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 4 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 4 of 24)
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500 yards east of Shiloh Meeting-house, and it was evident that
here was to be the struggle. The enemy could also be seen form-
ing his lines to the south ; and General McClernand sending to me
for artillery, I detached to him the three guns of Lieutenant
Wood's battery, and seeing some others to the rear, I sent one of
ray staff to bring them forward, when, by almost Providential de-
cree, they prbved to be two 24-pound howitzers, belonging to Mc-
Allister's battery, served as well as ever guns could be. This was
about 2 p. m.

" The enemy had one battery close by Shiloh and another
near the Hamburg road, both pouring grape and canister upon any
column of troops that advanced towards the green point of water-
oaks. Willich's regiment had been repulsed, but a whole brigade
of McCook's division advanced beautifully, deployed, and entered
this dreaded woods. I ordered my Second Brigade, then com-
manded by Colonel T. Kilby Smith, (Colonel Stuart being wound-
ed,) to form on its right, and my Fourth Brigade, (Colonel Buck-
land) on its right, all to advance abreast with this Kentucky
brigade before mentioned, which I afterwards found to be Rous-
seau's brigade of McCook's division. I gave personal direction to
the 24-pounder guns, whose well-directed fire first silenced the
enemy's guns to the left, and afterwards at the Shiloh Meeting-
house. Rousseau's brigade moved in splendid order steadily to
the front, sweeping everything before it, and at 4 p. m. we stood
upon the ground of our original front line, and the enemy was in
full retreat. I directed my several brigades to resume at once
their original camps. Several times during the battle cartridges
gave out, but General Grant had thoughtfully kept a supply com-
ing from the rear. When I appealed to regiments to stand fast,
although out of cartridges, I did so because to retire a regiment
for any cause has a bad effect on others. I commend the Fortieth
Illinois and Thirteenth Missouri for thus holding their ground


under a heavy fire, although their cartridge boxes were empty. I
am ordered by General Grant to give personal credit where it is
due, and censure where I think it merited. I concede that General
McCook's splendid division from Kentucky drove back the enemy
along the Corinth road, which was the great central line of this
battle. There Beauregard commanded in person, supported by
Bragg's, Johnston's and Breckenridge's divisions. I think Johns-
ton was killed by exposing himself in front of his troops at the
time of their attack on Buckland's brigade on Sunday morning,
although in this I may be mistaken.

" My division was made up of regiments perfectly new, nearly
all having received their muskets for the first time at Paducah.
None of them had ever been imder fire or beheld heavy columns
of an enemy bearing down on them as they did on us last Sunday.
They knew nothing of the value of combination and organization.
When individual fear seized them, the first impulse was to get
away. To expect of them the coolness and steadiness of older
troops would be wrong. My Third Brigade did break much too
soon, and I am not yet advised where they were during Sunday
afternoon and Monday morning. Colonel Hildebrand, its com-
mander, was as good as any man I ever saw, and no one could have
made stronger effoits to hold men to their places than he did. He
kept his own regiment, with individual exceptions, in hand an
hour after Appier's and !\Iungen's regiments had left their proper
field of action.

"Colonel Buckland managed his brigade well. I commend
him to your notice as a cool, juducious, iutelligent gentleman,
needing only confidence and experience to make a good command-
er. His subordinates, Colonels Sullivan and Cockerill, behaved
with great gallantry, the former receiving a severe wound on Sun-
day, and yet commanding and holding his regiment well in hand
all day; and on Monday, till his right arm was broken by a shot.
Colonel Cockerill held a larger portion of his men than any col-
onel in my division, and was with us from first to last. Colonel


J. A. McDowell, commanding^ the First Brigade held his ground
on Sunday till I ordered him to fall back, which he did in line of
battle, and when ordered he conducted the attack on the enemy's
left in good style. In falling back to the next position he was
thrown from his horse and injured, and his brigade was not in po-
sition on Monday morning. His subordinates, Colonels Hicks and
Worthington, displayed great personal courage. Colonel Hicks
led his regiment in the attack on Sunday, and received a wound
which is feared may prove mortal. He is a brave and gallant gen-
tleman and deserves well of his country. Lieutenant Colonel
Walcutt, of the Forty-sixth Ohio, was wounded on Sunday, and
has been disabled ever since.

"My Second Brigade, Colonel Stuart, was detached near two
miles from my headquarters. He had to fight his own battle on
Sunday, as the enemy interposed between him and General Pren-
tiss early in the day. Colonel Stuart was wounded severely, and
yet reported for duty on Monday morning, but was compelled to
leave during the day, when the command devolved on Colonel T.
Kilby Smith, Fifty-fourth Ohio, who was always in the thickest
of the fight and led the brigade handsomely. I have not yet re-
ceived Colonel Stuart's report of the operations of his brigade dur-
'ine the time he was detached, and must therefore forbear to men-
tion names. Lieutenant-Colonel Kyle, of the Seventy-first, was
mortally wounded on Sunday, but the regiment itself I did not see,
as only a small fragment of it was with the brigade when it joined
the division on Monday morning. Great credit is due the frag-
ments of the disordered regiments who kept in the advance. I
observed and noticed them, but until the brigadiers and colonels
make their reports I cannot venture to name individuals, but will
in due season notice all who kept in our front line, as well as those
who preferred to keep near the steamboat landing.

" I am, with very much respect, your obedient servant,

" Brigadier General Commanding Fifth Division.
" Captain John A. Rawlins,

" Assistant Adjutant-General to General Grant.''




It is a pleasure to present herewith to the readers of this vol-
ume a paper entitled " My First Day Under Fire at Shiloh, " by
Lieutenant-Colonel E. C. Dawes.

This is obtained from " Volume Four, Sketches of War His-
tory, " published by the Comniandery of the State of Ohio, Mili-
tary Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, by permission
of the Commanderv :

" The Fifty-third Ohio Regiment, in which I served, began
to recruit at Jackson, Ohio, early in September, 186L Its organ-
ization was not fully completed until February, 1802, when it was
ordered to report at Paducah, Kentucky, where it arrived Feb-
ruary 23rd.

" The Colonel of the regiment, Jesse J, Appier, was a man
about fifty years of age, but of fine presence. In early life he had
served for a time on the sloop of war, Hornet. He had little edu-
cation, but much general intelligence ; good ideas of discipline,
but no knowledge of drill nor of the army regulations. The
Lieutenant-Colonel, R. A. Fulton, was also past middle age. He
was ignorant of military affairs, but there was no braver man in
the army. The Major, H. S. Cox, was a comparatively young
man ; he had been a member of the Lew Wallace Zouave Company
before the war, and had been at the battle of Bull Run as sergeant
in the First Ohio. He was expected to drill the regiment, but
owing to ill-health he never did, and the regiment had not had a
battalion drill when it went to the field. I was the Adjutant. I
graduated at Marietta College in June, 1861, and, with two excep-
tions, was the youngest officer in the regiment.


" March 7th, at Paducah, the regiment received its arms, and
on the same day embarked on steamers for Savannah, Tennessee.
March 15th, the regiment, then a part of the Third Brigade of
General Sherman's Fifth Division, landed at Pittsburgh, and on
the 19th was encamped on the Rea Farm, one-half mile south of
Shiloh Chapel. There were three regiments in the brigade —
Seventy-seventh, Fifty-seventh and Fifty-third Ohio. The right
of the brigade rested on the Corinth road in front of Shiloh Church.
The line extended south, parallel with the road, and the brigade
front was west. Buckland's brigade, which joined ours on the
right, faced south. Our regiment was on the left of the brigade,
and was separated from the Fifty-seventh Ohio by an interval of
some two hundred yards.

''The nearest troops on our left, or rather in our rear, were
Prentiss' Division, just one-half mile awiy.

" Colonel Jesse Hildebrand, of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, our
brigade commander, was past sixty years of age. He was a Major-
General of Ohio Militia, and he probably knew something of
ancient tactics, but he never mastered the intricacies of Hardee.
Though commander of the brigade, he retained personal command
of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, his own regiment, and required its
adjutant to act also as adjutant of the brigade. He had no staff,
and not even a mounted orderly, and his headquarters were on the
extreme right of the brigade, just by the old church.

" For a better understanding of the general situation, perhaps
I should say, that, upon representations made by General Halleck,
General McClellan, then General-in-chief of the armies of the
United States, soon after the capture of F'ort Donelson, directed
that General Grant be relieved from the command of his a,rmy in
the field, and that the command be given to General C. F. Smith.
Under General Smith's orders, and upon the recommendation of
General Sherman, Pittsburgh Landing was chosen as the point to
concentrate the army. General Smith was rendered unfit for duty
by a severe accident about the middle of March, and General


(iiant resinned command of the army in tlie field, with headqnar-
ters at Savannah. The correspondence indicates that in his own
absence General Grant regarded General Sherman as in command
of all troops at Pittsbnrgh, except the division of General Mc-
Clernand, who ontranked him. This was natnral enough, as
Sherman was the only division commander in the Army of the
Tennessee who had graduated at West Point and .served in the
old army.

" On Friday, April 4th, there was a considerable skirmish
about one mile in front of our camp. Some prisoners were cap-
tured. They were confined in Shiloh Church over night. I did
not see them. Those who did, reported that they claimed to be
the advance of a great army, that would drive us into the river the
next day.

" Saturday, April 5th, was a day of rumors. Colonel Appier
was very uneasy. About four o'clock in the afternoon, some
mounted men were seen at the end of the field, south of our camp.
The colonel sent an officer with a platoon of men through the
woods to find out who they were, and to bring them in, if enemies.
The men were gone some time, a few shots were heard, and the
officer returned, reporting that the mounted men had escaped him
and his men had been fired upon by what appeared to be a picket
line of men in butternut clothes.

" Colonel Appier ordered the regiment in line and .sent the
quartermaster, Lieutenant J. W. Fulton, to General Sherman with
this report. By the time the regiment was formed, the quarter-
master came back and said in the hearing of many of the men :
' Colonel Appier, General Sherman says : Take your d d reg-
iment to Ohio, There is no enemy nearer than Corinth. ' There
was a laugh at the colonel's expense, and the regiment broke ranks
without waiting for an order.

"At seven o'clock p. m., Colonel Hildebrand sent word to
Colonel Appier that General Sherman had been to his tent, and


told him that the force in front of our army had been definitely as-
certained to be two regiments of cavalry, two regiments of infantry,
and one battery of artillery. He had directed Colonel Hildebrand
to send the Seventy-seventh Ohio Regiment at 6:30 a. m. Sunday,
April 6th, out on the Corinth road to a point known as See House,
about one and one-half miles from Shiloh Church, to support a
movement of our cavalry, intended to attack and drive away or
capture the part of this force in our immediate front; Colonel
Appier sent me to each company commander with this informa-
tion. He was not entirely satisfied, however, and ordered a picket
of sixteen men sent to the southern end of the Rea field, with or-
ders to report any movement of troops in their front, and to return
to camp at daybreak, but under no circumstances to fire unless
attacked. Mindful of General Sherman's message, he did not re-
port this action to either brigade or division headquarters.

" About four o'clock Sunday morning, Colonel Appier came
to my tent and called : ' Adjutant, get up, quick, ' I hurried out
and walked with him to the left of the camp. We could hear oc-
occasional shots beyond our pickets. He said he had been up all
night, and that there had been constant firing. While we were
standing there, our picket of sixteen men came in. They reported
that they had heard a good deal of firing, and were sure that there
was a large force in our front. The firing increased, for three
companies sent out by Colonel Peabody, of Prentiss' division, had
found the Confederate line and attacked it.

" The Colonel sent me to form the regiment ; then called me
back, directed me to go to Colonel Hildebrand ; again called me
back, and finally sent a soldier to the brigade picket line, which
was not three hundred yards away, to ascertain and report the
facts. Before the soldier was out of camp, a man of the Twenty-
fifth Missouri regiment, shot in the arm, came hurrying towards
us, and cried out : ' Get into line ; the rebels are coming ! '

" Colonel Appier hesitated no longer, but ordered the long
roll, and formed the regiment on its color line. The only mouut-


ed officers of the regiment then were the lieutenant-colonel and the
quartermaster. He sent one of them to Colonel Hildebrand and
one to General Sherman with the report of the wounded man.
General Sherman's quarters were nearer than Colonel Hildebrand's
and the quartermaster returned first, and said, this time in a lower
tone: 'General Sherman says you must be badly scared over
there. '

"The lieutenant-colonel brought from Colonel Hildebrand an
order to send two companies to re-inforce the picket. Two com-
panies were sent. An officer of our regiment, just out of bed,
came running to the line half-dressed, and cried out : * ' Colonel,
the rebels are crossing the field ! ' Colonel Appier ordered the
regiment to move to the left of the camp, facing south, and direct-
ed me to go at the head of the regiment and halt it at the proper
point. As we filed left, one of the companies that had been sent
to support the pickets came back through the brush, the captain
exclaiming, as he took his place in line : ' The rebels out there
are thicker than fleas on a dog's back. ' A messenger from Col-
onel Hildebrand came, ordering the movement we were executing.
I halted the regiment at the proper point, and looking to the right,
saw the Confederate line of battle apparently within musket shot,
and moving directly towards our right flank.

" The sun had arisen in a clear sky, and the bright gun
barrels of the advancing line shone through the green leaves. I
gave the command, ' Front ! left dress ! ' and, hastening to Colo-
nel Appier, who was in the rear of the center of the regiment, said
in a low tone : ' Colonel, look to the right. ' Colonel Appier
looked up, and, with an exclamation of astonishment, said : ' This
is no place for us ; ' and commanded : ' Battalion, about face ; right
wheel ! '

" At this time, 6:45 a. m., the tents were standing, the sick
were still in the camps and the sentinels were pacing their beats,
the officers' servants and company cooks were preparing breakfast,
the details for brigade guard and fatigue duty were marching to


their posts, and in our regiment the sutler shop was open. This
order brought the regiment back through its camp. Colonel Ap-
pier, marching in front, cried out a number of times, in the loud-
est tones of his shrill, clear voice : ' Sick men to the rear ! ' It
is needless to add they obeyed. The regiment halted at the brow
of the elevation in the rear of the officers' tents, marched ten
paces and lay down in the brush where the ground began to
slope the other way.

" While the men were marching back through the camp, the
Confederate skirmishers fired upon them. No one was hit and
there was no confusion. Two pieces of artillery of Waterhouse's
battery took position on the right of the regiment, as it halted,
and General Sherman and staff rode along its front, stopping a few
paces in front of the Sixth company.

" Captain Jones, Lieutenant Starkey, and myself, stood on the
high ground in front of Company A. General Sherman, with his
glass, was looking along the prolongation of the line of the regi-
ment at the troops marching across the end of the Rea field, and
did not notice the line on his right. Lieutenant Eustace H. Ball,
of Company E, of our regiment, had risen from a sick bed, when
he heard Colonel Appier's command, and was walking along in
front of the line of his company. I saw the Confederate skirmish-
ers emerge from the brush which fringed the little stream in front
of the regiment's camp, halt and raise their guns. I called to
him : ' Ball, Sherman will be shot.' He ran towards the general
crying out: 'General, look to your right.' Geneial Sherman
dropped his glass, and looking to the right saw the advancing line
of Hardee's corps, threw up his hand and exclaimed : 'My God,
we are attacked ! ' The skirmishers fired ; an orderly fell dead by
the general's side. Wheeling his horse he galloped back, calling
to Colonel Appier as he passed him : ' Appier, hold your position ;
I will support you.'

"The view from the high ground where I stood at this time
was one never to be forgotten. In front were the steadily advanc-


incr lines of Hardee's corps, inarchinj^ in perfect order, and extend-
ino; until lost to si^ht in the timber on either flank. In an open
space in the Corinth road a battery was unlimbering. Directly in
front of the spot where General Sherman's orderly lay dead there
was a group of mounted officers and a peculiar flag — dark blue,
with a white center.

" The camps of Buckland's and Hildcbrand's brigades were
in sight ; all the regiments were in line ; those of Buckland were
marching forward ; there were great intervals between them, for
sickness had made heavy inroads in the ranks. All of the tents
were standing. F'rom the rear of all the camps hundreds of men
were hastening to the rear. These were the sick, the hospital at-
tendants, the teamsters, the cooks, the officers' servants, the sut-
lers, and some who should have been in line. In great numbers,
and without arms, they streamed back through the camps of
General McClernand's division, carrying the news of the attack,
announcing their commands, and giving reason for the report that
the entire front line had given way without firing a shot. There
was a shaip rattle of musketry far to the left, on General Prentiss'
front. The long roll was beating in McClernand's camps. The
Confederate battery fired, its first shot cutting off a tree top above
our Company A. The two pieces of Waterhouse's battery each
fired a shot, limbered up, and returned to the battery camp ; a
Confederate regiment came through the line of our officers' tents ;
Colonel Appier gave the command to fire ; there was a tremendous
crash of musketry on the whole front of Hilderand's and Buck-
land's brigades. The battle was fairly on.

" The hour marked by the first cannon shot was seven. The
first fire of our men was very effective. The Confederate line fell
back, rallied, came forward, received another volley, and again
fell back, when our colonel, who was behind the left wing, cried
out : ' Retreat, and save yourselves.'

" Two or three companies on the right, whose commanders
did not hear this order, stayed until they saw the remainder of the


regiment going back in confusion, and then marched back, in or-
der, to a ravine in the rear of a regiment of McClernand's division
which had just come forward. Here the regiment was rallied
without difficulty. General McClernand was there, and in person
ordered it into position in front of General Sherman's headquar-
ters, designating the point where the right should rest. The reg-
iment marched to the position indicated. The Colonel walked
quietly along near the Tront. There were many bullets singing
through the air, but he paid no attention to them. In its new
place the two right Companies, A and F, were separated some
thirty yards from the remainder of the regiment by a deep but
short ravine. Colonel Appier remained with them while I went
to the left.

" One of McClernand's regiments went to our front and at
once became hotly engaged. Waterhouse's battery was firing
down the ravine between our camp and the Fifty-seventh Ohio
camp. A good many men in our left were shot here by a fire
which they could not return because of McClernand's regiment in
our front.

" As I turned to go back from the left to the right I saw the
Fifty-seventh Ohio, which had been fighting on its color line, fall-
ing back through its camp, its ranks broken by the standing tents,
despite the efforts of the gallant lieutenant-colonel, A. V. Rice, the
only field officer with it. It seemed to me we could help them by
moving the length of a regiment to our right Bud perhaps save the
line. I ran to where the colonel was lying on the ground behind
a tree, and stooping over said, ' Colonel, let us go and help the
Fifty-seventh. They are falling back. ' He looked up ; his face
was like ashes ; the awful fear of death was upon it ; he pointed
over his shoulder in an indefinite direction, and squeaked out in a
trembling voice : ' No, form the men back here. ' Our miserable
position flashed upon me. We were in the front of a great battle.
Our regiment never had a battalion drill. Some men in it had
never fired a gun. Our lieutenant-colonel had become lost in the


confusion of the first retreat, the major was in tlie hospital, and our
colonel was a coward. I said to him, with an adjective not neces-
sary to- repeat, ' Colonel, I will not do it. ' He jumped to his feet
and literally ran away.

" The sergeant-major, W. B. Stephenson, who was an old col-
lege friend, had followed me up to the line. I said to him, ' Go,
quick, and order each company to close up to the right. ' I went
to Captain Wells S. Jones, of Company A, and said, ' Captain, you
are in command ; Appier has ruu away. I have ordered the regi-
ment to close up to the right ; let us help the Fifty-seventh. ' He
replied, ' All right ; get the men together ; tell every company
commander my order is to stay at the front, and come back as
quick as you can. '

" I ran down the line, stopping a moment to speak to brave
old Captain Percy, of Company F. He swung his sw^ord over his
head and said : 'Tell Captain Jones I am with him. Let us
charge ! ' ' Wait till we get together,' I replied, and he assented.
Just then the regiment in our front, which had been fighting most
gallantly, broke to the rear. I passed across the ravine and met
the sergeant-major, who said : ' The men have all gone.' Where
or why they went we could not then imagine. It transpired that
our brigade commander had ridden over and ordered them back to
' the road.' He did not designate what road ; they expected him
to conduct them, and went back until they found a road and re-
mained there until Major Fearing, with the remnant of the
Seventy-seventh came along, when they placed themselves under
• his command. I went back to Captain Jones, who had moved a
little way to the right, and had directed the fire of Companies A
and F to protect, as far as possible, the flank of the Fifty-seventh.
Bullets now began to come from our left. The battery swung
around and began to fire almost to its rear. Men from Prentiss'
division were passing very rapidly behind us. The Seventeenth

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 4 of 24)