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Civil War Series

The Battle of Shiloh

   

A NIGHT OF MISERY

That evening the two Federal gunboats Lexington and Tyler, positioned at the mouth of Dill Creek, kept up a methodical shelling of the enemy lines. Little damage was caused beyond the psychological effects on the enemy. The incident is mentioned in so many letters and diaries that the sound must have been tremendous. The same roar that kept the Confederates awake, of course, also played on the nerves of the Federals. "These black monsters, for some reason, kept up their fire all through the night, and the roar of this cannonading and the shrieking of the shells . . . gave little opportunity for slumber," noted a lad of the 24th Ohio in General Buell's army.

The real discomfort began about 10 P.M., when the skies opened and rain fell in torrents. The Southerners found shelter in the captured Union tents. Federal soldiers had little choice but to tough it out. Sergeant C. C. Briant of the 6th Indiana well remembered the discomfort that evening. Exhausted and soaked to the skin, he walked about aimlessly in the woods, sometimes stepping on sleeping men, "but I never halted to apologize."

UNION TROOPS BIVOUAC ON THE BATTLEFIELD DURING THE MISERABLE SUNDAY NIGHT. (BL)

The wounded, thousands of them, lay scattered everywhere. A witness noticed that in the back of the cabin at the landing was a cart filled with amputated legs and arms. Grant slept underneath a tree to escape the screams of those in pain. Many of the Union wounded were carried aboard transports. One soldier estimated that at least thirty boats (records indicate that about a dozen steamboats were in the area during the two-day battle) had been loaded with wounded, many of the patients lying on the open decks in the midst of the rain. Despite the desperate situation, Grant remained optimistic and openly spoke of taking the offensive the next morning. He told Sherman of his counterattack at Fort Donelson and claimed that the same tactic would work here. Year's later, Grant wrote that Union "Victory was assured when [Lew] Wallace arrived, even if there had been no other support." Grant, however, received other support, massive support, which would radically alter the situation the next morning for General Beauregard and his seemingly victorious Confederate army.

All Sunday afternoon Col. Jacob Ammen's brigade, the vanguard of "Bull" Nelson's division, had trudged southward over washed-out roads and through swampy backwater to reach the east bank of the Tennessee River opposite Pittsburg Landing. Although he had received reports that Grant had been defeated, Ammen kept these rumors from the men and continued to push forward. By 7:30 P.M. his entire brigade, the first of Buell's army to reach the battlefield, had been ferried across the river to be posted on the left flank of the Federal defensive perimeter. Soon the remaining two brigades under Nelson were taking their turn at crossing over.

FEDERALS FLEE TO THE RIVERBANK AS NELSON'S DIVISION OF BUELL'S ARMY ARRIVES. A HENRY LOVIE SKETCH FOR FRANK LESLIE'S ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER. (LC)

Other divisions from Buell's army were also rapidly moving up to Savannah, but for a fleeting moment there was doubt that General Buell would allow them to be carried to the battlefield. "Buell seemed to mistrust us, and repeatedly said he did not like the looks of things, especially about the boat landing," recalled Sherman, "and I really feared he wouldn't cross over his army that night, lest he should become involved in a general disaster." Sherman assured him that he had 5,000 men on the line and McClernand as many more. Along with the remnants of the other three divisions, at least 18,000 of Grant's men were fit for duty. Buell finally committed to the crossing. The balance of Nelson's division completed its crossing of the river later that night. Once Nelson was on the field, the division of Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden, followed later by Brig. Gen. Alexander McDowell McCook's division, would reach the landing. Throughout the long rainy night, the troops of these two divisions boarded steamboats at Savannah to be carried eight miles upriver to Pittsburg Landing. By daylight, Monday, April 7, Buell had placed about 15,000 fresh men into Grant's line.

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