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[284] pickets, driving in those of General Prentiss, encountered some companies of the Federal advanced guard, and a desultory firing began. The order to advance was now given, and at five o'clock General Hardee's entire line moved forward. Overhead was the promise of a bright day, but the after mists of the recent storm yet hung in the valleys and woods, veiling still more thickly the forest-screened positions of the enemy, upon which the lines of battle were directed only by conjecture. General Prentiss having hurried a reinforcement to the guard and informed Generals Wallace and Hurlbut of the attack, threw forward three regiments well to the front.1 His position was a prolongation of the elevated ground where stood the Shiloh meeting-house, held by General Sherman; the whole bounded in front by a ravine and watercourse which, rising near the left of Prentiss, fell into Owl Creek, near the Purdy road bridge, occupied by Sherman's right.

The Confederate lines of attack soon appeared, driving before them the skirmish line formed of the troops of the guard. Prentiss's whole force was now thrown forward and became the first engaged, as his position was slightly in advance of General Sherman's, and the difficulties of the ground in front of the latter caused our line to oblique still more to the right. Shortly after six o'clock General Prentiss's command was falling under fire, and the assailing wave soon struck General Sherman's pickets, sweeping them back in the direction of his camps. General Sherman called upon General McClernand for assistance and gave notice of the attack to Generals Prentiss and Hurlbut, the latter of whom despatched Veatch's brigade of four regiments to the support of General Sherman's left.2 Before seven o'clock the musketry fire, which had gradually swelled, slackened and almost ceased, while the Federal skirmishers were leaving the field, and the wooded interval separating the enemy's encampments from our advancing lines was lessening more and more. It was the momentary lull before the full outburst of the storm.

1 In his Report, General Prentiss says: ‘. . . This information received, I at once ordered the entire force into line, and the remaining regiments of the 1st brigade, commanded by Colonel Everett Peabody, consisting of the 25th Missouri, 16th Wisconsin, and 12th Michigan infantry, were advanced well to the front. I forthwith, at this juncture, communicated the fact of the attack in force to Major-General Smith and Brigadier-General S. A. Hurlbut.’

2 General Hurlbut's Report.

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