Sherman's Battle Report



Shiloh Battle Report:

From General Sherman to Grant

Report of Brig. General, William T. Sherman, U.S. Army, Commanding the Fifth Division at the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) Headquarters fifth Division, Camp Shiloh, April 10, 1862 Capt. John A. Rawlins, Assistant Adjutant General to General Grant.

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 1 first lieutenant and 7 men; that I caused a pursuit by the cavalry of my division, driving them back about 5 miles and killing many.

On Saturday 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.m.) my division was arranged as follows: First Brigade, composed of the Sixth Iowa, Col. J.A. McDowell; Fortieth Illinois, Colonel Hicks; Forty sixth Ohio, Colonel Worthington, and the Morton Battery, Captain Behr, on the extreme right, guarding the bridge on the Purdy road over Owl Creek. Second Brigade, composed of the Fifty fifth Illinois, Col. D. Stuart; Fifty fourth Ohio, Col. T. Kilby Smith, and the Seventy first Ohio, Colonel Mason, on the extreme left, guarding the ford over Lick Creek. Third Brigade composed of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, Colonel Hildebrand; Fifty-third Ohio, Colonel Appler, and the Fifty-seventh Ohio, Colonel Mungen, on the left of the Corinth road, it's right resting on Shiloh Meetinghouse.

Fourth Brigade, composed of the Seventy second Ohio, Colonel Buckland; Forty eighth Ohio, Colonel Sullivan, and Seventieth 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'' and Appler'' 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 Meetinghouse, 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 Appler'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 brushes, which line a small stream that rises in the field in front of Appler's camp and flows to the north along my whole front. This 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 on our whole camp. All the regiments of my division were then in line of battle at their proper post. I rode to Colonel Appler 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 supports to his rear. General McClernand had promptly 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 battery 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 Appler's front; also other columns advancing directly upon my division. Our infantry and artillery opened along the whole line and the battle became general. Other heavy masses of the enemy'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 Generals McClernand and Prentiss, whose line of camps was almost parallel with the Tennessee River and about 2 miles back from it. Very soon the sound of musketry and artillery announced that General Prentiss was engaged, and about 9 a.m. I judged that he was falling back. About this time Appler's regiment broke in disorder, soon followed by fugitives from Mungen'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 vigorous and the fire so severe, that when Colonel Raith, of the forty 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's) battery. Although our left was thus turned and the enemy was pressing on the whole line, I deemed Shiloh so important that I remained by it, and renewed 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 some change became absolutely necessary.

Two regiments of Hildebrand's Brigade, Appler's and Mungen's, had already disappeared to the rear, and Hildebrand's own regiment was in disorder, and therefore I gave directions for Taylor's battery, still at Shiloh, to fall back as far as the Prude and Hamburg road and for McDonnell and Buckled to adopt that road as their new line. I rode across the angle and met Beer's battery at the crossroads, and ordered it immediately to unlimber and come into battery, action right. Captain Beer gave the order, but he was almost immediately shot from his home, when the drivers and gunners fled in disorder, caring off the caissons and abandoning five out of six guns without firing a shot. The enemy pressed on, gaining this battery, and we were again forced to choose a new line of defense. Hildebrand's brigade had substantially 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 on 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.

We were so hardly pressed two Iowa regiments approached from the rear, but could not be brought up to the severe fire that was raging in our front, and General Grant, who 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-enforcement's, 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 handsomely 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, Col. Crafts J. Wright, had reported to me on the field and fought well, retaining its regimental organization, and it formed a part of my line during Sunday 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. General 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 armys, being satisfied with such bread and meat as could be gathered from the neighboring camps, and determined to redeem on Monday 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 Stuart, which had been separated 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 McDowell's former headquarters. Here I remained, patiently waiting 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, 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 advanced slowly and steadily, under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery. Taylor had just got to me from the rear, where he had just got to me from the rear, where he had gone for ammunition, and brought up three guns, which I ordered into position, to advance by hand, firing. These guns belonged to company Chicago Light Artillery, commanded by Lieut. 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 forces. Here I saw Willich's regiment advance upon a point of water oaks and thicket, behind which I knew the enemy was in great strength, and enter it in beautiful style. Then arose the severest musketry fire I ever heard, which lasted some twenty minutes, when this splendid regiment had to fall back. This green point of timber is about 500 yards east of Shiloh Meetinghouse, and it was evident that here was to be the struggle. The enemy could also be seen forming 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 my staff to bring them forward, when, by almost Providential decree, they proved to be two 24 pounder howitzers, belonging to McAllister's battery, served as well as every guns could be. This was about 2 o'clock 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 toward the green point of water oaks. Willich's regiment had been repulsed, but a whole brigade of Mc Cook's division advanced beautifully, deployed, and entered this dreaded woods. I ordered my second Brigade, then commanded by Col. T. Kilby Smith, (Colonel Stuart being wounded), to from on its right, and my fourth Brigade, Colonel Buckland, on its right, all to advance abreast with this Kentucky brigade before mentioned, which I afterwards found to be Rousseau's brigade of McCook's division. I gave personal direction to (he 24 pounder guns, whose well-directed fire first silenced the enemy's guns to the left, and afterwards at the Shiloh Meetinghouse. 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 coming 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 Breckinridge's divisions. I think exposing himself in front of his troops at the time of their attack on Buckland's brigade on Sunday morning killed Johnston, 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 under 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 fears 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 commander, was as cool as any man I ever saw, and no one could have made stronger efforts to hold men to their places than he did. He kept his own regiment, with individual exceptions; in hand an hour after Appler's and Mungen's regiments had left their proper field of action. Colonel Buckland managed his brigade well. I commend him to your notice as a cool, judicious, intelligent gentleman, needing only confidence and experience to make a good commander. His subordinates, Colonels Sullivan and Cockerill, behaved with great gallantry, the former receiving a severe wound on Sunday, and yet commanding and holding his regiment well in hand all day, and on Monday, till his right army was broken by a shot. Colonel Cockerill held a larger portion of his men than any colonel in my division, and was with me from first to last. Col 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 position on Monday morning. His subordinates. Colonels Hicks and Worthington, displayed great personal courage. Colonel Hicks led his regiment in the attack of Sunday, and received a wound, which is feared, may prove mortal. He is a brave and gallant gentleman, and deserves well of his country. Lieutenant Colonel Walcutt, of the Forty Six Ohio, was wounded on Sunday, and has been disabled ever since.

My Second Brigade, Colonel Stuart, was detached near 2 miles from my headquarter. He had to fight his own battle on Sunday, as the enemy interposed between him and General Prentiss 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 Col. T. Kilby Smith, Fifty fourth Ohio, who was always in the thickest of the fight and led the brigade handsomely. I have not yet received colonel Stuart's report of the operations of his brigade during the time he was detached, and must therefore forbear to mention 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 fragments of men 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 peferred to keep back near the steamboat landing.

The enemy captured seven of our guns on Sunday, but on Monday we recovered seven guns not the identical guns we had lost, but enough in numbers to balance the account. At the time of recovering our camps our men were so fatigued that we could not follow the retreating masses of the enemy, but the following day we followed up with Buckland's and Hildebrand's brigades for 6 miles, the result of which I have already reported. Of my personal staff I can only speak with praise and thanks. I think they smelt as much gunpowder and heard as many cannon balls and bullets as must satisfy their ambition. Captain Hammond, my chief of staff, though in feeble health, was very active in rallying broken troops, encouraging the steadfast, and aiding to form the lines of defense and attack. I recommend him to you notice. Major Sanger's intelligence, quick perception, and rapid execution were of very great value to me, especially in bringing into line the batteries that co-operated so efficiently in our movements. Captains McCoy and Dayton, aides de camp, were with me all the time, and acting with coolness, spirit, and courage. To Surgeon Hartshorn and Dr L'Homroedieu hundreds of wounded men are indebted for kind and excellent treatment received on the field of battle and in the various temporary hospitals created along the line of our operations. They worked day and night, and did not rest till all the wounded of our own troops, as well as of the enemy, were in safe and comfortable shelter. To Major Taylor, chief of artillery, I feel under deep obligations for his good sense and judgment in managing the batteries, on which so much depended. I enclose his report and endorse his recommendations. The cavalry of my command kept to the rear and took little part in the action, but it would have been madness to have exposed horses to the musketry fire under which we were compelled to remain from Sunday at 8 a.m. till Monday at 4 p.m. Captain Kossak, of the Engineers, was with me all the time, and was of great assistance. I enclose his sketch of the battlefield, which is the best I have seen, and will enable you to see the various positions occupied by my division, as well as of the others that participated in the battle. I will also send in during the day the detailed reports of by brigadiers and colonels, and will endorse them with such remarks, as I deem proper.

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

W. T. SHERMAN, Brigadier-General, Commanding Fifth division.