Recollections of General Beauregard's service in West Tennessee in the Spring of 1862.
General Albert Sidney Johnston, at Bowling Green, Kentucky, early in the month of February, 1862. Upon leaving Centreville, Virginia, at the end of January, 1862, under orders attaching you to the Confederate forces in the West, you proceeded directly to Bowling Green to report to and confer with General Johnston; while, under your instructions, I repaired to Richmond to discuss with the Confederate Secretary of War certain matters, the arrangement of which you regarded as vital to the effective discharge of the duties that were to be devolved upon you. My orders were to meet you subsequently at Columbus, Kentucky, the headquarters of Major-General Polk, whom you were to succeed in command. My visit to Richmond having been in the main unfruitful, I proceeded immediately to Columbus, where I soon received telegraphic orders to retrace my steps to meet you at Jackson, West Tennessee, at which place I joined you within a week after the fall of Fort Donelson. At once, in the course of a full conversation with me touching your visit to Bowling Green, you stated first your grievous disappointment at finding the Confederate force there so very much smaller than you had been led to suppose before leaving Virginia — while your preconceived opinion of the malstrategic character of the position had been fully sustained by the state of affairs which you found there. The position which you had previously regarded as fatally salient and unsupported, you found ready to fall by its own weight, in consequence of the appearance in the Tennessee river of a heavy offensive Federal force under General Grant on the one side, and of General Buell on the other, threatening Nashville in co-operation with the turning movement on the other flank. As you informed me, your views of the exigent character of the  situation were invited and fully made known to General Johnston; further, that you were induced to draw up a paper carefully setting forth those views, which was handed to the Confederate commander for his consideration; and a copy of which paper having been read by me on several occasions, my recollection of its substantial purport is very distinct. You urged that, even if desirable, the possession of Bowling Green could not be maintained in the presence of the movement already begun by General Grant, and of that evidently impending on the part of General Buell, and therefore the Confederate forces in that quarter should be swiftly concentrated at Fort Donelson for a decisive combat with General Grant, by which that commander would be forced into a battle with fatal odds against him, as well as the disadvantage of isolation from support. This you urged, not only as essential for the maintenance of Confederate control of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, but also as placing our forces in a far better position with respect to the ultimate defence of Nashville, than if retained at the weak — because too salient and easily turned — position of Bowling Green. At the time, as near as I can now recollect, the Confederate forces immediately disposable by General Johnston were the command at Bowling Green, a little over 23,000 men; the remains of the late General Zollicoffer's division — beaten several weeks before at Mill Spring, Southeastern Kentucky--namely, 5,000 men; Major-General Polk's force at Columbus, nearly 14,000 strong, and the garrison at Fort Donelson, some 3,500 men — that is to say, in all about 45,000 men, who could, for the most part, be readily concentrated for any decisive operation. Your immediate recommendation, however, was that General Johnston should go with his force from Bowling Green to Fort Donelson, and there fall upon and crush General Grant, whose army was supposed to be not more than 15,000 strong, and which I may add was actually not increased to 25,000 men until the morning of the 15th of February, 1862. At the time of your recommendation it is probable that General Floyd, with the 5,000 men remaining after Zollicoffer's defeat, was already under orders for Fort Donelson; and, apparently as the result of your views, General Buckner was detached from the quarter of Bowling Green with a division of about 5,000 men, for the same destination So, from these two sources, by the time General Grant presented himself before Fort Donelson (February  12th, 1862) the position had been strengthened from 3,500 to about 14,500 men — some 9,000 of whom, as will be remembered, were surrendered on the 16th of February, 1862, after having made the brilliant and signally successful sortie of the day before. What was effected in that well-conceived but badly-sustained sortie, in which only some 8,000 of the garrison were employed, must make patent what must have ensued had there been at Fort Donelson, as you recommended (and as there might have been), a Confederate army of about 30,000 men, with General Sidney Johnston in command, instead of the one of about 14,000 men, under an utterly inexperienced, incapable commander as was General Floyd. In conclusion, let me recall that upon the fall of Fort Donelson, as you foresaw and foretold, the position at Bowling Green was abandoned with precipitation, as Buell was already in rapid movement upon Nashville. The latter place, in turn, was given up with equal haste, and with it all Middle Tennessee fell at once into Federal possession. For the easier understanding of the several questions and conditions which entered into the military situation and exigencies at the moment, as you discussed them in the paper in question, let me note, that Fort Henry, on the east bank of the Tennessee river, was twelve miles distant from Fort Donelson, on the west bank of the Cumberland, while both were in the re-entering angle of the Confederate line, the extreme right of which was at Bowling Green and the left at Columbus--two points nearly equal distance from Fort Donelson, and connected by a railroad which passed some twelve or fifteen miles southward of that position! At both of these flanks were accumulated so great an amount of rolling stock, that the immediate swift transfer and concentration of the whole force upon Fort Donelson, or any other point on the line, were a certain and easy matter, and hence a vital element in all military plans and calculations at the moment. It remains to be added, that in the fall of Fort Donelson was involved not only the evacuation of Bowling Green, but that also of Columbus. Very sincerely your friend,
West Tennessee in the spring of 1862, which you have asked me to communicate in this manner, I have now to state the circumstances under which the Confederate army was assembled at Corinth, and the movement undertaken against its adversary which reslulted in the battle of Shiloh. Having determined upon the evacuation of Columbus, you detached a brigade of that garrison to hold, with certain other troops, the position of Island 10 and New Madrid, which were already partly fortified. The other part of Major-General Polk's forces, some nine or ten thousand men, were gradually transferred in the direction of Corinth, Mississippi, a point at which the Mobile and Ohio and the Memphis and Charleston railways intersect each other. In the same quarter, meanwhile, were assembled some regiments drawn from New Orleans, together with the forces which General Bragg had brought from Pensacola and Mobile, the latter having been added to your command in consequence of your urgent appeals to the Richmond authorities, supported probably by the direct application of Major-General Bragg himself. This concentration was with the view to meet and baffle the evident offensive purposes for which the Federal army was transferred from Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland, to Pittsburg landing, on the west bank of the Tennessee river, and near which the States of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi touch each other. Without having any personal knowledge at the moment of the immediate ground, your first idea, as I remember, was that your forces should assemble as early as possible at a point designated on the maps as Monterey, in advance of Corinth, toward the Federal position. But, as your own health was infirm at the time, you entrusted General Bragg with the duty of a personal examination of the terrain, though stating your preference for Monterey as the true strategic point to be occupied. That officer, however, having reported adversely to Monterey, you settled upon Corinth as your base of operations. Meanwhile, in several dispatches, you urged General Sidney  Johnston, who had fallen back from Nashville in the direction of Stevenson, to join his forces to your own at the same point, and with the army thus assembled to fall upon and crush the Federal army at Pittsburg landing before it had been fully concentrated for offensive operations. One or more of your communications to this effect you sent by Captain J. M. Otey, of the Adjutant-General's staff, and by an Aid-de-Camp, Captain Ferguson, I believe. General Johnston, however, did not seem to see the necessity of the proposed concentration, but turning from the direction of Stevenson, preferred for the time to occupy Huntsville and the line of the Memphis and Charleston railroad for a short distance westward and separated about one hundred miles from your army. Your own forces you had organized into two nearly equal corps, the one under Major-General Polk, the other under Major-General Bragg, and these were subdivided respectively into two divisions. While at Jackson (West Tennessee) you had applied to the War Department once more for the officers from the Army of the Potomac upon whose promotion and assignment to your command you had based your voluntary assent to your proposed separation from that army. But the answer was that the officers in question could not be spared from their several positions, and, moreover, that you must find your proper brigade commanders within your new command. You, therefore, recommended for the promotion requisite for their assignment to brigade command, certain officers designated by Generals Polk and Bragg as best fitted for such promotions. These promotions the Confederate authorities at Richmond declined to make, for the alleged reason that the President preferred that you should have some previous, personal knowledge of the fitness of officers recommended for promotion to such positions. In the meantime, the Federal forces at Pittsburg landing were gaining more and more menacing volume; and it was now very apparent that if they were to be offensively met at all, it must be very soon, or at latest by the first of April. Hence, about the middle of March, you were induced to apply once again to General Johnston for reinforcements, asking him to spare you, as well as I recollect, at least five thousand men, and to send them by rail with as little delay as possible. His answer was the immediate announcement that he had now concluded to make the junction of his forces with your own. This was done without delay, so far as  to bring to Corinth from eight to ten thousand men under General Hardee, while the remainder of his army was put in position at Burns' station and at Iuka, on the Memphis and Charleston railroad. Soon after his arrival at Corinth, as I understood at the time, General Johnston desired to turn over the direct command of the united armies to you and to confine his own functions to those of a department commander, with his headquarters separated from the forces in operation, alleging as his reason for so doing the highly patriotic and unselfish view of affairs, that such a course would be best for the success of the cause, insomuch as he apprehended that he had in no slight measure lost the confidence of the people, and possibly of the troops, in consequence of recent events in Middle Tennessee, while you had the confidence of the people as well as of the army, and therefore, in all likelihood, could handle the latter with better effect or greater results than he. Declining the offer, you urged him to remain at the head of the army, now concentrated and in good heart, while pledging your cordial support as his second in command. A day or two later, you drew up a plan for the reorganization of the Confederate army, which you exhibited and discussed in detail with me before submitting it to General Johnston. That plan having been accepted without modification, I drew up the general order which was published to the army at Corinth. Under that order, as you will recollect, the forces were arranged into three corps, respectively under Major-Generals Polk, Bragg and Hardee, leaving the cavalry and certain troops along the line of the Memphis and Charleston railroad unattached to corps. You were announced as second in command. Major-General Bragg was nominally appointed chief of the general staff, a position borrowed from continental European armies, although there was no such office provided by law for in the Confederate military organization, which, however, was not regarded as material at the time, as General Bragg was not to be detached or at all diverted from the command of his corps; and in fact his assignment to the position was in order simply to enable him, at some possible exigent moment on the field, to give orders in the name of General Johnston, a power which both the Commander-in-Chief and yourself desired that General Bragg should have in certain exigencies. At the same time I was named Adjutant-General of the united forces. Under this organization you then devoted yourself to mould and  prepare the army for an early offensive movement against the Federal army at Pittsburg landing. General Johnston left to you practically the functions of the immediate commander of the Confederate forces. The corps commanders severally made all their reports to you, either directly or through my office; while I, though issuing all orders which regulated the details of the service and every movement in the name of General Johnston, really received instructions thereupon from you and not from him. Thus it was when on the night of the 2d of April, 1862, General Cheatham, who commanded a division of Polk's corps, posted at Bethel station, on the Mobile and Ohio railroad, some twenty-four miles northward of Corinth, reported to his corps commander that a strong Federal force, believed to be General Lew Wallace's division, was menacing his immediate front. General Polk, having at once transmitted Cheatham's telegraphic dispatch to you, it was immediately sent by you to my office with your endorsement, nearly in these very words: “Now is the moment to advance and strike the enemy at Pittsburg landing.” Written below were substantially these words: “Colonel Jordan had better take this communication to General Johnston in person.--G. T. B.” Having immediately complied with your wishes, I found General Johnston in a room with some of his personal staff, and there I handed him the dispatch. He soon thereafter repaired with me to the quarters of General Bragg, whom we found already in bed. General Bragg declared in favor of your proposition as soon as he read it, but General Johnston expressed several objections with much clearness and force, and questioned the readiness of the army for so serious an offensive movement. His view evidently shook the opinion of General Bragg, who all the time had remained in his bed. Having discussed the subject almost daily with you during the past ten days, and knowing the reasons which made you regard the immediate offensive as the true course in the exigency, I stated them with as much clearness 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 every day until he would be so strong as to be able to take the offensive with irresistible numbers. Secondly, that our adversary's position at Pittsburg landing, with his back against a deep, broad river, in a cul-de-sac formed by two creeks (Owl and Lick), would make his  defeat decisively disastrous; that the character of the country also made it altogether practicable for us to steal upon and surprise our enemy, and your proposition was based on the practicability of such a surprise, with the conviction that we should find the Federal army entirely unprotected by entrenchments. These views seemed to satisfy General Johnston, and he authorized me to give at once the preparatory orders for the movement. Those orders I wrote in General Bragg's room, in the form of a circular letter to Generals Bragg, Polk and Hardee, respectively, directing them to hold their several corps in condition to move at a moment's notice, with forty rounds of ammunition in their cartridge boxes and three days cooked rations in their haversacks, with sixty rounds of ammunition and, I think, three days rations per man in wagons, together with certain other details affecting reserve supplies and their transportation. Couriers from General Bragg's headquarters carried these orders to Generals Polk and Hardee, who received them, as well as I now remember, at precisely 1.40 A. M., as stated in the receipts signed by those officers respectively at the time. Having dispatched directly the orders in question, I then repaired to your headquarters, roused Captain A. R. Chisolm, of your personal staff, and told him to awake you at five A. M. and acquaint you that the movement you had proposed had been ordered as I have related. About seven o'clock in the morning of the 3d of April you sent for me. Having gone to your apartment, I found that you had already drawn up the notes of a general order, presenting the manner and method of the movement from Corinth upon Pittsburg landing with peculiar minuteness, as from the 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 and mass for the contemplated stroke. 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 those notes I drew up the order of march and battle, which, issued in the name of General Johnston, was signed by me without any modification of their substance after I had made it fuller with details in respect to staff services, which details you left habitually to me, holding me responsible of course that they should be clear and comprehensive so as to insure the execution of your general plan of operations.  Before I was able to shape the order in question, General Johnston (and soon thereafter General Bragg) came to your headquarters, where I also had gone 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, as I had taken the sketch, supplied by the engineers, to my office to enable me to draw up the order with necessary precision. General Johnston seemed to weigh all that was said with much deliberation, and not until every detail had been thoroughly discussed did he decide to 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 the Generals and the proper staff officers, would take some hours, its details should be verbally explained to the corps commanders there present, so that the movement could be made at the prescribed moment by the several corps without delay or waiting for the written order, so much of whose details concerned the second day's march and the plan of attack. This was assented to by General Johnston as best, and I left you explaining to Generals Bragg, Polk and Hardee that particularly which they were to do jointly and severally that day and the next morning, or 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 printed afterwards. By the hour (12 midday) of the 3d of April prescribed by me in the preparatory circular to the corps commanders, sent out that morning about one o'clock from General Bragg's bedchamber, the troops were all under arms in Corinth and severally ready for movement. Meanwhile, constantly interrupted by other more urgent office duties, I had been unable to have completed the copies of the general orders for distribution, which was not at all urgent, however, as the corps commanders had been thoroughly apprised of all which they and their respective subordinates had to do for the next twenty-four hours. Nevertheless the movement did not begin at the hour verbally prescribed. General Polk's corps, which was ordered to move with the others at midday, though under arms and ready, was kept at a halt until late in the afternoon, when, it having been reported by  Generals Bragg and Hardee that they were unable to move their corps at the hour indicated for them, because General Polk's corps was in the way, you sent one of your staff to General Polk to inquire why he had not put his corps in motion. He replied that he was awaiting the “written order” directing him to march. You at once, through an Aid-de-Camp, directed him to clear the road and follow the movement as ordered. It was, however, already dark before his corps had finally filed out of the streets of Corinth. But for this delay, or had the movement commenced at midday on the 3d of April, as was intended and ordered, the Confederate army must have easily made the march to the immediate vicinity of the enemy by the afternoon of the 4th and made the attack, as you had planned, on the morning of the 5th of April--that is to say, twenty-four hours earlier than it was made. In that event, Buell must have reached the theatre of war entirely too late to retrieve the disaster which was inflicted on the 6th of April, and must himself have been forced to retire in haste from Middle Tennessee. Even the next day there was inexplicable delay in the movements not only of Polk's corps but of Bragg's also, so that on the night of the 4th of April the Confederate forces were assembled no farther in advance than at and around Monterey, and did not reach the vicinity of the Tennessee river until about 2.30 P. M. on the 5th (the distance traversed to Monterey and beyond not having been more than thirteen miles). There had, indeed, been some rainfall during the march, and consequently the roads were somewhat heavy; they were narrow wheelways, moreover, traversing a densely wooded country. But all these reasons do not account for the slowness of the march, which must be ascribed in truth to the unfortunate tardiness which characterized the start, marching and movements on the 3d and 4th of April. Without entering upon the details of the battle of the 6th and 7th of April, I will state that a reconnoissance in force, conducted on the 4th of April under the command of Colonel Wheeler, was made by that officer with such vigor, audacity and confidence that it ought to have been made plain to the Federal commander that it was the precursor of a near attack. It was your fear consequently, expressed at the time, that such would be the effect, and, therefore, that we should find our enemy behind entrenchments. I cannot now say whether or not this reconnoissance and the manner of it were due to your orders, but it is my recollection that the troops,  as well as Colonel Wheeler, belonged to Bragg's corps and acted immediately under General Bragg's orders. Having at last reached a point known not to be more than four miles from Pittsburg landing by two P. M. on the 5th of April, as you will recollect, at a council held immediately by General Johnston and yourself with the corps commanders, you urged that such had been the tardiness in quitting Corinth, such the delay on the march and so plain the notice given by Colonel Wheeler's conflict with the enemy's outposts of our close proximity for the purpose of an offensive operation, the whole plan of operation had in effect been foiled, as its success had been based, in your mind, entirely upon the expectation of effecting a complete surprise, which was now scarcely to be hoped for; that on the contrary in all probability we should find the Federal army “entrenched to the eyes” ; that to assail entrenchments with our troops in their present state of rawness and indiscipline would be sheer madness. To this opinion you had been further influenced, as I recollect, among other things by the fact that General Polk had just reported to you that his corps had already exhausted their six days rations in less than three days, his men having thrown away their food rather than carry it in their haversacks. General Johnston heard your objections and acknowledged their force, but said that he was in hopes the enemy would be taken unawares, and, being in such close proximity, he did not feel that he could withdraw without giving battle. Upon that decision the officers dispersed to their respective commands to prepare for the onset of the next morning; and I may here add that the attack was made precisely in the manner prescribed in the orders drawn up by me from your notes. For the other circumstances connected with that battle I must refer you to my letter touching the alleged lost opportunity addressed in the summer of 1862 to the editor of the Savannah Republican. Very sincerely yours,
To the Editor of the Savannah Republican:My attention has been recently attracted to a wide-spread article under the caption of “A lost opportunity at Shiloh,” which, it appears, is taken from a letter addressed to your journal by your regular correspondent P. W. A. This article is calculated to elevate  a subordinate General of the Abolitionists at the expense of General Beauregard. I know your correspondent well enough to feel assured that he wrote with no such purpose, and yet that must be the effect with all who have given credit to the story of the “Lost opportunity at Shiloh.” Having been on the staff of General Beauregard during the battle of Shiloh, I happen to know the exact truth of the matter misrepresented to P. W. A. by his pert and self-sufficient informant, and since the broad-cast dissemination of the untruth, I think it proper to ask space for a brief statement. General Prentiss did not deceive the Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate forces at Shiloh by any shallow invention, either in regard to the movements of General Buell's army or the existence of extensive works at Pittsburg landing. General Beauregard had the concurrent evidence of prisoners and scouts that Buell's arrival was confidently expected. It was this knowledge that led him on the night of the 3d of April, at the hour of 11 o'clock, to send me to General Johnston to urge an immediate advance on Pittsburg landing, before the junction of Buell's and Grant's forces could be effected; and it was this belief that induced him, on the afternoon of the 5th of April, in a council of general officers, to give his opinion that the movement was then too late, in consequence of the untoward delay of our troops in their march from Corinth, and our consequent inability to strike the enemy on Saturday, as he had anticipated. It was, however, after General Beauregard had given his orders and made his arrangements, as far as practicable to meet any exigency, that I joined him, and communicated the substance of a dispatch addressed to General Johnston, that had been handed me on the battlefield, which encouraged the hope that the main part of Buell's forces had marched in the direction of Decatur. But further in proof that Prentiss could not have attempted any such device as that represented, I can add he publicly said to me that Buell's forces would effect a junction during the night, and that as a consequence our victory would be wrenched from us the next day. Sharing my tent with Colonel Jacob Thompson and myself, on the morning of the 7th April, when the firing began at the outposts, he remarked with satisfaction: “Ah! what did I tell you, gentlemen? they are at it again.” As for the utter absence of defensive works at Pittsburg landing, our information was complete, and no words of General Prentiss  could bave shaken General Beauregard's convictions, even had he asked him any questions in that conversation, which I know he did not. General Beauregard did know, however, that the enemy had gunboats of the heaviest metal to protect the fragments of Grant's army as effectually as our wooden steamers had maintained our little force of 3,000 men in a far less favorable position at New Madrid, against 25,000 men, under the notorious Pope, as long as it was thought expedient to hold the place, or, as since then, and more prominently, McClellan found efficient refuge with his routed forces under fire of his gunborts on James river. The enemy's gunboats were at once put in requisition, and used with an effect on our troops to which all will testify who were in the advance and witnessed it. Our troops were scattered. Army, division, brigade and even regimental organizations were broken up for the time to such an extent that any advance, at that hour of the day, in such order or masses as would have promised any substantial advantages, was out of the question. Among the unavoidable causes of this disorganization were the rawness of many of the regiments engaged, and the densely wooded nature of the battlefield, which made it impossible to mass in due time enough troops for a resolute, sustained, effective assault on the enemy. Toward the close of the action — indeed, on both days — corps as well as brigade commanders found themselves with only such commands as they could collect in the woods-debris of other and different corps, divisions and brigades. General Beauregard had observed this, as well as the great exhaustion of his men, then engaged for twelve hours without any other food than a scanty breakfast, and knew that his last reserves had necessarily been brought into action about the time General Johnston fell. Accordingly, on returning to the vicinity of Shiloh chapel, about 6 P. M., he gave orders to collect our scattered forces, to reform our broken organizations, and, sleeping on our arms, to be held ready to meet the onset of Wallace's fresh division and Buell's forces at daylight, knowing well at the time, from abundant experience, that it would take more than one hour to disseminate the order and two to execute it; and in this connection it is pertinent to say that it was some time after dark before many of the brigades were organized and in the positions assigned them. It is not becoming in me to speak of the capacity of General Beauregard,  but I may be permitted to say that he is certainly the last officer against whom the charge of want of military enterprise can be established; for he is the commander who, before the metal of our troops had been tested, arranged his command of 18,500 men to accept battle with the army of McDowell, 50,000 strong, whose forces he actually engaged the 18th of July at Bull Run. Animated by the plain dictates of prudence and foresight, he sought to be ready for the coming storm, which he had anticipated and predicted as early as the afternoon of the 5th. To have continued the conflict another hour — that is, until darkness on the 6th instant--would not have resulted in the capture of Grant's army, wrecked even as it was and cowering under the high river banks, yet sheltered by his gunboats, but in the greater dispersion and disorganization of our own jaded troops, and to such an extent, indeed, in such a field as to have rendered it impossible to have collected them on the next morning in any order to have offered resistance even to Wallace's fresh division of Grant's army. Even as it was, at no time during the 7th of April were we able to engage the enemy with more than 15,000 men, with whom, however, properly massed and handled, we held the field against Wallace, the debris of Grant's division and Buell's army (35,000) until it became evidently wrong to maintain longer so unequal a battle; when our forces were withdrawn from the field in an order and spirit without a parallel in war, and without abatement of the honor they had won for our arms, leaving the enemy stunned and unable to follow.