The 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.
Our 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.
Just 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
When 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.
We 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.
One 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.
We 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.
The Battle of Shiloh
Many 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 was.
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
Sunday 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.
In 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.
The 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.
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