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2008 Battlefield Hikes

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I let Perry and Steve handle the 5am patrol and reconnaissance.  I am sure that Perry will provide a very detailed After Action Report on the early morning excursion.

The second hike of the day was titled "Following in the Footsteps of Henry Morton Stanley".  This hike was led by Bjorn Skapston.  Bjorn is a member of our discussion group and a former ranger at the Shiloh National Military Park..

As the name implied Bjorn took us along the path followed by the 6th Arkansas. The "Dixie Grays". Fortunately for us, Mr Stanley (Who is of  "Dr Livingston I presume" fame). was an excellent writer who left a detailed account of his role in the battle and how his experiences affected a 19 year old teenager.

Bjorn first introduced us to Mr Stanley when he was born in Wales. His parents could not afford to keep him and sent him to a work house when he was six. When he was 15 Mr Stanley ran away and made his way to New Orleans. In Northern Louisiana he found work on a plantation whose owner was an excellent mentor for the young Mr Stanley.

At the outbreak of the war Mr Stanley resisted enlisting in the military. This 19 year old young man had other things on his mind than military service. Specifically 19 year old young ladies. Then one day our friend received a package in the mail. It was a petticoat. It was obvious that the local residents expected him to do his duty. He enlisted in the 6th Arkansas Company E. This enlistment resulted in Mr Stanley being at Shiloh.

During our retracing of Mr Stanley's footsteps Bjorn would read excerpts of Stanley's Shiloh Memoirs at the point on the battlefield where Mr Stanley was at when it actually happened. I do not have a copy of this manuscript. Maybe Bjorn could post it or let us know where we could find it online..

Our first encounter with Mr Stanley at Shiloh occurred on the morning of April 6th. It was just before daybreak and the 6th Arkansas along with the rest of Shavers Brigade was waiting to attack. During the wait Stanley and a friend picked some wild violets and placed them in their hats. The theory was that the Yankees would see the violets and recognize them as a sign of peace and not shoot at them. This was done to the merriment of their fellow soldiers..

The first point our intrepid explorer encountered enemy fire was on the attack of Prentiss's camps Specifically, he was near marker 415 on your Shiloh Battlefield Map. From this point we followed Mr Stanley on the bayonet charge into the federal camp. This charge resulted in the rout of Peabody's forces. The account read by Bjorn was very realistic.  Since we were on the actual field it gave you a "You are there" feeling.

At this point we took off on an overland hike. These would be common throughout both days of the hikes. Our trek followed the path of the 6th Arkansas through Lost Field and into the south side of Review Field. Here Mr Stanley and his comrades came under fire from Union forces positioned at the North end of the field. Several men took cover behind a log while waiting for the order to attack. Mr Stanley wrote a vivid description of the sounds the missiles made as they passed over their heads and of the bullets hitting their wooden shelter. Occasionally, a bullet would find it's way under the log and strike one of his comrades.

When the order to charge was given the Dixie Grays attacked up the east side of the field. Specifically, they were straddling the east woodline. It was during the attack that Henry Morton Stanley was shot. Fortunately, the bullet struck his belt buckle. Though it incapacitated him for about half an hour there was no permanent injury..

When our hero recovered he started out to find his comrades. As he moved across the field to the north he wrote about seeing the debris of battle. The discarded and broken equipment. Finding dead and dying comrades. Men who just a short time before had been alive. At this point the writing style changed dramatically. I am no expert on writing style . However, prior to his wounding I would describe his style as Victorian..  After he was wounded it became dark. As Bjorn said it was like he had given up on both religion and humanity. Whatever it was, you could detect a major change in attitude.

Our hike stopped at the north end of Review Field. Bjorn explained that up to that point Mr Stanley's writings had been accurate and could be confirmed by independent sources. After the Review Field attack Mr Stanley wrote about participating in actions that the 6th Arkansas did not participate in. It is unknown if Mr Stanley was unsuccessful in finding his comrades and fell in with another unit or if he simply quit fighting and made up the balance when he wrote his manuscript some thirty years later.

This ended our hike. We left the Review Field Position and made our way to the Shiloh Church for the beginning of the next hike

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Hi there Dan,

Good job on the report. Only seven more and you're finished! :)

I have a link to Stanley's account of Shiloh here on the board, under the "Shiloh on the Web" forum, but the account reproduced there does not include the 'darker' version that Bjorn quoted from during the hike. Too bad, because the difference between the "before" and "after" versions of his account was striking, and a major theme of the hike.

Someone in the group made the point that the second part of Stanley's account, after he was wounded, sounded more like an editorial on the evils of warfare. Even more than that, it was a stark reflection of the change we so often hear about, caused by experiencing combat for the first time. As Bjorn pointed out, he had started his narrative by joking about putting flowers in his hat as a sign of peace, prior to the battle. By the end of the narrative, he sounds about ready to jump off the nearest bridge, and wants to take everyone along with him. Especially those who had any hand whatsoever in bringing about the war, bringing him into the army, and preparing him for battle. To say he became disillusioned is a major understatement.

I don't know if that transformation happened right away or later, when he was reflecting back on the experience. Probably a combintion of both, taking a guess. But it clearly left him quite bitter.

I agree about the "you are there" quality of recounting his words on the same ground. That sort of thing always brings it all to life a bit more for me. I usually take a book or account of some kind with me when I head out to some area of a battlefield, just for that reason.


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