I have thought
that at some period of my life I would try to write down some of my
personal experiences and recollections of the great struggle through
which our country passed during the memorable years of 1861-5.
Right in the very beginning I am confronted with a realization of
the enormity of the vast undertaking.
After a lapse of more than forty years, memory is likely in many
respects and particulars to lay fickle.
After we are done with our effort and subject it to critical
review many thrilling scenes and incidents will occur to us that
previously escaped our memory, tempting us to go back and rewrite the
I promise, however, that I shall not permit myself to be drawn
into any such arrangement.
If I did, the very same thing might occur again.
Before beginning a relation of things in which the war is
immediately concerned, I shall relate a few incidents of my life prior
thereto. For four years
immediately preceding the opening of hostilities between the two
sections, I had been living in Benton and Frankfort in Franklin County
and remember quite well many of the stirring events connected with the
presidential election in 1860, when it was rather dangerous to express
your political sentiments. Particularly,
if you happened to be a Republican and for Abraham Lincoln, you were
most likely to have to “hide out” on election day.
My antecedents had all come to this country from the south, so it
may be readily understood that my political inclinations and tendencies
were to the Democratic party. I
may further confess without shame that under my political tutelage I
thought the south was being needlessly oppressed by the free-soil
element of the middle western and northern states.
Like a great many poor misguided individuals living contiguous to
the southern border I was almost ready to join the issue with “our
brethren of the south”, but when they permitted themselves to become
the aggressors, and committed the unpardonable of firing on the flag,
they revolutionized political sentiment in southern Illinois, and as a
result a vast majority of our able-bodied male population, myself with
the rest, declared fealty and loyalty to the Government and sooner or
later enlisted under the banner of “Old Glory” in defense of our
I was the only child of a doting and loving mother, whose memory
it does me honor to revere. I
had been away from her for four years and she was very loath to give me
up, especially to become a target for rebel bullets.
But when recruiting began in our midst (though not yet seventeen
years of age) I was exceedingly anxious to enlist.
Mother demurred for awhile, but seeing I was determined to go
gave her consent. At liberty, I enlisted at once in Co. A. 40th
Regt. Ill. Inf. Vol. on the 12th day of
August, 1861, the remainder of the Company having preceded me by ten or
roster of our company and regimental officers:
Col. S. G.
Hicks, Salem, Illinois.
Col. J. W. Booth, Kinmundy,
Major John B. Smith, Enfield,
Adjutant R. S. Barnhill, Fairfield,
Surgeon Wm. Graham, Mt. Carmel, Illinois.
H. W. Hall, promoted to Major and Liet. Col.
Lieut. F.J. Carpenter,
Lieut. B.W. Harrelson, Knights Prairie, Ill.
is only a partial roster, but serves my purpose, so I will give no
Our company when mustered in at Camp Butler, near Springfield,
Illinois, was found to be short in number.
Lieut. Harrelson was sent back for recruits.
At the same time Lieut. Ingram was sent on a similar mission for
Co. F. These officers raised about sixty recruits, myself among the
number. We rendezvoused at
what is called Baine’s Hill, in Franklin County, on the evening of
August 12, 1861. This may
be said to be our first night at actual soldiering.
The events of that night are indelibly stamped upon my memory.
After partaking of supper which had been prepared and brought
with us, quite a number of the boys went down to Uncle Pete Phillips,
who kept a store on the Benton road and procured a barrel of cider.
I expect it had a “few songs in it,” leastwise some of them
became quite hilarious after partaking of it.
One of the Co. F. boys procured a violin, and the boys organized
a regular stag dance. I had not been brought up and educated so that I would
appreciate and enjoy such a carnival as that turned out to be,
consequently, in company with another young man two or three years older
than myself, strolled off from the crowd and constituted a gang by
ourselves. What our
feelings and reflections were for the succeeding hour or two would be
hard to tell. Subsequently
I heard much talk about “Home Sickness.”
If ever I experienced any of that kind of feeling it was
certainly on that evening. It
seemed to me that I would have given all my present and prospective
interest in Heaven to have been back with my mother at that time.
That was the first, last and only time I ever had such feelings.
I most assuredly do pity from the very bottom of my heart those
poor unfortunate individuals who pined away, grieving themselves to
death over the mistake they had made in leaving home for a soldier’s
Next morning, bright and early, we had breakfast, got into our
wagons and started for Ashley. On
this trip many amusing incidents occurred which I cannot stop here to
relate. We arrived in
Ashley in the afternoon of that day. Some kind of arrangements had been made to board us at a
hotel while we were waiting for our transportation to arrive.
One of the dishes served us at this hotel was eggs.
Some of the boys observed that it was the first time they had
ever been served with both eggs and chicken from the same shell.
During our stay of one day and two nights at Ashley many
incidents amusing and otherwise occurred.
Many of the boys so far forgot the last injunctions of a loving
mother, or the loving appeals of a wife or sweetheart as to imbibe too
freely of the “wine that becomes red”, of which fact no doubt many
of them were subsequently ashamed.
As most everything must end somewhere, so our stay at Ashley came
to an end. Cars for our transportation having arrived, we went aboard
and were soon on our way to St. Louis, arriving in the evening of the
same day at East St. Louis, went on board a steamer which took us down
to Jefferson Barracks, twelve miles below St. Louis.
Disembarking we were soon with the boys that were to be our
comrades and messmates for many, many long days of arduous toil and
hardships, and how glad we were to see each other.
If we had been separated twelve years instead of only twelve days
we could scarcely have been prouder to see each other.
On the day following our arrival at the Barracks we were duly
converted into a soldier in due form, this due form consisted in being
examined and sworn into the service of the United States.
The boys that had preceded us had been subjected to a very rigid
physical examination and some were so unfortunate, or rather fortunate
as to be rejected. But by the time we arrived they had relaxed their vigil and
seemingly were quite glad to have us with them.
Nor, do I see anything wrong in that for we were quite a fine
looking, lively set of fellows.
I do not remember how long we remained at Jefferson Barracks,
not, however, very long. While
here we began the training that all have to take before becoming
proficient soldiers, such as drilling, guard duty, camp police, etc.
Here we drew our first arms, the old Harpers Ferry musket, which
was about as dangerous to those behind as to those in front.
I remember very well that with one exception the worst wound I
received during my service was from a retrograde action of that same old
day the word came to strike tents.
In less time than it takes me to tell it the little city of white
houses were folded and ready for transportation.
We took a steamer and were soon on our way to Birds Point,
floating down on the majestic bosom of the “Father of Waters”.
I remember but one incident of this trip worthy of mention.
For some reason unknown to me the boat landed on the Illinois
side of the river, and a great many of the boys took advantage of the
occasion to take a stroll over in their home state.
After a bit the whistle was blown and such scampering as there
was to get aboard again. After
she had loosed her moorings and was well out in the stream one of the
boys, Henry Hals, appeared on the bluff cutting all sorts of
monkey shines to attract our attention.
The captain of the boat at first refused to stop for him, but
Col. Hicks very soon gave him to understand that he was commanding that
expedition, so a boat was lowered and Henry brought in.
During the night some time we landed at Birds Point which is
opposite Cairo, Illinois.
passed the night some way and woke up next morning to find ourselves in
an old field on the bank of the Mississippi River.
It was a very nice place, with some large Pecan shade trees.
Our tents were soon up and we were making everything as
comfortable for ourselves as we could.
During our stay at this place we had some lively times.
Before we had been there long our officers tried our mettle by
rallying us out in the night, under the impression that we were about to
be attacked by the enemy. Of
course you want to know how we behaved.
It would have tickled a “lopeared mule” to have seen us.
Getting right out of a warm bed, especially under excitement,
naturally has a tendency to disrupt the quietude of the nervous system.
We doubtless, were not very much infected with malarial
poisoning, yet to have seen us shake that night and heard our teeth
chatter one would certainly have thought the entire regiment had the
chills, and congestive chills at that.
Speaking for myself, and judging other by myself, I will say that
my feelings on that occasion would be hard to describe.
These utterances are not altogether made in a spirit of levity.
If you say that this shaking and chattering of teeth was an
evidence of cowardice, then we were all cowards.
Many of these very men made soldiers of unquestionable courage
and daring, and gave their lives a bleeding sacrifice upon the alter of
their country, paid their last full measure of devotion to their
country’s service, left an empty place at some hearthstone, some
mother, sister, wife or sweetheart left at home bereaved and
disconsolate, watching for the return of that dear one whose presence
would never greet them again.
While at this point we took a little jaunt out in the country to
or near a place called Charleston.
At this time we had a regimental Mascot – a yellow dog – I do
not remember his name. He
remained with our regiment for a long time. On this trip we took our dog on the cars with us.
You see, we made this forced march on the cars.
It was quite seldom during our service that such fortune befell
us. On our return we again
took up our dog, but he seemed to think the old shackly train was not
safe, jumped off, and much to the delight of the boys kept right along
with the train.
General Grant, through the different mediums he had of acquiring
information, had ascertained that the rebel general in command at
Columbus, Kentucky, was figuring for the possession of Paducah.
Grant, always alive to the “main chance”, anticipated the
rebels, placing three brigades on steamers after night, our brigade
being one of them. During
the night we steamed up the Ohio River. At daylight we were at the wharf and disembarking to the
utter surprise and mortification of not only the rebel soldiers but the
rebel citizens as well.
was a nice little city. We remained there a long time fitting and qualifying
ourselves for the life that was before us.
During our long stay there we got to be quite proficient in drill
exercises. We also assisted
in making the great fort from which subsequently Col. Hicks whipped the
famous rebel, General Forest, with a detachment of Negro troops.
Here we did about our first of what is called “Picket Guard”. It was here also that we sustained the first loss in our
company. Hiram Fann
succumbed to disease and died. I
was among the number detailed to bury him.
What a sad, sad duty that was.
It impressed me very much – arms reversed, drums muffled – as
we marched with our deceased comrade to his last resting place in the
silent city of the dead. As
we fired the mournful salute over the grave our feelings can be better
imagined than described.
our stay at Paducah many of our friends paid us a visit.
My own dear mother expressed a desire to visit me, but I did not
think the camp a suitable place for ladies, I so told her and she never
came. Even now I do not
regret my decision. I had
so often been made to blush on account of the presence of ladies in our
in Paducah we took our first march of any consequence.
General Grant had ordered a preconcerted move threatening
Columbus, by a portion of the troops at Cairo, Paducah, and those in
Missouri. We were ordered
out one morning for a march. Remember
this was our first one and then you will not be so astonished at what
follows. By this time we
had acquired some clothing – a blanket or two, an overcoat, our little
mementos, which were dear to us – to say nothing of our cooking
vessels, gun and necessary accompaniments.
Of course we did not know when we left that we would ever see
Paducah again and, therefore, must carry all we had with us or abandon
it. Well we did not abandon
it at camp, but were glad to leave a great portion of it on the road to
Mayfield. Many of the boys
came into camp on our return destitute of everything but their guns.
the march out toward Columbus our ears were saluted by the sound of
battle for the first time, and although the men had become footsore and
almost exhausted, it would have done you good to have seen them brighten
up, take the step to the music of the Union, and rend the air with
cheers for “Old Glory”. We
could hear the firing most of the afternoon of that day. Hurrying on we reached Mayfield about nightfall and went to
bed, mother earth constituting our couch and the starry sky our
covering. With the coming
of the morning we partook of a very meager breakfast consisting
principally of “Hard Tack” and “Sow Bosom”, wet up with some
very black coffee.
fight at Belmont on the day before having ended in what may be termed a
drawn battle, both sides claiming victory, our journey further south was
unnecessary, so we turned our faces back toward Paducah.
On our return trip we had an opportunity to see how foolish we
had been in loading ourselves when we started, the roadside was strewn
with overcoats, blankets, cooking utensils, etc., etc.
night previous to our arrival at camp, our supply of rations having been
already consumed, we retired to our downy couches with a very empty
feeling about our stomachs. During
the night wagons came up from Paducah with Commissaries, but in the
distribution of them our regiment was overlooked and failed to get any.
This apparent slight, whether intended or not, greatly angered
our old Colonel, and “you can bet” there was a rumpus kicked up at
once, and the result unfortunately was the placing under arrest of Col.
Hicks, and the deprivation of his sword.
He was kept idle for quite awhile, but was finally restored to
his command without trial. General
Paine was in command of the post at that time.
It is scarcely necessary to comment upon the fact that the former
good feeling of Col. Hicks and Gen. Paine was never restored.
long stay and routine duties at Paducah brought on their usual results.
Discontent and dissatisfaction with our apparent idleness began
to manifest itself, especially when General Grant began active
operations against Fort Henry and Fort Donnelson.
When the great fleet of transports and gun boats passed by on
their way up the Tennessee River to attack Fort Henry, presenting one of
the most spectacular scenes I ever beheld, then our discontent knew no
bounds. The men said “we
would be kept back in the rear to do the drudgery, while the other
troops went forward to battle and Glory.”
I may very pertinently remark right here that twelve months
afterwards they would have been perfectly willing to have remained at
Paducah, and let others seek all the glory they desired.
before New Year, I think it was, Co’s A. & F. of our regiment were
detached and sent to Smithland, Kentucky, situated at the confluence of
the Cumberland with the Ohio River, where we remained the balance of the
winter. Lieut. Col.
Chetlain of the 12th Ill. commanded the post, his command consisting of the two
companies from our regiment, two from the 12th and a company of
Kentucky Cavalry. I do not
remember of any occurrences worthy of note during our stay at this
place. We had the usual
influx of visitors while here. The
serenity of our indolent camp life received a sudden shock one day by
receiving orders to strike tents. This
order meeting our cordial approbation, the tents were soon down while we
awaited the next move on the checkerboard of army life.
What this move was to be we were not long in finding out.
Ordered to pack all our belongings, excepting our guns, in the
wagons already drawn up for the purpose, we soon learned that we were
going into the telegraph business.
That is, we were to erect a line of telegraph from Paducah to
Clarksville, Tennessee. On
this trip we had an abundance of transportation facilities and were
unencumbered with anything but our guns.
Quite a number of men said to be experts in the erection of
telegraph wire were with us and did principally all the work, it being
our duty to keep the "Boogers” away.
Putting up this line of wire, compared with the ordinary life of
the soldier, was easy, full of fun, exhilarating and healthy.
We soldiers had very little to do, acting mostly as guards.
The most gruesome part of our duty was standing guard at night,
there being only a few of us and so many points to guard only one man
could be supplied to a place. Away
out from any one, alone in a strange land and in the enemy’s country
made it a position which no one sought nor desired.
nearing the end of our journey, we made camp one evening near a
railroad. After putting
things in shape for the night quite a number of us strolled off to see
what we could find. We
found plenty and too much. What
we did find was a little shanty from which Robinson County whiskey was
being dispensed in any quantity desired.
We had been away from civilization long enough to begin to lose
some of its saving qualities, - result, some of us partook too freely of
the stuff and were not able to get back into camp.
Captain Hall, suspecting something wrong from our non-appearance
at camp, sent out a squad to investigate.
They found some of the same stuff from which we had imbibed too
freely and following our example they too lost their way and became a
further source of uneasiness to the captain, whereupon he marshalled
another squad and went to find the recalcitrants himself.
As to the condition in which he found us, I droop to tell the
tale, and leave your imagination to supply the facts.
As a punishment for this breach of discipline we were ordered to
carry all of our effects the next day, notwithstanding we had thirteen
empty wagons along. But we
turned the joke on the captain after a He detailed the two Lieutenants,
Harrelson and McLean to look after the squad that was in dishonor, and
that day himself taking charge of the wagon train.
After he had gotten out of sight the boys secured some more of
that stuff “that stingeth like and adder” and all started down the
railroad to Palmyra to head the captain and the train.
To say simply that we had a bushel of fun puts it rather mildly.
camped near Palmyra that night. Sergt.
Wm. C. Moore and I tried to cook an old, poor gander.
We cooked it all night and could have hung ourselves with a piece
of it next morning. The
evening following we came to the Cumberland River just opposite
Clarksville, Tennessee, remaining here for probably eight or ten days.
We had plenty of fun riding back and forth on the hand cars, and
once barely escaped a rather serious accident – two cars colliding.
Fortunately no one was seriously hurt.
morning before arriving at Clarksville we found ourselves without
anything to eat for breakfast. Dividing ourselves into squads we went in different
directions to procure our breakfast.
In our party were fourteen person, at the junction of two roads
two houses were in view, here we divided again, I with six others going
to one house, the other seven to another.
Arriving at the house we found an old gentleman sitting on the
porch. He invited us in and
we had a pleasant conversation with him.
I told him of the circumstances causing our visit.
He assured us it was all right and we should have breakfast as
soon as it could be prepared. After
a bit breakfast was announced and we went in and sat down to a splendid,
nicely prepared meal. Our
hunger satisfied and having been treated so much nicer than we had
anticipated, we offered to pay the old gentleman, but he gently and
firmly declined, saying he lived in the south, his interests were in the
south, and he was a southern man, he had never charged a soldier of
either side for anything to eat, nor ever expected to.
The old man was a typical southern gentleman.
While, he could possibly not avoid being a rebel sympathizer for
the time being, his treatment of us his enemys, demonstrated that he was
at all times a gentleman. Our
work on this detached service accomplished, we returned to Paducah,
found the regiment gone and the 6th
Ill. Cav. occupying our old quarters.
We remained here but a few days waiting transportation up the
Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing to which place the regiment had
preceded us. After an
aggravatingly long and wearisome trip we finally arrived at our
destination, found the remainder of the regiment and took our regular
place in the line. After
getting settled down here we began the same old routine of drilling and
guard duty except that our drill exercises were on a much larger scale
than ever heretofore indulged in. Our
performances now not only included company and regimental drill, it also
included evolutions in brigade and division exercises.
belonged to that part of the army known as Shermans Division.
Army Corps were at that time unknown to us.
Shermans Division occupied the extreme right of Grant’s army at
Shiloh, and our brigade the right of Sherman’s Division.
This placed us at the extreme right of Grant’s army.
Our location here was not conducive to health and many of the
boys became prostrated with sickness at this place.
As to all other considerations our camping place here might, and
doubtless would have been reasonably healthy had it not been for the
water we had to use. I’ll
tell you how we obtained our water supply – we would go down in a
valley between two ranges of hills, or near a drain or branch and sink a
barrel down into the soil. In
a few hours it would be full of water, and in a few more hours there
would be formed on the top of it a scum of a dirty, greenish, greasy
look, thick enough to float the heaviest bugs known to the climate, and
they were no sinecures. As
to the healthfulness of such drink I leave the reader to draw his own
conclusions. Suffice to
say, much sickness, discontent and dissatisfaction were engendered at
this place. I pass over all
intervening events up to the battle of Shiloh except one.
A few days preceding the battle there came one of the most
furious hailstorms I had ever seen.
Some of the men facetiously remarked “that in a few days the
bullets of the enemy might be flying around us as thick as the hail then
was.” This remark was
made in a spirit of levity, but it proved to be prophetic.
Battle of Shiloh
divergent opinions of the battle of Shiloh have found their way into
print, nor is this to be considered strange when we come to realize the
fact that every writer expressed his idea from the standpoint, or
viewpoint from which he witnessed the events of which he writes.
Some say the attack of the rebel army was a complete surprise to
our officers and men, attributing our unprepared condition for receiving
an attack as evidence of this fact. In rebuttal of this statement others urge that up to and
including this period of the war, breastworks had not become an integral
part of it. While it is a
fact that most of our generals in command of the different armies had
received a military education, and theoretically were well up in their
profession, yet when it came to actual conflict and war they were found
sadly deficient in many of the requirements of a successful commander.
Up to Shiloh, Grant had always been the aggressor.
In the middle went, to get a fight he had always had to hunt up
the other fellow, consequently he was not accustomed to being hunted.
To this extent the battle of Shiloh may be said to have been a
surprise. We were perfectly
conscious of the presence of the enemy in our front on Friday evening
preceding the battle, there was brisk firing on the advanced picket line
that evening and again on Saturday. I do not presume to speak for those who were in authority as
to how they felt regarding the prospects for a fight. I do not know that there seemed to be a feeling permeating
the rank and line officers that a conflict was impending. Our commanders had to learn actual war, and we had to learn
the same lesson from sad experience.
Twelve months subsequent to this time we would have made
requisition for picks and shovels and had a good line of breast works
behind which to have met the enemy.
But if we had had a good line of defense I doubt very much
whether the battle would have occurred.
All this aside the battle did occur and a sanguinary conflict it
may not be out of place here to state that for our regiment Shiloh was
our first baptism in the fire of battle.
This statement holds good for probably a majority of Grant’s
army. None of them had ever been under fire but those who were at Fort
Donnelson. Those having the
least knowledge of what a battle really was were the most anxious to get
into one. None of our
regiment excepting Co. A. had ever seen a battlefield.
Company A. had witnessed some of the devastation and destruction
of the fight at Donnelson, and judging from that we were not so
desperately anxious for a fight.
morning, April 6th, 1862, a fateful day
for hundreds and thousands of the brave men constituting the two armies
facing each other on that beautiful Sunday morning.
I was quite sick that morning but I would rather have had my good
right arm amputated than to have been too sick to have gone into the
fight. Fortunately, I was
able to start in and never thought of my sickness any more that day. I had heard of fellows being scared into sickness, but if I
was scared at all I was scared into health.
attempting to tell the story of the battle of Shiloh, I shall confine
myself to incidents occurring principally under my own observation,
referring to history for a general description thereof.
About sunrise on Sunday morning, firing was heard on the picket
line, desultory at first, gradually increasing in volume.
The “long roll” was sounded and the regiment formed in line
marched out as I remember, in a southeasterly course from our camp to
the top of one of a series of small elevations in that locality and
formed line of battle. In
our immediate front was a small valley and beyond it another elevation
or hill ascending to some considerable height.
We had been here but a short time when a column of troops were
seen descending the hill opposite us.
Owing to the mixed uniforms worn by the troops of both sides it
was very difficult in many instances to tell to which side a column of
troops belonged. So it was
in this instance. Most of
us thought we knew they were rebels and were eager for a shot at them.
Colonel seemed to have the idea that they were our own men and
commanded us not to fire on them. Having
marched down the hill in column and not observing us till they were well
down in the valley, and halting without any command they huddled up
together in some confusion. A
well directed volley from us would have sent them back in utter
confusion and route, but our colonel still laboring under the delusion
that they were friends reiterated his orders not to fire.
He then committed another blunder by asking them who they were.
Their commander having penetration sufficient to understand the
disadvantageous plight they were in made a false reply, claiming to be
an Indiana regiment, at the same time asking who we were.
Here Col. Hicks committed error #2 by telling them the truth as
to our identity. This gave
them their cue and for the time being kept as quiet as mice proving
themselves tactful in appreciating our decided advantage over them at
the time. By this time the
action had become severe on the left center and it could be easily
discerned that our line to our left was giving ground.
This was endangering our position as it would interpose the enemy
between us and the landing, not only this but would cut us off from the
left wing of the army so a retrograde movement became necessary at once.
The command “By right of companies to the rear into column”
was given. This threw each
company a company’s length from each other and thus marching by the
flank we began the retreat back through and beyond our quarters.
Our friends “the enemy” whom we had just been so kind to, now
got busy at once, sending their compliments in the form of leaden
messengers to expedite our movement to the rear.
Now the battle is on in terrible fury.
One continuous roar of musketry from one end of the line to the
other. The artillery
accompaniment making it wound very much like a vast number of snare
drums with a base drum interlude. Just
as we passed the north side of our camps we passed a battery that was
pouring in a tremendous fire into the enemy’s ranks.
Oh! what a dreadful price they were paying for the privilege –
men and horses falling right and left – it was a panicky scene for men
unaccustomed to battle. We
had to get accustomed to actual war sometime and our lessons of today
were of great practical benefit to us in all our succeeding encounters
with the enemy.
Confederate troops were still crowding back our left, exposing our left
flank. It thus became
necessary that something be done to save us from eventually falling into
the enemy’s hands. Our
captain, H. W. Hall, called our company to a halt and declared we would
fight right there. Company
B. catching the infection from us immediately formed on our left, our
formation being at an About Face. The
remainder of the regiment fell into line as also did the 6th Iowa and perhaps some other troops.
This gave us the opportunity to even up a little with the
Johnnies. We surely did
too, striking probably the identical fellows that were such close
neighbors to us in the earlier part of the day.
What we did for them was a plenty.
We hit them on the front and left flank and I never saw a force
more completely done up in all my army experience.
We captured a three gun battery they had with them. We could not, however, utilize our trophy because we had to
hurry up and make an alignment with the main army or be effectually cut
off from it. Finally we
effected a union with the other troops by coming into action on a
brigade right half wheel, assaulting a six gun battery heavily supported
by infantry. We did not
succeed in capturing the battery, but silenced it for the time being.
I know I shall fail to describe this action to my own
satisfaction. I saw it only
as an inexperienced boy and much was overlooked at the time, and much
has slipped away from my memory since.
I do know that here we met a terribly destructive fire from the
enemy, and we did the best for them we could.
I do not know how long we were engaged in this particular
conflict. There was a great
diversity of opinions as to the length of time engaged.
Suffice it is to say we were at it long enough to lose nearly two
hundred men, killed and wounded.
speaking of my experiences in the war, you must pardon the oft
occurrence of the pronoun I. It
is my own individual personal experiences and observations I am writing.
Therefore, the pronoun necessarily must occur quite often.
elucidate clearly how little I knew about war it is only necessary for
me to tell the intelligent reader that during this engagement for quite
a while I stood up in the open – a fair, square target – where it
seemed to me if my hat would have held bullets, I could have caught it
full in two minutes. How or
why I escaped I cannot tell unless through the intervention of a kind,
merciful providence, exercised in behalf of a poor ignoramus that had no
better sense than to needlessly expose himself when it was not
necessarily required of him. It
was here that Lieut. John McLean, while by my side, was struck by a
cannon ball which took off his foot and leg above the ankle.
He cried out to us not to leave him and we did not.
I took the guns of four other comrades, one of which was knocked
out of my hands by a ball and ruined, while these comrades took the
Lieutenant to a place of safety. It
was here also that I assisted Com. James H. Flannigan unchoking his gun.
He had a ball about half way down and could move it no farther.
He was about having spells.
We both threw our weight on the rammer and down it went all right
to Jim’s unutterable delight.
terrible onslaught we made on the enemy at this time and place assisted
materially in giving them a check. Colonel Webster of Grant’s staff took immediate advantage
of the occasion to draw up all the reserve artillery into position on an
eminence just inn our rear, to which we were sent when withdrawn from
the front. In this new
position a seeming universal sentiment pervaded the rank and file of the
army that they did not intend for the enemy to move them again unless it
should be in pursuit, nor did they.
due time the enemy again moved up to attack us, and after a terrible
artillery duel, their infantry tried to come to the scratch again, but
they had their pains for their trouble, for we sent them back in a whirl
and heard no more out of them that night. We were a tired, weary, powder-begrimed lot, I tell you, and
were not sorry to have them retire.
As darkness approached we partook of our luxurious viands –
hard tack and fat meat, no coffee, no chance for coffee that miserable
night. We washed down the
crackers with fat meat and the fat meat with crackers.
were greatly cheered about this time by the arrival of the advance
brigades of Nelson’s Division of Buel’s army, which we had been
momentarily expecting for quite a while.
Their presence put new vigor into us and foreshadowed the doom of
the enemy on the morrow.
night, or rather darkness came on, orders were given to remain in line,
keep our accoutrements on and our guns in our hands. Now! wasn’t that
a delectable position in which to secure rest from the arduous labor of
the preceding day? We were
permitted to assume any position desired, but not to leave the line.
Some tried to secure rest and sleep one way, some another, all
failing of the end sought. Some
would “hunker” down on their feet and legs and would get into a doze
probably, only to be aroused by a shell from the Lexington or Tyler, two
gun boats in the Tennessee River, which annoyed us as well as the enemy
all night by throwing shells every ten or fifteen minutes during the
entire night in the direction of the enemy’s camp.
I watched these shells all night as it was almost impossible to
sleep. I saw the light and
flash at the cannon’s mouth and the light of the shell fuse as it rose
gracefully up to its extreme altitude, gradually falling until it
exploded with a reverberation that shook the earth.
To cap the entire climax it soon began to rain and there was a
steady downpour for almost the entire remainder of the night.
Now my dear reader, whoever you may be, if you can draw upon your
imagination with that degree of freedom that will permit you to arrive
at a conclusion as to what our feelings and physical conditions were on
that night, I am sure I wish you would do so, for I acknowledge my
inability to describe them. However,
this long, disagreeable night had to end and did end.
I assure you we did not regret the dissolution of this wearisome,
sleepless night, notwithstanding, we knew the morrow would bring on more
sanguinary conflict for us. But
action of some kind, even if it took us into the very hell of battle was
preferable to standing in the impenetrable darkness, in the steady
downpour of rain, sleepy, hungry and tired.
came and after partaking of an early breakfast of those same delicate
luxuries, “fat meat and hard tack”, we were off for new scenes of
prowess. Our regiment
having been so terribly decimated on the preceding day, we were used on
Monday as part of a reserve force for Nelson’s division, and our
movements were direct by that intrepid fighter.
I shall not dwell at length in speaking of General Nelson.
All history readers are more or less acquainted with the peculiar
characteristics of this noted man.
He had, previous to this battle, proven his efficiency and
bravery as a commander in action. His
conduct on this day fully sustained his former good name.
In this connection I think I may very properly advert to the
claim set up by many persons, that Nelson saved Grant’s army from
“defeat and route” on Sunday. To
make this as brief as possible, I will state that as a truth of history
in the first place we were neither defeated nor routed.
In the second place, Nelson did not get to the battle field on
Monday until the fight was virtually over.
There was a senseless, terrified mob of teamsters, soldiers and
camp followers cringing with fear under the bluff at the landing, which
Nelson’s men could not avoid seeing and through which they had to
march to reach the battle line. Doubtless,
the inference that we were defeated and routed was made from their view
of this motley crowd. The
brave men that made up the Army of the Tennessee and fought so bravely
are getting extremely tired of this infernal “rot”.
General Grant, in his personal memoirs, maintained that with the
assistance of General Lew Wallace’s division, which came up from
Crumps Landing during Sunday night, he would have whipped the rebel army
and sent it whirling back to Corinth on Monday, Buell or no Buell, and
his men had such implicit confidence in him that they fully believed he
would do so. As before
stated, we acted as reserve to General Nelson’s division on Monday,
and did not have much fighting to do except a little brush in the
afternoon. We kept well up
to the fighting column, ready if needed to go to their assistance.
At one time it seemed that Nelson’s men were retiring and our
regiment manifested quite a degree of anxiety, both officers and men, to
go to their relief. General
Nelson, being near at the time and observing the excitement and desire
to participate in the engagement, laconically remarked “Keep cool
boys, they are making their last and dying struggle and we are giving
‘em h—l.” And so it
turned out to be. They had
made a very determined and stubborn resistance for awhile, but soon
began to give away before the merciless fury of our troops, and were in
full retreat towards Corinth.
the meantime we had a little brush with a detachment of the enemy
occupying the camps of one of our Ohio regiments.
‘Twas here that Com. C. C. Johnson, of our company shot a rebel
sharp shooter out of a tree as nonchalantly as if he had been a
squirrel. In this little
affair Com. Robert Page of our Company was killed and two or three
others were wounded. The
enemy was drawn off and we remained here till night.
nightfall our regiment was divided into two reliefs – one half to
stand on picket half the night, the other the remaining half.
Our company was part of the first squad on duty and went on about
the time it got “good and dark”, three or four of us placed together
in squads. Soon after we
were located it began to rain again, making our position and
surroundings, as you may well conceive, anything but pleasant. We heard many gruesome noises that night and were kept
vigilant and on our quivive, fearing a surprise from an enemy as near
dead as ourselves, and who were as glad to get away as we were to have
them away. At midnight we
were relieved and went into what was termed “Head Quarters” –
merely a spot in the woods where the regimental staff was stopping.
Meanwhile, the rainfall kept increasing until now it was just
simply pouring down in perfect wanton fury.
I never came so near drowning in my life on what may figuratively
be termed dry ground. I had
sat down by a large tree, leaning my head back against it, and was
asleep in a moment, my face turned toward where the sky ought to have
been. When I awoke the
water was pouring down through that treetop in great streams into my
upturned face and I was half drowned.
although sleepy and worn out by the arduous labors of the two preceding
days and nights, we were engaged in burying the dead.
The territory over which we worked was mostly where the rebel
lines had fought, so most of the dead we buried were from the
Confederate army. Details
were made from all commands and sent to all sections of the battlefield,
and thus all were buried. Those
killed on Sunday had become much discolored and were found stark and
stiff in all conceivable shapes, remaining perhaps in whatever form the
last throes and agony of death left them.
Burying the dead was a rather gruesome job, equally as necessary
as it was gruesome. We went
at it with all the “method and business” of which we were capable. While the work was full of awe and should have been done with
reverence, yet some would indulge in facetious and irreverent remarks.
well as I remember we stayed in this vicinity over Tuesday night, going
to our old quarters Wednesday morning.
All of our effects, knapsacks, clothing, blankets, stationary and
little keepsakes were gone or destroyed.
Many of us possessed little mementos of inestimable value to us
and of no intrinsic value to anyone else.
All were gone or destroyed out of pure wantonness and cussedness,
much to our chagrin and mortification, - such is war!
ends the account of the battle of Shiloh.
To those seeking further knowledge of that terrible conflict, I
beg to refer to the pages of history.
I only ventured to give a desultory view of my own personal
experiences and observations. Many
interesting and graphic scenes, I find even now I have omitted – some
purposely, some from oversight – but I cannot go back and rewrite
now settled down to regular camp life again with ample opportunity for
retrospection of the past and contemplating the future.
One thing sure, we could realize the full force and truthfulness
of that trite saying of General Sherman, long before it was uttered, “That
War Was Hell”. I
remember writing to my mother that I had seen the “Elephant” and had
no curiosity to further cultivate his acquaintance. I am sure I reflect the sentiment of the entire army when I
say that we would now have been glad if the conflict could have been
ended with this great struggle, and peace and unity restored to our
suffering country, and were as equally determined to suffer on, struggle
and fight on until this much desired end was accomplished.
Nothing of note occurred beyond the ordinary happenings of camp
life until early in May, General Halleck, having succeeded General
Grant, by priority rank, now came to us and assumed command.
He marshalled one of the finest armies, Grant’s Buell’s and
Pope’s that ever trod the continent, and began his great fiasco
movement against the Confederate stronghold at Corinth.
shall not attempt a description of the movements of this campaign,
satisfying myself by referring you to history for a more detailed
account. I can relate but
few incidents that occurred on this trip for reasons which will appear
further along. Our first
day’s march from camp took us out about six or seven miles in the
direction of Corinth. Here
Halleck stopped and had breastworks thrown up covering the entire front
of his army, probably fifteen miles in extent.
Remaining here a few days he moved up a few miles and erected
other breastworks and so on, ad infinitum, till General Bragg realizing
that he could not hold the place against this mighty host, pulled out at
his leisure, leaving the little town and empty breastworks to its
captors. The boys had
designated these starts and stops as Camp #1,2,3, etc.
camp #1, I began to realize that I was a sick boy, but entertaining a
“Holy Horror” of doctors and their medicines as well as their
hospitals, I did not want to give up.
I attempted as much as possible to conceal my indisposition,
except to a few of my more intimate comrades, by whose assistance I was
enabled to keep going until we reached #5.
At this lace I inadvertently gave the whole thing away by
attempting to walk unaided. I
collapsed and fell. Captain
Hall happened to see me, and after obtaining a history of my case from
my comrades who had been surreptitiously aiding me, and after giving me
a little tongue lashing for my reticence in not disclosing my condition,
ordered me forthwith to the regimental hospital, and there I went aided
by my co-conspirators. Where
I stayed that night I cannot tell.
It is a blank in my memory.
Next morning, however, I was put in a six-mule wagon and started
back to Pittsburg Landing. The journey that day in my then enfeebled condition was the
hardest and most exasperating of any I tried before or since.
The road from where we started to the landing had, for a great
part of the way, been corduroyed. That
is laid with round poles across the road as close as they could be laid,
thus enabling the wagons and artillery to keep up out of the mud.
Quite a large train of wagons were going back to the landing
after supplies and any delay in the front would necessarily cause a jam.
Then when those in front would get well strung out, those in the
rear would find themselves greatly distanced and would have to strike up
a lively gait to overtake them. Can
you imagine then how it would be with one already debilitated by
disease, to ride in a six-mule wagon going at a swift trot?
I was tossed about in that wagon from one side to the other and
from one end to the other until I surely thought it would kill me. I begged and importuned the driver, Uncle Henry Irvin, of our
company to not drive so fast, but he was under orders and had to obey
his superiors. Finally in
my exhausted condition I became desperate.
In my extremity I cursed the roads, the wagon, the mules and the
driver. I cursed the fate
that placed me in such a predicament.
I cursed the officers, the General and everybody else.
And, finally, lost to all moral restraint in my dire extremity I
absolutely cursed God. I do
not understand how I survived this trip, unless it was that Heaven was
looking down in mercy and pity on my sufferings, forgiving the
mutterings of a perverted mind driven to the frenzy of extremity by
disease and suffering. I
barely remember arriving at the landing and being assisted out of the
wagon by Uncle Henry Irvin. I
could see pity and sorrow depicted in every line of his countenance.
After our return home he often told me that he never expected to
see me alive again. Yet,
through the mutations of Providence I am still alive, while Uncle Henry
has long since gone to his reward.
After getting out of the wagon I was left lying on the ground
amid some bushes until night when some one helped me down to a boat at
the landing, where I lay all night on the forward deck, a coil of rope
for a pillow. I was
delirious with fever all night and while in that condition some scamp
relieved me of my pocketbook containing about thirty dollars in money
besides other valuables, leaving me penniless.
Next morning the boat steamed up to Hamburg where the general
hospitals were located. I
was taken up near the hospital, placed on a cot under a tree and left to
“Foot hog or die.” Fortunately a comrade of our company, Ed Banes, was
there and found me. I shall
certainly always have a warm place in my affections for him.
Like many of us, he doubtless lacks much of perfection, yet he
demonstrated on this occasion that he possessed the essential elements
of true comradeship. He had
been sick but was then convalescent and able to go about.
He gave me all the attention of which he was capable, bringing me
water, reporting to the physician, etc.
After a few days I’d thought he saw that I was getting worse
and fearing I was going to “pass out” he went to the physician in
charge and told him that a comrade was lying out there under a tree,
receiving no attention whatever, that he was in a bad condition and must
have something done at once, etc. The
physician yielding to his persistency came out and after giving a rather
cursory examination ordered me taken at once on board the hospital boat
Silver Moon. I have no
means of knowing what were his thoughts, but his looks were anything but
being carried down to the boat on a cot, I remember seeing Comrade
Lazerous Taylor of our company, the father of Esq. W. S. Taylor, of
Flannigan Twp. Comrade
Taylor was trying to get some water out of the river and did not see me.
This was the last time I ever saw him.
I learned later that he died at this place.
I was left on my cot in the cabin of the boat where there were
probably a hundred others. It
looked very much more like home than any of my previous surroundings
during my sickness. It seems to me now as I retrospect the past that I began to
get better soon after I got on the boat.
We had good attention, our medicines were given punctually, had
reasonably plenty to eat and best of all plenty of good ice water. Seemingly the first drink I had of that water improved me.
A kind old motherly woman would make the rounds of the cabin each
day, having a kind word and cheerful loving smile for every one.
Her kind presence and loving ministrations caused us all to think
of a mother, a wife or a sister back in “God’s Country,” our loved
Home. How long we remained
here after my advent into the cabin, I do not remember.
Finally, however, we steamed down the Tennessee and up the Ohio
Rivers. Our destination it
was said being Cincinnati. On
the way down the Tennessee River the main shaft of the starboard wheel
broke with a noise like a cannon and steam came rushing up into the
cabin in perfect clouds. This
caused great excitement among the sick and nearly to a man they jumped
up and made for the cabin door, intent upon self-preservation.
Word from below came up that nothing serious was the matter and
many of the poor fellows had to be helped back to their cots.
injury our boat had sustained retarded our progress very much as we had
to run with only one wheel. It took several days to reach Louisville, Kentucky, but our
situation and surroundings were such a vast improvement upon our past
soldier experience that we rather enjoyed the hospitality of the boat
and our long ride. At
Louisville we learned that the falls in the river would not permit a
boat of the size of the “Silver Moon” to pass through whereupon she
dropped back down to New Albany, Indiana, four miles below Louisville,
and on the opposite side of the river.
Here a good portion of us were taken to the hospital.
What disposition was made of those remaining on the boat, I do
Albany is a considerable little City on the north bank of the Ohio.
At the time of which I speak its citizens, it seemed to me, were
intensely loyal to the Government, and their hospitality was charmingly
beyond criticism. When the
news leaked out that a survivor of the battle of Shiloh was in the
hospital a great many of the citizens came to see me and tried very hard
to make a hero of me. They would come singly and in squads, and have me talk by the
hour of the great battle. Then
they began plying me with invitations to their homes. These invitations, with one exception, I firmly but
respectfully declined. Not
that I did not appreciate their kindness and hospitable intentions, but
I had been on a long, rough, arduous campaign, and my clothing was not
in a presentable condition. I
therefore had no desire to appear in society as a hero, or otherwise.
One old gentleman, however, would not take “No” for a reply
to his importunities. I
simply had to go with him. He
had a very pleasant little family consisting of himself, wife and two
charming daughters. I was
somewhat embarrassed on account of the appearance of my toilet, but they
all exerted themselves to the utmost to make me feel welcome and to make
my visit pleasant and cheerful. If
I could have overcome my modesty in regard to my clothing, I certainly
would have had a “time” while in this little city.
the newspaper reports of the sick sent from the front to the many
different hospitals, my mother had found my name, and of course was in a
rage of despair until she could hear something more definite about me.
She wrote to many different hospitals, and to the mayors of
several different cities, inquiring for me, one letter being addressed
to the Mayor of the city of New Albany.
I was called out, he asked my name and upon being told he said
“why do you not write to your mother, she is greatly distressed about
you”. I told him the
circumstance of losing my pocketbook and that I was penniless.
The Mayor handed me a one-dollar bill saying “Your mother sent
this to pay me for the trouble of making inquiry for you.
All I charge is that you take this and write your mother at
once”. I did so.
do not know exactly how long I stayed at this place, probably some four
After I became strong enough to go around I enjoyed myself about
as well possibly as one could when thrown entirely with strangers.
I became acquainted with a man named Hammond.
I think he belonged to the 26th
I am not sure about this.
He had his descriptive roll with him and was permitted to draw
six months pay, which was accrued and due him.
He was moderately free with his money and he and I ate up quite a
bit of it.
Our appetites had become ravenous and the hospital diet would not
satisfy our craving.
The boss in the kitchen, Aunt Delilah Fleshman, (I shall never
forget her) told us that if we wanted any extras to bring them to her
and she would cook them for us and we could eat at her table.
We had many enjoyable meals with her.
Our special desire was for fish.
They were to be had in abundance and reasonably cheap.
Ohio Cat for instance.
But they were good.
I think I left Hammond at the hospital and when the time for
parting came I left him regretfully.
I have never heard of him since.
In dismissing him I hope that his paths have been cast in at
least no more rugged ways than have my own.