Report of Maj. Gen. John A.
McClernand, U. S. Army, Commanding First Division.
Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION,
Camp near Pittsburg, Tenn., April 24, 1862.
Commanding District Western Tennessee.
I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Division of the advance forces of the United States in the battle of Shiloh, near Pittsburg Landing:
Early on the morning of Sunday, the 6th of April, hearing sharp firing at short intervals on my left and front, in the direction of Sherman's and Prentiss' divisions, I sent a messenger to General Sherman's headquarters to inquire into the cause of it. Soon after my messenger returned with General Sherman's request that I should send a battalion of my cavalry to join one of his, for the purpose of discovering the strength and design of the enemy.
Before my cavalry had reached General Sherman's camp his was seen retiring to the rear of his line, which was now being formed nearly parallel with and within a short distance of the left of my camp. Hastening forward, General Sherman informed me that the enemy had attacked him in large force and that he desired support. At the same time the firing in the direction of General Prentiss' division indicated a partial abatement of the resistance offered by his division.
Before my left, consisting of the Third Brigade, could form for the support of General Sherman, the enemy had pierced General Prentiss' line, afterward taking him and a number of his men prisoners, and rapidly forcing back General Sherman's left wing, was pressing upon my left with a mass five regiments deep, bearing the American flag. Discovering that this honored emblem was not borne by General Prentiss' retiring forces, but was used by the enemy as a means of deception, I ordered the Third Brigade to form in line of battle, fronting the enemy's advance, nearly at a right angle with General Sherman's line; but before this order had been fully executed the enemy had approached within short musket-range and opened a deadly fire upon us.
Col. L. F. Ross, of the Seventeenth Illinois Infantry, being absent, the command of the Third Brigade had devolved on Col. J. S. Reared, Twenty-ninth Illinois Infantry, whose illness in the morning preventing him from taking part in the engagement, it next devolved on Col. Julius Wraith, Forty-third Illinois Infantry, whom I instructed to take command at the very moment he was forming his regiment. Although thus unexpectedly called upon to assume the functions of brigade commander, by forming the line of battle in the face of an overwhelming foe, he did so promptly and skillfully.
While the line was being formed Captain Stewart, of my staff, brought information that the enemy, whose fire he had wonderfully escaped, were advancing in line of battle in strong force to the left of the brigade.
Colonel Wraith, having completed his line, ordered a charge upon the enemy, in which he fell mortally wounded while encouraging his men by his heroic and daring example. The charge, although successful in repulsing the enemy in front, left the flanks of his command liable to be turned by the superior numbers of the enemy, which was only prevented by changing the fronts of the two flank regiments, the Seventeenth and Forty-ninth Illinois Infantry. Besides Colonel Raith several other officers were killed or wounded in this charge.
The situation of the Third Brigade at this juncture was most critical. Generals Prentiss' and Sherman's divisions had retired, leaving the brigade exposed to combined attack. The enemy in front was recovering from the disorder of his repulse, and the forces of Beauregard and Polka were sweeping around on the right and left. In obedience to my order the brigade fell back, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Engelman, Forty-third Illinois, about 300 yards, and reformed in front of my headquarters, joining the Second Brigade, under command of Col. C. C. Marsh, Twentieth Illinois, and the First Brigade, under command of Col. A.M. Hare, Eleventh Iowa, on the left, the Eleventh Iowa being formed as a reserve, to support the center and left. Burrows' Ohio battery was advanced to the center, at a point on the Corinth road, near my headquarters; Schwartz's battery, in support of Sherman, to the right, and McAllister's battery to the left, to command the approach across a field. While this disposition was being completed the enemy were rapidly advancing at all points, supported by several batteries. The action, both by infantry and artillery, became general all along the line, and the conflict was desperate. In the course of twenty minutes Schwartz's battery had silenced the enemy's battery in front, and to repel the enemy, whose left was still bearing back General Sherman's division on my right, Major Schwartz, chief of my staff, joined the Thirty-fourth and Forty-third Illinois, and boldly charged the enemy, receiving a severe wound in the leg, which caused him to be taken from the field. Our resistance, however, was overborne by superior numbers, which still continued to flank the right of my line. All of Schwartz's battery except one caisson was brought off--a portion of it by hand.
Burrows' battery opened a brisk fire from its position at the center, but from the near approach of the enemy, and the deadly fire opened on it both by infantry and artillery, was soon lost., including 70 horses killed. The battery was recovered in a damaged condition next day. Captain Burrows and a number of his officers were wounded, and in the same part of the field, and about the same time, my orderly was severely wounded near me. The underbrush and trees bear abundant and impressive evidence of the sanguinary character of this engagement.
McAllister's battery opened from the corner of the field referred to, and by a well-directed and effective fire kept the enemy from crossing it until his battery was nearly surrounded and his support forced back, when, after silencing a battery in the woods on the opposite side of the field, he withdrew three of his pieces along the Corinth road towards Pittsburg Landing. The fourth piece was left behind for want of horses to take it off, but was recovered next day. In this engagement Captain McAllister was four times slightly wounded, but kept the field. An acting sergeant and 7 men were severely wounded and a number killed.
During this bloody contest, which raged for some time with fluctuating success, Colonel Haynie, an officer of distinguished merit, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sanford, of the Forty-eighth; Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom and Major Nevins, of the Eleventh; Major Bartleson, of the Twentieth, and Major Bishop, of the Forty-ninth Illinois, were severely wounded. The Eighteenth was so hotly engaged that Major Eaton, Captain Brush, and Captain Dillon, who rapidly succeeded each other in command, as rapidly fell, the first two dangerously wounded and the last instantly killed.
Wholly unsupported on the left, and still outflanked on the right by increasing numbers, to save my command from being surrounded I ordered it to fall back about 200 yards and reform at a right angle with the center of my camp. The order was promptly and successfully executed, save by the Forty-third Illinois, which had failed to receive it. This gallant regiment still continued the conflict until it was surrounded, and cut its way through the enemy to the right and rear of my third line.
Making another stand upon the ground indicated, Timony's battery joined in the action. The contest was continued for some time by infantry and artillery. Trees of considerable size were cut off or scathed by the round shot of opposing batteries, and considerable loss in killed and wounded was sustained on both sides, including four guns of Timony's battery, two of which were replaced by a capture made next day. At length, checking the enemy in front, I pressed the advantage, driving him back some distance; but, re-enforced by fresh troops his wavering line was strengthened, and again he commenced turning my right and left, forcing me back about 200 yards to the fourth position in an open wood, skirting a large field. Here, joined by the Forty-third Illinois, by a portion of Timony's battery, by a portion of Taylor's battalion, and by a portion of General Sherman's division, the contest was again renewed with increased fury on both sides. Accompanied by Major Brayman, acting assistant adjutant-general, and by Captain Stewart and Lieutenant Freeman, acting aides-de-camp, I rode along my line and gave the order, "Forward;" responsively to which it rapidly advanced, driving the enemy a first and second time for half a mile with great slaughter over the ground occupied by my artillery and a portion of my infantry camps. Within a radius of 200 yards of my headquarters the ground was almost literally covered with dead bodies, chiefly of the enemy.
Here the Eleventh and the Twentieth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom and Lieutenant-Colonel Richards, and the Eleventh Iowa, Lieutenant-Colonel Hall, charged a hostile battery and took it, killing most all the artillery horses. Under the fire of the same regiments Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding general of the rebel forces, fell within 30 yards of my headquarters. Here Colonel Hare, commanding the First Brigade; Colonel Marsh, commanding the Second Brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel Engelmann, commanding the Third Brigade, heedless of danger, led their men to the charge amid a storm of bullets and in the face of a battery; and here Lieutenant-Colonel Richards, of the Twentieth Illinois; Lieutenant-Colonel Pease, of the Forty-ninth Illinois, and Captain Stewart and Lieutenant Freeman, of my staff, were wounded, while Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom, of the Eleventh, although reeling in the saddle and streaming with blood from a previous wound, performed prodigies of valor.
Continuing this sanguinary conflict until several regiments of my division had exhausted their ammunition and its right flank had been borne back, and it was in danger of being turned, the remainder of my command, with the exception hereafter noticed, also fell back to the camp of the First Brigade. Here the portion which had first fallen back reformed, in obedience to my order, parallel with the camp and fronting the approach of the enemy from the west, while the other portion formed at right angle with it, still fronting the approach of the enemy from the south. The Forty-fifth Illinois, being the last to fall back, only escaped being surrounded and captured by boldly cutting their way through the closing circle of the enemy's lines and joining the division, under the daring lead of Colonel and Major Smith, of that regiment.
In thus awarding honor to the meritorious it is but just to recognize the good conduct of the portion of General Sherman's division participating in this protracted and desperate conflict, while to him is due great credit for the gallant, skillful, and important part he took in it.
It was 2 o'clock p.m. when my fifth line had been thus formed. By that time Lieutenant Jones, ordnance officer of my division, had come up at great peril with ammunition, which was rapidly distributed among some of the most convenient regiments. As the enemy's artillery was already playing upon us, I continued my preparations to meet him by ordering up McAllister's battery, which was put in position in front and toward the right of the camps of my First Brigade. This done, I kept the enemy in check for some time by the fire of these batteries. Deterred from direct advance, he moved a considerable force by the right flank, with the evident intention of turning my left. To defeat this purpose I ordered my command to fall back in the direction of the landing, across a deep hollow, and to reform on the east side of another field in the skirts of a wood. This was my sixth line. Here we rested a half hour, continuing to supply our men with ammunition, until the enemy's cavalry were seen rapidly crossing the field to the charge. Waiting till they approached within some 30 paces of our line, I ordered a fire, which was delivered with great coolness and destructive effect. First halting, then wavering, they turned and fled in confusion, leaving behind a number of riders and horses dead on the field. The Twenty-ninth Illinois Infantry, inspired by the courageous example of their commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Ferrell, bore the chief part in this engagement. Captain Millington, of Company I, and others of the same regiment, also distinguished themselves.
In the mean time, under cover of this demonstration, strengthened by large additions from other portions of the field yielded by our forces, the enemy continued his endeavors to turn the flanks of my line and to cut me off from the landing. To prevent this I ordered my left wing to fall back a short distance and forth an obtuse angle with the center, opposing a double front to the enemy's approach. Thus disposed, my left held the enemy in check, while my whole line slowly fell back to my sixth [seventh?] position. Here I reformed the worn and famishing remnant of my division on favorable ground, along a north and south road, supported on my right by fragments of General Sherman's division, and on my left by the Fifteenth and Forty-sixth Illinois, under command of Colonel Veatch, acting brigadier. Hastily completing this disposition I ordered up McAllister's battery, which took position about the center of my line, supported by the Eighteenth Illinois, Captain Anderson, Company F, commanding. The Seventh Illinois, being separated from the Second Division, was formed by me as a reserve. The enemy renewed the contest by trying to shell us from our position. McAllister's battery replied with great spirit, first alone, and soon after in conjunction with another battery unknown to me. Attempting in vain so often to turn the flanks of my line and gain its rear, the enemy now gave evidence of a change of tactics. Advancing in heavy column, led by the Louisiana Zouaves, to break our center, we awaited his approach within sure range, and opened a terrific fire upon him. The head of the column was instantly mowed down; the remainder of it swayed to and fro for a few seconds, and turned and fled. This second success of the last two engagements terminated a conflict of ten and a half hours' duration, from 6 o'clock a.m. to 4.30 o'clock p.m., and probably saved our army, transports, and all, from capture.
Strange, however, at the very moment of the flight of the enemy the right of our line gave way, and immediately after, notwithstanding the indignant and heroic resistance of Colonel Veatch, the left, comprising the Fifteenth and Forty-sixth Illinois, was irresistibly swept back by the tide of fugitive soldiers and trains seeking vain security at the landing.
Both officers and men were alive to the importance of this last struggle of Sunday. They felt that the issue of the battle depended upon it, and hence fought with unshaken determination. Col. A.M. Hare, commanding the First Brigade, who had borne himself through the day with great constancy and courage, was here wounded, and the command of the brigade devolved on his able and gallant successor, Colonel Crocker. Major Abercrombie, of the Eleventh Iowa, was also severely wounded while faithfully performing his duty; and Captain Harvey, of the Eighth, Adjutant Thompson, of the Twentieth Illinois, and Captains Burnett and Sprague, of Companies E and H, Twenty-ninth Illinois, besides many other gallant and meritorious officers, were killed.
Left unsupported and alone, the Twentieth and Seventeenth Illinois, together with other portions of my division not borne back by the retreating multitude, retired in good order, under the immediate command of Colonel Marsh and Lieutenant-Colonel Wood, and reformed under my direction, the right resting near the former line and the left at an acute angle with it. A more extended line, comprising portions of regiments, brigades, and divisions, was soon after formed on this nucleus by the efforts of General Sherman, myself, and other officers. Here, in the eighth position occupied by my division during the day, we rested in line of battle upon our arms, uncovered and exposed to a drenching rain during the night. Yet night, inclement as it was, and the arrival of re-enforcements, which came, were prayed for as the assurance of better fortune next day.
Having been directed by you on the evening of the 6th to assume command of all detached and fragmentary corps in the vicinity of my line, your order of the morning of the 7th for a forward movement found the Forty-sixth Illinois on my right and portions of Generals Hurlbut's and Buell's troops on my left. The Fifty-third Ohio was formed as a reserve, the Twenty-ninth Illinois having been ordered by you still farther to the left and near the landing, for the purpose of driving and keeping back fugitives. Moving forward obliquely to the left I passed unobstructedly over the scene of my last engagement and reached the scene of the cavalry charge. Here I ordered a halt, and adjusted my line in a wood, extending to the left and skirting a field in front. Meanwhile McAllister's battery was brought near the corner of the field, and replied to a battery posted beyond the camp of my First Brigade. After this fire had been continued for a few minutes I pushed on to my old camp and readjusted my line just behind it. The Twenty-eighth Illinois, Colonel Johnson, here joined me, and was formed on my left obliquely to the rear.
McAllister's battery was again brought up to the center of my line, and again replied to the battery in front and to another to its left. A few minutes after I discovered troops to my right, near Owl Creek, which I was informed were General L. Wallace's. One or more batteries, supposed to belong to his command, were advanced in the field in front and near the right of my camp, and also opened fire upon the battery in front of my line.
Thus clearing the woods in front in that direction, preceded by skirmishers, my line advanced through my camp obliquely to the southwest, thus retaking it. At the same time Generals Sherman and Wallace were seen advancing in the same general direction. Approaching a hasty and rude breastwork of logs formed by the enemy during Sunday night, his skirmishers opened an irregular fire, which caused the Fifty-third Ohio to retire in disorder, breaking my line. My right staggered for a moment, recovered itself, and, under the lead of Colonel Marsh, opened an oblique fire, which immediately dispersed the enemy in that direction, leaving us in possession of my recaptured camp.
About the same time information was brought that the enemy were advancing in strong force to turn the left of my line. To prevent this I ordered my command to move by the left flank, which, being promptly done, confronted the opposing forces. Here one of the severest conflicts ensued that occurred during the two days. We drove the enemy back and pursued him with great vigor to the edge of a field, a half mile east and to the left of my headquarters, where reserves came to his support. Our position at this moment was most critical and a repulse seemed inevitable, but fortunately the Louisville Legion, forming part of General Rousseau's brigade, came up at my request and succored me. Extending and strengthening my line, this gallant body poured into the enemy's ranks one of the most terrible fires I ever witnessed. Thus breaking its center, it fell back in disorder, and henceforth he was beaten at all points until our successful pursuit was staid. The generous response of General Rousseau to my request for succor, no less than the gallant bearing of himself, Colonel Buckley, Lieutenant-Colonel Berry, and Major Treanor, officers of the same command, challenge my gratitude, while commanding my admiration. Crossing the field referred to, portions of my own and other divisions again encountered the enemy, who had rallied and offered obstinate resistance. Some of our men temporarily retired, while others persisted until the enemy was again driven back.
Pressing our advantage and moving obliquely to the south in the direction of General Sherman's camp, we came to another field, where Lieutenant Hammond, of General Sherman's staff, brought information that the enemy was hovering upon our left in considerable force. Riding forward from a point on the edge of the field I found this to be so. Directing Lieutenant Hammond to bring up a battery, it was posted near the field, and, opening fire, drove the enemy into the woods. Meeting Brigadier-General McCook, I returned with him to the field, and, showing him the direction the enemy had withdrawn, proposed that he should move a portion of his command around the field and fall upon his flank. This was skillfully and successfully done, driving the enemy in the direction his center and left were already retreating.
Meantime, overtaking the enemy's center, we again engaged it. Our forces to the left not yet having come up, Colonel Gibson, ----- Indiana, found himself hard pressed and in danger of being flanked. Instructing Lieutenant Hitt, of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, to inform General McCook accordingly, and to request of him re-enforcements, they were promptly sent forward, and the enemy again driven back with loss. In this engagement the Eighth and Eighteenth Illinois charged and took a section of one of the enemy's batteries, which they afterward brought to my camp.
The next and last stand of the enemy was in a wood skirting a field still farther south. Here he brought into action a number of guns, which were used with most annoying effect until silenced by McAllister's battery of 24-pounder howitzers. Although the enemy was further pursued, this artillery engagement actually terminated the conflict, which had passed over a space of some 3 miles, and had been continued from 7 o'clock a.m. to about 4 o'clock p.m. of the second day. So protracted, obstinate, and sanguinary a battle has rarely occurred. In magnitude and importance his second to but few.
Had our army been captured or destroyed on Sunday the rebellion would have rolled back over Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri before another army could have been raised and equipped adequate to retrieve the disaster. Indeed, months would have elapsed before this could have been done. Meantime the rebellion would have gathered fresh courage and strength. Considering that our numbers were probably less than one-half of the enemy's; that he had selected his own time and mode of attack; that our position was isolated and some 200 miles from our base of operations at Paducah and Cairo; that a portion of our forces were in a manner surprised and driven back in confusion, it is marvelous, may I not say providential, that we were not captured or destroyed--nay, more, that my division should have been able to fight the enemy all day within the narrow limits of a mile.
My effective force on the day of commencement of the battle was 7,028, of which, during the two days following, 1,861 were killed and wounded, including comparatively few missing, giving a proportionate loss of 37 2/3 per cent. The loss of that portion of the enemy encountered by my command is doubtless doubly as great.
In the course of the battle I captured 3 6-pounder guns and 2 gun-carriages, 13 6-pounder caissons, 10 limbers, 622 rounds of fixed 6-pounder canister shot, 20 rounds of fixed 12-pounder spherical case shot, 16 stands 12-pounder grape shot, a considerable quantity of wagon and artillery harness, and 3,560 stand of small-arms.
In thus noticing the incidents of this great battle it is but just and proper that I should bear testimony to the general good conduct of my command. Exhorting them in the beginning to add to the glory they had won at Belmont and Forts Henry and Donelson, and to stand by the beloved flag of their country in every extremity, they were kindled with ardor, and throughout the battle evinced a firm resolution to do so.
Colonels Hare and Crocker, who successively commanded the First Brigade, and Colonel Raith and Lieutenant-Colonel Engelmann, who successively commanded the Third Brigade, distinguished themselves by the coolness, courage, and skill with which they maneuvered their men.
Colonel Raith, falling an honored martyr in a just cause, will be mourned by his friends and adopted country, while Colonel Marsh, a hero at Fredericktown, Donelson, and Shiloh; Colonel Crocker, an able and enterprising officer, and Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom are respectively recommended for promotion.
It already appears that Colonel Smith and Major Smith, of the Forty-fifth Illinois, signally distinguished themselves by their exemplary constancy and indomitable courage. The same commendation is due Lieutenant-Colonel Hall, of the Eleventh Iowa, and Lieutenant-Colonel Pease, of the Forty-ninth Illinois.
Captain Sturgess, Company H, a brave and intelligent officer, succeeded to the command of the Eighth Illinois upon the fall of Captain Harvey. Captain Morgan, Company A, Forty-ninth Illinois, although severely wounded, mounted a horse, and continued with his company until the horse was shot under him. Captains Wilson, Reed, and Brush, Companies A, B, and F, Eighteenth Illinois, added to the laurels they had won at Fort Donelson. Captain Frisbie, Company H, Twentieth Illinois; Captain Burrows, Ohio Artillery; Captain McAllister, Captain Timony, Lieutenants Barger and Nispel, Illinois artillery, and the officers generally of those batteries are all honorably mentioned for their fearless conduct in the face of danger.
To this list I might add many other meritorious names, including Adjutants Cadle, Hotchkiss, and Ryan, of the First, Second, and Third Brigades, if limit could be found to make more special reference to them.
In this, as in former actions, my staff afforded most valuable assistance. Major Schwartz, Captain Stewart, and Lieutenant Freeman, as already mentioned, were seriously wounded while in the fearless and faithful performance of duty. Major Brayman, my acting adjutant-general, displayed his usual courage and sagacity, often inspiring the troops by his gallant bearing, particularly in a crisis toward the close of the battle, when he seized a flag and carried it in front of the enemy.
Lieutenant Jones, ordnance officer and aide, won the applause of all by his characteristic diligence and fearlessness in bringing up and supplying ammunition to our men, often within range off the enemy's musketry, and still oftener in range of his artillery. A similar tribute is due to Lieutenant Tresilian, acting engineer and aide, for unsurpassed activity and daring throughout the battle.
The casualties of the first day having left me almost without a member of my staff, Lieutenants Hitt and Hall, of Companies B and C, of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, joined me next day, and performed most active and valuable services. While commending them for their zeal, courage, and intelligence, it may be added, as one of the proofs of Lieutenant Hitt's exposure to danger, that his horse was shot under him.
Having already noticed the good conduct of the Fifteenth, Twenty-eighth, and Forty-sixth Illinois, and their heroic commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel Ellis and Colonels Johnson and Davis, a similar acknowledgment is justly due the Fourteenth Illinois and their commander, Colonel Hall, all of whom at different times co-operated with me under the lead of their gallant chief, General Hurlbut.
The same meed of justice is due to the Fortieth Illinois and their daring commander, Colonel Hicks, who was severely wounded near me, and to Colonels Veatch, commanding a brigade, and Brigadier-General Sherman, who zealously and actively co-operated with me during the two days' battle. I am also indebted to Captains Fox and Hammond, members of their staff, for prompt and valuable assistance several times afforded during the battle.
In commemorating this great victory as a historical event, challenging honorable comparison with most signal triumphs of arms, it is impossible for me to close this imperfect account of it without the expression of heartfelt grief for the loss of so many brave and faithful men whom I find enrolled in the list of honored dead; of my sympathy for the suffering wounded and the bereaved kindred and friends, and offering grateful acknowledgments to a kind Providence for the eminent success which has crowned our labors in the cause of liberty and constitutional government.
JOHN A. McCLERNAND,
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