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Chapter 33: before the battle.

  • General Johnston's prediction.
  • -- anticipation of battle. -- strength of Federal position. -- Beauregard's report. -- Bragg's sketch of preliminaries. -- the resolve to attack. -- its origin. -- General Lee's letter. -- preparations. -- attempt to employ negroes. -- General Johnston's telegram. -- orders of March. -- enthusiasm of troops.--the army marches. -- field-map. -- distribution of arms. -- bad roads. -- skirmish on April 4th. -- explanation of orders. -- providential storm. -- under arms. -- reckless fusillade. -- careless pickets. -- first line of battle. -- personal movements of General Johnston. -- morning of the 5th. “this is not War!” -- delay. -- its causes. -- rawness of the army. -- a majestic presence. -- encouraging the troops. -- address to army. -- the Council of War. -- Beauregard for retreat. -- Johnston's decision, and reasons. -- Confederate array. -- Sherman's theory. -- reconnaissance. -- false security. -- was it a surprise? Federal array. -- the opponents.

On Thursday morning, April 3d, at about one o'clock, preliminary orders were issued to hold the troops in readiness to move at a moment's notice, with five days provisions and 100 rounds of ammunition. The orders for the march and battle were issued later in the day — in the afternoon, as it seems-after they had been elaborated by General Beauregard.

When it became apparent that the orders meant an advance and an attack upon the enemy-meant battle — the soldiers, full of ardor, were aroused to the utmost enthusiasm. With somewhat hasty preparation — for time was precious — the movement began. Hardee led the advance, the Third Corps, that afternoon. He marched from Corinth, by the northernmost route, known as the Ridge road, which, near Shiloh, led into another, known as the Bark road. Bivouacking that night on the way, he arrived next morning at Mickey's, a house seventeen or eighteen miles, by that route, from Corinth, and four or five miles from Pittsburg.

The Second Corps, under Bragg, marched by the direct road to Pittsburg, through Monterey. This road proved so narrow and bad that the head of Bragg's column did not reach Monterey until 11 A. M. on the 4th, but bivouacked that night near Mickey's, in rear of Hardee's corps, with a proper interval.

The First Corps, commanded by Polk, consisted of two divisions, under Cheatham and Clark. Clark's division was ordered to follow Hardee on the Ridge road, at an interval of half an hour, and to halt near Mickey's. This halt was to allow Bragg's corps, whose route from Monterey crossed the Ridge or Bark road at that point, to fall in behind Hardee, at 1,000 yards' interval, and form a second line of battle. Polk's corps was to form the left wing of the third line of battle; and Breckinridge's reserve the right wing.

Polk's other division, under Cheatham, was on outpost duty, at and near Bethel on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, and was about as far from Mickey's, the point of concentration, as Corinth was. Cheatham's orders were to defend himself if attacked; otherwise, to assemble his forces at Purdy, and pursue the route to Monterey, with proper military precautions. Acting on these instructions, Cheatham did not advance until the morning of the 5th; but he effected his junction at four o'clock that afternoon, and took position, as the left wing of Polk's [559] corps, as early as some other divisions whose presence was necessary to the attack. These movements were construed by General Lew Wallace as a reconnaissance in force against his own division at Crump's Landing, and held him in check during the 5th and the 6th, the first day of the battle.

Breckinridge's three brigades — a division, in fact, but by courtesy a reserve corps-having received their orders on the afternoon of April 3d,1 moved from Burnsville on April 4th, at 3 A. M., by way of Farmington, toward Monterey, fourteen miles distant. “Some Enfield rifles, with accoutrements and ammunition, just received, were distributed about nightfall” to supply deficiencies, and rations were prepared during the night.2

The road was even worse than those from Corinth. The corps struggled painfully on, with poor progress. After a hard day's march, it bivouacked on the road. Part of the artillery was late at night reaching its position, owing to the difficulty of the road. Breckinridge had ridden forward to Monterey, and had met Generals Johnston and Bragg in consultation. He hoped, then, to be up in time, and received orders to join in the attack next morning. [560]

At midnight he sent a dispatch, saying his artillery was stuck in the mud, and had stopped his train. Major Hayden says General Johnston sent him word, “Cut a new road for your column.” It did not, however, effect its junction with the other corps until late Saturday afternoon, the 5th, owing to the rains on Friday and Saturday, the storm of Friday night, and other causes that delayed all the corps.

The Confederate cavalry, thrown well to the front and flanks, encountered the pickets of the enemy. In some sharp skirmishes they took a few prisoners, a major, two lieutenants, and eight privates, and wounded eight more. They lost some men, captured. Sherman says he took ten prisoners.3 A Federal reconnaissance had been sent out under Colonel Buckland, and encountered Cleburne's brigade of Hardee's corps, but retired without ascertaining anything important, or surmising that General Johnston's army was approaching.

Bragg says 4 that, where this duty had not been previously performed, “the commanders of divisions and brigades were assembled that night, the order was read to them, and the topography of the enemy's position was explained as far as understood by us,” which was imperfectly enough. They knew that in the recesses of that forest, between those creeks, 50,000 invaders were posted; but where, or how, and with what preparation, no man could tell. Many of these soldiers, familiar with the dangerous sports of their native South, must have felt as when hunting in the dense canebrake, and, following the trail, they drew near the den of some great bear, hidden in the thicket, with whom momently they expected encounter and mortal struggle.

The order was to march at three o'clock in the morning, so as to attack the enemy early on the 5th. So far as human knowledge can reach, if this order could have been carried out, Grant and his army would have been destroyed. But man proposes, and God disposes. The same elements that had opened watery pathways up the rivers to the Federal fleet, against all expectation, by unprecedented floods, were again on the side of the strongest battalions. It may not be amiss here to remark that those people who think that “whatever is, is right,” in human affairs as well as in the order of Nature, have drawn exceedingly strong and unwarrantable inferences from these and other providential dispensations as to the justice of the Federal cause.

This is no place for such argument; but the wise Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem, has answered this superstition when he said:

There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous.5 [561]


All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked.6

And again:

I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.7

And a greater Son of David answered the painful and perplexing question by a reply that reaches beyond the judgments of this world:

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.8

The clouds had been sending down their showers on the 4th, to the great annoyance and detention of the moving columns. But, after midnight, they gathered for a great outburst upon the unsheltered soldiers. The leafy covert of the forest gave slight protection to the troops in bivouac. The storm broke upon them about 2 A. M.; and the drenching rain poured in torrents as they lay, without tents, exposed to its fury. The men were anxious most of all, but often in vain, “to keep their powder dry.” Nevertheless, at three o'clock, the appointed hour, the whole army was put under arms, to be ready to advance. There they stood, anxious to go forward; but it was impossible to move in the pitch-darkness, over flooded roads and swollen streams, with the cold, driving rain beating upon them.

With almost criminal recklessness, many of the soldiers discharged their small-arms, to find out the condition of the cartridges. General Johnston, as he rode along the lines on the 5th, tried to prevent the recurrence of this. Bragg alludes to it with great severity. Colonel E. L. Drake, of Fayetteville, Tennessee, who was at that time serving in Bate's Second Tennessee Regiment, of which he has furnished a valuable memoir to the writer, gives the following statement. His regiment was in Cleburne's brigade, and on the extreme left of Hardee's line. He says:

The wishes of General Johnston to move quietly were not generally regarded; and, at one point on the march, the presence of a wild deer, which ran along the lines, evoked a yell among Hardee's men which could have been heard for miles. Hard showers fell. There was great uneasiness among the men lest their guns should fail fire; and many pieces were discharged on the route, and on Sunday morning as the lines were forming for the attack. It seems to be [562] certain that our presence was disregarded by the enemy up to a late hour Saturday night. Their bands were serenading at different headquarters until after midnight. This I have since learned from a Federal officer who was present. At the time, the object of the music was misunderstood by the Confederates, being attributed to the arrival of reinforcements to take up positions for the morrow's battle. This idea was strengthened by an occasional cheer, which rang out in that direction.

It was supposed at the time that the fusillade might have aroused the enemy to a sense of their peril; and it convinced General Beauregard that a surprise was impossible. It was sufficiently distinct at the Confederate rear to keep it continually on the alert with the apprehension of an attack in front. But, whether from the direction of the wind, the noise and pelting of the tempest, the neglect and drowsiness of the Federal outpost, or their disregard of the firing in front — a prevalent practice among the pickets — no heed was taken of these hostile warnings by the Northern army. If, as has been alleged, the enemy's pickets were only half a mile out, Hardee's line was still perhaps two miles off, which might account for the failure to hear their random shots.

At daylight, on Saturday, the 5th of April, Hardee advanced, and by seven o'clock was sufficiently out of the way to allow Bragg to move his command. Before ten o'clock Hardee's corps had reached the outposts, and developed the lines of the enemy. The Confederate advance immediately deployed in line of battle, about a mile and a half west of Shiloh church, where Lick Creek and Owl Creek approach most nearly, a space of about three miles. Hardee's corps not being sufficiently strong, it had been provided that Gladden's brigade, of Bragg's corps, should occupy his right. This line extended from Owl Creek to Lick Creek. General Johnston had reached Bragg's headquarters early, and before seven o'clock his column was also put in motion; and Gladden's and Withers's other brigades were placed in line of battle, in due time, the latter about 800 yards in rear of Hardee's line. Ruggles's division did not come up promptly, and Polk's corps was held motionless by its delay.

Having recounted thus far the events of these days, let us recur briefly to General Johnston's personal movements. He left Corinth on the morning of the 4th, and arrived at Monterey at 1 P. M. Soon after, Clanton's Alabama Cavalry brought in some Federal prisoners; and it was manifest from their surprise and their conversation with the staff that the Confederate attack was wholly unexpected.

During the afternoon, General Johnston conferred with Bragg, Breckinridge, and other officers. He halted that night at Monterey. He handed to Munford and some others of his staff a small roll of papers, containing his maps and the plan of battle, with the intended positions of the different commands, and requested them to become [563] familiar with the contents, that he might be able to use their services to the best advantage on the day of battle. Munford says:

We were to attack his army in their encampments between these creeks and that river. The military problem was so to distribute an army of a little over 30,000 men as effectually to cover our front. Its solution, involving the much-talked — of plan, was exceedingly simple. It was assumed as a postulate that no force the enemy could oppose could cut through three lines of Confederates. The army was therefore deployed into three lines.

General Johnston slept but little on the night of the 4th. He was too old a soldier not to know that the storm would delay the movement of his army. It abated about five o'clock; and, by half-past 5, he was on horseback, on his way to the front, with his staff. Being joined by General Beauregard, he rode to Bragg's position; and, under his orders, by seven o'clock, Withers's division was put in motion, as has been stated. General Johnston meanwhile rode forward to Hardee's line, where some slight skirmishing seemed to be going on, which was really, however, the random firing already mentioned.

Munford tells as follows of how the morning passed:

Everything had been calculated with the utmost precision — the hour for breaking camp, the order and stages of march, and the exact time at which each separate command was to deploy into line on the field. All this was to be done by 7 A. 3m. on the 5th, and the battle to begin at eight. General Johnston and staff arrived on the field a little after six o'clock. Hardee's line was already formed, and the general-in-chief took position a little way in its rear. In a little while Bragg's right wing, under Withers, deployed into line, but eight, nine o'clock came, and the division on his left was nowhere to be seen. About half-past 9, General Johnston sent me to General Bragg to know “why the column on his left was not in position.” Bragg replied: “Tell General Johnston the head of that column has not made its appearance. I have sent to the rear for information, and as soon as I learn the cause of its detention he shall be informed.” Ten, eleven, half-past 11 o'clock came, and General Johnston began to show signs of impatience. I was again sent back to know of Bragg “why the column on his left was not yet in position.” I received identically the same answer he had given earlier in the morning. At last half-past 12 o'clock came, and no appearance of the missing column, nor any report from Bragg. General Johnston, looking first at his watch, then glancing at the position of the sun, exclaimed, “This is perfectly puerile! This is not war!-Let us have our horses.” He, Major Albert Smith, Captain Nathaniel Wickliffe, and myself, rode to the rear until we found the missing column standing stock-still, with its head some distance out in an open field. General Polk's reserves were ahead of it, with their wagons and artillery blocking up the road. General Johnston ordered them to clear the road, and the missing column to move forward. There was much chaffering among those implicated as to who should bear the blame. It was charged on General Polk; but the plucky old bishop unhorsed his accusers right on the spot. I believe their commander, General [564] Ruggles, was finally blamed. ... It was about four o'clock when the lines were completely formed; too late, of course, to begin the battle then.

There was sharp controversy then and afterward as to where the fault lay. Polk's answer was sufficient — that Clark's division was ready to move at 3 A. M. His orders were to wait for the passage of Bragg's corps, and to move and form his line in rear of Ruggles's division, which composed Bragg's left wing. He could not advance or establish his line until this had passed. The road was not clear until 2 P. M.; yet he got Clark's division into line of battle by four o'clock, and Cheatham, who had come up on the left, soon after. Breckinridge's line was formed on Polk's right about the same time. Thus was the army arrayed in three lines of battle late Saturday afternoon.

The detention was unexpected; and, perhaps, will never be fully explained. The rain and storm, the mud, the passage through an unknown forest tract, over narrow dirt-roads, and the rawness of the advancing army, sufficiently account for the delay. There was, doubtless, some confusion or mistake of orders in Ruggles's division; but what would have been gross misconduct at a later period was very pardonable in a militia as uninstructed as the troops who marched out against Shiloh. Field and staff officers, fresh from the counting-house or plantation, with unaccustomed duties, ignorant of the country, must sometimes have signally failed in the performance of the most obvious duties. It is certain that one of Ruggles's brigade commanders, who was on outpost duty at Monterey, received no orders at all, and was left to surmise the meaning of the whole movement, as regiment after regiment filed by. Under the circumstances it is useless to attach censure to particular individuals or commands.

One real source of the entanglement and confusion of commands arose from the order of march and the routes by which the troops were brought upon the field. One ground of General Bragg's censure of these arrangements was probably this: After Hardee, every column was so conducted to the field that it was compelled to halt at a fork of a road until some other corps had passed by and deployed, before it could establish its own line of battle. A trained staff and better topographical information would have prevented this.

There is a letter from General Bragg, written at 10 A. M., April 4th, addressed to “General Johnston or General Beauregard,” from Monterey, which has never been alluded to, and which may also throw some light on the subject of the detention. General Bragg says:

My dear General: I reached here at half-past 8 o'clock, ahead of my rear division. Bad roads, inefficient transportation badly managed, and the usual delays of a first move of new troops, have caused the delay. My first division is at Mickey's; and the ignorance of the guide for the second, as well [565] as the reports I receive from people here, induces me to order my second division to move on the same road as the first. I am also influenced to do this from the information I have of General Hardee's advance..

I will send a courier to notify General Polk of my change....

By the first division General Bragg means Withers's; by the second, Ruggles's.

The “special orders as to movement of troops” directed Bragg to move from Monterey to Mickey's with Withers's division, while Ruggles's division was to move from Monterey on the road to Purdy, which crossed the Bark road more than two miles in rear of Mickey's. Had Ruggles pursued this route, he could have passed to the left of Mickey's, and deployed without interference or obstruction from Hardee's or Withers's division. But Bragg's order changing Ruggles's line of march, and bringing him in rear of these commands, delayed any movement until they had cleared the way. To this cause of delay was added the confusion arising from any change of orders with raw troops as to routes in the labyrinth of roads in that vicinity.

Hardee's corps, moving on the Ridge road under its methodical commander, assisted by the ardor and energy of Hindman and Cleburne, moved with greater celerity than the other troops. But something of this was due to their apprenticeship in war, under General Johnston's own eye and inspiration, on outpost duty in Kentucky and in the long and toilsome march from Bowling Green to Corinth, which had inured them to the hardships and difficulties of this kind of service. Polk's corps was at this time superior to the others in its transportation and in its experience under fire, and Bragg's in drill and order. Each had its own excellence; but all were soon to be welded to a common temper in the white heat of sectional-war. But at this time the whole army was new, and not yet moulded into a consistent whole.

In describing his own corps, Bragg correctly portrays the whole army. He says:

But few regiments of my command had ever made a day's march. A very large proportion of the rank and file had never performed a day's labor. Our organization had been most hasty, with great deficiency in commanders, and was, therefore, very imperfect. The equipment was lamentably defective for field-service; and our transportation, hastily impressed in the country, was deficient in quantity and very inferior in quality. With all these drawbacks, the troops marched late on the afternoon of the 3d, a day later than intended, in high spirits, and eager for the combat.

A very dear friend, who commanded a brigade in the battle, wrote as follows, in 1872, to the author:

You know I was as ignorant of the military art at that time as it was possible for a civilian to be. I had never seen a man fire a musket. I had never [566] heard a lecture or read a line on the subject. We were all tyros-all, the rawest and greenest recruits-generals, colonels, captains, soldiers. One thing I recollect, and that was the majestic presence of General Johnston. He looked like a hero of the antique type, and his very appearance on the field was a tower of more than kingly strength. I saw him as our lines were forming, and talked and shook hands with him for the last time.

While waiting for the appearance of the various commands, detained by the storm, the mire, and the other causes already assigned-Breckinridge's, Ruggles's, and Cheatham's-General Johnston, followed by his staff, passed from one body of troops to another, encouraging the men both by his words and his presence. Major Hayden, his volunteer aide, says:

When they began to cheer his approach, he checked them, because it would call the attention of the enemy to their position. His advice to the men was brief and characteristic. He told them, “Look along your guns, and fire low.”

During the intervals of the march on the 4th and 5th of April, while the men stood on their arms, the following address of the commanding general was read at the head of each regiment. It was received with exhibitions of deep feeling, and the soldiers were stirred to a still sterner resolution, which proved itself in the succeeding conflict.

headquarters, army of the Mississippi, Corinth, Mississippi, April 8, 1862.
soldiers of the army of the Mississippi: I have put you in motion to offer battle to the invaders of your country. With the resolution and discipline and valor becoming men fighting, as you are, for all worth living or dying for, you can but march to a decisive victory over the agrarian mercenaries sent to subjugate you and to despoil you of your liberties, your property, and your honor. Remember the precious stake involved; remember the dependence of your mothers, your wives, your sisters, and your children, on the result; remember the fair, broad, abounding land, and the happy homes that would be desolated by your defeat.

The eyes and hopes of eight millions of people rest upon you; you are expected to show yourselves worthy of your lineage, worthy of the women of the South, whose noble devotion in this war has never been exceeded in any time. With such incentives to brave deeds, and with the trust that God is with us, your generals will lead you confidently to the combat-assured of success.

A. S. Johnston, General commanding.

Between four and five o'clock on Saturday afternoon was held that famous “council of war,” on the issue of which turned the question whether the battle of Shiloh should be fought at all. It has been described, with more or less picturesque effect, but under the most various forms. Some of these accounts are altogether spurious, the coinage of a lively fancy. Dismissing these romances, we shall find that the eye and ear witnesses, though differing in details, agree in all essential [567] facts. The council was held at the cross-roads, a few hundred yards from the headquarters of the night before. Colonel Jordan's account is as follows, and is presumably to be received as General Beauregard's own statement of the matter.9 Mentioning in a note that it occurred about four o'clock in the open air, on foot, in the road, between the generals, surrounded at a short distance by a number of staff officials, and was of short duration, he names Generals Johnston, Beauregard, Polk, Bragg, Hardee (Hardee was not present, but Gilmer was), and Breckinridge, as taking part in it, and then furnishes this narrative:

At least one division, if not the whole of Bragg's corps, was likewise inexplicably tardy in movement on Saturday, though General Johnston, through his staff, had made every effort to get his troops in position for an attack that day. Supremely chagrined that he had been balked in his just expectation, it was evidently now too late for a decisive engagement that afternoon; so General Johnston called his corps and reserve commanders together, and a council was held within less than two miles of Shiloh Chapel, the headquarters of the Federal General Sherman.

It was now learned that many of the troops had improvidently thrown away or consumed their provisions, and at the end of three days were out of subsistence. General Bragg promised, however, to remedy this from his alleged well-stocked commissariat. But General Beauregard earnestly advised the idea of attacking the enemy should be abandoned, and that the whole force should return to Corinth, inasmuch as it was scarcely possible they would be able to take the Federals unawares, after such delay and the noisy demonstrations which had been made meanwhile. He urged the enemy would be now found formidably intrenched and ready for the attack; that success had depended on the power to assail them unexpectedly, for they were superior in number, and in large part had been under fire. On the other hand, few comparatively of the Confederates had that advantage, while a large part were too raw and recently enrolled to make it proper to venture them in an assault upon breastworks which would now be thrown up. And this unquestionably was the view of almost all present.

General Johnston, having listened with grave attention to the views and opinions advanced, then remarked, in substance, that he recognized the weight of the objections to an attack under the circumstances involved by the unfortunate loss of time on the road. But, nevertheless, he still hoped the enemy was not looking for offensive operations, and that he would yet be able to surprise them; and that, having put his army in motion for a battle, he would venture the hazard.

This decision being announced, the officers rapidly dispersed to their respective posts in high and hopeful spirits, notwithstanding the probabilities that all previous expectations of a surprise would fail of accomplishment.

General Polk, in his report of the battle, gives the following account of the occasion and circumstances of the meeting, which, in the [568] opinion of most of General Johnston's staff, was accidental so far as he was concerned. Polk says:

I had not advanced far before I came upon General Ruggles, who commanded General Bragg's left, deploying his troops. Having ascertained the direction of the line, I did not wait for him to complete it, but returned to the head of my column to give the necessary orders. By this time it was near four o'clock, and, on arriving, I was informed that General Beauregard desired to see me immediately. I rode forward to his headquarters at once, where I found General Bragg and himself in conversation. He said, with some feeling, “I am very much disappointed at the delay which has occurred in getting the troops into position.” I replied: “So am I, sir; but, so far as I am concerned, my orders are to form on another line, and that line must first be established before I can form upon it.” I continued: “I reached Mickey's at nightfall yesterday, whence I could not move, because of the troops which were before me, until 2 P. M. to-day. I then promptly followed the column in front of me, and have been in position to form upon it so soon as its line was established.” He said he regretted the delay exceedingly, as it would make it necessary to forego the attack altogether; that our success depended upon our surprising the enemy; that this was now impossible, and we must fall back to Corinth.

Here General Johnston came up and asked what was the matter. General Beauregard repeated what he had said to me. General Johnston remarked that this would never do, and proceeded to assign reasons for that opinion. He then asked what I thought of it. I replied that my troops were in as good condition as they had ever been; that they were eager for battle; that to retire now would operate injuriously upon them; and I thought we ought to attack. General Breckinridge, whose troops were in the rear, and by this time had arrived upon the ground, here joined us; and, after some discussion, it was decided to postpone further movement until the following day, and to make the attack at daybreak.

General Bragg, in a monograph on the battle of Shiloh, prepared for the use of the writer of this memoir, says:

During the afternoon of the 5th, as the last of our troops were taking position, a casual and partly-accidental meeting of general officers occurred just in rear of our second line, near the bivouac of General Bragg. The commander in-chief, General Beauregard, General Polk, General Bragg, and General Breckinridge, are remembered as present, and General Hardee may have been. In a discussion of the causes of the delay and its incidents, it was mentioned that some of the troops, now in their third day only, were entirely out of food, though having marched with five days rations. General Beauregard, confident our movement had been discovered by the enemy, urged its abandonment, a return to our camps for supplies, and a general change of programme. In this opinion no other seemed fully to concur; and when it was suggested that “the enemy's supplies were much nearer, and could be had for the taking,” General Johnston quietly remarked, “Gentlemen, we shall attack at daylight to-morrow.” The meeting then dispersed upon an invitation of the commanding general to meet at his tent that evening. At that meeting a further discussion elicited the same views, and the same firm, decided determination. [569]

The next morning, about dawn of day, the 6th, as the troops were being put in motion, several generals again met at the camp-fire of the general-in-chief. The discussion was renewed, General Beauregard again expressing his dissent; when, rapid firing in the front indicating that the attack had commenced, General Johnston closed the discussion by remarking: “The battle has opened, gentlemen; it is too late to change our dispositions.” He proposed to move to the front, and his subordinates promptly joined their respective commands, inspired by his coolness, confidence, and determination. Few men have equaled him in the possession and display at the proper time of these great qualities of the soldier.

As far as the writer can ascertain, the meeting was, as stated by Bragg, casual. Beauregard sent for Polk. The discussion between them was conducted with some warmth. General Johnston joined the group, but not by preconcert, and Breckinridge came up afterward. General Preston says in his letter of April 18, 1862:

General Johnston was within, two miles of the chapel, and anxious to attack that evening, for fear the enemy would discover his presence, and be on the alert to receive him; but, considering the condition of the men, determined to rest them and attack in the morning. It was, moreover, discovered that some of the regiments had not brought provisions sufficient. A conference was held between Generals Johnston, Beauregard, Bragg, and Polk, at 5 P. M.; Major Gilmer being near. Some thought the long delay in the movement, of thirty-six hours, would put the enemy on the alert, and the want of provisions would endanger a failure, and that the attack was too late to be successful. I was ordered to go for General Breckinridge, to see the state of his command; but he appearing at the moment, and reporting the provisions ample, General Johnston then ordered the attack for next morning, and we bivouacked in silence for tho night.

General Preston informs the writer that General Johnston said little, but closed the discussion with great decision of manner. As he moved off, he said to Preston: I would fight them if they were a million. They can present no greater front between these two creeks than we can; and the more men they crowd in there, the worse we can make it for them. . . . Polk is a true soldier and a friend.

Governor Harris mentions the following incident, which is significant of General Johnston's train of thought during that day, and confirmatory of the above:

I was riding with him along the line of battle, which was being formed about 12 M.10 on Saturday, when one of our scouts intercepted us, and made a report to the general which indicated the presence of a much larger Federal force than previous information had induced us to expect. For a moment after receiving this report, he appeared to be in profound thought, when he turned to me, saying: “I will fight them if there is a million of them! I have as many men as can [570] be well handled on this field, and I can handle as many men as they can.” He then proceeded with the inspection of his line.

The Hon. Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior under Mr. Buchanan, who was present on the staff of General Beauregard, furnishes the writer with the following notes of an interview which he held with General Johnston on the way to this conference, as he thinks, but which more probably occurred soon after it:

General Johnston took my arm, and remarked, “I perceive that General Beauregard is averse to bringing on the attack on the enemy in the morning, on the ground that we have lost an opportunity by delay.” I replied that I knew that such was the feeling of General Beauregard, and he seemed wonderfully depressed in spirits. “But,” says General Johnston, “don't you think it is better to fight, and run the chances of defeat rather than retreat? Our troops are in high spirits, eager for the trial of arms, and confident of victory; and the effect of an order to retreat will not only disappoint them but depress their spirits, and I fear it would have the same effect as a defeat.” I replied that if Buell should come up in time the odds would be greatly against us. Then General Johnston, as if wishing to draw out my opinion, said: “Don't you think we had better try and fight the two armies in detail? The junction is not yet made, and it is probable will not be made to-morrow.” My reply to that was, “There are great difficulties and embarrassments, take either horn of the dilemma, and those who have the responsibility must decide it.” The result of the council was an order to attack early, and General Johnston determined to lead the attack in person, and leave General Beauregard to direct the movements of troops in the rear.

General Gilmer says that Beauregard's proposition to retire without making an attack was not opposed, so far as he can remember. He adds:

General Johnston appeared much surprised at the suggestion, and held that a failure to attack would demoralize his command, which had come on the field in good spirits, expecting to give battle. I ventured to suggest that a withdrawal would certainly destroy the morale of the troops. General Johnston said, “We will attack the enemy in the morning.” All dispositions were accordingly made, and special instructions given to the corps commanders for the engagement in the morning.

Colonel Munford, in his address at Memphis, has supplied the following interesting particulars of a conversation held with General Johnston immediately after the “council of war.” He says:

The leading general officers were called together, and a short colloquy held, which General Johnston seemed to terminate a little abruptly. He turned, saw me, and, pointing to a large oak, motioned me to meet him there. It was his habit not to betray emotion. Despite this exterior calm, I saw he was deeply moved. His first words were: “I want to tell you something which I desire remembered. I shall tell nobody but you and Preston, but I do not wish what [571] I say to be forgotten, as it may become very important some day.” I told him his wishes should be complied with. He then said: “They wish me to withdraw the army without a battle; what is your opinion?” My surprised reply was: “General, a defeat is preferable. This army cannot be withdrawn without a fight, and kept together. They will become disheartened and melt away. They are very raw, but are eager to meet the enemy. I have been around their camp-fires, mingled freely with them, and know, if you can ever do anything with such a number of undisciplined men, now is your time. They are ready for the fight.” The general said with a glowing countenance, “I have ordered a battle for to-morrow at daylight, and I intend to ‘hammer 'em!’ ” I then said to him: “There is a matter well worthy of consideration. We have lost a day. We know Buell is marching an army as large as your own to this point. If he has not been inactive, he can get here to-morrow, and may be here to-night. The army you propose attacking is already much larger than your own, is better armed, and in all respects better appointed. Suppose, in the morning, instead of sixty or seventy thousand, you find yourself confronting ninety or one hundred thousand, what think you of your chances for success?” He replied: “There is Lick Creek on my right, and Owl Creek on my left. These creeks effectually protect my flanks. I have men enough to cover the front, and the more men they crowd into this small space between me and the river, the better for me and the worse for them. I think we will hammer them beyond doubt.” I have transcribed as much of this conversation as it is proper should now be written down-enough to shed a clear light upon this portion of the history of the battle of Shiloh. It is remarkable both for the facts it discloses and the peculiar circumstances under which it took place.

These varied presentations, in the words of the witnesses themselves, leave on the mind a vivid picture of this striking scene. The seeming disagreements in minor circumstances in the foregoing statements are easily reconcilable. They arise from the different points of view of the narrators, and are not only consistent with the strictest veracity, but are a very strong attestation of the principal facts. The substantive facts are that, on Saturday afternoon late, when the Confederate army was drawn up in battle array, within two miles of Shiloh Church, General Beauregard earnestly urged the necessity of a retreat. General Johnston, against his emphatic advice, decided to fight the battle of Shiloh. General Beauregard's counsel in this conference freed him from responsibility in case of a repulse, and compelled General Johnston to take the hazard of a doubtful and perilous contest weighted with such opposition. Success was absolutely necessary to the vindication of his military character. He was not unwilling to accept the test.

As to the soundness of General Johnston's judgment in deciding to fight contrary to the auguries of his distinguished subordinate, the writer does not pretend to offer an unbiased opinion. He rests the wisdom of General Johnston's course upon the results of the battle up to the time of his death. But, whatever may have been the weight of [572] the reasons for and against attacking, those assigned for retreating by General Beauregard most certainly proved invalid. Contrary to his opinion of its possibility, the Federals were surprised, and they were not intrenched; and whatever disparity of military experience in the two armies existed on the evening of the 5th had also existed on the morning of the 3d, before they left Corinth. Indeed, it was a mere assumption that the enemy were on their guard and intrenched, as there was not the slightest evidence to that effect, and all the indications were to the contrary. To conclude that they were prepared because they ought to be, was a reason which applied with greater force against an advance from Corinth than against an attack on Sunday morning. The Confederate army, deployed in three lines of battle on the Federal front, ready and eager for the onset, was stronger for aggression than when it lay at Corinth. The position was almost more than its generals could have hoped for. Though the attack was not without its difficulties and dangers, every omen seemed auspicious. General Johnston, as a trained soldier, put discipline at its fullest value; but he knew what a power enthusiasm was also, and that his army was wrought up to the highest pitch. In such a state of mind, with those new levies, the demoralization of another retreat would have been worse than defeat.

Without disparagement to General Beauregard's ability, his willingness, his urgency, to retire from that field, when in the face of the enemy, evinces conclusively how little he was in sympathy with the leading idea in General Johnston's mind, that he must crush Grant before Buell joined him. This was the purpose, this was the plan of the battle of Shiloh.

When night fell, on the eve of battle, the following was the Confederate array: The front line, composed of the Third Corps and Gladden's brigade, was under Hardee, and extended from Owl Creek to Lick Creek, a distance of somewhat over three miles. Cleburne's brigade was on the left, with its flank resting near Owl Creek. Hindman was intrusted with a division, composed of Wood's brigade, and his own under Colonel Shaver. These occupied the centre. The interval, on his right, to Lick Creek, was occupied by Gladden's brigade, detached from Bragg, and put under Hardee's command for the battle. Hardee's three brigades numbered 6,789 effectives, and Gladden added 2,235 more — an effective total in the front line of 9,024.

Bragg commanded the second line. Withers's division formed his right wing. Jackson's brigade, 2,208 strong, was drawn up three hundred yards in rear of Gladden, its left on the Bark road. Chalmers's brigade was on Jackson's right, en echelon to Gladden's brigade, with its right on a fork of Lick Creek. Clanton's cavalry was in rear of Chalmers's, with pickets to the right and front. In this order the division bivouacked. [573]

General Bragg's left wing was made up of three brigades, under General D. Ruggles. Colonel R. L. Gibson commanded the right brigade, resting with his right on the Bark road. Colonel Preston Pond commanded the left brigade, near Owl Creek, with an interval between him and Gibson. About three hundred yards in the rear of these two brigades, opposite the interval, with his right and left flanks masked by Gibson and Pond, Patton Anderson's brigade, 1,634 strong, was posted. Bragg's corps was 10,731 strong, and was drawn up in line of battle, or with the regiments in double column at half distance, according to the nature of the ground.

The third line or reserve was composed of the First Corps, under Polk, and three brigades under Breckinridge. Polk's command was massed in columns of brigades on the Bark road, near Mickey's; and Breckinridge's on the road from Monterey toward the same point. Polk was to advance on the left of the Bark road, at an interval of about eight hundred paces from Bragg's line; and Breckinridge, to the right of that road, was to give support, wherever it should become necessary.

Polk's corps, 9,136 strong in infantry and artillery, was composed of two divisions, Cheatham's on the left, made up of B. R. Johnson's and Stephens's brigades, and Clark's on his right, formed of A. P. Stewart's and Russell's brigades. It followed Bragg's line at about eight hundred yards' distance.

Breckinridge's reserve was composed of Trabue's, Bowen's, and Statham's brigades, with a total infantry and artillery of 6,439.

The cavalry, about 4,300 strong, guarded the flanks, or was detached on outpost duty; but, both from the newness and imperfections of their organization, equipment, and drill, and from the rough and wooded character of the ground, they did little service that day. The part taken by Morgan's, Forrest's, and Wharton's (Eighth Texas), will be given in its proper place.

The army, exclusive of its cavalry, was between 35,000 and 36,000 strong. Jordan, in an official report, made in July, 1862, to the writer, then on inspection-duty, gave the effective total of all arms at 38,773, who marched April 3d. In his “Life of Forrest” he makes it 39,630. Hodge, in his sketch of the First Kentucky Brigade, with a different distribution of troops, puts the total at 39,695, which he says he made up from the returns at the time. Beauregard's report of the battle gives the field return at 40,335, of which 4,382 was cavalry. This last return includes Colonel Hill's Forty-seventh Tennessee Regiment, which came up on the 7th. There are apparently some errors in the return of July, 1862. The writer believes that the figures in Jordan's “Life of Forrest” approach the truth most nearly.

It now behooves us to consider the employment of the Federal [574] army during those fateful first days of April, when the Confederates were gathering in its front. Premising that General Grant kept his headquarters at Savannah, nine miles from Pittsburg by water and six or seven by land, and left a large discretion in the hands of General Sherman, as his friend and most experienced officer, we must turn to the “Memoirs” of General Sherman to arrive at his theory of the battle, and his account of the events preceding it. He is entitled to this consideration, since, by his position in the advance, and by the special confidence reposed in him by Grant, he shared with his chief the responsibility for whatever was done or left undone at Shiloh. We have already seen his opinion on the natural strength of the position, and the reasons he gives for not adding to it. The following is his account of the transactions ushering in the battle ( “Memoirs,” vol. i., p. 229):

From about the 1st of April we were conscious that the rebel cavalry in our front was getting bolder and more saucy; and on Friday, the 4th of April, it dashed down and carried off one of our picket-guards, composed of an officer and seven men, posted a couple of miles out on the Corinth road. Colonel Buckland sent a company to its relief, then followed himself with a regiment, and, fearing lest he might be worsted, I called out his whole brigade and followed some four or five miles, when the cavalry in advance encountered artillery. I then, after dark, drew back to our lines, and reported the fact by letter to General Grant, at Savannah; but thus far we had not positively detected the presence of infantry, for cavalry regiments generally had a couple of guns along, and I supposed the guns that opened on us on the evening of Friday, April 4th, belonged to the cavalry that was hovering along our whole front. Saturday passed in our camps without any unusual event, the weather being wet and mild, and the roads back to the steamboat-landing being heavy with mud.

It may be remarked on the foregoing, that General Sherman's reconnaissance did not advance so far as he thinks, as four or five miles, the distance named by him, did not intervene between Shiloh Church and Mickey's, in front of which Hardee's corps was deploying. Indeed, Colonel Buckland, who made the reconnaissance, says that he advanced three, not four or five miles.11 Hardee was, in fact, within two miles. It will be observed that Sherman supposed the artillery belonged to the Confederate cavalry.

In his letter to Grant, dated April 5th (page 235), Sherman reports that he lost eleven men, officers and privates, taken prisoners, and eight privates wounded. He says he took ten prisoners. He continues:

I infer that the enemy is in some considerable force at Pea Ridge (Monterey), that yesterday morning they crossed a brigade of two regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and one battery of field-artillery, to the ridges on which [575] the Corinth road lies. They halted the infantry at a point about five miles in my front, sent a detachment to the lane of General Meaks, on the north of Owl Creek, and the cavalry down toward our camp.

Though he did not suspect the fact, it was the whole Confederate army which was unfolding along his front.

In his report of the battle of Shiloh ( “Memoirs,” vol. i., p. 235), Sherman says:

On Saturday the enemy's cavalry was again very bold, coming well down to our front; yet I did not believe they designed anything but a strong demonstration.

General Sherman seems to deny with derision that his command was surprised on the morning of April 6th. He says ( “Memoirs,” vol. i., p. 244):

Probably no single battle of the war gave rise to such wild and damaging reports. It was publicly asserted at the North that our army was taken completely by surprise, etc.

His denial is not categorical, but by inference; but Moulton's “Criticism of Boynton's review of Sherman” (page 11), which is virtually General Sherman's own utterance, denies any purpose or necessity “of contradicting the foolish stories about our forces being surprised by the enemy at its beginning.” Moulton continues:

No matter what were the reasons for starting them originally in the newspapers or elsewhere, there is not the slightest excuse for reiterating them at this time.

He rests his defense on the ground that Sherman's whole line was not overthrown in the first onset, but that part of it on favorable ground formed a line of battle and fought well ; that the officers on picket were in a constant state of watchfulness; that the pickets were not less than two and a half miles out, and were strengthened as occasion required; that reconnaissances in force were made from time to time, and that both these and the pickets reported the presence of cavalry and infantry to the division commanders, who were on the qui vive in consequence, and that their troops were in line of battle on the morning of the attack.

He alleges also that they (the Confederate generals) “did not definitely fix the date of the attack until late in the evening of the 5th,” but this is a mere quibble, for General Johnston marched from Corinth with an unalterable resolution to attack, which nothing, not even the remonstrances of his second in command, could shake, and intended to attack on the morning of the 5th.

It is not necessary to consider Moulton's statements seriatim; for, though all of them have some color of fact, they are not relevant to the [576] issue. A narrative of the facts will leave a clearer impression on the reader's mind than any word-mongering or technical disputations. Whether Grant and Sherman used all requisite vigilance or not, they believed that the Confederate army was at Corinth, twenty miles away, and only a brigade at Mickey's, when that army was unfolding for an assault upon them. Whether they were “surprised” or not, the attack upon them was unexpected, and their own words show that a thunderbolt from a clear sky could not have astonished them more than the boom of artillery on Sunday morning.

In Badeau's “Life of Grant” (page 600) occurs the following correspondence. The first communication is a telegram from General Grant to General Halleck, his commanding officer:

Savannah, April 5, 1862.
The main force of the enemy is at Corinth, with troops at different points east. Small garrisons are also at Bethel, Jackson, and Humboldt. The number at these places seems constantly to change. The number of the enemy at Corinth, and in supporting distance of it, cannot be far from 80,000 men. Information, obtained through deserters, places their force west at 200,000. One division of Buell's column arrived yesterday. General Buell will be here himself to-day. Some skirmishing took place between our out-guards and the enemy's yesterday and the day before.

U. S. Grant, Major-General. Major-General H. W. Halleck, St. Louis, Missouri.

In a subsequent dispatch to Halleck, on the same day, he says that he had received notes, stating that our outposts had been attacked by the enemy, apparently in considerable force. I immediately went up, but found all quiet. . . . They had with them three pieces of artillery, and cavalry and infantry. How much, cannot of course be estimated. I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack (general one) being made upon us, but will be prepared should such a thing take place.

General Sherman's dispatch to Grant, sent with the above to Halleck, is as follows:

Pittsburg Landing, April 5, 1862.
sir: All is quiet along my lines now. We are in the act of exchanging cavalry, according to your orders. The enemy has cavalry in our front, and I think there are two regiments of infantry and one battery of artillery about six miles out. I will send you in ten prisoners of war and a report of last night's affair in a few minutes.

W. T. Sherman, Brigadier-General.

Your note is just received. I have no doubt that nothing will occur to-day more than some picket-firing. The enemy is saucy, but got the worst of it yesterday, and will not press our pickets far. I will not be drawn out far, unless with certainty of advantage; and I do not apprehend anything like an attack upon our position.


In view of these quotations from Badeau's book, argument would seem entirely unnecessary in order to show that there was “scarcely the faintest idea of an attack being made,” or that there was any knowledge of the Confederate movement in force. Grant and Sherman evidently expected some skirmishing on outposts, but nothing more. General Badeau's commentaries on his own text are really amusing. He dwells on Grant's letters, quoted above, which, however, speak for themselves, and adds (page 96):

It has been repeatedly asserted that Grant was surprised at Shiloh, but the evidence to the contrary is incontrovertible. The preliminary fighting of the 3d and 4th of April necessarily put division and army commanders on the alert.

The evidence he cites for this is as follows:

Prentiss had doubled his pickets the day before (the 5th), and had a reconnaissance of a regiment out at three o'clock on the morning of the 6th; he received the earliest assault outside of his camps. W. H. L. Wallace also breakfasted early, and had his horses saddled, “to be ready in case of an attack.” These are not the indications of a camp that is surprised.

Badeau indulges somewhat oracularly in a piece of special pleading, very wonderful in view of the facts. He says:

Private soldiers and inferior officers very probably could not read the signs that told so plainly to their commanders the necessity of readiness; such may very likely have been surprised at what occurred; but Grant and his division generals, although of course they could not know at what hour or place the rebels might choose to assault, nor indeed that they certainly would assault at all, although they did not really expect an attack, yet knew the propinquity of a great army, and, so far as could be, were prepared to receive it-except in the matter of defensive intrenchments.

The translation of which into English is, that General Grant thought the Confederates were at Corinth — not two, but twenty-two miles away. The readiness for the attack consisted in what? Some colonels strengthened their pickets, one general sent a regiment on reconnaissance, and another had his horse saddled before breakfast.

Instead of the commanders having a peculiar and occult insight into the situation, unrevealed to their less-gifted subordinates, the exact reverse occurred. In the reconnaissances and cavalry-skirmishes of outposts, the ready apprehension of raw troops saw the shadow of coming danger. Like the startled stag which scents afar the perilous approach of a foe, and watches for the rustle of the leaves, and hearkens for the distant bay of hounds, these undisciplined men were touched by a vague apprehension of coming danger. They saw, in the dash of the Southern troopers at their pickets, the cloud no bigger than a man's hand that precedes the tempest. Their quick imaginations suggested [578] the fear that it was the vanguard of a great army threading the swamps and thickets of the unknown forest in their front. It may even be true, as is alleged, that the experienced eye of some veteran caught here or there the gleam of a bayonet in the background, or detected by other signs the massing of infantry. It is certain that a feeling of uneasiness and mistrust pervaded the whole front line, and gradually spread from soldiers to officers, reaching higher and higher. Every soldier knows that “camp-rumor” has a certain undefined value, that there is something in the Greek idea of the “Pheme,” the voice that addresses the general consciousness, the voice that heralded across the Aegean the victory of Plataea to the combatants of Mycale. Known facts, inference and imagination, often construct in an army an hypothesis not to be neglected. Possibly upon some such basis General Prentiss acted in throwing to the front ten companies, under Colonel Moore, to watch the approaches to his position.

But it is perfectly evident that Grant and Sherman considered themselves above such idle fears. The vulgar apprehension did not touch the victor of Donelson. It never reached either Grant or Sherman. Indeed, the latter, with bitter innuendo, points to it as proof of cowardice in certain officers with whom he was at variance. He swears in his evidence on Worthington's trial.12

Therefore, on Friday, two days before the battle, when Colonel Worthington was so apprehensive, I knew there was no hostile party in six miles,13 though there was reason to expect an attack. I suppose Colonel McDowell and myself had become tired of his constant prognostications, and paid no attention to him, especially when we were positively informed by men like Buckland, Kilby Smith, and Major Ricker, who went to the front to look for enemies, instead of going to the landing ...

On Friday, the 4th, nor officer, nor soldier, looked for an attack, as I can prove. . . . For weeks and months we had heard all sorts of reports, just as we do now. For weeks old women had reported that Beauregard was coming, sometimes with 100,000, sometimes with 800,000, when, in fact, he did not leave Corinth until after even Colonel Worthington had been alarmed for safety.

Sherman says, further on, that, after the reconnaissance on Friday afternoon-

We knew that we had the elements of an army in our front, but did not know its strength or destination. The guard was strengthened, and, as night came on, we returned to camp, and not a man in camp but knew we had an enemy to the front, before we slept that night. But even I had to guess its purpose.

Colonel Buckland, who made the reconnaissance, states that he discovered a large force of infantry and artillery, and that, when he reported [579] with his prisoners to Sherman, his manner indicated he was not pleased. He made a written report of the skirmish that night. Buckland says:

The next day, Saturday, April 5th, I visited the picket-line several times, and found the woods were swarming with rebel cavalry along the entire front of my line, and the pickets claimed to have discovered infantry and artillery. Several times during the day I reported these facts to General Sherman. Colonel Hildebrand, of the Third Brigade, and other officers, visited the picket-line with me during the day. It was well understood all that day and night, throughout Sherman's division, that there was a large rebel force immediately in our front.

Buckland strengthened his pickets, and adds, “Every officer in my brigade was fully aware of the danger, and such precautions were taken that a surprise was impossible.” 14

Concerning the same reconnaissance, Major Picker wrote as follows:15

When we got back to the picket-lines we found General Sherman there with infantry and artillery, caused by the heavy firing of the enemy on us. General Sherman asked me what was up. I told him I had met and fought the advance of Beauregard's army, that he was advancing on us. General Sherman said it could not be possible, Beauregard was not such a fool as to leave his base of operations and attack us in ours — mere reconnaissance in force.

General Buell says that, “so far as preparation for battle is concerned, no army could well have been taken more by surprise than was the Army, of the Tennessee on the 6th of April.” 16

Van Horne's “Army of the Cumberland,” to which General Sherman's special advocate, Mr. Moulton, refers the reader, “for a fair and full history of this battle,” has the following (page 105):

While the national army was unprepared for battle, and unexpectant of such an event, and was passing the night of the 5th in fancied security, Johnston's army of 40,000 men was in close proximity, and ready for the bloody revelation of its presence and purpose on the following morning. General Johnston was already a day later in attaining position for attack than he had anticipated, and this loss of a day had brought the Army of the Ohio one day's march nearer to the conjunction with General Grant, to prevent which was the object of his advance. Usually, the indications of approaching battle are so palpable that the men in the ranks, as well as the officers of all grades, foresee the deadly struggle, and nerve themselves to meet it. But in this case the nearness of the enemy in force was not known in the national army, and there was no special preparation for the conflict.

In “Sherman and his campaigns,” by Colonels Bowman and Irwin, it is stated (page 50), “There was nothing to indicate a general attack [580] until seven o'clock on Sunday morning, when the advance-guard of Sherman's front was forced in on his main line.”

Grant and his campaigns, a book compiled by Prof. Coppee, avowedly from Grant's “Reports,” and very prejudiced in its conclusions in favor of that general, says, “At the outset our troops were shamefully surprised and easily overpowered.”

It is but a poor compliment to the generalship of either Grant or Sherman to believe them aware of the presence of the Confederate army in their front on the 5th. Else why was General Lew Wallace with 7,500 men kept at Crump's Landing, and Nelson and Crittenden's divisions-14,000 men-left at Savannah? Why the calm of Saturday and the confusion of Sunday? For the events of the battle, let the eulogists of Generals Grant and Sherman rather plead, than deny, the “surprise” that befell them on Sunday morning.

Boynton says (page 34):

The officers of General Thomas's army, who had charge of the pickets a few days after the battle, rode over the line from which the rebels moved to the attack. Everywhere were signs of the deliberation with which the enemy formed his forces. The routes, by which each corps and division of the first line was to march to its position in the woods, were blazed upon the trees, and the entire force of the enemy went into line for the attack wholly undisturbed, and with as munch order and precision as if forming upon markers for a grand review. And the time that the enemy was thus forming his lines, scarcely out of rifled-cannon range, passed in our camps, says General Sherman, without any unusual event.

Such is a fair view of the situation and transactions of the Federal army before Shiloh, as taken from their own writers.

According to the general tenor of their official reports, the Federal army was disposed as follows on the night of April 5th: Sherman commanded the advance, consisting of the Fifth Division, and had his headquarters at Shiloh Church, a little wooden meeting-house, two miles and a half or more from Pittsburg Landing, on the Corinth road. The road to Purdy crosses the Corinth road, somewhat in rear of this chapel, almost at right angles, and, passing to the right and front, follows a ridge to Owl Creek, which it crosses by two bridges. This ridge was thickly set with trees and undergrowth, and fell away by a sharp declivity to a deep ravine, boggy and flooded with the storms of the past month. Sherman's First Brigade, under Colonel McDowell, was on his right, on the Purdy road as a guard to the bridges over Owl Creek. His Fourth Brigade, under Colonel Buckland, came next in his line, with its left resting on the Corinth road at Shiloh. The Third Brigade, under Colonel Hildebrand, stood with its right on the same point. His Second Brigade, under Colonel Stuart, was detached in position on the extreme left, guarding the ford over Lick Creek. Each brigade had three [581] regiments and a battery; and eight companies of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry were posted in an open field to the left and rear of Shiloh.

Among the multitude of roads and cross-roads, running in every direction over the broken surface of the Shiloh plateau, one principal road diverged to the left in rear of Shiloh Church from the direct Pittsburg and Corinth road, and following the ridge led into both the Bark road and the Corinth road by numerous approaches. Across this to Sherman's left, with an interval between them, Prentiss's division (the Sixth) was posted. Covering this interval, but some distance back, lay McClernand's division (the First), with its right partially masked by Sherman's left. Some two miles in rear of the front line, and about three-quarters of a mile in advance of Pittsburg, were encamped to the left, Hurlbut's (the Fourth), and to the right, Smith's (the Second) division, the latter under General W. H. L. Wallace. The Federal front was an arc or very obtuse angle extending from where the Purdy road crossed Owl Creek to the ford near the mouth of Lick Creek, which was guarded by Stuart's brigade. General Lew Wallace's division was five or six miles distant, with one brigade at Crump's Landing, and the other two on the Adamsville road, with intervals of some two miles, in observation of Cheatham's division, which he believed to be still at Purdy. The advance of Buell's army, Nelson's division, had passed through Savannah on Saturday morning, April 5th, and was distant from Pittsburg about five miles on the north bank of the river. Crittenden's division arrived there on the morning of the 6th, and the other divisions of Buell's army followed at intervals of about six miles.

The arrangement of Grant's army at Shiloh has been subjected to very severe and probably just criticism, by Federal writers, because he did not so place his troops as to make the most of his position. This may be true; but such were the natural advantages of the ground that the attack was nevertheless almost equivalent to an assault on a strongly intrenched place. No Confederate who fought at Shiloh has ever said that he found any point on that bloody field easy to assail.

But while the Federal army, strong in the natural advantages of its position, its prestige, and its stubborn and self-reliant courage, lay unaware of its mighty peril, the Confederate army had set itself down opposite to the Federal camps, in battle array, with its flanks protected by natural barriers, ready for the onset. It had reached its positions, it is true, more slowly than could have been foreseen, but, according to all testimony, with almost the regularity of a drill or parade. More could not have been expected. More could not have been achieved under the circumstances. Thus the two armies lay face to face: the Federal host, like a wild-boar in his lair, stirred but not aroused by monitions of an unseen danger; its foe, like a panther, hidden in the jungle, in wait to spring, tense for the deadly combat.

1 E. P. Thompson's “History of the first Kentucky brigade,” p. 87.

2 Ibid.

3 Sherman's “Memoirs,” vol. i., p. 235.

4 Report of the battle.

5 Ecclesiastes VIII. 14.

6 Ecclesiastes IX. 2.

7 Ecclesiastes x. 7.

8 Luke XIII. 1.

9 Life of Forrest, p. 113.

10 Colonel Munford thinks the hour was earlier.

11 Sherman's historical raid, Boynton, p. 31.

12 Sherman's historical raid, by Boynton, p. 29.

13 Hardee was not more than two miles distant.

14 Sherman's historical raid, pp. 81, 32.

15 Ibid.

16 Buell's letter, dated January 19, 1865, to United States service Magazine, republished in the New York World, February 29, 1865.

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