Jump to content
Shiloh Discussion Group
Robtweb1

First hand account. Nightime - End of first day

Recommended Posts

This was posted on another board, but I thought I would hijack it and put it here for one reason. This is the first time I have seen a reference to a major field hospital at the location of Polk's heaquarters at the end of the first day. I also don't recall this location on any of the maps, so if it is marked on one, I would appreciate it if someone would refresh my memory and point it out. Thanks.

http://docsouth.unc....rke/clarke.html

Diary of the War for Separation, a Daily Chronicle of the Principal Events and History of the Present Revolution, to Which is Added Notes and Descriptions of All the Great Battles, Including Walker's Narrative of the Battle of Shiloh: Electronic Edition. Clarke, H. C., of Vicksburg, Miss. Text transcribed by Apex Data Services, Inc. Text encoded by Lee Ann Morawski and Natalia Smith First edition, 2000 ca. 470K Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2000.

THE BATTLE OF SHILOH.

A NIGHT OF ANXIETY.

The rest and refreshment in the inglorious camps of the enemy, so greatly needed and so fondly anticipated, by our exhausted troops on the night of the 6th April, were rudely interrupted. Early in the night that invariable effect of a severe battle and great cannonading followed the prolonged struggle of the day. A heavy shower came up and continued the greater part of the night. The heavens had been clear and cloudless, the air warm and balmy during that day, but now, at night, dark clouds hung heavily in the sky, and the rain fell in torrents, and the atmosphere became suddenly chilly. Our men huddled in the enemy's tents without blankets, or any other covering but their ordinary uniforms. There was another source of trouble and anxiety. The enemy's gunboats continued firing all night, throwing conical shells into the camps, which exploded with destructive effects, scattering small fragments of iron in every direction, and frequently wounding men and horses. Under these depressing circumstances, our army passed the night. To our Generals it was a night of special anxiety. Gen. Beauregard and staff had established their headquarters in the midst of their Yankee camps near the old log and boarded church or rather meeting house, which had given a name to the battle-field. Long and anxious consultations were held at these headquarters. Gen. Polk, in apprehension of the enemy making an effort to get in on our left flank, had established his quarters some distance in the rear and on the left. Here he and staff passed the night in the midst of what was intended as the amputating hospital, but which had soon become a general hospital. This hospital quickly became overcrowded with the wounded. To the kind-hearted and sympathetic General, that must have proved a terrible, sleepless night, which was passed amid such harrowing scenes--the constant groans of agony, the throat-rattle, the pitiful moans, and heroic utterances, and last gentle words, for home and friends, of the dying.

Before seeking a place of retirement and rest for the night, we made the rounds of several of our largest hospitals. We have no heart to revise the harrowing scenes they presented. We had already during the prolonged conflict of the day witnessed enough of suffering to have left impressions which a life-time could not efface. The unbroken processions of those mournful ambulances--the continual current of poor, bleeding, mutilated, but still heroic soldiers, making their way to the rear, had banished from our mind all pride, exultation and enthusiasm for our brilliant success. The most agreeable emotions that ever thrilled our heart were those we experienced in affording many of these wounded the grateful relief of a drink from our canteen. The earnest thankfulness with which they received this little comfort was indescribably eloquent and touching. But even these harrowing scenes were somewhat relieved and lightened by the heroic bearing, cheerful resignation, the wonderful fortitude with which our wounded bore up under their afflictions. This was especially conspicuous in the younger soldiers. Mere striplings, who were badly wounded--many of them mutilated or mortally hurt--seemed to have as little heed of their pains and danger as if returning from the play ground. Every where it was apparent that the older class of the wounded manifested far more gravity and solicitude, more sensibility to pain, and more anxiety as to the character of their wounds, than the younger soldiers, many of them boys from our high schools.

All the hospitals were soon crowded. There were few buildings near the battle-field. These had been appropriated as hospitals, but were quite inadequate, and all the tents that had been brought by our army were devoted to hospital purposes. Still there were hundreds who had no shelter. Many remained in the wagons; many, alas! were left in the air, exposed to the cold rain. All that could be done for them was done. The surgeons were diligent and indefatigable. Their labors were incessant. By dim lights, and in the open air, they were compelled to perform the most delicate surgical operations. It was cheering, indeed, to observe the universal spirit of brotherly love, the earnest humanity, the entire absence of selfishness which were displayed by all classes in attendance on the wounded.

The constant shelling of the Yankee camps by the gunboats early in the night, induced us to shift our quarters, and creeping into a wagon (already pretty well filled with sleepers) near one of the hospitals, we sought a few hours of sleep. But, exhausted as we were, we could only snatch a few minutes of broken and unsatisfying slumber. The groans of the suffering, the cries of those undergoing operations, and, more than all, the awful gurgling sound made by a poor fellow who had been shot through the lungs, and had been laid out to die under the wagon in which we lay, was terribly trying to our nerves and sensibilities.

Thus the night passed--a night of continual rain. We were aroused before daylight by a rapid and irregular fire, extending along the whole line and over the whole area occupied by our troops. We soon learned that this was the firing of our own men, whose guns had become wet and foul from exposure during the rain. We now proceeded to the front, to learn what was to be the order of the day. Repairing to the headquarters of Gen. Beauregard, we found that ever cool and vigilant chief sitting in front of one of the enemy's tents with his aids, Col. Jacob Thompson, Col. Jordan, Col. Chisolm and several of his staff. The General was receiving reports from couriers and scouts. It was obvious that he intended to renew the fight. It was cheering and inspiring to observe his calm self-possession and thoughtful precision and alertness. There came to him every minute the most conflicting accounts of the enemy's movements. First, it was reported the enemy was flanking our right. The General quickly gave an order to send a brigade in that direction. The order had hardly issued before another courier contradicted this report, and stated that no enemy was visible in that direction. The General, smiling, remarked to one of his aids: "This is one of Morph's blind games. I wish I had him here to help me play it out." Presently rode up Col. Beard, of Florida, an acting aid of Gen. B., holding his left arm, which was bleeding. Dismounting, he reported the reconnoisance he had been ordered to make that the enemy's outposts were not nearer than three-quarters of a mile from our lines--that from the strength of his advance parties it was obvious that he intended to renew the battle. In making this reconnoissance, the Colonel had been fired at by about fifty skirmishers, and one of the balls had struck his left arm.

The General now issued a number of orders, which were rapidly carried off by his couriers and aids. One order, which was found the most difficult to enforce, directed several of his aids to proceed to the rear, and with such of our cavalry as could be found to occupy all the roads and prevent straggling parties from leaving the field, and to capture and drive back to their posts those who were leaving. In this way a good many stragglers were reclaimed. Many were induced to return by the appeals of officers, but a great number excused themselves by the plea of utter exhaustion, by wounds and sickness; others set up the still weaker excuse of having lost their officers, and not knowing where to find their regiments. These reductions and the casualties of the day before had greatly thinned our army. But the spirit of those who remained to fight was unbroken. Regiments and brigades were now made up of all the fragments that could be marched to the front. In many cases the commanders of these newly organized corps were extemporized, the authority of any gallantly bearing

officer being cheerfully recognized by subordinates and privates. It was now light. The heavens were still hung with murky clouds, and the air was cold. We were sitting in the enemy's camp, near the staff of Gen. Beauregard, when the familiar but never to us agreeable whistle of Minie balls began to strike unpleasantly upon the ear. "The enemy must be near," coolly remarked the General. "We will mount, gentlemen, and go to the front."

The General arrived in front in time to witness the advance of the enemy. Here the indefatigable Bragg had already busied himself in making the best formation that could be made to meet the advancing foe. Hardee, with the remnant of his corps, with Wood's, Hindman's, Chalmer's and Gladden's brigades--the latter no longer led by the gallant Col. Adams, of Louisiana, who had been severely wounded on Sunday--still held the right. Breckinridge with what remained of his division, with Trabue's, Statham's and Bowen's brigades, stood as firm as Gibraltar on the left of Hardee, while Bragg and Ruggles held the extreme left of our line with the remainder of their fine division, eked out by a portion of Cheatham's and Clark's divisions of Polk's corps; while Gen. Polk, with the remainder of his corps, brought up a strong reserve to support either division in the front that might need aid. The several batteries were placed in the most favorable positions, with little regard to brigades.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brings out the pain and hardship those guys endured those hellish days. Also reminds me of one of the movie shoots when we had a late arrival in camp and he was throwing his bedroll out on the ground. Had to remind him there was a wagon 5 feet from him and that I thought it would be alot more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. It was like I just invented electricity......

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr Webb,

General Polk, at the conclusion of the fighting on the first day of the battle, retired back to their "bivouac site of the evening before". The location of this site is slightly above where the Bark Road meets the Western Corinth Road and about 3/4 of a mile below the Fraley field. This location was too far in the rear of the army. He took with him only remnants of two brigades, Johnson's and Stephen's brigades of his corps. These battered brigades had an estimated strength of 1,425 men remaining. Remember that his corps went into the battle with 9,000 men. This move actually took these men out of the battle as they were too far in the rear, Beauregard did not know where they were and also did not know where Polk was. He was only located the next morning and the troops arrived back on the battlefield about 11 am, long after the fighting resumed that morning.

As to a hospital being located at Polk's camp site, This is possible as the wounded were moving to the rear seeking medical care and any camp would attract them. Also, some of the men with Polk were walking wounded so they also needed medical care and were part of the hospital. I also cannot find a reference to a hospital with Polk but I replied with the above information believing that many hospitals were established in the rear of the army quickly and with little mention in the reports of the battle.

Hope this helps

Ron

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr Webb,

General Polk, at the conclusion of the fighting on the first day of the battle, retired back to their "bivouac site of the evening before". The location of this site is slightly above where the Bark Road meets the Western Corinth Road and about 3/4 of a mile below the Fraley field. This location was too far in the rear of the army. He took with him only remnants of two brigades, Johnson's and Stephen's brigades of his corps. These battered brigades had an estimated strength of 1,425 men remaining. Remember that his corps went into the battle with 9,000 men. This move actually took these men out of the battle as they were too far in the rear, Beauregard did not know where they were and also did not know where Polk was. He was only located the next morning and the troops arrived back on the battlefield about 11 am, long after the fighting resumed that morning.

As to a hospital being located at Polk's camp site, This is possible as the wounded were moving to the rear seeking medical care and any camp would attract them. Also, some of the men with Polk were walking wounded so they also needed medical care and were part of the hospital. I also cannot find a reference to a hospital with Polk but I replied with the above information believing that many hospitals were established in the rear of the army quickly and with little mention in the reports of the battle.

Hope this helps

Ron

Yessir, that gives me a location, so thank you.

It seems there were several battles where the army commander didn't know where Polk was.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"It seems there were several battles where the army commander didn't know where Polk was".

Checkout Polk's location on the morning of the second day of the Battle of Chickamauga. His movements were to start the attack but instead, he was having breakfast when Bragg found him. It has been said the best thing for the union army was when General Pillow commanded the confederate troops. This also should have been said of General Polk.

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ron; thank you for confirming what I was thinking. It's my understanding that when Beauregard ordered the army to fall back to the camps at the end of the first day, Polk took this to mean to return to their bivouac site of the 5th, whereas Beauregard actually meant to fall back to the captured Union camps, which is what the rest of the army did. I can't cite any source for this, but I'm thinking there may have been a hospital about a hundred yards west from the junction of the Bark and Corinth roads. This would have been near the forward edge of where Polk's corps was on the night of the 5th. But you are right about possibly there being "many hospitals". Local stories passed down seem to indicate that just about any house near the battlefield on the southwest side was used in at least some way to shelter the wounded.

Grandpa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grandpa,

Nice to hear from you again. I had cut back on posting to this very fine forum board so missed the conversations with the members.

What you say in your post is correct as many aid stations were established for the wounded but their locations did not find a place in the records. Some information of these comes from the local civilians who I continue to find very interesting. We need more info of them. The hospital site you mention is most likely that of Polk's Corps. It was not there long as the army retreated out of this area about 4 PM on Monday, April 7th. General Polk needed no further encouragement to establish his overnight camp as far in the rear of the army as possible. He took only a fragment of his Corps with him. The others were scattered through other units on and near the front line. Also, Yes, just about any standing building behind the front lines was used as a aid station for the wounded. General Beauregard had to stop using the Shiloh Chapel as a headquarters as it was taken over as a hospital soon to overflowing with wounded.

I have studied the overnight locations of the many many confederate units and their bivouac sites and would like to make a post about this. The problem is it would be a huge post. Maybe if I break it up into two of three posts, it might be easier.

Keep posting your thoughts Grandpa as I enjoyed all of them.

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A short reply to Jim and his mention of

"Pemberton and Hood were also favs of mine".

You must remember that General Pemberton did surprising well in the early days of the Vicksburg Camapign holding off Sherman's advances down the Mississippi River. Also delayed Grant's advance down the railroads in centrel Mississippi. Grant halted his advance and retire back up towards Grand Junction following the destruction of supplies at Holly Springs by Van Dorn (he got lucky). Pemberton fell in disfavor in the spring of 1863 when his army was allowed to be trapped in Vicksburg. Then after, Pemberton could do nothing right because now he was up against Grant. Grant suffered no fools as by now, that included Pemberton. As to Hood, he was a excellent combat leader of a brigade or a division but when a corps commander was less sure of himself. Notice his deplorable behavior as a corps commander during the Atlanta campaign. As a army commander, he was out of his league. His health was by now very suspect. The results show it which resulted in the assination of the confederate Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Franklin and the completion of the job at the Battle of Nashville. Please excuse my strong feeling concerning Hood which may be counter balanced by my moderation concerning Pemberton.

Ron

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed, I love going to Winstead Hill in Franklin which is not too far from me, to get the view point Hood & others had @ The Battle of Franklin, if anything to just try and understand what was going through his head at the time just before he ordered the charge. The terrain itself back then was wide open with nothing in the immediate front, heck...if it wasn't for Wagner putting Conrad & Lane's brigades out in front of the union army so that Hood's force could drive them back into the works and go with him, who knows how much more lives it would have cost.

As a small sidenote to Ron, I saw the Shelby Townshiip city next to your name, I lived in Macomb Township prior to moving here to Tennessee 6 years ago, small world eh?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr Student,

Yes, it is a small world. You lived about 5 miles from where I live. I don't blame you for the move to Tennessee, I move I would to make. I loved my visits in Tennessee, all around Shiloh, Corinth, middle Tennessee, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Nashville. It is a pretty area. When I move there, you, me and Wordpix John can go for coffee. You can private message me with why the move. I see the "Detroit Rock City".

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An aid station was a place where the assistant surgeon of the regiment, along with the medical steward would set up shop during a battle, hopefully in a gulley or behind a rock where they wouldn't get shot. The litter bearers would bring the wounded to them as they fell and there emergency first aid issues were dealt with and the wounded then loaded on wagons (if available) to be transported to a field hospital in the rear. The field hospitals were set up by the surgeons by division, or maybe corps.

I don't have my maps in front of me so I am doing this from memory (don't laugh), and if I recall the only Confederate field hospital marked on any map was next to Beauregard's headquarters at the beginning of the battle. My theory on this has to do with the surprise at the number of casualties.

The point of my starting this thread in the first place is an interest in additional field hospitals that must have come in to being as the thing got out of hand. Ron, if you could start something on these locations with the info you have, that would be great. A good place to begin, I would think, would be at or near the mass graves.

I apologise if this is old news. I am new here and don't know what has been discussed before.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×