Report of Col. Randall L. Gibson, Thirteenth Louisiana Infantry,
commanding First Brigade, with application for Court of Inquiry.
April 6-7, 1862..--Battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh, Tenn.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME X/1 [S# 10]
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE, RUGGLES' DIVISION,
Corinth, Miss., April 12, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Brigade, Ruggles' division, composed of the Nineteenth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, Col. B. L. Hodge; First Arkansas Regiment, Col. James F. Fagan; Thirteenth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, Maj. A. P. Avegno commanding, and the Fourth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, Col. H. W. Allen, in the action of the 6th and 7th instant:
At daybreak on the morning of the 6th the brigade was posted on the right of Ruggles' division and held in double column at half distance by command of Brigadier-General Ruggles, the right resting on the Old Ridge road. Its position was afterwards changed farther to the right, the left brought up to the Old Ridge road by order of Major-General Bragg. I was then ordered to march rapidly, by the right flank, to the support of Brigadier-General Hindman. In the execution of this order we passed within reach of a battery of the enemy on our left, from the fire of which several casualties resulted.
Proceeding 'again by the left flank in line of battle, we marched through the enemy's camp and up to the battery, which was taken at the instant by the first line. It was at this point that we first opened fire on the enemy.
I was then commanded by Major-General Bragg to attack the enemy in a position to the front and right. The brigade moved forward in fine style, marching through an open field under a heavy fire and half way up an elevation covered with an almost impenetrable thicket, upon which the enemy was posted. On the left a battery opened that raked our flank, while a steady fire of musketry extended along the entire front. Under this combined fire our line was broken and the troops fell back; but they were soon rallied and advanced to the contest. Four times the position was charged and four times the assault proved unavailing. The strong and almost inaccessible position of the enemy-- his infantry well covered in ambush and his artillery skillfully posted and efficiently served-- was found to be impregnable to infantry alone. We were repulsed. Our men, however, bore their repulse with steadiness. When a larger force of infantry and artillery was moved to flank this position on the right, a part of the brigade formed on the left of the assaulting line, and a part held a position to the rear in the old field near by. The enemy was driven from his position. From this his retreat became precipitate, and in obedience to orders we moved with the main body of the army toward the river.
I was again commanded by Brigadier-General Ruggles to retire my command from the fire of the gunboats. In this movement considerable disorder ensued, owing to the fact that all the troops were closely massed near the river. My whole command was kept together for the night, except the Nineteenth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, Col. B. L. Hodge, who, in spite of my exertions and his own, did not succeed in reporting to me until after the battle of the 7th.
We had hardly taken position in line of battle, under the immediate supervision of Brigadier-General Ruggles, early on the morning of the 7th instant, when I was ordered to advance a certain distance and then oblique to the right. An abrupt descent of 50 or 60 feet, perhaps more, from a ridge to a swamp, added very much to the fatigue of the men and disturbed very decidedly the regularity and rapidity of this movement.
At the command, however, to charge a battery, on the right flank of which we were marching, they advanced with enthusiasm, and captured a field battery from the enemy under a galling fire. Finding that a battery was playing upon us from the right, while the enemy was attempting to throw forward a heavy force on our left, with a view of assailing our own battery to our rear and circumventing my entire command. I withdrew the brigade into a ravine and threw forward a portion of the troops to my left, whose steady fire drove back the advancing lines. I also sent forward officers to bring down the battery we had captured from the summit of the hill upon which our flag was posted, with a view of opening its guns on the enemy, but the want of ammunition prevented this.
At about this moment I was ordered to proceed in all haste to the position assigned me in the morning, near which the battle was now hotly contested. The route we were obliged to take was at times very abrupt, thickly covered with undergrowth, and filled with swampy bottoms. My men were considerably jaded and scattered in the rapid march, but just so soon as they could be formed in line and replenished with ammunition they were hurried into the fight.
Under the inspiration of the presence of our superior officers (Generals Beauregard and Ruggles), men already sinking with fatigue or wounds rallied again and entered the lines. It was impossible to pre serve much order in this movement. Colonel Fagan (First Arkansas) led his regiment to the charge; Major Avegno the Thirteenth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter (Colonel Allen having been wounded the day previous) rallied the Fourth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers. The regiments were somewhat mixed, but altogether the brigade moved forward.
We continued the conflict until the forces generally retired, and at the last position, near the hospital, it was gratifying to see so many officers and men of the brigade formed in line ready to meet the enemy. Under orders from Major-General Bragg I moved to the rear and encamped at Monterey.
Such was the part, briefly stated, borne by the First Brigade in the engagements of the 6th and 7th instant. It is not my duty to laud either the officers or the men. A report annexed will show the loss it sustained in killed, wounded, and missing. That regiments thrown together for the first time should have moved throughout the battle with precision and celerity was scarcely to be expected; but that their disposition was good cannot be questioned. A loss of nearly one-third of the entire command in killed, wounded, and missing of itself proclaims the steadfast valor of the men. The names of the brave dead will be treasured in the hearts of their countrymen. Their gallant deeds shall immortalize the last scene of Confederate triumph and inspire their surviving comrades with the desire to emulate their examples.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson, Captains Gibson, McMahon, and several other officers of the First Arkansas, and Captain Hilliard, of the Fourth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, fell, at the head of their men on the first day, as patriots fall, for country and fireside. They were noble soldiers.
On the second day the gallant Captain Tooraen was killed while urging forward his men; Maj. A. P. Avegno was dangerously wounded while rallying his command. Colonels Hodge (Nineteenth), H. W. Allen (Fourth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers), and Fagan (First Arkansas) were everywhere, stimulating officers and men to do their duty to their country. So likewise were Lieut. Col. S. E. Hunter (Fourth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers) and Captain Dubroca (Thirteenth Regiment Volunteers), while in command of their respective regiments.
Many of the companies of the different regiments were left without officers. In the capture of the battery on the second day the officers and men discovered the qualities of true and heroic soldiers. It was in the first charge on the 6th that Lieut. Ben. King was mortally wounded. Although recently promoted to the staff of Brigadier-General Ruggles, he was acting as my aide, and up to the moment that he received his mortal wound bore himself with great coolness and gallantry. He had long been associated with me, and his loss deprived his country of one of its most accomplished, brave, and devoted officers. He fell in the discharge of his duty, and was borne from the field without a word, but of good cheer to those near him.
Among the living, where all acted well, it would perhaps be invidious to mention any who may have rendered themselves more conspicuous than others. Mr. Robert Pugh, as my aide, on the 6th, rendered valuable services, and Lieut. H. H. Bein, acting assistant adjutant-general, also during the same day was of very great assistance to me.
The loss of so many brave officers and true men, together with the hardships endured in falling back to this point, had at first a depressing effect on the command, but it is rallying very fast, and will again move forward with resolution to meet our defeated foe.
I have the honor to remain, captain, your obedient servant,
RANDALL LEE GIBSON,
Colonel, Commanding First Brigade, Ruggles' Division.
HEADQUARTERS ADAMS' BRIGADE,
August 1, 1863.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.:
I had the honor to transmit, through Brigadier-General Pillow, early in the month of April last, an application for a court of inquiry, of which the inclosed is a copy. I was obliged to transmit the same a great distance through the mail, and fearing that it may have been miscarried, send forward a copy. I also inclose the statements of Mr. Pugh, of Assumption Parish, La., he acting as my aide-de-camp on the occasion alluded to, and that of Lieut. H. H. Bein, adjutant of the Thirteenth Louisiana Volunteers. I send forward also the statement of Col. H. W. Allen, who commanded the Fourth Louisiana Volunteers at Shiloh, and that of Capt. E. M. Dubroca, who commanded the Thirteenth Louisiana Volunteers on Monday.
Yours, very respectfully,
RANDALL LEE GIBSON,
[Inclosure No. 1.]
HEADQUARTERS ADAMS' BRIGADE,
Near Morton, Scott County, Miss., August 1, 1863.
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: An extract from General Bragg's report of the battle of Shiloh was sent to me a few days ago by an officer of the Army, and I find myself and command censured in it, more especially myself, as being in command of the brigade to which my regiment had been assigned. More than a year has elapsed since the battle of Shiloh; several officers of important positions were killed in it, among them Maj. A. P. Avegno, commanding one of the regiments, and Lieut. Ben. King, acting as my chief staff officer. Others are in distant parts of the country. Col. H. W. Allen and Col. B. L. Hodge being in Louisiana, and Col. J. F. Fagan in Arkansas. But as I regard the report of General Bragg as unjust to myself and the commanding officers of regiments and as erroneous in certain matters of fact, I have the honor earnestly to solicit that a court of inquiry be appointed, and that Colonels Allen, Hodge, and Fagan, with Mr. Robert Pugh, of Assumption, La., acting as my aide-de-camp, and Lieut. H. H. Bein, be brought before it, in order that a full and fair investigation may be had.
Until such a court can be convened I trust I shall be pardoned a brief and respectful reference in the way of explanation, and protest to the points of censure embraced by the general then commanding our corps.
It is remarked by him at the outset that the brigade was in rear of its proper position. I have the honor to state that a short time before the occasion referred to by the general I had received instructions from him to move more slowly and to keep at a greater distance from the front line. Although this order was delivered to me by a staff officer when in the camp of the enemy, and from which he had just been driven; and while all preparations had been made to charge a battery from which we were sustaining frequent casualties, I immediately observed it, and at once halted the command. Owing to the thickly-wooded character of the country through which we were marching I was obliged frequently to halt, and once even to move back a short distance, when I found I was reaching the first line and then move forward. I was endeavoring, notwithstanding the desire of us all to press forward, to obey the order rigidly, presuming, of course, that should he wish me to move faster, as above, or even more slowly, I would be directed accordingly.
In the next place the general speaks of the brigade as having, after a brief attack on the enemy in a particular position which I was ordered to advance against, given way in disorder, and having been rallied by his staff officers, and as having been held in check by skirmishers. The position alluded to was a densely-wooded hill, surrounded by a ravine, and extending farther than the limits of our line to the right and left. In the first and second charges on this position I was near the left center of the brigade, and, together with Colonel Allen and Major Avegno, twice rallied, their regiments recoiling not so much from the infantry fire, heavy as that was, but from the severe fire of a battery on a commanding point, and sweeping our line whenever we advanced.
Having just at this time received intelligence from Colonel Fagan that he likewise had been cut up and forced back, I relinquished the left to Colonel Allen, under orders to press forwards and having sent the same orders to Colonel Hodge on the extreme right, Colonel Fagan and myself repeatedly led his very large regiment to the attack. The movement forward was always made simultaneously by all the regiments. We succeeded at one time in driving the enemy back a considerable distance, but the concentration of fire, especially on our flanks, was so great that the command, unaided by artillery, could not carry the position. I had sent Mr. Robert Pugh to the general after the first assault for artillery; but the request was not granted, and in place of it he brought me orders to advance again on the enemy. In the execution of this order we charged repeatedly, as described, and were repulsed on account of his severe artillery fire, advantageous position, superior numbers, and the almost impenetrable thicket through which we had to advance. The loss of officers and men, exceeding that of nearly any brigade at Shiloh, shows with what steadiness and courage the attacks were made. Nor were they brief. They were repeated until the officers reported many of their men as having exhausted their ammunition. Such was the case with Colonel Fagan's regiment, with which I was at the time. The loss of officers of every grade and of men heat been heavy; most of the mounted officers had their horses killed. My chief staff officer and assistant, Lieut. Ben. King, was mortally wounded; and the next, Lieut. H. H. Bein, was severely injured. Mr. Pugh was dismounted, and the detail of cavalry with me had disappeared. The regiments were very large, and the growth so thick as to prevent any one from seeing, or being seen, but for a short distance. It was clear to all the commanding officers present and who had participated in the movements that we were but making a vain sacrifice of the lives of the troops.
Under this state of facts the command fell back to an open field, about 100 yards from the enemy's infantry fire, to reform and replenish ammunition. The regiments were rallied by their own officers. At this point staff officers came riding over the open field from the position where I understood General Bragg had been posted. They brought me orders to develop to the right; but as I was taking the necessary steps to do this, being without staff officers and without a horse, I was ordered to hold a position slightly to our rear, with the two right regiments, at all hazards, as the enemy was supposed to be advancing. With Colonels Fagan and Hodge I remained in this position for a short while, when I was informed that General Bragg, hearing of General Johnston's death, had gone to the extreme right. The instant I ascertained this I again took charge of the whole command, moved forward, nor halted until I came near the river, where I met General Ruggles.
I received no more orders from General Bragg personally or through any of his staff officers, nor indeed from any superior officer, till I met General Ruggles. I do not feel that either I, as commanding the brigade, nor the officers commanding regiments during that two days' battle, deserve the censure we receive in the official report of General Bragg for the part we took while executing his orders; and I confidently believe that an investigation of our conduct throughout will show that we did our duty. The success we met with elsewhere on the field and in the conflict on Monday, the second day, when co-operating with the troops of Generals Polk and Cheatham, as officially reported by them, entitles us, I think, to some claims for a fair hearing.
I have the honor to remain, very respectfully,
RANDALL LEE GIBSON,
Colonel Thirteenth Louisiana Volunteers
Respectfully submitted to Secretary of War, with an extract of report of General Bragg, to which Colonel Gibson takes exception. This is no time to assemble courts of inquiry to examine into cases of personal or official difficulties between officers, the Army being engaged in matters in which the whole Confederacy is most deeply interested. If this were not the case, I question if the interest of the service would justify the assembling a court of inquiry in this particular case. Please see General Orders, No. 76, current series.
Adjutant and Inspector General.
Indorsement of the Adjutant and Inspector General approved.
J. A. CAMPBELL,
Assistant Secretary of War.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1863.
[Extract from General Bragg's report.]
* * * * * * * * * *
Col. R. L. Gibson, Thirteenth Louisiana Volunteers, commanding at the battle of Shiloh the First Brigade of Ruggles' division, asks for a court of inquiry into his official conduct upon that occasion, and bases his application upon the allegation that General Bragg, in his report of the battle, does him injustice. I have examined the report carefully, and find the first reference of General Bragg to Colonel Gibson to be on the fourth page, and in the following words:
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, ]caving a broad interval. Three regiments of Major-General Polk's command opportunely came up and filled up the interval.
The second reference is upon the fifth page, where, after speaking of General Hindman's command, the following remarks occur:
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.
These are the only specific references in the report to Colonel Gibson or his command.
[Inclosure No. 2.]
JACKSON, MISS., June 15, 1863.
Col. R. L. GIBSON, Thirteenth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers:
SIR: Having read a copy of a communication from yourself to the Adjutant and Inspector General, asking for a court of inquiry upon the management of your brigade at the battle of Shiloh, in consequence of supposed reflections on that management by General Bragg in his official report of that battle, I take pleasure in sustaining the statements in that communication as far as they relate to me personally, and of adding a feeble testimony to the coolness, earnestness, and, as I conceive, skill, under the circumstances, of yourself, and to the gallantry of the troops in that memorable battle. The troops were moved up in excellent order, considering the nature of the woodland through which we advanced, and charged in apparently the proper time and at the proper point the enemy, who were strongly and skillfully posted with artillery-- an almost impenetrable undergrowth masking their front. Our brigade, without the assistance of artillery, were met by more than their numbers of the enemy and fell back, and though repeatedly led to the charge, each time bravely breasting a storm of musketry and canister, were compelled to retire. They were, however, easily rallied, and by their own officers, and at no time was there an appearance of a rout.
Member of Slocomb's Fifth Company, Washington Artillery.
[Inclosure No. 3.]
JACKSON, MISS., June 16, 1863.
Col. R. L. GIBSON:
SIR: Having seen your communication to General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, demanding a court of inquiry upon the conduct of your brigade while executing the orders of General Bragg in a particular attack on the enemy directed by him about midday at the battle of Shiloh, and acting as the adjutant-general of the brigade on that occasion, it gives me pleasure to offer my testimony to the correctness of the facts you have stated, as my position enabled me to know all orders given and received by you. So far as my judgment extends, you did all that a commander could do to insure a successful assault upon the enemy; but owing to the disadvantages under which you labored, arising from your want of artillery, the superior force of the enemy, his position, and the nature of the country through which we marched, the result was inevitable. The gallantry of the officers and men, I think, is sufficiently attested by the casualties sustained and the manner in which their officers rallied them to the successive attacks. It is impossible to give in writing the details which will be necessary, and which I shall be happy to narrate before the court you have demanded.
I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,
HUGH H. BEIN,
Adjutant Thirteenth Louisiana Regiment.
[Inclosure No. 4.]
BLADEN SPRING, ALA., June 17, 1863.
Col. R. L. GIBSON, Thirteenth Louisiana:
SIR: Your letter of the 17th instant is just received, inclosing a communication to the Adjutant and Inspector General. I cheerfully comply with your request in giving you my opinion of this communication, and also my views of your conduct as colonel commanding a brigade at the battle of Shiloh. I have read this communication carefully, and believe it to be a clear, plain, and full statement of facts. You did on that memorable occasion all that any brigade commander could do. If your request had been complied with, and our artillery had opened on the enemy's stronghold, we would have carried it with but little loss of life. As it was, the brigade was sacrificed by three separate charges, and without the aid of any artillery whatever, although we had it at hand ready to open on the enemy. After I had charged the second time on this stronghold of the enemy, and had my regiment terribly cut to pieces, General Bragg rode up and ordered me to take the Fourth and Thirteenth Louisiana and ambush the enemy (then supposed to be advancing) and "serve them as they had served me."
While I was executing this order the enemy opened a powerful battery upon us. General Bragg, staff, and body guard retired to a ravine. I saw nothing more of them during that day. No member of his staff ever rallied any of my men, nor do I believe any of them at any time rallied your brigade.
Very truly, your friend and obedient servant,
H. W. ALLEN,
Colonel Fourth Louisiana.
[Inclosure No. 5.]
IN CAMP, NEAR MORTON, MISS., August 3, 1863.
Col. R. L. GIBSON, Commanding Adams' Brigade:
SIR: I have read your communication to the Adjutant and Inspector General, referring to a passage in General Bragg's report of the battle of Shiloh, and I take pleasure in testifying to the full and truthful statement of facts contained in that communication. General Bragg, in his report, alludes to your brigade as having been driven back by the enemy's sharpshooters. Sir, I can attest that I have never witnessed such a heavy and constant fire as was sustained by your brigade in three different charges on the enemy's stronghold on that eventful day.
Another thing which struck me in General Bragg's report is, that your brigade was rallied by his staff officers. I saw General Bragg and his staff officers once on that day but for a few minutes only, and I can say that no member of General Bragg's staff rallied, or attempted to rally, any men belonging to the Thirteenth Louisiana Volunteers, of which I was second in command on Sunday, and commanded on Monday (the major having been mortally wounded), and which formed part of your brigade. I never heard that any part of that brigade was rallied by General Bragg or his staff officers until informed of the fact by General Bragg in his report.
I am, colonel, with respect, your obedient servant,
E. M. DUBROCA,
Captain, Commanding Thirteenth Louisiana Regiment.
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