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[382] Polk followed the second line, at the distance of about eight hundred yards, in lines of brigades, deployed with their batteries in rear of each brigade, moving by the Pittsburgh road, the left wing supported by cavalry; the reserve, under Brig.-Gen. Breckinridge, followed closely the third line in the same order, its right wing supported by cavalry.

These two corps constituted the reserve, and were to support the front lines of battle, by being deployed, when required, on the right and left of the Pittsburgh road, or otherwise act according to the exigencies of the battle.

At eight A. M., on the sixth instant, a reconnoitring party of the enemy having become engaged with our advanced pickets, the commander of the forces gave orders to begin the movement and attack as determined upon, except that Trabue's brigade, of Breckinridge's division, was detached and advanced to support the left of Bragg's corps and line of battle, when menaced by the enemy, and the other two brigades were directed to advance by the road to Hamburgh to support Bragg's right, and at the same time Yancey's regiment, of Polk's corps, was advanced by the same road to reinforce the regiment of cavalry and battery of four pieces, already thrown forward to watch and guard Grier's, Banner's and Borland's Fords, on Lick Creek.

Thirty minutes after five o'clock A. M., our lines and columns were in motion, all animated evidently by a promising spirit. The front line was engaged at once, but advanced steadily, followed in due order with equal resolution and steadiness by the other lines, which were brought successively into action with rare skill, judgment and gallantry, by the several corps commanders, as the enemy made a stand, with his masses rallied for the struggle for his encampments. Like an Alpine avalanche our troops moved forward, despite the determined resistance of the enemy, until after six o'clock P. M., when we were in possession of all encampments between Owl and Lick Creeks but one. Nearly all of his field-artillery, about thirty flags, colors and standards, over three thousand prisoners, including a division commander (Gen. Prentiss) and several brigade commanders, thousands of small arms, an immense supply of subsistence, forage and munitions of war, and a large amount of means of transportation — all the substantial fruits of a complete victory — such indeed, as rarely have followed the most successful battles; for never was an army so well provided as that of our enemy.

The remnant of his army had been driven in utter disorder to the immediate vicinity of Pittsburgh, under the shelter of the heavy guns of his iron-clad gunboats, and we remained undisputed masters of his well-selected, admirably-provided cantonments, after over twelve hours of obstinate conflict with his forces, who had been beaten from them and the contiguous covert, but only by a sustained onset of all the men we could bring into action.

Our loss was heavy, as will appear from the accompanying return, marked “B.” Our Commander-in-Chief, Gen. A. S. Johnston, fell mortally wounded, and died on the field at half-past 2 P. M., after having shown the highest qualities of the commander, and a personal intrepidity that inspired all around him, and gave resistless impulsion to his columns at critical moments.

The chief command then devolved upon me, though at the time I was greatly prostrated, and suffering from the prolonged sickness with which I had been afflicted since early in February. The responsibility was one which, in my physical condition, I would have gladly avoided, though cast upon me when our forces were successfully pushing the enemy back upon the Tennessee River, and though supported on the immediate field by such corps commanders as Maj.-Gens. Polk, Bragg and Hardee, and Brig.--Gen. Breckinridge commanding the reserve.

It was after six o'clock P. M., as before said, when the enemy's last position was carried, and his forces finally broke and sought refuge behind a commanding eminence covering the Pittsburgh Landing, not more than half a mile distant, and under the guns of the gunboats, which opened on our eager columns a fierce and annoying fire with shot and shell of the heaviest description. Darkness was close at hand. Officers and men were exhausted by a combat of over twelve hours without food, and jaded by the march of the preceding day through mud and water. It was therefore impossible to collect the rich and opportune spoils of war scattered broadcast on the field left in our possession, and impracticable to make any effective dispositions for their removal to the rear.

I accordingly established my headquarters at the church at Shiloh, in the enemy's encampment, with Maj.-Gen. Bragg, and directed our troops to sleep on their arms, in such positions, in advance and rear, as corps commanders should determine, hoping, from news received by a special despatch, that delay had been encountered by Gen. Buell in his march from Columbia, and that his main forces therefore could not reach the field of battle in time to save Gen. Grant's shattered fugitive forces from capture or destruction on the following day.

During the night the rain fell in torrents, adding to the discomfort and harassed condition of the men; the enemy, moreover, had broken their rest by a discharge, at measured intervals, of heavy shells, thrown from the gunboats; therefore, on the following morning, the troops under my command were not in condition to cope with an equal force of fresh troops, armed and equipped like our adversary, in the immediate possession of his depots, and sheltered by such an auxiliary as the enemy's gunboats.

About six o'clock on the morning of the seventh of April, however, a hot fire of musketry and artillery, opened from the enemy's quarter on our advanced line, assured me of the junction of his forces, and soon the battle raged with a fury which satisfied me I was attacked by a largely superior force. But from the onset our troops,

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Braxton Bragg (4)
James K. Polk (3)
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