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Okay folks, we have our subjects set for our Epic Trek with historian Tim Smith on November 2nd. This year we're returning to our original format of examining two different subjects rather than just one, and I hope you agree that they're good choices. More details will be posted soon, but here's an overview for now: Our morning hike will focus on Union General Benjamin Prentiss and his controversial role in the battle and its aftermath. Did Prentiss save Grant's army, as we often hear, or is there more to the story? And was he responsible for alerting the Union army to the danger that morning, or was he, like Sherman and Grant, taken by surprise when the attack hit? We'll delve into these issues, and visit several sites around the battlefield associated with Prentiss, including his defensive position in the legendary Hornets Nest. (We may also have a chance to recreate a late 19th Century photograph that included the General.) After a break for lunch, our afternoon hike will be a subject suggested by SDG member Jim Franklin - we'll follow the Confederate approach to Grants Last Line, examining the challenges they faced and discussing the controversy that erupted after the battle over this aborted attack. Did Beauregard make the right call here, or should the Confederates have continued the attack? See the terrain in person and decide for yourself. A big thank you to Jim for the excellent idea! Again, more details will be posted soon. I'm already looking forward to the hikes, and seeing some familiar faces and hopefully some new ones as well. As always, feel free to post any questions you might have. Perry
The 16th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment arrived at Savannah Tennessee on 19 March, having completed a major portion of the trip aboard the steamer, Planet. On March 20th, the 16th Wisconsin accomplished the final nine miles of the voyage, debarked at Pittsburg Landing (with 1065 men, having left sick men behind at Mound City General Hospital) and went into camp... with John McArthur's 2nd Brigade of Smith's Second Division. After about a week (about March 30th) the 16th Wisconsin was detached from McArthur (who is now a Brigadier General, and under arrest) and re-assigned to a new division being formed. But, all that existed at the end of March 1862 was a single brigade, commanded by Everett Peabody, consisting of a handful of infantry, including the 25th Missouri, 12th Michigan and 16th Wisconsin. The embryonic Division Number Six does not even have a division commander: Colonel Peabody fills that role, too; and establishes camp three miles south-southwest of Pittsburg Landing (IAW instructions received directly from General Grant.) On April 1st the man "selected" for command of the New Sixth Division arrived (not Grant's choice, as he wants John Pope Cook, who on April 1st is at Cairo Illinois, awaiting transport south.) But the man who arrived at Savannah on this day was selected by Henry Halleck: Benjamin Prentiss, who likely arrived aboard steamer Iatan (which is loaded with tons of ammunition and black powder for use of Grant's Army.) But, there exists "bad blood" between Benjamin Prentiss and Ulysses Grant, stemming from Prentiss "stealing" command and recognition "rightfully" belonging to Grant, which resulted in two direct confrontations, only resolved when the Commander in Missouri separated the two antagonists. General Prentiss was sent west, and General Grant was sent east; and so the matter rested... until now. Now, here was Brigadier General Prentiss reporting for duty to Major General Grant (no chance of "not knowing who was senior, this time.") How could "that meeting" between Grant and Prentiss have progressed? [My guess: official. Very official.] Tension so thick it could be scraped off the walls of the Cherry Mansion... Did Prentiss even get a chance to say anything, besides, "reporting for duty, General" and initiating the salute? Probably, after Grant acknowledged the official greeting. And then demanded to know, "Where have you been, General Prentiss?" (Because Grant knows that Prentiss detached from duty in Missouri on March 15th, and arrived at Cairo on March 23rd.) And General Grant used that knowledge to "assign" Benjamin Prentiss to Command of the Sixth Division through Special Orders No.36 -- dated March 26th. A command, without its commander... Maybe, with a bit of luck, Grant can charge Prentiss with "Unauthorized Absence," and place him under arrest (and remove him from command of the Sixth Division.) Benjamin Prentiss was likely able to talk his way out of difficulty, by revealing the "special assignments" he had carried out for General Grant's boss, Henry Halleck. Perhaps Grant was disappointed, losing the chance to arrest Prentiss, remove him from command, and "resolve their festering dispute, once and for all" ...especially with John Pope Cook so close at hand. But, no matter: there was still a chance, if Prentiss did anything to upset the operation of the Camp at Pittsburg Landing (such as, "not follow the orders issued by Brigadier General W.T. Sherman, acting commander" during the temporary absence of C.F. Smith, who was just upstairs, recuperating from an injured leg.) In particular, Brigadier General Prentiss would be advised to "be aware of new orders, issued daily" (and carry them out); "do not send away sick men from this command without permission." Do not send anyone away without express permission from this Headquarters. "Buell is on his way; once he arrives, we will commence our march to Corinth and engage the enemy." There are known to be battalions of Rebel cavalry hovering in vicinity of the Camp at Pittsburg Landing: they are not a threat, and are of no concern to us. What is of concern, is a directive sent from Henry Halleck: "Do nothing to bring on a General Engagement." Grant probably finished with: "Do you have any concerns that will prevent you from carrying out these instructions, General Prentiss?" Having no concerns worth mentioning, General Prentiss takes his leave, with a salute. That same day (definitely no later than April 2nd) Prentiss met Everett Peabody. And Grant issued General Orders No.33 assigning artillery and cavalry to Prentiss (by name.) On April 3rd, Benjamin Prentiss selected Lieutenant Richard Derickson of 16th Wisconsin, just returned from "special duties" (retrieving the now-healthy men from Mound City General Hospital, for duty at Pittsburg Landing), to be Sixth Division Quartermaster. On April 4th, Captain A.S. Baxter (Grant's QM) assigned steamer Iatan to serve as Commissary and Quartermaster Boat for the Sixth Division; and acknowledged assignment of Lieutenant Derickson as AAQM for the Sixth Division. [The Iatan was the boat Lieutenant Derickson rode to Savannah on April 1st; the same boat General Prentiss (likely) arrived aboard... and the (likely) place Prentiss met Derickson (and knew to appoint him as Division QM when the time arose.) Again, jus supposin'... Ozzy References: Quiner's Scrapbooks, volume 5, pages 210 - 240. [On file Wisconsin Historical Society] Kevin Getchell's Scapegoat of Shiloh (2013) for Derickson and Baxter documents. OR 11 pp. 87 - 88. SDG (various) but especially "Sherman's Shiloh Map" (for location of camp of 16th Wisconsin in March 1862.)
For those who have never read it (or have not read it in a while) here is the Shiloh Report submitted by General Prentiss. Cheers Ozzy Prentiss’s Official Shiloh Report of November 1862 COLONEL: Upon my return from captivity in the hands of the public enemy I have the honor to submit my report of the part taken in the battle of the 6th of April last, near Pittsburg Landing, by the Sixth Division, Army of West Tennessee, the command of which had been assigned to me. I have the honor to transmit field return of the force which was subjected to my control, as it appeared upon the morning of the engagement, the same being marked A.# [Sixth Division field returns and casualty record – Ozzy.] Saturday evening, pursuant to instructions received when I was assigned to duty with the Army of West Tennessee, the usual advance guard was posted, and in view of information received from the commandant thereof, I sent forward five companies of the Twenty-fifth Missouri and five companies of the Twenty-first Missouri Infantry,under command of Colonel David Moore, Twenty-first Missouri. I also,after consultation with Colonel David Stuart, commanding a brigade of General Sherman's division, sent to the left one company of the Eighteenth Wisconsin Infantry, under command of Captain Fisk. At about 7 o'clock the same evening Colonel Moore returned, reporting some activity in the front-an evident reconnaissance by cavalry. This information received, I proceeded to strengthen the guard stationed on the Corinth road, extending the picket lines to the front a distance of a mile and a half, at the same time extending and doubling the lines of the grand guard. At 3 o'clock on the morning of Sunday, April 6, Colonel David Moore, Twenty-first Missouri, with five companies of his infantry regiment, proceeded to the front, and at break of day the advance pickets were driven in, whereupon Colonel Moore pushed forward and engaged the enemy's advance, commanded by General Hardee. At this stage a messenger was sent to my headquarters, calling for the balance of the Twenty-first Missouri, which was promptly sent forward. This information received, I at once ordered the entire force into line,and the remaining regiments of the First Brigade, commanded by Colonel Everett Peabody, consisting of the Twenty-fifth Missouri, Sixteenth Wisconsin, and Twelfth Michigan Infantry were advanced well to the front. I forthwith at this juncture communicated the fact of the attack in force to Major-General Smith and Brigadier General S. A. Hurlbut. Shortly before 6 o'clock, Colonel David Moore having been severely wounded, his regiment commenced falling back, reaching our front line at about 6 o'clock, the enemy being close upon his rear. Hereupon the entire force, excepting only the Sixteenth Iowa, which had been sent to the field the day previous without ammunition,and the cavalry, which was held in readiness to the rear, was advanced to the extreme front, and thrown out alternately to the right and left. Shortly after 6 o'clock the entire line was under fire, receiving the assault made by the entire force of the enemy, advancing in three columns simultaneously upon our left, center, and right. This position was held until the enemy had passed our right flank, this movement being effected by reason of the falling back of some regiment to our right not belonging to the division. Perceiving the enemy was flanking me, I ordered the division to retire in line of battle to the color line of our encampment,at the same time communicating to Generals Smith and Hurlbut the fact of the falling back, and asking for re-enforcements. Being again assailed, in position described, by an overwhelming force, and not being able longer to hold the ground against the enemy, I ordered the divisions to fal back to the line occupied by General Hurlbut, and at 9.05. a.m. reformed to the right of General Hurlbut, and to the left of Brigadier General W. H. L. Wallace, who I found in command of the division assigned to Major-General Smith. At this point the Twenty-third Missouri Infantry, commanded by Colonel Tindall, which had just disembarked from a transport,and had been ordered to report to me as a part of the Sixth Division, joined. This regiment I immediately assigned to position on the left. My battery (Fifth Ohio) was posted to the right on the road. At about 10 o'clock my line was again assailed, and finding my command greatly reduced by reason of casualties and because of the falling back of many of the men to the river, they being panic-stricken- a majority of them having now for the first time been exposed to fire-I communicated,with General W. H. L. Wallace, who sent to my assistance the Eighth Iowa Infantry, commanded by Colonel J. L. Geddes. After having once driven the enemy back form this position Major General U. S. Grant appeared upon the field. I exhibited to him the disposition of my entire force, which disposition received his commendation, and I received my final orders, which were to maintain that position at all hazards. This position I did maintain until 4 o'clock p.m. when General Hurlbut, being overpowered,was forced to retire. I was then compelled to change front with the Twenty-third Missouri, Twenty-first Missouri Eighteenth Wisconsin, Eighteenth Missouri, and part of the Twelfth Michigan, occupying a portion of the ground vacated by General Hurlbut. I was in constant communication with Generals Hurlbut and Wallace during the day, and both of them were aware of the importance of holding our position until night. When the gallant Hurlbut was forced to retire General Wallace and myself consulted, and agreed to hold our positions at all hazards, believing that we could thus save the army from destruction; we having been now informed for the first time that all others had fallen back to the vicinity of the river. A few minutes after General W. H. L. Wallace received the wound of which he shortly afterwards died. Upon the fall of General Wallace, his division,excepting the Eighth Iowa, Colonel Geddes, acting with me, and the Fourteenth Iowa, Colonel Shaw; Twelfth Iowa, Colonel Woods, and Fifty-eighth Illinois, Colonel Lynch, retired from the field. Perceiving that I was about to be surrounded, and having dispatched my aide, Lieutenant Edwin Moore, for re-enforcements, I determined to assail the enemy, which had passed between me and the river, charging upon him with my entire force. I found him advancing in mass, completely encircling my command, and nothing was left but to harass him and retard his progress so long as might be possible. This I did until 5.30 p.m., when finding that further resistance must result in the slaughter of every man in the command, I had to yield the fight. The enemy succeeded in capturing myself and 2,200 rank and file, many of them being wounded. Colonel Madison Miller, Eighteenth Missouri Infantry, was during the day in command of a brigade, and was among those taken prisoner. He acted during the day with distinguished courage, coolness, and ability. Upon Colonel J. L. Geddes, Eighth Iowa, the same praise can be partly bestowed. He and his regiment stood unflinchingly up to the work the entire portion of the day during which he acted under my orders. Colonel J. S. Alban and his lieutenant-colonel, Beall, of the Eighteenth Wisconsin, were,until they were wounded, ever to the front, encouraging their command. Colonel Jacob Fry, of the Sixty-first Illinois, with an undrilled regiment fresh in the service,kept his men well forward under every assault until the third line was formed, when he became detached, and fought under General Hurlbut. Colonel Shaw, of the Fourteenth Iowa, behaved with great coolness, disposed his men sharply at every command, and maintained his front unbroken through several fierce attacks. Colonel Tindall, Lieutenant-Colonel Morton, and Major McCullough, of the Twenty-third Missouri, are entitled to high meed of praise for gallant conduct. It is difficult to discriminate among so many gallant men as surrounded me when we were forced to yield to the overpowering strength of the enemy. Their bravery under the hottest fire is testified to by the devotion with which they stood forward against fearful odds to contend for the cause they were engaged in. To the officers and men who thus held to the last their undaunted front too much praise cannot be given. Captain McMichael, assistant adjutant-general,attached to the division commanded by General Wallace, joined me upon the field when his gallant leader fell. He is entitled to special mention for his conduct while so serving. Colonel David Moore is entitled to special mention. Captain A. Hickenlooper, of the Fifth Ohio Battery, by his gallant conduct, commended himself to general praise. My staff consisted of but three officers. Brigade Surg. S. W. Everett was killed early in the engagement, gallantly cheering the Eighteenth Missouri Regiment to the contest. Lieutenant Edwin Moore, aide-de-camp, during the entire battle, was by my side, unless when detached upon the dangerous service of his office. Captain Henry Binmore, assistant adjutant-general, was with me, performing his duty to my great satisfaction, until, being exhausted, I compelled him to leave the field. I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant, B. M. PRENTISS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Colonel J. C. KELTON, Asst. Adjt. Gen., U. S. Army, Washington, D. C. [from The War of the Rebellion: Original Records of the Civil War, Serial 1, Volume 10 (Shiloh) – no longer in copyright.]