Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers J. B. Ulmer and Sidney Johnston at Shiloh (4/6/1862) - Nov 19th, 2003
Posted on 11/19/2003 12:00:15 AM PST by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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Where the Freeper Foxhole introduces a different veteran each Wednesday. The "ordinary" Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine who participated in the events in our Country's history. We hope to present events as seen through their eyes. To give you a glimpse into the life of those who sacrificed for all of us - Our Veterans.
THE SMOKE OF SHILOH.
Thirty-nine years ago, April 6th, 1862,1 was fought one of the bloodiest battles that ever occurred on this continent, called by the Confederates the Battle of Shiloh, from a large log church somewhat to the left of the centre of our line of battle, which was used by General Beauregard as his headquarters. But to begin this tale of the long ago, I will say I was a member at that time of Company C, Wirt Adams's Cavalry; a regiment composed of companies from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisana. Our Company was raised chiefly in Choctaw County, Alabama, with contingents from both Washington and Clarke Counties. One of the commissioned officers, Lieutenant White, was from Washington County. The Company was raised early in the summer of 1861 and organized at Mt. Sterling, Alabama, with F. Y. Gaines, captain; W. W. Long, W. P. Cheney and White, lieutenants.
Our services had been offered through the governor of the State to the Confederate government. We were fully equipped with Sharp's rifles, sabers, Colt's army revolvers, and the regular U. S. dragoon saddles. Our uniform was a heavy gray cassimere, with the proper trimmings incident to that branch of the service. This equipment, including the uniforms, was presented to the company by Colonel Sam Ruffin, of Choctaw County; hence the name by which we were known, "Ruffin Dragoons." The ladies of Mt. Sterling and its vicinitywomen of blessed memorymet from day to day in the Masonic hall of the village, until every member was furnished with a handsome uniform.
Nearly every man furnished his own horse; some were supplied by the more wealthy citizens of the county; others again were complimented by being presented with finer animals than they possessed, or horses more fitted for the hard service they were destined to endurenotably, as I remember, Captain Gaines was presented by Hon. Frank Lyon, of Demopolis, with a fine sorrel. The equipment furnished by Colonel Ruffin, I was informed, cost him about $30,000. How well I remember the day when we left Mt. Sterling for the front, the 25th of September, 1861. Nearly all of us were young men and boys just from school. The officers were older, and Captain Gaines had seen service in Mexico as an officer of U. S. dragoons. This, of course, gave some prestige, and lent us some prominence in the regiment to which we were assigned. I, myself, was fresh from the class-room, with no experience whatever of any of the ruder sides of life.
Confederate Charge upon Prentiss's Camp on Sunday morning
We went from Mt. Sterling to Lauderdale, Mississippi, where we were loaded on trains for Memphis, Tennessee. There we were enrolled "for the war in the Confederate service." We went by way of Nashville to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and became a part of General A. S. Johnston's army confronting Buell, the Federal commander in that part of the State. Here we joined other companies, and Wirt Adams's Cavalry Regiment was formed. We were drilled in company and regimental tactics, picketing the front and doing scouting duties.
Early in February, 1862, the Federals, not desiring to force Johnston's position, commenced flanking movements by way of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, pushing their gunboats up those streams, and gaining the battle of Fort Donelson, where the Confederate General Buckner surrendered a considerable force. This made it apparent that the withdrawal of the army from Bowling Green was imperative.
Conference of Confederate commanders the night before the battle From left to right, General P G. T Beauregard, General L. Polk (seated), General John C. Breckinridge, General A. S. Johnston, General Braxton Bragg, and Major J. F Gilmer, General W J. Hardee was not present.
After the Battle of Fort Donelson, General Grant pushed his forces further south to the vicinity of Pittsburg, a small village on the Tennessee River, not more than twenty-five miles from Corinth, Mississippi, where the Confederates were rapidly gathering to oppose his advance. At this particular place, General Johnston came prominently into view before the country and the world. His methods and strategy had been severely criticized by a part of the Southern press. Mile after mile of the country had been given up without a blow, and apparently it was not understood or approved. It was said a delegation even went to Richmond and demanded the general's removal. But Mr. Davis said to them "if Albert Sidney Johnston is not a general, I have none; so they got back in time to see one of the masterly moves of the warone by which undoubtedly the conqueror of Lee at Appomattox would have been relegated to the shades had not death overtaken Johnston on the evening of April 6, 1862.
Three days' rations were ordered in the haversacks, and our regiment took the road in the direction of Monterey. I think this was Wednesday, the 3d of April. Other roads leading in that direction were choked with moving masses of men, infantry, and artillery, with their necessary trains of ordnance and commissary stores. The weather had been rainy and the roads were bad. Who of us that was there and toiled through that rain and mud can ever forget it?
General Albert Sidney Johnston, CSA
On the morning of the 5th of April, Company C of Wirt Adams's Regiment was ordered to report to the commanding general for escort duty. Our uniforms were new and our horses in good condition, and altogether we did not make a bad appearance. Well do I recollect the look of wonder and inquiry that swept over young and beardless faces when we heard the words of the order. We knew of the lonely vigil on the far out picket post, the firing line on the skirmish front, scouting, and so on, but the idea of being escort to the head of the army brought up all sorts of questions, and our officers were plied with inquiries.
Right here let us notice some conditions that always held between the Confederate private and his officers. Off duty, we all were free and easy. Even on duty, except on drill and parade, there ran all through the army an easy tolerance that lent itself so admirably to both rank and file when the individualism of the soldier was demanded in hottest battle; when lines irregularly rushed to the charge, or beaten back, would suddenly nerve themselves to a stand and again rush forwardnot shoulder to shoulder, or elbows touching, as we often read in fancy sketches, but every man and officer acting, as it were, individually, and each feeling as if the result depended upon himself alone. So in camp the license of the soldier was controlled by the "morale" of the man, and hence the proverbial easy intercourse between officers and men.
However, we soon found out our duties as a general's escort, though our lot together, alas, was too short. The night of the 5th of April, General Johnston bivouacked in a skirt of woods near an old field, an infantry line of battle just in front and extending through the dense woods and thickets to right and left, with batteries of field artillery just in the rear and occupying assigned positions given them by the staff.
From early in the day, General Johnston had been anxious for the more prompt arrival of the troops. Delay after delay occurred. Staff officers had been sent back to urge haste, but it developed that the two corps of Bragg and Polk had become entangled with each other, on account of the narrow muddy roads, and the miring ordnance and artillery teams, and a part of one of these commands had to diverge into the woods and cut a new road before the forward movement could be hastened. It was evident that the attack was to begin on the arrival of the troops in position, and but for this delay the battle would have opened on Saturday. What might have been the result had the plans of the general been caried out can now only be left to conjecture. Certain it is, Buell would not have been in reach, for on that day his army was nearly twenty-five miles away, and the history of the second day would not so have been written, and General Grant would not have been at Appomattox to receive General Lee's surrender.
But I am anticipating. The escort bivouacked near the general's headquarters. Our slim rations in the haversacks were exhausted, and our commissary wagon was far in the rear. Sentinels were detailed under a proper officer and thrown around the general's tent; night and quiet had settled down immediately around us. Only the distant tramp of detailed detachments as they hurried to join their respective brigades, or the peculiar rumble of some battery of artillery, until then delayed in the mud, struck the ear. Silence had been enjoined on the troops, and no one can forget the weird effect and impressions made upon one, silently gazing through the gloom of the woods on the still ranks of men lying upon their arms, with the flags and guidons hanging limp on their staffs, and the long lines dimmer to the eye as night fell upon the scene. The night was dark and damp, and the April wind stirring the boughs of the tall trees sang in the hearts of many men that lay beneath, as they thought of home, a dirge of death.
Brigadier-General John C. Breckenridge.
From a photograph by Geo. S. Cook
Our sentinels, in regular reliefs, guarded headquarters. All were hungry. Our horses had no corn, and our men no bread. R. M. Hearin, of Bladon Springs, Alabama, was on guard that night, his relief coming on in the early morning, and I have heard him tell how the early breakfast of the staff affected him. They would throw away crusts of bread and bits of crackers as they talked, and as his regular beat caried him near the circle of officers, who sat or stood around the camp chest, he would pick up some of the rejected crusts and munch and listen as he walked. Towards morning, general officers had been gathering at the headquarters, and daylight revealed a historic group. Some had come voluntarily, some had been summoned by courier. Mr. Hearin says, hungry and fagged out as he was, he was exceedingly interested by the tense but subdued manner of the group. The argument even then was for or against a general attack. It seems that all the officers did not agree with General Johnston, notably the second in command, who favored a forced reconnaissance, and then dealing with details as they developed.
About six o'clock, still early for the cloudy April morning, and whilst they still ate crackers and sipped coffee, some talking, General Johnston mainly a listener, the heavy denseness of the air was jarred by an ominous sound apparently not far off. All knew what it meant. General Johnston was standing erect, if I remember rightly, when the roar of the gun broke upon his ear. He immediately faced the group and said, "Gentlemen, the ball has opened; no time for argument now," or words to that effect, and asking an officer to note the time, he immediately called for his horse. "Boots and saddles" for our company was sounded, and we sprang into the saddle. How well I remember the mien and manner of General Hardee, as he quitted the group and made for his horse held a short distance away by an orderly. His form was erect; his stride long but regular; and as he walked he gathered up his trailing sword, and tucking it under his arm so reached his horse.
At a gallop he went in the direction of his command, which was mainly to our left, as I now recall these incidents. A portion of the troops that were near us had silently moved forward in the night. Perhaps the whole line moved forward; I do not know, but I remember we had several hundred yards to ride in the direction we took before we came in sight of the lines now fully engaged.
Immediately following the opening gun, portions of lines seemed to me to commence firing by volleys. Then the division to which we were advancing became engaged all at once; the file-firing seemed continuous, as if the men were engaged in close and steady duel. The artillery to right and left of us and in front also had now awakened to a continual volume of soundno stop, no intermission. Now, for the first time, I heard the sound of "dread artillery," for almost immediately the enemy responded with every available gun, and round shot and shell came through or over the ranks in a storm. The mists of the morning were heavy, and the smoke clinging close to the ground made it difficult to see ten paces in front.
The Hornets Nest
I shall remember the first wounded man I saw as we passed in. He was half reclining near the foot of an oak tree with an awful wound in his stomach, made apparently by a fragment of a shell, a portion of his bowels protruding and partly lying on the ground. Evidently he had just been wounded, for as General Johnston stopped to talk to him a moment, his eyes were bright and face animated as he was telling the general how the Yankees broke and fled at the first fire. General Johnston ordered the surgeon who was along with us to stop and give him some attention.
The PC crowd is the "ignorance crowd". Ignorance plus fear is a formidable form of darkness . . . may the light of truth always expose its flank.
"Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."
You got that right.
"we reveled in the fatness of the enemy's camp"Goes along with what Sam Houston said. The North's ability to supply armies was almost limitless.
I also hope the p.c. crowd doesn't stamp out the heritage of the South - although they sure are trying. I feel much the same way as this young soldier - admiration for the courage and sacrifice of both sides.
I did laugh when I saw Ted Turner and Bobby Byrd pretending to be Confederate Generals. But then, they might have been just as good as Joe Johnston, or Beauregard or Bragg!
BTW, I was amused several times during the Iraq campaign when commentators would claim the Americans would suffer in the seige of Baghdad as the Germans had at Stalingrad. Those armchair generals didn't even know the Germans were the beseiged, not the beseigers.
That's the root of the problem.
Antietam, there's a movie waiting to be made.
That would be a good one!
I'm sure glad he didn't!
Sometime in the last year or so I read that British intel considered whether an assasination mission against Hitler was feasible, but they also considered whether it would be advisable in light of all bad decisions Hitler was making that helped the Allies. Ultimately, they didn't try.