Report of Col. R. M. Russell, Twelfth Tennessee
Infantry, commanding First Brigade
April 6-7, 1862..--Battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh, Tenn.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME X/1 [S# 10]
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION,
Corinth, Miss., April 18, 1862.
Maj. GEORGE WILLIAMSON,
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the brigade under my command, consisting of the Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Twenty-second Tennessee Regiments, the Eleventh Louisiana Regiment, and Captain Bankhead's battery of light artillery, in the battle which took place at Shiloh, near Pittsburg Landing, on the Tennessee River, on April 6 and 7:
On the morning of the 6th the First Army Corps, of which my brigade formed a part, was drawn up in columns of brigades a short distance in front of the enemy's encampment, near a ravine, covered with briers and brushwood, waiting for the order to advance.
Soon after daylight the attack had been made by the right of our army, under Major-General Hardee, and the First was held as a supporting corps. While in this position the enemy opened fire upon us with solid shot and shell with field batteries posted in strong positions on the hills in front. The Second Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Stewart, moved to the right.
Pending this movement I received orders to charge through the enemy's encampment and take it at all hazards. An Arkansas and a Louisiana regiment, which had gone before, had attempted to advance, and were driven through our lines. I immediately ordered the regiments on the left to charge, and started to advance those on the right, but was directed by General Clark to go forward with the left and he would give the order to the right wing. I placed myself at their head, and we moved rapidly forward until we had passed through a part of the first encampment, the enemy all the while pouring a shower of Minie and musket balls from the hills above, until suddenly he opened his batteries with grape and canister with such sure aim and terrible effect that the advancing line was forced to give way and retire behind the thicket and ravine, where I reformed it preparatory to a second advance. I found afterward that, instead of two regiments advancing, but seven companies had succeeded in passing the almost impenetrable undergrowth and joined in the first charge.
The line being reformed, the order was again given to charge through the camp, which was done in gallant style and with complete success.
At this point I sent my acting brigade adjutant to the right to see where the Twelfth and Thirteenth Regiments were, with a view to getting an the brigade together again; but he reported that three other regiments had forced their way between, and it would be impossible accomplish this.
I then moved forward with those I had up to the top of the bill, where we met with the most obstinate and determined resistance. The enemy's batteries, supported by a heavy force of infantry, rapidly thinned our ranks and held our troops back in a hotly-contested conflict, which lasted nearly an hour. They were finally forced to give way and fall back, closely pursued by our eager troops.
Continuing to advance, we soon encountered a battery, two pieces of which were taken and sent to the rear. Pushing still farther forward, a force was found partially concealed in the bushes in front of our left and extending beyond that flank. Fearing they were some of our Louisiana troops, I caused the firing to cease and halted the line, and sent forward to ascertain their true character. Conflicting reports were brought back.
Just at this time the troops that were on the right were seen to retire.
I rode down the line to ascertain the cause. I found them to be the Fifth Tennessee Regiment, of General Stewart's brigade, and was informed that they had orders to fall back. This compelled me to retire a short distance, having first sent Colonel Brewer, who happened to pass by at the time, with his cavalry, to watch the movements of the concealed force (found to be the enemy ), keep in constant communication with me, and not suffer them to turn our left flank and get in our rear.
At this point Colonel Freeman reported his regiment to be out of ammunition, and I had it supplied from a wagon just passing.
Hearing rapid firing on the right, and there being no general officer present, I formed a line of battle as speedily as possible, facing in that direction, out of the regiments I could get together. Lieutenant-Colonel Venable, though not in my brigade, readily adopted my plans and efficiently co-operated with me at that time and on other occasions throughout the day. Colonel Marks' regiment being nearly out of ammunition, I directed them to be supplied from the wagon and placed on the left of the line; but by some mistake they bore too much to the right.
I now moved forward to the support of the troops engaged in front. Having advanced a short distance and passed a small ravine, the enemy were found to be strongly posted on the crest of the hill beyond.
About this time Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbreath, commanding a Kentucky [31st Alabama] regiment, came up and placed himself voluntarily under my command. I joined my forces on the left of Colonel Trabue's brigade, and the whole moved forward to the attack. The enemy soon opened a brisk fire, which was returned with spirit. A long contest here ensued, resulting finally in the enemy being driven from his position by a charge made by our troops.
Falling back to their encampment, another obstinate stand was made; but they were soon forced to retire before the resistless march of our troops. Taking a strong position a third time, protected by a battery which was concealed in the woods on their right, and which soon opened upon us, they attempted to make another stand, but re-enforcements coming up on the left, they soon beat a hasty retreat.
A final stand was made at their next encampment, but after an obstinate resistance, seeing no means of escape, the enemy hoisted a white flag and surrendered as prisoners of war.
Lieut. J. C. Horne and Private T. M. Simms, of the Twenty-second Tennessee Volunteers, under my command, entered the enemy's camp first, or among the first, and brought a large number of prisoners out. Among the number was Brigadier-General Prentiss, who was delivered to me by Private T. M. Simms, and by me delivered to Major-General Polk.
The prisoners being disposed of, I made preparations to move the forces under my command forward toward the river, but Colonel Freeman reported his regiment to be out of ammunition. The Twelfth and Thirteenth Regiments coming up at this time, and being in the same condition, I ordered details to proceed to the enemy's camp and supply them. This being done, General Cheatham directed a line to be formed in rear of the encampment and await further orders. The enemy's gunboats kept up an incessant fire of shot and shell.
After waiting in this position for some time orders were received from General Bragg to fall back out of the range of the gunboats and encamp for the night. Retiring a short distance to the next encampment, I halted the men and quartered them in the tents.
On the morning of the 7th, between daylight and sunrise, the pickets commenced firing on each other, but it was almost impossible to determine when and where the main attack commenced, on account of the constant firing of our troops in every direction, which contributed greatly to the confusion which afterward ensued.
At the discharge of the first guns I formed my brigade in line of battle on the enemy's parade ground in front of the encampment. Colonel Marks' regiment did not join us until later in the day, and, on account of the casualties of the proceeding day, the force was small.
I now gave the order to advance toward the river, but I soon perceived the enemy was forming a line perpendicular to ours and in the rear of our left flank, and also planting a battery on our left flank. This rendered a change of front necessary and caused us to retire a short distance to the rear. From this front we were ordered to march to the support of General Breckinridge. Proceeding in that direction (guided by a staff officer) until I approached a thick woods, I sent forward two companies as skirmishers, who soon engaged the enemy, concealed in large force, their line extending beyond ours on both flanks. I ordered our troops to advance to the charge, and soon the engagement became general along the whole line.
The enemy had previously opened a battery upon our left, and a staff officer of General Beauregard's passing about this time, I requested him to send a battery to our support, and also a cavalry company to observe the enemy's movements and prevent them from flanking us on the left. Here a long and spirited contest ensued, of doubtful issue for a time, but the enemy, being in largely superior force, sent a detachment around our right, under cover of the undergrowth, at the same time turning our left, and opened a cross-fire upon both wings,. which compelled a retreat. Colonel Campbell co-operated with me in this encounter.
Falling back behind the crest of a ridge, I halted the line. The enemy soon advanced upon us, and we were ordered by General Bragg to meet them. I endeavored to move them off at the double-quick step, and two of the regiments succeeded in reaching the top of the ridge, and held that part of the line of the enemy in check.
The enemy had now forced a line across our left flank, and was planting a battery in an open field in that direction. One of our own batteries now coming up, I ordered it to be advanced as rapidly as possible into an open space in front, so as to get the first fire; but before it could be placed in position and unlimbered the opposing battery opened a terrific fire upon our line, killing and wounding many of our men. This, with the heavy flank fire on the left and the direct fire in front, caused a retreat to a ravine a short distance in front of Shiloh Church, where I reformed them, and they again advanced to the charge, with other troops, under the immediate eye of General Beauregard, who bore the colors in front of the line under the fire of the enemy; but courage and human endurance could stand no longer against such odds, and our forces were compelled to fall back to the hill where the church is situated. Our troops had now nearly all retired, and a final stand was made by a few regiments to cover the retreat.
The officers and men under my command behaved with courage and bravery, especially on the 6th. Early in the action the brigade and division were deprived, by a severe wound, of the services of Brigadier-General Clark, whose fearless bearing was well calculated to inspire the men; but to compensate for this loss Major-General Polk's frequent exposure of himself to the hottest of the enemy's fire tended greatly to reassure them.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bell and Maj. R. P. Caldwell were distinguished by their courage and energy. The former had two horses shot under him.
Col. A. J. Vaughan, jr., and Lieut. Col. W. E. Morgan, of the Thirteenth Tennessee Volunteers, exhibited great bravery under the enemy's fire.
Col. T. J. Freeman, of the Twenty-second, was energetic and active in the performance of his duties, and was constantly under fire. Near the close of the action he received a painful wound, which disabled him for a short time.
Capt. W. Dawson of the same regiment, and Lieut. Col. F. M. Stewart were wounded, the latter early on the first day and the former near the close of the same day, while gallantly urging their men forward.
Lieut. J. G. Thurmond, of the Twenty-second Regiment, particularly distinguished himself by his intrepidity in leading his company in every charge. The same may be said of Lieut. J. C. Horne.
Col. S. F. Marks, of the Eleventh Louisiana Volunteers, was severely wounded, while leading his men, on the morning of the 6th.
Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow, Major Mason, and Adjutant White, of the same regiment, did their duty bravely.
Captain Bankhead deserves great praise for the promptness, bravery, and energy with which he maneuvered his battery.
The Twelfth sustained a severe loss in the death of Capt. B. H. Sandford and Lieut. G. H. Jackson, who fell bravely at the head of their company while leading them on to victory.
Maj. L. P. McMurry, of the Twenty-second, and others, both officers and men of the command, are deserving of notice for their conduct in the action.
For other instances of meritorious conduct I refer you to the reports of the regimental commanders.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. M. RUSSELL,
Colonel, Comdg. First Brig., First Div, First Army Corps.
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