previous next

The Shiloh battle-order and the withdrawal Sunday evening.

Alexander Robert Chisolm, Colonel, C. S. A. (At Shiloh on General Beauregard's Staff).
In the paper published in The Century for February, 1885, Colonel William Preston Johnston, assuming to give the Confederate version of the campaign and battle of Shiloh, at which he was not present, has adventured material statements regarding operations on that field, which must have been based on misinformation or misunderstanding in essential particulars, as I take occasion to assert from personal knowledge acquired as an eyewitness and aide-de-camp on the staff of General Beauregard. My personal knowledge runs counter to many of his statements and deductions, but I shall here confine myself to two points.

First, I must dispute that the battle-order as promulgated was in any wise different from the one submitted by General Beauregard at his own quarters at Corinth, early in the morning of the 3d of April, to General A. S. Johnston, and which was accepted without modification or suggestion. This assertion I base on these facts: About 1 o'clock in the morning the adjutant-general of the Confederate forces, Colonel Jordan, aroused me from sleep in my tent, close by General Beauregard's chamber, and desired me to inform the general at dawn that General Johnston had agreed to his recommendation to move offensively against Pittsburg Landing early that same day, and that the circular orders to the corps commanders had been already issued by Colonel Jordan to that effect. Acting upon this request, I found that General Beauregard had already during the night made full notes on loose scraps of paper of the order of march and battle, from which he read aloud for me to copy — my copy being given to Colonel Jordan as soon as completed, as the basis of the official order which he was to frame, and did frame and issue in the name of General Johnston. And that is the order which Colonel Johnston erroneously alleges upon the posthumous authority of General Bragg to differ essentially from the plan settled upon by General Johnston for the battle. This allegation I know to be unfounded, as the order as issued varies in no wise from the notes dictated to me by General Beauregard, excepting the mere wording and some details relating to transportation and ordnance service added by Colonel Jordan; that is to say, the plan explained by General Beauregard and accepted by General Johnston at the quarters of the former.

Being limited as to space, I shall pass over a throng of facts within my personal knowledge, which would establish that General Beauregard was as actively and directly handling the Confederate forces engaged in their general conduct of the battle before the death of General Johnston as he was after that incident. I shall confine myself on this occasion to relating that after General Beauregard became cognizant of the death of General Johnston, he dispatched me to the front with orders that led to the concentration of the widely scattered and disarrayed Confederate forces, which resulted in the capture of General Prentiss and so many of his division after 5 o'clock on the 6th.

I also, later in the day, carried orders to Hardee, who was engaged on our extreme left, or Federal right, where I remained with that officer until almost dark, up to which time no orders had reached him to cease fighting. On the contrary, he was doing his best to force back the enemy in his front. As he was without any of his staff about him, for the nonce I acted as his aide-de-camp. Meantime the gun-boats were shelling furiously, and their huge missiles crushed through the branches of the trees overhead with so fearful a din, frequency, and closeness that, despite the excitement of our apparently complete victory, there was room left in our minds for some most unpleasant sensations, especially when the top of some lofty tree, cut off by a shell, would come toppling down among the men.

Possibly, had Colonel Johnston been present on the field at that last hour of the battle of the 6th, a witness of the actually fruitless efforts made to storm the last position held by the enemy upon the ridge covering the immediate landing-place, known as Pittsburg, he might be better informed why it was that that position was not carried, and be less disposed to adduce such testimony as that of General Bragg, to the effect that but for the order given by Beauregard to withdraw from action he would have carried all before him.

It so happened that I rejoined General Beauregard at a point near Shiloh Chapel (having escorted General Prentiss from the field to General Beauregard), when General Bragg rode up from the front, and I heard him say in an excited manner: “General, we have carried everything before us to the Tennessee River. I have ridden from Owl to Lick Creek, and there is none of the enemy to be seen.” Beauregard quietly replied: “Then, General, do not unnecessarily expose your command to the fire of the gun-boats.”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February, 1885 AD (1)
April 3rd (1)
6th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: