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WI16thJim

Birge's Sharpshooters

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As many of you may have noticed, Stan posted another picture in his wonderful Shiloh WIA/KIA series. This latest one is of a member of Birge's Sharpshooters. Never remembering reading about them at Shiloh (which doesn't mean I haven't, could just be another example of my oldtimersdisease), I checked the Shiloh NMP web site for monuments of where they fought. Their web site has nothing on Birge's. Does anyone know why this regiment was ignored?

Jim

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A few years ago the park offered a program on Birge's Sharpshooters as part of their anniversary hikes. The intrepid marchers got a chance to traverse Tilghman Branch twice - coming and going. They heard about the multi-state makeup of the regiment, and of their Dimmick American sharpshooter rifles. They also got to see areas like Glover Field, where the sharpshooters engaged cavalry from Brewer's battalion on the afternoon of April 6. The monument is here http://www.shilohbattlefield.org/details.asp?WidePhoto=TN003M073L.jpg

The later part of the program focused more on the Confederate perspective on April 7, following Wharton's 8th Texas Cavalry during thier terrible experience in the "Battle of The Picnic Area." The lower intensity combat on the far western side the battlefield is indeed an important and under-appreciated aspect of the battle.

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Jim,

This confused me as well, particularly what I "thought" was the lack of a monument to Birge's Sharpshooters at Shiloh. As Bjorn pointed out they were called the 14th Missouri AFTER Shiloh, then again later called the 66th Illinois after that. Their name changed to the 14th Missouri between April 14th and April 18th 1862, just a week or so after Shiloh.

With that in mind, it is interesting that the primary designation on the marker is "14th Missouri", instead of "Birge's Sharpshooters" as it technically and historically should be. But, at least the monument lists all 3 unit names to avoid confusion.

And you are right, all the AKA's and numerical designation changes is a mess!

Stan

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Grandpa, I gave up trying to sort out the confusion of the battle years ago. I decided it was best to use what limited intellect I have in concentrating on what the 16th WI did there. Even that small part tends to make my brain hurt. I once mentioned to Stacy Allen that Shiloh was like trying to understand four different battles at once. He responded it was more like fourteen different battles. I tend to agree with him.

Jim

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The 14th Missouri Infantry was formed at Benton Barracks Missouri as Birge's Western Sharpshooters, in September, 1861. On November 23, 1861, it was mustered into the federal army as the 14th Missouri Infantry and soon moved east of the Mississippi River where it fought at Ft Donelson and then Shiloh. At this time it was still known as the 14th Missouri until it was changed to the 66th Illinois on November 20, 1862. It served for a long and full career in the civil war until the surrender in North Carolina in April 1865. The regiment marched through Washington DC, probably as part of the Grand Parade of the army and then moved to Louisville KY where it was mustered out of the service. It did retain the nickname of Birge's Sharpshooters throughout its service.

During the Battle of Shiloh, It assignments and positions prevented it seeing much combat as the total casualties of 8 will verify. Its camp site was near the present day intersection of Highway 22 and the Pittsburg Landing Road. About 9 am, April 6th, it was sent to guard the bridge over the Snake Creek with no fighting here. It was moved down to the area of its campsite, near the Perry and Glovers fields and engaged confederate cavalry, Brewer's Battalion. The next morning, it advanced to the northern Jones Field where it saw limited action against Wharton's Rebel cavalry and then served as support to federal artillery. The limited action of the regiment and that the fact that its service was on the northern edge of the battlefield ( Bridge Guard, Perry Field, Glover Field and the Northern Jones Field) and low number of casualties guarantee a lack of attention placed on this unit.

There are two position markers for the regiment on the field, #81 at the Pittsburg Landing/Hwy 22 intersection, #82 in the northern Jones field, a campsite marker #A26 right at the end of the Pittsburg Landing road on the west side of Hwy 22 and finally, the monument #73 just west of the campsite marker A26. A note about the campsite marker A26, it is located today almost at the crossroads of the original (1862) River Road and a local farmer's trail that ran from the northern Jones field, past the Perry field and east to the Hagy property. It was actually camped in a good position for the terrain and the then present road system, but the action was below them and left them on the side lines. On Monday, after the fighting advanced below the Jones field about 1 pm, it probably saw little to no combat.

Regards

Ron

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Jim,

If you already feel confused and messed up over the 14th Missouri, go look at their monument again. It's a State of Illinois monument.

Ron already gave us the information that explains that. Most of the men were from Illinois (at least one company came wholly from southwest Michigan), and their official identity eventually boiled down to 66th Illinois. You will also notice that the 13th Missouri has an Ohio design for their monument. They were re-designated 22nd Ohio.

In both cases the explanation is complicated, but the short version is that Illinois and Ohio both filled their recruitment quotas, leaving these large bodies of disappointed patriots unable to get into the army. Missouri still needed recruits, so they travelled to St. Louis and joined there. That was 1861. Eventually, the Union realized that they needed every volunteer they could get and then some. These two regiments reverted to identities of the state of nativity for most of the men.

Additionally, the 9th Missouri was made up of Illinois men, and later became the 59th Illinois. They weren't at Shiloh. They were at Pea Ridge.

Bjorn

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PAPERS READ BEFORE THE MINNESOTA COM-

MANDERY OF THE MILITARY ORDER OF

THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED

STATES, 1897-1902.'

St. Paul, Minnesota: Review Publishing Company 1903

Fifth Series

---------------------------

William Berry McCord

I give you herewith what to me were very thrilling instances in the progress of the war.

The first was the Battle of Shiloh, of April 6th and 7th, 1862, which opened early on Sunday morning, the 6th of April, by what is generally considered as a surprise. The. Regiment to which I belonged was encamped on the Purdy Road leading from Pittsburgh Landing to Purdy. When the attack was made on the front lines more than a mile west from our camp, we were immediately formed into line and marched to Owl Creek Crossing, where we remained for perhaps two hours, during which time the Union forces had been routed in our front, and came down in straggling bodies, announcing that the whole army had been defeated. We later went down from the Owl Creek Crossing to a point near our camp where we remained, and while here during the day a number of attacks were made on the part of the rebels to gain a position on our right. Fortunately, we had a strong position. The timber land in front of us was open on each side of the Run. We were, therefore, unable to see across the Run any forces which were coming down on the opposite side, and as the regiment to which I belonged were sharpshooters, armed with the muzzle loading rifles, and our equipments being really of a huntsmen's style, we were enabled to demoralize the rebels in front of us, but few of whom were daring enough to cross the Run. The fighting was kept up all the day until late in the evening. The continuous firing and roar of artillery was noted to be heaviest on our left, near Hamburg Landing. Later on in the evening it was noted by our Command that our artillery fire was being diminished, and that our forces were evidently being crowded down the river near or towards Pittsburg Landing. About half past four o'clock on Sunday evening, we were surprised by salvos of artillery at the Landing which was continued for some fifteen or twenty minutes. This artillery had been brought into position by the foresight and energy of Col. Webster, Gen. Grant's Chief of Artillery. This fire terminated almost instantly, and for a while silence which was very oppressive reigned.

Not a gun from either side was fired. Suddenly we heard music from a band playing "Hail Columbia," and never were notes of music so sweet as the sound of those strains upon our ears. We knew that the rebels would not play "Hail Columbia" if they had won a victory, and we also knew that our forces would not play that national anthem unless victory had been won, and at the same instant we heard cheers roll along the line until they came near us and then we knew that a victory had been won. It was truly thrilling to see the crazy antics of the men in our lines, throwing up their hats and yelling with delight, and many officers were weeping as children and rejoicing as men hardly ever do. This was a scene that will always remain in my mind as one of the most thrilling instances of the war.

This band was at the head of Gen. Force's Brigade of Buell's army, the first of that Command to cross the river, and it immediately entered the fight, charging the rebels and forcing them from the position they had gained. This ended Sunday's fight, to be opened with renewed vigor on Monday morning.

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Lanny, thanks for the great account, and for adding to the discussion here. Only minor quibble I might have with Mr. McCord's account is his reference to Force's brigade. Probably he just remembered incorrectly, as the first brigade to cross over on the evening of the 6th was that of Jacob Ammen. Manning Force commanded the 20th Ohio in Lew Wallace's division. Not a major issue, except perhaps for the men involved. ;)

His description of the Union army's reaction to Buell's arrival is very telling. They had not actually 'won' the battle, but they had survived the day, and the arrival of Buell's army signaled to everyone that this was the case. I don't personally believe that Buell's army 'saved' Grant at Shiloh, but I'm also not sure it's possible to overstate the morale boost Buell's arrival had on Grant's men. The way McCord describes it here is a good indication of that to me.

Thanks again for a very interesting account from an area of the battlefield that tends to get overlooked, but should not be forgotten.

Perry

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Jim,

 

I have a transcribed diary and Image of George Lemon Childress, (Lawrence Co., Ill.) member of the Western Sharpshooters. George is a 1st cousin 6x removed. The diary is in the University of Illinois holdings. I called them and promised them a small donation for a copy of the diary. George enlisted in '61 and served throughout the war. His brother Wm. enlisted as a recruit (1864) and was KIA at Dallas, Ga. George doesn't go in to great detail, but I have transcribed his Shiloh entry's below. Also attached, the image of George.

 

They were not very heavily engaged, that may be why they don't get much press. They were not really armed to be a line regiment at Shiloh. I guess they would be considered a special force during that time and their weapon wasn't light. Later down the line they were more effective on the line with the Henry Rifle.

 

Tuesday March 11 - We are ordered to get ready to march, to cook three days rations. We expect to go up the Tennessee River'

 

March 12 - Still remain at camp, did nothing of importance. Fine warm day.

 

March 13 - Orders to march. We strike tents and march to the boat, Lancaster No. 4. We get on board about 11 o'clock P.M.

 

March 14 - Rain at two A.M. All things being ready, we move up the Tennessee River at five o'clock. Rain nearly all day.

 

March 15 - Still moving up the Tennessee. We leave a coal barge on the way at a landing which adds greatly to our speed. Afterward, weather cool. 

 

March 16 - We arrived at Savannah, Tenn. at four A.M. Where the greater portion of the fleet is. Many boats here, we stop here. One man fell overboard and drowned.

 

March 17 - Still on the boat at Savannah, Tennessee. We go off and drill one hours time. A good many troops here consisting of a large fleet and transports. Warm day.

 

March 18 - Start up the river at daylight this A.M. Part of the fleet gone and a part still at Savannah. Run about 12 miles and stop. Lay on the boat all day.

 

March 19 - Today we lay on the boat all day, not being able to go ashore on account of so many boats. Troops are landing all along the shore where they can. Raining. Warm weather.

 

March 20 - In the morning we move off the boat and go half a mile west and pitch tents in the woods. Pleasant weather. Looks like rain.

 

March 21 - Staying on the boat seven days, we are glad to get on shore again. We remain fixing up the camp. In the evening, rain and fine hail falls.

 

March 22 - Still raining, Cloudy. We remain in camp, cool weather. Nothing of importance done today.

 

March 23 - A fatigue is sent West to clean off another camp. At about Noon we strike tents and move to another camp on a higher piece of ground.

 

March 24 - We are ordered to change our front or color-line. We move a little. While here, we hear that Beauregard sent word to Gen. Grant to get out of here, or he will take us all. To which Gen G. replied that "it would save his men a weary march." (meaning to Corinth)

 

March 25 - We are ordered to move a short distance again. Perhaps, to make room for other Regt's or perhaps for a better camp, or to be brigaded off. A fine day, warm.

 

March 26 - I am detailed to act as sergeant of the guard, but am not needed. Gen. McArthur is commander of our brigade. I remain in camp, not on guard.

 

March 27 - I am on guard at Gen. McArthur's head-quarters, twelve men. A warm day.

 

March 28 - We remain in the same camp. I return to camp. A fine day.

 

March 29 - We remain in camp. We look for marching orders. We drill as skirmishers in the evening.

 

March 30 - We still remain in camp, there was talk of being (a) meeting in camp today, but failed to have it.

 

March 31 - Cool this A.M. We box up some clothes to send home, but could not send them. In the P.M. rain.

 

Tuesday, April 1 - We remain in camp, have regimental inspection first of the month.

 

April 2 -  We drill some these days by order of Capt. Taylor and the Col. Compton. Cool.

 

April 3 - We have a review, Gen. Grant and others present. Cool.

 

April 4 - We remain in camp. A heavy rain. Ordered to prepare to march.

 

April 5 - I am on guard today, Camp. Capt. Boyd took command of the Battalion drill, P.M. I am up all night, I did not sleep any.

 

April 6 - Early this A.M. Beauregard and others attacked us out toward Shiloh, the firing was very heavy. Our men are driven back and the enemy take possession of our men's camps on our advance. A continual firing of cannon and musketry all day, at night all firing ceased save the gunboats on the river kept up firing all night. Rained all night, our men sleeping on the ground all night on their arms.

 

April 7 - Commenced the attack early this A.M. and having received reinforcements drive the enemy all the time, they strongly contesting the ground they had gained yesterday. Finally at about two o'clock they were on the retreat toward Corinth. Our men did not follow them far, rain and hail at night.

 

April 8 - We march about Noon about two miles but return again at night. Our Reg't was not in the heavy fight, but were near and kept the enemy from coming in on the right. Our camp was shelled.

 

April 9 - Our men are burying their own dead, the dead men lay thick on the ground, over the field. We remain in the same camp. Cool day, windy and unpleasant.

 

April 10 - Our men are still burying the dead. I visit the battleground, hundreds of men laying on the ground, twenty at one sight. The shell the day of the battle set the leaves afire and burnt the ground over the dead bodies.

 

April 11 - Stayed in camp all day, a very disagreeable and rainy day. Rained all night also.

 

April 12 - Cool this A.M. and in the P.M., heavy rain at night. We remain in old camp.

 

April 13 - We remain in camp the same as before. The sun shone out today, the first for some time.

 

April 14 - Nothing of importance done in camp today. Health is not very good.

 

April 15 - There was a burning bridge floated down the Tennessee River today, supposed to be set on fire by the Rebels up above. It was on the Memphis & Charleston R.R.

 

April 16 - I am on guard duty today. The guard is taken off this P.M. Three companies ordered out on Picket Guard - the right wing.

 

April 17 - We go out to relieve the pickets Our tents are brought out to us. Our picket-line is along the Owl Creek. Our tents are pitched for a camp in a field for camp.

 

April 18 - Rained. We got wet. One-half of the battalion each day nearly are on guard.

 

April 19 - Rained all day, very disagreeable weather, still we have to stand picket guard. Windy at night.

 

Respectfully,

 

Buckshot

post-564-0-41059100-1416592975_thumb.jpg

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Buckshot

 

I always find diaries, journals and letters of value: they are raw, unfiltered 'time capsules' that contain valuable information, and sometimes, raise questions...

 

For example, from your Diary of George Lemon Childress, I wonder what was the source for his comment, IRT Beauregard, made on March 24th?

 

The March 27th entry is timely: General McArthur was taken into custody, next day (Mar 28), for 'sending away men without authority' (abuse of Halleck's Furlough System.)

 

And the April 4th entry, confirming 'heavy rain' on the day, with its implications for Confederate attack (and Lew Wallace's decision how to move south from Crumps, two days later. (Also, evening of April 4th, U. S. Grant's horse took a tumble on a muddy slope, and injured one of the General's legs.))

 

Thanks for sharing the diary.

 

Ozzy

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As regards the location of Birge's Western Sharpshooters on April 6th, Lew Wallace places that regiment 'at the south side of Wallace's Bridge over Snake Creek,' as his Division crossed over towards Pittsburg Landing, (ending a day spent hiking north of the battlefield.)  [Autobiography of Lew Wallace (1906) page 471.]

 

Ozzy

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Ozzy,

 

I also find the March 24th comment very odd. Maybe one of those camp rumors? I also find it interesting that George made a couple of comments about Gen. Beauregard and never makes a reference to Gen. Johnston. Beauregard's reputation evidently did proceed him from the East.

 

Glad you enjoyed.

 

Buckshot

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One more thing about Birge's Western Sharpshooters...

 

During breakfast on the morning of April 6th, the 2nd Illinois Cavalry heard muskets firing, followed closely afterwards by the playing of the Long Roll, and then 'Boots and Saddles.' The cavalry regiment mounted up, and headed directly from their encampment (as part of the 2nd Division) towards Shiloh Church.

 

While waiting in vicinity of Shiloh Church for orders, General Grant rode up, and addressed Captain John Hotaling, in command of Company 'A.'  'Captain Hotaling, you are detailed onto my Staff, today. I want you to take charge of the 10th Missouri Sharp Shooters. Place them and fight them.'

 

[As there was no Union '10th Missouri' at Shiloh, Grant must have been referring to the Birge's outfit. -- Ozzy]

 

Above incident detailed in The History of Company  A, 2nd Illinois Cavalry, by Fletcher and Fletcher, (1912), page 49. Found online:

 

http://archive.org/stream/historyofcompany00flet#page/48/mode/2up

 

 

 

Ozzy

 

 

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One more thing... (Part Two)

 

Their Official Report was made 14 April 1862, submitted by Colonel B. S. Compton; now calling themselves '14th Missouri,' but located at 'Sharpshooter HQ.' When read in conjunction with the History of Company A, 2nd Illinois Cavalry, Fletcher & Fletcher, (1912), and the Diary of George Lemon Chidress, [extract above, Post #13], a cleared picture can be had of their involvement over Days One and Two at Shiloh. As the Western Sharpshooters were part of the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Division, their Report is lodged on pp. 160-161 of OR Series 10 (Shiloh). The Report can be found here:

  

http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/010/0160

 

 

Ozzy

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Stumbled upon the actions of Birge's Western Sharpshooters at Fort Donelson, as witnessed by members of the Press (who found the buckskin-clad soldiers 'fascinating.') Pages 105-111 of Pen and Powder, by Franc Bangs Wilkie (1888), accessible, for free, at hathitrust.org

 

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.hx4u5c;view=1up;seq=9   (Select page 105 to start Birge's story)

 

 

Ozzy

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