A Letter Written by Colonel T. Lyle Dickey, To His Aunt
I enclose a little diagram of the Camp of our Army when the fight began with points marked by letters to which i will refer in what I say. Contrary to rule i have made my map with the right hand west.
The next morn'g before day I received orders to move at daylight to the right of our lines and guard the right flank of sherman's division which was supported by Lew Wallace's division which had come up by land from Crump's landing and cross Snake Creek at bridge just at dark Sunday night. I sent a party to watch our lines, and recover Wallace's body, as soon as the enemy could be driven from that ground and pushed off with my regiment to the right.
The reinforcements from Buell had come largely during Sunday night and marched out to our lines on the centre and left. At about sunrise the battle opened from one end of the lines to the other. At first the enemy was every where driven back and our forces advanced until our left reached about the same place where our forces were at 2 P.M. on sunday, perhaps not quite so far out.
At that point the enemy about 10 o'ck made a desperate rally and brought our troops to a stand and for the next two hours was fought the most desperate and distructive part of this distructive battle. The whole line some four miles long seemed to hold firm like steel, with one continuous roar of cannon and crash, crash, crash of volleys of musketry in quick succession on both sides. For two long hours sometimes one part of the line would wave forward and then back.
Slowly though the enemy began to yield, a little at one point and after a little at another point, until by noon our lines had passed a little to the front of McClernand's original camp which is marked on the map. Here the retreat became more rapid and by half past one our right flank and center were at Sherman's original camp beyond Shiloh and our left was sweeping up Lick Creek near Prentiss's original camp. Still the enemy presented to us a regular front in good order, but his cannon had ceased, all the cavalry was ordered forward for a pursuit.
My regiment was first on the ground and in thirty minutes we had at our heels 2,000 cavalry. Just then it was discovered the enemy was bringing cannon in batter a 1/4 of a mile and in thick brush unapproachable by charge of cavalry. Gen'l Grant ordered us to halt and wait for orders and he road to our left. Seeing this mass of cavalry, I thought we would be merely a target for the shells of the enemy and moved my regiment to the left to a ravine, near by and ordered the rest to the right and left.
They were slow in executing. At length the ground was cleared and in less than a minute after the last trooper roder from the rise on which we stood, a shell came booming and burst right on the spot we had occupied and was followed quickly by many others. A body of infantry was sent through the brush to the right and left of the enemy's battery and after a short struggle drove their battery back. Gen'l Grant did not send back any further orders and when gen'l Sherman came up it was nearly night.
Thus the battle ended and our troops took possession and occupied the same camps Monday night which we occupied on Saturday night, Except my regiment. Our wagons, provisions and blankets were back at camp "B" (in red ink on map) and we came back, slept there arriving at 10 o'ck, having been in the saddle sixteen (16) hours on Sunday, (18) hours on Monday.
I was very tired, but I had heard from Gen'l Grant on the battle field about 9 1/2 A.M. on Monday that Gen'l Wm. H.L. Wallace was not dead, but had been taken in an ambulance to the river and was still alive. So at 11 o'ck Monday night I walked 1/2 mile to the steamboat landing expecting to find Wallace there and Ann (Dickey's daughter and Wallace's wife) by his side. I there learned that he had been sent down to Savannah and was lying in Mrs. Cherry's brick house and was still alive and that Cyrus and Maj. Wallace and Ann were at his side.
I sent a messenger 4 miles that night to Shiloh meeting house to ask to leave of Gen'l Sherman to go on to Savannah to see Wallace and was refused. this leave was refused me and instead he sent me an order to report with my entire command at Shiloh at 7 1/2 o'ck in the morning to pursue the enemy. No surroundings of my life were more painful. ann had been in the neighborhood for three days, was hanging on the bed of her dying husband and I could no come to her support.
At six Tuesday morning we were all in the saddle and at 7 1/2 were at Shiloh and were joined by a larger force of infantry and some artillery and proceeded cautiously after the enemy, my regiment in advance. In about a mile and a half we fell in the cavalry of the enemy who fired on us and retired a short distance and made another stand. From point to point we drove them about five miles. At length the made a firm stand and charged on our infantry and then fled and our cavalry pursued a mile and the marched back to camp reaching there at 10 at night having again beein in the saddle sixteen hours.
The next day I got leave of absence and got to Savannah and found Wallace and his wife. He knew me and those around him, was perfectly rational, did not suffer much pain, but it was plain he could not recover. He lingered until thursday evening when his brave spirit took it's flight. Poor ann, she seemed well sustained as long as he breathed and she was overpowered, but why attempt to tell the pungent grief of a heart so bereaved. Words fail.
My messenger for the mail is here and I must quit and send this. My dear Aunt write me. Willie alexander is here and quite sick. I am trying to arrange to send him home.
Your kinsman, T. Lyle Dickey