Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing, TN)

Dates: April 6-7, 1862


Union: Major General Ulysses S. Grant commanding the Army of West Tennessee
Major General Don Carlos Buell commanding the Army of the Ohio

Confederate: General Albert S. Johnston commanding the Army of the Mississippi

Prelude: Following the capture of Forts Henry and Donaldson in February, the Confederates were forced to establish a new defensive line from Memphis and stretching into Mississippi and Alabama in order to prevent further Federal incursion deeper into Confederate territory. Johnston centered his line on the town of Corinth, MS and began to pull in reinforcements from across the Confederacy. Soon he had 47,000 under his command and was ready to take the offensive.

The Union commander in the West, Major General Henry Halleck ordered Grant and Buell to head up the Tennessee River to a spot where they can launch an offensive towards Corinth.

March 1 to April 5, 1862: Grant transports his 58,600 troops from the Fort Henry area to Pittsburg Landing. There he will await Buell’s troops who are marching from the northeast.

March 1, 1862: Johnston’s army is amassed at Corinth.

April 3, 1862: Johnston receives word that a Federal army is at Pittsburg Landing with more on the way. He decides to take the offensive and hit Grant before Buell arrives. His troops begin marching towards Pittsburg Landing, but rain slows the march.

April 5, 1862: Johnston’s army comes within sigh of the Federal encampment but do not see any pickets. Johnston orders the attack to start at dawn.

April 6, 1862: 4:55 a.m. Confederate troops began to move forward. They are spotted by a Union reconnaissance patrol and after a brief skirmish, falls back to report. Initially, the reports of a massed Confederate army approaching are discounted, the commanders believing that Johnston was still at Corinth.

6:30 a.m. Johnston sends eight brigades into the southernmost camp, that of the division commanded by Major General Benjamin Prentiss. They immediately fall back towards the river. There is a delay in the advance as Confederate troops begin to loot the abandoned camp. Johnston grabs a tin cup and rallies his men to keep moving.

7:00 a.m. Johnston sends several brigades against the Federal right flank, held by the division of Brigadier General William Sherman, who makes a stiff defense around Shiloh Church (from whence the battle gets its name). Sherman is forced to fall back to the position held by the division of Major General John McClernand.

At this time, word has gotten to Grant that a Confederate attack is in progress. He alerts the divisions of Major Generals W.H.L. Wallace and Stephen Hurlbut to prepare to move forward.

8:00 a.m. W. Wallace and Hurlbut begin movement to the front. They are sent to the Federal left to assist Prentiss.

9:00 a.m. The approaching Federal reinforcements are spotted. Word is sent to Johnston, who orders two brigades to hit the Federal left.

11:00 a.m. Confederates make contact with a Federal defensive line that dug into a group of trees. Johnston orders a sweeping attack through a peach orchard towards the group of trees. The Federals, the divisions of W. Wallace and Prentiss, keep up a heavy volume of fire. The musket exchange is so intense that the wooded area became known as the “Hornet’s Nest.”

1:00 p.m. The Federal left is still holding, but the right, despite a counterattack by Sherman and McClernand, falls further back. By 2:30, they have withdrawn across a stream known as Tlighman Branch.

2:00 p.m. Johnston renews the attack on the Federal left. At 2:30, as he is check on the progress of the attack, a bullet strikes him in a leg. His aids get him to the ground but see no wound. Seconds later blood flows from his boot. Johnston dies as his aids try to save him, however his surgeon was tending to wounded Union prisoners and could not come back in time to put a tourniquet on the leg. General P.G.T. Beauregard assumes command the presses the attack.

4:00 p.m. Hurlbut’s division is forced to pull back toward Pittsburg Landing. At the Hornet’s Nest, W. Wallace and Prentiss begin playing for time as the rest of the Union forces are still falling back to the landing. Sherman and McClernand pull back to the Savannah-Hamburg Road to cover for Wallace.

5:30 p.m. Beauregard has artillery brought up to suppress the Federal guns covering the Hornet’s Nest. They succeed in driving the Union guns back to the landing. With those guns gone, the Hornet’s Nest is surrounded and W. Wallace and Prentiss are forced to surrender.

6:30 p.m. Beauregard makes another push but is stopped by the reformed Union artillery. He decides to pull back to the abandoned Union camps and resume the offensive in the morning.

April 7, 1862: During the night Buell’s army arrived at Pittsburg Landing. Also arriving was Grant’s reserve division, commanded by Major General Lewis Wallace. By regrouping the shattered divisions and adding the fresh troops, Grant is now able to launch his own offensive. He arranges the divisions of Major Generals William Nelson and George Crittenden on the left. Sherman, McClernand, and Hurlbut are in the middle. And making up the right ate L. Wallace and Major Alexander McCook.

Grant also orders the gunboats Tyler and Lexington to shell the abandoned camps where the Confederates are trying to sleep.

7: 00 a.m. L. Wallace begins the offensive by driving four Confederate brigades from a field, otherwise the main attack runs into light skirmishing.

9:00 a.m. Federals continue to advance but the center is stalled in the Hornet’s Nest area. Confederates are now alerted to the attack. Beauregard orders a strike on the Federal left, which halts things for a while.

McCook hits the Confederate center, hitting the left flank of Major General John Breckenridge’s division.

10:30 a.m. Sherman, McClernand, and Hurlbut drive across Tlighman Branch and engage the divisions of Major Generals Braxton Bragg and Leonidas Polk.

Confederates are forced to pull back as L. Wallace’s division hits their left flank.

12:00 noon. Nelson and Crittenden have received reinforcements and resumed their advance, Driving Major General William Hardee’s division back.

McCook’s division engages Bragg’s at Water Oak Pond. Beauregard orders a counterattack but fails the stop the Federal advance.

4:00 p.m. Confederates had fallen back to the abandoned Union camps. Beauregard brings up artillery for a last ditch attempt to stop the Union advance. This works and the Confederates are able to withdraw from the field. The Union forces are too exhausted to pursue and are content to reclaim the camps they lost the day before. Fighting ends.

The Union was able to stop a major Confederate attempt to thrust into central Tennessee and maybe even head back into Kentucky. Despite this, there were rumors that Grant was drunk on the first day of battle. These rumors would cause Halleck to relieve Grant on April 11, but that would not last long.

The Confederacy lost a capable general and probably the best chance to achieve a victory in the West. The had to fall back to Corinth but this would also lead to the eventual fall on Memphis in June, another critical step in the Union plan to regain control of the Mississippi River.

Causalities (Total):

Union: 13,000

Confederate: 10,000

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