Report of Major General B. F. Cheatham, C. S. Army, commanding Second Division, First Corps, Army of the Mississippi
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, FIRST CORPS,
Camp Blythe, Miss., April 30, 1862
Maj. GEORGE WILLIAMSON,
SIR: I have the honor to submit a detailed statement of
the operations of the forces under my command at the battle of Shiloh on the 6th
and 7th instant:
The division was composed of two brigades, the First commanded by Brig. Gen. B. R. Johnson until the hour of 11 a.m. on Sunday, when he was disabled by a painful wound and forced to relinquish the command to Col. Preston Smith, of the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, senior colonel of the brigade. Lieut. Col. Marcus J. Wright, an efficient and gallant officer, succeeded Colonel Smith in command of the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Regiment. The Second Brigade, commanded by Col. William H. Stephens, Sixth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers up to the hour of 2.30 p.m. of the 6th instant, when Col. George Maney, of the First Tennessee Regiment, senior officer of the brigade, who had been detached by the order of General A. S. Johnston to the extreme right of our line, arrived and assumed command.
The formation of the two brigades was in the following order: One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. Preston Smith; Blythe's Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers, Col. A. K. Blythe; Second Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. J. Knox Walker; Fifteenth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Lieut. Col. R. C. Tyler, commanding, and Polk's battery, of six field pieces, Capt. M. T. Polk, constituted the First. The left wing of the First Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Colonel Maney; Sixth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. William H. Stephens; Ninth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. H. L. Douglass; Seventh Regiment Kentucky Volunteers, Colonel Wickliffe, and Capt. Melancthon Smith's battery, of six field pieces, composed the Second Brigade.
Early on the morning of the 6th instant the division was formed for action on either side of the Pittsburg road, immediately to the rear of the First Division, First Corps, commanded by Brig. Gen. Charles Clark.
Advancing about the distance of a mile I was directed by Major-General Polk to deploy the Second Brigade to the left as a support to General Bragg's left wing, then hotly engaged with the forces of the enemy. Taking the position as ordered, I remained here for half an hour and until ordered by General Beauregard to proceed with the Second Brigade to the extreme right of our line to ascertain the point where the firing was heaviest and there engage the enemy at once.
At about 10 a.m. I reached the front of an open field lying east of the center of the Federal line of encampments and discovered the enemy in strong force, occupying several log houses. His line extended behind a fence and occupied an abandoned road. He was advantageously located. I here directed Captain Smith to move his pieces forward and open on the enemy, which was done with the utmost promptness and under a fire that disabled a number of his horses before he could un-limber and come into battery. For nearly an hour the firing was kept up with the enemy's battery—superior to ours in the caliber and range of its guns—with a result highly creditable to the skill and gallantry of Captain Smith, his officers and men.
About this time General Breckinridge, with his command, came up and took position on my right, and opened upon the enemy a heavy fire of musketry, and a few moments afterward I was directed by Colonel Jordan, assistant adjutant-general to General Beauregard, to charge the battery to my front. I at once put the brigade in motion at double-quick time across the open field, about 300 yards in width, flanked on one side by a fence and dense thicket of forest trees and undergrowth. So soon as the brigade entered the field the enemy opened upon us from his entire front a terrific fire of artillery and musketry, but failed altogether to check our movement until we reached the center of the field, when another part of the enemy's force, concealed and protected by the fence and thicket to our left, opened a murderous cross-fire upon our Hues, which caused my command to halt and return their fire.
After a short time I fell back to my original position, and moving a short distance to the right, with General Breckinridge on my right, we together attacked the enemy, about 5,000 strong, admirably posted, and were actively and continuously engaged for three hours.
In the charge first mentioned the Second Brigade lost many of its bravest and best officers and men. Major Welborn, of the Seventh Regiment Kentucky Volunteers, and Capt. Jo. B. Freeman, of the Sixth Tennessee Volunteers, fell, mortally wounded. Captain Persons, of the Sixth Tennessee, and Lieut. Robert Thomas, adjutant of the Ninth Tennessee, after exhibiting the most determined spirit and a high degree of skill as officers, fell dead.
About 2.30 p.m. Colonel Maney, with the left wing of his regiment, the First Tennessee, reported to me in front of the position which the enemy had to this time held obstinately against the efforts of parts of the commands of Generals Bragg, Breckinridge, and my own. General Breckinridge, meantime, had moved his command forward and to my right,-and was slowly but steadily pressing it through a dense wood to attack the position on its left, and with the purpose of sustaining him by vigorous co-operation against its front I directed Colonel Maney to immediately prepare for action, advising him, so far as time permitted, of the difficulties of the position, and instructing him as to where our different forces were located, and, at his own request, giving him the privilege of selecting his command for the purpose. The Ninth Tennessee Regiment (Colonel Douglass) being at hand and having to this time suffered less than the others of the Second Brigade, was, with his battalion of the First Tennessee, selected to move forward with him across the field fronting the wood, while Colonel Cummings, Nineteenth Tennessee Regiment (properly of General Breckinridge's command, but which had been with Colonel Maney on his detached service during the morning), was placed to his right and between General Breckinridge and myself, with instructions to move forward in concert with the First and Ninth Tennessee.
With these dispositions I pressed the final attack upon the position in question. Colonel Maney advanced his First and Ninth in excellent order across the field, and was so fortunate as to almost reach the shelter of the woods before the enemy opened fire on him. Pressing forward to this point, he ordered his line to lie down until a general fire from the enemy's line had been delivered, and then promptly resumed his advance. The next instant I knew (from the lively cheering in his direction) that his charge had begun and the enemy routed and driven by it. Judging the enemy now to be in full retreat, I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, of the First Battalion of Mississippi Cavalry, now of Colonel Lindsay's regiment, to move forward rapidly in the direction of the retreating column and fall upon him in his flight. This was well executed, and resulted in the capture of a number of prisoners, together with Captain Ross' (Michigan) battery of six guns entire, including officers and men, which had acted vigorously in defending the position. As this position, with regard to my own command, was by far the most obstinately contested by the enemy during Sunday, so it was the last which he seriously contested during the day.
Broken and routed, he apparently, from all directions, seemed flying toward the river and our own forces as generally closing upon him. Most of his force, with which the position had been held, fell into the hands of our army in the effort to retire.
With the balance of my command I pressed forward and joined Colonel Maney, who had now become my advance, and had in his pursuit captured and sent to the rear many of the routed enemy.
About this time a halt was made for the purpose of some concentration of our forces of all commands for a concerted attack upon the enemy, then understood to have concentrated on the river bank under the shelter of his gunboats, from which at this time an active shelling was being kept up on our advance. My own and other commands came rapidly forward, but, many regiments having entirely exhausted their ammunition, a halt of some time was necessary for the purpose of replenishing.
The day was now far advanced, and before proper preparations were made darkness prevented further operations that day, and all commands were withdrawn for the night out of range of the shells from the enemy's gunboats.
The First Brigade was moved forward at an early hour, and carne into action at 8.30 a.m., and was continually employed during the entire day; ordered first to support the left flank of the forces already engaged and subsequently to support the extreme right. It was at this time that Brigadier-General Johnson had one-half of his command (the One hundred and fifty-fourth Tennessee and Blythe's Mississippi, with a section of Polk's battery) detached from his brigade, by an order from General Bragg, and placed in action on the right. Blythe's Mississippi advanced to the left and attacked the enemy, and, wheeling to the right, drove one of the enemy's batteries, with its support, from its position; but as it advanced upon the enemy Colonel Blythe was shot dead from his horse while gallantly leading his regiment forward to the charge. Within a few minutes of his fall Lieut. Col. D. L. Herron and Capt. R. H. Humphreys, of the same regiment, both officers of merit, were mortally wounded, and the command devolved on Maj. James Moore, under whose direction the regiment was actively engaged during the remainder of the day and through the subsequent action of the 7th.
This regiment at all times eminently manifested the high spirit which has always characterized the soldiers of Mississippi, and no braver soldier than its heroic leader was lost to our cause. The One hundred and fifty-fourth, Second, and Fifteenth Tennessee all rendered the most effective service.
The One hundred and fifty-fourth Tennessee advanced to the right, with a section of Polk's battery, attacked the enemy, driving his infantry from its position and captured four pieces of his artillery, and, pursuing for 400 yards, succeeded in capturing two additional pieces. About this time Brigadier-General Johnson was severely wounded and forced to retire from the field. In the management of his brigade he had displayed the soundest judgment and skill, and the temporary loss of his services is very unfortunate. The command of this brigade now fell to Colonel Smith, who reunited the regiments and engaged the enemy with his whole command during the remainder of the day, participating prominently in the final rout of the enemy and the movement toward the river at the close of the day.
For a detailed statement of the operations of this brigade reference is made to the reports of Brigadier-General Johnson and Colonel Smith, copies of which are herewith inclosed.
At the close of the day a part of my command remained on the field and a portion of it returned to our encampment of the night previous.
At an early hour on the morning of the 7th instant I received orders from Major-General Polk in person to form that part of my command then in the rear and move forward to the scene of the previous day's engagement. I immediately formed the One hundred and fifty-fourth, the Sixth, and six companies of the Ninth Tennessee Regiments, a part of the Fifteenth, and about 100 men of the Second Tennessee, under Capt. Samuel Vance. Hurrying rapidly down the Pittsburg road until I reached a point near the first encampment of the enemy, I moved to the left, to an open field in the vicinity of Shiloh Church, where I was directed by Major-General Polk to form in line of battle in an open field to the rear of the position then held by Captain Bankhead's battery, but was soon ordered to advance to the support of the line to my front, and moving up to the distance of half a mile, I met General Breckinridge, and was advised by him that he was able to hold his position in front if I could protect his left flank. I promptly moved my command by the left flank, passing Shiloh Church, reached an open road, and moved obliquely to the left, and formed my command immediately in front of a very large force of the enemy, now pressing vigorously to turn our left flank.
My engagement here commenced almost the instant I had formed, and was for four hours the most hotly contested I have ever witnessed. My own command fought with great coolness and desperation, and for two hours I gradually drove the enemy from his position, and he, though constantly re-enforced during the conflict and with heavy odds in his favor at the beginning, failed utterly in accomplishing anything.
It is gratifying to say of the Irish and German troops, of whom there were many in the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior, the Second and Fifteenth Tennessee Regiments, that, in the desperate conflict of Monday, whether dashing forward in the charge or contesting ground inch by inch against overpowering numbers, their gallantry and steady courage in behalf of their adopted country equaled that of the native standing for his home.
During the engagement here I was re-enforced by Colonel Gibbon, with a Louisiana brigade; by Colonel Campbell, with his gallant Thirty third Tennessee, and by Maj. Samuel T. Love, with the Twenty-seventh Tennessee, all of whom deserve particular mention. Major Love gallantly led his regiment to the charge and fell mortally wounded. Thus re-enforced, I was enabled to prevent the advance of the enemy, who seemed to have thrown his whole disposable force against our left flank.
In the early part of the conflict I was, however, greatly annoyed by the want of artillery, my own being detained and engaged on another part of the field.
At 1.30 o'clock I occupied about the same position at which I first came in collision with the enemy, and at this hour I was joined by two pieces from Apt: M. Smith's battery, in charge of Lieutenant Eckford, and two pieces from a battery unknown to me, and in charge of an officer whose name, I regret, has escaped my recollection. One of these pieces I served myself; the others were served by the officers in charge, and did excellent execution. Thus strengthened, I would have had no difficulty in maintaining my position during the remainder of the day; but at 2.30 p.m., by orders from Major-General Polk, I withdrew my command slowly and in order in the direction of my camp, the enemy making no advance whatever.
I cannot conclude this report without a further reference to the conduct of the officers and men of my command. With an occasional exception, it was all that I expected or desired.
During the engagement of the 6th instant the operations of the Second Brigade were all under my immediate observation and control. In the beginning of this engagement, during the morning, Capt. Melancthon Smith's light battery, as has been stated, did splendid service, and Captain Smith and his officers were distinguished examples of gallantry; and in the charge of the brigade over the field shortly afterwards, where Major Welborn, of the Seventh Kentucky; Captains Freeman and Persons, of the Sixth Tennessee, and Adjt. Robert Thomas, of the Ninth Tennessee, with many others, gave up their lives for their country. Colonel Stephens, at the time commanding brigade, Colonel Wickliffe, of the Seventh Kentucky; Colonel Douglass, of the Ninth Tennessee, and Lieutenant-Colonel Jones, commanding Sixth Tennessee, nobly headed their commands and led their advance.
The brigade, as a body, notwithstanding the terrific storm of artillery and musketry which was poured upon it, did not fly in confusion, but fell back in order, and reforming promptly, renewed the action with spirit so soon as it was relieved from the murderous cross-fire to which it had been subjected. Though it failed in the effort to drive the enemy from his position, it was not for want of courage in officers or men-They did, by keeping up a galling fire, drive the enemy from his ambush on the flank of the field, and force him to seek shelter under the wood in front, thus materially favoring the successful attack of Colonel Maney's command at a later hour in the day. The movement of Colonel Maney on the enemy, in force and position immediately in my front, showed, in its execution, most admirable skill and judgment, joined with the highest valor in its leader. His command was moved forward in the best order to the woods, in the shelter of which he ordered his line to lie down and open fire, chiefly to draw the enemy's and learn his force and position. The next moment the charge was ordered and led in person by Colonel Maney with a dashing gallantry which rarely, if ever, admits of failure.
I think this charge was one of the most brilliant, as it was certainly one of the most decisively successful, movements of the day. The enemy was routed and driven by it, and it was pressed with such rigor that he never rallied again until he reached the shelter of his gunboats on the river bank.
I was deprived of the valuable assistance of Colonel Haney during the action of Monday through the orders on him of an officer ranking him; but am gratified that he did good service on a different portion of the field from that on which I was engaged. For a detailed statement of his action I refer to his official report, filed with this. It reveals gallant and efficient conduct in Lieutenant-Colonel Hurt, of the Ninth Tennessee Regiment; Major Feild, commanding battalion of First Tennessee, and Major Hearn, commanding the Fifteenth Tennessee, who were engaged under him in the action of Monday; and also directs my attention to the distinguished services of Colonel Wickliffe, of the Seventh Kentucky, who, after noble conduct under my own eye on Sunday, received his mortal wound at about 12 m. on Monday, bravely leading a charge, having previously borne a conspicuous part in Colonel Maney's engagement during the early part of the day. The many high qualities which dignified the character of this officer as a soldier and a gentleman render his death a sad loss to his associates in arms and a serious one to the cause for which his life was given.
As has been stated, my First Brigade was detached from my personal supervision early on Sunday morning, and became speedily afterward engaged. Their constant advance, however, which would not yield to the destructive fire which thinned their ranks, and could not be checked by the fall of such leaders as Brigadier-General Johnson, Colonel Blythe, Lieutenant-Colonel Herron, Lieutenant-Colonel Tyler, and Captain Polk, strongly attests the determination of the command.
The accompanying reports of Brigadier-General Johnson and Col. Preston Smith, who, after General Johnson was wounded, commanded the brigade with skill, energy, and eminent gallantry, will show excellent conduct in the chief regimental officers.
Colonel Blythe and his lieutenant-colonel, Herron, sealed their devotion to their country with their life's blood. Brigadier-General Johnson, Lieutenant-Colonel Tyler, of the Fifteenth Tennessee, and Captain Polk, of the artillery, were all painfully, and the last-named dangerously, wounded while discharging their duties with heroic valor.
It is a serious misfortune for the country that the serious nature of Captain Polk's wound rendered it impossible to remove him from the field.
Colonel Walker, commanding, and Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, of the Second Tennessee, and Lieut. Col. Marcus J. Wright, commanding the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Regiment, after Colonel Smith took command of the brigade, are all highly commended for gallantry and efficiency.
My admiration of the conduct of the officers and men of my command, in a conflict unequaled in severity and magnitude on this continent, has demanded of me the extended notices given, and, though conscious that many highly deserving of praise have not been named, I must now conclude with some notice of the conduct of my personal staff.
The zealous efficiency in the administration of his office and the earnest devotion to duty always evinced by my assistant adjutant-general, Maj. James D. Porter, were only surpassed by the promptness with which he transmitted my orders to all parts of the field, and the calm, unfaltering courage with which he bore himself throughout these bloody battles.
To my aides-de-camp, Capts. F. H. McNairy and T. F. Henry, my cordial thanks are due. Captain McNairy was, in truth, all that his title imports. No place was too severely trying for him to carry and deliver my orders with promptness and precision. He was ever untiring in the performance of his dangerous duties. Captain Henry displayed an equal gallantry and energy. Nor must I omit to mention A. L. Robertson and John Campbell, who, though boys, were attached to my military family, and were at times used as aides. Their conduct during the battle was such as to give promise of great future usefulness. I regret to say that young Campbell, while acting as my aide-de-camp, fell dead, his entire head having been carried away by a cannon shot. He was a noble boy, and strongly showed the embryo qualities of a brilliant and useful soldier.
In conclusion, I must return my sincere thanks to Judge Archibald Wright, of Tennessee, and to Colonel Pickett, of the Twenty-first Tennessee Regiment, who, as volunteer aides, rendered me very efficient services, and to Capt. William Roundtree, of Gordon's cavalry, who, while acting on Monday as a volunteer aide, showed a daring equal to every emergency.
The effective force carried by me into the battle was 3,801. My loss in killed, wounded, and missing, reports of which have heretofore been received, was 1,213.
B. F. CHEATHAM,
Major-General, C. S. Army.
Text Source - The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Image Source - The Library of Congress
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