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Diary of Rev. J. G. Law.

battle of Shiloh.
Sunday, April 6, 1862.—Have been quite unwell for several days, and came on to Corinth with the sick a few days since, and engaged a room at the hotel. The quiet of this Sabbath morning is disturbed by the sullen boom of cannon in the direction of Tennessee river. The blood boils in my veins, and moves me to shoulder arms and march to the scene of the conflict. Trusting not in Beauregard, nor in the valor of our troops, but in God, victory must perch upon our banners.

Six o'clock P. M..—Have just halted for supper and a little rest, after a walk of ten miles. The incessant roar of artillery is still heard, and from the sick and wounded who are on their way to Corinth from the battle-field I learn that the Confederates, under General Albert Sidney Johnston, attacked the Federal army under General Grant this morning, and that our troops are driving the enemy with heavy loss on both sides. We have driven them out of their encampment, and have captured several batteries. This is glorious news. Will be off again in a few minutes, and hope to reach the field of battle some time to-night or early in the morning. The destiny of the Confederacy may hang upon the issue of this struggle. May God give us the victory

April 8th.—Suffering from a slight wound received in battle yesterday, and now in a wagon with several other wounded soldiers en route for Corinth. Arrived on the ground that was fought over in the early part of the day, late Sunday night, and feeling too much fatigued to proceed further, lay down on the ground to sleep, with no shelter from the rain that fell heavily during the night. The firing had ceased, and the stillness of death reigned. To many it was in reality the stillness of death. Our army had won the field, and the troops were sleeping in the tents of the enemy. But it was a costly victory. Alas, for our gallant leader, General Albert Sidney Johnston! He was sleeping the sleep that knows no waking [461] until the morning of the resurrection. Death snatched the prize from his hand and tore the laurel wreath from his brow. Had he lived to follow up the advantage gained by his valorous troops, the Confederate army would not now be in full retreat, but would be in hot pursuit of the flying foe. Although we captured most of the enemy's artillery and took 6,000 prisoners, the engagement was renewed yesterday morning. The Federals were heavily reinforced by General Buell, who crossed the river during the night with a corps of fresh troops. My musket was the only reinforcement to the Confederate army that I am aware of. I arose early Monday morning and pressed forward in search of my regiment. But not knowing the locality of the different commands, I fell in with the first organized body that came in sight, which proved to be a part of Bowen's division, advancing in line of battle to the support of a battery that seemed to be hard pressed, and was pouring a stream of fire into the enemy at short range. Recognizing my old friend, Cad. Polk, of Columbia, Tenn., who was the Adjutant of an Arkansas regiment, I at once fell into line with his regiment. As we crossed a little ravine and ascended the slope of the hill, the battery retired under a heavy fire of musketry through our ranks and went into position on the opposite side of the ravine. We were ordered to lie down while the battery opened fire over our heads. At the same time a heavy volley of musketry was poured into our line by the enemy, who were plainly visible a few hundred yards in our front. The boys in gray then rose to their feet and delivered their fire with such deadly effect that the advance of the enemy was checked, the blue line staggered under the fire, reeled, broke, and rolled back in confusion, like a wave that breaks upon the rockbound shore and spends its fury in vain. Then, resuming my search for my own regiment, and attracted by heavy firing on the left, I started in that direction, and passed over a part of the woods from which we had just driven the enemy. The ground was dotted with the blue uniforms of the dead and wounded, while canteens and haversacks were scattered here and there in great abundance. Having no water in my plain tin canteen, I picked up a splendid one, well covered and full of water, and threw it hastily over my shoulder. Some Yankee had kindly left it for my accommodation. Soon after coming into possession of this valuable property my heart was touched by a piteous cry for water. I stopped, and kneeling by the side of a Federal soldier, who was badly wounded, placed the canteen to his lips, expressed sympathy for him in his terrible [462] suffering, and then, hurrying on, was soon in another line of battle hotly engaged with the enemy, who were plainly visible in heavy force through the open woods. There was no charging, but the two opposing lines were deliberately standing and pouring into each other a perfect hailstorm of bullets, while men were dropping like slaughtered beeves on both sides. A gallant officer was riding along the Confederate lines giving orders and inspiring the men by his valorous deeds and heroic courage in the face of death. It was Colonel Richmond, of General Polk's staff. My nerves grew steadier, and advancing to the front, I found myself all at once fighting in the ranks of the old One Hundred and Fifty-fourth Tennessee regiment. There was no time to look for my company, so raising my gun I took deliberate aim and fired. It was my only shot, for as I was in the act of loading a ball came crashing through my canteen, and as the water poured out and soaked through to my skin, I imagined that the blood was gushing from a mortal wound, and, without waiting to see what damage my body had sustained, started off to the surgeon. On my arrival at the hospital tent, after an examination by Dr. Woodward, the gratifying discovery was made that my canteen had received a mortal wound, while I had escaped with a slight flesh wound, which, however, would have proved more serious but for the protection afforded by the canteen in breaking the force of the ball. More water than blood was shed, and I am thankful for my escape with my life. My hip is quite sore, and as my wound is too painful to admit of my walking, I was placed in a wagon along with other wounded and started off to Corinth yesterday. We are having a rough time. The roads are in a dreadful condition, and the unmerciful jolting of the wagon extorts groans, and at times even shrieks, of pain from the poor fellows who are suffering from severe wounds.

April 11th.—We are encamped about two miles from Corinth, on the Mobile and Ohio railroad. My wound is healing rapidly, though it is still quite painful. It was not serious enough for a furlough, and yet too serious to admit of my reporting for duty. Many of my personal friends were killed in the bloody battle of Shiloh. The One Hundred and Fifty-fourth Tennessee regiment lost 196 in killed and wounded. General Beauregard, for some reason, failed to follow up the success of Sunday's battle, and on Monday the army retreated in good order, leaving the Federals too badly crippled to follow in pursuit.

April 14th.—Reported for duty, and spent the morning cleaning [463] my gun. Have felt somewhat depressed for the past few days. Fail in the discharge of Christian duty; do not read my Bible regularly; nor is my soul enlarged in prayer, and yet as I write the prayer arises in my heart that God may watch over our benighted camp, spread confusion throughout the camp of our enemies, and give us victory; that our independence may be speedily won, and our country restored to peace and harmony.

April 17th.—The weather continues warm and water is getting scarce. It was rumored yesterday that Generals Smith and Marshall had retaken Nashville.

April 25th.—A cold, rainy day. Breakfasted at 10 o'clock, and walked over to my cousin's camp to fulfil my engagement with him. We rode over to the camp of the Thirty-eighth Tennessee regiment, and dined with Captain Wright, called on Colonel Looney, and returned to camp. Rumor says that the Federal gunboats have passed Fort Jackson, and that New Orleans has surrendered. Dark clouds are hovering over us. The enemy are steadily gaining ground. But we must continue to fight with unabated zeal, and trust in God, and victory will crown our efforts.

April 26th.—Orders to cook five days rations, and be ready to march at a moment's notice. We expect a great battle in a few days.

Sunday, April 27th.—Spent the morning working on the trenches. In the afternoon walked over to see Jack and Billy Gordon, and rode with them into Corinth. Glorious news is circulating in camp. New Orleans is safe, Huntsville is retaken, and Jack Morgan has whipped the Federals out of Tuscumbia. The clouds are breaking.

April 29th.—The regiment was detailed this morning to work on the trenches. We had worked about two hours, when we were ordered to form in line of battle. Cannonading was heard in the direction of Monterey. Halleck is advancing upon this place, and we may expect a great battle to-morrow or next day. Spent the afternoon washing my clothes and playing chess with Harry Cowperthwaite, of the ‘Maynard Rifles.’ Reports from New Orleans are numerous and conflicting.

May 3d.—Our regiment was re-organized to-day. Jimmy Lawrence was elected Captain of the ‘Hickory Rifles;’ Dr. Butt, First Lieutenant; George Hockton, Second Lieutenant, and John Trigg Third Lieutenant. Dr. Butt was the only one of the old officers reelected. Lawrence, Hockton and Trigg were all elevated from the ranks, on the ground of personal popularity, without regard to qualification for office. But they are all good men, and I hope will prove [464] as efficient with swords as they have been with muskets. It is a dangerous experiment to elect officers in the field, and especially in the face of the enemy. Captain Mellersh was left out for no other reason than that he was a strict disciplinarian. The election of field officers was postponed. Heavy cannonading was heard this morning, which proved to be skirmishing on the right wing of our army between Marmaduke's brigade and the enemy, who are advancing on our right and centre. The battle will probably commence in earnest tomorrow.

Sunday, May 4th.—Just twelve months ago we left Memphis to go into camp. We have been engaged in two battles, Belmont and Shiloh, and the entire loss in our company is ten (10) wounded. The regiment has suffered a loss of two hundred and twelve (212) in killed and wounded. Early this morning we were in line of battle at the rifle pits, eagerly watching for the advance of the enemy, but yet mindful of his defeat on the bloody plains of Manassas, he declined to make the attack on Sunday. We remained in line of battle all day in a drenching rain. To-morrow we will probably meet the foe. Then comes the tug of war.

Conquer we must,
For in God is our trust.

May 6th.—On fatigue duty at the Ordnance Department, loading and unloading wagons of ammunition. Arms of all kinds are also coming in, Enfield rifles, etc. We are fully prepared for the enemy, and are receiving reinforcements every day. The inclement weather may retard field operations, and the battle may be delayed several days.

,May 8th.—The regiment lay in line of battle in the woods. Slept all the morning, and read ‘Lady Glenlyon’ in the evening. Sharp skirmishing on our right all day.

May 9th.—Halt by the roadside and seat myself on a log to write. The evening is lovely. The booming of cannon and the rattle of musketry has just ceased, and all nature sleeps in calm repose. Heavy skirmishing again all day on the right, and it is reported that we have repulsed the enemy.

May 10th.—Heavy firing again to-day. Generals Price and Van Dorn fought the left wing of Halleck's army, and drove them back. Our loss light.

Sunday, May 11th.—The clash of arms has ceased, and the quiet of this holy Sabbath day has been undisturbed. The regiment returned to camp to-day. [465]

May 12th.—The election for field officers was held to-day. Major Fitzgerald was elected Colonel; Captain Mageveney Lieutenant-Colonel, and Captain Dawson Major. The conscript act has caused some dissatisfaction among the troops, and a few have deserted; but the vast majority of our soldiers accept the situation, some under protest, but most of us with cheerful submission to the ‘powers that be.’ The only rebels in our army are the deserters. Our allegiance is due, not to the United States, but to the government of the Confederate States, and we are ready, if need be, to die in defense of our principles.

May 13th.—Will we never cease to hear bad news? Norfolk has fallen, the Navy Yard is reduced to ashes, and the Confederate ram Virginia is burnt. The entire army here is under marching orders, with three days cooked rations.

May 15th.—Transferred to-day at my own request to the ‘Maynard Rifles,’ under command of Captain E. A. Cole, with Lieutenants Walker Lucas, John Cochrane and Charlie Rose. Received a carpet bag from home containing a ham, pone of bread, jelly, pickles, etc.

Sunday, May 18th.—Early this morning the regiment was in the rifle pits, in expectation of an attack. The enemy are reported to be within a mile of our works, and we may look for warm work tomorrow. I feel confident of the result, though it will be a bloody and desperate fight. Dr. Alex. Erskine called .to see me this evening, and we walked together about half a mile to hear the Rev. Dr. Palmer, the distinguished preacher from New Orleans. He delivered an eloquent discourse, in which he spoke to the soldiers of the uncertainty of life, and in a most powerful and impressive manner exhorted them to prepare to meet their God before they were called out to the impending battle. The distinguished minister is a private in the Washington Artillery.

May 19th.—A general engagement was expected this morning, as the pickets along the entire line were firing all night; but the day has passed without any demonstration save the sound of musketry on our right this afternoon. Halleck has brought up his siege guns, and will probably attempt to dislodge us from our rifle pits before coming within range of the infantry.

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