beauregard succeeded
to the command he abandoned the vital principle of that plan, which was to push the contest to a final decision that day,
and took a course of his own, not embraced or contemplated in General Johnston's
designs--a policy of withdrawal and delay which led to defeat instead of victory.
Johnston gave orders about 1 o'clock on the night of Wednesday, the 2d of April, for the advance. But much time was spent
in their elaboration, and the troops did not receive them from the adjutant-general's office until the next afternoon. When
the soldiers learned that they were going out to fight, their long-restrained ardor burst into a blaze of enthusiasm, and
they did all that was possible for inexperienced troops in both marching and fighting. Some of the arms were not distributed
till that afternoon. With hasty preparations the movement began, and Hardee's corps was at Mickey's, within four or five miles
of Pittsburg, next morning. But some of the troops did not
move until the morning of Saturday, the 5th, owing to a still further delay in the delivery of orders by the adjutant-general's
office, and all were impeded by the heavy condition of the roads, through a dense forest, and across sloughs and marshes.
order was to attack at 3 o'clock on the morning of Saturday, the 5th; but the troops were not in position until late that
afternoon. All day Friday the advancing columns had pushed on over the tangled, miry roads, hindered and embarrassed by a
pelting rain. After midnight a violent storm broke upon them as they stood under arms in the pitch darkness, with no shelter
but the trees. From detention by the rain, ignorance of the roads, and a confusion produced by the order of march, some divisions
failed to get into line, and the day was wasted.
they were waiting the disposition of troops late Saturday afternoon, a council of war occurred, in which Johnston, Beauregard,
Bragg, Polk, Breckinridge and Gilmer took part, which added greatly to General Johnston's responsibilities, and the heavy
burden he had already incurred by his experiment of concentration, and his resolve to fight a pitched battle. The Confederate
army was in full battle array, within two miles of Shiloh Church
and Grant's line, when General Beauregard suddenly proposed that the army should be withdrawn and retreat to Corinth. He maintained that the delay and noise must have given the enemy notice, and that
they would be found intrenched "to their eyes" and ready for attack. General Johnston seemed to be much surprised at the suggestion.
Polk and Bragg differed with Beauregard, and a warm discussion ensued between him and Polk, in which General Johnston took
little part, but closed it with the simple remark, "Gentlemen, we shall attack at daylight to-morrow," which he uttered with
great decision. Turning to one of his staff-officers, he said, "I would fight them if they were a million. They can present
no greater front between these two creeks than we can, and the more men they crowd in there, the worse we can make it for
them. Polk is a true soldier and a friend."
Bragg, in a monograph prepared for the use of the writer, says: "The meeting then dispersed upon an invitation of the commanding
general to meet at his tent that evening. At that meeting a further discussion elicited the same views, and the same firm,
decided determination. The next morning, about dawn of day, the 6th, as the troops were being put in motion, several generals
again met at the camp-fire of the general-in-chief. The discussion was renewed, General Beauregard again, expressing his dissent,
when, rapid firing in front indicating that the attack had commenced, General Johnston closed the discussion by remarking,
'The battle has opened, gentlemen; it is too late to change our dispositions.' He proposed to move to the front, and his subordinates
promptly joined their respective commands, inspired by his coolness, confidence, and determination. Few men have equaled him
in the possession and display at the proper time of these great qualities of the soldier."
will readily be seen how much General Beauregard's urgent opposition to fighting must have added to the weight of General
Johnston's responsibility. Beauregard was in the full tide of popular favor, while Johnston
was laboring under the load of public obloquy and odium. Nothing short of complete and overwhelming victory would vindicate
him in differing with so famous a general. A reverse, even a merely partial success, would leave him under condemnation. Nevertheless,
without a moment's hesitation, he resolved to fight.
sun set on Saturday evening in a cloudless sky, and night fell calm, clear, and beautiful. Long before dawn the forest was
alive with silent preparations for the ensuing contest, and day broke upon a scene so fair that it left its memory on thousands
of hearts. The sky was clear overhead, the air fresh, and when the sun rose in full splendor, the advancing host passed the
word from lip to lip that it was the "sun of Austerlitz."
Johnston, usually so self-contained, felt the inspiration of the scene, and welcomed with exultant joy the long-desired day.
His presence inspired all who came near him. His sentences, sharp, terse, and clear, had the ring of victory in them. Turning
to his staff, as he mounted, he exclaimed: "To-night we will water our horses in the Tennessee River."
It was thus that he formulated his plan of battle; it must not stop short of entire victory. To Randall L. Gibson, who was
commanding a Louisiana brigade, he said: "I hope you may
get through safely to-day, but we must win a victory." To Colonel John S. Marmaduke, who had served under him in Utah, he said, placing his hand on his shoulder: "My son, we must this
day conquer or perish." To the ambitious Hindman, who had been in the vanguard from the beginning, he said: "You have earned
your spurs as a major-general. Let this day's work win them." With such words, as he rode from point to point, he raised a
spirit in that host which swept away the serried lines of the conquerors of Donelson. Friend and foe alike testify to the
enthusiastic courage and ardor of the Southern soldiers that day.
Johnston's strategy was completed. He was face to face with his foe, and that foe all unaware of his coming. His front line,
composed of the Third Corps and Gladden's brigade, was under Hardee, and extended from Owl Creek to Lick Creek, more than
three miles. Hindman's division of two brigades occupied the center, Cleburne's
brigade had the left, and Gladden's the right wing--an effective total in the frontline of 9024. The second line was commanded
by Bragg. He had two divisions: Withers's, of two brigades, on the right, and Ruggles's, of three brigades, on the left. The
brigades were, in order from right to left, as follows: Chalmers, Jackson, Gibson, Anderson, Pond. This second line was 10,731 strong. The third line,
or reserve, was composed of the First Corps, under Polk, and three brigades under Breckinridge. Polk's command was massed
in columns of brigades on the Bark road near Mickey's, and Breckinridge's on the road from Monterey toward the same point. Polk was to advance on the left of the Bark road, at an interval
of about eight hundred paces from Bragg's line; and Breckinridge, to the right of that road, was to give support wherever
it should become necessary. Polk's corps, 9136 strong in infantry and artillery, was composed of two divisions: Cheatham's
on the left, made up of Bushrod R. Johnson's and Stephens's brigades, and Clark's on his right, formed of A. P. Stewart's
and Russell's brigades. It followed Bragg's line at a distance of about eight hundred yards. Breckinridge's reserve was composed
of Trabue's, Bowen's, and Statham's brigades, with a total, infantry and artillery, of 6439. The cavalry, about 4300 strong,
guarded the flanks or was detached on outpost duty; but, both from the newness and imperfection of their organization, equipment,
and drill, and from the rough and wooded character of the ground, they could do little service that day. The effectives of
all arms that marched out to battle were about 39,630, or, exclusive of cavalry, 35,330.
Federal army numbered present 49,232, and present for duty 41,543. But at Crump's Landing, five or six miles distant, was
General Lew Wallace's division with 8820 present, and 7771 men present for duty. General Nelson's division of Buell's army
had arrived at Savannah on Saturday morning, and was now about
five miles distant; Crittenden's division also had arrived on the morning of the 6th. So that Grant, with these three divisions,
may be considered as having about 22,000 men in immediate reserve, without counting the remainder of Buells army, which was
General Johnston and his staff were taking their coffee, the first gun of the battle sounded. "Note the hour, if you please,
gentlemen," said General Johnston. It was fourteen minutes past 5. They immediately mounted and galloped to the front.
skirmishing on Friday between the Confederate cavalry and the Federal outposts, in which a few men were killed, wounded, and
captured on both sides, had aroused the vigilance of the Northern commanders to some extent. Sherman reported on the 5th to Grant that two regiments of infantry and one of cavalry were
in his front, and added: "I have no doubt that nothing will occur to-day more than some picket-firing. . . . I do not apprehend
anything like an attack on our position." In his "Memoirs" he says: "I did not believe they designed anything but a strong
demonstration." He said to Major Ricker that an advance of Beauregard's army "could not be possible. Beauregard was not such
a fool as to leave his base of operations and attack us in ours,--mere reconnoissance in force." This shows a curious
coincidence with the actual state of General Beauregard's mind on that day. And Grant telegraphed Halleck on Saturday night:
"The main force of the enemy is at Corinth. . . . One division
of Buell's column arrived yesterday. . . . I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack (general one) being made upon us."
some apprehension was felt among the officers and men of the Federal army, and General Prentiss had thrown forward Colonel
Moore, with the 21st Missouri regiment, on the Corinth
road. Moore, feeling his way cautiously, encountered Hardee's
skirmish-line under Major Hardcastle, and, thinking it an outpost, assailed it vigorously. Thus really the Federals began
the fight. The struggle was brief, but spirited. The 8th and 9th Arkansas
came up. Moore fell wounded. The Missourians gave way, and
Shaver's brigade pursued them. Hindman's whole division moved on, following the ridge and drifting to the right, and drove
in the grand guards and outposts until they struck Prentiss's camps. Into these they burst, overthrowing all before them.
appreciate the suddenness and violence of the blow, one must read the testimony of eyewitnesses. General Bragg says, in a
sketch of Shiloh made for the writer: "Contrary to the views of such as urged an abandonment of the attack, the enemy was
found utterly unprepared, many being surprised and captured in their tents, and others, though on the outside, in costumes
better fitted to the bedchamber than to the battle-field." General Preston says: "General Johnston then went to the camp assailed,
which was carried between 7 and 8 o'clock. The enemy were evidently surprised. The breakfasts were on the mess tables, the
baggage unpacked, the knapsacks, stores, colors, and ammunition abandoned."
essential feature of General Johnston's strategy had been to get at his enemy as quickly as possible, and in as good order.
In this he had succeeded. His plan of battle was as simple as his strategy . It had been made known in his order of battle,
and was thoroughly understood by every brigade commander. The orders of the 3d of April were, that "every effort should be
made to turn the left flank of the enemy, so as to cut off his line of retreat to the Tennessee
River and throw him back on Owl Creek, where he will be obliqed to surrender." It is seen that, from the
first, these orders were carried out in letter and spirit; and, so long as General Johnston lived, the success of this movement
was complete. The battle was fought precisely as it was planned. The first, and almost only, censure of this plan was
made by Colonel Jordan, confidential adviser and historian of General Beauregard, who now claims to have made this plan. The
instructions delivered to General Johnston's subordinates on the previous day were found sufficient for their conduct on the
battle-field. But, to accomplish this, his own personal presence and inspiration and direction were often necessary with these
enthusiastic but raw troops. He had personal conference on the field with most of his generals, and led several brigades into
battle. The criticism upon this conduct, that he exposed himself unnecessarily, is absurd to those who know how important
rapid decision and instantaneous action are in the crisis of conflict.
lines of battle were pushed rapidly to the front, and as gaps widened in the first lines, they were filled by brigades of
the second and third. One of Breckinridge's brigades (Trabue's) was sent to the left to support Cleburne and fought under
Polk the rest of the day; and the other two were led to the extreme right, only Chalmers being beyond them. Gladden, who was
on Hindman's right, and had a longer distance to traverse to strike some of Prentiss's brigades further to the left, found
them better prepared, but, after a sanguinary resistance, drove them from their camps. In this bitter struggle Gladden fell
mortally wounded. Chalmers's brigade, of Bragg's line, came in on Gladden's right, and his Mississippians drove the enemy,
under Stuart, with the bayonet half a mile. He was about to charge again, when General Johnston came up, and moved him to
the right, and brought John K. Jackson's brigade into the interval. Prentiss's left and Stuart's brigade retreated sullenly,
not routed, but badly hammered.
Hindman as a pivot, the turning movement began from the moment of the overthrow of Prentiss's camps. While the front attacks
were made all along the line with a desperate courage which would have swept any ordinary resistance from the field, and with
a loss which told fearfully on the assailants, they were seconded by assaults in flank which invariably resulted in crushing
the Federal line with destructive force and strewing the field with the wounded and the dead. The Federal reports complain
that they were flanked and outnumbered, which is true; for, though fewer, the Confederates were probably stronger at every
given point throughout the day except at the center called the Hornets' Nest, where the Federals eventually massed nearly
two divisions. The iron flail of war beat upon the Federal front and right flank with the regular and ponderous pulsations
of some great engine, and these assaults resulted in a crumbling process which was continually but slowly going on, as regiment
and brigade and division yielded to the continuous and successive blows. There has been criticism that there were no grand
assaults by divisions and corps. In a broken, densely wooded and unknown country, and with the mode of attack in parallel
lines, this was impossible, but the attack was unremitting and the fact is that there were but few lulls in the contest. The
fighting was a grapple and a death-struggle all day long, and, as one brigade after another wilted before the deadly fire
of the stubborn Federals, still another was pushed into the combat and kept up the fierce assault. A breathing-spell, and
the shattered command would gather itself up and resume its work of destruction. These were the general aspects of the battle.
the battle began Hindman, following the ridge, had easy ground to traverse; but Cleburne's
large brigade, on his left, with its supports, moving over a more difficult country, was slower in getting upon Sherman's front. That general and his command were aroused by the long
roll, the advancing musketry, and the rush of troops to his left, and he got his division in line of battle and was ready
for the assault of Cleburne, which was made about 8 o'clock.
General Johnston, who had followed close after Hindman, urging on his attack, saw Cleburne's
brigade begin its advance, and then returned to where Hindman was gathering his force for another assault. Hardee said of
Cleburne that he "moved quickly through the fields, and, though
far outflanked by the enemy on our left, rushed forward under a terrific fire from the serried ranks drawn up in front of
the camp. A morass covered his front, and, being difficult to pass, caused a break in this brigade. Deadly volleys were poured
upon the men from behind bales of hay and other defenses, as they advanced; and after a series of desperate charges they were
compelled to fall back. Supported by the arrival of the second line, Cleburne, with the remainder of his troops, . . . entered
the enemy's encampment, which had been forced on the center and right by . . . Gladden's, Wood's, and Hindman's brigades."
Sherman was repelling Cleburne's attack, McClernand sent up
three Illinois regiments to reŽnforce his left. But General
Polk led forward Bushrod R. Johnson's brigade, and General Charles Clark led Russell's brigade, against Sherman's left, while General Johnston himself put A. P. Stewart's brigade in position on
their right. Supported by part of Cleburne's line, they attacked
Sherman and McClernand fiercely. Polk said: "The resistance at this point was as stubborn as at any other point on the field."
Clark and Bushrod R. Johnson fell badly wounded. Hildebrand's Federal brigade was swept from the field, losing in the onslaught
300 killed and wounded, and 94 missing.
brigade, of Hindman's division, joined in this charge on the right. As they hesitated at the crest of a hill, General Johnston
came to the front and urged them to the attack. They rushed forward with the inspiring "rebel yell," and with Stewart's brigade
enveloped the Illinois troops. In ten minutes the latter
melted away under the fire, and were forced from the field. In this engagement John A. McDowell's and Veatch's Federal brigades,
as well as Hildebrand's, were demolished and heard of no more. Buckland retreated and took position with McClernand. In these
attacks Anderson's and Pond's Confederate brigades joined
with great vigor and severe loss, but with unequal fortune. The former had one success after another; the latter suffered
a series of disasters; and yet an equal courage animated them. Gladden's brigade made a final desperate and successful charge
on Prentiss's line. The whole Federal front, which had been broken here and there, and was getting ragged, gave way under
this hammering process on front and flank, and fell back across a ravine to another strong position behind the Hamburg and Purdy road in rear of Shiloh. Sherman's route of retreat was marked by the thick-strewn corpses of his soldiers. At last,
pressed back toward both Owl Creek and the river, Sherman and McClernand found safety by the interposition on their left flank
of W. H. L. Wallace's fresh division. Hurlbut and Wallace had advanced about 8 o'clock, so that Prentiss's command found a
refuge in the intervals of the new and formidable Federal line, with Stuart on the left and Sherman's shattered division on the right.
Johnston had pushed Chalmers to the right and front, sweeping down the left bank of Lick Creek, driving in pickets, until
he encountered Stuart's Federal brigade on the Pittsburg and Hamburg road. Stuart was strongly posted on a steep hill near the river, covered with thick
undergrowth, and with an open field in front. McArthur was to his right and rear in the woods. Jackson attacked McArthur, who fell back; and Chalmers went at Stuart's brigade. This command
reserved its fire until Chalmers's men were within forty yards, and then delivered a heavy and destructive volley; but, after
a hard fight, the Federals were driven back. Chalmers's right rested on the Tennessee River
bottomlands, and he fought down the bank toward Pittsburg Landing. The enemy's left was completely turned, and the Federal
army was now crowded on a shorter line, a mile or more to the rear of its first position, with many of their brigades hors
de combat. The new line of battle was established before 10 o'clock. All the Confederate troops were then in the front
line, except two of Breckinridge's brigades, Bowen's and Statham's, which were moving to the Confederate right, and soon occupied
the interval to the left of Chalmers and Jackson. Hardee, with Cleburne and Pond, was pressing
Sherman slowly but steadily back. Bragg and Polk met about
half-past 10 o'clock, and by agreement Polk led his troops against McClernand, while Bragg directed the operations against
the Federal center. A gigantic contest now began which lasted more than five hours. In the impetuous rush forward of regiments
to fill the gaps in the front line, even the brigade organization was broken; but, though there was dislocation of commands,
there was little loss of effective force. The Confederate assaults were made by rapid and often unconnected charges along
the line. They were repeatedly checked, and often repulsed. Sometimes counter-charges drove them back for short distances;
but, whether in assault or recoil, both sides saw their bravest soldiers fall in frightful numbers. The Confederates came
on in motley garb, varying from the favorite gray and domestic "butternut" to the blue of certain Louisiana regiments, which paid dearly the penalty of doubtful colors. Over them waved flags
and pennons as various as their uniforms. At each charge there went up a wild yell, heard above the roar of artillery; only
the Kentuckians, advancing with measured step, sang in chorus their war-song: "Cheer, boys, cheer; we'll march away to battle."
the Federal left center W. H. L. Wallace's and Hurlbut's divisions were massed, with Prentiss's fragments, in a position so
impregnable, and thronged with such fierce defenders, that it won from the Confederates the memorable title of the "Hornets'
Nest." Here, behind a dense thicket on the crest of a hill, was posted a strong force of as hardy troops as ever fought, almost
perfectly protected by the conformation of the ground, and by logs and other rude and hastily prepared defenses. To assail
it an open field had to be passed, enfiladed by the fire of its batteries. No figure of speech would be too strong to express
the deadly peril of assault upon this natural fortress. For five hours brigade after brigade was led against it. Hindman's
brigades, which earlier had swept everything before them, were reduced to fragments, and paralyzed for the remainder of the
day. A. P. Stewart's regiments made fruitless assaults. Then Bragg ordered up Gibson's brigade. Gibson himself, a knightly
soldier, was aided by colonels three of whom afterward became generals. The brigade made a gallant charge; but, like the others,
recoiled from the fire it encountered. Under a cross-fire of artillery and musketry it at last fell back with very heavy loss.
Gibson asked that artillery should be sent him; but it was not at hand, and Bragg sent orders to charge again. The colonels
thought it hopeless; but Gibson led them again to the attack, and again they suffered a bloody repulse.
brigade was four times repulsed, but maintained its ground steadily, until W. H. L. Wallace's position was turned, when, renewing
its forward movement in conjunction with Cheatham's command, it helped to drive back its stout opponents. Cheatham, charging
with Stephens's brigade on Gibson's right, across an open field, had been caught under a murderous cross-fire, but fell back
in good order, and, later in the day, came in on Breckinridge's left in the last assault when Prentiss was captured. This
bloody fray lasted till nearly 4 o'clock, without making any visible impression on the Federal center. But when its flanks
were turned, these assaulting columns, crowding in on its front, aided in its capture.
Johnston was with the right of Statham's brigade, confronting the left of Hurlbut's division, which was behind the crest of
a hill, with a depression filled with chaparral in its front. Bowen's brigade was further to the right in line with Statham's,
touching it near this point. The Confederates held the parallel ridge in easy musket-range; and "as heavy fire as I ever saw
during the war," says Governor Harris, was kept up on both sides for an hour or more. It was necessary to cross the valley
raked by this deadly ambuscade and assail the opposite ridge in order to drive the enemy from his stronghold. When General
Johnston came up and saw the situation, he said to his staff: "They are offering stubborn resistance here. I shall have to
put the bayonet to them." It was the crisis of the conflict. The Federal key was in his front. If his assault were successful,
their left would be completely turned, and the victory won. He determined to charge. He sent Governor Harris, of his staff,
to lead a Tennessee regiment; and, after a brief conference
with Breckinridge, whom he loved and admired, that officer, followed by his staff, appealed to the soldiers. As he encouraged
them with his fine voice and manly bearing, General Johnston rode out in front and slowly down the line. His hat was off.
His sword rested in its scabbard. In his right hand he held a little tin cup, the memorial of an incident that had occurred
earlier in the day. Passing through a captured camp, he had taken this toy, saying, "Let this be my share of the spoils to-day."
It was this plaything which, holding it between two fingers, he employed more effectively in his natural and simple gesticulation
than most men could have used a sword. His presence was full of inspiration. He sat his thoroughbred bay, "Fire-eater," with
easy command. His voice was persuasive, encouraging, and compelling. His words were few; he said: "Men! they are stubborn;
we must use the bayonet." When he reached the center of the line, he turned. "I will lead you!" he cried, and moved toward
the enemy. The line was already thrilling and trembling with that irresistible ardor which in battle decides the day. With
a mighty shout Bowen's and Statham's brigades moved forward at a charge. A sheet of flame and a mighty roar burst from the
Federal stronghold. The Confederate line withered; but there was not an instant's pause. The crest was gained. The enemy were
Johnston had passed through the ordeal seemingly unhurt. His horse was shot in four places; his clothes were pierced by missiles;
his bootsole was cut and torn by a minie; but if he himself had received any severe wound, he did not know it. At this moment
Governor Harris rode up from the right. After a few words, General Johnston sent him with an order to Colonel Statham, which
having delivered, he speedily returned. In the meantime, knots and groups of Federal soldiers kept up a desultory fire as
they retreated upon their supports, and their last line, now yielding, delivered volley after volley as they sullenly retired.
By the chance of war, a minieball from one of these did its fatal work. As he sat there, after his wound, Captain Wickham
says that Colonel O'Hara, of his staff, rode up, and General Johnston said to him, "We must go to the left, where the firing
is heaviest," and then gave him an order, which O'Hara rode off to obey. Governor Harris returned, and, finding him very pale,
asked him, "General, are you wounded?" He answered, in a very deliberate and emphatic tone: "Yes, and, I fear, seriously."
These were his last words. Harris and Wickham led his horse back under cover of the hill, and lifted him from it. They searched
at random for the wound, which had cut an artery in his leg, the blood flowing into his boot. When his brother-in-law, Preston, lifted his head, and addressed him with passionate grief, he smiled faintly, but uttered no
word. His life rapidly ebbed away, and in a few moments he was dead.
wound was not necessarily fatal. General Johnston's own knowledge of military surgery was adequate for its control by an extemporized
tourniquet had he been aware or regardful of its nature. Dr. D. W. Yandell, his surgeon, had attended his person during most
of the morning; but, finding a large number of wounded men, including many Federals, at one point, General Johnston had ordered
Yandell to stop there, establish a hospital, and give them his services. He said to Yandell: "These men were our enemies a
moment ago; they are our prisoners now. Take care of them." Yandell remonstrated against leaving him, but he was peremptory.
Had Yandell remained with him, he would have had little difficulty with the wound.
Harris, and others of General Johnston's staff, promptly informed General Beauregard of his death, and General Beauregard
assumed command, remaining at Shiloh Church, awaiting the issue of events.
to the moment of the death of the commander-in-chief, in spite of the dislocation of the commands, there was the most perfect
regularity in the development of the plan of battle. In all the seeming confusion there was the predominance of intelligent
design; a master mind, keeping in clear view its purpose, sought the weak point in the defense, and, by massing his troops
upon the enemy's left, kept turning that flank. With the disadvantage of inferior numbers, General Johnston brought to bear
a superior force on each particular point, and, by a series of rapid and powerful blows, broke the Federal army to pieces.
was the time for the Confederates to push their advantage, and, closing in on the rear of Prentiss and Wallace, to finish
the battle. But, on the contrary, there came a lull in the conflict on the right, lasting more than an hour from half-past
2, the time at which General Johnston fell. It is true that the Federals fell back and left the field, making some desultory
resistance, and the Confederates went forward deliberately, occupying their positions, and thus helping to envelop the Federal
center; but Breckinridge's two brigades did not make another charge that day, and there was no further general direction or
concerted movement. The determinate purpose to capture Grant that day was lost sight of. The strong arm was withdrawn, and
the bow remained unbent. Elsewhere there were bloody, desultory combats, but they tended to nothing.
half-past 3 the contest, which had throbbed with fitful violence for five hours, was renewed with the utmost fury. While an
ineffectual struggle was going on at the center, a number of batteries opened upon Prentiss's right flank, the center of what
remained of the Federals. The opening of so heavy a fire, and the simultaneous though unconcerted advance of the whole Confederate
line, resulted at first in the confusion of the enemy, and then in the death of W. H. L. Wallace and the surrender of Prentiss.
generals have received scant justice for their stubborn defense. They agreed to hold their position at all odds, and did so
until Wallace received his fatal wound and Prentiss was surrounded and captured with nearly three thousand men. This delay
was the salvation of Grant's army.
Breckinridge's command closed in on the Federal left and rear; General Polk crushed their right center by the violence of
his assault, and in person, with Marshall J. Smith's Crescent regiment, received the surrender of many troops. General Prentiss
gave up his sword to Colonel Russell. Bragg's troops, wrestling at the front, poured in over the Hornets' Nest, and shared
in the triumph. Polk ordered his cavalry to charge the fleeing enemy, and Colonel Miller rode down and captured a 6-gun battery.
His men "watered their horses in the Tennessee River." All now felt that the victory was
won. Bragg, Polk, Hardee, Breckinridge, all the corps commanders, were at the front, and in communication. Their generals
were around them. The hand that had launched the thunder-bolt of war was cold, but its influence still nerved this host and
its commanders. A line of battle was formed, and all was ready for the last fell swoop, to compel an "unconditional surrender"
by General Grant.
only position on the high grounds left to the Federals was held by Colonel Webster, of Grant's staff, who had collected some
twenty guns or more and manned them with volunteers. Soon after 4 o'clock Chalmers and Jackson, proceeding down the river-bank
while Prentiss's surrender was going on, came upon this position. The approaches were bad from that direction; nevertheless,
they attacked resolutely, and, though repeatedly repulsed, kept up their assaults till nightfall. At one time they drove some
gunners from their guns, and their attack has been generally mistaken by Federal writers for the final assault of the Confederate
army--which was never made. The Federal generals and writers attribute their salvation to the repulse of Chalmers,
and the honor is claimed respectively for Webster's artillery and for Ammen's brigade of Buell's army, which came up at the
last moment. But neither they nor all that was left of the Federal army could have withstood five minutes the united advance
of the Confederate line, which was at hand and ready to deal the death-stroke. Their salvation came from a different quarter.
Bragg, in his monograph written for the use of the writer in preparing the "Life of A. S. Johnston," gives the following account
of the close of the battle:
testimony, especially that of the prisoners on both sides,--our captured being present and witnesses to the demoralization
of the enemy, and their eagerness to escape or avoid further slaughter by surrender,--left no doubt but that a persistent,
energetic assault would soon have been crowned by a general yielding of his whole force. About one hour of daylight was left
to us. The enemy's gun-boats, his last hope, took position opposite us in the river, and commenced a furious cannonade at
our supposed position. From the elevation necessary to reach the high bluff on which we were operating, this proved 'all sound
and fury signifying nothing,' and did not in the slightest degree mar our prospects or our progress. Not so, however, in our
rear, where these heavy shells fell among the reserves and stragglers; and to the utter dismay of the commanders on the field,
the troops were seen to abandon their inspiring work, and to retire sullenly from the contest when danger was almost past,
and victory, so dearly purchased, was almost certain."
Hardee, Breckinridge, Withers, Gibson, Gilmer, and all who were there confirm this statement. General Buell says of Grant's
army that there were "not more than five thousand men in ranks and available on the battlefield at nightfall... The rest were
either killed, wounded, captured, or scattered in inextricable and hopeless confusion for miles along the banks of the river."
General Nelson describes them as "cowering under the riverbank, . . . frantic with fright and utterly demoralized."
this crisis came from General Beauregard an order for the withdrawal of the troops, of which his chief of staff says: "General
Beauregard, in the meantime, observing the exhausted, widely scattered condition of his army, directed it to be brought out
of battle, collected and restored to order as far as practicable, and to occupy for the night the captured encampments of
the enemy. This, however, had been done in chief part by the officers in immediate command of the troops before the order
was generally distributed." For this last allegation, or that the army was exhausted, there is not the slightest warrant.
When Beauregard's staff-officer gave Bragg this order he said: "Have you promulgated this order to the command?" The officer
replied: "I have." General Bragg then said:, "If you had not I would not obey it. The battle is lost."
concurrent testimony of the generals and soldiers at the front is at one on all essential points. General Beauregard
at Shiloh, two miles in the rear, with the dťbris of the army surging back upon him,
the shells bursting around him, sick with his two months' previous malady, pictured in his imagination a wreck at the front,
totally different from the actual condition there. Had this officer been with Bragg, and not greatly prostrated and suffering
from severe sickness, I firmly believe his order would have been to advance, not to retire. And this in spite of his theory
of his plan of battle, which he sums up as follows, and which is so different from General Johnston's: "By a rapid and vigorous
attack on General Grant, it was expected he would be beaten back into his transports and the river, or captured in time to
enable us to profit by the victory, and remove to the rear all the stores and munitions that would fall into our hands in
such an event before the arrival of General Buell's army on the scene. It was never contemplated, however, to retain the position
thus gained and abandon Corinth, the strategic point
of the campaign." Why, then, did General Beauregard stop short in his career? Sunday evening it was not a question of
retaining, but of gaining, Pittsburg Landing. Complete victory was in his grasp, and he threw it away. General Gibson says:
"General Johnston's death was a tremendous catastrophe. There are no words adequate to express my own conception of the immensity
of the loss to our country. Sometimes the hopes of millions of people depend upon one head and one arm. The West perished
with Albert Sidney Johnston, and the Southern country followed."
was General Beauregard's battle, and it was well fought. But in recalling his troops from the heights which commanded the
enemy's landing, he gave away a position which during the night was occupied by Buell's twenty thousand fresh troops, who
thus regained the high grounds that had been won at such a cost. Lew Wallace, too, had come up 6500 strong. Moreover, the orders had been conveyed by Beauregard's staff to brigades
and even regiments to withdraw, and the troops wandered back over the field, without coherence, direction, or purpose, and
encamped where chance provided for them. All array was lost, and, in the morning, they met the attack of nearly thirty thousand
fresh and organized troops, with no hope of success except from their native valor and the resolute purpose roused by the
triumph of Sunday. Their fortitude, their courage, and the free offering of their lives were equal to the day before. But
it was a retreat, not an assault. They retired slowly and sullenly, shattered, but not overthrown, to Corinth, the strategic point of General Beauregard's campaign.
Recommended Reading: Shiloh--In Hell before Night. Description: James McDonough has written a good, readable and concise history of a
battle that the author characterizes as one of the most important of the Civil War, and writes an interesting history of this
decisive 1862 confrontation in the West. He blends first person and newspaper accounts to give the book a good balance between
the general's view and the soldier's view of the battle. Continued below…
enlightening is his description of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander who was killed on the first day
of the battle. McDonough makes a pretty convincing argument that Johnston fell far short of the image that many give him
in contemporary and historical writings. He is usually portrayed as an experienced and decisive commander of men. This book
shows that Johnston was a man of modest war and command experience,
and that he rose to prominence shortly before the Civil War. His actions (or inaction) prior to the meeting at Shiloh -- offering
to let his subordinate Beauregard take command for example -- reveal a man who had difficulty managing the responsibility
fostered on him by his command. The author does a good job of presenting several other historical questions and problems like
Johnston's reputation vs. reality that really add a lot of
interest to the pages.
Reading: Shiloh and the Western Campaign
of 1862 (Hardcover). 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
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
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: 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.
Recommended Reading: The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations
Engaged (Hardcover). Description: How
can an essential "cornerstone of Shiloh historiography" remain unavailable to the general
public for so long? That's what I kept thinking as I was reading this reprint of the 1913 edition of David W. Reed's “The
Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged.” Reed, a veteran of the Battle of Shiloh and the first historian of
the Shiloh National
Military Park, was tabbed to
write the official history of the battle, and this book was the result. Reed wrote a short, concise history of the fighting
and included quite a bit of other valuable information in the pages that followed. The large and impressive maps that accompanied
the original text are here converted into digital format and included in a CD located within a flap at the back of the book.
Author and former Shiloh Park Ranger Timothy Smith is responsible for bringing this important reference work back from obscurity.
His introduction to the book also places it in the proper historical framework. Continued below…
Reed's history of the campaign and battle covers only seventeen pages and is meant to be a brief history of the subject.
The detail is revealed in the rest of the book. And what detail there is! Reed's order of battle for Shiloh goes down to the regimental
and battery level. He includes the names of the leaders of each organization where known, including whether or not these men
were killed, wounded, captured, or suffered some other fate. In a touch not often seen in modern studies, the author also
states the original regiment of brigade commanders. In another nice piece of detail following the order of battle, staff officers
for each brigade and higher organization are listed. The book's main point and where it truly shines is in the section entitled
"Detailed Movements of Organizations". Reed follows each unit in their movements during the battle. Reading this section along
with referring to the computerized maps gives one a solid foundation for future study of Shiloh.
Forty-five pages cover the brigades of all three armies present at Shiloh.
Wargamers and buffs will love the "Abstract of Field Returns". This section lists Present for Duty, engaged, and casualties
for each regiment and battery in an easy to read table format. Grant's entire Army of the Tennessee has Present for Duty strengths. Buell's Army of the Ohio is also counted well. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi
is counted less accurately, usually only going down to brigade level and many times relying only on engaged strengths. That
said, buy this book if you are looking for a good reference work for help with your order of battle.
In what I believe is an unprecedented move in Civil War literature, the University
of Tennessee Press made the somewhat unusual decision to include Reed's
detailed maps of the campaign and battle in a CD which is included in a plastic sleeve inside the back cover of the book.
The cost of reproducing the large maps and including them as foldouts or in a pocket in the book must have been prohibitive,
necessitating this interesting use of a CD. The maps were simple to view and came in a PDF format. All you'll need is Adobe
Acrobat Reader, a free program, to view these. It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit. Maps are an
integral part of military history, and this solution is far better than deciding to include poor maps or no maps at all. The
Read Me file that came with the CD relays the following information:
The maps contained on this CD are scans of the original oversized maps printed in the 1913 edition of D. W. Reed's The
Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged. The original maps, which were in a very large format and folded out of the
pages of this edition, are of varying sizes, up to 23 inches by 25 inches. They were originally created in 1901 by the Shiloh National Military Park under the direction of its historian,
David W. Reed. They are the most accurate Shiloh battle maps in existence.
The maps on the CD are saved as PDF (Portable Document Format) files and can be read on any operating system (Windows,
Macintosh, Linux) by utilizing Adobe Acrobat Reader. Visit http://www.adobe.com to download Acrobat Reader if you do not have
it installed on your system.
Map 1. The Field of Operations from Which the Armies Were Concentrated at Shiloh, March
and April 1862
Map 2. The Territory between Corinth, Miss., and Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn., Showing Positions and Route of the Confederate
Army in Its Advance to Shiloh, April 3, 4, 5, & 6, 1862
Map 3. Positions on the First Day, April 6, 1862
Map 4. Positions on the Second Day, April 7, 1862
Complete captions appear on the maps.
Timothy Smith has done students of the Civil War an enormous favor by republishing this important early work on Shiloh. Relied on for generations by Park Rangers and other serious students of the battle, The Battle
of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged has been resurrected for a new generation of Civil War readers. This classic reference
work is an essential book for those interested in the Battle of Shiloh. Civil War buffs, wargamers, and those interested in
tactical minutiae will also find Reed's work to be a very good buy. Highly recommended.