The battle of Shiloh.
[Special correspondence of the Dispatch.]
Corinth, Miss., Tuesday night, April 8, 1862.
The grandest battle of the Southern Confederacy has been fought and won by Southern troops.
will be known as the Waterloo of the American
The details of the fight are thus far too meagre, and the exaggerated rumors incident to occasions of this kind too conflicting to admit of a complete review of the battle; but I am enabled to give you a skeleton account which will convey a very good idea of the affair.
First, of the character of the country.
As a general thing it is low and flat, boggy, heavy, and covered with a thick undergrowth, with here and there a succession of forests and fields.
In the immediate vicinity of the battle- ground the surface is more undulating, and the various ridges afford natural entrenchments, from behind which the enemy was enabled to pour in a most destructive fire, and make a determined stand.
The attack of Sunday.
As you are already informed by telegraph, the Confederates
on this occasion acted wholly upon the offensive.
Early in the week Beauregard
had information of the contemplated advance of the enemy as soon as a union of the forces under Buell
and his front division, which was commanded in detail by Grant
, and Smith
, could be effected.
To prevent this wholesale demonstration, it was determined to press the issue without delay. --Orders were published to our army to prepare three days rations, and put itself in light marching order; and on Saturday the preparations on our side were complete, and most of the brigades were in position within two and a half miles of Shiloh
I forgot to mention, by the way, that this is the name of a small town, distant from the river between three and four miles, and was occupied by the enemy.
The point nearest to this on the Tennessee
, is Pittsburg Landing
, where they held their reserves, stores, guns, and ammunitions, under cover of their gunboats.--These were only three in number.
I have heard it stated that the plan of the battle is commonly due to the genius of Beauregard
, but I have no doubt that it was equally the result of the strategic ability and experience of the Commander-in-Chief
, Albert Sidney Johnston
The idea was to form three parallel lines — the front, centre, and rear — each line having its centre and two flanks.
The rear constituted the reserve, and the artillery was distributed between the first and second lines.
The front was commanded by Gen. Hardee
the centre by Gen. Bragg
, and the rear by Gen. Folk Johnston
being with the latter.
Saturday night our troops lay upon their arms almost within sight of the enemy, eager, hopeful and determined.
The attack commenced Sunday morning at day break, our advance moving warmly forward to their bloody work.
The line of the Federals
, commencing at Shiloh
, extended thence to the right, a distance of about four miles. Their camps were just to the rear, arranged, so to speak, in a stratum three deep, and to the eye presented one of the most beautiful spectacles that could touch a soldier's heart.
From daylight until a little after six o'clock the fighting was principally between the pickets and skirmishers, but at the latter hour, a portion of our main body appearing in sight, fire opened with artillery, and for an hour or more one heard nothing but the incessant uprear of the heavy guns.
Our men, though unaccustomed to the iron hall, received the once coolly, awaiting the orders to rise from their recumbent position and advance.
In the time these came, and thenceforward through the day, brave and disciplined as were the Federal
troops, nothing seemed capable of resisting the desperate valor of the Confederates
The enemy fell like chaff before the wind.
Broken in ranks, they rallied behind trees and in the underbrush, only to be again repulsed and driven back.
It is impossible to follow the several evolutions of the two armies — the pressing forward here, the retreating there, the attempts to flank each other, and the minor details of the right, in which we were everywhere victorious.
This cannot be expected so soon after the battle, and, indeed, must be left to the regard of official reports.
But there are yet a few points apparent to the eye of a correspondent which may convey some idea of the progress of the fight.
At half past 8 in the morning a grand charge was ordered upon the enemy's camp, General Hardee
directing the movement.--Three regiments composing a part of the brigade of General Gladden
, and consisting of Louisianian, Mississippians, and Alabamians, were assigned the undertaking.
They did their work like heroes.
The enemy fought desperately, and with the advantage of immense odds in both men and guns; but they could not stand the trial, and after vainly endeavoring to hold their ground, retreated in confusion, leaving in our possession four batteries arms ammunition, and material
of war. Of these batteries the First Louisiana regulars took one, the Twenty first Alabama took two, and the combined brigade the fourth.
-ow followed a series of daring, desperate and successful charges, the various regiments and brigades rolling rapidly forward to the sound of enthusiastic cheers.
In all of these both general and field officers displayed a bravely that amounted to sheer recklessness, frequently leading the men into the very teeth of the opposing fire.
It was these inspiring examples of personal valor which made our troops invincible.
On one occasion Beauregard
himself, finding a regiment wavering under the rain of death that was decimating its ranks, dashed to the front, seized the battle flag, and waving it over his head, shouted, ‘ "Follow your General!"’ In an instant every man's heart appeared to undergo a change, which made him firm as a rock, and, with a wild yell, the command rushed forward and drove the enemy from his position.
At half-past 2, Gen. Johnston
, the Commander-in-Chief
He also was leading a charge upon the third camp of the enemy.--Gov. Harris
, of Tennessee
, one of his aids, had left him a few moments before to convey an order, and as he was making his report to him on his return, he discovered that he had been twice wounded, once in the body by a sling ball, and in the leg with the fragment of a shell.
Still the noble General maintained his position on horseback.
‘"Are you badly hurt?"’ was the inquiry.
‘"Yes, Governor, I think this as a mortal wound,"’ at the same time pointing to his leg. Gov. Harris
immediately dismounted assisted Gen. Johnston
from his horse, and there upon the ground, amid the roar of artillery and the cheers of his victorious army, the great commander quietly breathed his last.
Prudently the information was kept from the army, and Gen. Beauregard
assured the command-in- chief.
So the fight went on until four o'clock, when the enemy were in full retreat towards the river and our forces were closing upon them.
had been captured, with some three thousand five hundred men, flag after flag was sent to the rear, and the ground was strewn with arms and munitions.
By dark the Federals
were under caver of their gunboats, and we could do no more than halt.
All that the enemy owned except what was in their hands, was in our possession artillery small arms, baggage leads, transportation wagons, &c. We accordingly retired to their camps, and here rested for the night.
To give you a description of the scenes in these camps would be impossible.
It was one prolonged revel, but without drink, among the luxuries of Northern fare.
Everything that heart could wish was in abundance.
There were apples, cakes, meats, preserves, flour, clothing, butter, cheese, hams, money, trinkets, letters,--in a word, all the private and confidential enjoyments which false and expense could afford the soldier.
Yet we were notice in other ways.
It was believed that the attack would be resumed on the ensuing day, and our Generals
prepared for the event.
Troops were assigned their positions, and everything made ready for the expected demonstration.
Our wounded, too, required attention, and hundreds were carried from the field to the hospitals in the rear.
Our losses, great as they are, cannot be as heavy as those of the enemy.
Our killed outright may possibly amount to four hundred, which, I think, is a liberal estimate.--Two hundred more will die from their wounds, the balance of the casualties is not less than three thousand. One can judge, however, only from the terrible execution in the various regiments.
In one of the Mississippi
battalions three hundred out of four hundred were wounded; in other corps half the men were injured, and in all an unusually large proportion suffered from the destructive fire.
It is a remarkable fact, and one that has generally attracted attention, that nine-tenths of the wounds are in the head or extremities, and the large majority comparatively slight.
Every other wounded soldier you meet has either his arm in a sling, or is limping upon one foot, while scores are moving about the camp grazed in the head.
I saw one young lad of sixteen, who had been struck by glancing shots upon the head four times, and had his clothes perforated in a dozen places.
I may add here, on passant,
had several shots through his dress, and lost three valuable horses that were shot under him.
Hair-breadth escapes were numerous.
One officer while giving an order to his men received a ball in the cheek, which passed through to the other side without touching tongue on tooth.
Another had his tongue shot out; another was struck in the forehead, and the ball passed completely over the top of his head a sort of ricochet
under the skin. --But it is impossible to detail the numerous incidents now. They may form the material for other letters.
Many of the Kentucky
regiments fought more like furies than men.--Comrades fell all around them, but nothing could shake the desperate determination, which seemed to possess them to conquer or die. Nor were the Mississippians, Alabamians, Louisianian, or Arkansans, behind.
Every man did his duty nobly.
were few, the firing was at will, and thousands no doubt fell before the unerring aim of the rifles, muskets and shot guns of our men. To use an expression of one of the Tennessean, describing the battle: ‘"We whipped 'em blind."’
The cars are about leaving, however, and I must close abruptly.
Wednesday morning, April 9.
My letter last night gave you a hurried and skeleton account of the battle of Sunday.
I believe I intimated that Gen. Beauregard
anticipated a demonstration on the ensuing morning.
Our scouts had brought intelligence that 7,000 Federals were at Crump's Landing, eight miles below, and that the river was lined with transports, from which the enemy had disembarked during the night.
It was known, also, or rather believed, that another division of Buell
's army, probably accompanied by Buell
in person, was approaching on the previous day, and had doubtless arrived at the scene.
Vigorous preparations were therefore made to resist the assault, which was deemed almost certain at an early hour on Monday.--Nor were these ill timed.
Those of our troops who had not been marching during the night were somewhat refreshed by their few hours'sleep, although a drenching rain had poured in torrents, and daylight in the morning found our army in line of battle.
The fight commenced in the usual way. First our pickets were driven in, then the skirmishers met, and in due time an advance was made upon our centre.
At the very first fire it was evident that we had a new, fresh, and more formidable foe to encounter than that of the day before--one which it would require all of our energies to repel.
The battle soon raged fast and furious.
The Federals brought battery after battery to the field, and we in turn played upon them with our own artillery, making havoc in their ranks.
Their men stood up well, and fought as if conscious of the fate which would await them if defeated.--They had, besides, a repulse to retrieve, and, under the inspiration of these sentiments, it was not without obstinately contesting every inch of ground that they gave way. Western men were pitted against those of their own blood and habits — men as fierce and determined as themselves, whom nothing but mere force of numbers could shake — and the contest was as an encounter between lions and tigers.
It was emphatically ‘"give and take."’ Now we would repulse them; then they would repulse us, and thus, advancing and retreating, the battle was vigorously maintained until near 2½ o'clock in the afternoon.
Neither army had gained a foot of advantage.
We still held the ground on which the battle of the day commenced — namely, two miles the other side of their own camps; but it became evident at noon that we could make no headway against the immense reinforcements that were constantly thrown forward.
If we whipped one regiment, its place was certain to be felted by two others, and frequently we had to meet them three to one.
This was the case with the 3d Kentucky and two or three of the Arkansas
regiments at different times during the day; but our men quelled not, and, though they were decimated and cut to pieces by the murderous fire, they maintained their position like negroes.
No battle in the world has ever been fought with more desperation, or a greater display of moral and physical heroism, than was manifested on this occasion by the Southern
Discovering the condition of affairs, Gen. Beauregard
made his preparations to fall back.
The wounded were sent back; ammunition trains fell to the rear; cavalry was set to work to destroy the property in the camps of the enemy; batteries were concentrated on the front to cover the retreat, and thus, in good order, the army fell back to the Federal
camp, and thence, at night fall, towards Corinth
Simultaneously with the cessation of our firing that on the enemy also stopped, and their troops knees moved back, without the slightest attempt at pursuit.
They had gained nothing; we had lost nothing.
It was emphatically a drawn battle, and the Federal
commander is doubtless well pleased that it was so.
But for one circumstance, however, I believe yet that the day might have been ours.
Thousands of men were more intent upon securing plunder than in defending it. Thousands went off with their wounded friends.
Thus regiments became demoralized, companies separated, and frequently the men would find themselves fighting among strangers from another State.
Had the same discipline been observed as in the Federal
army, there is not a doubt that, notwithstanding the immense odds against us, we should have whipped the enemy and driven him into another Bull Run
rout across the Tennessee
Under the circumstances we could do no better than to retreat to reorganize.
As long as the Federals
could remain intact and secure under their gunboats, it was useless to risk the chances of defeat ourselves, and the result is that we are just as strong to-day, except in the numerical deduction on account of casualties, as on the memorable Sunday
.--Our troops are ready for another encounter, and, if possible, will fight harder than before.
While on this point, let me throw it out as a suggestion to some of the governmental thinkers at Richmond
, that a reward of money should be offered to every man who, while sticking to his post throughout an engagement, shall bring away with him, whenever practicable, in addition to his own musket.
Federal gun. Hundreds were left upon the died in this instance which might have been saved to the Confederacy
, but are now probably in the hands of the Federals
The captured artillery, as I have been informed, was successfully brought away, but of smaller arms the ground was strewn with them.--Transportation is not always at hand in an emergency of this kind, and if every man would, for the time being, bear a double burden, the result in the aggregate could not but be valuable to the country.
Our loss was probably greater in men on Monday, in officers on Sunday.
Many of the latter exposed themselves unnecessarily, and were picked off by the enemy's corps of sharp shooters.
The Federal loss is probably a third or a half more than ours.
It is a singular fact that most of the wounded in the morning of Sunday were shot in the upper extremities and head; after dinner and on Monday they were shot in the lower extremities, indicating that special directions had been given to this end.
Many of the Federal
officers did not show themselves in front at all, but economized their personal safety in every possible way. Still it is reported and currently believed among the Yankee
prisoners, that both Gen. Wallace
and Gen. Tom Crittenden
are among the killed.
I cannot begin to give you the names of our killed and wounded officers; and all I remember are the following: Gen. A. S. Johnston
, killed; Col. Blythe
, of Miss.
, killed; Lieut.-Col. Thompson
, 1st Arkansas, do.; Major Colquitt
do., do.; Colonel Bates
, Tenn., wounded; Gen. Bowen
, Gen. Hindman
, Gen. Gladden
, Gen. Cheatham
, do. Hindman
is said to have been injured by a fall of his horse, which was killed by a bursting shells.
Granden lost his arm in a charge but nevertheless continued to rally his troops and Cheatham
, a gallant fellow, was hit in the shoulder.
, Chalmess, Ruggles
, and Breckinridge
, all behaved gallantly, and were more or less scathed.
The men say of the last-named officer, that every time a shell or bullet would come near him, instead of dodging, he sat immutably upright, and twisted his monscathe as coolly as if waiting for dinner.
Our wounded continue to come in from the field slowly, but it is a long and agonizing ride that the poor fellows have to endure, over twenty-two or twenty-three miles of the roughest and ruttiest road in the Southern Confederacy.
The weather is horrible, and a cold Northeast storm pelts mercilessly down upon them.
As they are carried, groaning, from the vehicle to the floor of the hospital, or laid in the depot, it is sad to see the suffering depicted upon their pinched and pallid features.
Some of them have lain on the ground in the mud for two nights and are wet to the skin and shivering with chills.--Some have had their wounds only partially dressed, and have yet to go through the tortures of amputation; others, on the contrary, are in good spirits, hungry — for they have had nothing to eat of late — and only anxious to get well as soon as possible, to have another fight.
The hospital arrangements here are as good as can be expected.
Physicians are also in abundance, having come from Memphis
and the surrounding towns, while a dozen or more ladies from the vicinity have arrived, and, with gentle hands, are doing all in their power to alleviate misery and provide comfort.
In the Tishomingo House
there are probably four hundred men now lying on the floor of the corridors, galleries, and in the various rooms.
By to-morrow night these will have been removed to Memphis
, Holly Springs
, and elsewhere, and their places be filed by others.
Nearly every house in Corinth
, except those occupied by officers for business purposes, has been made a temporary depot for wounded soldiers, and you can imagine something of the terrible scenes visible among this mess of suffering humanity.
Every train is crowded with people searching for friends and relatives, and hundreds of old men and women, for the first time in their lives, probably, have had to sleep upon the ground or under the shed of the depot for want of accommodations.
For myself, I have not seen three hours rest in as many nights, excepting what I have taken while squatted before a rousing fire, with the weather so cold in the rear that one has to revolve on his axis every ten minutes to keep warm.
In all my wanderings, even with the gentle ‘"Bohemian,"’ ‘"we never saw the like before."’
Now, a word as to the result.
Physically, as well as morally, the battle of Shiloh
is for us a decided victory.
We have defeated and disorganized one of the finest equipped, and what has been spoken of by the Northern
press as an invincible division of the Federal
army, numbering not less than thirty-five or forty thousand men. We have taken one of their Generals
, three or four thousand prisoners, the greater part of their artillery, and destroyed their camps and an immense amount of Federal property.
By acting promptly upon the offensive, we prevented a combination of
forces which might have proved disastrous to us; and, finally, we have caused a concentration of the enemy away from Middle Tennessee
and precisely where we want to meet him, provided, in acting upon the aggressive in the future, he will come far enough away from his infernal gunboats to allow us to give him the thorough whipping he will most assuredly receive.
If these are not successes, the name is without a meaning.
There is little or nothing to be written from this point concerning the late battle, of which you are not already aware.
The distance from the battle field — some twenty-three miles--the fact that the army is scattered over several miles of country, and the tardiness with which details come in — I mean such interesting personal narratives concerning the movements of different regiments as give zest to a description, prevents the record of that complete history which it would otherwise be my pleasure to give.
We occupy materially the same ground as on the day after the fight.
A portion of the battle- field is in possession of the enemy; a portion we still hold.
The Federals are busy in reorganizing, and we, too, are rapidly strengthening our position, preparatory to another fight, which is likely to ensue within a month.
Reconnoitering parties in force occasionally come towards our lines, but the presence of John Morgan
's cavalry acts as a check, and nothing is either gained or lost.
Our wounded — at least as many as can be safely moved — have been sent away, and Corinth
presents much the same aspect as before the battle.
I remarked in a preceding letter that most of our wounds were in the extremities, and many of our killed were shot in the head.
This is accounted for by the fact that being a woody country, our troops frequently took shelter behind trees, Indian style, and thus protected the body.
It is reported that Dr. Chapin
, of New Orleans, who served on the staff of General Beauregard
, performed thirty one amputations on Sunday.
Probably large numbers of limbs will yet have to be sacrificed to the surgeon's knife, because the necessary operation was not performed upon the field.
These, however, are difficulties which, in an army so peculiarly organized as our own, cannot be obviated without more experience than we yet possess.
From one hundred and fifty to two hundred of our wounded were left on the battle-ground, on account of the danger attending their removal, and were captured.
A large number of wounded Federals being likewise in our hands, a correspondence on the subject has passed between Generals Breckinridge
, and it has been agreed that as soon as they recover they shall be exchanged man for man.
It is reported in Memphis
, which is only ninety-three miles distant, that an extra paper was issued at New Madrid immediately after the battle, in which it is stated that the Federals
have had a glorious victory, and captured fifteen thousand Confederates!
A Nashville paper, on the contrary, states that the Federals
have met with a great defeat, their loss in killed, wounded and missing being not less than twelve thousand.
The last is somewhere near the truth.
Our loss in prisoners during the two days will probably not exceed four hundred.
Among the trophies exhibited here are several shields taken from the bodies of men and officers, in which they were enveloped from neck to hips.
In one of these was an indentation made by a Minnie bullet three-fourths of an inch deep, showing that the invention is a really effectual defence against shots striking the body.
The shield is so arranged that its weight is upon the shoulders, being adjusted there by iron bands, or suspenders, and is made of steel.
The officer from whom the one in question was taken was killed by a ball in the head.
Other results of our victory are also everywhere visible.
Unless he knew better, a stranger would mistake our army for first-rate Yankees.
Fully three-fifths of the men are dressed in Federal hats and overcoats; some of our officers carry Yankee swords, and, altogether, we have gathered a very respectable equipment of arms, garments, and luxuries.
In my last letter, I believed indicated that the entire Yankee camp was burned, after being occupied by our Army Sunday night. This is an error.
Only a portion of it, unfortunately, was destroyed, and the remainder fell into the hands of the Yankees
on Tuesday after the fight, our army having fallen back to a new line of operations.
The telegraph has already doubtless informed you of the occupation of Huntsville
and Decatur, Ala.
, by the Federals
, and the capture of some ten or fifteen cars.
The details are not known, but it is not generally supposed that the enemy entertain any further design than to cripple our resources by cutting off the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, which runs through these towns.
The distance from Huntsville
is about one hundred miles, if my memory correctly serves me, and it is hardly probable that, with any force he can command, Buell
would march his army that distance, away from his gunboats, on a flanking movement.
It is now supposed that Buell
was not in the battle of Shiloh
, flag or last, though a considerable portion of his army may have been; but was engaged in superintending the movement on Huntsville
, as far as regards its future relations to the Southern Confederacy is also among ‘"the things that were."’ Its eighty guns and eleven gunboats and transports have been sunk, twelve or fifteen hundred men have been made prisoners, together with Gen. Mackall
, the commander, and the remainder, who escaped, are now straggling into Memphis
in squads of five, ten, or fifty, as the case may be. Scores will doubtless be drowned in the bayous or lest in the canebrakes, where, in many instances, the men have to wade for miles up to their armpits in water.
All our forces had been removed to the main land from the island, and here they were surrounded by the enemy and beamed in beyond the hope of escapes, except in individual cases.
The surrender took place on Tuesday morning. The first notification of danger was the presence of a gunboat, which, in a daring manner, had run the gauntlet of the batteries during a storm on Saturday night. Then transports and troops were thrown through a canal that had been cut on the Missouri
side, and merged into the Mississippi
below the Island
Then tell our batteries, one by one, and finally the stronghold itself.
The next point of defence above us is Fort Pillow
, and this is said to have been shelled yesterday.
Its position is a strong one, and with a sufficiency of troops may be considered impregnable, but after the experience of the past it is folly to count upon anything as certain until it is proved so. We are living, therefore, upon that.
‘"Hope which springs eternal in the human breast."’ If Fort Pillow
falls, of course Memphis
goes with it, and New Orleans — the grand prize of the Federalists — comes next on the programme.
It is not probable that with the rich fruit so nearly ready to pluck, the enemy will stop without some further demonstration, or that a stupendous effort will not be put forth to secure the keystone of the South and West.
There is very little panic in Memphis
, however, and the people are quietly, if not almost callously, anticipating the worst.