Report of General Braxton
Bragg, C. S. Army, Commanding Second Army Corps
Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)
HDQRS. SECOND CORPS, ARMY OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Corinth, Miss., April 30, 1862.
Brig. Gen. THOMAS JORDAN,
Chief of Staff.
GENERAL: In submitting a report of the operations of my command, the Second Army Corps, in the actions of Shiloh, on the 6th and 7th of April, it is proper that the narrative of events on the field be preceded by a sketch of the march from here.
But few regiments of my command had ever made a day's march. A very large proportion of the rank and file had never performed a day's labor. Our organization had been most hasty, with great deficiency in commanders, and was therefore very imperfect. The equipment was lamentably defective for field service, and our transportation, hastily impressed in the country, was deficient in quantity and very inferior in quality. With all these drawbacks the troops marched late in the afternoon of the 3d, a day later than intended, in high spirits, and eager for the contest.
The road to Monterey (11 miles) was found very bad, requiring us until 11 o'clock on the 4th to concentrate at that place, where one of my brigades joined the column. Moving from there the command bivouacked for the night near the Mickey house, immediately in rear of Major-General Hardee's corps, Major-General Polk's being just in our rear.
Our advanced cavalry had encountered the enemy during the day and captured several prisoners, being compelled, however, to retire. A reconnaissance in some force from the enemy made its appearance during the evening in front of General Hardee's corps, and was promptly driven back.
The commanders of divisions and brigades were assembled at night, the order of battle was read to them, and the topography of the enemy's position was explained, as far as understood by us. Orders were then given for the troops to march at 3 a.m., so as to attack the enemy early on the 5th.
About 2 a.m. a drenching rain-storm commenced, to which the troops were exposed, without tents, and continued until daylight, rendering it so dark and filling the creeks and ravines to such an extent as to make it impracticable to move at night. Orders were immediately sent out to suspend the movement until the first dawn of day. Continued firing by volleys and single shots was kept up all night and until 7 a.m. next morning by the undisciplined troops of our front, in violation of positive orders. Under such circumstances little or no rest could be obtained by our men, and it was? o'clock in the morning before the road was clear so as to put my command in motion, though it had been in ranks and ready from 3 a.m., in the wet and cold, and suffering from inaction.
At this juncture the commanding general arrived at our position. My column, at last fairly in motion, moved on without delay until arriving near where the Pittsburg road leaves the Bark road, when a message from Major-General Hardee announced the enemy in his front and that he had developed his line. As promptly as my troops could be brought up in a narrow road, much encumbered with artillery and baggage wagons, they were formed, according to order of battle, about 800 yards in rear of Hardee's line, my center resting on the Pittsburg road, my right brigade, Gladden's, of Withers' division, thrown forward to the right of the first line, Major-General Hardee's force not being sufficient for the ground to be covered.
In this position we remained, anxiously awaiting the approach of our reserves to advance upon the enemy, now but a short distance in our front. The condition of the roads and other untoward circumstances delayed them until late in the afternoon, rendering it necessary to defer the attack until next morning.
The night was occupied by myself and a portion of my staff in efforts to bring forward provisions for a portion of the troops then surfering from their improvidence. Having been ordered to march with five days' rations, they were found hungry and destitute at the end of three days. This is one of the evils of raw troops, imperfectly organized and badly commanded; a tribute, it seems, we must continue to pay to universal suffrage, the bane of our military organization. In this condition we passed the night, and at dawn of day prepared to move.
The enemy did not give us time to discuss the question of attack, for soon after dawn he commenced a rapid musketry fire on our pickets. The order was immediately given by the commanding general and our lines advanced. Such was the ardor of our troops that it was with great difficulty they could be restrained from closing up and mingling with the first line. Within less than a mile the enemy was encountered in force at the encampments of his advanced positions, but our first line brushed him away, leaving the rear nothing to do but to press on in pursuit. In about one mile more we encountered him in strong force among almost the entire line. His batteries were posted on eminences, with strong infantry supports.
Finding the first line was now unequal to the work before it, being weakened by extension and necessarily broken by the nature of the ground, I ordered my whole force to move up steadily and promptly to its support. The order was hardly necessary, for subordinate commanders, far beyond the reach of my voice and eye in the broken country occupied by us, had promptly acted on the necessity as it arose, and by the time the order could be conveyed the whole line was developed and actively engaged.
From this time, about 7.30 o'clock, until night the battle raged with little intermission. All parts of our line were not constantly engaged, but there was no time without heavy firing in some portion of it. My position for several hours was opposite my left center Ruggles' division), immediately in rear of Hindman's brigade, Hardee's corps.
In moving over the difficult and broken ground the right brigade of Ruggles' division, Colonel Gibson commanding, bearing to the right, became separated from the two left brigades, leaving a broad interval.
Three regiments of Major-General Polk's command opportunely came up and filled this interval. Finding no superior officer with them, I took the liberty of directing their movements in support of Hindman, then, as before, ardently pressing forward and engaging the enemy at every point.
On the ground which had come under my immediate observation we had already captured three large encampments and three batteries of artillery. It was now about 10.30 o'clock.
Our right flank, according to the order of battle, had pressed forward ardently under the immediate direction of the commanding general and swept all before it:. Batteries, encampments, store-houses, munitions in rich profusion, were ours, and the enemy, fighting hard and causing us to pay dearly for our successes, was falling back rapidly at every point. His left, however, opposite our right, was his strongest ground and position, and was disputed with obstinacy.
It was during this severe struggle that my command suffered an irreparable loss in the fall of Brigadier-General Gladden, commanding First Brigade, Withers' division, mortally, and Col. D. W. Adams, Louisiana Regular Infantry, his successor, severely, wounded. Nothing daunted, however, by these losses, this noble division, under its gallant leader, Withers, pressed on with the other troops in its vicinity and carried all before them. Their progress, however, under the obstinate resistance made was not so rapid as was desired in proportion to that of the left, where the enemy was less strong; so that, instead of driving him, as we intended, down the river leaving the left open for him to pass, we had really enveloped him on all sides and were pressing him back upon the landing at Pittsburg.
Meeting at about 10.30 o'clock upon the left center with Major-General Polk, my senior, I promptly yielded to him the important command at that point, and moved toward the right, in the direction in which Brigadier-General Hindman, of Hardee's line, had just led his division. Here we met the most obstinate resistance of the day, the enemy being strongly posted, with infantry and artillery, on an eminence immediately behind a dense thicket. Hindman's command was gallantly led to the attack, but recoiled under a murderous fire. The noble and gallant leader fell, severely wounded, and was borne from the field he had illustrated with a heroism rarely equaled.
The command soon returned to its work, but was unequal to the heavy task. Leaving them to hold their position, I moved farther to the right, and brought up the First Brigade (Gibson), of Ruggles' division, which was in rear of its true position, and threw them forward to attack this same point. A very heavy fire soon opened, and after a short conflict this command fell back in considerable disorder. Rallying the different regiments, by means of my staff officers and escort, they were twice more moved to the attack, only to be driven back by the enemy's sharpshooters occupying the thick cover. This result was due entirely to want of proper handling. Finding that nothing could be done here, after hours of severe exertion and heavy losses, and learning of the fall of our commander, who was leading in person on the extreme right, the troops were so posted as to hold this position, and leaving a competent staff' officer to direct them in my name, I moved rapidly to the extreme right. Here I found a strong force, consisting of three parts, without a common head-- Brigadier-General Breckinridge, with his reserve division, pressing the enemy; Brigadier-General Withers, with his splendid division, greatly exhausted and taking a temporary rest, and Major-General Cheatham, with his division, of Major-General Polk's corps, to their left and rear. These troops were soon put in motion, responding with great alacrity to the command of "Forward! let every order be forward."
It was now probably past 4 o'clock, the descending sun warning us to press our advantage and finish the work before night should compel us to desist. Fairly in motion, these commands again, with a common head and a common purpose, swept all before them. Neither battery nor battalion could withstand their onslaught. Passing through camp after camp, rich in military spoils of every kind, the enemy was driven headlong from every position and thrown in confused masses upon the river bank, behind his heavy artillery and under cover of his gunboats at the Landing. He had left nearly the whole of his light artillery in our hands and some 3,000 or more prisoners, who were cut off from their retreat by the closing in of our troops on the left under Major-General Polk, with a portion of his reserve corps, and Brigadier-General Ruggles, with Anderson's and Pond's brigades of his division.
The prisoners were dispatched to the rear under a proper guard, all else being left upon the field that we might press our advantage. The enemy had fallen back in much confusion and was crowded in unorganized masses on the river bank, vainly striving to cross. They were covered by a battery of heavy guns, well served, and their two gunboats, which now poured a heavy fire upon our supposed positions, for we were entirely hid by the forest. Their fire, though terrific in sound and producing some consternation at first, did us no damage, as the shells all passed over and exploded far beyond our positions.
As soon as our troops could be again formed and put in motion the order was given to move forward at all points and sweep the enemy from the field. The sun was about disappearing, so that little time was left us to finish the glorious work of the day, a day unsurpassed in the history of warfare for its daring deeds, brilliant achievements, and heavy sacrifices.
Our troops, greatly exhausted by twelve hours' incessant fighting, without food, mostly responded to the order with alacrity, and the movement commenced with every prospect of success, though a heavy battery in our front and the gunboats on our right seemed determined to dispute every inch of ground.
Just at this time an order was received from the commanding general to withdraw the forces beyond the enemy's fire. As this was communicated, in many instances, direct to brigade commanders, the troops were soon in motion, and the action ceased. The different commands, mixed and scattered, bivouacked at points most convenient to their positions and beyond the range of the enemy's guns. All firing, except a half-hour shot from the gunboats, ceased, and the whole night was passed by our exhausted men in quiet. Such as had not sought shelter in the camps of the enemy were again drenched before morning by one of those heavy rain-storms which seemed to be our portion for this expedition.
Such was the nature of the ground over which we had fought, and the heavy resistance we had met, that the commands of the whole army were very much shattered. In a dark and stormy night commanders found it impossible to find or assemble their troops, each body or regiment bivouacking where night overtook them.
In this condition morning found us, confronting a large and fresh army, which had arrived during the night, and for the first time the enemy advanced to meet us. He was received by our whole line with a firm and bold front, and the battle again raged.
From this hour until 2 p.m. the action continued with great obstinacy and varying success. Our troops, exhausted by days of incessant fatigue, hunger, and want of rest, and ranks thinned by killed, wounded, and stragglers, mounting in the whole to nearly half our force, fought bravely, but with the want of that animation and spirit which characterized them the preceding day. Many instances of daring and desperate valor, deserving of better success, failed for want of numbers.
My personal services were confined during this day to the extreme left of our line, where my whole time was incessantly occupied. The troops in my front consisted of Ruggles' division, Colonel Trabue's brigade, of Breckinridge's reserve, and other detachments of different corps, all operating to the left of Shiloh Church.
This force advanced in the early morning and pressed the enemy back for nearly a mile, securing for our left flank an eminence in an open field near Owl Creek, which we held until near the close of the conflict against every effort the enemy could make. For this gallant and obstinate defense of our left flank, which the enemy constantly endeavored to force, we were indebted to Colonel Trabue's small brigade, in support of Captain Byrne's battery.
Against overwhelming numbers this gallant command maintained its position from the commencement of the action until about 12 o'clock, when, our forces on the right falling backlit was left, entirely without support, far in front of our whole army. Safety required it to retire.
During this time the right and center were actively engaged. Withers' division, in conjunction with portions of Hardee's and Breckinridge's commands, obstinately disputed every effort of the enemy. But his overwhelming numbers, a very large portion being perfectly fresh troops, the prostration of our men, and the exhaustion of our ammunition, not a battalion being supplied, rendered our position most perilous, and the commanding general ordered a retrograde movement, to commence on the right. This was gradually extended to the left, now held by Ketchum's battery. The troops fell back generally in perfect order and formed line of battle on a ridge about half a mile in the rear, Ketchum retiring slowly as the rear guard of the whole army. The enemy evinced no disposition to pursue.
After some half hour our troops were again put in motion and moved about a mile farther, where line was formed and final arrangements made for the march to our camp at Corinth, the enemy not making the slightest demonstration upon us. This orderly movement, under the circumstances, was as creditable to the troops as any part of the brilliant advance they had made.
A field return of the force carried into action, marked A; a return of killed, wounded, and missing, marked B, and the reports of division commanders, marked C and D, accompanied by those of subordinate commanders, are herewith forwarded.
Of the missing, a few were ascertained to have fallen into the hands of the enemy, mostly wounded. The others were no doubt left dead on the field. The heavy loss sustained by the command will best indicate the obstinacy of the resistance met and the determination with which it was overcome.
For the part performed by the different portions of the corps reference is made to the reports of subordinate commanders.
The division of Brig. Gen. J. M. Withers was gallantly led by that officer from the first gun to the close of the action, and performed service rarely surpassed by any troops on any field.
Brig. Gen. A. H. Gladden, First Brigade of this division, fell early in the action, mortally wounded, while gallantly leading his command in a successful charge. No better soldier lived. No truer man or nobler patriot ever shed his blood in a just cause.
Later in the day Col. D. W. Adams, Louisiana infantry, who had succeeded to this splendid brigade, was desperately wounded while gallantly leading it, and later still Col. Z. C. Deas, Twenty-second Alabama Volunteers, fell pierced by several balls.
Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers, at the head of his gallant Mississippians filled-- he could not have exceeded-- the measure of my expectations. Never were troops and commander more worthy of each other and of their State.
Brig' Gen. J, K. Jackson did good service with his Alabama Brigade on the first day, but, becoming much broken, it was not unitedly in action thereafter. The excellent regiment of Col. Joseph Wheeler, however, joined and did noble service with Gladden's brigade.
Brig. Gen. D. Ruggles, commanding Second Division, was conspicuous throughout both days for the gallantry with which he led his troops. Brig. Gen. Patton Anderson, commanding a brigade of this division, was also among the foremost where, the fighting was hardest, and never failed to overcome whatever resistance was opposed to him. With a brigade composed almost entirely of raw troops his personal gallantry and soldierly bearing supplied the place of instruction and discipline.
It would be a pleasing duty to record the deeds of many other noble soldiers of inferior grade, but as subordinate commanders have done so it, their reports a repetition is unnecessary. I shall be pardoned for making an exception in case of Capt. R. W. Smith, commanding a company of Alabama cavalry, which served as my personal escort during the action. For personal gallantry and intelligent execution of orders, frequently under the heaviest fire, his example has rarely been equaled. To him, his officers, and his men I feel a deep personal as well as official obligation.
By the officers of my staff I was most faithfully, laboriously, and gallantly served throughout both days, as well as on the marches before and after the action. A record of their names is an acknowledgment but justly due:
Maj. George G. Garner, assistant adjutant-general (horse wounded on Sunday); Capt. H. W. Walter, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. G. B. Cooke, assistant adjutant-general; First Lieut. Towson Ellis, regular aide: First Lieut. F.S. Parker, regular aide: Lieut. Col. F. Gardner, C. S. Army; Lieut. Col. W. K. Beard, Florida Volunteers, acting inspector-general (wounded on Monday); Maj. J. H. Hallon-quist, Provisional Army, chief of artillery; Capt. W. O. Williams, Provisional Army, assistant to chief of artillery; Capt. S. H. Lockerr, C. S. Engineers; Capt. H. Oladowski, C. S. Army, chief of ordnance; Maj. J. J. Walker, Provisional Army, chief of subsistence; Maj. L. F. Johnston, Provisional Army, chief quartermaster; Maj. O. P. Chaffee, Provisional Army, assistant quartermaster; Surg. A. J. Foard, C. S. Army, medical director; Surg. J. C. Nott, Provisional Army, medical inspector; Dr. Robert O. Butler, of Louisiana, volunteer for the occasion, rendered excellent service in our field hospitals. Lieut. Col. David Urquhart, aide to the Governor of Louisiana, served me with great intelligence and efficiency as volunteer aide.
Several other officers during the engagement, temporarily separated from their own commands, did me the favor to act on my staff and served me efficiently.
Privates H. Montague and M. Shehan, Louisiana infantry, and Private John Williams, Tenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, orderlies in attendance on myself and staff, though humble in position, rendered services so useful and gallant, that their names are fully entitled to a mention in this report. They encountered the same dangers, and when necessary performed nearly the same duties, as officers of my staff, without the same incentives. In rallying troops, bringing up stragglers, and enforcing orders against refugees they were especially active, energetic, and efficient.
It may not be amiss to refer briefly to the causes it is believed operated to prevent the complete overthrow of the enemy, which we were so near accomplishing, and which would have changed the entire complexion of the war.
The want of proper organization and discipline, and the inferiority in many cases of our officers to the men they were expected to command, left us often without system or order; and the large proportion of stragglers resulting weakened our forces and kept the superior and staff officers constantly engaged in the duties of file-closers. Especially was this the case after the occupancy of each of the enemy's camps, the spoils of which served to delay and greatly to demoralize our men. But no one cause probably contributed so largely to our loss of time-- which was the loss of success-- as the fall of the commanding general. At the moment of this irreparable disaster the plan of battle was being rapidly and successfully executed under his immediate eye and lead on the right.
For want of a common superior to the different commands on that part of the field great delay occurred after this misfortune, and that delay prevented the consummation of the work so gallantly and successfully begun and carried on until the approach of night induced our new commander to recall the exhausted troops for rest and recuperation before a crowning effort on the next morning.
The arrival during the night of a large and fresh army to re-enforce the enemy, equal in numbers at least to our own, frustrated all his well-grounded expectations, and, after a long and bloody contest with superior forces, compelled us to retire from the field, leaving our killed, many of our wounded, and nearly all of the trophies of the previous day's victories.
In this result we have a valuable lesson, by which we should profit-- -never on a battle-field to lose a moment's time, but leaving the killed, wounded, and spoils to those whose special business it is to care for them, to press on with every available man, giving a panic-stricken and retreating foe no time to rally, and reaping all the benefits of a success never complete until every enemy is killed, wounded, or captured. No course so certain as this to afford succor to the wounded and security to the trophies.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. S.-- The transmission of this report has been delayed from time to time, that those from subordinate commanders, with a complete and perfect list of killed, wounded, and missing, might accompany it. In this hope I am yet disappointed to a certain extent.
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