Report of Col. John M. Thayer, First Nebraska Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
April 6-7, 1862..--Battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh, Tenn.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME X/1 [S# 10]
HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, THIRD DIVISION,
Army in the Field, Pittsburg, Tenn., April 10, 1862.
Capt. FRED. KNEFLER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit herewith a report of the part taken by the Second Brigade in the battle of Pittsburg:
Early on Sunday morning, the 6th instant, hearing at my camp at Stony Lonesome heavy cannonading in the direction of Pittsburg, I immediately caused my command to be put in state of preparation to march at a moment's notice, and anxiously awaited orders. Soon Major-General Wallace and staff rode up and he gave me the desired command to move to the scene of action.
At 12 o'clock the brigade was in the line of march, the Sixty-eighth Ohio, Colonel Steedman, being directed by me to remain at that point, in conjunction with Colonel Kinney's Ohio regiment, for the purpose of preventing an approach of the enemy by Adamsville road.
We arrived upon the field at Pittsburg at dark, and throwing out a strong force of pickets in front of our line we bivouacked in order of battle, the troops lying down with their arms in their hands.
During the night a severe thunder-storm came on. Those who slept awoke to find themselves in a drenching rain, but they bore their hardships with fortitude and cheerfulness.
Capt. Noah S. Thompson, of the Ninth Battery Indiana Light Artillery, having come up in the night and placed his battery in position in the open field in front, at daylight on the morning of the 7th I moved the First Nebraska, Lieutenant-Colonel McCord, forward, so that its left rested on the battery. I then placed the Twenty-third Indiana, Col. W. L. Sanderson, on the right of the First Nebraska, having the Fifty-eighth Ohio, Colonel Bausenwein, immediately in the rear of the two.
While is this position Thompson's battery opened fire upon a battery of the enemy, discovered upon the hill directly in front. Having silenced it, I received orders from General Wallace in person to advance en échelon. I did so across the deep ravine and up the steep declivity where the rebel guns had been planted, keeping Captain Baumer and his company of the First Nebraska as skirmishers in advance, which movement was executed in good order. Here the general directed a change of front of his division, which was executed by a left wheel of the whole line. Advancing in line a short distance, we were soon under a heavy fire of the enemy's guns, both artillery and infantry. Moving forward we emerged from the timber into a small, cleared field, where Captain Thompson, having moved forward, also planted his battery. I then moved the brigade by the right flank nearly half a mile into the timber again, for the purpose of extending our line to the right, and then forward to the brow of a steep hill, where we remained some three-quarters of an hour, when the enemy's battery was again silenced.
The order then came from General Wallace to move forward. We did so, and emerged from the timber into a large, open field. Moving my brigade in full line of battle, reserving our fire, we crossed a deep ravine and passed up onto the ridge beyond under a terrible fire of musketry and artillery from the rebels. Arriving on the brow of this ridge I gave the order to open on them, which was promptly done. Our fire told with fatal effect, for they immediately fell back. A few moments previous to this, observing a body of the rebel cavalry advancing on the outskirts of the timber on my extreme right, evidently with the intention of flanking us, I directed Colonel Sanderson, of the Twenty-third Indiana, to move by the right flank some 20 rods, so as to bring his regiment directly in front of them and to drive them back; a movement which he promptly and successfully accomplished. On getting in front of them the cavalry discharged their carbines. The Twenty-third Indiana immediately returned their fire, and under the lead of their colonel then pressed forward, and the right-flank company of the First Nebraska, Captain Baumer, also giving them a right-oblique fire, when the rebels at once fled in confusion. Still fearing a flank movement of the enemy, and observing Colonel Whittlesey coming up with two regiments, I rode to him, and requested him to move as rapidly as possible to my right, which he readily did. The action now became general along the line. I again gave the order "Forward," and the line advanced as regularly and with a front as unbroken as upon the parade ground, the First Nebraska, Lieutenant-Colonel Me-Cord, moving up directly in front of the enemy's battery. Advancing about 20 rods and finding the enemy had made another stand, I ordered a halt and directed another fire upon them, which continued some fifteen minutes, when, discovering the enemy again receding, we pushed on nearly half a mile, halting as we ascended the brow of each hill (the ground being composed of hills and valleys) and giving them another volley and then moving forward again.
Perceiving the enemy's battery again in position, supported by heavy bodies of infantry, another halt was ordered and another fire opened upon them, which became continuous along my whole line. The battle now raged with unabated fury for nearly two hours. The enemy's battery was exceedingly well served, it having obtained excellent range. I had no artillery to oppose to it, but the fire of our infantry was terrific and incessant and was admirably directed, the men loading and firing at will with great rapidity.
Learning from Colonel McCord and Major Livingston that the ammunition of the First Nebraska was nearly exhausted, and from Major Dister, of the Fifty-eighth Ohio, that theirs also was nearly out, I rode to General Wallace, who was on the left of the division, and requested of him a fresh regiment. He at once ordered forward the Seventy-sixth Ohio, Colonel Woods, which I conducted to my line, and directed the First Nebraska to file by the right of companies to the rear, when the Seventy-sixth took its place. The First Nebraska and the Fifty-eighth Ohio then fell back a few rods to a ravine. These movements were executed with perfect order.
My ammunition wagons having failed to come up on account of the ravines, which were impassable for teams, over which we had crossed, General Wallace sent me one of his own, which fortunately had arrived by another route. The two regiments refilled their cartridge-boxes, and in twenty minutes from the time they left the line they were again in their position before the enemy; but the enemy was now fleeing. The general here ordered forward his whole division in pursuit, himself leading it, which was continued for a mile and a half, when we bivouacked for the night. Thus did we drive the enemy before us from 5 o'clock in the morning till 5 o'clock in the evening, never receding an inch, but pressing steadily forward over a distance of 4 miles, the enemy contesting the ground rod by rod with a courage and determination that would have honored a better cause.
I cannot speak in terms of too high praise of the officers and soldiers under my command; their conduct was most gallant and brave throughout. They fought with the ardor and zeal of true patriots.
It gives me pleasure to speak of the different regiments and their officers. Nobly did the First Nekraska sustain its reputation well earned on the field of Donelson. Its progress was onward during the whole day in face of a galling fire of the enemy, moving on without flinching, at one time being an hour and a half in front of their battery receiving and returning its fire. Its conduct was most excellent. Lieut. Col. W. D. McCord and Maj. R. R. Livingston, of this regiment, were constantly in the thickest of the fight, executing every order with the utmost promptness and alacrity. They are deserving of the highest commendation for their gallantry.
The Twenty-third Indiana, by its conduct on the field, won my unqualified admiration. It moved constantly forward under the lead of its brave commander, Colonel Sanderson, under a heavy fire, charging upon the enemy's cavalry and utterly routing them. The coolness and courage of the colonel aided much in the success of the movements of the brigade. Lieut. Col. D.C. Anthony and Maj. W. P. Davis, of the same regiment, behaved gallantly through the action and were ever at the post of duty. The former had his horse shot under him. The regiment, with its colonel and other officers, have earned distinguished honors for themselves and for the noble State which sent them into the field.
The Fifty-eighth Ohio proved themselves worthy of the confidence reposed in them. They fought with unabated courage during the day, never yielding, but firmly advancing, pressing the enemy before them. They have my highest esteem for their noble conduct in this battle. Colonel Bausenwein, Lieutenant-Colonel Rempel, and Major Dister, of this regiment, were conspicuous for their coolness and bravery throughout the day. Ever exposed to imminent danger, they readily performed every duty and handled their regiment most admirably.
Most honorable mention is due to Surg. E. B. Harrison, of the Sixty-eighth Ohio, surgeon of the brigade, and to William McClellan, assistant surgeon of the First Nebraska, for their prompt attention to the wounded. They labored at the hospitals with ceaseless devotion for days and nights after the battle in administering relief. Their services were invaluable.
I must also express my obligations to the members of my staff-- S. A. Strickland, acting assistant adjutant-general; my aides-de-camp, Capt. Allen Blacker and Lieut. William S. Whittin, and also to Lieutenant-Colonel Scott and Captain Richards, of the Sixty-eighth Ohio, and Mr. George E. Spencer, who acted as volunteer aides-- for their prompt conveyance and execution of orders in the face of all danger.
I directed the men to lie down when not engaged, and to fire kneeling and lying down as much as possible, and also to take advantage of the ground whenever it could be done. By adopting this course and continuing it throughout the day I have no doubt but that the lives of hundreds of our men were saved.
In conclusion, I may be permitted to congratulate the general upon the part his division took and upon the success which attended all his movements in the memorable battle at Pittsburg.
I have the honor to be, very truly, yours,
JOHN M. THAYER,
Col. 1st Nebr., Comdg. 2d Brig., 3d Div., Army in the Field.
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