John J. Hight.

History of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 online

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Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 6 of 47)
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dence in one another and in their officers ; will produce
harmony in the movements and precision in firing, and add
solidarit}^ to the army. The wild huzza of the drunken
charge is soon stilled by the leaden hail delivered by sober
men. Then all confidence is gone and the intoxicated men
become ungovernable. The officers are not fit to command,
nor could they if the})- were. The surprise of our men at
Shiloh enabled the rebels to fight wildlv and successfully all
day. But when night came, and the excitement and whisky
were spent, the rebel soldiers went down in their feelings as
far below a proper level as they had been above it during
the day. We might be surprised the}'^ did not entrench on
Sunday night, especially in view of the coming of Buell, if
it were not for their drunkenness. Men who have been
excitedlv intoxicated all dav but little think that men so


brave as they imagine themselves to be, need fortitications.
Most of them sunk down in drunken stupor where night
overtook them. Others, not having yet exhausted their sup-
ply of whisky, spent the night in carousal over the supposed
victor}'. One company was fovmd dead on the morrow,
having been hurled into eternit}^ b}- an exploding shell while
playing a game of cards. Such was the excitement of the
rebels on Sunday that they neglected to take any steps to
secure the camps they captured. They supposed that they
could attend to this at their leisure. But when Monday
morning dawned their gallant leader was dead, their artifi-
cial stimulants were gone, and they had not sober courage
to meet their foe. They are driven in hot haste through
these camps which they cannot pause even to burn, and
victory yields to sad defeat.

All in all, the battle of Shiloh was more like some opiatic
fever dream than sober history. There were yells and
charges and roar of musketry and cannonading. The trees
were torn as well in their highest branches as about their
bases. Some were reckless of life beyond all reason, fight-
ing with open wounds until death ensued by bleeding.
Meanwhile some with disheveled hair and distorted counten-
ance fled in terror to the rear. Men who survived the con-
test look back in wonder on the occurrences of those event-
ful days. By the official reports, one thousand seven hun-
dred and thirty-nine federals and one thousand seven hun-
dred and twenty-eight rebels were killed dead upon the
field — being eleven more of our men than the enemy. The
result shows the fight w^ell matched and the total — three
thousand four hundred and sixty-seven — proves the deadli-
ness of the contest. No more were reported than actually
fell. No doubt both of the reports fall short of the truth.
The number who died of their wounds w^ould swell the loss
to about three thousand on each side. On our part 7,882
were reported wounded and 4,044 missing. Many of these
missing will never be heard of until the revelation of the
great day. Our loss is officially stated at 13,665. I am con-


fident, from what I saw and heard, that this is none too large.
Fifteen thousand would be nearer the truth. The enemy
lost as many. Thus thiitv thousand men were placed hors
de combat at Shiloh.

The country people who built the plain little log chapel
and called it Shiloh. a prophetic name of the Messiah, but
little thought of the deadlv strife to come, and how their
little house of worship would be made famous in all coming
time. The battle was well called Shiloh. and. it seems, we
are indebted to the rebel General Beauregard for the appli-
cation of this name to this battle. Our people began to call
it Pittsburg Landing, but when he sent in his request to be
permitted to bur\' his dead he dated it "On the Field of
Shiloh." This name was immediately taken up by General
Buell and soon preyailed oyer Pittsburg Landing. Shiloh
means '"The Gathering.'* L'p to that time there had been
no such gathering on the continent. It was a gathering of
men and of arms. The words of Jacob were certainly ful-
filled of this Shiloh. as of old : "Unto him shall the crather-
ing of the people be."" It was the most deadly battle that
had then been fought in America. More Americans are said
to haye fallen in it than in all the Reyolutionary war.


Shiloh to Corinth — Camping Among the Dead — Un-
comfortable Quarters — Moving Toward the
Enemy, by Slow Degrees — General Halleck as a
Commander — Corinth Evacuated — Halleck Out-
witted BY Beauregard.

WE remained in this camp for about ten days without
tents or baggage. Our teams had not been able to
reach us, owing to the effectual blockade of the single mudd}-
road bevond the Tennessee. In the meantime our men con-
stnicted temporar}^ shelter from the rain, which fell almost
every day, by using bark which they peeled from trees. It
was not the most cosy and comfortable quarters that one
could imagine, but it was the best to be had.

While in this ver}- undesirable situation we were visited
by Judge Elisha Embree and Rev. John McMaster, two
sterling, patriotic citizens of Princeton, each of whom had
a son in the Regiment. Rev. McMaster remained in camp
over Sabbath and preached for us, this being the first
preaching service the 58th had enjoyed since my connection
with it, and for some time before that. The Regiment had
been required to march or perform some other dut}' almost
ever}' Sabbath. Up to this time, it seemed to me, I had
been able to do but little good as Chaplain. I was in bad
health and was greatly discouraged, but I was not yet will-
ing to give it up.

In addition to our other discomforts and cheerless sur-
roundings here, we were located on ground that had been
the scene of some of the hardest fighting and there were


dead bodies of men and horses all about us for several days.
A stor}^ is told of one of our men that he lay down beside one
to sleep one night and became highly offended because his
silent companion would not divide blankets. Why did we
not bury them? Well, I hardly know, unless it was because
we had no spades or other tools with which to dig a grave.
Burying parties were at work but it was a big undertaking
and it was several days before the work was completed.

The weather continued damp and cold and the men were
suffering from privation and hunger. All the rations had to
be carried on their backs from Pittsburg Landing, a distance
of four miles. There were several cases of severe illness
here and their only shelter from the rain was such as could be
made from the bark of trees. Among those who were
severely sick was Private Emmerson, of Company F,
and the news had got home that he was dead. In a day or
two after the sutler of the 8th Indiana Battery, who had
been home on a visit, arrived in camp bringing with him a
fine metallic coffin. When he came to the Regiment to
inquire after the corpse he was astonished to learn that it
was not ready. Comrade Emmerson is the only living man
in the 58th who had so fine a coffin sent to him. He lived
to serve his time out.

During the remainder of April we had some pretty tough
experiences in soldiering. The country was the most deso-
late and forsaken we had ever seen ; the rains continued and
the mud was very deep and very nasty. Sickness increased
and many deaths occurred. The 58th lost some noble men
in this wilderness campaign. We moved camp every few
days, often going but a few miles, but never staying at one
place long enough to get fixed up, even if the facilities for
fixing had been at hand.

During the month of May we continued our cautious
advance toward Corinth, where the rebels were now in
force, strongly fortified. Our position was in General
Buell's arm}^ in the center. Grant's army was on the right
and General Pope, who had come up after the capture of


Island No. lo, with the arm}- of the Mississippi, was on our
left. Major General Ilalleck was the commander of this
entire force. It was an immense army and was capable of
great things if it had been properl}^ managed. As it was it
seemed to be cumbersome and unwieldy. Somehow
the several Divisions seemed to be getting in each other
way. Sometimes we thought ourselves in the front and
near the rebels. Pickets would be thrown out ; strict orders
would be given about making tires or noise of any kind, lest
the enemy should discover our position. Later we would
discover that a whole Division of our own troops were in
tront of us with blazing lires and stirring music.

On the 1 8th of May, however, we did get near enough to
the enem}-^ to hear balls whistle and shells burst. liere we
threw up our hrst entrenchments. We were now about
three miles from Corinth and the rebels were plenty enough
between us and that town. From this time until the 30th of
May there was more or less skirmishing in our front every
day, but no serious casualties occurred in the 58th.

On the morning of May 30th the 58th was out on picket.
About daylight the drowsy sentinels were arroused by a
loud and continuous explosion. Looking in the direction of
Corinth we discovered huge columns of smoke rising over
the town and above the intervening tree tops. Soon the
news came that the rebels had evacuated the place. This
was as much of a surprise to General Halleck as it was to
the private in the rear rank. Although we had been for two
months within twenty miles of the enem3^ it appears that
our commanding General had never been able to compre-
hend his movements. And now, after all this delay and
extreme caution on the part of the Commander of this army
of over 100,000 men, the wily foe had escaped. Just when
General Halleck thought he was read}^ to close in on Beaure-
gard, that shrewd Commander deliberately walked out of
the trap. There was great strategy displayed in this Corinth
campaign — but it was all on the part of General Beauregard.

As soon as the discoverv was made that the rebels were


evacuating, General Nelson and General McCook hastened
forward with troops from their respective Divisions and
occupied the town. They followed the retreating rebels a
short distance beyond, but they had too much of a start of
our forces, and nothing of importance was accomplished.
So, the fruits of our victorv were the peaceable possession
of a town of insignificant proportions, and such things
thereunto appertaining as the rebels did not care to take
away with them.

Saturday morning, May 31st. our Brigade went into
Corinth, and remained during the da v. We spent a good
deal of the time looking around this late rebel stronghold.
We found a great amount of camp equippage which, oiu"
friends, the enemy, had left, but which thev had rendered
useless. There was also a great quantit\- of provision left
but they had attempted to destrov this in various wavs.
They had destroyed manv of the houses in the town and
left it in a very forlorn and ruined condition. There
were numerous forts and formidable works of defense
around the place, but the seige guns and lighter field pieces
had been removed while our army was innocently waiting.

In their retreat from Corinth the rebel army was broken
into detachments, part going toward Okolona, Miss., and
part toward Memphis. Probably the largest part of what
had been Beauregard's grand army at Corinth, was the force
under General Bragg that headed eastward toward Chatta-
nooga. In consequence of this movement of the rebels, our
army had to suffer similar disintegration. The arni\- of {he
Ohio, which was the designation of that force commanded
by General D. C. Buell, and of whicli the 58th was a part,
was directed to look after General T?ragg, and we immedi-
ately turned our attention in that direction. Bragg, how-
ever, had every advantage of his competitor, antl it was not
long after the evacuation of Corinth until his arm^• was
safely established in Chattanooga, and read\- for offensive
operations. What these were will be fulh* developed as we
proceed with oiu" stouy.


FuoM Corinth to McMinnville — Getting out op' Ma-
larial Swamps into a Healthful Country — Inci-
dents OP' the March through Alabama — Tuscumkia
— Moorp:sville — Hot Roast at Huntsvile —
Forcp:d March to Shelby ville — Enjoying Life at
Dp:cherd — Up thp: Cumberland Mountains and
Back Again — Watchin

Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 6 of 47)