GRANT'S LAST LINE
Throughout the afternoon, Grant had been working to build a
last-ditch perimeter to defend the landing. The semicircular line
stretched from the mouth of Dill Branch on the left, anchored on the
river where the Federal wooden gunboats Lexington and
Tyler patrolled. From the river the new Union front extended a
mile and a half west-northwest to the Savannah-Hamburg (River) road on
the right, where the line overlooked and defended the flooded confluence
of Owl and Snake Creeks. Keeping the River road open was vital for the
arrival of Lew Wallace's belated division, which a frustrated Grant had
been expecting to cross over "Wallace's" bridge spanning Snake Creek for
several hours. The surviving Union infantry were massed along this line.
Sherman commanded the right and McClernand the center. Closer to the
landing the remnants of William Wallace's, Hurlbut's, and Colonel
Stuart's men completed the Union front. Portions of two regiments of
Brig. Gen. Jacob Ammen's brigade, of Bull Nelson's division, arrived in
time to be ferried across the river and placed in position on the
extreme left late in the afternoon.
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GRANT'S LAST LINE, APRIL 6 4 P.M-DARK|
Pond and Wharton's Texas Rangers are repulsed near Mulberry field,
while the bulk of Beauregard's army maneuvers against the Hornets' Nest.
Left isolated by the uncoordinated withdrawal of the Union left and
right, William Wallace and Prentiss retreat. This disorganized
withdrawal is rapidly surrounded. Wallace is mortally wounded and
Prentiss with 2,250 soldiers surrenders at 5:30. By late afternoon,
Grant establishes a new front to hold Pittsburg Landing and the
Hamburg-Savannah road. As Nelson ferries the river to reinforce Grant,
several Confederate organizations advance toward the Union front, but
only Chalmers and Jackson attack across Dill Branch ravine. Massed
artillery posted on the heights west of the landing and supported by
Union gunboats Lexington and Tyler repulse the charge.
Darkness ends the fighting. Lew Wallace crosses Snake Creek at 7 P.M.
and files into line on the Union right. Exhausted and disorganized, the
Confederates retire beyond the Hamburg-Purdy road and bivouac in
captured Union camps. Only Pond, who bivouacs in Jones field, and
cavalry under Brewer, Wharton, and Forrest, remain forward during the
Col. Joseph D. Webster, Grant's chief of staff, who at 2:30 had been
ordered by Grant to establish a defense of the landing, strengthened the
line by massing fifty-one cannon, including Madison's Illinois battery
of five 24-pounder heavy siege cannon. The fifty-one-year-old Dartmouth
graduate was a veteran of the Mexican War and worked as a civil engineer
after he resigned from the Regular Army. To get anywhere near the
landing, the Confederates would have to break through Webster's
Confederate general Withers believed the line, though formidable,
could be breached. Two of his brigades, Jackson's and Chalmers's,
positioned south of the broad valley of Dill Branch near the river, were
readied for one final assault. "Without ammunition and with only their
bayonets to rely on, steadily my men advanced under a heavy fire from
light batteries, siege guns, and gunboats," reported General Jackson.
Crossing the deep, brush-choked ravine, Jackson's Texans and Alabamians
managed to reach the northern slope. There the men could go no farther
and, once forced to ground, had to shelter along the slope.
MADISON'S ILLINOIS SIEGE GUN BATTERY ON GRANT'S LAST LINE. THIS PHOTO
WAS TAKEN A FEW DAYS AFTER THE BATTLE. (USAMHI)|
Chalmers's troops, on Jackson's right, also encountered the fire of
Grant's last line near the mouth of Dill Branch. "Our men struggled
vainly to ascend the hill, which was very steep, making charge after
charge without success," concluded Chalmers. Gage's Alabama Battery,
organized in Mobile, deployed its six guns south of the ravine to
support Chalmers's attack. Within moments after firing only a few
supporting rounds for the attack, however, the Confederate battery was
smothered up by a severe Union gunboat and field battery bombardment.
Gage pulled out quickly, forced to leave one gun disabled by the
accurate Union barrage that poured forth from Grant's last line.
Undismayed by the brutal fire, General Withers dispatched staff
officers to summon reinforcements. He was thus astonished when Jackson's
troops began withdrawing from the field. "[I] sent [orders] to arrest
the commanding officers and for the troops to be promptly placed in a
position for charging the batteries," the division commander later
noted. Withers soon received information that the orders to retire had
come from a higher authoritystraight from General Beauregard at
A SKETCH OF GRANT'S LAST LINE, BY CIVIL WAR ARTIST HENRY LOVIE
FOR FRANK LESLIE'S ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER. (PRINT COLLECTION.
MIRIAM AND IRA D. WALLACH DIVISION OF ARTS. NY PUBLIC LIBRARY)|