Report of Colonel Jacob Thompson, C. S. Army, Aide-de-Camp to General Beauregard

 

CORINTH, MISS., April 9, 1862

General G. T. BEAUREGARD

    SIR: In consequence of information brought from General Cheatham on Wednesday, April 3, that the enemy was marching in force along the Purdy road from Pittsburg, it was decided by yourself, General Johnston, and General Bragg to take up the line of march for the enemy's camp, situated 2 miles west of the Tennessee River, about equidistant between Owl and Lick Creeks, on the Pittsburg road.
    The order of battle was drawn up and ready for delivery early on Thursday morning, and the corps of Major-General Hardee was on the Ridge road from Corinth to Pittsburg by 12 o'clock. It was soon followed by the corps of General Bragg.
    On Friday, the 4th, at 11.15 a.m., General Beauregard and staff were in the saddle and moved forward by the Monterey road, and arrived at Monterey at 2.30 o'clock, where a large number of the troops were overtaken, and also Generals Johnston and Bragg.
    Thirteen prisoners were brought in during the evening.
    The whole army was under orders to move forward at 3 a.m. next day and form a line of battle in advance of the divergence of the Bark and Pittsburg roads.
    General Johnston and yourself slept Friday night at Monterey. During the night there was a heavy fall of rain. Soon after light the clouds began to break, and before sunrise General Johnston and yourself, with your respective staffs, moved forward along the road leading by the Mickey house. As we approached this latter place it was evident, from the large number of troops found drawn up on each side of the road, that it would be impossible to form all the different divisions in battle array at an early hour. As we passed General Bragg beyond the Mickey house the order was given for a forward movement, and you and General Johnston proceeded to a point on the Pittsburg road, beyond the fork of the Pittsburg and Bark, or Hamburg, roads. On reaching them it was ascertained that Major-General Hardee's corps was drawn up in line of battle on the right and left of the Pittsburg road, about half a mile beyond the place you halted. Knowing that you were not far from the camp of the enemy, there was a momentary expectation of a conflict.
    At 9.30 o'clock firing was heard on the left of General Hardee's line; but it lasted only a moment, and was therefore supposed to be from our own troops.
    At 11.40 a.m. there had been fired eight volleys of musketry in quick succession on the right of General Hardee's line, which induced a general expectation that the combat was about to begin.
    About this time General Hardee came forward and pressed you to ride along his line, that the men might be satisfied that you were actually in the field. You accepted his invitation, and after reviewing his whole line you returned with your staff to your temporary headquarters and awaited the coming up of the Reserve Corps, commanded by General Polk.
    The whole army did not reach their respective positions till past 3 o'clock, when, upon consultation, it was determined to postpone a further forward movement until morning. The troops slept on their arms, and the front lines were allowed no fires, although the night was quite chilly. 
    Next morning (Sunday, the 6th) the sky was without a cloud and the sun arose in cheering brilliancy.
    About 5 a.m. the first firing was heard in the center, down the Pittsburg road. In less than three minutes firing was heard on the left. Intermittent firing in the center and on the right until 6.05 o'clock.
    At 6.30 o'clock I brought an order from you to General Breckinridge, who commanded the reserve, that he must hurry up his troops, inasmuch as General Polk was moving forward, which was promptly delivered and promptly obeyed.
    Soon after this General Johnston called on you and expressed himself satisfied with the manner in which the battle had been opened. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed both with officers and men. When you established your headquarters on the high point between the Pittsburg and Hamburg roads heavy firing was heard on our right. The first cannon was discharged on our left at 7 o'clock, which was followed by a rapid discharge of musketry.
    About 7.30 o'clock I rode forward with Colonel Jordan to the front, to ascertain how the battle was going. There I learned from General Johnston that General Hardee's line was within half a mile of the enemy's camps, and bore from General Johnston a message that he advised the sending forward strong re-enforcements to our left, as he had just then been advised that the enemy was there in great force.
    Under this advice two of General Breckinridge's brigades were started to the support of the left; but before he had proceeded far I bore a message to General Breckinridge to send but one brigade, and to order forward two brigade towards Lick Creek, on the right. This change was made in consequence of information brought by a courier that the enemy was not strong on our left and had fallen back.
    From 8 to 8.30 o'clock the cannonading was very heavy along the whole line, but especially in the center, which was in the line of their camps.
    Soon after General Breckinridge moved down the Bark road to the right a courier arrived, bringing the information that the Bolling and Turner Fords, on Lick Creek, were unmolested.
    About 10 o'clock you moved forward with your staff and halted within about half a mile of their camps, at which time our troops were reported to be in full possession of the enemy's camps. Here we met large numbers of wounded and stragglers from the ranks. Immediately your whole staff was ordered to rally the stragglers and send them forward to their regiments. I was charged with the duty of hurrying forward the ammunition wagons to a safe point immediately in the rear of our lines engaged in the conflict. I succeeded in carrying forward several loads of ammunition beyond the first encampment of the enemy to a point of safety just outside of the firing. After passing over the second ridge, where the conflict was maintained with the greatest intensity, I observed the enemy was gradually giving back before the galling fire of an impetuous infantry. I returned to your quarters, and found you had moved up to the old house on the ridge, where we first entered the encampment of the enemy. On my return I observed a regiment drawn up in line of battle in the hollow west of the second ridge. I rode up to the regiment and inquired why they remained there idle-while our brave companions were hotly contesting every inch of ground so near them and needed assistance. An officer stepped forward, whom I took to be a captain, and said, with great emotion, that they had no officers, and that he did not know what to do. I requested him to remain in his position a few moments, keeping his men in line, and I would inform General Beauregard of his condition, who I had no doubt would send him an officer.
    Upon informing you of the situation of this regiment you immediately assigned the command of this regiment to Colonel Augustin, a member of your staff, and I was directed to return with him and introduce him to the regiment. When we arrived at the place where I had left them I found they had gone and saw nothing more of them.
    About 2 o'clock you moved forward along the Pittsburg road to the third encampment, where the road takes a direct eastern direction. Here we came within range of the enemy's fire, and remained there some half an hour. One regiment (Colonel Smith's) passed you in the finest spirits, cheering their general as they went. The cheering attracted the notice of the enemy, and he directed a heavy fire directly to the point where you stood. Under your order I advanced in the direction of the firing, rallying the stragglers, which were marched in double-file, and, after overtaking Colonel Smith's regiment, ordered them to fall in and go on with him.
    After remaining at this point for some time I came back with you to the hospital, and spent the remainder of the evening in aiding to collect stragglers, for the purpose of sending them forward, visiting the different tents and appointing guards to the more valuable of them. In the evening, toward sundown, a large number of prisoners was brought in and the day was declared to be ours.
    April 7, at 8.7 o'clock, heavy firing was heard on our right, and news was brought to General Beauregard that the enemy was in great force. Previous to which however, he had learned that the enemy was in force on our left, and he had sent in that direction a large supporting force. The battle raged furiously for four hours, and the enemy was completely silenced on the right and in the center.
    About 11.30 o'clock it was apparent that the enemy's main attack was on our left, and our forces began to yield to the vigor of his attack. Stragglers in great numbers came in, and, although great and unremitting efforts were made to rally them, yet the complaint of exhaustion was such that it was impossible to rally them only to a limited extent. The fire and animation had left our troops.
    While I was engaged in rallying our disorganized troops to the left and rear of the church, you seized the banners of two different regiments and led them forward to the assault in face of the fire of the enemy; but from the feebleness of the response I became convinced that our troops were too much exhausted to make a vigorous resistance. I rode up to you and advised that you should expose yourself no further, but should dispose your troops so as to retire from Shiloh Church in good order.
    In front of the church our troops gradually gave ground, and, upon observing a regiment in the bottom, near the church, you fell back, and placed them in position to receive the advancing columns of the enemy.
    After placing this regiment in position, you, with a portion of you, staff, retired to a ridge on this side of the camp, planted several pieces of cannon, and drew up a brigade in that commanding position. The forces being here disposed of, you fell back to the Wood house and planted, in front of the house in the open ground, another battery. We then came to the high ground which overlooks the Pittsburg and Hamburg roads, where General Breckinridge was found in force; after which we returned to Monterey, and thence, on Monday evening, to Corinth.
    During the day of Monday I bore several orders to different commanders, but in the excitement I failed to note the hour of their delivery, and therefore omit any notice of them.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
J. THOMPSON,
Aide-de-Camp.

 



Text Source - The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

 

Battle Reports                        File Index

E-mail the Webmaster

 

This page was last updated on 01/17/09

1998-2009 The Civil War Archive