In 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.
To 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.
The 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to draw up all the reserve artillery into position on an eminence just inn our rear, to which we were sent when withdrawn from the front.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.
In 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.
We 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.
As 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.
Morning 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.
In 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.
After 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.
Tuesday, 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.
As 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!
So 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
We 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 rull 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.
I 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.
At 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 reassuring.
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