Report of Brig. Gen. P. R. Cleburne, C. S. Army, commanding
April 6-7, 1862..--Battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh, Tenn.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME X/1 [S# 10]
HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, HARDEE'S DIVISION,
May 24, 1862.
T. B. ROY,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Army Corps.
I submit this report of the proceedings of my brigade in the battle of Shiloh on April 6 and 7:
On the morning of the 6th my brigade was formed in line of battle on the left of your division. It consisted of the following regiments, viz: The Twenty-third Tennessee, Lieut. Col. James F. Neill commanding; Sixth Mississippi, Col. J. J. Thornton; Fifth Tennessee, Col. Ben. J. Hill; Twenty-fourth Tennessee, Lieut. Col. Thomas H. Peebles commanding; Fifteenth Arkansas, Lieut. Col. A. K. Patton commanding, and the Second Tennessee, Col. W. B. Bate. The regiments were placed in the following order: Twenty-third Tennessee on the right, Sixth Mississippi next, Fifth Tennessee next, Twenty-fourth Tennessee on the left, Fifteenth Arkansas deployed as skirmishers in front of the line, with their reserve near the left, and the Second Tennessee en échelon 500 yards in rear of my left flank, with a strong line of skirmishers covering the interval between its left and that of the Twenty-fourth Tennessee.
In this formation, soon after daylight, I advanced with the division against the enemy, keeping the proper distance from and regulating my movements by those of General Wood's brigade, which was on my right. I remained myself near the right of my brigade so as to preserve, as far as possible, my connection with the division. Trigg's battery followed near the right of my brigade, but was under the control of the chief of artillery, and left me after the first encounter. I advanced some distance through the woods without opposition. The enemy first showed himself about 400 yards off towards my left flank. I ordered Captain Trigg to send a howitzer in this direction and wake him up with a few shells. Continuing to move forward, the Fifteenth Arkansas engaged the enemy's skirmishers and drove them in on their first line of battle. My skirmishers then fell back on their reserve.
I was soon in sight of the enemy's encampments, behind the first of which he had formed his line of battle. He was very advantageously posted and overlapped my left flank by at least half a brigade. His line was lying down behind the rising ground on which his tents were pitched, and opposite my right he had made a breastwork of logs and bales of hay. Everywhere his musketry and artillery at short range swept the open spaces between the tents in his front with an iron storm that threatened certain destruction to every living thing that would dare to cross them. An almost impassable morass, jutting out from the foot of the height on which the enemy's tents stood, impeded the advance of my center, and finally caused a wide opening in my line. The Fifth Tennessee and the regiments on its left kept to the left of this swamp, and the Sixth Mississippi and Twenty-third Tennessee advanced on its right. My own horse bogged down in it and threw me, and it was with great difficulty I got out. My brigade was soon on the verge of the encampments and the battle began in earnest. Trigg's battery, posted on some high ground in the woods in my rear, opened over the heads of my men, but so thick were the leaves, he could only see in one direction, while the enemy were playing on him from several. The result was he was unable to accomplish much, and was ordered to a new position. I had no artillery under my command from this time forward.
The Sixth Mississippi and Twenty-third Tennessee charged through the encampments on the enemy. The line was necessarily broken by the standing tents. Under the terrible fire much confusion followed, and a quick and bloody repulse was the consequence.
The Twenty-third Tennessee was with difficulty rallied about 100 yards in the rear; again and again the Sixth Mississippi, unaided, charged the enemy's line, and it was only when the regiment had lost 300 officers and men killed and wounded, out of an aggregate of 425, that it yielded and retreated in disorder over its own dead and dying. Colonel Thornton and Major Lowry, the field officers, were both wounded. It would be useless to enlarge on the courage and devotion of the Sixth Mississippi. The facts as recorded speak louder than any words of mine.
Col. Mat. Martin, former commander of the Twenty-third Tennessee, arrived on the field just as his old regiment broke; though not then on duty, he voluntarily assisted me in rallying and inspiring the men with renewed determination, and remained with it until severely wounded at a subsequent period of the day.
While my right was reforming I galloped around the morass to my left, which, after a desperate fight and heavy loss, caused chiefly by the fact that the enemy flanked me on the left, had driven him back at all points, and was now in possession of his first line of encampments.
Here the Second Tennessee, coming up on the left, charged through a murderous cross-fire. The gallant major, William R. Doak, fell mortally wounded, and the colonel, W. B. Bate, had his leg broken by a Minie ball. Tennessee can never mourn for a nobler band than fell this day in her Second Regiment.
Here the Twenty-fourth Tennessee won a character for steady valor, and its commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Peebles, showed that he possessed all the qualifications of a commander in the field.
Here the Fifteenth Arkansas inflicted heavy loss upon the enemy, and lost many good men, and its major, J. T. Harris. He scorned to pay any regard to his personal safety; he moved up within pistol range of the enemy, and was shot dead while firing on them with his revolver. Finding my advance on the left wing for the present unemployed, I galloped back to my right. About half of the Twenty-third Tennessee and 60 men of the Sixth Mississippi had reformed. With these I advanced directly to my front, through the enemy's encampment, the enemy having retreated as soon as my left had broken their right. Colonel Patterson, of the Eighth Arkansas, connected his regiment with my remnants of two regiments, and remained fighting with me until about 12 or I o'clock.
At this time Captain Harper, commanding the remnant of the Sixth Mississippi, marched it to the rear. Its terrible loss in the morning, the want of all its field and most of its company officers, had completely disorganized it and unfitted it for further service. I saw it no more during the battle, but would respectfully refer you to the reports of Col. J. J. Thornton for its after proceedings.
Soon after this I ordered the Twenty-third Tennessee to the rear, with directions to reunite with other portions of the regiment which had got separated from it in the repulse of the morning. I was now left without a command on this part of the field, and was proceeding along the rear of our line to join my left wing, when I met General Hardee. I reported my situation to him. He ordered me to collect and bring into the fight a large body of stragglers who were thronging the encampments in our rear. This, after great exertion, I partially succeeded in doing, but finding this kind of a force would not stand anything like a heavy fire, I determined to rejoin my own command on the left, which I did about 2 p.m.
I found the Fifth and Twenty-fourth Tennessee and Fifteenth Arkansas halted under the brow of an abrupt hill. The Second Tennessee had suffered so severely in its charge of the morning it had to be moved back to reform. Moving forward immediately after I lost sight of it, and it did not connect itself with my brigade any more during the fight. I would respectfully refer you to Lieutenant-Colonel Goodall's report for its after proceedings.
On reaching the ground I ordered an immediate advance. It was delayed, however, by one of our own batteries firing across the line of my intended advance. As soon as I succeeded in stopping this fire I sent out skirmishers and pushed directly forward. The Twenty-third Tennessee Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Neil, came up at this juncture and advanced with me.
After moving forward about half a mile I was fired on by the enemy again, my skirmishers driven in, and soon my main body (the Fifteenth Arkansas excepted) was heavily engaged. This engagement lasted half an hour, when the enemy gave way.
My men were out of ammunition. Owing to the nature of the ground my ammunition wagons could not follow, so I had to send a strong fatigue party back, and the men carried boxes of ammunition on their shoulders up and down the steep hills for more than a mile. As soon as supplied with ammunition I again advanced, and continued to move forward until checked by a heavy fire of artillery from the enemy's field artillery and gunboats. When this firing ceased I again advanced until halted by an aid of General Beauregard, who informed me we were not to approach nearer to the river.
It was now dark, so I returned, and encamped in one of the enemy's encampments near the Bark road.
It rained heavily during the night. Every fifteen minutes the enemy threw two shells from his gunboats, some of which burst close around my men, banishing sleep from the eyes of a few, but falling chiefly among their own wounded, who were strewn thickly between my camp and the river. History records few instances of more reckless inhumanity than this.
Soon after daylight on Monday morning I received notice that the enemy were pushing forward and driving in our cavalry pickets. It now became plain Buell had arrived and we had a fresh army to fight. In a few moments I received orders from General Hardee to advance on the Bark road. I reformed my brigade and fired off my wet guns.
My brigade was sadly reduced. From near 2,700 I now numbered about 800. Two regiments, the Second Tennessee and Sixth Mississippi, were absent altogether. Hundreds of my best men were dead or in the hospitals, and, I blush to add, hundreds of others had run off early in the fight of the day before--some through cowardice and some loaded with plunder from the Yankee encampments.
With the gallant few still with me I advanced about a mile to a place where I found a line of battle. It was halted, and, I was informed, was a part of General Breckinridge's command. I formed on the left of this line, halted, and ordered my men to lie down. I could plainly see the enemy's line in my front and that it stretched beyond my left as far as the eye could see.
At this time a battery of six guns came up in my rear and offered its assistance. I think it was the Washington Battery.
About half a mile to my left, in a neck of woods, I could see troops moving from the direction of the enemy and passing far in rear of my line. Soon a heavy fight commenced in this direction. I endeavored to discover the character of these troops, but could not. Finally Colonel Kelly, of your division, rode up, and informed me they were enemies. The battery immediately opened on their flanks and soon cleared them out of the woods.
An officer now bore me an order from General Breckinridge to move forward with his line and attack the force in our front. I sent back word that I was completely without support and outflanked on the left and would be destroyed if I advanced. I received for answer that the order was from General Bragg, that it was positive, and I must immediately advance. I did so, but had not gotten far before a battery on the left of General Breckinridge's line commenced firing across my front, obliging me to halt.
The enemy soon replied with rifled guns. This duel was carried on diagonally across the line of my proposed advance. I moved my line forward into a valley that separated me from the enemy, so as to prevent the Washington Battery to take part in the fight by firing over my line. The enemy brought up another battery, and for half an hour an artillery fight was carried on over my line the fiercest I saw during the day. The whole line of infantry on my right had halted and were merely spectators of the fight.
Here I had some men killed by limbs cut from the trees by our own artillery. It soon became apparent that our artillery was overmatched. It ceased firing, and the whole line of infantry charged the enemy. There was a very thick undergrowth here of young trees, which prevented my men from seeing any distance, yet offered them no protection from the storm of bullets and grape shot that swept through it. I could not see what was going on to my right or left, but my men were dropping all around before the fire of an unseen foe.
Here Captain Cowley, acting major of the Fifteenth Arkansas, a true and tried officer, was shot in the head, and Lieutenant-Colonel Neill, of the Twenty-third Tennessee, was shot through the body.
My brigade was repulsed and almost completely routed in this unfortunate attack. As far as I know the Fifteenth Arkansas was the only regiment rallied anywhere near the scene of disaster. In the face of a deadly fire and an exultant foe the regiment reformed near two abandoned cannons and fell back in order behind a ridge. From this point, seeing some re-enforcements coming up, I led them in a charge on the advancing foe. The enemy fled back faster than they came.
In this charge Lieutenant-Colonel Patton, the sole remaining field officer of the Fifteenth Arkansas, was shot dead. He did his duty nobly in this battle and secured the love and confidence of every man in his regiment. The Fifteenth Arkansas continued to pursue the enemy until out of ammunition, when 58 men, all that were still together, fell back to replenish.
My brigade was now completely scattered and disorganized. Many of my officers and men continued fighting in the ranks of other commands or on their own responsibility, but not again in any organization which I could control.
For myself, I endeavored to rally stragglers, form them in lines, and do what else I could to secure the retreat. Fortunately the enemy had suffered too severely to pursue, and drew out of the fight while yet we were in possession of one-third of their encampment.
I remained on the field destroying property which could not be carried off and trying to succor the wounded until after sunset, when by General Hardee's orders I left for Corinth.
My brigade, including Trigg's and Calvert's batteries, numbered on the morning of the 6th 2,750 men; out of this number 1,000 were killed and wounded and 32 missing.
This was the first battle my men were ever engaged in. They led the advance of our army on Shiloh and engaged and repulsed the enemy's cavalry the Friday before the battle. They fought in the foremost line both days and were never rested or relieved for a moment. They captured many stands of colors and assisted in the capture of General Prentiss' Federal brigade on the left.
I would like to do justice to the many acts of individual valor witnessed during the fight, but they were too numerous to mention. Privates William Dixon, William Pierce, W. H. Kinsey, H. A. Sales, Sergt. T. H. Osborne, and Lieutenant Josey, of the Fifteenth Arkansas; Col. Ben. Hill, of the Fifth Tennessee; Lieutenant-Colonel Peebles, of the Twenty-fourth Tennessee; Lieut. R. H. Keeble, Captain Ridley, and Lieutenant-Colonel Neil, of the Twenty-third Tennessee, were among the number.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
P. R. CLEBURNE,
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