Narrative of the Battle of Shiloh

Walker, Alexander
69 pgs.
This is one of the best first hand accounts of the Battle of Shiloh that I have seen.

"...For some distance, as we advanced, we could see no signs of the crash and conflict which had preceded us, yet we knew we were following the course of Hardee's division. Suddenly, however, while stepping over a small stream, we stumbled over the first reminder of the skirmish which had opened the ball. It was the body of one of our soldiers, a stalwart Tennesseean, in the brown jean uniform usually worn by our troops. He had been shot through the head and his tin cup was full of blood and brains, evidently a victim of the enemy's sharp-shooters, the woods in front being admirably adapted for this sort of fighting. As we passed along, we observed other dead bodies in the woods. From the uniform they were evidently our own men. This was not encouraging, but we could easily understand that, in driving in the enemy's scouts, Hardee's skirmishers had labored under great disadvantage in fighting men who had selected their positions and fired from ambuscades and from behind trees. Arriving in sight of Ruggles' line, we concluded that as there were already two lines in front, we should still be some distance from the scene of conflict. Still the firing seemed to be very near, perilously so, it appeared to an unarmed spectator and non-combatant. Yet our fatigued condition in the effort to catch up with the line, gave warning that what we regarded a reserve would soon be precipited into the action. We halted and were resting upon a fence, in view of one of Ruggles' brigades, We could recognize it from the light uniforms of the Confederate Battalion occupying the center. It was the brigade of J. Patton Anderson.

The line had halted and were resting, many of the men lying down--taking it easily and listening to the heavy firing off to the right. Suddenly, however, we and they were aroused from this state of imagined security, by a tremendous discharge of artillery, accompanied by a prolonged rattle of musketry. It appeared to come from the very front of the brigade--and through the field enclosed by this fence, on which we sat there swept a tempest of canister, and Minie, while small shell exploded in every direction. This was more than we had bargained for. We had made the common mistake, of every body in that battle, of imagining that it would be fought by the successive conflict of advancing lines with reserves to be called into action after the exhaustion of the front or main lines. It was now hardly breakfast time, and our armies were already in the midst of the fight. At first we sought the shelter of a large tree, thinking that it was a safe cover, but the cruel Minies with their devilish screech seemed to come from every direction, and we could hear them and the grape shot cutting through the branches of the trees. There was no shelter short of an old cotton shed, about two hundred yards to the rear. To this we hastened across the field, over which the balls and shells still swept. Gaining the shed, we found that it had already been occupied by several stragglers and wounded men from Anderson's brigade. We could perceive the effect which the sudden opening of a masked battery and of a large force of musketry had produced upon Anderson's line. The men who, a minute before, were lying on the ground in a state of perfect security, were now all on their feet, and not a few of them were breaking to the rear. The effect of so sudden and terrible a fire from an invisible foe was very startling and disheartening. A great many, too, had been killed and wounded by this fire. No wonder the simple-minded Floridians were broken and many of them hurried to the rear. Soon we saw an aid galloping to the rear, and as he passed he hallooed out, "Where is the Washington Artillery?" We pointed to the rear, where we had seen our battery struggling over a very bad road. Meantime the gallant Anderson was galloping down the front of his lines, cheering and assuring his men and restoring order. Still we could see many stragglers, and many of them availed themselves of the cotton shed which we had occupied. It was a source of proud satisfaction to observe that, though Anderson's brigade was composed chiefly of Louisiana troops, there were no Louisianians among the stragglers. But now, hurrah!. Here come the Washington Artillerists, tearing through the woods like madmen--the strong voice of Hodgson ringing above the rattle of the wheels, and the gallant form of the intrepid Slocomb, conspicuous on his noble charger, urging them forward. With terrible speed the battery rushed forward, and reaching the position assigned to it, wheeled into battery, and with wonderful celerity all six guns opened. The fire was terrific. The enemy opened in response from his masked battery.

The lookers on were breathless with anxiety for the issue of this artillery duel. This curiosity, however, was soon relieved by the grateful and familiar yells of our men, which, with the receding fire of the enemy, we had no difficulty in interpreting. The enemy had been uncovered; they could not stand the fire of our famous battery, and were rapidly retiring. The stragglers from Anderson's brigade could now be seen stealing back to their lines. But, alas! a great many are left behind, poor fellows--torn, bleeding, limping. And here the horrors of war began to glare upon us. The roads were full of the wounded seeking surgeons, and inquiring for hospitals. And these were only the wounded of a small brigade, and of an incident of a battle which was now raging all over the field."

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