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The Stand of Stuart's Brigade, revisited On Sunday morning 6 April 1862 David Stuart's 2nd Brigade, separated from the remainder of Sherman's Fifth Division by the breadth of the Pittsburg Campground, found itself without organic artillery, and with only three assigned regiments of infantry. Called into line upon hearing the roar of battle away to the southwest, the 2nd Brigade stood and waited... while artillery support provided by Wallace's Second Division arrived, then disappeared; and reinforcements provided by McArthur's Brigade of Wallace's Division came in close proximity, only to be shifted well away from view of Stuart's Brigade. When Stuart's Brigade came under fire at approximately 11am most of the 71st Ohio disappeared; and the 55th Illinois and 54th Ohio were forced to abandon control of the ford over Lick Creek they were tasked with defending; and instead move progressively east and north, firing at the advancing Rebels from behind trees and beneath the brow of ravines. Occasionally, the Swedish-military trained Oscar Malmborg ordered his 55th Illinois into Hollow Square formations, in the midst of clearings while removing north to the next ravine; the formation designed for defense against cavalry so befuddled the Rebel attackers, convinced the technique was precursor to a trap of some sort, that Malmborg's men were mostly left alone each time the Hollow Square was actuated. Meanwhile the 54th Ohio was divided into two components, which independently harassed the steady advance of Chalmers and Jackson from different directions. Along the way, Colonel Stuart was wounded and removed to the rear; T. Kilby Smith of the 54th Ohio took nominal command; but LtCol Malmborg continued to exert authority over the 55th Illinois. After a particularly disastrous crossing of a deep ravine, during which Stuart's 2nd Brigade was badly shot up, the fighting withdrawal came to an end; and at about 2pm the survivors of the 2nd Brigade made for the Bluff overlooking Pittsburg Landing. Oscar Malmborg appears to have arrived with his 55th Illinois ahead of Kilby Smith's 54th Ohio: LtCol Malmborg was immediately tasked with organizing the returning infantrymen into a defensive line. And he continued in that role until replaced by the retiring General Stephen Hurlbut and his Fourth Division about 90 minutes later. But the big job had been accomplished: Rebel access to the Bluff above Pittsburg Landing had been denied until Grant's Last Line was sufficiently in place. The delay provided by Stuart's fighting withdrawal had contributed in large measure to that defensive line's creation. References: Reed, David W. Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged (1909) pp.14-15, 17, 27 (Order of Battle), 50, 53, 56-57, 73, 74, 130 map, 134 map. https://archive.org/details/battleofshilohor00unit/page/n133/mode/2up/search/Stuart OR 10 page 257 Report of Colonel Stuart. The Life and Letters of Thomas Kilby Smith, by his son, Walter G. Smith (1898) especially letters pp.191-200. https://archive.org/details/lifelettersoftho00smit/page/190/mode/2up Eisenschiml, Otto, The Story of Shiloh (1946) has one chapter specifically dedicated to 55th Illinois http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Eisenschiml%2C Otto%2C 1880-1963 [As a member of the Chicago Civil War Round Table, Eisenschiml published many articles through that organization.] [Video] “Alone on the Left: the Desperate Stand of Stuart's Brigade” (2015) produced by Tony Willoughby: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyPbKJJ9F5A Part one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAjgGCHw5zA Part two.
Actually, a diary and extracts from letters, presented in chronological order from 15 September 1861, when Thaddeus H. Capron, 22 years old from Durand Village, Winnebago County enlisted in the 55th Illinois Infantry with many others from his community in Company C. Early entries describe training in Northern Illinois before moving on to Benton Barracks, near St. Louis. Private Capron presents as "a bit of a card" and has similar friends -- Arden Bowen, "Snooks," Billy, and Charlie -- who amuse themselves while waiting to get "into the Show." A letter written from Paducah on February 9th 1862 expresses disappointment on missing the Fort Henry operation. Another letter, written February 20th, expresses more disappointment from Paducah; but this is followed by news of Thaddeus Capron's promotion to Assistant QM and rumors IRT where they will be sent (either Fort Columbus, or Alabama). On March 10th, Capron reports the 55th Illinois is aboard the Hannibal, heading for Florence, Alabama; part of an Army of 100,000. In addition to describing the camp near Lick Creek of Stuart's Brigade (of Sherman's 5th Division) on March 23rd, Asst. QM Capron reports that "Buell is only thirty miles away with over 100,000 more men, to combine with Grant's Army," and states his belief that, "the Rebellion will soon be put down." Excerpts of April 10 Letter from Thaddeus Capron to friends in Durand, Illinois: "We were up with reveille Sunday morning, and began preparing for inspection... away to the west we heard gunfire, which we believed was only the pickets, again. We waited over two hours before the Long Roll was beat, and then formed our line and marched forward about 80 rods. Told to lie down, the 55th Illinois waited several hours before the enemy appeared (estimated as 5000 men supported by two batteries.) The fight for the 55th Illinois and 54th Ohio Zouaves became one of fire, fall back; fire, fall back for about three hours. Afterwards, Capron expresses his awareness that "the delaying action accomplished by Stuart's Brigade was significant in preventing the destruction of Grant's Army." April 18 details friends wounded and killed at Battle of Shiloh. And April 26 describes the preparations to march on Corinth. Probably one of the most comprehensive collections of first-person reports to be found on the internet, this Diary and Excerpts from Letters written by Thaddeus Capron is made available by Northern Illinois University: http://civilwar.lib.niu.edu/islandora/object/niu-civil%3A14911 Cheers Ozzy
Anyone attempting to research events on the far left of the Union line during April 6th, knows it is relatively easy to find references IRT the 55th Illinois. But, the activities of the other major player, the 54th Ohio (2nd Ohio Zouaves) are less abundantly documented. The Life and Letters of Thomas Kilby Smith, by his son, Walter George Smith, published by G. P. Putnam of New York, (1898), goes some way to addressing that deficiency. The book consists of two parts: a 'Memoir' (more of a biography) that discusses T. Kilby Smith's career during the Civil War, pages 10- 167; and 'Letters' that Smith wrote to his wife, mother and sister, usually within days of the event described (pages 167- 463). Because Smith was Colonel of the 54th Ohio, his experience is theirs, until they part company in July 1863, due to his promotion to Brigadier General. The following pages are of most interest: pp. 12- 22 arrival at Pittsburg Landing, thru to the Battle of Shiloh; p. 186 discussion of Zouave ideals; pp. 191- 2 'We are as safe here, as if we were in New York City' -- March 31st, 1862; pp. 193- 9 April 11th letters to wife, sister and mother, describing aspects of 54th OVI involvement; pp. 228- 9 July 1862 letter to mother with more details of Battle of Shiloh/ Flag of 54th OVI.After Shiloh, the Siege of Corinth, Occupation of Memphis, Arkansas Post, and Vicksburg Campaign are discussed. After parting company with the 54th OVI, the Red River Campaign, and Brigadier General Smith's assignment to Fort Gaines, near Mobile Alabama, are described. (In this latter segment of the book, the most interesting aspect, for me, was the description of 'land mines' encountered by Union forces under General Canby during the Assault on Spanish Fort, page 383- 4; I'd heard of the use of this weapon during the Civil War, but did not know at what battle it was employed.) The major strength of the book: the above indicated pages can be accessed online (free) at the below website, and read in about fifteen minutes. The major weakness: in a book of 460 pages, that is all there is IRT Battle of Shiloh. http://archive.org/stream/kilbysmiththomas00smitrich#page/n9/mode/2up Ozzy