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Chapter 19:

  • Arrival of General Johnston at Corinth.
  • -- position of his troops on the 27th of March. -- offers to turn over command of the army to General Beauregard, who declines. -- General Beauregard urges an early offensive movement against the enemy, and gives his views as to plan of organizing the forces. -- General Johnston authorizes him to complete the organization already begun. -- General orders of March 29th. -- reasons why the army was formed into small corps. -- General Beauregard desirous of moving against the enemy on the 1st of April. -- why it was not done. -- on the 2d, General Cheatham reports a strong Federal force threatening his front. -- General Beauregard advises an immediate advance. -- General Johnston yields. -- General Jordan's statement of his interview with General Johnston on that occasion. -- special orders no. 8, otherwise called ‘order of March and battle.’ -- by whom suggested and by whom written. -- General Beauregard explains the order to corps commanders. -- tardiness of the first corps in marching from Corinth. -- our forces in position for battle on the afternoon of the 5th; too late to commence action on that day. -- Generals Hardee and Bragg request General Beauregard to ride in front of their lines. -- General Johnston calls General Beauregard and the corps commanders in an informal council. -- General Beauregard believes the object of the movement foiled by the tardiness of troops in arriving on the battle-field. -- alludes to noisy demonstrations on the March, and to the probability of Buell's Junction, and advises to change aggressive movement into a reconnoissance in force. -- General Johnston decides otherwise, and orders preparations for an attack at dawn next day. -- description of the field of Shiloh. -- strength of the Federal forces. -- what General Sherman testified to. -- we form into three lines of battle. -- our effective strength. -- carelessness and oversight of the Federal commanders. -- they are not aroused by the many sounds in their front, and are taken by surprise.

General Johnston reached Corinth on the night of the 22d of March, in advance of his army, which followed closely after him, portions arriving daily up to the 27th. General Hardee took position in the vicinity, with a body of about eight thousand men; while the remainder, under General Crittenden—some five thousand strong, exclusive of cavalry—were halted at Beirnsville and Iuka, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. [266]

A shade of sadness, if not of despondency, rested upon General Johnston's brow. The keen anxiety and still-increasing gloom overspreading the country weighed heavily upon him. He suffered deeply, both as a patriot and as a soldier; but men of his courage and character are uncomplaining. ‘The test of merit, in my profession, with the people,’ he wrote to Mr. Davis, on the 18th of March, ‘is success. It is a hard rule, but I think it right.’ The concluding lines of his letter show what were his feelings, when complying with General Beauregard's urgent request for a junction of their armies: ‘If I join this corps to the forces of Beauregard (I confess, a hazardous experiment), then, those who are now declaiming against me will be without an argument.’

Soon after General Johnston's arrival, and in the course of his first conference with General Beauregard, he expressed, with evident emotion, his purpose to turn over to the latter the direct command of our united forces, and to confine his own functions to those of Department Commander, with headquarters at Memphis or Holly Springs. He alleged, as his reason for wishing to do so, that such a course would be best for the success of our cause; that he had lost, in no small degree, the confidence of the people, and somewhat, he feared, of the army itself, in consequence of recent disasters; while he felt sure that General Beauregard, who held the confidence of both, was better fitted to cope with present difficulties and dangers, and fulfil, successfully, public expectation. General Beauregard, in a spirit of disinterestedness and generosity which equalled that of General Johnston, refused to accept his offer. He had left the Army of the Potomac and come to the West, he said, to assist General Johnston, not to supersede him. That it was due to the country and to General Johnston himself that he should remain at the head of the army, now concentrated for a decisive blow before the enemy was fully prepared, and pledged him his cordial support, as second in command. Upon this, General Johnston, who, no doubt, understood General Beauregard's motives, rose from his seat, advanced towards him, and, shaking him warmly by the hand, said, ‘Well, be it so, General! We two together will do our best to secure success.’ It was an affecting scene, and one worthy of being recorded. For, if General Johnston was loath to reap the benefit of the great preparations made by General Beauregard, the latter was no less reluctant that the victory which he hoped would resuit [267] from his efforts at concentration should be exclusively attributed to himself, thus depriving General Johnston of the chance of changing the tide of popular favor in his behalf, and of regaining the affection and confidence of the people and army, which he feared he had lost.

Thus was finally settled the delicate question of precedence and command between these two Confederate leaders, whose single object was, not personal advancement or glory, but the success of the cause they were engaged in. General Beauregard now explained the situation of affairs in the Mississippi Valley and immediately around him; urged the necessity of the earliest possible offensive movement against the enemy, and gave his views, already fully matured, as to the best plan of organizing our forces. General Johnston readily agreed to what General Beauregard proposed, and authorized him to complete all necessary orders to that effect. Accordingly, a few days later, General Beauregard drew up a plan for the reorganization of the Army of the Mississippi, which, upon submission to General Johnston, was signed by the latter, without the slightest change or alteration, and published to the troops, in a general order, as follows:

Headquarters of the forces, Corinth, Miss., March 29th, 1862.

General orders, No.—.

I. The undersigned assumes the command and immediate direction of the armies of Kentucky and of the Mississippi, now united, and which, in military operations, will be known as the “Army of the Mississippi.”

II. General G. T. Beauregard will be second in command to the Commander of the Forces.

III. The Army of their Mississippi will be subdivided into three army corps, and reserves of cavalry, artillery, and infantry, as follows: 1. The First Corps, under the command of Major-General L. Polk, to consist of the Grand Division now under his command, as originally organized, less the artillery and cavalry hereinafter limited, and detached as reserves, and the garrison of Fort Pillow and the works for the defence of Madrid Bend, already detached from that command. 2. The Second Corps, under Major-General Braxton Bragg, to consist of the Second Grand Division of the Army of the Mississippi, less the artillery and cavalry, hereinafter limited, and detached as reserves. 3. The Third Corps, under Major-General W. J. Hardee, to consist of the Army of Kentucky, less the cavalry, artillery, and infantry hereinafter limited, and detached as reserves. 4. The infantry reserves, under command of Major-General G. B. Crittenden, shall be formed of a division of not less than two brigades.1 [268]

IV. The brigades of each army corps and of the reserve will be so formed as to consist severally of about two thousand five hundred total infantry, and one light battery of six pieces, if practicable.

V. Divisions shall consist of not less than two brigades and one regiment of cavalry.

VI. All cavalry and artillery not hereinbefore assigned to divisions and brigades will be held in reserve: the cavalry under Brigadier-General Hawes, the artillery under an officer to be subsequently announced.

VII. All general orders touching matters of organization, discipline, and conduct of the troops, published by General G. T. Beauregard to the Army of the Mississippi, will continue in force in the whole army until otherwise directed, and copies thereof will be furnished to the Third Army Corps and the reserve.

VIII. Major-General Braxton Bragg, in addition to his duties as commander of the Second Army Corps, is announced as “Chief of staff” to the Commander of the Forces.

A. S. Johnston, General C. S. A.

note.—The above organization of the forces at Corinth was submitted by General G. T. Beauregard, second in command, and adopted by General A. S. Johnston, first in command, without any alteration whatever.

Thomas Jordan, A. A. G.

Our forces had thus been formed into small corps for two reasons: first, to enable our inexperienced senior commanders to handle their raw troops with more facility; second, to induce the enemy to believe that our army was much stronger than it really was—it being natural to suppose that each corps would number at least twenty thousand men, with a general reserve of about half as many. This second purpose was apparently accomplished, for, during the battle of Shiloh, General Grant telegraphed General Buell, who was then at Savannah, that he was heavily attacked by one hundred thousand men, and that he needed his immediate assistance.

In the general orders given above, General Beauregard was announced as second in command, and General Bragg was appointed, nominally, Chief of the General Staff, a position borrowed from Continental European armies, though there was no provision for such an arrangement made by law in the Confederate military service; it was, however, an irregularity not considered important, inasmuch as General Bragg was not to be detached or diverted from the command of his corps. In fact, his designation to that position was simply to enable him, in a contingency on the field, to give orders in the name of the General-in-Chief, or of the [269] second in command; an arrangement which both Generals Johnston and Beauregard thought could inure only to the benefit of the service. Colonel Thomas Jordan, General Beauregard's Adjutant-General, was named Adjutant-General of the united forces; but remained at General Beauregard's headquarters, receiving instructions from the latter, and issuing them in the form of orders, by command of the ‘General-in-Chief.’2

General Beauregard, notwithstanding his impaired health, devoted himself assiduously to preparing the army for an immediate offensive movement, which he hoped would take place, at latest, on the 1st of April, as our spies and friends in middle Tennessee had informed us that General Buell was at Franklin, on his way to form a junction with General Grant, at Savannah, where he might be expected early in April. It was known, however, that the bridges on his line of march—especially the large one across Duck River, at Columbia—had been destroyed, and that he might thereby be delayed several days.

General Johnston had left the organization and preparation of the forces for offensive operations to General Beauregard. Corps commanders made their reports directly to him, or through his office; the General-in-Chief being kept well advised of all information of an important nature that reached army headquarters.

The hope of being able to move from Corinth on the 1st of April could not, however, be realized. As that day approached, our deficiencies in arms, ammunition, and the most essential equipments were more and more felt, as was also the want of the general officers promised, but not sent, as agreed upon, by the War Department. Their inexperienced substitutes, though zealous and indefatigable, were unacquainted with the needs of their new commands, or did not know how best to supply them. They had to be instructed amid the hurry of the moment, as to many details, which, to persons who are not conversant with military organization, appear insignificant, but which are really very important in the preparation of an army. The lack of competent engineers was also a source of great annoyance, as without them it became next to impossible to make necessary reconnoissances, [270] and map off the country lying between the two opposing armies. The sketches prepared by staff officers, untrained and inexperienced in such matters, were very imperfect, but some accurate knowledge of the future field of battle had been obtained, by conferring with officers of the troops who had been on picket duty at and about Pittsburg Landing, before the appearance of the enemy at that point. From inhabitants who had been compelled to leave their homes, after the landing of the hostile forces, General Beauregard also gained useful information, relative to the positions occupied by the several Federal commands.

Such was the situation, as night fell on the 2d of April, when General Cheatham, who commanded a division posted at Bethel Station,3 telegraphed to his corps commander, General Polk, that a strong body of the enemy, believed to be General Lew. Wallace's division, was seriously threatening his front. General Polk at once (about 10 P. M.) transmitted the despatch to General Beauregard, who, believing that the Federal forces were divided by the reported movement, immediately sent in the news to General Johnston, by the Adjutant-General of the Army, in person, with this brief but significant endorsement: ‘Now is the moment to advance, and strike the enemy at Pittsburg Landing.’

General (then Colonel) Thomas Jordan, the Adjutant-General above alluded to, reports his mission on that occasion, as follows:

I found General Johnston in the room of some of his personal staff, where I handed him the despatch with your endorsement. He then repaired with me to the neighboring quarters of General Bragg, whom we found in bed. This officer at once declared in favor of your proposition. General Johnston, expressing several objections with much clearness and force, questioned the readiness of the army for so grave an offensive movement. His views shook the opinion of General Bragg. Having discussed the subject almost daily with you during the past ten days, and knowing the reasons which made you regard the immediate offensive our true course in the exigency, I stated them with as much vigor and urgency as I could, dwelling particularly upon the fact that we were now as strong as we could reasonably hope to be at any early period, while our adversary would be gaining strength, by reinforcements, almost daily, until he would be so strong as to be able to take the offensive with irresistible numbers. That our adversary's position at Pittsburg Landing, with his back against a deep, broad river, in a cul-de-sac formed by the two creeks (Owl and Lick), would make his defeat decisively disastrous, while the character of the country made it altogether practicable for us to steal upon and surprise him; and that your proposition was based on the practicability [271] of such a surprise, with the conviction that we should find the Federal army unprotected by intrenchments.

These views seemed to satisfy General Johnston, and he authorized me to give the preparatory orders for the movement, which orders I wrote at a table in General Bragg's room, being a circular letter to Generals Bragg, Polk, and Hardee, directing them to hold their several corps in condition to move, at a moment's notice, having forty rounds of ammunition in their cartridge-boxes, and three days cooked rations in their haversacks; also, sixty rounds of ammunition, and uncooked rations in wagons, for, I think, three days, together with certain other details, affecting reserve supplies, and their transportation.

These orders were immediately despatched by couriers, from General Bragg's headquarters, to Generals Polk and Hardee, who received them, as well as now remembered, at 1.40 A. M., as stated in the receipts signed by those officers, respectively, at the time. General Breckinridge, commanding a detached division at Beirnsville, received his orders from the telegraph-office. After having despatched the orders in question, I repaired directly to your headquarters, roused Captain A. R. Chisolm, of your personal staff, and told him to awake you at 5 A. M.

About 7 A. M. of (next day) the 3d April, you sent for me, and I found that you had drawn up the notes of a general order, prescribing the order and method of the movement from Corinth upon Pittsburg, with peculiar minuteness, as, from the wooded and broken nature of the country to be traversed, it would be a most difficult matter to move so large a body of men with the requisite celerity for the contemplated attack. These notes you gave me as the basis for the proper general order to be issued, directing and regulating the march, coupled with the order in which the enemy was to be attacked, and from them I drew up the order of march and battle, which, issued in the name of General Johnston, was signed by me as Adjutant-General of the Army, in the course of that day, without any modification, but, of course, made fuller with details in connection with the staff service, which details you left habitually to me, holding me responsible that they should be clear and comprehensive, so as to insure the execution of your general plan of operation. But before I was able to shape the order in question, General Johnston and, soon thereafter, General Bragg, came to your room, at your headquarters, where I had gone also, to consult you upon some details. You were explaining your plan of movement, and of the attack, to General Johnston, when I entered your apartment; and, to make the subject clearer, you drew a sketch of the country, in pencil, upon your table,4 as I had taken to my office the sketch supplied by the engineers, to enable me to write the order with the necessary precision.

General Johnston weighed all that was said with much deliberation, and not until every detail had been very thoroughly discussed did he decide to [272] make the movement, as you proposed it. By this time, Major-Generals Polk and Hardee had likewise arrived. I then remarked that, as the preparation of the order, with all the necessary copies for general and staff officers, would take some hours, its details might be verbally explained to the corps commanders, all present, so that the movement could be made without delay at the prescribed moment, by the several corps, without waiting for the written orders, so much of which concerned the second day's march, and the tactics of the attack. This was assented to by General Johnston, as best, and I left you explaining to Generals Polk and Hardee that which they particularly were to do, jointly and severally, on that day and the next morning; that is to say, the order and manner in which they should begin, and make, the advance, with their respective corps, to the vicinity of the enemy's position, as will be found set forth in the written order, which was afterwards printed as follows:

Headquarters army of the Mississippi, Corinth, Miss., April 3d, 1862.

Special orders, no. 8.

I. In the impending movement, the corps of this army will march, assemble, and take order of battle, in the following manner, it being assumed that the enemy is in position about a mile in advance of Shiloh Church, with his right resting on Owl Creek, and his left on Lick Creek.

1. The Third Corps, under Major-General Hardee, will advance, as soon as practicable, on the Ridge road from Corinth, to what is known as the Bark road, passing about half a mile northward of the workhouse. The head of this column will bivouac, if possible, to-night, at Mickey's house, at the intersection of the road from Monterey to Savannah. The cavalry, thrown well forward during the march, to reconnoitre and prevent surprise, will halt in front of the Mickey house, on the Bark road.

2. Major Waddell, A. D. C. to General Beauregard, with two good guides, will report for service to General Hardee.

3. At 3 o'clock A. M., to-morrow, the Third Corps, with the left in front, will continue to advance by the Bark road until within sight of the enemy's outposts or advanced position, when it will be deployed in line of battle, according to the nature of the ground, its left resting on Owl Creek, its right towards Lick Creek, supported on that flank by half its cavalry, the left flank being supported by the other half. The interval between the extreme right of this corps and Lick Creek will be filled by a brigade or division—according to the extent of the ground—from the Second Corps. These troops, during the battle, will also be under the command of Major-General Hardee.

He will make the proper distribution of the artillery along the line of battle, remembering that the rifled guns are of long range, and should be placed in commanding positions, in rear of his infantry, to fire mainly on reserves and second line of the enemy, but occasionally will be directed on his batteries and heads of columns.

II. The Second Corps, under Major-General Braxton Bragg, will assemble on Monterey and move thence as early as practicable, the right wing, with left in front, by the road from Monterey to Savannah, the head of column to reach [273] the immediate vicinity of Mickey's house, at the intersection with the Bark road, before sunset.

The cavalry with this wing will take position on the road to Savannah, beyond Mickey's, as far as Owl Creek, having advanced guards and pickets well to the front. The left wing of this corps will advance at the same time, also left in front, by the road from Monterey to Purdy; the head of the column to reach, by night, the intersection of that road with the Bark road. This wing will continue the movement in the morning, as soon as the rear of the Third Corps shall have passed the Purdy road, and which it will then follow.

The Second Corps will form the second line of battle, about one thousand yards in the rear of the first line. It will be formed, if practicable, with regiments in double columns, at half distance, disposed as advantageously as the nature of the ground will admit. The artillery placed as may seem best to Major-General Bragg.

III. The First Corps, under Major-General Polk, with the exception of the detached division at Bethel, will take up its line of march by the Ridge road, hence to Pittsburg, half an hour after the rear of the Third Corps shall have passed Corinth, and will bivouac to-night in rear of that corps, and on tomorrow will follow the movements of said corps, with the same interval of time as to-day.

When its head of column shall reach the vicinity of the Mickey house it will be halted in column or massed on the line of the Bark road, according to the nature of the ground, as a reserve. Meanwhile one regiment of its cavalry will be placed in observation on the road from Johnston's house to Stantonville, with advanced guards and pickets thrown out well in advance towards Stantonville. Another regiment or battalion of cavalry will be posted, in the same manner, on the road from Monterey to Purdy, with its rear resting on or about the intersection of that road with the Bark road, having advanced guards and pickets in the direction of Purdy.

The forces at Bethel and Purdy will defend their positions, as already instructed, if attacked; otherwise they will assemble on Purdy and thence advance, with advanced guards, flankers, and all other military precautions, forming a junction with the rest of the First Corps, at the intersection of that road with the Bark road leading from Corinth.

IV. The reserve of the forces will be concentrated, by the shortest and best routes, at Monterey, as soon as the rear of the Second Corps shall have moved out of that place. Its commander will take up the best position, whence to advance either in the direction of Mickey's or of Pratt's house, on the direct road to Pittsburg, if that road is found practicable, or in the direction of the Ridge road to Hamburg, throwing all its cavalry on the latter road, as far as its intersection with the one to Pittsburg, passing through Griersford, on Lick Creek.

The cavalry will throw well forward advanced guards and videttes towards Griersford and in the direction of Hamburg, and during the impending battle, when called to the field of combat, will move by the Griersford road.

A regiment of the infantry reserve will be thrown forward to the intersection [274] of the Gravel Hill road with the Ridge road to Hamburg, as a support to the cavalry.

The reserve will be formed of Breckinridge's, Bowen's, and Statham's brigades, as now organized, the whole under command of Brigadier-General Breckinridge.

V. General Bragg will detail the 51st and 52d regiments Tennessee Volunteers, Blount's Alabama and Desha's Arkansas battalion, and Bairn's battery, from his corps, which, with two of Carroll's regiments, now en route for these headquarters, will form a garrison for the post and depot of Corinth.

VI. Strong guards will be left at the railway bridge between Iuka and Corinth, to be furnished in due proportion from the commands at Iuka, Beirnsville, and Corinth.

VII. Proper guards will be left at the camps of the several regiments of the forces in the field. Corps commanders will determine the strength of these guards.

VIII. Wharton's regiment of Texas cavalry will be ordered forward, at once, to scout on the road from Monterey to Savannah, between Mickey's and its intersection with the Pittsburg-Purdy road. It will annoy and harass any force of the enemy moving, by the latter way, to assail Cheatham's division at Purdy.

IX. The Chief-Engineers of the forces will take due measures and precautions, and give all requisite orders, for the repair of the bridges, causeways, and roads, on which our troops may move, in the execution of these orders.

X. The troops, individually so intelligent and with such great interest in the issue, are urgently enjoined to be observant of the orders of their superiors, in the hour of battle. Their officers must constantly endeavor to hold them in hand, and prevent the waste of ammunition by heedless, aimless firing; the fire should be slow, always at a distinct mark. It is expected that much and effective work will be done by the bayonet.

By command of General A. S. Johnston,

Thomas Jordan, A. Adjt.-Gen.

Corinth, Miss., April 18th, 1862.
The foregoing plan of operations and orders of engagement were drawn up and submitted by General Beauregard, on the morning of the 3d of April, 1862, to General A. S. Johnston, who accepted the same without modification in a single particular.

Thomas Jordan, Brig.-Gen. and A. A. G.

The following passage is taken from a statement of Colonel D. Urquhart, of General Bragg's staff, addressed to General Jordan. It confirms, as the reader will see, all that precedes:

Narragansett, R. I., August 25th, 1880.
My dear General,—I am in receipt of your letter of—, and in reply have to say, that I remember the visit of General A. S. Johnston, accompanied by yourself, the night of the 2d of April, 1862, to the headquarters or apartments of General Bragg, at Corinth, Mississippi. On that occasion, I was not present [275] through the whole interview, but while the interview lasted I was in and out of the room repeatedly, and know that that interview was had for the consideration of a proposition on the part of General Beauregard, conveyed through you, that the Confederate army should, the very next day, advance to attack the Federal forces at or about Pittsburg Landing. And I know, also, that the result of the conference was the order to make that advance, an order written by you that night in the quarters of General Bragg, in the shape of a circular letter, addressed to Generals Bragg, Polk, and Hardee, severally corps commanders.

As for the order of march and battle issued the following day, I was furnished with a copy from your office, and can state that it was well understood at the time throughout that army, that the whole plan of operations was General Beauregard's, and, in fact, that all which concerned the army, from the time of its collection at Corinth, was arranged at and proceeded from General Beauregard's headquarters. Further, that, essentially, he exercised the command of the army. In this connection it is proper for me to state that I learned at that time from General Bragg himself, that General Johnston had said, soon after his arrival at Corinth, that he had lost the confidence of his army, and therefore had insisted that General Beauregard must undertake the work of organization; also, that with General Bragg as Chief of Staff, he should issue all orders without the formula of being submitted and approved by General Johnston, except, of course, such an order as that of directing the offensive.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yours truly,

At the hour prescribed in the preparatory circular to the corps commanders, which had been sent out that morning—viz., about ten o'clock—the troops were all under arms in Corinth, apparently ready for the march. Meanwhile, owing to the many more urgent occupations of the Adjutant-General's office, copies of the preceding general orders had not been prepared for distribution that day, as the corps commanders were to begin the march pursuant to the verbal order and instructions which General Beauregard, in the presence of General Johnston, had given them, individually, as to the initial movements from Corinth. The march, nevertheless, did not begin at the time directed, chiefly through the misapprehension of the commander of the First Corps, who, instead of moving forward upon the full verbal instructions he had received, held his corps under arms and, with its trains, blocked the way of the other troops. As soon as this most unfortunate delay was brought to General Beauregard's knowledge, he despatched an order to the First Corps to clear the way at once, which was done; [276] but it was already dark before the rear of its column filed out of Corinth. Had it not been for this deplorable loss of the afternoon of the 3d, the Confederate army must have made the march to the immediate vicinity of the enemy by the evening of the 4th. The attack would then have been made on the morning of the 5th, as had been planned, or twenty-four hours earlier than it actually occurred, in which event Buell must have reached the theatre of action entirely too late to retrieve the disaster inflicted upon Grant, and must himself have been forced to retire from middle Tennessee. The delay which had marked the outset was followed by unwarrantable tardiness in the general conduct of the march, so much so that, by the evening of the 4th, the forces bivouacked at and slightly in advance of Monterey, only ten miles from Corinth; and it was not until two o'clock P. M., on the 5th, that they approached the Federal position, near the Shiloh meeting-house. The whole distance traversed was not more than about seventeen and a half miles. True, there were heavy rain-falls during the night of the 4th, and the early part of the next day, which made the roads somewhat difficult, not to speak of their narrowness and of the fact of their crossing a densely wooded country. But these causes account only in part for the slowness of the march, which was mainly attributable to the rawness of the troops and the inexperience of the officers, including some of superior rank.

During the advance of the 4th of April a reconnaissance in force was injudiciously made by a part of the cavalry of the Second Corps, with such audacity—capturing an officer and thirteen men of the enemy—that it ought to have warned the Federal commander of our meditated attack.

Our forces could not get into position for battle until late on the afternoon of the 5th—too late to commence the action on that day. Soon after General Hardee's line of battle (the front one) had been formed, he sent a messenger with an urgent request that General Beauregard should ride along in front of his troops. This General Beauregard, through motives of prudence, at first refused, and only agreed to do at the instance of General Johnston himself, but he prohibited any cheering whatever, lest it should attract the attention of the opposing forces, which were known to be not more than two miles from us.5 Afterwards, at [277] the request of General Bragg, General Beauregard also rode along the front of the Second Corps, where it was difficult to enforce the order prohibiting cheering, so enthusiastic were the troops—especially those from Louisiana—when he appeared before them.

As soon as it had become evident that the day was too far advanced for a decisive engagement, General Johnston called the corps and reserve commanders together in an informal council, in the roadway, near his temporary headquarters, within less than two miles of those of General Sherman, at the Shiloh meetinghouse. He was then informed, by Major-General Polk, that his troops had already exhausted their rations and that he had brought none in reserve. General Bragg thereupon stated that his men had been so provident of their food that he could supply General Polk with what he needed. This promise, however, he never executed, because of the hurry and confusion of events, which engrossed his own attention as well as that of his subordinate officers; and because, though his troops might have been somewhat less improvident than those of General Polk, they were, at best, scantily provided with what was necessary for themselves, and had, certainly, no surplus rations to spare. The transportation wagons, containing the five days uncooked reserved rations for all the corps, were miles away in the rear, not having been able, on account of the heavy roads, to keep up with the march.

The fact that the army was threatened with a total lack of food, and that, by the loss of a whole day, the offensive movement he had so carefully prepared was seriously imperilled, produced great disappointment and distress in General Beauregard's mind. Impressed with the gravity of the situation and the responsibility which rested on him, as having proposed and organized this entire campaign, he stated to General Johnston and to the corps commanders present at the conference, that, in his opinion, our plan of operations had been foiled by the tardiness of our troops in starting from Corinth, followed by such delays and noisy demonstrations on the march, that a surprise, which was the basis of his plan, was now scarcely to be hoped for; that ample notice of our proximity for an aggressive movement must have been given through the conflict of our cavalry, on the preceding day, with the enemy's reconnoitring force, and the prolongation of our presence in front of their positions before the hour for battle, next morning; that the Federal army would, no doubt, be found [278] intrenched to the eyes, and ready for our attack; that it was unwise to push, against breastworks, troops so raw and undisciplined as ours, badly armed and worse equipped, while their antagonists, besides the advantage of number, position, discipline, and superiority of arms, were largely composed of men lately victorious at Forts Henry and Donelson; that, from his experience in the war with Mexico and, more recently, at Manassas and Centreville, he considered volunteers, when well commanded and occupying strong defensive positions, equal to regulars, if attacked in front, as the Federals would be by us;6 that, under these circumstances, and for the further reason that the enemy, being on the alert, Buell's junction would no doubt be hastened, he was no longer in favor of making the attack, but favored inviting one by turning this offensive movement into a reconnoissance in force, to draw the enemy after us nearer to our base—Corinth—and thereby detach him further from his own, at Pittsburg Landing. Somewhat similar strategy had been resorted to by Wellington in 1810, when, advancing to attack Massena at Santarem, he unexpectedly found that able officer on his guard, ready for battle, on ground of his own choosing, and much stronger than he had anticipated. After making some demonstrations in front of his wily adversary, to draw him away from his stronghold, Wellington did not hesitate to retire without giving battle.

General Beauregard's views produced a visible effect on all present. General Johnston, although shaken, after some reflection [279] said that he admitted the weight and force of General Beauregard's remarks, but still hoped we could find the enemy unprepared for an attack; that as our army had been put in motion for battle and was now on the field, it would be better to make the venture. He therefore ordered that preparations should be made for an attack at dawn, next day. Thus ended this memorable conference; the officers who had been present at it repairing to their respective headquarters, in good spirits and hopeful for the morrow.

A description of the field of Shiloh may be appropriate, to enable the reader more readily to understand an account of that battle. The sketch of the country furnished by General Jordan, Adjutant-General of the Confederate forces, in his ‘Campaigns of General Forrest,’ is so correct that we shall transcribe it here, with only slight alteration:

Two streams, Lick and Owl Creeks—the latter a confluent of Snake Creek, which empties into the Tennessee—take their rise very near each other, just westward of Monterey (in a ridge which parts the waters that fall into the Mississippi from those which are affluents of the Tennessee), flowing sinuously with a general direction, the latter to the northeast and the former south of east, and they finally empty into the Tennessee, about four miles asunder. Between these watercourses is embraced an area of undulating table-land, some five miles in depth from the river bank, from three to five miles broad, and about one hundred feet above the low-water level of the river. Intersected by a labyrinth of ravines, the drainage is principally into Owl Creek, as the land rises highest and ridgelike near Lick Creek. Adjoining the river these ravines, deep and steep, have a water-shed in that direction. Recent heavy rains had filled them all with springs and small streams, making the soil boggy, and hence difficult for artillery, over much of their extent. A primeval forest combined with a great deal of undergrowth covered the region, except a few small farms of fifty or seventy acres, scattered occasionally here and there.

Pittsburg Landing—a warehouse and a house or two by the water's side— lay three miles below the mouth of Lick Creek. Two roads leading from Corinth, crossing that creek about a mile apart, converge together about two miles from the Landing and one mile in rear of the Shiloh meeting-house. Other roads also approach from all directions; one, passing Owl Creek by a bridge before its junction with Snake Creek, branches, the one way tending westwardly towards Purdy, the other northwardly towards Crump's Landing, six miles below Pittsburg. Another, near the river bank, crossing Snake Creek by a bridge, also connects the two points.

The Federal forces—five divisions of infantry, four or five squadrons of cavalry, and sixteen light batteries of six pieces each, amounting in all to at least forty-three thousand men, occupied [280] the ground between the Shiloh meeting-house and the river, in three lines of encampments, as already stated.

General Sherman, in his sworn testimony before a courtmar-tial which, in August, 1862, tried Colonel Thomas Worthington of the 46th Ohio Volunteers, for severely criticising his management before the battle of Shiloh, said, of the position occupied by the Federals: ‘But even as we were on the 6th of April, 1862, you might search the world over and not find a more advantageous field of battle; flanks well-protected, and never threatened; troops in easy support; timber and broken ground giving good points to rally; and the proof is, that forty-three thousand men, of whom at least ten thousand ran away, held their ground against sixty thousand chosen troops of the South with their best leaders. On Friday, the 4th, no officers nor soldiers, not even Colonel Worthington, looked for an attack, as I can prove.’

It is somewhat strange that General Sherman, in his ‘Memoirs,’ should maintain that the Federal forces engaged in the battle of Shiloh numbered only thirty-two thousand men of all arms, when, four months after that event, he stated, under oath, at the trial of Colonel Worthington, that they amounted to fortythree thousand men, exclusive, be it remembered, of Lew. Wallace's division of about eight thousand men, on the northwest side of Owl Creek. He then supposed our force was sixty thousand strong, instead of its actual number—forty thousand three hundred and thirty-five men of all arms and conditions. But it may be fair to infer that he judged of their number by the effect they produced. Thus it was that Mr. Lincoln was sorely puzzled during the war at his commanding generals reporting constantly that they had fought the ‘Rebels’ with inferior numbers. In the instance of the battle of Shiloh, this phenomenon might, however, possibly have happened; for in about thirty days, with our defective means of transportation, we had collected at Corinth, from Murfreesboroa, Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans, and other distant points, an effective force of over forty thousand men of all arms, while the Federals had failed to bring together, in time, at Pittsburg Landing, notwithstanding their ample means of land and water transportation, the armies of Buell, from Nashville, Tennessee, and of Pope, from southeast Missouri.

Yet the Confederate army had advanced and was then assembled at Monterey and vicinity, less than nine miles in his front. [281]

Our forces, as they had arrived in the afternoon of the 5th, at the intersection of the Griersford (Lick Creek) and Ridge roads, from Corinth to Pittsburg, less than two miles from the Shiloh meeting-house, were formed into three lines of battle; the first, under General Hardee, extended from near Owl Creek, on the left, to near Lick Creek, on the right, a distance of less than three miles, and somewhat oblique to the Federal front line of encampments, being separated from it, on the right, by about one and a half miles, and on the left, by about two miles. General Hardee's command not being sufficiently strong to occupy the whole front, it was extended on the right by Gladden's brigade, of General Bragg's corps, and his artillery was formed immediately in his rear, on the main Pittsburg road. His cavalry protected and supported his flanks. The second line, about five hundred yards in rear of the first, was composed of the rest of General Bragg's troops, arranged in the same order. General Polk's corps, formed in column of brigades, deployed on the left of the Pittsburg road, between the latter and Owl Creek. The front of the column was about eight hundred yards in rear of the centre of General Bragg's left wing, and each brigade was followed immediately by its battery. General Polk's cavalry supported and protected his left flank. Breckinridge's command occupied a corresponding position behind General Bragg's right wing, between the Pittsburg road and Lick Creek. His cavalry protected and supported his right flank. The two latter commands constituted the reserve, and were to support the front lines of battle by being deployed when required on the right and left of the Pittsburg road, or otherwise, according to exigencies.

General Hardee's effective force of infantry and artillery was, then, nine thousand and twenty-four men; General Bragg's, ten thousand seven hundred and thirty-one; General Polk's, nine thousand one hundred and thirty-six; and General Breckinridge's, seven thousand and sixty-two; presenting a total of thirty-five thousand nine hundred and fifty-three, infantry and artillery,7 to [282] which must be added four thousand three hundred and eighty-two cavalry, so imperfectly armed and so recently organized that all but one third of it was useless, except for outpost service that did not involve skirmishing.

Our pickets had been thrown out well in advance of our first line of battle, not far from the enemy's position, without seeing or discovering any of his pickets or outposts. Such an oversight on the part of the Federal commanders is really unaccountable, unless they chose to overlook that important maxim of war: ‘Never despise an enemy, however weak and insignificant he may appear.’

So near to each other were the opposing forces, that, hearing a loud beating of drums about the hour of tattoo, and believing it proceeded from our lines, General Beauregard immediately despatched a staff officer with orders to suppress such thoughtless and imprudent sounds. The staff officer returned shortly afterwards and reported that the noise General Beauregard had heard, and was desirous of quieting, came, not from our troops, but from the enemy's encampments in our front. Later in the evening, a Federal assistant surgeon and his orderly, riding out on some night excursion, crossed our picket lines and were captured. They were speechless with astonishment when brought to Generals Johnston and Beauregard, at beholding so large a force within striking distance of their own camps, where all was now silence and repose, and where none suspected the approaching storm. From them we learned that General Grant had returned for the night to Savannah, and that General Sherman commanded the advanced forces. No other information of importance was obtained from the two prisoners.

Such was the lack of discipline in the largest part of the Confederate forces, that, despite the strict orders given to enforce perfect quiet among our troops, drums were beaten, bugles blown, fires kindled, here and there, by many regiments, and firearms discharged, at different points in our rear, during that eventful night. These and other bivouac noises should have betrayed to the Federal generals on the first line the close proximity of their foe. That such was not the case is due, no doubt, to the fact that they fell into an error similar to that which General Beauregard and others of our officers had made, and attributed these untimely sounds to their own troops.

1 These infantry reserves, at Beirnsville, were under Brigadier-General Breckinridge, who had succeeded General Crittenden.

2 General Mackall was not made Adjutant-General of the united armies, because of his having been previously assigned, by General Beauregard, to the command of Madrid Bend, on the Mississippi, his services at that important point being considered indispensable. See Chapter XVIII., p. 257.

3 Twenty-four miles north of Corinth.

4 The table bearing the diagram here referred to went, as office furniture, to Charleston, S. C., where the pencil sketch on the board was visible two years afterwards.

5 See statements of Colonel Jacob Thompson and Major B. B. Waddell in Appendix to Chapter XX.

6 General Sherman, in his ‘Memoirs,’ says of the Federal position: ‘The position was naturally strong, with Snake Creek on our right, a deep, bold stream, with a confluent (Owl Creek) to our right front, and Lick Creek, with a similar confluent, on our left, thus narrowing the space over which we could be attacked to one and a half or two miles. At a later period of the war we could have rendered this position impregnable in one night, but at this time we did not do it.’

The fact is, that the position was not strong, except that it could not be flanked, but might have been readily made impregnable in one night to the assault of so raw a force as ours. We knew, from the careful examination of Colonel Crocket, the Federal officer captured on the 4th, that, up to the evening of that day, there were no breastworks; but the several warnings given by the conflict in which he was captured, the noisy incidents of the next day's march and reconnoissance, and our presence in full force on the field for fifteen hours before the attack, were facts which forced General Beauregard to believe the Federals would surely use the ample time they had, during that night, to throw up intrenchments sufficient for the repulse of our raw troops.

7 It is proper to remark here, that, through the want of experienced commanding officers of artillery and cavalry, and because of the wooded nature of the battle-field, it became necessary to subdivide and distribute those two arms of the service among the different corps, to enable us to obtain even a partial benefit from their presence on the field. The strict rules of military organization for battle, in that and other respects, had to be departed from, under stress of circumstances.

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