Report of Maj. Gen. Don
Carlos Buell, U. S. Army, Commanding Army of the Ohio
At the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh, Tenn
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
Field of Shiloh, April 15, 1862.
Capt. N. H. McLEAN,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of the Mississippi.
SIR: The rear division of the army under my command, which had been delayed a considerable time in rebuilding the Duck River Bridge, left Columbia on the 3d instant. I left the evening of that day, and arrived at Savannah on the evening of the 5th. General Nelson, with his division, which formed the advance, arrived the same day. The other divisions marched with intervals of about 6 miles.
On the morning of the 6th the firing of cannon and musketry was heard in the direction of this place. Apprehending that a serious engagement had commenced, I went to General Grant's headquarters to get information as to the best means of reaching the battle-field with the division that had arrived. At the same time orders were dispatched to the divisions in rear to leave their trains and push forward by forced marches. I learned that General Grant had just started, leaving orders for General Nelson to march to the river opposite Pittsburg Landing to be ferried across. On examination of the road up the river I discovered it to be impracticable for artillery, and General Nelson was directed to leave his to be carried forward by steamers.
The impression existed at Savannah that the firing was only an affair of outposts, the same thing having occurred for the two or three previous days; but as it continued I determined to go at once to the scene of action, and accordingly started with my chief of staff, Colonel Fry, on a steamer, which I had ordered to get under steam. As we proceeded up the river groups of soldiers were seen upon the west bank, and it soon became evident that they were stragglers from the army that was engaged. 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 swarmed with a confused mass of men of various regiments. The number could not have been less than 4,000 or 5,000, and later in the day it became much greater.
Finding General 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 these were mingled 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 mean time the enemy had made such progress against our troops that his artillery and musketry began 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 Colonel Ammen's brigade at this opportune moment. It was immediately posted to meet the attack at that point, and, with a battery of artillery which happened to be on the ground and was brought into action, opened fire on the enemy and repulsed him. The action of the gunboats also contributed very much to that result. The attack at that point was not renewed, night having come on, and the firing ceased on both sides.
In the mean time the remainder of General Nelson's division crossed, and General Crittenden's arrived from Savannah by steamers. After examining the ground as well as was possible at night in front of the line on which General Grant's troops had formed and as far to the right as General Sherman's division, I directed Nelson's and Crittenden's divisions to form in front of that line, and move forward as soon as it Was light in the morning. During the night and early the following morning Captain Bartlett's Ohio battery, Captain Mendenhall's regular battery, and Captain Terrill's regular battery, Fifth Artillery, arrived. General McCook arrived at Savannah during the night of the 6th, and reached the field of battle early in the morning of the 7th. I knew that the other divisions could not arrive in time for the action that day.
The patch of country on which the battles of the 6th and 7th were fought is called Shiloh, from the little church of that name which stands near the center of it. It consists of an undulating table-land, elevated some 80 or 100 feet above the river bottom. Along the Tennessee River to the east it breaks into abrupt ravines, and towards the south, along Lick Creek, which empties into the Tennessee River some 3 miles above Pittsburg Landing, rises into a range of hills of some height, whose slopes are gradual towards the battle-field and somewhat abrupt towards Lick Creek. Owl Creek, rising quite near the source, e of Lick Creek, flows to the northeast around the battle-field into Snake Creek, which empties into the Tennessee River 4 miles below Lick Creek. The drainage is mainly from the Lick Creek Ridge and the table-land into Owl Creek.
Coming from Corinth, the principal road crosses Lick Creek at two points some 12 miles from its mouth, and separates into three or four principal branches, which enter the table-land from the south at a distance of about a mile apart. Generally the face of the country is covered with woods, through which troops can pass without great difficulty, though occasionally the undergrowth is dense. Small farms or cultivated fields of from 20 to 80 acres occur now and then, but as a general thing the country is in forest. My entire ignorance of the various roads and of the character of the country at the time rendered it impossible to anticipate the probable dispositions of the enemy, and the woods were always sufficient to screen his preparatory movements from observation.
Soon after 5 o'clock on the morning of the 7th General Nelson's and General Crittenden's divisions, the only ones yet arrived on the ground, moved promptly forward to meet the enemy. Nelson's division, marching in line of battle, soon came upon his pickets, drove them in, and at about 6 o'clock received the fire of his artillery. The division was here halted and Mendenhall's battery brought into action to reply, while Crittenden's division was being put into position on the right of Nelson's. Bartlett's battery was posted in the center of Crittenden's division in a commanding position, opposite which the enemy was discovered to be formed in force. By this time McCook's division arrived on the ground, and was immediately formed on the right of Crittenden's. Skirmishers were thrown to the front and a strong body of them to guard our left flank, which, though somewhat protected by rough ground, it was supposed the enemy might attempt to turn, and, in fact, did, but was handsomely repulsed, with great loss. Each brigade furnished its own reserve, and in addition Boyle's brigade, from Crittenden's division, though it formed at first in the line, was kept somewhat back when the line advanced, to be used as occasion might require. I found on the ground parts of about two regiments--perhaps 1,000 men--and subsequently a similar fragment came up of General Grant's force. The first I directed to act with General McCook's attack and the second was similarly employed on the left. I saw other straggling troops of General Grant's force immediately on General McCook's right, and some firing had already commenced there. I have no direct knowledge of the disposition of the remainder of General Grant's forces nor is it my province to speak of them. Those that came under my direction in the way I have stated rendered willing and efficient service during the day.
The force under my command occupied a line of about 1 miles. In front of Nelson's division was an open field, partially screened toward his right by a skirt of woods, which extended beyond the enemy's line, with a thick undergrowth in front of the left brigade of Crittenden's division; then an open field in front of Crittenden's right and McCook's left, and in front of McCook's right woods again, with a dense undergrowth. The ground, nearly level in front of Nelson, formed a hollow in front of Crittenden, and fell into a small creek or ravine, which empties into Owl Creek, in front of McCook.
What I afterward learned was the Hamburg road (which crosses Lick Creek a mile from its mouth) passed perpendicularly through the line of battle near Nelson's left. On a line slightly oblique to ours, and beyond the open field, the enemy was formed, with a battery in front of Nelson's left, a battery commanding the woods in front of Crittenden's left and flanking the fields in front of Nelson, a battery commanding the same woods and the field in front of Crittenden's right and McCook's left, and a battery in front of McCook's right. A short distance in rear of the enemy's left, on high, open ground, were the encampments of McClernand's and Sherman's divisions, which the enemy held.
While my troops were getting into position on the right the artillery fire was kept up between Mendenhall's battery and the enemy's second battery with some effect. Bartlett's battery was hardly in position before the enemy's third battery opened fire on that part of the line, and when, very soon after our line advanced, with strong bodies of skirmishers in front, the action became general and continued with severity during the greater part of the day and until the enemy was driven from the field.
The obliquity of our line, the left being thrown forward, brought Nelson's division first into action, and it became very hotly engaged at an early hour. A charge of the Nineteenth Brigade from Nelson's right, led by its commander, Colonel Hazen, reached the enemy's second battery, but the brigade sustained a heavy loss from the fire of the enemy's batteries, and was unable to maintain its advantage against the heavy infantry force that came forward to oppose it. The enemy recovered the battery and followed up his momentary advantage by throwing a heavy force of infantry into the woods in front of Crittenden's left.
The left brigade (Col. W. S. Smith) of that division advanced into the woods, repulsed the enemy, and took several prisoners. In the mean time Captain Terrill's battery, Fifth Artillery, which had just landed, reached the field, and was ordered into action near the left, with Nelson's division, which was very heavily pressed by the greater numbers of the enemy. It belonged, properly, to McCook's division. It took position near the Hamburg road, in the open ground in front of the enemy's right, and at once began to act with decided effect upon the tide of battle in that quarter. The enemy's right battery was silenced. Ammen's brigade, which was on the left, advanced in good order upon the enemy's right, but was checked for some time by his endeavor to turn our left flank and by his strong counterattack in front. Captain Terrill, who in the mean time had taken an advanced position, was compelled to retire, leaving one caisson, in which every horse was killed or disabled. It was very soon recovered. Having been re-enforced by a regiment from General Boyle's brigade, Nelson's division again moved forward and forced the enemy to abandon entirely his position. This success flanked the enemy's position at his second and third batteries, from which he was soon driven, with the loss of several pieces of artillery, by the concentrated fire of Terrill's and Mendenhall's batteries and an attack from Crittenden's division in front. The enemy made a second stand some 800 yards in rear of this position and opened fire with his artillery. Mendenhall's battery was thrown forward, silenced the battery, and it was captured by General Crittenden's division, the enemy retreating from it.
In the mean time the division of General McCook on the right, which became engaged somewhat later in the morning than the divisions on the left, had made steady progress until it drove the enemy's left from the hotly-contested field. The action was commenced in this division by General Rousseau's brigade, which drove the enemy in front of it from his first position and captured a battery. The line of attack of this division caused a considerable widening of the space between it and Crittenden's right. It was also outflanked on its right by the line of the enemy, who made repeated strong attacks on its flanks, but was always gallantly repulsed. The enemy made his last decided stand in front of this division in the woods beyond Sherman's camp.
Two brigades of General Wood's division arrived just at the close of the battle, but only one of them (Colonel Wagner's) in time to participate actively in the pursuit, which it continued for about a mile and until halted by my order. Its skirmishers became engaged for a few minutes with skirmishers (cavalry and infantry) of the enemy's rear guard, which made a momentary stand. It was also fired upon by the enemy's artillery on its right flank, but without effect. It was well-conducted by its commander, and showed great steadiness.
The pursuit was continued no farther that day. I was without cavalry, and the different corps had become a good deal scattered in a pursuit over a country which screened the movements of' the enemy, and the roads of which I knew practically nothing.
In the beginning of the pursuit, thinking it probable the enemy had retired partly by the Hamburg road, I had ordered Nelson's division to follow as far as Lick Creek, on that road, from which, I afterwards learned, the direct Corinth road was separated by a difficult ravine which empties into Lick Creek. I therefore occupied myself with examining the ground and getting the different divisions into position, which was not effected until some time after dark.
The following morning, in pursuance of the directions of General Grant, General Wood was sent forward with two of his brigades and a battery of artillery to discover the position of the enemy, and press him if he should be found in retreat. General Sherman, with about the same force from General Grant's army, was on the same service, and had a spirited skirmish with the enemy's cavalry, driving it back. The main force was found to have retreated beyond Lick Creek, and our troops returned at night.
The loss of the forces under my command is 263 killed, 1,816 wounded, 88 missing; total, 2,167. The trophies are twenty pieces of artillery, a greater number of caissons, and a considerable number of small-arms. Many of the cannon were recaptured from the loss of the previous day. Several stand of colors were also recaptured.
There were no idlers in the battle of the 7th. Every portion of the army did its work. The batteries of Captains Terrill and Mendenhall were splendidly handled and served; that of Captain Bartlett was served with great spirit and gallantry, though with less decisive results.
I specially commend to the favor of the Government, for their distinguished gallantry and good conduct Brig. Gen. A. McD. McCook, commanding Second Division` Brig. Gen. William Nelson, commanding Fourth Division; Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden, commanding Fifth Division; Brig. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau, commanding Fourth Brigade; Brig. Gen. J. T. Boyle, commanding Eleventh Brigade; Col. J. Ammen, Twenty-fourth Ohio, commanding Tenth Brigade; Col. W. S. Smith, Thirteenth Ohio, commanding Fourteenth Brigade; Col. E. N. Kirk, Thirty-fourth Illinois, commanding Fifth Brigade; Col. W.H. Gibson, Forty-ninth Ohio, temporarily commanding Sixth Brigade; Capt. W. R. Terrill, Fifth Artillery; Capt. John Mendenhall, Fourth Artillery; Capt. Joseph Bartlett, Ohio Volunteer Battery. For the many other officers who won honorable distinction I refer to the reports of the division, brigade, and regimental commanders, transmitted herewith, as also for more detailed information of the services of the different corps. I join cordially in the commendations bestowed by those officers on those under their command. The gallantry of many of them came under my personal observation.
The members of my staff, Col. James B. Fry, chief of staff; Capt. J. M. Wright, assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. C. L. Fitzhugh, Fourth Artillery, aide-de-camp; Lieut. A. F. Rockwell, New York Chasseurs, aide-de-camp; Lieut. T. J. Bush, Twenty-fourth Kentucky, aide-de-camp; Capt. J. H. Gilman, Nineteenth Infantry, inspector of artillery; Capt. E. Gay, Sixteenth Infantry, inspector of cavalry; Capt. H. C. Bankhead, Fifth Infantry, inspector of infantry; and Capt. Nathaniel Michler, Topographical Engineers, were distinguished for gallant bearing throughout the battle, and rendered valuable service. The gallant deportment of my orderlies, Privates A. J. Williamson, Fourth Cavalry, and N.M. Smith, J. R. Hewitt, J. A. Stevenson, and V. B. Hummel, of the Anderson Troop, also deserves to be mentioned. I am particularly indebted to Colonel Fry, chief of staff, for valuable assistance in the battle, as well as for the ability and industry with which he has at all times performed the important duties of his position. Surgeon Murray, medical director, always assiduous in the discharge of his duties, was actively engaged on the field in taking the best care of the wounded the circumstances admitted of. Capt. A. C. Gillem, assistant quartermaster, is entitled to great credit for his energy and industry in providing transportation for the troops from Savannah. Lieut. Col. James Oakes, Fourth Cavalry, inspector of cavalry, and Capt. C. C. Gilbert, First Infantry, acting inspector-general, who have rendered zealous and valuable service in their positions, were detained at Savannah, and unable to be present in the action.
The troops which did not arrive in time for the battle, General Thomas' and part of General Wood's divisions (a portion of the latter, as I have previously stated, took part in the pursuit, and the remainder arrived in the evening), are entitled to the highest praise for the untiring energy with which they pressed forward night and day to share the dangers of their comrades. One of those divisions (General Thomas') had already under his command made its name honorable by one of the most memorable victories of the war--Mill Springs--on which the tide of success seemed to turn steadily in favor of the Union.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. C. BUELL,
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