John K. Duke.

History of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men online

. (page 2 of 24)
Online LibraryJohn K. DukeHistory of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men → online text (page 2 of 24)
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" Southern Confederacy."

Fort Donelson had at this' time surrendered to General Grant.
Generals Johnston and Beauregard were quick to perceive that
Pittsburg Landing would most probably be the point for the con-
centration of the Union forces. They well knew that, with Pitts-
burg Landing in our possession, it was but twenty miles to Corinth,


where two leading and important railroad lines wonld be inter-
cepted. From Corinth, by easy approach, the captnre of Memphis
would follow, and with that city, and the other points indicated, in
our possession, they would be compelled to abandon the Mississippi
River from Memphis to Cairo. ,

General Johnston transported his troops from Mnrfeesboro,
General Bragg from Mobile, and General Beauregard from Rich-
mond. General Johnston concentrated his army along the Mobile
^ Ohio Railroad, extending from Bethel to Corinth ; also, along
the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, from Corinth to luka.

General Johnston's army was commanded as follows: by
Major-General Leonidas K. Polk, commanding 9,130 men ; Gen-
eral Bragg, 18,5()th Indiana partly formed in line, persons running from the
front passing through the line and breaking it."

This condition was in no wise due to the cowardice of officers
or men, but their commands were simply overwhelmed, and the
attack coming as a surprise, as it did, they could not withstand
the forces. The panic on the part of the men and subordinate
officers was caused by the troops not being prepared for the attack.

I would call attention, briefly, to the generals in command of
the Confederate forces. The night prior to the attack was clear,
bright, and, according to one authority, the commanders of each
corps of the Confederate forces had come together at General
Johnston's headquarters to receive their final orders.

Beauregard was restless and nervous and could scarcely keep

General Breckinridge is reported, as lying on the ground,
wrapped in a blanket, pale but thoughtful. A very few months
previous he occupied the exalted position of Vice President of the
United States. It had only been a few months since he had left
his seat in the Senate and turned his back upon the nation. To-
morrow he realizes that he will be engaged in a deadly battle
against the Nation he so recently deserted.

The preacher, as it afterwards developed, the great fighter,
General Polk, was sitting near by with his elbows upon his knees,
silent and pensive.


Another conspicuous figure was that of General Bragg, who
did service in the Mexican War, and whose battery held the com-
manding position and did great execution at the battle of Buena
Vista. He was a man of energy and one who did not hesitate to
express his views to General Johnston.

General Albert Sidney Johnston, the Commander-in-chief of
the Confederate forces, little dreamed that within the next forty-
eight hours he would have answered the roll call of the Divine.
He was tall and broad shouldered, his hair already slightly gray.
He had spent his life, or the most of it, in the service of the Unit-
en States. His face was wrinkled and his cheeks pale. He, no
doubt, was thinking over the mortification of his forced evacua-
tion of Bowling Green and his further defeat at Donelson. He
seemed to have but one idea, and that was to retrieve lost honor
and to hammer Sherman's and Prentiss' divisions. His instruc-
tions were "Hammer them, gentlemen, hammer them !" His idea
was to drive the forces into the Tennessee River, and he said
further : "To-morrow night we must sleep in the enemy's camp."
It is further said that he boasted that "We must water our horses
to-morrow night in the Tennessee River or in hell." The latter
cannot be fully substantiated, but it is currently believed. How
well he kept that promise after events proved.

General Beauregard was regarded as second in command. He
was idolized to some extent because he had captured Fort

The Confederate forces did not originally intend to commence
the battle upon Sunday, but had designed that a general attack
should take place Saturday morning. The delay was owing to
recent rains and the impassable condition of the roads for ar-

General Sherman's division, composed of four brigades, was
on the extreme right of the line near Shiloh Church. The Third


Brigade of this division was composed of the o.'Jrd, r>7th and TTlh
Ohio and commanded by Colonel Hildebrand, of the 77th Ohio.

Some three or fonr companies of a Missouri regiment, perhaps
the 2oth, were sent to ascertain the presence of the enemy at 3 a.
m. on Sunday. They soon encountered the rebel picket line and
firing began. From this on to five or six o'clock, the firing was
desultory, but near sunrise the battle was well on.

One of Sherman's brigade commanders, General Buckland,
was to take his brigade on a reconnoissance early in the morning
of the (jtli. He was at his breakfast when the rattle of musketry
fell upon his ear. His first instruction was to beat the long roll,
and in a few minutes one of his regiments was in line and the
general in his saddle. He reported at once to General Sherman's
headquarters, informing him of the advance of the enemy. It was
the work of a very few minutes to have the entire division in line.
With Sherman's division were three batteries, Waterhouse's, Tay-
tor's and Behr's. (rcneral Sherman came immediately to the
front, and for the Orst time saw the advance of the Confederate
forces upon his left and east of the church. He said at once to
McClernand, ''Support my left." His word to General Prentiss
was, "The enemy are upon us in force," and then to Hurlburt,
"Support Prentiss." While General Sherman was on the front
line near the edge of the ravine with the 53rd Ohio, General John-
ston was on the other side, putting a brigade in position, and one
of that rebel brio^ade killed Sherman's orderlv.

The Third brigade received the first shock of the battle. The
three regiments were formed in line of battle upon their respective
color lines , the o.'ird Ohio holding the extreme left at the time of
the attack.

The night previous to the attack GenerBl Wells S. Jones,
commander of Company A, was brigade officer of the guard. In
an interview, he says, "I was nervous all night and upon the alert
and along the guard-line most of the night." He was making his


way to brigade headquarters early in the morning to make a re-
report. As he passed his regiment he observed that Colonel
Appier was forming in line of battle. He had not proceeded very
far until he observed the 77th and 57th were forming into line.
At that time sharp skirmishing was going on in our front, and the
rebel line of battle was not to exceed one-fourth of a mile in front of
our brigade line. Soon, too soon for some of us, the bullets began
to fly around us, sending the dirt in all directions. At about this
time the enemy's artillery opened upon our line. The first shot
cut off the tree branches just to the rear of Co. A. Soon it was
apparent that the enemy was upon our left, as rapid firing was
gaining in that direction. The rebels were upon higher ground,
while the position of the 53rd was upon low ground ; hence, the
regiment held its fire until an opportune time or the nearer ap-
proach of the enemy. After the left of the regiment had been en-
gaged for sometime, it fell back in good order. Captain Jones, in
command of the right, stubbornly held his position in line, until
proper orders had been received for retreat. The regiment had
retreated some 300 yards, with its right flank toward the enemy in
place of fronting the line. Captain Jones suggested to Colonel
Appier that we were not in proper position ; we should face the
enemy. The captain asked that he be permitted to march the
regiment towards the Church until the front was changed, saying
to Colonel i\ppler, "We came here to fight, and we are in no pos-
ition to fight where we are." The Colonel honored the sugges-
tion and the new position was taken. The officers of the right
wing were pleased with the new position. They said, "This is a
good place to fight, and we will stay here." Captain Jones sug-
gested to the officers upon the right that he apprehended Colonel
Appier would give an order to fall back as soon as we were at-
tacked. Captain Jones said, "I am not going." Captain Percy,
Lieutenant Starkey, and Dawes replied, "We will stay with you."
If it had been possible for someone to pass this declaration along
down the line to all the company officers, regardless of the col-


onel, there would in all probability have been no confusion or dis-
order when that officer gave the order to retreat. In other words,
the regiment would have held its ground.

The right of the regiment held its position until 12 m. The
enemy had by this time passed us on the left and was between us
and Prentiss' division. Companies A and F then fell back and
fell in with the 48th Ohio and remained with them until darkness
closed the first day's fight at Shiloh. After night fell, the right
and left wings were brought together ; the left wing being
farther out on the front line of the day's battle than the right.
However, each wing fought manfully from early morn till dark.
After the two wings became separated the left was held together

Online LibraryJohn K. DukeHistory of the Fifty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, during the war of the rebellion, 1861 to 1865. Together with more than thirty personal sketches of officers and men → online text (page 2 of 24)