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The battle of Shiloh. From the New Orleans, La., Picayune, Aug. 31, Sept. 7, 1902.

The first great battle of the Civil War—Undisciplined Confederate levies rout twice their Numbers— the opening day of an historic combat.

By General Thomas Jordan, C. S. A.
Despite the minute precautions urged in the order for the day against all courses calculated to divulge to the enemy the approaching danger, there had immediately prior to the battle of Shiloh really been little circumspection on the part of the Confederate soldiery, one-third of whom were fresh levies, wholly raw and undisciplined. Fires had been kindled, drums, too, were lustily beaten in a number of regiments, and scattering discharges of small arms had been kept up all night in most of the brigades, the men being apprehensive that otherwise the charges of their guns, possibly wet, would fail them when needed. These, with other noises, ought to have betrayed to the Federal generals on the first line the presence in their front of more than a reconnoissance force.

By 3 o'clock Tuesday morning, however, the Confederate Army was all astir, and, after a hasty, scanty breakfast, the lines were formed.

The 3rd Corps, under Major-General Hardee, 6,789 artillery and infantry, augmented by Gladden's Brigade, 2,235 strong, of Withers' Division, 2nd Corps, constituted the first line of about 8,500 bayonets, deployed in battle order on the grounds upon which they had bivouacked.

The second line, 500 yards rearward, of some 10,000 bayonets, was formed of Ruggles' and two brigades of Wither's Division of the 2nd Corps, under Major-General Bragg, composed of Anderson's, Gibson's, Pond's, Chalmers' and J. K. Jackson's Brigades. [205]

The artillery of both corps followed their respective lines by the Pittsburg road.

The 1st Corps, of not more than 8,500 bayonets, under Major-General Polk, was drawn up in a column of brigades deployed in line about 800 yards to the rear of Bragg. It was subdivided into divisions of two brigades each, Clark's Division, formed of Russell's and A. P. Stewart's Brigades; Cheetham's Division, of B. R. Johnson's and Stevens' Brigades, and, with the special reserve of three brigades under Brigadier-General Breckinridge, about 6,000 bayonets, constituted a reserve for the support of the attacking lines as might be needed on either flank.

The cavalry, about 4,300 strong, was distributed for the most part to guard the flanks. With the exception of Forrest's and Wharton's (8th Texas) Regiments, lately regimented, insufficiently armed and wholly without drill, the nature of the scene of operations rendered the cavalry almost valueless, and only the two regiments mentioned took any material part in the actions of either day.

About sunrise, accompanied by their respective staffs, Generals Johnston and Beauregard met, in their saddles, at the bivouac of the former, near Hardee's line, just about to move forward. It was not near 6 o'clock, and a few moments later about 34,000 Confederate Infantry, with some fifty guns, were in movement, with a bearing never surpassed, to fall upon their enemy—an enemy as yet undeveloped, but known to be ensconced near at hand in the fog and forest, superior in numbers and equipments, for their many drums the evening before had plainly told their formidable strength.

At first a heavy white mist hung low in the wooded valley between Hardee and the supposed quarter of the enemy, and into it plunged his sturdy men, not knowing nor caring what hostile force and appliances lay ready within to receive their onset. To find that force as speedily as possible and overwhelm it was the errand upon which they and their emulous comrades were afield so early.

Here a topographical sketch of the theatre of war may serve to make more readily intelligible the occurrences and vicissitudes of the battle. Two streams, Lick and Owl Creeks, taking their rise very near each other, just westward of Monterey, in a ridge [206] 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, finally empty into the Tennessee about four miles asunder.

Between these water courses is embraced an arena 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 into Owl Creek, as the land rises highest and ridge like 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 for much of their extent. A primeval forest, cumbered 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 Lick Creek about a mile apart, converge together about two miles from the landing. Other roads also approach from all directions, one crossing Owl Creek by a bridge, before its junction with Snake Creek, branches, the one way trending westward toward Purdy, the other northward toward Crump's landing, six miles below Pittsburg. Another road nearer the river bank, crossing Snake Creek by a bridge, also connects the two points.

Though completely veiled at the moment from the sight of their approaching enemy, it appears a Federal force of five strong divisions occupied the space we have described, and were thus disposed:

Three brigades of Sherman's Division, or nine regiments, supported by eighteen guns and eight companies of cavalry, stood directly across the upper Pittsburg road, facing southward. One of the three brigades rested its right at the crossing of Owl Creek on the Purdy road, and the other two lay, the one with its right and the other with its left near a rustic log ‘meeting house,’ called Shiloh.

There, also, were established the headquarters of Sherman. [207]

In front of this position were a ravine and rivulet, which gave some natural strength if merely held with soldiery circumspection.

As these regiments had but lately come from the depots and cantonments of Ohio and Illinois, their ranks were doubtless full and did not fall short of a total of 7,000 infantry, with eighteen guns and 450 cavalry.

A fourth brigade of the same division, by an anomalous arrangement, was posted on the extreme Federal left, at the crossing of the road from Pittsburg to Hamburg, and only about a mile from the former landing.

The space thus left was filled by the division of Prentiss, of some eight or nine regiments, which we assume to have mustered as many as 6,000 bayonets, one-third of which, however, at the moment of attack, may have been detached at the landing.

Another division, that of McClernand's, of twelve regiments, ten of which were entitled to wear ‘Fort Donelson’ on their banners, were in supporting distance of Sherman at the confluence of the two Corinth Roads. It assuredly did not fall below 7,300 men.

A second line, to the rearward, was composed of Hurlbut's and W. H. L. Wallace's (C. F. Smith's) Divisions, the first of which was stretched across the Corinth Road and the other extended to the leftward in the direction of Stuart's Brigade, on Lick Creek.

Five of Hurlbut's regiments had fought at Fort Donelson. This division, in the studious absence of official data, we may safely set down at 7,500 bayonets. Six of Wallace's regiments also had assisted at Fort Donelson, and not less than 7,000 effectives did he command. In fine, to recapitulate:

Sherman's Division, 9,200 men, eighteen guns; Prentiss' Division, 6,000 men, twelve guns; McClernand's Division, 7,300 men, eighteen guns; Hurlbut's Division, 7,500 men, eighteen guns; Wallace's Division, 7,000 men, eighteen guns. Minimum Federal infantry force, 37,000 men and eighty-four guns.

We find in the official reports the names of at least sixteen light batteries present and engaged, also four or five battalions of light cavalry, which would swell the Federal Army, about to be assaulted in their very camps, to 40,000 men of all arms, [208] with not less than 37,000 infantry, full forty per cent. of whom were flushed with their recent success at Fort Donelson. Nor was this all. Not more than four or five miles from Tecumseh Sherman was Lew Wallace's Division, over 7,000 strong and twelve guns.

It is bruited that both Generals Grant and Sherman felt and expressed premonitions of the attack. Indeed, some feeling of that kind may have been in their minds, for the great poet says:

By a divine instinct men's minds mistrust
The danger; as, by proof, we see
The waters swell before a boist'rous storm.

But in that event it is passing strange they did not take even the ordinary precautions which habitually hedge an army in the field. Instead of that, in sooth, there was no line of infantry pickets in advance of the ordinary chain of sentinels; apparently no cavalry exterior either to Sherman or Prentiss, and that invading army lay drowsily in its cozy encampment, as if supremely confident no harm threatening and no disaster could befall it. Many as yet were in their blankets, fast asleep; many others washing and dressing; others cooking their morning meal. Some were eating leisurely at bounteous mess chests, and the arms and accoutrements of all were spread around in the orderless fashion of holiday soldiers.

Meanwhile, swiftly forward through the woods strode the Confederates.

With an elastic tread, inspired by hope and the fresh April morning air, they surged onward and forward, until, the mist gradually lifting, the sheen of the white tents, their goal might be seen through the trees. On poured the living current of the Confederates. By a mischance, their left had not been thrown sufficiently near to Owl Creek so when the collision came it was only with the left brigade (Hilderbrand's) of Sherman's Division; but it fell with overwhelming force upon Prentiss from flank to flank. Their sentinels, taken by surprise, were run in, with barely time to discharge their pieces. Just at their heels came the Confederates, cheering heartily; and so complete a surprise of an army has not the like in history. [209] Officers and men were killed or wounded in their beds, and large numbers had not time to clutch either arms or accoutrements.

Nevertheless, few prisoners were taken, nor were many either killed or wounded in the first stage of the battles. Hilderbrand's Brigade of Ohioans, swept by the violence of the onslaught from its campaign, scattered, and was heard of no more as a belligerent organization on that field. Prentiss' Division, rallying, was formed in good time on a neighboring ridge, but, little able to stand the torrent that streamed after it, was swept further back.

Meanwhile, Sherman's rightward brigades, which escaped collision with Hardee, he had had time to form, and with them right manfully did he strive to make head against Ruggles' Division of Bragg's Corps, that by this time had come upon the scene and bore down vehemently upon them. As we have said before, the position held by Sherman was one of natural strength; with a small watercourse in front, it afforded a converging fire upon the approaching Confederates.

McClernand, appraised of the attack, was also advancing to support him. Such, however, was the vigor of the assault that Sherman, with the loss of five or six guns, was forced back just as McClernand came up. They were both then swept rearward, near the line of the crossroad from Hamburg to Purdy. There Sherman, with McClernand, gained a foothold, and, with several batteries favorably posted, made another stand on a thicklywooded ridge with a ravine in front. But, speedily assailed by Ruggles and some of Polk's Brigades, with a fury not to be withstood, the Federal line again yielded, losing several pieces of artillery, and receding to the position of McClernand's encampment.

About forty minutes past 7 A. M., hearing the uproar in front, Hurlbut also sent Veach's Brigade of his division to support Sherman, and with his other two brigades moved swiftly to the succor of Prentiss, who had called for aid. With these went forward eight companies of cavalry and three batteries. Prentiss' Division was met, however, in broken fragments, which filtered through his lines as Hurlbut formed in the edge of a field, sheltered by timber and thick undergrowth, near the Hamburg Road, south of the position last taken by Sherman and McClernand. There Hurlbut was also speedily assailed by the [210] Confederates, now re-enforced in that quarter by Chalmers' and Jackson's Brigades of Bragg's Corps; and such was the vehemence of the attack that he was soon swept back with the loss of some artillery.

Thus the whole front line of Federal encampments was left in the hands of their adversary, filled with equipage and baggage, the most abundant and luxurious that ever encumbered any except an Oriental army. (The tents were full of new capacious trunks; in many instances were furnished with stoves, and the ground around was thickly strewn with a species of vestarmor, of sheet steel, whose owners had not time to don.)

By this time both Cheatham's and Clark's Divisions, Polk's Corps, were also strenuously engaged, mainly on the left, where Sherman was making able, desperate efforts to redeem the losses of the morning. Several of his positions, as the Federals drifted riverward, were quite strong, fronted by tangled ravines and affording thick cover, from which they poured a desolating fire, that more than once checked the ardent press of their adversaries. But gathering volume and resuming the onset with fresh spirit, the Confederates still drove their enemy nearer the river.

Wallace (W. H. L.) had soon become involved in the battle. Manifestly a gallant soldier, he fought his division men, who had been at Donelson, with decided stamina. Stuart's Brigade, Sherman's Division, had also been attacked, and the Federal line of battle was pushed back to within a mile of the landing, and to the ground of their last encampments. There were massed what remained of their artillery and the fragments of Sherman's, Prentiss', McClernand's and Hurlbut's Divisions, as well as Wallace's and Stuart's.

In the meantime, from the nature of the field—the network of ravines, the interlaced thickets and wide scope of forest—the Confederate organization had become greatly disordered. Not only divisions and brigades had been dislocated, but regiments also; and the troopers of all three corps, in fact, were intermingled. For the most part, confident of the issue and bent on pressing toward the enemy, there was yet a lack of harmonious movement. Superior officers led, with notable courage, regiments or parts of brigades, and doubtless stimulated their [211] men not a little by their example, but at the same time lost sight of the mass of their commands, which were thus not infrequently left at a halt without orders and uncertain what to do.

And this was the case with batteries also, which, moreover, were too often employed singly. (General Beauregard, through the writer, had given special orders to chiefs of artillery to mass their batteries in action and fight them twelve guns on a point.)

General Johnston, the Confederate commander-in-chief, was now in the very front of the battle.

Assured of a great victory after the marvelous success of his well-planned surprise, he now stimulated the onslaught by his personal presence on the right, where the press was fiercest, the resistance the most effective. More than once brigades that faltered, under the inspiration of his leading bore back the enemy and wrested from the foe the position fought for.

As far as can be ascertained, General Grant was not upon the immediate field earlier than midday. On Saturday afternoon he had gone to Savannah and slept there. The sound of many cannon at Shiloh was his first tidings of a hostile junction at Pittsburg Landing; but even that was scarcely regarded as the announcement of a serious battle, for one of Buell's Divisions (Nelson's) lay at Savannah, and as he was leaving for Pittsburg, General Grant merely ordered that division to march thither by the nearest road.

However, as the Federal general steamed toward the scene, the banks of the river were soon found alive with his men, fleeing from the danger which so early that morning had routed them from their comfortable beds.

When, too, he reached Pittsburg, it was to find his whole front line surprised, overwhelmed, routed and the ravines and river bank adjacent packed with thousands of crouching fugitives. These were not to be rallied nor reorganized, not to be incited to return to the side of their imperiled comrades, who still battled manfully, and by co-operation make an effort to recover the fortunes of the day.

Within the hollows and on the slopes and flat ridges of that circumscribed Tennessee woodland at least 60,000 muskets and rifles were now at the dire work of carnage in the hands of 60,000 men, in whom burned all the [212]

Fierce fever of the steel,
The guilty madness warriors feel.

The sun had dissipated the fog, and shone bright and warm through the young budding foliage.

But the continuous roll, roar and blaze of small arms, the hirtle, shriek and crash of rifled projectiles through the trees, the explosion of shells, the louder discharges and reverberations of more than a hundred cannon, and the hoarse cheers and shouts of the Confederates filled every nook of the forest with the varied, commingled clamors of one of the bloodiest of modern battles.

Earlier, General Gladden, at the head of his brigade, in the first line, had fallen mortally hurt. A merchant in New Orleans when the revolution began, full of martial instincts, as well as love of the section of his birth, A. H. Gladden was among the first to take up arms. With some soldierly experience as an officer of the gallant Palmetto Regiment of South Carolina in the war with Mexico, his military worth was soon apparent, and he had risen to the command of a brigade. This he disciplined in such a fashion as to show in what soldierly shape the splendid war personnel of his countrymen could be readily molded by men fit to lead them.

Soon after Gladden was cut down in the rich promise of his career, his brigade faltered under a desolating fire. Its new commander, Colonel Daniel W. Adams, seizing a battle flag, placed himself in front of his staggering ranks and rode forward upon the enemy. His men, animated by the act, grew steady, resumed the charge and carried the disputed ground, with seven stands of colors taken from Prentiss' Division.

In another part of the field similar examples were multiplied. Brigadier-General Hindman, about 10 A. M., pressing his brigade forward, with notable nerve, constantly close upon the enemy, drew down an overwhelming storm of fire, under which he was severely wounded after conspicuous conduct, and the brigade for a time wavered and recoiled.

There was abundant intrepidity in leading everywhere; but, unfortunately for the Confederate cause, too little knowledge of the right way to handle regiments, brigades, divisions, even [213] corps, to secure that massing of troops, those weighty blows which achieve decisive victories. Though, indeed, there were far too many stragglers who ignobly shrunk from the victorious edge of battle, many going back even to Corinth that night, yet everywhere there was the largest measure of steady fighting by regiments, brigades and parts of divisions. Notwithstanding the wreck of Sherman's, Prentiss' and McClernand's Divisions now crowded back upon the line of Wallace's (W. H. L.) and Hurlbut's Divisions—that is to say, a short line scarcely a mile from the river—and though the corps of Hardee, Bragg and Polk, with Breckinridge not far off, were in their immediate front, there was no concerted concentration of these triumphant corps respectively, much less of the whole mass, for a well-timed, overwhelming blow at the now sorely crippled, dispirited enemy. And as a consequence, with Sherman among them doing all possible in the exigency, the Federals were enabled to protract their defense against the desultory onsets with which thy were assailed for the next hour or two.

During the occurrences which we have related, Colonel N. B. Forrest had thrown his regiment of cavalry, as soon as he heard the inauguration of the battle, across Lick Creek, and, pressing up, held it on the Confederate right flank, ready for orders, for which he sent at once to the commander-in-chief.

About 11 o'clock the enemy, as we have seen, having been forced back to their second line, he received an order to move his regiment onward to the front. This he executed at a gallop. Not finding the general there, or further orders, he pushed ahead to the point where the infantry seemed most obstinately engaged. It was near the center of the line, and on reaching the scene, Forrest found that Cheatham's Division had just received a temporary check.

With his wonted impatience of the least delay, Forrest at once proposed to Cheatham to join in an immediate charge across an open field in their front. To this, Cheatham, whose men for several hours previously had been breasting a tempest of artillery and musketry fire, demurred for the moment, as his men required some rest. Forrest's men, being mounted, were nearly as much exposed to an annoying fire where they stood–a fair mark—as in a charge, and Forrest determined to make one. [214]

Forming in a column of fours, the order to charge was given, and on they dashed, at a splendid pace, full in the face of a withering fire of small and large arms. A number of horses fell in a few instances, and several of the men; but on they sped, heedless of the breaks in their column, up to within forty paces of the Federal line, when the advance became entangled in an impracticable morass across their path, from which it became impossible to extricate some of the horses. The boldness of this movement, however, appeared to produce some effect upon the enemy, and Cheatham, advancing with his indomitable division at this time, the Federals, after some resistance, were borne rearward again in a good deal of confusion.

Forrest now, having made a detour around the marsh, galloped through the infantry and threw his regiment upon the disordered mass of Federals, with the effect to scatter them a good deal more and hurry their pace, manifestly toward the river.

Meanwhile, to the rightward, the Confederate general-in-chief, taking part at a critical juncture in the charge of a brigade, and by his intrepid presence giving a resistless momentum to the onset, received a rifle wound in the leg—a mortal wound, as it proved, presently, for the want of timely surgical aid. The Governor of Tennessee, by his side when struck, caught the fainting soldier in his arms as he sunk from his saddle, exhausted by an apparently painless loss of blood. A moment after, his aid-de-camp and brother-in-law, Colonel William Preston, of Kentucky, came up, and Sidney Johnston, with scarce a murmur, died in his arms. The scene of this untoward death was a wooded, secluded hollow, and the loss of their chief was not known to the Confederate Army until that night, nor even generally then.

About the time of this calamity the reserves, under Breckinridge, were thrown vigorously into action. Bragg had applied, through his aid, Colonel Urquhart, for a diversion to his rightward against some batteries which were distressing his front and keeping his men at bay.

Breckinridge's Brigades were drawn up on the gentler part of the slope of a ridge when the order for their advance was given. Clad in a dark blouse, the general himself sat on his [215] horse, surrounded by his staff, more like an equestrian statue than a living man, except the fiery gleam in his dark eyes as he received the order.

In front was to be seen a Federal camp in the open woods, apparently quiet and without an inmate.

Indeed, the stillness seemed omnious, and just ahead was an open field bordered by a dense thicket. Through the camp pressed the Kentuckians, and into the open field, and still there was silence; but not long, for a few steps beyond a hissing stream and a flame of musketry burst at their breasts, mowing their ranks fearfully and heaping the ground with the dead and wounded. There was a momentary check, and they gave back to the woods, while a storm of bullets rattled through the trees far behind, reaching in profusion even a battery posted in another encampment a half of a mile to the rear. But only for a little while did the Kentuckians recede. Closing their thinned ranks and animated by their officers, they retook the advance, and their adversaries were forced back, yet with not a little stubbornness and desperate fighting, on favorable ground.

By this time Wither's Division of Bragg's Corps, as well as Breckinridge's reserves, mingled with portions of Hardee's men, were all massed on the Confederate right in the quarter of Lick Creek. General Bragg also, as he tells us, was there in person and assumed command.

Giving, he says, ‘a common head and a common purpose to the whole,’ he launched them with a resistless weight at the enemy, who now gave way, and on all sides were forced from the line of Wallace's and Hurlbut's encampments, leaving behind more of their artillery and 3,000 prisoners, chiefly of Prentiss' Division, in the hands of their assailants. At the same time, on the center and left, Polk's Divisions, with Ruggle's Divisions of Bragg, and some of Hardee's also, made no less strenuous efforts to close the battle. Those of the routed Federals who were not killed or captured dropped back in great confusion toward the landing. Some were rallied upon the ridge immediately overhanging the landing, but large masses were added to the already dense mob of fugitives huddled below the bank.

But, meanwhile, Colonel Webster, chief of the Federal staff, an officer of the regulars, who knew his profession, observing [216] the mortal peril of his people, had gathered upon that ridge all the guns available, including some 32-pounders and a battery of 20-pounder Parrotts, or in all twenty-two pieces, which he manned with gunners from the least demoralized of the runaways. Soon, too, the remains of the field batteries were added, and some fifty guns were massed upon this eminence about 5 P. M., with a field of fire sweeping all the approaches to the river. The position was strong; timber and undergrowth gave shelter for the artillery and their support, while a deep ravine separated it from the table land over which it dominated; tangled brushwood obstructed its steep slopes, and on or behind this position, as we have said, took final refuge the entire Federal force except the remains of one of Sherman's Brigades, which appear to have drifted off with their general to the vicinity of the bridge across the Snake Creek, on the road to Crump's Landing, and, not being followed, he established them there undisturbed, with rear open for retreat, in an emergency, northward.

The air now resounded with hearty shouts of natural exultation on the part of the victorious Confederates, and, having established his headquarters in advance of Shiloh, General Beauregard, through his staff, urged the forward propulsion of the whole force upon the shattered fragments of the enemy.

Unfortunately, however, the Federal encampments were plethoric with food most tempting to hungry men, as well as with clothing and other alluring spoil; the thick woods, too, had greatly disintegrated almost every regiment, so that none of the divisions confronted in an embodied form the last position that remained between them and the deep, broad waters of the Tennessee.

The superior officers present, howbeit, collected the men immediately around them, of whatsoever corps.

Tired, hungry and exhausted as were the Confederates, nevertheless a number of determined separate efforts were made by them during the remaining hour of daylight to wrench their last foothold from their elsewhere beaten adversary. But meanwhile, at 5 P. M., Ammen's Brigade of Nelson's Division had been thrown across the river and established by Buell as a support of Webster's powerful battery; and the Federals, like a rat brought to bay in a corner from which there is no escape, [217] fought with all the desperation of that animal under similar circumstances, knowing, moreover, that night with its shield of darkness and ample succor were close at hand.

The character of these last assaults on the part of the Confederates, and their fruitless results, with the causes which wrought their failure, may be best illustrated by what befell Colonel Mouton and the 18th Louisiana Infantry.

After 4 P. M. he was ordered to charge ‘a battery on a hill,’ some 600 yards in his front.

Advancing ‘unsupported,’ the regiment soon became uncovered and exposed to a cross fire from the battery and its supports. Nevertheless, these dauntless Louisianians, well led, pressed up to within seventy yards of the Federal guns, but were then beaten back, leaving 207 of their numbers either dead or hors-de-combat on the ground.

Another characteristic essay was made on the extreme Confederate right by General James R. Chalmers, with his own and a part of J. K. Jackson's Brigade, to press forward to the landing. But in attempting, as Mouton had done, ‘to mount the last ridge,’ they were met by a ‘fire from a whole line of batteries, protected by infantry, and assisted by shells from the gunboats.’

The Confederates, however, strongly persisted in storming the steep hillside, despite the impediments with which it bristled, and ‘made charge after charge without success, until night closed hostilities.’

This tells the story of the closing scene—tells how a series of disjointed attacks at that late hour upon a battery of over fifty pieces by fragmentary bodies of men who had already been embattled for ten hours without respite, failed necessarily.

General Beauregard, in the meantime, observing the exhausted, widely-scattered condition of his army, directed it to be brought out of battle, collected and restored to order, as far as practicable, and to occupy for the night the captured encampments of the enemy. This, however, had already been done in chief part by the officers in immediate command of the troops before the order was generally distributed.

Foremost in the pursuit that followed the defeat of the Federals at their second line, it remains to be said, were Forrest and his regiment. They assisted in the capture of Prentiss' men, [218] and being mounted, as well as comparatively fresh, led the advance upon the ridge where the battery was established. Despite the efforts of the Federal officers, such was the confusion prevalent as Forrest began to skirmish vigorously that he sent a staff officer to report to General Polk (from whom he had last received orders) that by a strong, rapid forward movement the enemy might be driven into the river. Soon, however, the battery on the ridge opened with a general salvo, and the gunboats threw their ponderous shells in the thick of the upcoming mass of Confederates with such profusion that General Polk ordered the cavalry to take shelter in the wooded ravine which, beginning at the river just above the landing, extends around the battery ridge and for more than a mile westwardly. Here, however, they were exposed to a raking fire from the gunboats, and the artillery of both sides playing over their heads until night brought the cessation of the conflict.

All the encampments that had been occupied by the fine Federal Divisions were now in possession of their adversary. They were full of rich, opportune spoils of war, including many thousand stands of arms, all the blankets and baggage of the whole force, their subsistence, their hospital stores, means of transportation to a great extent, and large stores of ammunition. But so great was the lassitude and fatigue of the Confederates that all that could be done was to glean food sufficient for their supper, for which, indeed, all were dependent upon what they could thus find. The prioners, however, were collected together during the night not far from Shiloh Church, where Generals Beauregard and Bragg established their headquarters. There, after a time, the former had an interview with his corps commanders, and received brief oral reports of the operations of the day.

Among the prisoners was General Prentiss himself, who had much to say touching the ultimate issue of the affair, which he asserted was by no means terminated with the disasters of that untoward day, for Buell, he stated, would effect a juncture that night, the fight would break out the next morning with renewed vigor, and all losses would be recovered. At the moment, however, this was regarded as idle talk, for an official telegraphic dispatch, addressed to General Johnston from near Florence, [219] was forwarded to the field from Corinth, announcing that Buell was moving with his whole force upon Florence.

Emanating from a reliable officer placed there in observation, whose scouts had doubtless mistaken the movement of Mitchell's Division for the whole of Buell's Army, it was credited, and Buell's timely junction with General Grant was accordingly deemed impossible. Therefore, the capture of the latter was regarded at Confederate headquarters as inevitable the next day, as soon as all the scattered Confederate reserves could be brought to bear for a concentrated effort.

Meanwhile, night had shrouded the bloody field in darkness; a deep silence had settled upon the scene of so much carnage-a silence only broken through the night by the regular exchanges of the heavy naval guns, the explosions of the shells, and by the low wails and moans of the wounded, of whom more than ten thousand, of both armies, were spread over the battlefield.

Such, however, of the Confederate soldiery as could find shelter from a heavy rain, slept undisturbed and hopeful of the fullest fruition of a great victory on the morrow.

On withdrawing from the ravine in which the nightfall had left him, Colonel Forrest, finding no superior at hand from whom to seek orders, with his habitual self-reliance looked at once for forage and food, and happily found both in a Federal camp nearby. Afterward he threw out a squadron as pickets, confronting as close as possible those of the enemy on a stretch of a mile to Coal Creek. He also dispatched Lieutenant Sheridan, of his regiment, with a squad of scouts in Federal overcoats, to reconnoiter within the precincts of the enemy's lines.

Completely successful, in an hour Sheridan returned and reported that, reaching the landing, he had seen heavy reenforcements coming rapidly by water. Also, in his opinion, such was the disorder prevailing that if an attack were made in full force at once, they might be readily pushed into the river.

Forrest, ever a man of prompt action, mounted his horse instantly to convey this startling intelligence to the nearest corps commander, and soon coming upon Generals Hardee and Breckinridge, made known what his scouts had announced. He also bluntly added his opinion that either the Confederates should [220] immediately resume the battle or quit the field to avoid a damaging conflict with overwhelming odds.

Hardee directed him to communicate his information to General Beauregard, and with that object he rode forth again; but after a diligent search through the woods and darkness, unable to find that general, he became so deeply solicitous that he hurried back to his pickets. Finding all quiet, he again dispatched his scouts within the Federal lines.

It was 2 o'clock A. M. before they returned and reported the continued arrival of fresh troops. Again Forrest repaired and reported to General Hardee the state of affairs, but was instructed to return to his regiment, keep up a vigilant, strong picket line and report all hostile movements. All the while every few minutes through the night two gunboats had been sedulously throwing their dread ‘bolted thunder’ directly over Forrest's bivouac, murdering sleep, weary and drowsy as all his men were.

By 7 P. M. Nelson's other brigades had crossed the Tennessee, and, with the one that so materially helped, with Webster's opportunely posted battery, to save the Federal Army from utter overthrow, were at once thrown forward by General Buell as a shield between General Grant's Army and the Confederates. Crittenden's Division likewise came up from Savannah by water not long after, and was promptly established in the same manner on Nelson's right. Moreover, Lew Wallace, strangely unable to find the road battleward amid the thunder peals of more than a hundred cannon within six miles of him, as soon as the dusky shadows and the quiet of night had supervened, found a way to the south bank of Snake Creek and to a position there commanding the bridge, and by chance, too, in the neighborhood of Sherman, with the shreds, or odds and ends of his own and other divisions that had rallied around him. One of Mc-Cook's Brigades (Rousseau's) also reached the scene about sunrise, and the other two were near at hand.

Thus were marshaled there, or near at hand, ready to take the offensive against the victors of the day before 25,000 fresh Federal troops, three battalions of which were regulars.

On the Confederate side, to meet such an onset, there was not a man who had not fought steadfastly for the greater part of Sunday. In addition to the many stragglers incident to all [221] battles, the casualties did not fall short of 6,500 officers and men, so that not more than 20,000 Confederate Infantry could have been found to answer to their names that morning.

Scattered widely, the regiments of the brigades of Bragg's and Hardee's Corps had slept here and there among the captured encampments, wheresoever they could find subsistence. Polk's Corps had been embodied to some degrees and led during the night by their general rearward at least a mile and a half beyond Shiloh toward Corinth.

In haste to efface the tarnish of the arrant disaster inflicted on his army on Sunday, with all the attending completeness of the surprise, General Grant did not await the advent of Buell's other divisions, but directed the offensive to be assumed at dawn. An accomplished soldier, martial by nature, acquainted with the theory of grand operations, and well practiced as a staff and line officer, General Buell had known how to make soldiers of his men—formidable soldiers to the scorched, battle-jaded Confederates whom they were about to engage.

From his line of observation Forrest discovered the first movement of the enemy just before day, a tentative advance of some pickets, as if to feel for an enemy. His men were now generally clothed in Federal cavalry overcoats, found in their encampment of the night. These misled the Federal pickets, some fifty of whom were presently captured. About half-past 5 A. M., however, a swarm of skirmishers were flung boldly forward by Nelson. These Forrest engaged as he fell back slowly upon the infantry, then being collected somewhat rearward, and behind whom, at 7 A. M., General Hardee directed him finally to retire.

The sound of so much musketry at the front by this time had announced, plainly enough, the advent upon the theatre of war of Buell's Army, and a desperate struggle for the fruits of yesterday's hard-earned triumph. All, as we have said, were greatly fatigued, and under the influence also of that extreme lassitude which follows every great exaltation; nevertheless, the reaction was immediate, and with the utmost alacrity the Confederates sprang once more into serried ranks, bent on a manful effort to hold what they had won.

Chalmer's Brigade, with a part of J. K. Jackson's, under [222] Wheeler, in advance, in front of Nelson, were the first to become engaged. Nelson came out with vigor, and the Confederates retired slowly to concentrate their strength. By 8 o'clock, Hardee, however, had massed in that quarter a number of his own corps, as well as Withers' Division of Bragg's, and the combat began in good earnest. Nelson now found a lion in his path, but Hazen's Brigade pushed forward with decided pluck, and the Confederates were driven from their position with the loss of a battery. A well-timed concentration, however, enabled the Confederates to hurl Hazen back from his prey, and in turn pressed Nelson so sorely that by 9 A. M. he was calling lustily for aid. In this affair the Confederate officers led their ranks notably. Chalmers, seizing the colors of a regiment as his brigade wavered, rode forward in a storm of missiles, waving the flag above his head; his men rallied, and quickly resuming the offensive, carried the contested point. There has been no grander display of courage on any field. At the same time, Colonel Wheeler did the like with the flag of the 19th Alabama; and Lieutenant-Colonel W. A. Rankin, of Mississippi, lost his life, giving a conspicuous example of determined courage to his regiment.

Nelson was re-enforced by Terrell's Battery (regulars), and an obstinate struggle for the mastery of this part of the field raged until about I P. M. But neither party gained any material advantage, except that Terrell's Battery was so cut up that he had to assist as a gunner at one of his pieces, and the battery narrowly escaped capture.

Crittenden by this time was likewise hotly engaged in the immediate center, and on his right were arrayed several thousands of Grant's troops under McClernand.

The Confederates on his front, at first retiring to concentrate at his advance, finally rebounded, as upon Nelson with as great ardor and cheering as heartily as the day before in the full tide of their brilliant success. And as Nelson was borne back, so was Crittenden by the same refluent wave.

One of McCook's Brigades, under Rousseau, leavened by three battalions of regulars, had been on the field as early as daylight, on the right of Crittenden, neighboring Sherman and Lew Wallace. His other brigades reached and took position [223] about 10 o'clock; and just about the same time Polk's Corps, coming up from the rear, on the Confederate side, entered the battle in splendid order and spirit.

Grant's shattered forces on Sunday night had been reorganized into three divisions, of a decidely composite character, under Sherman, McClernand and Hurlbut. Four or five thousand of these men were brought up under McClernand, as we have said, between Crittenden and McCook, and about 10 o'clock several thousand more that hitherto had been collected and held near the river were also added under Hurlbut, who, however, fusing them with McClernand's command, repaired rearward again, at McClernand's request, to seek further support.

Lew Wallace, it will be remembered, bivouacked near the river and Snake Creek bridge, and so did Sherman. No considerable portion of Confederates had slept in that quarter of the field, so Wallace and Sherman, advancing for a while without difficulty, took up a strong position on a wooded ridge, affording shelter for Wallace's two batteries, with its right protected by the swamps of Owl Creek. However, by the time Nelson was well at work on the Federal left, the Confederates opened a light fire upon Wallace and Sherman, who, encouraged by its feebleness, adventured the offensive. But their speedy greeting was a sheet of flame, lead and canister from the woods in their front, when portions of Ruggles' and Breckinridge's Divisions stood in wait. The Federals reeled and rushed rearward, followed nearly a mile by the Confederates; but here, re-enforced by McCook, Sherman attempted to resume the advance.

Now the fight waxed obstinate, and the firing, says Sherman, was the ‘severest musketry’ he had ever heard. Rousseau's Federal Brigade here was pitted against Trabue's Kentuckians. Both fought with uncommon determination to win, but the Federals were repulsed, and Wallace was so pressed that his situation became extremely critical.

McCook's other brigade had joined in the action meanwhile, and in that part of the field, including Grant's forces under Sherman and McClernand, there were fully 20,000 Federals opposed by not half that number of battle-battered Confederates.

The impetus of the Confederate attack was, therefore, slackened in the face of such odds. Yet several brilliant charges were [224] made, in one of which, to the left of Shiloh, General Beauregard himself led in person, carrying the battle flag of a Louisiana regiment; and Trabue's Brigade, having carried an eminence near Owl Creek, repulsing every effort to dislodge him, held the position until the retreat was ordered.

Here, as on the right, the Confederate troops were animated by the greatest intrepidity on the part of their superior officers.

It was now after I o'clock. The battle, kindled soon after daylight, had raged furiously from right to left for more than five hours. And notwithstanding the odds of fresh troops brought up against them, despite their long-continued engagament, the Confederates had not receded from the ground upon which they had been concentrated as soon as it was apparent that the battle was on their hands. But they were being fearfully depleted meanwhile. Beginning the combat with not more than 20,000 men exclusive of cavalry, less than 15,000 were now in the Confederate ranks. General Beauregard, seeing the unprofitable nature of the struggle, determined not to prolong it.

Directing his adjutant-general to select a position and post such troops as were available to cover the retreat, he dispatched other staff officers to the corps commanders, with the order to retire simultaneously from their several positions, ready, however, to turn and fight should it become necessary. And accordingly, about 2 o'clock the retrograde movement of the Confederates was inaugurated and carried out with a steadiness never exceeded by veterans of a hundred fields.

During the various stages of the conflict General Beauregard tried to use his cavalry, but so dense and broad spread were the woods that they proved altogether fruitless of results. Colonel Forrest, with ever-useful instincts, however, was able to render effective service during the morning in repressing straggling, until about 11 o'clock he was ordered by General Breckinridge, in whose vicinity he happened to be, to place his regiment on the right flank, where he soon became engaged in a brisk skirmish. Three times the enemy endeavored to break that part of the Confederate line, but was repulsed, as we have related, until near 1 o'clock, when on an order from General Beauregard, Forrest carried his regiment to the center, where it was dismounted [225] and took part there in repulsing the last onset made by the Federals in that quarter before the retreat began.

The retreat had now commenced in earnest, but so stunned and crippled was the enemy that no effort or pretense to pursue was made. The line established to cover the movement commanded the ground of Shiloh Church, and some open fields in the neighborhood. Thence keeping up a vigorous play of artillery on the woods beyond, there was no reply, nor did any enemy become visible.

That line was then withdrawn about three-fourths of a mile to another favorable position. Meanwhile, the retreat had been effected in admirable order, all stragglers falling in the ranks, and that line was abandoned with no enemy in sight.

Breckinridge, assigned to the duty of covering the retreat with his division, was ordered to bivouac for the night at a point not more than four and a half miles from Pittsburg Landing. The other corps were now en route for Corinth, by a road which that night was made almost impracticable for wheels by a heavy rainfall.

The losses of the Confederates in the two days combat are accurately and officially stated by General Beauregard at 1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded and 959 missing, or an aggregate of 10,699.

The Federal commander, in his brief report of the battle, estimates his own losses at only 1,500 killed and 3,500 wounded, an evidently large under-statement, for in the official reports of three of his division generals we find their losses foot up in killed and wounded as high as 4,614, with 1,832 reported missing, a number of whom must have been killed, as only 3,000 were captured, and most of them were of Prentiss' Division. What the real loss of Grant's army was, those who could best estimate it have not been at the pains to ascertain. The divisions of Buell engaged lost 3,753, much the heaviest part of which fell upon McCook's Division in the obstinate struggle against the Confederate left and center.

Of trophies the Confederates carried from the field some twenty-six stands of flags and colors, and about thirty of the guns captured on the 6th.

The guns which figure in Federal subordinate reports as captured [226] from the Confederates, with few exceptions, were those lost on Sunday by the Federals, which, for want of horses to draw them from the field, had been left by the Confederates where they had been taken.


First—The delay of the Confederate Army in making the march from Corinth is a signal illustration of the truth of Napier's proposition:

‘That celerity in war depends as much on the experience of the troops as upon the energy of the general.’

Nevertheless, there were grave faults in the handling of several of the corps on the march. Moreover, several of these did not quit Corinth as early in the day as they might have done. We know General Johnston was profoundly disappointed and chagrined that his just expectations of delivering battle on Saturday morning were thus baffled.

Second—The precise terrene occupied by the Federal Army was unknown to the Confederate general, who therefore adopted the parallel order of battle rather than the oblique, which has generally been employed by great captains since Frederick the Great restored it to the art of war. Had General Johnston known the actual position occupied by the Federal front line, he surely would have attacked by the oblique order; massing upon the Federal right (Sherman), so as to force it back southeastwardly into the cul de sac made above Pittsburg Landing by the junction of Lick Creek with the Tennessee River. As the attack was made, the shock of the onset only affected Sherman's left brigade. Had it fallen with full force upon his entire division, it is manifest that that which happened to Hilderbrand's Brigade would have befallen it. The entire division must have been swept away as that brigade was, and been driven rearward so rapidly upon McClernand's, Hurlbut's and Wallace's (W. H. L.), as to give them little or no time to form their division, and make the stand which Sherman's obstinate resistance with two of his brigades, near Shiloh, enabled them to do.

Third—Both sides have claimed the advantage. The Confederates found their pretension upon the fact of the heavy [227] capture of men and artillery, and colors which they carried from the field, the complete rout inflicted on the Federals on Sunday, and their ability on Monday to hold the ground upon which they had concentrated and made the battle until 2 P. M., when General Beauregard withdrew from an unprofitable combat; withdrew in admitted good order, taking with him all the captured guns for which there was transportation.

Moreover, his enemy was left so completely battered and stunned as to be unable to pursue.

The Federals claim the victory, upon the grounds that on Monday evening they had recovered their encampments and possession of the field of the battle from which the Confederates had retired, leaving behind their dead and a number of wounded.

In this discussion it should be remembered that after the Confederates concentrated on Monday, or from at least as late as 9 o'clock A. M. up to the time of their retreat, they uniformly took the offensive and were the assailants. All substantially claimed in reports of Federal subordinate generals is that, after having been worsted between 9 A. M. and 2 P. M., they were then able to hold their own and check their antagonist.

After that, manifestly, there was a complete lull in battle until about 4 P. M., when, and no sooner, do the Federals appear to have advanced.

Fourth—General Beauregard has been blamed unjustly for withdrawing his troops just as they were being launched on Sunday evening against the Federal position with such numbers and impetus by generals on the spot as must have insured complete success. The reports of brigade and regimental commanders completely disprove this allegation. His order really was not distributed before the greater part of the Confederate troops had already given up the attempt for that day to carry the ridge at the landing. The true reason why the battle of Sunday fell short of the most complete victory of modern war by the capture of the whole Federal Army is simply this: After the combat was at its height, about midday, those superior officers who should have been occupied with the concentration of their troops in heavy masses upon the shattered Federal Divisions were at the very front and ‘perilous edge’ of the battle leading forward regiments, perchance brigades, into action, [228] with great individual intrepidity and doing a great deal, no doubt, by their personal example to impel small bodies forward. But meanwhile, to their rear were left the masses of their respective commands without direction, and thus precious time was lost.

The Confederates were not kept continuously massed and employed, either corps or divisions; mere piecemeal onsets were the general method of fighting after 12 o'clock, with this consequence, that Sherman was enabled to make several obstinate powerful stands, by which he protracted the battle some hours. Had the corps been held well in hand, massed and pressed continuously upon the tottering, demoralized foe; had general officers attended to the swing and direction of the great war engine at their disposition, rather than, as it were, becoming so many heads, or battering rams of that machine, the battle assuredly would have closed at latest by midday. By that hour, at most, the whole Federal force might have been urged back and penned up, utterly helpless, in the angle formed between the river and Lick Creek, or dispersed along under the river bank, between the two creeks, we repeat, had the Confederate corps been kept in continuously, closely pressed en masse upon their enemy after the front line had been broken and swept back. In that case the Federal fragments must have been kept in downward movment, like the loose stones in the bed of a mountain torrent.

Fifth—In a remarkable letter from that distinguished soldier, General Sherman, which we find in the United States Service Magazine, he virtually asserts that, even had General Buell failed to reach the scene with his re-enforcements, nevertheless the state of the battle was such at 5 P. M. Sunday as justified General Grant in giving him orders at that hour to ‘drop the defensive and assume the offensive’ at daylight on Monday morning. This to be the order of the day, irrespective of the advent of Buell. In other words, Grant had resolved to become on the morrow the assailant, forsooth, with Lew Wallace's Division, which, having found it so hard for the last ten hours to find the road across ‘four miles’ of country, with the sound of a great battle (and comrades in dire peril) to ‘quicken’ its steps, was not yet on the field, and with such of his own ‘startled troops as had recovered their equilibrium.’ That is to say, with [229] 7,000 fresh troops,, not yet in hand, added to such commands as Sherman's, which he confesses in his official report was now of a ‘mixed character’—without any of three of his four brigades present—and such of the mass then huddled, demoralized and abject, under the river bank since 10 o'clock, as might have their ‘equilibrium’ re-established. That this was the purpose General Sherman is sure, from a story then told him by General Grant of what had happened at Fort Donelson on the 15th of February; and, furthermore, he is very positive that he did not know Buell had already arrived. Now here the spirit rather than the letter of the renowned general's paper is to be weighed.

To be relevant to the question, he, steps into the arena not to discuss but settle, he must mean this: that the offensive was to be taken by the Federal forces then west of the Tennessee, if Buell did not come to their assistance; further, when the order was given to him to that end, he did not know General Buell's forces were in such proximity as must insure their advent upon the field in large, substantial force to make the projected attack.

This must be the substance, ‘bolted to the bran,’ of what he utters, for it were not pertinent to the issue, nor frank to say merely that Buell was not there, when he knew that Buell must be in due season with the requisite troops.

We have great respect for the genius, the tenacity and the shining courage of General Sherman; we admit his well-won fame. We have a long personal knowledge of the man, but, nevertheless, we are constrained, in the interest of history, to point out facts, as ‘plain as way to parish church,’ that show he wrote hastily, inconsiderately.

Saturday night General Grant slept at Savannah, when both General Buell's and Nelson's Divisions had arrived. Before the general-in-chief left for the battlefield he ordered Nelson to march thither, which, by a forced march, was done in four hours, or which by an ordinary march might have been effected at most in six. General Sherman says he saw General Grant as early as 10 A. M. at a moment of sore distress. When General Buell reached Pittsburg Landing, not later than 3 o'clock, General Grant was at the landing, and the two commanders met there.

By 5 P. M., the hour Sherman alleges the order for the offensive was given, Nelson had been long enough in sight at the [230] landing to throw a brigade across, and upon the last ridge; and at that hour the last assaults of the Confederates had not taken place, nor until Nelson was in position to help to repel them? Very well.

Would General Grant, knowing that Buell must be up that night, be likely, even at 10 o'clock, to omit communicating such important intelligence to his doughty, right-hand lieutenant—the very ‘sinew and forehand’ of his army—not only to inspire him to still more obstinate fighting, but as a solace, a relief of inestimable value at the instant? Or would he at 5 o'clock have failed to acquaint that lieutenant of Buell's presence at the landing, and Nelson's on the other bank?

Finally, at a moment when the Confederates were swarming down to make their crowning assault upon the last foothold of his fighting wreck, with but a few hundred yards between it and a wide river, and when, from what had already happened, he could scarcely hope it would not be a concentrated, terrible onset. Could General Grant, as yet ignorant of that issue, be in condition to give orders looking to the offensive on the next morning? We are sure not, as well as that General Sherman's memory has deceived him.

The fect is, the order of which he speaks was really given later; that is, when Generals Grant and Buell visited him together. All who weigh evidence must come to this conclusion. Were further proof necessary, it is found in the fact that neither Sherman's nor Lew Wallace's, nor any of Hurlbut's troops became really engaged on Monday before 10 A. M.; and that after that hour even Hurlbut, turning over to McClernand such men as he had been able to collect, was sent back to the river to glean and assemble the still scattered fragments of the five dismembered divisions.

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