Memoirs of General William T. Sherman
CHAPTER 10c - BATTLE OF SHILOH. MARCH AND APRIL, 1862.
General C. F. Smith remained back at Savannah, in chief
command, and I was only responsible for my own division. I kept pickets well
out on the roads, and made myself familiar with all the ground inside and
outside my lines. My personal staff was composed of Captain J. H. Hammond,
assistant adjutant-general ; Surgeons Hartshorn and L'Hommedieu; Lieutenant
Colonels Hascall and Sanger, inspector-generals; Lieutenants McCoy and John
Taylor, aides-de-camp. We were all conscious that the enemy was collecting at
Corinth, but in what force we could not know, nor did we know what was going on
behind us. On. the 17th of March, General U. S. Grant was restored to the
command of all the troops up the Tennessee River, by reason of General Smith's
extreme illness, and because he had explained to General Halleck satisfactorily
his conduct after Donelson; and he too made his headquarters at Savannah, but
frequently visited our camps. I always acted on the supposition that we were an
invading army; that our purpose was to move forward in force, make a lodgment
on the Memphis & Charleston road, and thus repeat the grand tactics of Fort
Donelson, by separating the rebels in the interior from those at Memphis and on
the Mississippi River. We did not fortify our camps against an attack, because
we had no orders to do so, and because such a course would have made our raw
men timid. The position was naturally strong, with Snake Creek on our right, a
deep, bold stream, with a confluent (Owl Creek) to our right front; and Lick
Creek, with a similar confluent, on our left, thus narrowing the space over
which we could be attacked to about a mile and a half or two miles.
At a later period of the war, we could have rendered this
position impregnable in one night, but at this time we did not do it, and it
may be it is well we did not. From about the 1st of April we were conscious
that the rebel cavalry in our front was getting bolder and more saucy; and on
Friday, the 4th of April, it dashed down and carried off one of our
picket-guards, composed of an officer and seven men posted a couple of miles
out on the Corinth road. Colonel Buckland sent a company to its relief, then
followed himself with a regiment, and, fearing lest he might he worsted, I
called out his whole brigade and followed some four or five miles, when the
cavalry in advance encountered artillery. I then, after dark, drew back to our
lines, and reported the fact by letter to General Grant, at Savannah; but thus
far we had not positively detected the presence of infantry, for cavalry
regiments generally had a couple of guns along, and I supposed the guns that
opened on us on the evening of Friday, April 4th, belonged to the cavalry that
was hovering along our whole front.
Saturday passed in our camps without any unusual event, the
weather being wet and mild, and the roads back to the steamboat-landing being
heavy with mud; but on Sunday morning, the 6th, early, there was a good deal of
picket-firing, and I got breakfast, rode out along my lines, and, about four
hundred yards to the front of Appler's regiment, received from some bushes in a
ravine to the left front a volley which killed my orderly, Holliday. About the
same time I saw the rebel lines of battle in front coining down on us as far as
the eye could reach. All my troops were in. line of battle, ready, and the
ground was favorable to us. I gave the necessary orders to the battery
(Waterhouse's) attached to Hildebrand's brigade, and cautioned the men to
reserve their fire till the rebels had crossed the ravine of Owl Creek, and had
begun the ascent; also, sent staff-officers to notify Generals McClernand and
Prentiss of the coming blow. Indeed, McClernand had already sent three
regiments to the support of my left flank, and they were in position when the
In a few minutes the battle of " Shiloh " began with extreme
fury, and lasted two days. Its history has been well given, and it has been
made the subject of a great deal of controversy. Hildebrand's brigade was soon
knocked to pieces, but Buckland's and McDowell's kept their organization
throughout. Stuart's was driven back to the river, and did not join me in
person till the second day of the battle. I think my several reports of that
battle are condensed and good, made on the spot, when all the names and facts
were fresh in my memory, and are herewith given entire:
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION
PITTSBURG LANDING, March 17, 1862
Captain WM. McMichael,
Assistant Adjutant-General to General C. F.
SMITH, Savannah, Tennessee.
SIR : Last night I dispatched a party of
cavalry, at 6 P.M., under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Heath, Fifth Ohio
Cavalry, for a strong reconnoissance, if possible, to be converted, into an
attack upon the Memphis road. The command got off punctually, followed at
twelve o'clock at night by the First Brigade of my division, commanded by
Colonel McDowell, the other brigades to follow in order.
About one at night
the cavalry returned, reporting the road occupied in force by the enemy, with
whose advance-guard they skirmished, driving them back about a mile, taking two
prisoners, and having their chief guide, Thomas Maxwell, Esq., and three men of
the Fourth Illinois wounded.
Inclosed please find the report of
Lieutenant-Colonel Heath; also a copy of his instructions, and the order of
march. As soon as the cavalry returned, I saw that an attempt on the road was
frustrated, and accordingly have placed McDowell's brigade to our right front,
guarding the pass of Snake Creek; Stuart's brigade to the left front, to watch
the pass of Lick Creek; and I shall this morning move directly out on the
Corinth road, about eight miles to or toward Pea Ridge, which is a key-point to
General Hurlbut's division will be landed to-day, and the
artillery and infantry disposed so as to defend Pittsburg, leaving my division
entire for any movement by land or water.
As near as I can learn, there are
five regiments of rebel infantry at Purdy; at Corinth, and distributed along
the railroad to Iuca, are probably thirty thousand men; but my information from
prisoners is very indistinct. Every road and path is occupied by the enemy's
cavalry, whose orders seem to be, to fire a volley, retire, again fire and
retire. The force on the Purdy road attacked and driven by Major Bowman
yesterday, was about sixty strong. That encountered last night on the Corinth
road was about five companies of Tennessee cavalry, sent from Purdy about 2
I hear there is a force of two regiments on Pea Ridge, at
the point where the Purdy and Corinth roads come together.
I am satisfied
we cannot reach the Memphis & Charleston road without a considerable
engagement, which is prohibited by General Halleck's instructions, so that I
will be governed by your orders of yesterday, to occupy Pittsburg strongly,
extend the pickets so as to include a semicircle of three miles, and push a
strong reconnoissance as far out as Lick Creek and Pea Ridge.
I will send
down a good many boats to-day, to be employed as you may direct; and would be
obliged if you would send a couple of thousand sacks of corn, as much hay as
you can possibly spare, and, if possible, a barge of coal.
I will send a
steamboat under care of the gunboat, to collect corn from cribs on the
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Brigadier-General commanding First Division.
PITTSBURG, March 18, 1862.
Captain RAWLINS, Assistant Adjutant-
General to General Grant.
SIR : The division surgeon having placed some
one hundred or more sick on board the Fanny Bullitt, I have permitted her to
take them to Savannah. There is neither house nor building of any kind that can
be used for a hospital here.
I hope to receive an order to establish
floating hospitals, but in the mean time, by the advice of the surgeon, allow
these sick men to leave. Let me hope that it will meet your approbation.
The order for debarkation came while General Sherman was absent with three
brigades, and no men are left to move the effects of these brigades. The
landing, too, is small, with scarcely any chance to increase it; therefore
there is a great accumulation of boats. Colonel McArthur has arrived, and is
now cutting a landing for himself.
General Sherman will return this
evening. I am obliged to transgress, and write myself in the mean time,
Respectfully your obedient
J. H. HAMMOND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
P. S4 P.M.Just back; have been
half-way to Corinth and to Purdy. All right. Have just read this letter, and
approve all but floating hospitals; regimental surgeons can take care of all
sick, except chronic cases, which can always be sent down to Paducah.
Magnificent plain for camping and drilling, and a military point of great
strength. The enemy has felt us twice, at great loss and demoralization; will
report at length this evening; am now much worn out.
W. T. SHERMAN,
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION
PITTSBURG LANDING, March 19, 1862.
Captain RAWLINS, Assistant
Adjutant-General to General GRANT, Savannah, Tennessee.
SIR: I have
just returned from an extensive reconnoissance toward Corinth and Purdy, and am
strongly impressed with the importance of this position, both for its land
advantages and its strategic position. The ground itself admits of easy defense
by a small command, and yet affords admirable camping-ground for a hundred
thousand men. I will as soon as possible make or cause to be made a
topographical sketch of the position. The only drawback is that, at this stage
of water, the apace for landing is contracted too much for the immense fleet
now here discharging.
I will push the loading and unloading of boats, but
suggest that you send at once (Captain Dodd, if possible) the best
quartermaster you can, that he may control and organize this whole matter. I
have a good commissary, and will keep as few provisions afloat as possible.
W. T. SHERMAN,
CAMP SHILOH, NEAR PITTSBURG LANDING, TENNESSEE, April
Captain J. A. RAWLINS, Assistant
Adjutant- General to General Grant.
SIR : In obedience to General
Grant's instructions of March 31st, with one section of Captain Muench's
Minnesota Battery, two twelve-pound howitzers, a detachment of Fifth Ohio
Cavalry of one hundred and fifty men, under Major Ricker, and two battalions of
infantry from the Fifty-seventh and Seventy-seventh Ohio, under the command of
Colonels Hildebrand and Mungen, I marched to the river, and embarked on the
steamers Empress and Tecumseh. The gunboat Cairo did not arrive at Pittsburg,
until after midnight, and at 6 A. M. Captain Bryant, commanding the gunboat,
notified me that he was ready to proceed up the river. I followed, keeping the
transports within about three hundred yards of the gunboat. About 1 P. M the
Cairo commenced shelling the battery above the mouth of Indian Creek, but
elicited no reply. She proceeded up the river steadily and cautiously, followed
close by the Tyler and Lexington, all throwing shells at the points where, on
former visits of the gunboats, enemy's batteries were found. In this order all
followed, till it was demonstrated that all the enemy's batteries, including
that at Chickasaw, were abandoned.
I ordered the battalion of infantry
under Colonel Hildebrand to disembark at Eastport, and with the other battalion
proceeded to Chickasaw and landed. The battery at this point had evidently been
abandoned some time, and consisted of the remains of an old Indian mound,
partly washed away by the river, which had been fashioned into a two-gun
battery, with a small magazine. The ground to its rear had evidently been
overflowed during the late freshet, and led to the removal of the guns to
Eastport, where the batteries were on high, elevated ground, accessible at all
seasons from the country to the rear.
Upon personal inspection, I attach
little importance to Chickasaw as a military position. The people, who had fled
during the approach of the gunboats, returned to the village, and said the
place had been occupied by one Tennessee regiment and a battery of artillery
from Pensacola. After remaining at Chickasaw some hours, all the boats dropped
back to Eastport, not more than a mile below, and landed there. Eastport
Landing during the late freshet must have been about twelve feet under water,
but at the present stage the landing is the best I have seen on the Tennessee
The levee is clear of trees or snags, and a hundred boats could land
there without confusion.
The soil is of sand and gravel, and very firm. The
road back is hard, and at a distance of about four hundred yards from the water
begin the gravel hills of the country. The infantry scouts sent out by Colonel
Hildebrand found the enemy's cavalry mounted, and watching the Iuca road, about
two miles back of Eastport. The distance to Iuca is only eight miles, and Iuca
is the nearest point and has the best road by which the Charleston &
Memphis Railroad can be reached. I could obtain no certain information as to
the strength of the enemy there, but am satisfied that it would have been folly
to have attempted it with my command. Our object being to dislodge the enemy
from the batteries recently erected near Eastport, and this being attained, I
have returned, and report the river to be clear to and beyond Chickasaw.
have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-
General commanding Division.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH DIVISION, CAMP SHILOH,
April 5, 1862.
Captain J. A. RAWLINS, Assistant
Adjutant-General, District of Western Tennessee.
SIR: I have the honor
to report that yesterday, about 3 P.M., the lieutenant commanding and seven men
of the advance pickets imprudently advanced from their posts and were captured.
I ordered Major Ricker, of the Fifth Ohio Cavalry, to proceed rapidly to the
picket-station, ascertain the truth, and act according to circumstances. He
reached the station, found the pickets had been captured as reported, and that
a company of infantry sent by the brigade commander had gone forward in pursuit
of some cavalry. He rapidly advanced some two miles, and found them engaged,
charged the enemy, and drove them along the Ridge road, till he met and
received three discharges of artillery, when he very properly wheeled under
cover, and returned till he met me.
As soon as I heard artillery, I
advanced with two regiments of infantry, and took position, and remained until
the scattered companies of infantry and cavalry had returned. This was after
I infer that the enemy is in some considerable force at Pea Ridge,
that yesterday morning they crossed a brigade of two regiments of infantry, one
regiment of cavalry, and one battery of field-artillery, to the ridge on which
the Corinth road lies. They halted the infantry and artillery at a point about
five miles in my front, sent a detachment to the lane of General Meaks, on the
north of Owl Creek, and the cavalry down toward our camp. This cavalry captured
a part of our advance pickets, and afterward engaged the two companies of
Colonel Buckland's regiment, as described by him in his report herewith
inclosed. Our cavalry drove them back upon their artillery and Infantry,
killing many, and bringing off ten prisoners, all of the First Alabama Cavalry,
whom I send to you.
We lost of the pickets one first-lieutenant and seven
men of the Ohio Seventieth Infantry (list inclosed); one major, one lieutenant,
and one private of the Seventy-second Ohio, taken prisoners; eight privates
wounded (names in full, embraced in report of Colonel Buckland, inclosed
We took ten prisoners, and left two rebels wounded and many
killed on the field.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Brigadier-General, commanding Division