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THE MYTHOLOGY OF SHILOH: Myths & Eyewitness Accounts

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  • THE MYTHOLOGY OF SHILOH: Myths & Eyewitness Accounts

    Good Evening to all on this forum...

    This thread draws heavily from an article called "MYTHS OF SHILOH", ('America's Civil War' Magazine, Vol.19, No.2) written by Timothy B. Smith.

    I will post excerpts from this piece, followed by some eyewitness accounts from some of the participants, with the view to launching discussion from forum members on the factual basis for some of the myths that have grown up arounds this crucial engagement of April 6-7, 1862.

    I will not post everything at once, but proceed myth by myth as guided by Mr. Smiths fine article. Any members wishing to post comments are free to do so at any point.

    Together, we may tackle some myths, to remain as fallacies, or to determine that some have factual basis. Either way, I hope the following grabs your interest. We'll start with some general comments, followed by the myths themselves.

    GENERAL INTRODUCTION

    MYTHS OF SHILOH

    Timothy B. Smith's general outline.....

    The Battle of Shiloh, which took place on April 6-7, 1862 is one of the Civil War's most momentous fights, but perhaps one of the least understood.

    The standard story of the engagement reads that Union troops were surprised in their camps at dawn on April 6. Defeat seemed certain, but Union Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss saved the day by holding a sunken road some three feet deep. Thanks to the tenacious fighting in that area, it came to be known as the "Hornet's Nest".

    Prentiss eventually capitulated, leaving Rebel commander Albert Sidney Johnston in a position to drive on to victory. Gen. Johnston, however, was soon mortally wounded and replaced by Gen.P.G.T. Beauregard, which cost the Confederates vital momentum. Beauregard made the inept decision to call off the confederate attacks, and the next day union counterattacks dealt the Rebels a crushing blow.

    This standard account of Shiloh, however, is more myth than fact.

    No less an authority than Ulysses S. Grant, the Union commander at the fight, wrote after the war that Shiloh,

    "Has perhaps been less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more persistently understood than any other engagement...during the entire rebellion.".

    Preminent Shiloh authority and historian David W. Reed, the first superintendent of the battlefield park, wrote in 1912...

    "Occasionally...some one thinks that his un-aided memory of the events of 50 years ago is superior to the official reports of officers which were made at the time of the battle. It seems hard for them to realize that oft-repeated campfire stories added to and enlarged, become impressed on the menory as real facts."

    Unfortunately, such misunderstandings and "oft-repeated campfire stories" have over the years become for many the truth about Shiloh, distorting the actual facts and painting an altered picture of the momentous events of those April days.

    ...the notorious "Bloody Pond", today a battlefield landmark, could be a myth. There is no contemporary evidence that there was even a pond on the spot. The sole account came from a local citizen who years later told of walking by a pond a few days after the battle and seeing it stained with blood.

    The long held belief that Grant arrived at Pittsburg Landing only to be greeted by thousands upon thousands of Union stragglers is....a myth. The frontline divisions of Prentiss and Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman did not break until after 9 A.M., the latest time that Grant could have arrived at the landing.
    It is hard to imagine Prentiss' troops running over two miles in less than 30 seconds, even though by all accounts, they were pretty scared.

    Cynicism aside, there is a real need to correct these errors.

    A newspaper columnist recently criticized the Sholoh National Military Park for removing the rotten and crumbling tree under which Gen. johnston supposedly died, saying,

    "So what if Johnston wasn't exactly at that exact tree."

    Such an ambivalent attitude toward facts, continued and perpetuated through the years, not only produces false history, but also diminishes the record of what actually happened. The most boring fact is always worth more than the most glorious myth.

    In an effort to correct historical errors and analyze the myths, here is a brief analysis of several myths about the Battle of Shiloh.
    This general picture of the course of Shiloh is certainly replicated in popular history, of which a good example is the widely read James M. Macpherson, from "Battle Cry of Freedom"......

    But he (Grant) was not prepared for the thousands of screaming rebels who burst out of the woods near shiloh Church next morning. They hit first the two green divsions of Sherman and Benjamin M. Prentiss, an Illonois political general with Mexican war experience. Against all odds, Johnston achieved a surprise-but not a total one, despite later senationalist stories in northern newspapers that union camps were overrun while soldiers were still asleep.. Long before dawn one of Prentiss's brigade commanders had sent out a patrol that discovered advance units of the confederate battle line. the patrol fell back slowly, skirmishing noisily to warn Prentiss's division, which scrambled into formation. Sherman's men also jumped up from breakfast and grabbed their muskets....Sherman was everywhere along his lines at Shiloh, shoring up his raw troops and inspiring them to hurl back initial assaults....

    ...On his left, Prentiss's men also stood fast at first, while up from the rear came reinforcements from the other three divisions....

    Waiting for Buell's army to arrive at army headquarters 9 miles downriver, Grant heard the firing as he sat down to breakfast. Commanding a dsepatch boat, he steamed up to Pittsburg landing and arrived on the battlefield about 9:00 A.M..

    ...Johnston and Beauregard had committed all their divisions early in the day. All Grants soldiers in the vicinity also double-timed to the front.

    For thousands of them the shock of "seeing the elephant"...was too much. They fled to the rear and cowered under the bluffs of the landing....One of the main tasks of commanders on both sides was to reorganize their shattered brigades and plug holes caused by leakage to the rear and mounting casualties. Grant visited each of his division commanders during the day and established a line of reorganized stragglers and artillery along a ridge west of Pittsburg Landing to make a last ditch stand if the rebels got that far. Johnston went personally to the front on the confederate right to rally exhhausted troops by his presence. There in mid-afternoon he was hit in the leg by a bullet that severed an artery and caused him to bleed to death akmost before he realized he'd been wounded.

    Beauregard took command and tried to keep the momentum going. By this time the plucky southerners had driven back the Union right and left two miles from their starting point. In the center, though, Prentiss with the remaining fragments of his division and parts of two others had formed a hard knot of resistance along a country road that northern soldiers called "The Sunken Road", and Rebel soldiers called "The Hornet's Nest".. Grant had ordered Prentiss to "maintain the position at all hazards."

    Prentiss obeyed the order literally. In stead of containing and bypassing the position (a tactical move not yet developed), southern commanders launched a dozen seperate assaults against it. Although the 18,000 Confederates closed in on Prentiss's 4,500 men, the unco-ordinated nature of rebel attacks enabled them to repel each of them. The southerners finally pounded the Hornet's Nest with 62 field-guns and surrounded it with infantry. Prentiss surrendered his 2,200 survivors at 5:30, an hour before sunset. Their gritty stand had bought time for Grant to post the remainder of his army along the Pittsburg landing rifge.

    By then, Lew Wallace's lost division was arriving and Buell's lead brigade was crossing the river. Beauregard did not know this yet, but he senced that his own army was disorganised and fought out. He therefore refused to authorize a final assault in the gathering twilight.
    Thus, the general course of the battle as told by much history, seems to be still alive when contemporaries like Macpherson write about the battle in 1990, and later, if one reads the Wikipedia page, and other internet sites.

    So to the first myth. From Timothy B. Smith...

    1/THE OPENING CONFEDERATE ATTACK CAUGHT THE UNION BY TOTALLY BY SURPRISE

    The matter os surprise is a major topic of discussion among military historians and enthusiats. It is one of the modern American Army's "Nine Principles of War" that guide military plans, movements and actions. Of course, most military tactics are common sense. When fighting either a bully or an army, who would not want to sneak up on an opponent and get in the first punch?

    Shiloh is...a well known example of a supposed surprise attack. On the morning of April 6th, 1862, the confederate Army of the mississippi under Johnston launched an attack on Maj. Gen Grant's Army of tennessee near Pittsburg Landing. One author has even gone so far as to call it the "Pearl Harbour of the civil War".

    In actuality, Shiloh was not all that much of a surprise.

    The assertion of surprise came initially from contemporary newspaper columns that described Union soldiers being bayonetted in their tents as they slept. The most famous account came from Whitelaw Reid, a newspaper correspondant for the "Cincinnati Gazette". but Reid was nowhere near Shiloh when the confederates attacked, and actually penned his near 15,000 word opus from miles away.

    The idea that Reid perpetrated and that is still commonly believed today is that the Federals had no idea that the enemy was near. nothing could be further from the truth.

    For days before April 6th, minor skirmishing took place. both sides routinely took prisoners in the days leading to the battle. the rank and file in the union Army knew the confederates were out there-they just did not know in what strength.

    The problem lay with the Federal commanders. Ordered not to bring on an engagement and convinced they would have to march to Corinth, Miss, to fight the bulk of the confederate army, the Union leadership did not properly untilize the intelligence gained from the common soldiers on the front lines. Grant was not about to go looking for a fight in early April, certainly not before reinforcements had arrived from Nashville in the form of the Army of Ohio, and certainly not without orders from his superior,Maj.Gen. Henry W.Halleck.

    Thus, Grant ordered his frontline division commanders Sherman and Prentiss not to spark a fight, and they made sure their soldiers understood that directive. they sent orders reinforcing Grant;s concern down the line and refused to act on intelligence coming up through the ranks.

    As a result, not wanting to prematurely begin a battle, Federal skirmishers and pickets continually withdrew as Confederates probed forward. Perhaps Sherman said it best when he noted in his report,

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

    The lower eschelon leadership was not at all convinced the fight would take place at Corinth, however. for days, brigade and regimental commanders had witnessed confederates near their camps. Several patrols even went forward but no major Confederate units were encountered.

    Finally, on the night of April 5, one Union brigade commander, Colonel Everett Peabody located the Confederates at dawn on April 6. His tiny recon force found the advance skirmishers less than a mile from the Union front. The Confederates promptly attacked, and the Battle of Shiloh began.

    Because of Peabody's patrol, however, Confederate advances were unmasked earlier than intended and farther out from the Union camps than projected. The resulting delay in the Confederate assault allowed the Army of Tennessee to mobilize. Because of the warning, every single Union unit on the field met the Confederate assault comig from Corinth south, or in advance of, their camps. Peabody's patrol warned the army and thus prevented total tactical surprise at Shiloh.
    Are Mr. Smith's assertions backed up by contemporary accounts?

    The first is the most interesting, because it comes from none other than General Braxton Bragg, describing the scene in an after action report...

    "The enemy was found utterly unprepared, many being surprised and captured in their tents, and others, though on the outside, in costumes better fitted to the bedchamber than to the battlefield."
    Bragg also described frightened masses of wild birds and animals which fled into the union camps, something not to be seen WITHOUT such lack of prior movement from large bodies of troops, suggesting that Whitelaw Reid was not the only person talking up the attack, unless he had spoken to Bragg himself, (unlikely), or unless the assault was the complete and utter surprise that has been mentioned by both.

    From Confederate General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard we also have the following, also written after the battle...

    "..(it was) the most surprising surprise."
    But Beauregard and Bragg may have been writing for the benefit of Jefferson Davis, to "talk-up" their assault gone wrong. So how did other officers view the 'surprise factor' of this assault?

    General Ulysees S. Grant, "Memoirs, Vol.1. writing after the war was over.

    The fact is, I regarded the campaign we were engaged in as an offensive one and had no idea that the enemy would leave stonr intrenchments to take the initiative when he knew he would be attacked where he was if he remained. This view, however, did not prevent every precaution being taken and every effort made to keep advised of all the movements of the enemy.

    Johnson's cavalry, meanwhile had been well out towards our front, and occasional encounters occurred between it and our outposts. On the 1st of April this cavalry became bold and approached our lines, showing that an advance of some kind was contemplated. On the 2nd Johnston left Corinth in force to attack my army.
    Grant does not make it very clear whether he knew this to be the case at the time.

    On the 4th his cavalry dashed down and captured a small picket guard of 6 or 7 men, stationed some 5 miles out of Pittsburg on the Corinth road. Colonel Buckland sent relief to the guard at once and soon followed in person with an entire regiment, and Gen.Sherman followed Buckland, taking the remainder of the brigade. The pursuit was kept up for some three miles beyond the point where the picket guard had been captured, and after nightfall Sherman returned to camp and reported to me by letter what had occurred.

    At this time, a large body of enemy were hovering to the west of us, along the line of the Mobile to Ohio railroad. My apprehension was much greater for the safety of Crump's Landing than it was for Pittsburg. I had no apprehension that the enemy could really capture either place. but I feared it was possible that he might make a rapid dash upon Crump's and destroy our transports and stores, most of which were kept at that point, and then retreat before Wallace could be reinforced. Lew Wallace's position I regarded as so well chosen that he was not removed.

    At this time I generally spent the day at Pittsburg and returned to Savannah in the evening. I was intending to remove my headquarters to Pittsburg, but Buell was expected daily and would come in at Savannah. I remained at this point, therefore, a few days longer, in order to meet him on his arrival. The skirmishing to our front, however, had been so continuous from about the 3rd of April that I did not leave Pittsburg each night until an hour when I felt there would be no danger before the morning.
    Notice how Grant does not say or mention "no danger to Pittsburg before morning"? If Grant felt Pittsburg was to be the subject of an attack on the morning of Sunday, 6th of April, why then did he go back to 'Cherry house' headquarters at Savannah on the evening of Aprill 5th? after all. And not moving Wallace from Crump's Landing bespeaks of anxiety for his stores and rations, rather than a frontal assault on Army of Tennessee positions.

    So Grant, at least, must have been a little surprised, whilst still having breakfast at "Cherry House", (with his dinner conversations and staff meetings, so the story goes, listened in to by the children of William Cherry's "secesh" first wife, their brother serving for the Confederates), at Savannah as he was, on Sunday morning....

    On the 5th, General Nelson, with a division of Buell's army, arrived at Savannah and I ordered him to move up the east bank of the river, to be in position where he could be ferried to Crump's landing as occasion required. I had learned that General Buell himself would be at Savannah the next day, and desired to meet me on his arrival. Affairs at Pittsburg Landing had been such for several days that I did not want to be away during the day. I determined, therefore, to take a very early breakfast and ride out to meet Buell and thus save time. He had arrived on the evening of the 5th, but had not advised me of the fact and I was not aware of it until some time after.

    While I was at breakfast, however, heavy firing was heard in the direction of Pittsburg Landing, and I hastened there, sending a hurried note to Buell informing him of the reason why I could not meet him at Savannah.
    There is no reason to suppose, badly bruised foot and all from a fall from his horse, that Grant could not have remained at Pittsburg overnight, and sent word to Savannah directly from there. It would have achieved exactly the same thing, calling Buell to Pittsburg rather than sending him to Savannah or Crumps landing. In fact, from a distance, it was impossible for Grant to ascertain exactly which position the heavy firing was coming from....

    On the way up the river I directed the dispatch boat to run close to Crump's Landing, so that i could communicate with Gen.Lew Wallace. I found him waiting on a boat apparently expecting to see me, and I directed him to get his troops into line ready to execute any orders he might recieve. He replied that his troops were already under arms and prepared to move.

    Up to that time I had felt by no means certain that Crump's landing might not be the point of attack. On reaching the front, however, about 8.AM, I found that the attack on Pittsburg was unmistakable, and that nothing more than a small guard, to protect our transports and stores, was needed at Crump's
    Interesting how Grant himself estimate's his arrival at Pittsburg at 8AM ( not 9 AM as stated in our article, and in Macpherson, and many others. A small point). Perhaps Grant's pocket watch was an hour slow?

    Vicki Betts, in her essay," A Revelation of War- Civilians in Hardin County, Tennessee, Spring, 1862""......, tells of local support being very co-operative, with as many as...
    "40-50 local men being mustered into the 46th Ohio Regiment and others joined the crew of the (gunboat) "Tyler". Later reports upped the total of Federal recruits to 500, a clear indication of support for the Unionist cause.
    .
    Grant and his officers could not have failed to notice the approaching Rebel army, especially as...
    Some local citizens served as guides and warned Federal officers of Confederate outpost locations, although much more information appeared to be funnelled to the Confederate side. At least one resident even told the Yankees that General Beauregard had visited both Pittsburg Landing and Adamsville as " A peddlar of pies and cakes."
    Meantime, what had the rank and file ascertained? Were they surprised?

    LEANDER STILWELL...61ST OHIO REGIMENT OF PRENTISS'S DIVISION
    So the time passed pleasantly away until that eventful Sunday morning of April 6th, 1862. According to the tribune Alamanac for that year, the sun rose that morning in Tennessee at 38 minutes past 5 o'clock. I had no watch, but i have always been of the opinion that the sun was fully an hour and a half high beforethe fighting began on our part of the line. (61st Ohio were on the extreme left of Prentiss's divisional positions, with only Stuart's detached brigade of Sherman's divisionfurther to their right and slighty to the rear....Drusus)
    We had 'turned out' about sun-up, answered roll call, and had cooked and eaten our breakfast. We had gone to work, preparing for the regular sunday inspection, which would take place at 9 o'clock. the boys were scattered around the company streets and in front of the company parade grounds, engaged in polishing and brightening their muskets, and brushing up and cleaning their shoes, jackets, trousers and clothing generally. It was a most beautiful morning. the sun was shining brightly through the trees, and there was not a cloud in the sky. It really seemed like a sunday in the country at home.

    During the weekdays there was a continuous stream of army wagons going to and from the landing, the clucking of their wheels, the yells and oaths of their drivers, the cracking of whips, mingled with the braying of mules, the neighing of horses, the commands of the officers engaged in drilling the men, the incessant hum and buzz of camps, the blare of bugles and the roll of drums- all these made up a prodigious volume of sound that latsed from the coming-up to the going down of the sun.

    But this morning was strangely still.

    The wagons were silent, the mules were peacefully munching their hay, and the army teansters were giving us a rest. I listened with delight to the plaintive, mournful tones of a turtledove in the woods close by while on the dead limb of a tall tree right in the camp a woodpecker was sounding his "long roll" just as I had heard it beaten by his northern brothers a thousand times on the trees in the Otter Creek bottom at home.

    Suddenly, away off on the right, in the direction of Shiloh church, came a dull and heavy 'PUM'!, then another, and still another.

    Every man sprung to his feet as if struck by an electric shock, and we looked inquiringly into one-another's faces.

    "What is that?", asked everyone, but no-one answered.

    Those heavy booms then came thicker and faster, and just a few seconds after we heard the first dull, ominous browl off to the southwest, came a low, sullen, continuous roar. there was no mistaking that sound. That was not a squad of pickets emptying their guns on being relieved of duty; it was the continuous roll of thousands of muskets, and told us that the battle was on..

    What I've been describing just now occurred during a few seconds only and with a roar of musketry the long roll began to beat in our camp. then ensued a scene of desperate haste, the like of which I certainly had never seen before, nor ever saw again. I remember that in the midst of this terrible uproar and confusion, while the boys were buckling their cartridge boxes on, and before the companies had been formed, a mounted staff officer came galloping wildly down the line from the right. He checked and whirled his horse sharply around right in our company street, the iron bound hoofs of his steed crashing among the tin plates lying in a little pile wwhere my mess had eaten breakfast that morning. the horse was flecked with foam and it's eyes and nostrils were red as blood. the officer cast one hurreid glance around him and exclaimed,

    "My God! This regiment not in line yet? They have been fighting on the right for over an hour!"...and wheeling his horse, he disappeared in the direction of the Colonel's tent.

    I know the history says the battle began around 4:30 that morning; that it was brought on by a reconoitering party sent out early that morning by general Prentiss; that Gen.Sherman's division on the right was early advised of the approach of the Rebel army and got ready to meet them in ample time.

    I have read these things in books and am not disputing them.

    But I am simply telling the story of an enlisted man on the left of Prentiss's line as to what he saw and knew of the condition of things at about 7 o'clock that morning.

    Well, the companies were formed, we marched out on the regimental parade ground, and the regiment was formed into line. The command was given, "Load at will...LOAD!" We anicipated this, however, as most of us had instinctively loaded our guns before we had formed company. all this time the roar on the right was getting nearer and louder
    The Ohio boys now get an address from their Colonel, and march out to form line with the rest of their division...

    .. in the woods in front of us, and the open field to the rear. We "dressed on" the colors, ordered, arms, and stood awaiting the attack. By this time the roar on the right had become terrific...

    ...And there we stood, in the edge of the woods.....the time we thus stood, awaiting the attack, could not have exceeded five minutes. Suddenly, obliquely to our right, there was a long, wavy flash of light, then another, and another! It was the sunlight shining on the gun barrels and bayonettes- and - there they were at last! A long brown line, with muskets at a right shoulder shift, in excellent order, right through the woods they came..
    Decide for yourself for the extreme left of Prentiss Division's line.

    William G. Stevenson, a staff officer and aide-de-camp to Gen.John c. Breckenridge, stated that
    On Sunday morning....we were under arms and ready to move by 3 o'clock.
    This means that those troops facing the 61st Ohio had been on the march by then for as much as 4 HOURS!

    What about other Federal units? What was the surprise factor for them?

    Battery "A", Chicago Light Artillery (later 1st Illinois Artillery), were camped in a meadow just past the bridge at Tillghman Creek were watering their horses for the morning, as unsurprised as can be, and quickly got into action when they heard the firing in the distance.. But being to the rear as part of Brig. Gen William L. Wallace's 2nd division, they had to move up to the fight, and back again as part of Grant's Pittsburg Ridge line.

    William L. Reid, 15th Illinois Infantry Further back from the 1st illinois battery, along the Hamburg-Savannah river road, as part of Veatch's Brigade of Hurlburt's 4th Division, further up Tillghman Creek on a branch of the swollen watercourse...

    From the time we landed on the 17th of March, 1862, our cavalry was more or less engaged with the enemy and scarcely a day passed without some falaities.

    Troops continuously arrive and hospitals are put in order. Drill diely (daily), and all indication point to some important occurrance in the near future. And so time drifted along until the 4th of April, when our attack was made on a reconoitcing party, and we were sent to it's support- but the enemy evidently only wanted to find our strength, and where we were, and fell back after a slight skirmish.

    The morning of April 6th Sunday, dawned like a day in June. The trees were nearly in leaf and the woods were full of spring flowers. We had just got our breakfast, when our attention was attracted to a distant roar like the lake in a stormy November day. Knowing that we would be called upon soon, our band struck up the "long roll", and the companies fell into line in their company quarters, and marched out to the regimental line, and stood ready for orders.
    No surprise there, it seems...

    Union sympathizers, camped in or near Union positions, seemed the most surprised of all, naturally.

    Mrs. Colonel Hall had her own introduction to warfare that Sunday morning. She later told a reporter, "
    "We were in our tent and not prepared to recieve company. in fact, we were both en dishabille when a big cannon shot tore through the tent. A caller at that early hour, and our condition, may be regarded as surprise."

    She completed her toilette and joined others fleeing to the riverbank, but not without her dress being struck in 29 places by bullets and shell fragments.
    Other civilians in Union lines tell of surprise for them as well...

    Belle Reynolds and "Mrs N" were cooking breakfast when "we were startled by cannonballs hurtling over our heads." Belle finished her husband's cakes, wrapped them in a napkin and tucked them into his haversack. Warned to flee for their lives, they abandoned their trunks and "snatching our travelling baskets and bonnets in hand", headed for General Ross's camp just down the road. Again warned to head for the river, they had barely cleared the area when "A shell exploded close by, the pieces tearing through the tent, and a solid shot passed through the headqaurters."
    It seems that no civilians were given any prior warning to clear Union lines. another indication of surprise, however mild it may have been.

    And the Confederate fighting man's impressions?

    Henry Morton Stanley, of Hindman's Brigade, some of the first to encounter any Union soldiers)

    As we tramped solemnly and silently through the thin forrest and over it's grass....I noticed that the sun was not far from appearing, that our regiment was keeping it's formation admirably, that the woods wuld have been a grand place for a picnic, and i thought it strange that Sunday should have been chosen to disturb the holy calm of these woods.

    Before we had gone 500 paces, our serenity was disturbed by some desultory firing in front. It was then a quater past five.
    "They are at it already," we whispered to one another..."Stand by gentlemen!"
    Hindman's Brigade, therefore, were not the one's to bring on an engagement in their section of the line at all.

    In fact, from the record, it would appear the U.S. Grant was the only military person even mildly surprised by the impending Confederate activity, and only because he had expected a confederate move toward his stores and supply lines. Even troops of Prentiss's division were formed up and waiting as the rebel assault unfolded.

    So it would further seem that this particular aspect of the Shiloh story is a myth after all....

    I now pause while the learned and jolly members of our forum comment and discuss this issue, and decide for themselves whether the grand Confederate attack was as big a surprise as Whitelaw Reid and General Braxton Bragg confide that it was...

    Over to our members....


    I will continue this thread after some comments. what do our forum members feel?

    See you then, and thanks for tuning in!

    Drusus Nero.
    Last edited by Drusus Nero; 08 Jan 16, 22:54.
    My Articles, ALMOST LIVE, exclusive to The Armchair!

    Soviet Submarines in WW2....The Mythology of Shiloh....(Edited) Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto
    GULAG Glossary....Who Really Killed The Red Baron?....Pearl Harbor At 75
    Lincoln-Douglas Debates

  • #2
    I read this very article about a week ago-very well written & researched. I look forward to hearing what is said from other folks on it.
    The muffled drums sad roll has beat the soldier's last tatoo. No more on life's parade shall meet that brave and fallen few.

    Comment


    • #3
      Yes Hellboy, i'm looking forward to this as well.

      But it's very late and my wife wants me to go to bed, so i have to sign off. And leave this thread to develop with some expert commentary /critque.

      See you tomorrow!
      My Articles, ALMOST LIVE, exclusive to The Armchair!

      Soviet Submarines in WW2....The Mythology of Shiloh....(Edited) Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto
      GULAG Glossary....Who Really Killed The Red Baron?....Pearl Harbor At 75
      Lincoln-Douglas Debates

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
        Good Evening to all on this forum...

        This thread draws heavily from an article called "MYTHS OF SHILOH", ('America's Civil War' Magazine, Vol.19, No.2) written by Timothy B. Smith.

        I will post excerpts from this piece, followed by some eyewitness accounts from some of the participants, with the view to launching discussion from forum members on the factual basis for some of the myths that have grown up arounds this crucial engagement of April 6-7, 1862.

        I will not post everything at once, but proceed myth by myth as guided by Mr. Smiths fine article. Any members wishing to post comments are free to do so at any point.

        Together, we may tackle some myths, to remain as fallacies, or to determine that some have factual basis. Either way, I hope the following grabs your interest. We'll start with some general comments, followed by the myths themselves.

        GENERAL INTRODUCTION

        MYTHS OF SHILOH



        This general picture of the course of Shiloh is certainly replicated in popular history, of which a good example is the widely read James M. Macpherson, from "Battle Cry of Freedom"......



        Thus, the general course of the battle as told by much history, seems to be still alive when contemporaries like Macpherson write about the battle in 1990, and later, if one reads the Wikipedia page, and other internet sites.

        So to the first myth. From Timothy B. Smith...

        1/THE OPENING CONFEDERATE ATTACK CAUGHT THE UNION BY TOTALLY BY SURPRISE



        Are Mr. Smith's assertions backed up by contemporary accounts?

        The first is the most interesting, because it comes from none other than General Braxton Bragg, describing the scene in an after action report...



        Bragg also described frightened masses of wild birds and animals which fled into the union camps, something not to be seen WITHOUT such lack of prior movement from large bodies of troops, suggesting that Whitelaw Reid was not the only person talking up the attack, unless he had spoken to Bragg himself, (unlikely), or unless the assault was the complete and utter surprise that has been mentioned by both.

        From Confederate General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard we also have the following, also written after the battle...



        But Beauregard and Bragg may have been writing for the benefit of Jefferson Davis, to "talk-up" their assault gone wrong. So how did other officers view the 'surprise factor' of this assault?

        General Ulysees S. Grant, "Memoirs, Vol.1. writing after the war was over.



        Grant does not make it very clear whether he knew this to be the case at the time.



        Notice how Grant does not say or mention "no danger to Pittsburg before morning"? If Grant felt Pittsburg was to be the subject of an attack on the morning of Sunday, 6th of April, why then did he go back to 'Cherry house' headquarters at Savannah on the evening of Aprill 5th? after all. And not moving Wallace from Crump's Landing bespeaks of anxiety for his stores and rations, rather than a frontal assault on Army of Tennessee positions.

        So Grant, at least, must have been a little surprised, whilst still having breakfast at "Cherry House", (with his dinner conversations and staff meetings, so the story goes, listened in to by the children of William Cherry's "secesh" first wife, their brother serving for the Confederates), at Savannah as he was, on Sunday morning....



        There is no reason to suppose, badly bruised foot and all from a fall from his horse, that Grant could not have remained at Pittsburg overnight, and sent word to Savannah directly from there. It would have achieved exactly the same thing, calling Buell to Pittsburg rather than sending him to Savannah or Crumps landing. In fact, from a distance, it was impossible for Grant to ascertain exactly which position the heavy firing was coming from....



        Interesting how Grant himself estimate's his arrival at Pittsburg at 8AM ( not 9 AM as stated in our article, and in Macpherson, and many others. A small point). Perhaps Grant's pocket watch was an hour slow?

        Vicki Betts, in her essay," A Revelation of War- Civilians in Hardin County, Tennessee, Spring, 1862""......, tells of local support being very co-operative, with as many as...
        .
        Grant and his officers could not have failed to notice the approaching Rebel army, especially as...


        Meantime, what had the rank and file ascertained? Were they surprised?



        The Ohio boys now get an address from their Colonel, and march out to form line with the rest of their division...



        Decide for yourself for the extreme left of Prentiss Division's line.

        William G. Stevenson, a staff officer and aide-de-camp to Gen.John c. Breckenridge, stated that


        This means that those troops facing the 61st Ohio had been on the march by then for as much as 4 HOURS!

        What about other Federal units? What was the surprise factor for them?

        Battery "A", Chicago Light Artillery (later 1st Illinois Artillery), were camped in a meadow just past the bridge at Tillghman Creek were watering their horses for the morning, as unsurprised as can be, and quickly got into action when they heard the firing in the distance.. But being to the rear as part of Brig. Gen William L. Wallace's 2nd division, they had to move up to the fight, and back again as part of Grant's Pittsburg Ridge line.



        No surprise there, it seems...

        Union sympathizers, camped in or near Union positions, seemed the most surprised of all, naturally.



        Other civilians in Union lines tell of surprise for them as well...



        It seems that no civilians were given any prior warning to clear Union lines. another indication of surprise, however mild it may have been.

        And the Confederate fighting man's impressions?



        Hindman's Brigade, therefore, were not the one's to bring on an engagement in their section of the line at all.

        In fact, from the record, it would appear the U.S. Grant was the only military person even mildly surprised by the impending Confederate activity, and only because he had expected a confederate move toward his stores and supply lines. Even troops of Prentiss's division were formed up and waiting as the rebel assault unfolded.

        So it would further seem that this particular aspect of the Shiloh story is a myth after all....

        I now pause while the learned and jolly members of our forum comment and discuss this issue, and decide for themselves whether the grand Confederate attack was as big a surprise as Whitelaw Reid and General Braxton Bragg confide that it was...

        Over to our members....


        I will continue this thread after some comments. what do our forum members feel?

        See you then, and thanks for tuning in!

        Drusus Nero.
        A little leary about the truths from Grant. I will read this part again later on.
        In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.
        Robert E. Lee

        Comment


        • #5
          If Grant wasn't surprised, why didn't he alert his subordinates to be prepared for the attack? That's the key to the what ifs in the article. And notice some points the author makes--were Bragg and Beaury writing for Jeff Davis or not? If so, wasn't Grant writing for posterity in his memoirs? Can't have it both ways.

          Comment


          • #6
            Actually, I really do agree with both Southern and Grognard both.

            Grants actions indicate he had little idea that an attack would come on that Sunday, otherwise, why go back to Cherry House at all?

            As well, in describing Shiloh as a complete surprise, Braxton Bragg had, at this point in the war, the complete faith of not only Jeff Davis, but his subordinates and troops as well. Unlikely to gild the lilly at this stage of the war, therefore. He had nothing to prove to Davis by embellishment of any report.

            Both Bragg and Beauregard councilled A.S. Johnston to call off the attack,for a few reasons, but chiefly for lack of surprise. Charles P. Roland, in his essay on Pierre Beauregard, makes this stand out...

            The night of April 3rd, after learning that Buell was moving rapidly to join Grant, Johnston ordered the attack and delegated Beauregard the preparation of the march and the attack order. A combination of bad roads, torrential rainfall, and inexperience among subordinate commanders delayed the Confederate movement so that the various corps were not deployed for action until late afternoon of April 5th.
            Dismayed by the delays and blunders and the conviction that a surprise was impossible and that the Federals would be prepared for an attack, Beauregard now lost his nerve and urged that it be canceled.....Johnston over-ruled his ahken second-in-command and ordered the army forward. The Confederates struck at dawn of April 6th and took their opponents by surprise, vindicating Johnston's decision.
            From my reading, I am well aware that Grant's cavalry at Shiloh was not deployed in the role of "sniffing" for Confederate positions. It was, in fact, well to the rear, rounding up stragglers and the odd deserter or two.

            Beauregard may also have been more than a little concerned at the apparent breakdown of order on the march to contact from Corinth. It seems that the supply commissary wagons had been delayed by the bad roads and poor weather. Food had to have been short, and Johnston had forbidden the lighting of fires on reaching their "jump off" positions, so any rations still possessed by the troops themselves would have been eaten cold, or not at all if they had not discarded them on the march, as was a habit of green troops.

            The Confederates spent a sleepless night laying low in the woods, about 2 miles from Union positions. their cavalry had been quite busy maintaining contact with Grants pickets, sparse as they were.

            STEPHEN D. EAGLE, whose essay on Albert Sidney Johnston also graces the book I have ("Leaders of the Lost Cause", edited by Gallagher and Glatthaar), also is of the opinion that Union soldiers were, indeed, suprised, but according to him, so was Johnston...

            When in the early Sunday morning hours of April 6th the crackling of musketry could be heard in the distance from where Johnston and his men sat eating breakfast, Johnston completely understood he had been given new life when Beauregard declined his command....

            ....Rising to his feet, the towering commander remarked, "The battle has opened, gentlemen, it is too late too change our dispositions."

            ...The complete and utter failure of Union commanders to prepare for such an attack astounded Southern commanders, who pressed their advantage throughout the morning.
            JAMES I. ROBERTSON Jr., in his essay on Braxton Bragg, has this to say...

            Bragg's first Civil War battle came on April 6-7 at Shiloh. Beforehand, he thought the army too disorganised to engage the enemy, and the march to the Federal encampment was so chaotic that Bragg pled for postponement. Johnston would not be deterred.
            Theres more to it.

            Johnston may have been pushing the attack forward regardless, (weather and lack of surprise be damned), simply for the sake of his reputation. This point is stated by SAMUEL J. MARTIN, in a few lines from his book on Gen.Braxton Bragg. In his view, Johnston was ignoring the advice of Bragg and Beauregard, and also, Bragg himself was copping the blame for this state of the affairs as the Confederate army reached it's positions on the evening of Saturday, April 5th....

            Earlier that afternoon, (April 5th), while waiting for the army to arrive and deploy, Beauregard met Bragg at the rear of Hardee's line. He angrily castigated Bragg, saying that the...

            "Maladroit manner in which our troops have been handled on the march and the blunders of the noisy offensive reconaissance (by Gladden's horsemen) satisfies me that the purpose for which we have left Corinth has been essentially frustrated."
            Surely the Federals knew that Johnston was at hand, and surely by now were "entrenched to the eyes and ready for our attack."

            The element of surprise, so crucial to Confederate success, was lost. An assault would only end in disaster. The army had to go back to Corinth, and it was all Bragg's fault.
            Bragg had a number of good excuses to explain his poor performance, for his being late to assume his positions on the front. His men and officers were inexperienced in conducting a march; he commanded twice as many troops as did the other corps leaders; and the storms had muddied the roads, making them virtually impossible to traverse. All attempts to overcome these problems had been reapeatedly foiled by Leonidas Polk, whose brigades had continually blocked Bragg's path to the front. He probably stressed this latter point, because when Polk came up to join the discussions, Beauregard turned on him.
            "I am very disappointed," he stated coldly, "at the delay in getting the troops into position."
            "So am I," Polk answered, "but my orders are to form on another line, and that line must be established before i can form on it."
            The Bishop was accusing Bragg of being the cause of their current difficulties. He was trying to shift the spotlight away from his many mistakes along the march. Polk's claims of innocense soon wained, however, for he was forced to convey yet another problem. The Bishop had provided his force with three days rations at the start of their advance, but they had long since eaten everything packed in their haversacks. His troops had been without food for 24 hours. They could not possibly enter battle weak from hunger.
            Bragg, (no doubt with glee), offered a solution. His men had been "so provident with food that he could provide all they needed."
            Bragg, however, chose to avoid mentioning that those extra provisions were loaded in wagons, bogged in the mud, miles to the rear, and could not possibly be brought forward at this time."
            James Robertson calls Polk "always untrustworthy", and it seems that Polk and Bragg's famous animosity to each-other for the rest of the war got a very early start, right from Braggs's first engagement, it seems. MARTIN, continues...

            At that moment, Johnston rode up to join the parley. Beauregard repeated the concerns he had earlier expressed to Bragg. "Our plan of operations has been foiled by the tardiness of our troops leaving Corinth," he pointed out, "followed by such delays and noisy demonstrations on the march, that a surprise, which was the basis of out plan, can scarcely be hoped for ". The enemy, he assured Johnston, was well aware of our presence, no doubt strongly entrenched, and ready to repell an attack.
            "It would be un-wise", he concluded, "to push against breastworks troops so raw and undisciplined as ours, badly armed, and worse equipped, while their antagonists, besides the advantage of numbers, position, discipline and superiority of arms, were composed of men lately victorious at forts Henry and Donelson ". The latter, of course, was meant to malign Johnston. and to rub salt into this wound, Beauregard arrogantly cited his "...experience in war...most recently at Manassas." He urged a return to Corinth.

            Johnston turned to Bragg. What would he do? To poor a politician to recognize a loaded question, Bragg agreed with Beauregard. Polk was asked for his opinion. Percieving his former Westpoint roomate's mindset, Polk knew this was a test of courage.
            "My troops are in as good a condition as they have ever been."
            Now, when we consider Polk's attack on Bragg for the lack of condition for his troops for the coming attack, not minutes before Johnston arrived, this slavish piece of untrustworthy toadyism is a laugh. Bragg must have fumed!

            (Polk continued),"They are eager for battle. to retire now would operate injuriously upon them. I think we ought to attack."

            Throughout the past weeks, Johnston had deferred to Beauregard in every decision. But now, with battle at hand, he finally asserted his authority as commander in chief. He admitted that while Beauregard had presented a thoughtful summary of their position, he was not about to retreat. "Gentlemen !", he announced, "We shall attack at dawn tomorrow." As the generals left to return to their men, Johnston turned to an aide and said, "I would attack them if they were a million.", he declared softly, then added, "Polk is a true soldier and friend ".
            It's glaringly obvious that common sense would have dictated a return to Corinth. Johnston was hiding behind Bishop Polk, with statements that amounted to sheer bravado.

            What is more obvious is that Johnston had no intention of retreat when departing Corinth, surprise achieved or not, his critics be damned.

            His reputation with Jefferson Davis, with the public and press, and with his fellow officers, was clearly at stake.

            So, IMHO, we have a situation where Johnston simply pressed forward. He had little idea of the true dispositions of the Grant's Union Army at Pittsburg, simply because his intelligence was far too "spotty", and his cavalry had not managed to get a close enough look at the positions they were to assault. (the "spottiness" of Confederate intelligence was to play a crucial role in Beauregard's late afternoon decision to call off a final assault on Grant's "stop line". "Little Napolean" firmly believed Don Carlos Buell's Army was actually still in Alabama!)

            For his part, Grant was, as usual, far more concerned with what HE was doing, rather than worried about Johnston at all. Grant knew that sometime on Sunday night, Buell's men would be there at Pittsburg, and from then, he could commence his planned march to Corinth.

            So Grant, too, had decided on a course of action, and with even less knowledge of Confederate moves than Johnston had of lack Union entrenched positions. By all rights, Bragg and Beauregard should have been correct about Pittsburg Landing being a maze of trenches. The Union army had sat at Pittsburg for weeks, and had plenty of time for such activities. I strongly feel that Ulysees Simpson Grant was simply only partially aware, as yet, of the true benefits of entrenched positions. The recent rains had probably decided for him that the Army of Tennessee was to be put through it's paces and TRAINED as a priority, rather digging trenches that would quickly fill with water and become morale busting mud holes. This blase' attitude also transferred itself to subordinate officers like Sherman and Prentiss. Grants intelligence had, in my estimation, failed to discern that the bulk of Johnston's troops were on the march from Corinth. Not that he cared, for Buell was only one day away, and Grant probably thought Johnston was the one that was going to play positional warfare.

            In both cases, the commanders lack of intelligence of the others dispositions provided the basis for their decisons. With Johnston, it was pure politics, and with Grant, pure smugness at the thought of Buell's arrival for Sunday.

            Both men would have an Elephant revealed to them when the curtain drew back on Sunday morning.....

            Drusus
            Last edited by Drusus Nero; 12 Jan 16, 12:25.
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            • #7
              Very well said Drusus! Great post and great thread. Somebody needs to wake guthrieba up. He would like this thread.
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              Comment


              • #8
                Shiloh Myth No.2- Prentiss and All That Jazz....

                Thanks Savez.
                It looks very much like Guthrie is in hibernation. But no matter, we can move on to the next myth from Timothy Smith.
                I might point out at this stage, that Mr. Smith is an ex-Shiloh Battlefield Park Ranger, and his credentials as an historian of the battle are quite solid.

                This next myth Mr. Smith has devoted the most ink of them all, a myth that appears very dear to his heart, for it forms the cornerstone of exactly how Smith views the battle as a whole.

                2/ BENJAMIN PRENTISS WAS THE HERO OF SHILOH

                Timothy J. Smith....from "Myths of Shiloh"
                For decades after the battle, Prentiss was hailed as the Federal officer who took it upon himself to send out a patrol that eventually uncovered the Confederate advance and gave early warning of the attack. Likewise, Prentiss was seen as the commander who, ordered by Grant to hold "at all hazards", defended the Sunken Road and the Hornets Nest against numerous Confederate assaults. Prentiss withdrew only after the Confederates brought up 62 pieces of artillery that were organised as "Ruggle's battery". Finding himself surrounded, however, Prentiss surrendered the noble and brave remnants of his division. Before modern scholarship began to look at new sources and examine the facts, Prentiss' reputation grew until it reached icon staus.

                Prentiss' after action report is glowing in terms of his own accomplishments. Historians through the years then accepted the report at face value, one even labeling a photo of Prentiss as "The Hero of Shiloh ". Shiloh National Military Park's long running film "Shiloh: A Portrait of a Battle " dramatically paints Prentiss as the chief defender the Union Army had on April 6th.

                In actuality, Prentiss was not involved as legend had it.

                He did not send out a patrol on the morning of April 6th. As mentioned earlier, one of his Brigade commanders, Col. Everett Peabody, did so in defiance of Prentiss' orders. Prentiss rode to Peabody's headquarters when he heard the firing and demanded to know what Peabody had done. When he found out, Prentiss told his subordinate he would hold him personally responsible for bringing on a battle and rode off in a huff.

                Likewise, Prentiss was not the key defender of the Hornet's Nest, as the area adjacent to the sunken Road came to be known.

                His division began the day with roughly 5,400 men, only to dwindle to 500 by 9:45 that morning. When Prentiss took his position in the sunken road, his numbers were nearly doubled by an arriving regiment, the 23rd Missouri. Prentiss had lost almost his entire division, and could not have held his second line without the veteran brigades of Brig. Gen. W.H.L. Wallace's divison. It was primarily Wallace's troops who held the Hornet's Nest.

                Prentiss was in an advantagious position to become a hero after the battle, however. Although he remained a prisoner for six months, he was able to tell his story. Peabody and Wallace were both dead from wounds recieved at Shiloh. Thus, Prentiss took credit for their actions and became the hero of the fight. Prentiss never even mentioned Peabody in his report, except to say that he commanded one of his brigades. Likewise, Wallace was not around to set the record straight as to whose troops actually defended the Sunken road and Hornet's Nest.

                Prentiss, the only Federal officer who could get his own record out, thus benefited from public exposure. In the process, he became the hero of Shiloh.
                Let us see if this stacks up from our sources.
                Firstly, lets see what Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss has to say....from his official report submitted to Washington. Prentiss had just been exchanged from captivity as as Cofederate prisoner, and submitted a report on November 17, 1862....which reads in part....

                Saturday evening, pursuant to instructions recieved when I was assigned to duty with the Army of West Tennessee, the usual advance guard was posted.
                "The usual advance guard"...?

                William Sherman's division, with his most advanced unit, the 53rd Ohio, received no such instructions. Sherman had ignored the 53rd's "constitutionally jittery colonel"(Jesse J. Appler) and his warnings all of the previous day. Likewise, Col. Peabody sent out units of his brigade contrary to Prentiss's orders. Ben Prentiss stated as much, when he told Peabody, "Colonel Peabody, I will hold you personally responsible for bringing on this engagement."

                Sam Martin...from his book, "General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A."
                ...When Peabody went to Prentiss on the evening of April 5th to ask that artillery be brought forward to support his line, Prentiss "hooted" at the thought that the enemy might mount an assault on his line. That same day, Col. Jesse. J. Appler....sent word to Sherman that he expected an attack by the Confederates in the morning. The division leader scoffed in his reply, "Take your damned regiment back to Ohio", he sneered, "There is no enemy nearer than Corinth." And when Captain W.B. Mason stated that the Confederates were at hand and in force, Sherman ordered his arrest for bringing a false report into the camp.

                Even Grant refused to believe Johnston would dare attack him. "There will be no fight at Pittsburg Landing ", he related on April 5th
                Prentiss then goes on to claim these dispositions of Peabody's were all his own work...

                ....and in view of the information recieved from the commandant thereof, I sent forward 5 companies of the 25th Missouri and 5 companies of the 21st Missouri Infantry under command of Colonel David Moore, (21st Missouri). I, also, after consultation with Col. David Stuart, commanding a brigade of Sherman's division, sent to the left one company of the 18th Wisconson Infantry, under command of Cpt. Fisk
                At about 7 o'clock the same evening, Col. Moore returned, reporting some activity in front-an evident reconnaissance by cavalry. This information recieved, I proceeded to strengthen the guard stationed on the Corinth Road, extending the picket lines to the front about a mile and a half, at the same time extending and doubling the lines of the grand guard

                At 3 o'clock on the morning of April 6th, Col. David Moore, 21st Missouri, with 5 companies of his infantry regiment, proceeded to the front, and at break of day the advance pickets were driven in, whereupon Col. Moore pushed forward and engaged the enemie's advance....At this stage, a messenger was sent to my headquarters, calling for the balance of the 21st Missouri, which was promtly sent forward. This information recieved, I at once ordered the entire force into line, and the remaining regiments of the First Brigade, commanded by Col. Everett Peabody, (26th Missouri, 16th Wisconson, 12th Michigan) were advanced well to the front. I forthwith of this juncture communicated the fact of the attack to Maj.Gen. Smith and to Brig.Gen S.A.Hurlburt.
                So, Timothy Smith was correct. Prentiss has neglected to mention Peabody's role altogether. Col. David Moore's five companies moving forward without orders from Prentiss at all! It was, in fact, Peabody who had been 'up since 0300 ', shuffling troops forward, and getting a later morning lecture for "bringing on the engagement ".

                PRENTISS....Shortly before 6 o'clock, Col. David Moore having been severely wounded, his regiment commenced falling back, reaching our front line at about 6 o'clock, the enemy being close upon his rear. Hear-upon the entire force, excepting the 16th Iowa, which had been sent to the field the previuos day without ammunition, and the cavalry which was held in readiness to the rear, was advanced to the extreme front and thrown out alternately to the right and left.
                Something we also know from Leander Stilwell's account, is that the extreme left of Prentiss's line was actually the 61st Illinois. Captain Fisk and his company would appear to have rejoined their parent unit, which most certainly was NOT Leander Stilwell's 61st Illinois of Miller's Brigade

                STILLWELL..the roar that went up from the edge of that old field doubtless advised General Prentiss of the fact that the Rebels had at last struck the extreme left of his line. We had fired but 2 or 3 rounds when, for some reason-I never knew what- we were ordered to fall back across the field, and did so. the whole line, so far as I could see to the right, went back. We halted on the other side of the field (Spain Field on maps of Shiloh..Drusus) in the edge of the woods, in front of our tents, and again began firing. The Rebels, of course, had moved up and occupied the line we had just abandoned. And here we did our first hard fighting during the day. Our officers said, after the battle was over, that we held this line an hour and ten minutes.

                we retreated from this position....because the troops on our right had given way and we were flanked. Possibly those boys on our right would give the same excuse for their leaving, and probably true too.. Still, I think we did not fall back a minute too soon.
                Peabody's brigade, it seems, were the first to cave in to pressure from Wood and Shaver's brigades. Part of Braggs large force (Gladden, Chalmers, and Jackson's brigade to the rear) forced Miller's brigade back from their edge of Spain Field position to their campsite, from which, by their estimation, they stayed for the next 70 minutes.

                So,in his report, Benjamin Prentiss has not given the full story at all. To continue from his report....

                Being again assailed, in position described, by an overwhelming force, and not being able longer to hold ground against the enemy, I ordered the division to fall back to the line occupied by Gen.Hurlbut, and at 9:05 reformed to the right of Gen.Hurlbut, and to the left of Brig.Gen.W.H.L.Wallace, whom I found in command of the division assigned to Maj.Gen.Smith. At this point, the 23rd Missouri Infantry, commanded by Colonel Tindall, which had just disembarked from a transport....joined me. This regiment I immediately assigned to a position on the left. My battery, (5th Ohio) was posted to the right on the road.
                So, these are the essential deployments for the famous Hornet's Nest for Prentiss. The Confederate assault up to that point had suffered problems, and Braxton Bragg was having much difficulty trying to prevent his first line and his second line from 'mashing together', caused by their eagerness as much as anything, and their inexperience, officers and men, all the way up to Beauregard and Bragg. As they advanced their front widened, until Hardee on Bragg's left found his flanks 'in the air'. Calling Bragg for more troops to fill these gaps only left Bragg with more holes in his own line.

                Fighting was hard, but Peabody caved in, followed by Miller. With the Rebels pressing on their heals, after several charges, and suffering many casualties to artillery and musket fire, Braggs troops held the field. But as Sam Martin relates......

                Bragg and his aides galloped ahead of the troops towards the front. When they got there, they saw the enemy had fled, and that the Rebels had captured Prentiss' camp,
                "Batteries, encampments, storehouse, munitions...were ours", Bragg recorded in his report of the battle. The Confederates, however, did not pursue. They, instead, stopped to look for loot, especially food. Stoves scattered throughout the area were still warm, still cooking the breakfasts the men had not the time to eat.
                Although Bragg was elated with the success, he was distraught by the realization that the Confederate battle plan was flawed. The men had arrayed in lines by corps. After the fighting began, however, first Braggs file then Polk's troops had advanced and merged with the first rank. The regiments and brigades were now so intermingled, "many of the men", one Rebel recalled, "were not even with their own companies." No one was in charge. The situation, Bragg described later, "..was simply excrable. Beauregard or his man Jordan...were entitled to all the blunderings."
                The chaotic march to contact from Corinth, the lack of food with commissary wagons well to the rear in a sea of mud, and Beauregard's deployment causing 'mashing' of all the lines together, with no clear 'sector' deployment for each unit to keep them apart, had brought the Rebel attack to a halt as effectively as anything else, and allowed time for a reform at HORNETS NEST. Interesting, too, to note that Prentiss' report seems to convey a sense of an orderly retreat, "I ordered the division to fall back to the line ", when we know now this movement was, in fact, a chaotic rout, leaving Prentiss with, (as Timothy Smith estimates), no more than 500 troops still effective from his 6th Divison.

                THE HORNETS NEST AND PRENTISS

                Leander Stillwell....
                Our broken forces halted and reformed about half a mile to the rear of our camp on the summit of a gentle ridge covered with thick brush....Standing there with our faces once more to the front, I saw a seemingly endless column of men in blue, marching by the flank, who were filing off to the right through the woods, and I heard our old German adjudant, Cramer, say to the colonel, "Dose are de troops of Sheneral Hurlbut. He is forming a new line dere' in de bush.". I exclaimed to myself from the bottom of my heart, "Bully for General Hurlbut and his new line in the bush!" Maybe we'll whip em' yet!"...I was astonished at our first retreat in the morning across the field (Spain Field) back to our camp, but it occurred to me that maybe that was only 'strategy' and all done on purpose; but when we had to give up our camp, and actually turn our backs and run half a mile, it seemed to me that we were forever disgraced.
                The Hornets Nest formed from a line of reserve troops. By 9:45 that morning It stretched on the Union right from Stuart's Brigade in on the north edge of McCuller field, with the 71st Ohio to his left along the road. Further left, Macarthurs brigade just off the road from W.H.L. Wallace's division. Hurlburt had two brigades next to the left, of Williams and Lauman, in the middle of Sarah Bell's cotton field, the "Sunken road" running through the Bell property, to Davis's wheat field. Prentiss rabble were firmly in the center here, supported by artillery in line and to their rear. At the edge of the Davis field, the line stretched bent up some 35 dgerees or so, stretching northward along a farm track that connected the Bell cotton field with Duncan field; most Union artillery was placed here, batteries of Munch, Hickenlooper, Welker, Stone and Richardson, all forming support for the flank of the remainder of Wallace's brgiades, Tuttle and Sweeny.

                It was a formidable defensive position. So formidable did it appear, that the first Rebel brigade to see (most likely an Arkansas regiment under John S. Marmaduke.) it promptly formed 'square, a reversion to their Napoleanic style drills. Rebel brigades of Gibson and Stephans 'probed' forward, but failed to find a hole or weak point.. There was a pause in proceedings, whilst confederate commanders took stock of the looming menace. Stuart had been forced back with the 71st Ohio by chalmer's and Jackson's brigades moving through the woods between McCuller and Larkin field. There was a general movement to the right by confederate troops, trying to curl round the flank. Rebel artillery was brought up to their southern edge of Sarah Bell's cotton field.

                Robert D. Harmon's article picks up the story.
                (at 11:45) ....Major General Braxton Bragg rode up.

                Bragg had been angered by the confusion he had witnessed in the center. He now rebuked gibson and sent him forward against the right edge of the Hornet's nest. Gibson was caught in a crossfire from hurlbut and Prentiss divisions, and repulsed. The brigade stumbled back, but made two more frontal attacks after being berated by Bragg. By 3 pm, Gibson's brigade was effectively finished, with no effect on the Union line. Bragg moved on to the right.
                What is the Benjamin Prentiss version of this?

                At about 10 o'clock, my line was again assailed, and finding my command breatly reduced by reason of casualties and the falling back of many men to the river....i communicated with W.H.L.Wallace who sent to my assistance the 8th Iowa Infantry, commanded by Col. J.L.Geddes
                If i am reading Prentiss report correctly, he has actually "asked for help", when positioned in what should have been the strongest section of the line. And further, help from Wallace, the flank guard! This could mean that Prentiss has, in actuality, rendered the Hornet's Nest flanks LESS SECURE, for it was to be the flanks that Bragg and Breckinridge were to close in on, where the Union Artillery was not placed, as far away from the killing ground at Bell's cotton field as possible.

                HARMON...The far right of the Confederate attack faced Hurlbut's division and Stuart's and MacArthur's brigades, which were lined up behind the Peach Orchard and across the river road. The Reserve (Confederate) corps had been deployed on this road, but had stopped in the brush and gullies after two Tennessee regiments had fired on one another. Brigadier Gen. John.C. Breckenridge came up, urging his men forward, but it took the combined efforts of Breckinridge, Johnston and Governer Isham harris of Tennessee to get the Reserve corps going. With these three leading, Statham's and bowen's Brigades moved outacross the Peach Orchard at 2pm. They met overwhelming Union artillery and rifle fire, but managed to mangle MacArthur's brigade before fallling back, leaving hundreds fallen, incongrously covered in peach blossoms.
                The Union defense, so far, had coped very well with Confederate assaults of mounting intensity. Much of this had very little to do with the center and Ben Prentiss. Most of the early afternoon action was on the flanks of the Hornets nest line at the Peach Orchard, or away to the right of the line altogether, as Sherman's division fell back under mounting pressure. Further lulls followed each assault. Most of these assaults were far away from Prentiss in the center...

                William Reid, 15th Illinois infantry
                How often they charged our position! How often we repulsed them! Until albert Sidney johnston fell on late Sunday afternoon. Then Union General W.H.L. Wallace fell and his brave Iowa boys (and they were mostly boys) fell back, until at 5 o'clock we were but a mere remnant around Webster's heavy guns at the river bank
                William Reid feels that Wallace's death and his Iowa regiments "falling back" was the end of the position. That says much for who was actually holding the position 'up' to begin with!

                And, Grant arrived at some point, providing history and Ben Prentiss with a "cause", or so the story goes...

                After having driven the enemy back from this position, Major General U.S. grant appeared on the field. I exhibited to him the disposition of my entire force, which disposition recieved his commnedation, and I recieved my final orders, which were to maintain that postition at all hazards. This position I did maintain until 4 0'clock PM, when Gen. Hurlbut, being overpowered, was forced to retire.
                Grant tells it very differently.

                [QUOTEIn one of the backward moves, on the 6th, the division commanded by Gen.Prentiss did not fall back with the others. This left flanks exposed and enabled the enemy to capture him with about 2,200 of his officers and men. General Badeau gives 4 o'clock of the 6th as about the time this capture took place. He may be right as to the time, but my recollection is that the hour was later. Gen. Prentiss himself gave the hour as 5:30. I was with him, as i was with each of the divisional commanders that day, several times, and my recollection is that the last time I was with him was about 4:30, when his division was standing firmly and the general was as cool as if expecting victory.

                With the single exception of a few minutes after the capture of Prentiss, a continuous and unbroken line was maintained all day from snake Creek or it's tributaries on the right to Lick Creek or the Tennessee on the left above Pittsburg.[/QUOTE]

                So, Grant feels that Prentiss, in fact, made no "stand" at all, and that his capture was due entirely to a failure to fall back with other units. There is one thing about Grant's account that is significant, however.

                If Grant visited every division commander, would his instructions to those commanders not have been very similar, to hold "at all hazards"?
                Further, Prentiss was present at a part of the Union line opposite the "Ruggles Battery", a 62 piece Napoleanoic "Grand Battery". This means that the very strength of Prentiss position, and the copious smoke, no doubt, from the many guns in front of him, may have combined to his detriment. Smoke and noise might have obscured hearing and vision of a 'fallback' on the flanks of Prentiss. The very solidity of that position may well have encouraged those around him to 'stand fast'.

                In any case, Prentiss must have been the most senior officer present of the 2,200 men that surrendered with him. The big question in my mind, is exactly how many of those 2,200 men were actually from Prentiss's command? If we believe Timothy Smith, fully 1,700 men were just that. How did Prentiss communicate to all of them at once above the smoke and dinn of artillery to stand fast?

                It must have happened purely by chance. Those in the center were victims of their own strong positions.

                In a forum discussion about this issue I read, somebody made the comment that, had Prentiss been commanding a position like this one later in the Civil War, the troops under him, and those around, would have voted with their feet as the situation became untenable. But, whether they RECOGNISED the situation for what it was until it was too late, is a guess.

                Did they stand fast "at all hazards", or were they simply missing the general rearward 'move' with everyone else? Another thing IS certain. Grant's line was to be formed with or without the stand of the Hornet's Nest. Bragg's attack on Pittsburg Ridge, late in the day, was not long after Prentiss surrendered, proving that they were in a position to do so whether Prentiss held or fell back, or whether he was captured or not.

                Prentiss, it is genrally believed, surrendered at 5:26.

                Braggs last charge came across Dill Branch at 5:30, as the shadows fell and the first of Buell's men came off the boats.

                HARMON..Despite Bragg's urging, the charge sputtered out and the heavy fighting was over an hour later as night came and a drizzle began
                Fighting ceased at 6 pm on Beauregard's orders, just as Bragg was reaching the crest of the final hill towards Pittsburg. The difficult terrain, and screaming gunboat shells unnerved Bragg's troops. And this was all at about the same time as Prentiss surrendered.

                So, Prentiss's "stand" counted for little, really, in the wider flow of the action.

                Its nearly 2 am here, and I have to get up tomorrow, so I'll leave this for now. But, this myth has essentially been 'done' from my angle, so I'll give over to comments from members, unless I have any further thoughts on this matter in the meantime.

                Drusus
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                • #9
                  I think W. H. L. Wallace deserves the title "Hero of Shiloh" more than Prentiss. However, I think the true heroes of Shiloh are the individual units or fragments of units that made stands throughout the morning like Andrew Hickenlooper's Ohio Battery or the 54th Ohio Infantry. It was these small unit efforts along with a complicated battle plan and bad terrain that stalled the Confederates not the "hornets nest"
                  I do not wish to have the slave emancipated because I love him, but because I hate his master."
                  --Salmon P. Chase

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                  • #10
                    Interesting thread.
                    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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                    • #11
                      Myths 3 & 4....Buell Saves Grant & Beauregard Throws Victory Away....NOT!

                      OK...

                      Since discussion about Benjamin Prentiss seems to have tapered, we move on to the next Myth from Timothy J. Smith...

                      3/ MAJOR GENERAL DON CARLOS
                      BUELL'S ARRIVAL SAVED GRANT FROM DEFEAT
                      .

                      Many historians have argued that Grant's beaten army was saved only by the timely arrival of Maj.Gen. don Carlos Buell's Army of Ohio near sundown on April 6th.

                      The common conception is that Grant's men had been driven back to the landing and were about to be defeated when the lead elements of Buell's army arrived, deployed in line and repelled the last Confederate assaults of the day.

                      The veterans of the various armies vehemently argued their cases after the war. Members of the society of the Army of the Tennessee maintained that they had the battle under control at nightfall of the first day, while their counterparts in the Society for the Army of Cumberland (the successor to Buell's Army of the Ohio) argued with equal vigor that they had saved the day. Even Grant and buell entered the fight when they wrote opposing articles for "Century" magazine in the 1880s.

                      Grant claimed his army was in a strong position with heavy lines of infantry supporting massed artillery. His effort to trade space for time throughout the day of april 6th had worked; Grant had spent so much time in successive defensive positions that daylight was fading by the time the last Confederate assaults began, and he was convinced that his army could handle those attacks.

                      Buell, on the other hand, painted a picture of a dilapidated Army of Tennessee on the brink of defeat. Only his arrival with fresh columns of the Army of the Ohio troops won the day. The lead brigade, commanded by colonel Jacob Ammen, deployed on the ridge south of the landing and met Confederate the confederate advance. In Buell's mind, Grant's troops could not have held without his army.

                      In reality, the Confederates probably had little hope of breaking Grant's last line. Situated on a tall ridge overlooking streams known as the Dill and Tilghman branches, Grant's forces, battered though they were, still had enough fight in them to hold their extremely strong position, especially since they had over 50 pieces of artillery in line. Likewise, the troops were massed in compact positions. Good interior lines of defence also helped, and two Federal gunboats fired on the Confederates from the front flank and rear.

                      The Confederates never actually assaulted the Federal line, further damaging Buell's assertion. Only elements of four disorganized and exhausted Confederate brigades crossed the backwater in the Dill branch ravine as gunboat shells flew through the air. Only two of those brigades undertook an assault, one without ammunition. The Confederates topped the rise and faced a withering fire.

                      They were convinced

                      Orders from Beauregard to withdraw did not have to be repeated.

                      In fact, only 12 companies of Buell's army crossed in time to deploy and become engaged. Grant had the situation well under control and could have fended off much larger numbers than he actually encountered. While Buell's arrival did provide a morale boost and allowed Grant to take the offensive the next morning, Grant had the battle situation under control by the time Buell arrived.
                      This myth is fairly straight forward; Federal veterans from both Tennessee and Ohio army's, naturally, wish to be seen as the saviour's of the hour. Consequently, most personal accounts are going to be a little more complimentary to their own point of view.

                      This myth leads, quite naturally into the next one, so I'll present them as a pair, and comment on them both.

                      4/ THE SOUTH COULD HAVE WON HAD P.G.T. BEAUREGARD NOT CALLED OFF THE ASSAULTS.

                      For many years after the battle, former confederates castigated General Beauregard for his actions at Shiloh.

                      Their main complaint was that the army commander, having taken charge of the Confederate forces after Johnston's death, called off the final assaults on the evening of April 6th. Many argued that the Confederates had victory within their grasp and needed only one last effort to destroy Grant's army. Beauregard, howwever, called off his southern boys and thus threw away a victory.

                      In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

                      The controversy had it's beginnings while the war still raged. Corps commanders Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee and Braxton Bragg pounced on Beauregard for calling off the attacks, even though their immediate post-battle correspondence said nothing derogatory about their commander. After the war ended, Southerners began to argue that being outnumbered and outproduced industrially were factors for their defeat, and also blamed the battle deaths of leaders like 'Stonewall' Jackson and A.S. Johnston. Another key element in their argument, however, was poor leadership on the part of certain generals such as Beauregard at Shiloh and James Longstreet at Gettysburg (of course it did not help that Longstreet turned his back on the solidly Democratic South and went Republican after the war).

                      The sum of all these became THE LOST CAUSE.

                      Hardee, Bragg and thousands of other Confederates argued after the war that Beauregard threw away the victory. Beauregard does bear some blame, but not for making the wrong descision to end the attacks. He made the right decision, but for the wrong reasons. The general made his decision far behind his front lines, an area completely awash with stragglers and wounded. No wonder Beauregard argued that his army was so disorganised that he needed to call for a halt.

                      Similarly, Beauregard acted on faulty intelligence. He recieved word that Buell's reinforcements were not arriving at Pittsburg Landing. One of buell's divisions was in Alabama, but unfortunately for Beauregard, five were actually en route to Pittsburg. Based on such spotty intelligence, Beauregard though he could finish Grant the next morning.

                      In the end, the decision to call a halt was the right thing to do. Taking into account the terrain, Union reinforcements and Confederate tactical ability at the time, the Rebels probably would not have broken Grant's final line of defense, much less destroyed the union army. The castigated Creole did not throw away a victory, he merely put himself in a position to be blamed for the defeat already transpiring.
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                      • #12
                        Myths 3 & 4...Continued

                        Lets examine these myths in tandem, because it was in tandem that the "Elephant" revealed itself to both sides, almost simultaniously...

                        Grant's army was in a very precarious position on the evening of April 6th.

                        With it's back to a major river, with thousands of effectives lying on the field in agony, and with his camps and their stores occupied, Grant had no cause to believe that the events of Sunday were anything but a defeat.
                        But, 12 hours can be a long time on a battlefield, and Grant had no such misgivings about what the state of his command would be come Monday morning, April 7th. In his memoirs, Grant makes no apology for anything. Summing up the arrival of Buell, for instance...

                        Before any of Buell's troops had reached the west bank of the Tennessee, firing had almost entirely ceased; anything like an attempt on the part of the enemy to advance had absolutely ceased. There was some artillery firing from an unseen enemy, some of his shells passing beyond us; but I do not remember that there was the whistle of a single musket ball heard. As his troops arrived in the dark, General Buell marched several of his regiments part way down the face of the hill where they fired briskly for some minutes, but I do not think a single man engaged in this firing recieved an injury.
                        General Lew Wallace, with 5,000 effective men, arrived after firing ceased for the day and was placed on the right.

                        Thus night came, Wallace came, and the advance of Nelson's division came, but none (unless night) in time to be of material assistance to the gallant men who saved Shiloh on the first day against large odds. Buell's loss on the 6th of April was 2 men killed and one wounded, all members of the 36th Indiana Infantry. The Army of Tennessee lost on that day at least 7,000 men. The presense of two or three regiments had not the slightest effect in preventing the capture of Pittsburg Landing.
                        Don Carlos Buell, naturally, tells a differing story in his report of the battle, dated April, 15th, 1862, (which reads in part)
                        The impression existed at Savannah that the firing was only an affair of outposts, the same thing having occurred for two or three previous days. But as it continued, I determined to go to the scene of the action, and accordingly started with my Chief of Staff, Colonel Fry, on a steamer which I ordered to get under steam. As we proceeded up river, groups of soldiers were seen upon the west bank, and it soon became evident that they were stragglers from the engaged army. The groups increased in size and frequency, until as we approached the landing they amounted to whole companies, and almost regiments; and at the landing the banks of the river swarmed with a confused mass of men, of various regiments, and they could not have been less than 4,000 or 5,000, and late in the day it became much greater. Finding Gen. Grant at the Landing, I requested him to send steamers to Savannah to bring up General Crittenden's division, which had arrived during the morning, and then went ashore with him.

                        The throng of disorganized and demoralized troops increased continually by fresh fugitives from the battle, which steadily drew nearer the landing, and with them were intermingled great numbers of teams, all striving to get as near as possible to the river. With few exceptions, all efforts to form the troops and move them forward to the fight utterly failed.

                        In the meantime, the enemy had made such progress against our troops that his artillery and musketry had begun to play into the vital spot of the position, and some persons were killed on the bank at the very landing. General Nelson arrived with General Almond's brigade, (Buell probably means AMMEN's Brigade here...Drusus) at this opportune moment. It was immediately posted to meet this attack at that point; and with a battery of artillery, which happened to be on the ground, was brought into action, opened fire on the enemy, and repulsed him. The actions of the gunboats also contributed very much to that result
                        Isn't it interesting how much the two accounts differ?

                        Buell was writing this report only 9 days after Shiloh, and yet could not remember exactly where Nelson's troops were placed. How Buell also managed to count the so called "many stragglers" along the West bank is another mystery. Other accounts do not mention troops of this so called "mass" anywhere but at the Landing itself.

                        A later myth will examine this very question, but for now, the only photograph I have ever seen of Pittsburg Landing with a fully swollen river shows barely enough room for Grant's boat, ("Tigress ") and four or five others tied up hull to hull.

                        On the other hand, Grant could describe with much better clarity, many years in the future, the exact position of his troops at this final hour of the first day at Shiloh. And also, he does not include artillery support in Buell's so called "action" to save the landing. Buell even mentions casualties at the landing itself, and if that were the case, the so called "mass" of disorganized rabble supposedly prsent would have beaten a very hasty retreat up the western bank of the river, into more dead ground.

                        It adds up to Don Carlos Buell being a little free and easy with the facts of the matter, or so it seems.

                        It would also appear that Buell's arriving troops were indulging themselves in wishful thinking as to their own role, as told by a Sergeant of the 9th Indiana Regiment, of Nelson's Division, Army of Ohio, AMBROSE BIERCE, who was an eyeball witness to this exact time and place during the Battle of Shiloh...

                        On the side of the Tennessee River, over against Pittsburg Landing, are some low and bare hills, partly enclosed by a forest. In the dusk of the evening of April 6th, as seen from the other side of the stream, whence indeed it was anxiously watched by thousands of eyes, to many of which it grew dark long before the sun went down, would appear to have been ruled in long, dark lines, with new lines being constantly drawn across. These lines were the regiments of Buell's leading division, which had moved from Savannah through a country presenting nothing but interminable swamps and pathless "bottom lands", with rank overgrowths of jungle, was arriving at the scene of action breathless, footsore, and faint from hunger.

                        It had been a terrible race; some regiments lost a third of their number from fatigue, the men dropping from their ranks as if shot, and left to recover or die at their leisure. Nor was the scene to which they had been invited likely to inspire the moral confidence that medicines physical fatigue. True, the air was full of thunder and the earth trembled beneath their feet; and if there was truth in the theory of conversion of force, these men were storing up energy from every shock that burst it wave upon their bodies. Perhaps this theory may better than others explain the tremendous endurance of men in battle.

                        But the eyes reported only matter for despair.

                        Before us ran the turbulent river, vexed with plunging shells and obscured by blue sheets of low-lying smoke. The two little steamers were doing their duty well. They came over to us empty and returned back crowded, sitting very low in the water, apparently on the point of capsizing.

                        The farther edge of the water could not be seen. The boats came out of the obscurity, took on their passengers, and vanished into the darkness. But on the heights above the battle was burning brightly enough. A thousand lights kindled and expired in every second of time. There were broad flushings in the sky, against which the branches of the trees showed black. Sudden flames burst out here and there, singly and in dozens. Streaks of fire crossed over to us by way of welcome. These expired in blinding flashes and fierce little rolls of smoke......to the right and left the musketry rattled smartly and petulantly, directly in front it sighed and growled.....to destroy these and their belongings the enemy needed but another hour of daylight.....Nay to make his victory sure it did not need that the sun should pause in the heavens.

                        By the time my regiment reached that plateau, night had put an end to the struggle. A sputter of rifles would break out now and then, followed perhaps by a spiritless "hurrah". Occasionally a shell would come pitching down somewhere near....But there was no more fighting
                        Those "spiritless "hurrahs" could only be Union troops, (Southerners yipped and yelped.)
                        Bierce makes assumptions about exactly whose troops were "sputtering" with muskets. If we are to believe Grant, it was the vanguard of Ammen's Brigade only, (with Grant listing two dead and one wounded), and if we believe Buell, it was Ammen's entire unit, and Buell does not list casualties.

                        In his essay and book, Timothy J. Smith points to a morale boost from Buell's arrival as something contributed.

                        I beg to differ.

                        That late afternoon to early evening boost would have been counterbalanced by extreme disappointment all afternoon, as demonstrated by LEANDER STILLWELL...

                        (Stillwell is talking to his regimental adjudant (a German immigrant), pausing for a drink after running for their lives...)

                        "Adjudant", I said, "What does this mean- our having to run this way? Ain't we whipped?" He blew the water from his moustache, and quickly answered in a careless way,
                        "Oh no; dat is all ride. We yoost fall back to form on the reserve. Sheneral Buell vas now crossing der river mit 50,000 men, and he vill be here pooty quick; and Sheneral Lew Vallace is coming from Crump's Landing mit 15,000 more. Ve vips 'em, ve vips 'em. Go to your gompany."
                        Back I went on the run with my heart light as a feather. As I took my place in the ranks beside my chum, Jack Medford, I said to him,
                        "Jack, I've just had a talk with the old adjudant, down at the branch where I've been to get a drink. He says Buell is crossing the river with 75,000 men and a whole world of cannon, and that some other general is coming up from Crump's Landing with 25,000 more men. He says we fell back on purpose, and that we're going to whip the Secesh, just sure. Aint that just perfectly bully? "
                        I had improved some on the adjudant's figures, as the news was so glorious I thought a little variance of 25,000 or 30,000 men would make no difference in the end.

                        But as the long hours wore on that day and still Buell and Wallace did not come, my faith in the adjudant's veracity became considerably shaken.
                        This confirms what Grant has said all along, and Smith's analysis, that Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio played little or no part in the desperate fighting of that Sunday. They gave a boost to morale late in the day, but this was as far as their Sunday participation can be an accepted thing.

                        Further down in his account, Stillwell is actually present at the road leading up from Pittsburg when Buell's advance guard, (the 36th Indiana Regiment) arrive...

                        I saw they had not been in the fight, for there was no powder-smoke on their faces.
                        "What regiment is this ?", I asked of a young sergeant marching on the flank. Back came the answer in a quick, cheery tone,
                        "The 36th Indiana, the advance guard of Buell's army."

                        I did not, on hearing this, throw my cap into the air and yell. That would have given those Indiana fellows a chance to chaff and guy me, and possibly make sarcastic remarks, which I did not care to provoke....

                        ...I can only say in the most heart-felt sincerity that in all my obscure military career, never to me was the sight of reinforcing legions so precious and so welcome as on that Sunday evening when the rays of the descending sun were flashed back from the bayonets of Buell's advance column as it deployed on the bluffs of Pittsburg Landing.

                        .....So far as I saw or heard, very little fighting was done that evening after Buell's advance guard crossed the river. The sun must have been fully an hour high when anything like regular and continuous firing had entirely ceased.

                        What result would have been if Beauregard had massed his troops on our left and forced the fighting late Sunday evening would be a matter of opinion, and a common soldier's opinion would not be worth much.
                        And that comment leads us naturally to the subject of General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard; "Little Napolean', at almost the exact same time, was engaged in an internal struggle with his conscience, but rather in the manner of Shakespeare's "Hamlet", and most unlike his childhood hero....

                        "To halt, or not to halt...that is the question...."
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                        • #13
                          INTERMISSION: A Grab-bag of Shiloh Trivia

                          Intermission?

                          Yes...just because I can, and giving the buffs and readers out there a break from the historical analysis, i present my own 'bag' of Shiloh Trivia, for your enjoyment....(Source...Alfred A. Nofi's fine little book "A Civil War Journal", 1993, combined books, Penn.)


                          HAIR SECTION

                          BEAUREGARD'S HAIR
                          Within a year of the start of the Civil War, Pierre G.T. Beauregard's black hair had turned almost completely gray, a development which his friends contributed to the pressures of war.....or more accurately....because the Federal blockade had cut off the supply of hair dye.

                          WHIG FOR A DAY
                          Pursuing a wounded Confederate officer on the 7th of April, Colonel A.K. Johnston of the 28th Illinois attempted to grab the officer by his hair only to have it come away in his hand leaving him holding a wig.



                          GRANTS COMMAND PROBLEMS EXPLAINED

                          At the Battle of Shiloh, all six of the division commanders of Grant's Army of Tennessee were lawyers...

                          Stephen A. Hurlbut.....(4th)
                          A veteran of the First Seminole Wars, Hurlbut was a Whig Democrat for Zachary Taylor, and later campaigned for Lincoln in 1860. He had a singularly unimpressive career, was accused by historians of anti-semitism, and resigned to avoid a trial for "peculation" in 1865. (***see Wiki page)

                          John A. McClernand....(1st)
                          McClernand's considerable political "pull" saw Grant bide his time. During the siege of Vicksburg, McClernand was sacked for unauthourized and "intemperate communications with the press". Like a lot of political generals in the civil war, his performance in civilian life greatly exceeded his battlefield 'expertise', although he was restored to command by Lincoln, later, who thought he needed McClernand as the leader of the Illinois War Democrats. (***See Wiki page)

                          Benjamin M. Prentiss..(6th)..After capture, Ben Prentiss was found to be so useful to the Southern cause that after seven months, he was traded back to the Union! Post Shiloh, "The Hero of the Hour" faded from the limelight, until briefly coming back into favour for a spirited defence at the Battle of Helena. His after action report shows that he had learnt a lot from Shiloh, as he praises nearly everyone he can think of for their service. Helena also resembled Prentiss task at the hornet's Nest, but this time, Prentiss had the forsight and experience to dig his troops in with a maze of entrenchment. Essentially a defensive action, with no offensive moves made at all by Prentiss, The Battle of Helena was fought on July 4th of 1863, the very day Lee decided to quit his Pennsylvania Campaign after Gettysburg, and also the very day General Pemberton surrendered the Confederate fortress of Vicksburg. Prentiss was always to be upstaged, it seemed.

                          William T. Sherman....(5th)..
                          You all know very well what happened to the glorious redhead after Shiloh.
                          Just a bit of trivia, though. One of his regiments of the First Brigade, the 6th Iowa, had a mongrel mascot dog called "Jeff Davis"

                          Lew Wallace..............(3rd)
                          Lew spent the rest of his military career under a cloud for his late arrival at Shiloh. Post war, Wallace managed to explain his tardiness, as related by Harmon...
                          ...up the river road from Crump's Landing came Lew Wallace's division, after long delays. After the war, Lew Wallace would finally prove that he had indeed prepared a route to the field beforehand toward Sherman's camp on the Purdy Road, leaving the River Road unrepaired. Turned back by Grant's aides, Wallace's division had countermarched on the Purdy Road and had encountered much difficulty getting down the River Road. Lew Wallace had not anticipated that Sherman would be knocked back to Pittsburg Landing, but it was twenty years before Grant was to realize this.
                          He is chiefly remembered as the author of "BEN HUR; A Tale of Christ"

                          W.H.L. Wallace (no relation to Lew Wallace)..........(2nd)
                          After his head wound near the Hornet's Nest, William Wallace was found on a riverboat on Monday afternoon,(7 April), by his wife. It took him three days to die, with his wife present the whole time.

                          You don't wonder why Grant, a man more at home whittling wood and talking to horses, had problems with his senior commanders, until, one by one, they were killed, or replaced with competent people, or rose above the political bickering like Sherman did.


                          FASHION STATEMENTS
                          When the Orleans Guards, a Louisiana volunteer battalion went into action at Shiloh, they discovered their stylish blue uniforms had the unfortunate effect of causing their rebel comrades to mistake them for Yankees, so they reversed their coats and fought all day with white linings showing.

                          At Shiloh the 2nd Texas fought in undyed uniforms which greatly resembled shrouds, eliciting remarks such as,
                          "Who were them hellcats who went into battle dressed in their grave clothes?"



                          JEFFERSON DAVIS SECTION
                          One of Shermans units, the 6th Iowa Regiment, had a mascot mongrel dog, affectionately called "Jeff Davis"

                          As a result of a "personal encounter" with Union Brig.Gen. Jefferson C. Davis (five feet nine, 125 pounds) on the 29th of December 1862, Shiloh Divisional commander, Union Major General William "Bull" Nelson (six foot four and 300 pounds) was shot in the chest and died a half hour later. Nelson was known for his poor treatment of people he found to be "openly unwilling to accept their reponsibilities". General Jefferson Davis was briefly arrested, but went back to duty; (he had been "Bull" Nelson's 2ic) as if nothing untoward had occurred. He did not face a court of any kind. This case echo's "Devil Dan" Sickles aquittal for "temporary insanity". At least Sickles case went before a court (*** Wiki has an excellent page on "Bull" Nelson. Check it out)
                          Last edited by Drusus Nero; 20 Jan 16, 00:54.
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                          • #14
                            Myth 4-Beauregard Not guilty?

                            Onward then. I hope you enjoyed our little 'intermission'.

                            Firstly, lets hear what Pierre Beauregard has to say about this seminal event of the "Lost Cause". Quoted here is, in part, from his official report submitted to General Samuel Cooper of C.S.A. High Command, on April 11th whilst Beauregard's army was in corinth, Mississippi...

                            Like an Alpine avalanche our troops moved forward, despite the determined resistence of the enemy, until after 6 o'clock pm., when we were in possession of all encampments between Owl and Lick Creeks but one; nearly all his field artillery, thirty nags, colours, standards and over 3,000 prisoners, including a divisional commander Gen. Prentiss and several brigade commanders, thousands of small arms, an immense supply of subsistence, forage and munitions of war, and a large amount of means of transportation- all the substantial fruits of a complete victory- such indeed as rarely have followed the most successful of battles; for never was an army so well provided as that of the enemy.

                            The remnant of his army had been driven in utter disorder to the immediate vicinity of Pittsburgh, under the shelter of heavey guns and his iron=clad gun-boats, and we remained masters of his well selected and admiribly provided catonements, after over twelve hours of obstinate conflict of his forces who had been beaten from them and the contiguous covert, but only by the sustained onset of all the men we could bring into action.

                            Our loss was heavy....Our Commander in Chief, Gen. A.S. Johnston, had fallen mortally wounded and died on the field at 2 and 1/2 PM, after having shown the highest qualities of the commander, and a personal intrepidity that inspired all around him, and gave resistless impulsion to his columns at critical moments.

                            The chief command then devolved upon me, though at the time I was greatly prostrated, and suffering from the prolonged sickness with which I have been afflicted since early February. The responsibility was one, which, in my physical condition, I would gladly have avoided, though cast upon me when our forces were successfully pushing the enemy back upon the Tennessee River and though supposed on the intermediate field by such corps commanders as Maj.Generals Polk, Bragg and Hardee and Brig.Gen Breckinridge commanding the reserve.

                            It was after 6 o'clock PM as before said, when the enemy's last position was carried, and his forces finally broke and sought refuge behind a commanding eminence, covering the Pittsburgh Landing, not more than half a mile distant, and under the guns of the gunboats, which opened on our eager columns a force and annoying file, with shot and shell of the heaviest description. Darkness was close at hand. Officers and men were exhausted by a combat of over twelve hours without food, and by the march of the preceeding day, through mud and water. It was, therefore, impossible to collect the rich and opportune spoils scattered broadcast on the field left in our possession, and impracticable to make any disposition fon their removal to the rear.

                            I accordingly established my headquarters at the Church of Shiloh, in the enemy's encampment, with Maj.Gen Bragg, and directed our directed our troops to sleep on their arms, in such positions in advance and rear as corps commanders could determine, hoping from news recieved by special depsatch that delays had been encountered by Gen. buell in his march from Columbia, and that his main forces, therefore, could not reach the field of battle in time to save Gen. Grant's shattered, fugitive forces from capture or destruction on the following day.
                            Note well that the very wordy and roundabout language that Beauregard uses to explain his situation and decisions of the afternoon of Sunday, April 6th, without ever coming right out and saying, plainly, "I ordered a halt to our successful attacks.'

                            This is, of itself, very revealing.

                            P.G.T. Beauregard comes up with every excuse he can think of to justify "The Order". claiming sickness, claiming unprecedented casualties, claiming lack of food and supplies of every kind, claiming inability to transport captured stores, claiming his men needed a break after a tiring march from corinth, an intensive battle, and from the dreaded gunboat shells that screamed out of the Tennessee River.

                            One thing he does not do, however, is to foist responsibility for the order onto his corps commanders, as Bragg was to do at Stone's River.

                            Beauregard claims that Grant's army's "last position was carried, and his forces finally broke and sought refuge behind a commanding eminence."
                            Obviously, then, the "last position" ....but one.

                            One very significant thing Beauregard just does not mention is that his advice to Johnston on Saturday evening had been to RETREAT. Bragg concurred, for the same reasons as Beauregard. So, Beauregard was, quite literally, of the mind for a retreat from the very outset. Not even timothy smith has mentioned this, but i deel it's the most important element of all.

                            Blaming faulty intelligence is a flat out case of passing the buck. If Pierre Beauregard had bothered to seek out his own Cavalry commander, Nathan Bedford Forrest, he would have discovered all the intelligence he needed.

                            Whilst Beauregard and Bragg slept on, at midnight, Bedford Forrest was still up and curious. All around him, seemingly victorious Confederate soldiers were gorging themselves on Yankee food and liquor, or sleeping off the effects of the nightmare mud march from Corinth and the battle. Forrest, never a man to lose concentration, sent scouts in Yankee coats forward to Pittsburg. By 2AM they were returned, reporting that thousands of troops had been observed pouring off transports and into position. Forrest reported the news to William Hardee, his corps superior, but, inexplicably, Hardee was supposedly unable to locate Beauregard. (source...Robert Harmon..."Fury In The West")

                            And is if that wan't enough for Beauregard, all night, Benjamin Prentiss taunted Beauregard and anyone else within earshot, boasting of Buell's impending arrival. (source...Harmon)

                            But Beauregard went to bed, and reportedly slept well anyway.

                            Harmon states that Beauregard's overwhelming desire for rest probably reflects worse on him than Prentiss for giving away such information. My view is that Beauregard's ailing health was simply not up to the pressures of command at that level. He had performed admirably all day reorganizing the Confederate rear, and fed troops back into battle that allowed Johnston's attack to roll forward very well. By evening and night, his concentration and constitution gave out entirely.

                            It seems, therefore, that Pierre Beauregard sincerely believed his Alabama despatch message, otherwise, why go to bed and sleep the sleep of the victory?. This, too, is strange, when we consider that the entire purpose of Johnston overiding Beauregard's request to return to Corinth was SPEED, to catch Grant seperated from Buell.

                            Every minute of the day counted, and every moment of the long and torrentially raining night.
                            So, logically, if Beauregard really did believe his own intelligence reports, considering the Army of Mississippi was in worse shape on Sunday night than it had been on Saturday morning, would it not have been prudent to carry away as much as possible, and skedaddle back to Corinth, leaving Forrest and company to screen his retreat?

                            Of course, pursuing this line of action would have had fatal consequences for the career of Beauregard. So he stayed in place, damned if he did, and damned if he didn't.
                            Smith's assertion that Beauregard made "The right decisions for all the wrong reasons" I'm afraid I just don't agree with at all. It is my view that Beauregard made the WRONG choice, for all the RIGHT reasons.

                            If it was the right decision to stay in place, then Confederate chances for a sucessful assault on he Monday morning would have been better served by another early, before dawn assault. But the Army of Mississippi was tired, much blooded, fought out, 'spotty' on ammunition and supplies. The least he could have done was to order the troops to "dig in".

                            If, as Beauregard claims, that he had Grant pretty much on the ropes on Sunday night, the best course of action was, to keep attacking.
                            A full retreat should have been ordered on Sunday night. But hindsight is 20/20, I suppose. Clearly though, Pierre Beauregard picked the worst of the three options, which was to stay in place.

                            Maybe, most probably, Bragg and Pierre Beauregard were correct in their assumption that the attack for Sunday morning should have been called off altogether. It was Johnston, after all, that overruled them all. It was good advice. Johnston's all out attack with no reserves left the confederate Army in a victorious, but precarious position.

                            And Beauregard was, then, fighting Johnston's battle concept, not his own.
                            Last edited by Drusus Nero; 19 Jan 16, 18:59.
                            My Articles, ALMOST LIVE, exclusive to The Armchair!

                            Soviet Submarines in WW2....The Mythology of Shiloh....(Edited) Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto
                            GULAG Glossary....Who Really Killed The Red Baron?....Pearl Harbor At 75
                            Lincoln-Douglas Debates

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                            • #15
                              I don't think the Army of the Tennessee could have been driven from its last position, even had the Army of the Mississippi had another fresh 10,000 men to throw at it.

                              If you walk the ground it's amazing how the battlefield keeps getting narrower and narrower all the while getting worse, terrain wise, for an attacker.

                              Even against 20,000+ fresh troops the Army of the Mississippi held its ground remarkably well on the 7th, due to the terrain favoring the defender. Pittsburg ridge is extremely formidable and I just don't see the South being able to take it unless they had did drastically more damage on the 6th.

                              Perhaps if Chathams brigade had been supported by a full division and hits the soft underbelly of the Union left flank?

                              I dunno, it was a gamblers throw of the dice and, even with surprise, didn't come all that close to succeeding.

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