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 3 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 3 of 24)
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by Lieutenant-Colonel Fulton, and the right by Captain Wells S.
Jones, of Company A.

On Monday, the regiment was a part of McClernand's force and
merited praise by soldierly conduct. ^IcClernand's Division, the
second day, had for its left the o3rd and 8 1st Ohio regiments. The
position was in an open field, and was supported by McAllister's
and two other batteries. The division moved quite a distance
with but little, if any opposition, but the enemy finally came upon
its left, and by a skillful movement, by the left flank, charged
across the open field in the rear of the division. The 58rd and the
81st Ohio bore the brunt of this attack and resisted it manfully,
but had to yield to superior numbers and was driven back, the
whole line retreating. Re-enforcements came to our rescue. The
enemy charged us, driving us back through the former camp of
McClernand, when we were again compelled to yield the field to
the enemy. By a dexterous move upon the part of McCook upon
the right, with two divisions, attention was drawn from the left,
and the tide of battle surged to the right. Thus closed one of the
most hotly contested battles of the war, with the Union forces in
full possession of the field and the enemy retreating southward
toward Corinth.


General «Beauregard admits the following losses in his official
report: Killed, 1,728; wounded, 8,012; missing, 959; total,

The casualties of the Union forces are reported as follows :
Killed, 1,7(J0; wounded, 7,495; missing, 3,022; total, 12,212.

The 53rd Ohio Regiment reported losses, to-wit : Killed, 7 ;
wounded, 39 ; missing, 5 ; total, 51.

In view of the foregoing facts, giving the course of events in
detail, it is impossible to deny that the battle of Shiloh was a
great surprise. Taking into consideration the physical condition
of the regiment, and indeed of the army at the date of this battle,
(and good health is essential to good fighting;) also that the army
was simply en-massed with no regard to military rules or the us-
ages of war ; that the men and the majority of the officers were
amateurs in matters of warfare ; that the few experienced officers
of former wars, or those who were West Point graduates, were re-
mote from the front, abusing themselves with the use of stimu-
lants to a greater or less degree, ignoring the comforts of soldiers ;
that these officers were personally responsible for our total unpre-
paredness for an attack ; that they were utterly ignorant of the fact
that an enemy's army was lurking in our front, and disdained to
entertain any report of the same ; that our entire army was ex-
posed, with no out-posts and only limited pickets, with unprepared
quartermaster and commissary departments, and an unorganized
medical corps ; that almost our sole reliance was upon our numer-
ical strength ; — it would be a gross injustice to the men who
fought this battle to say that they were responsible for the deplor-
able disasters of the first day's fighting.

Our officers were laboring under the delusion that the enemy
were preparing to act on the defensive whenever we, in our own
' good time, deemed it prudent to approach their line of fortifica-
tions at Corinth, which our able (?) generals knew were being con-



It is well to note that we had no fortifications of any kind for
onr nse ; our entire force being in a unorganized condition, resemb-
ling more a mob than what it should have been, a well organized and
equipped army ; yet, notwithstanding all this, and more things that
could be enumerated, that battle was fought and won, more as the
result of good luck than good generalship ; yet, after the battle
some of these same gentlemen wearing epaulets called some of the
regiments into column by companies and criticized their conduct
at the outset of the battle ; because, forsooth, they numbering less
than 2, ()()() did not hold in check and whip an entire corps of 10,-
000 men. The conclusion is inevitable that we were wanting in
strategic leadership. vSomeone was to blame and if these gentle-
men could find a scape-goat they might escape just condemnation
for poor generalship, ind thus it was that the 5;ird and 77th Ohio
were censured. The happy conclusion of whole unfortunate
affair is that both General Sherman and General Grant fully re-
deemed themselves during the subsequent years of the war. So
also did the two regiments just named, as I am confident the read-
er will be convinced if he follow this narrative to its conclusion.



SHiLOH — Fulton's report.

It is deemed important, and it will not be uninteresting, to
publish herewith the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert A. Ful-
ton, who was next in command to Colonel Appier, and who com-
manded the Regiment throughout the battle of Pittsburg Land-
ing :

''''Headquarters Fifty-third Ohio Vols.^
''Camp Shiloh, April ^th, 1862.

"Sir : — I have the honor to submit the following report of the
part taken by my regiment in the engagement of the 6th, 7th,
and 8th :

"Shortly after daylight on the morning of the 6th, the regi-
ment was formed on the color line under order and direction of
Colonel Appier. After remaining here for a time, they were
moved to the left of our camp, forming a line of battle perpendi-
cular to the first line. Soon after Colonel Appier ordered the regi-
ment to face about and wheel to the right and take position in the
rear of the camp, which maneuver was executed under fire of the
rebel skirmishers. The new line of battle was formed just in the
rear of our camp, in the edge of the woods. A section of Water-
house's battery took position in the woods at our right. General
Sherman and staff rode up to the open field in front of the left
wing and were fired upon by the rebel skirmishers, now advancing
through the thicket in front of our camp, killing an orderly.

" General Sherman, riding back, ordered Colonel Appier to hold
his position ; he would support him. A battery opened upon us.


The section of artillery on our right, after fn ing two shots lim-
bered up and went to the rear. A line of rebel infantry advanced
to within fifty yards and were fired into by the left wing and re-
coiled. Advancing again, they were met by a fire from the regi-
ment, under which they again fell back. At this time Colonel
Appier gave the command : ' I'all back and save yourselves.'
Hearing this order, the regiment fell back in disorder, passing
around the flanks of the Illinois 4i>th.

" Here, in connection with the company oflficers and the adju-
tant, I succeeded in rallying the regiment, and was about to station
them at the crossing of the creek, above the Big Springs, to repel
the force who were turning the flank of the Fifty-seventh Ohio,
when Colonel Appier, by direction, he says, of a staff officer of
General McClernand, moved the regiment by the left flank up the
ravine, and afterwards by the right flank, taking position on the
hill to the left of Shiloh Chapel, and near the front of General
Sherman's headquarters.

" The regiment remained in this position for some time exposed
to a galling fire, which could not be returned without endangering
the regiment in front, who were hotly engaged. Colonel Appier
here abandoned the regiment, giving again the order : ' Fall back
and save yourselves.' Companies A and F, under command of
Captains W. S. Jones and J. R. Percy, with Adjutant Dawes, te-
mained in the front, and soon after became hotly engaged, in con-
nection with the Seventeenth Illinois. This regiment retreating,
these two companies fell back after them, making as much resist-
ance as possible. They afterwards joined the Forty-eighth Ohio,
and with them aided in repelling the final assault made Sunday
evening, and joined me again at night.

'' When the remaining eight companies of the regiment fell
back, I became separated from them. When I again joined them
they were formed with a portion of the Seventy-seventh Ohio,
under command of Major B. D. Fearing.


" I immediately assumed command. Shortly afterwards, at
the request of Captain Bouton, First Illinois Light Artilleay,
moved to a point near the siege-gun battery, where he took posi-
tion, with my regiment as support. Shortly after, at about 3:30
p. m., Captain Hammond, Assistant Adjutant-General to General
Sherman, rode up and ordered Captain Bouton's battery into posi-
tion on the front and right. He called upon us to go out and sup-
port the battery. I immediately formed my men and marched
out, several fragments of regiments near bv refusing to go.

" Marching out, probably half a mile, the battery halted, and
I formed on their left. Captain Bouton opened fire and was an-
swered by a sharp fire of shot and shell from the rebel batteries,
followed by canister, which killed a number of his horses and ren-
dered his position untenable.

"A detail from my regiment, under Sergeant M. K. Bosworth,
assisted in drawing off his guns. Remained here during the night,
and in the morning were ordered to advance, the Eighty-first Ohio
on our left and the Forty-fifth Illinois on our right.

" Moved out with skirmishers well to the front for nearly a
mile, when our skirmishers, under command of Lieutenant R. A.
Starkey and Lieutenant J. W. Fulton, encountered the rebel
videttes, driving them steadily until we reached the edge of the
field known as McClernand's drill-ground. Here a rebel battery
opened upon us, doing but little damage, however, as our men
were protected by the conformation of the ground. This battery
was soon partially silenced by our artillery, and we were ordered
to fix bayonets and charge My men advanced in good style
across the field. Nearing the battery, it was discovered to be en-
tirely abandoned.

" The line was halted, and skirmishers sent out in front re-
ported a large rebel force rapidly advancing immediately in our
front. They opened a sharp fire upon us, which was returned with
good effect. Shells from a battery of our own upon our right and


rear coinitienced burstings over our heads. The rebels, repossess-
ing the battery from which we liad once driven them, opened upon
us again. The Kighty-first Ohio, upon my left, fell back across
the open field. The staff officer who had taken upon himself the
direction of the line rode up and twice ordered my regiment to re-
treat. The second time they fell back in considerable disorder,
having to pass the line of fire of our own and the rebel batteries.
While engaged in rallying my regiment, upon the other side of
the field, (reneral McClernand rode up and ordered me to post them
as sharp-shooters. Remained in this position until the advance of
General BuelTs troops across the field to the left closed the day in
our favor, when I marched my regiment to the left, through the
drill-ground of our division, to Shiloh Chapel, where I was shortly
atterwards joined by the remainder of the brigade.

" On the morning of the Mth we were ordered with the rest of
the brigade to pursue the retreating army. About five miles out
a cavalry charge was made upon the Seventy-seventh Ohio, de-
ployed in the advance, resulting in the rout of that regiment and
a battalion of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, their immediate sup-
port. We were ordered by Colonel Hildebrand to their support,
and advanced at a double-quick, with fixed bayonets, driving the
rebel cavalry before us, killing and wounding a number of them
and forcing them to relinquish most of the prisoners taken.

" Halting here, details were made from my regiment to destroy
the rebel camp near at hand, to carry off the wounded, bury the
dead and collect the arms. This being accomplished, we returned
to our old camp near Shiloh Chapel.

" Respectfully,

" Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding.
" Lieutenant S. S. McNaughton,

" Acting Assistant Adjutant-General."




With no intention ot wearying the reader, but for the sole
purpose of establishing the fact that the 53rd Ohio did good and
honorable service throughout the fight of April 6th and 7th, I
herewith append a portion, at least, of the report of Brigadier-
General William T. Sherman, U. S. Army, commanding the Fifth

^''Headquarters Fifth Dwisioii^
''Camp Shiloh, April 10///, 1862.

" Sir : — I have the honor to report that on Friday, the 4th
instant, the enemy's cavalry drove in our pickets posted about a
mile and a half in advance of my center, on the main Corinth
road, capturing one first lieutenant and seven men ; that I caused
a pursuit by the cavalry of my division, driving them back about
five miles and killing many.

" On Saturday the enemy's cavalry was again very bold, com-
ing well down to pur front, yet I did not believe that he designed
anything but a strong demonstration.

" On Sunday morning early, the 6th instant, the enemy
drove our advance-guard back on the main body, when I ordered
under arms my division, and sent word to General McClernand
asking him to support my left ; to General Prentiss, giving him
notice that the enemy was in our front in force, and to General
Hurlbut, asking him to support General Prentiss. At that time
(7 a. ra.) my division was arranged as foHows : — First Brigade,
composed of the Sixth Iowa, Colonel J. A. McDowell ; Fortieth
Illinois, Colonel Hicks ; Forty-sixth Ohio, Colonel Worthington,


and the Morton Battery, Captain Bclir, on tlie extreme rig^ht,
gnardinf]^ tlic l^ridcje on the Pnrdy Road over Owl Creek. vSecond
Brigade, composed of the Fifty-fifth Illinois, Colonel D. Stuart ;
Fifty-fourth Ohio, Colonel T. Kilby Smith and the vSeventy-first
Ohio, Colonel Mason, on the extreme left, g-nardinj;^ the ford over
Lick Creek. Third Brigade, composed of the Seventy-seventh
Ohio, Colonel Hildebrand ; Fifty-third Ohio, Colonel Appier, and
the Fifty-seventh Ohio, Colonel Mungen, on the left of the Corinth
Road, its right resting on Shiloh Fourth Brigade,
composed of the Seventy-second Ohio, Colonel Buckland ; Forty-
eighth Ohio, Colonel Sullivan, and Seventhieth Ohio, Colonel
Cockerill, on the right of the Corinth Road, its left resting on
Shiloh Meeting-house. Two batteries of Artillery (Taylor's and
Waterhouse's) were posted, the former at Shiloh and the latter on
a ridge to the left, with a front fire over open ground between
Mungen's and Appier's regiments. The cavalry, eight companies
of the Fourth Illinois, under Colonel Dickey, was posted in a large
open field to the left and rear of Shiloh Meeting-house, which I
regarded as the center of my position.

"Shortly after 7 a. m., with my entire staff, I rode along a
portion of our front, and when in the open field before Appier's
regiment the enemy's pickets opened a brisk fire on my party,
killing my orderly, Thomas D. Holliday, of Company H, Second
Illinois Cavalry. The fire came from the bushes which line a
small stream that rises in the field in front of Appier's camp and
flows to the north along my whole front. The valley afforded the
enemy a partial cover, but our men were so posted as to have a
good fire at him as he crossed the valley and ascended the rising
ground on our side.

"About 8 a. m. I saw the glistening bayonets of heavy masses
of infantry to our left front in the woods beyond the small stream
alluded to, and became satisfied for the first time that the enemy
designed a determined attack upon our whole camp. All the reg-
iments of my division were then in line of battle at their proper


posts. I rode to Colonel Appier and ordered him to hold his
ground at all hazards, as he held the left flank of our first line of
battle. I informed him that he had a good battery on his right
and strong support in his rear. General McClernand had prompt-
ly responded to my request, and had sent me three regiments,
which were posted to protect Waterhouse's battery and the left
flank of my line. The battle began by the enemy opening a bat-
tery in the woods to our front and throwing shells into our camp.
Taylor's and Waterhouse's batteries promptly responded, and I
then observed heavy battalions of infantry passing obliquely to the
left across the open field in Appier's front ; also other columns ad-
vancing directly upon my division. Our infantry and artillery
opened along the whole line and the battle became general. Other
heavy masses of the enem}'s forces kept passing across the field to
our left and directing their course on General Prentiss. I .saw at
once that the enemy designed to pass my left flank and fall upon
General McClernand and General Prentiss, whose line of camps
was almost parallel with the Tennessee river and about two miles
back from it. Very soon the sound of musketry and artillery an-
nounced that General Prentiss was engaged, and about 9 a. m. I
judged that he was falling back About this time i\ppler's regi-
ment broke in disorder, soon followed by fugitives from ^Nlungen's
regiment, and the enemy pressed forward on Waterhouse's battery
thereby exposed.

"The three Illinois regiments in immediate support of this
battery stood for some time, but the enemy's advance was .so vig-
orous and the fire so severe, that when Colonel Raith, of the P'orty-
third Illinois, received a severe wound and fell from his horse, his
regiment and the others manifested disorder, and the enemy got
possession of three guns of the (Waterhouse) battery. Although
our left was thus turned and the enemy was pressing the whole
line, I deemed Shiloh so important that I remained by it, and re-
newed my orders to Colonels McDowell and Buckland to hold
their ground, and we did hold those positions till about 10 o'clock


a. m., when the enemy got his artillery to the rear of our left
flank, and sonic change became absolutely necessary.

" The regiments of Hildebrand's brigade-^-Appler's and Mun-
gen's — had already disappeared to the rear, and Hildebrand's own
regiment was in disorder, and therefore I gave directions for Tay-
lor's battery, still at Shiloh, to fall back as far as the Purdy and
Hamburg road, and for McDowell and Buckland to adopt the road
as their new line. I rode across the angle and met Behr's battery
at the cross-roads, and ordered it immediately to unlimber and-
come into battery action right. Captain Behr gave the order, but
he was almost immediately shot from his horse, when the drivers
and gunners fled in disorder, carrying off the caissons and aband-
oning five out of six guns, without firing a shot. The enemy
pressed on, gaining this battery, and we were again forced to a new line of defense. Hildebrand's brigade had sub-
stantially disappeared from the field, though he himself bravely
remained. McDowell's and Buckland's brigades still retained
their organization, and were conducted by my aides so as to join
General McClernand's right, thus abandoning my original camps
and line. This was about 10:30 a. m., at which time the enemy
had made a furious attack on General McClernand's whole front.
Finding him pressed, I moved McDowell's brigade directly against
the left flank of the enemy, forced him back some distance, and
then directed the men to avail themselves of every cover — trees,
fallen timber, and a wooded valley to our right. We held this
position for four long hours, sometimes gaining and at other times
losing ground. General McClernand and myself acting in perfect
concert and struggling to maintain this line.

" While we were so hardly pressed two Iowa regiments ap-
proached from the rear, but could not be brought up to the severe
fire that was raging in our front, and General Grant, \vho visited
us on that ground, will remember our situation about 3 p. m.; but
about 4 p. m. it was evident that Hurlbut's line had been driven
back to the river, and knowing that General Wallace was coming


from Crump's Landing with re-enforcements, General McClernand
and I, on consultation, selected a new line of defense, with its right
covering the bridge by which General Wallace had to approach.
We fell back as well as we could, gathering, in addition to our
own, such scattered forces as we could find, and formed a new line.
During this change the enemy's cavalry charged us, but was hand-
somely repulsed by an Illinois regiment, whose number I did not
learn at that time or since. The Fifth Ohio Battery, which had
come up, rendered good service in holding the enemy in check for
some time ; and Major Taylor also came up with a new battery
and got into position just in time to get a good flanking fire upon
the enemy's columns as he pressed on General McClernand's right,
checking his advance, when General McClernand's division made
a fine charge on the enemy and drove him back into the ravines
to our front and right. I had a clear field about 200 yards wide
in my immediate front, and contented myself with keeping the
enemy's infantry at that distance during the rest of the day.

'* In this position we rested for the night. My command had
become decidedly of a mixed character. Buckland's brigade was
the only one with me that retained its organization. Colonel
Hildebrand was personally there, but his brigade was not. Colonel
McDowell had been severely injured by a fall from his horse, and
had gone to the river, and the three regiments of his brigade were
not in line. The Thirteenth Missouri (Colonel Crafts J. Wright)
had reported to me on the field and fought well, retaining its regi-
mental organization, and it formed a part of my line during Sun-
day night and all of Monday. Other fragments of regiments and
companies had also fallen into my division, and acted with it
during the remainder of the battle. Generals Grant and Buell
visited me in our bivouac that evening, and from them I learned
the situation of affairs on the other parts of the field. General
Wallace arrived from Crump's Landing shortly after dark, and
formed his line to my right and rear. It rained hard during the
night, but our men were in good spirits and lay on their arms,


being satisfied with, such bread and meat as conld be gathered
from the neighboring camps, and determined to redeem on Mon-
day the losses of Sunday.

"At daylight on Monday I received General Grant's orders to
advance, and recapture our original camps. I dispatched several
members of my staff to bring up all the men they could find, and
especially the brigade of Colonel vStuart, which had been separat-
ed from the division all the day before ; and at the appointed time
the division, or rather what remained of it, with the Thirteenth
Missouri and other fragments, marched forward and reoccupied
the ground on the extreme right of General McClernand's camp,
where we attracted the fire of a battery located near Colonel Mc-
Dowell's former headquarters. Here I remained, patiently wait-
ing for the sound of General Buell's advance upon the main
Corinth road. About 10 a. m. the heavy firing in that direction
and its steady approach satisfied me, and General Wallace being
on our right flank with his well conducted division, I led the head
of my column to General McClernand's right, and formed line of
battle facing south, with Buckland's brigade directly across the
ridge and Stuart's brigade on its right in the wood, and thus ad-
vanced slowly and steadily, under a heavy fire of musketry and ar-
tillery. Taylor had just got to me from the rear, where he had
gone for ammunition, and biought up three gnus, which I ordered
into position, to advance by hand, firing. These guns belonged
to Company A, Chicago Light Artillery, commanded by Lieuten-
ant P. P. Wood, and did most excellent service. Under cover of
their fire we advanced till we reached the point where the Corinth
road crosses the line of McClernand's camps, and here I saw for
the first time the well-ordered and compact columns of General
Buell's Kentucky forces, whose soldierly movements at once gave
confidence to our newer and less-disciplined men. Here I saw
Willich's regiment advance upon a point of water-oaks and thick-
et, behind which I knew the enemy was in great strength, and en-
ter it in beautiful style. Then arose the severest musketry fire I


ever heard, which lasted some twenty minutes, when this splendid
reg^iment had to fall back. This grreen point of timber is about

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 3 of 24)