Report of Maj. Gen. Lewis
Wallace, U. S. Army, Commanding Third Division
Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)
HDQRS. THIRD DIVISION, UNITED STATES FORCES,
Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., April 12, 1862.
Capt. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
SIR: Sunday morning, 6th instant, my brigades, three in number, were encamped, the first at Crump's Landing, the second 2 miles from that Landing, the third at Adamsville, 2 miles farther out on the road to Purdy. The Eleventh Indiana, Col. George F. McGinnis; Eighth Missouri, Lieut. Col. James Peckham, and Twenty-fourth Indiana, Col. Alvin P. Hovey, composed the First Brigade, Col. Morgan L. Smith commanding. The First Nebraska, Lieut. Col. W. D. McCord; Twenty-third Indiana, Col. W. L. Sanderson; Fifty-eighth Ohio, Col. V. Bausenwein, and Fifty-sixth Ohio, Col. P. Kinney, composed the Second Brigade, Col. John M. Thayer commanding. The Third Brigade consisted of the Twentieth Ohio, Col. M. F. Force; Seventy-sixth Ohio, Col. Charles R. Woods; Seventy-eighth Ohio, Col. M.D. Leggett, and Sixty-eighth Ohio, Col. S. H. Steedman; Col. Charles Whittlesey commanding. To my division were attached Lieutenant Thurber's Missouri battery and Capt. N. S. Thompson's Indiana battery; also the Third Battalion Fifth Ohio Cavalry, Maj. C. S. Hayes, and the Third Battalion Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, Maj. James F. Johnson.
Hearing heavy and continuous cannonading in the direction of Pittsburg Landing early Sunday morning, I inferred a general battle, and, in anticipation of an order from General Grant to join him at that place, had the equipage of the several brigades loaded in wagons for instant removal to my first camp at the river. The First and Third Brigades were also ordered to concentrate at the camp of the Second, from which proceeded the nearest and most practicable road to the scene of battle. At 11.30 o'clock the anticipated order arrived, directing me to come up and take position on the right of the army and form my line of battle at a right angle with the river. As it also directed me to leave a force to prevent surprise at Crump's Landing, the Fifty-sixth Ohio and Sixty-eighth Ohio Regiments were detached for that purpose, with one gun from Lieutenant Thurber's battery. Selecting a road that led directly to the right of the lines as they were established around Pittsburg Landing on Sunday morning, my column started immediately, the distance being about 6 miles. The cannonading, distinctly audible, quickened the steps of the men. Snake Creek, difficult of passage at all times, on account of its steep banks and swampy bottoms, ran between me and the point of junction. Short way from it Captain Rowley, from General Grant, and attached to his staff, overtook me. From him I learned that our lines had been beaten back; that the right, to which I was proceeding, was then fighting close to the river, and that the road pursued would take me in the enemy's rear, where, in the unfortunate condition of the battle, my command was in danger of being entirely cut off. It seemed, on his representation, most prudent to carry the column across to what is called the "River road," which, following the windings of the Tennessee bottoms, crossed Snake Creek by a good bridge close to Pittsburg Landing. This movement occasioned a counter-march, which delayed my junction with the main army until a little after night-fall. The information brought me by Captain Rowley was confirmed by Colonel McPherson and Captain Rawlins, also of the general's staff, who came up while I was crossing to the River road. About 1 o'clock at night my brigades and batteries were disposed, forming the extreme right, and ready for battle.
Shortly after daybreak Captain Thompson opened fire on a rebel battery posted on a bluff opposite my First Brigade, and across a deep and prolonged hollow, threaded by a creek and densely wooded on both sides. From its position and that of its infantry support, lining the whole length of the bluff, it was apparent that crossing the hollow would be at heavy loss, unless the battery was first driven off. Thurber was accordingly posted to assist Thompson by a cross-fire and at the same time sweep the hiding place of the rebels on the brow of the hill. This had the desired effect. After a few shells from Thurber the enemy fell back, but not before Thompson had dismounted one of their rifled guns. During this affair General Grant came up and gave me my direction of attack, which was forward at a right angle with the river, with which at the time my line ran almost parallel.
The battery and its supports having been driven from the opposite bluff, my command was pushed forward, the brigades in echelon-- the First in front, and the whole preceded by skirmishers. The hollow was crossed and the hill gained almost without opposition. As General Sherman's division, next on my left, had not made its appearance to support my advance, a halt was ordered for it to come up. I was then at the edge of an oblong field that extended in a direction parallel with the river. On its right was a narrow strip of woods, and beyond that lay another cleared field, square and very large. Back of both fields, to the north, was a range of bluffs overlooking the swampy low grounds of Snake Creek, heavily timbered, broken by ravines, and extending in a course diagonal with that of my movement. An examination satisfied me that the low grounds afforded absolute protection to my right flank, being impassable for a column of attack. The enemy's left had rested upon the bluff, and, as it had been driven back, that flank was now exposed. I resolved to attempt to turn it. For that purpose it became necessary for me to change front by a left half-wheel of the whole division.
While this movement was in progress, across a road through the woods at the southern end of the field we were resting by, I discovered a heavy column of rebels going rapidly to re-enforce their left, which was still retiring, covered by skirmishers, with whom mine were engaged. Thompson's battery was ordered up, and shelled the passing column with excellent effect; but while he was so engaged he was opened on by a full battery, planted in the field just beyond the strip of wood on the right. He promptly turned his guns at the new enemy. A fine artillery duel ensued, very honorable to Thompson and his company. His ammunition giving out in the midst of it, I ordered him to retire and Lieutenant Thurber to take his place. Thurber obeyed with such alacrity that there was scarcely an intermission in the fire, which continued so long and with such warmth as to provoke an attempt on the part of the rebels to charge the position. Discovering the intention, the First Brigade was brought across the field to occupy the strip of woods in front of Thurber. The cavalry made the first dash at the battery, but the skirmishers of the Eighth Missouri poured an unexpected fire into them, and they retired pell-mell. Next the infantry attempted a charge. The First Brigade easily repelled them. All this time my whole division was under a furious cannonade, but being well masked behind the bluff, or resting in the hollows of the wood, the regiments suffered but little.
A handsome line of battle now moved forward on my left to engage the enemy. I supposed it to be Sherman's troops, but was afterwards otherwise informed. Simultaneously mine were ordered to advance, the First Brigade leading. Emerging from the woods, it entered the second field I have mentioned, speedily followed by the Second Brigade, when both marched in face of the enemy, aligned as regularly as if on parade. Having changed front, as stated, my movement was now diagonal to the direction originally started on, though the order was still in echelon, with the center regiment of each brigade dropped behind its place in line as a reserve. While thus advancing Colonel Whittlesey, as appears from his report, in some way lost his position, but soon recovered it. The position of the enemy was now directly in front at the edge of the woods fronting, and on the right of the open field my command was so gallantly crossing. The ground to be passed getting at them dipped gradually to the center of the field, which is there intersected by a small run, well fringed with willows.
Clearing an abrupt bank beyond the branch, the surface ascends to the edge of the wood held by the enemy, and is without obstruction, but marked by frequent swells, that afforded protection to the advancing lines, and was the secret of my small loss. Over the branch, up the bank, across the rising ground, moved the steady First Brigade; on its right, with equal alacrity, marched the Second-- the whole in view, their banners gaily decking the scene. The skirmishers, in action all the way, cleared the rise, and grouped themselves behind the ground swells within 75 yards of the rebel line. As the regiments approached them suddenly a sheet of musketry blazed from the woods and a battery opened upon them. About the same instant the, regiments supporting me on my left fell hastily back. To save my flank I was compelled to order a halt. In a short time, however, the retiring regiments rallied and repulsed the enemy, and recovered their lost ground. My skirmishers meanwhile clung to their hillocks sharpshooting at the battery. Again the brigades advanced, their bayonets fixed for a charge; but, pressed on their flank and so threatened in front, the rebels removed their guns and fell back from the edge of the woods. In this advance Lieut. Col. John Gerber was killed, and it is but justice to say of him, "No man died that day with more glory; yet many died, and there was much glory." Captain McGuffin and Lieutenant South-wick, of the same regiment, also fell-- gallant spirits, deserving honor: able recollection. Many soldiers equally brave perished or were wounded in the same field.
It was now noon, and, the enemy having been driven so far back, the idea of flanking them further had to be given up. Not wishing to interfere with the line of operations of the division to my left, but relying upon it for support, my front was again changed-- the movement beginning with the First Brigade, taking the course of attack precisely as it had been in the outset. While this maneuver was being effected a squadron of rebel cavalry galloped from the woods on the right to charge the flank temporarily exposed. Colonel Thayer threw forward the Twenty-third Indiana, which, aided by an oblique fire from a company of the First Nebraska, repelled the assailants with loss. Scarcely had the front been changed when the supporting force on the left again gave way, closely followed by masses of the enemy. My position at this time became critical, as isolation from the rest of the army seemed imminent. The reserves were resorted to. Colonel Woods, with his regiment, was ordered into line on the left. The remnant of a Michigan regiment, sent me by General McClernand, was dispatched to the left of Woods'. Thurber galloped up, and was posted to cover a retreat, should such a misfortune become necessary. Before these dispositions could be effected the Eleventh Indiana, already engaged with superior numbers in its front, was attacked on its left flank; but, backward wheeling three companies of his endangered wing, Colonel McGinnis gallantly held his ground. Fortunately, before the enemy could avail themselves of their advantage by the necessary change of front, some fresh troops dashed against them, and once more drove them back. For this favor my acknowledgments are especially due Col. August Willich and his famous regiment.
Pending this struggle, Colonel Thayer pushed on his command and entered the woods, assaulting the rebels simultaneously with Colonel Smith. Here the Fifty-eighth Ohio and Twenty-third Indiana proved themselves fit comrades in battle with the noble First Nebraska. Here also the Seventy-sixth. Ohio won a brilliant fame. The First Nebraska fired away its last cartridge in the heat of the action. At a word the Seventy-sixth Ohio rushed in and took its place. Off to the right, meanwhile, arose the music of the Twentieth and Seventy-eighth Ohio, fighting gallantly in support of Thurber, to whom the sound of rebel cannon seemed a challenge no sooner heard than accepted.
From the time the wood was entered "Forward" was the only order; and step by step, from tree to tree, position to position, the rebel lines went back, never stopping again. Infantry, horse, and artillery-- all went back. The firing was grand and terrible. Before us was the Crescent Regiment of New Orleans. Shelling us on the right was the Washington Artillery of Manassas renown, whose last stand was in front of Colonel Whittlesey's command. To and fro, now in my front, then in Sherman's, rode General Beauregard, inciting his troops and fighting for his fading prestige of invincibility. The desperation of the struggle may be easily imagined. While this was in progress far along the lines to the left the contest was raging with equal obstinacy. As indicated by the sounds, however, the enemy seemed retiring everywhere, cheer after cheer ringing through the woods. Each man felt that the day was ours.
About 4 o'clock the enemy to my front broke into rout and ran through the camps occupied by General Sherman on Sunday morning Their own camp had been established about 2 miles beyond. There, without halting, they fired tents, stores, &c. Throwing out the wounded, they filled their wagons full of arms (Springfield muskets and Enfield rifles) ingloriously thrown away by some of our troops the day before, and hurried on. After following them until nearly nightfall I brought my division back to Owl Creek and bivouacked it.
The conduct of Col. M. L. Smith and Col. John M. Thayer, commanding brigades, was beyond the praise of words. Colonel Whittlesey's was not behind them. To them all belong the highest honors of victory.
The gratitude of the whole country is due Col. George F. McGinnis, Lieut. Col. James Peckham, Col. Alvin P. Hovey, Lieut. Col. W. D. McCord, Col. W. L. Sanderson, Col. Valentine Bausenwein, Lieut. Col. M. F. Force, Col. Charles R. Woods, Col. M.D. Leggett, and their field, staff, and company officers. Aside from the courage they all displayed one point in their conduct is especially to be noted and imitated-- I mean the skill each one showed in avoiding unnecessary exposure of his soldiers. They are proud of what the division achieved, and, like myself, they are equally proud that it was done with so little loss of their brave men.
Of my regiments I find it impossible to say enough. Excepting the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Indiana and the Twentieth Ohio they had all participated in the battle of Donelson; but this was a greater battle than Donelson, and consequently a more terrible ordeal in which to test what may be a thing of glory or shame-- the courage of an untried regiment. How well they all behaved I sum up in the boast, not one man, officer or soldier, flinched. None but the wounded went to the Landing. Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Nebraska will be proud of the steadfast Third Division, and so am I.
Captain Thompson and Lieutenant Thurber and their officers and men have already been spoken of.
My acknowledgments are again given the gallant gentlemen of my staff, Capt. Frederick Knefier and Lieutenants Ross and Ware. To them I add Capt. E. T. Wallace, of the Eleventh Indiana Regiment, acting aide. The courage and judgment of all were many times severely tried.
After the battle of Donelson I took pleasure in honorably mentioning two of my orderlies. One of them, Thomas W. Simson, of Company I, Fourth U.S. Cavalry, I again call attention to. His gallantry is deserving reward. Along with him I placed Albert Kauffman, a sergeant in the same company, who was of great service to me, and has every quality that goes to make a practical officer. Finally, it is so rare to find one of his grade in the constant and full performance of his peculiar duties that, as a matter of justice, a passing tribute is due the Rev. John D. Rogers, chaplain of the Twenty-third Indiana. After the battle he was unwearied in his attention to the wounded, and that the resting places of the dead of his regiment might not be forgotten he collected their bodies and buried them tenderly, and with prayer and every religious rite; and in this, as far as my knowledge goes, he was as singular as he was Christian.
Herewith you will find a statement of the dead and wounded of my division.
Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
General, Third Division.
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