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Ozzy

The 6th Division

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As most everyone is aware, Benjamin Prentiss was not U.S. Grant's first choice to lead the nascent 6th Division at Pittsburg Landing... WHO was the officer Grant desired to lead the Sixth Division?  [Hint: It is not Everett Peabody.]

 

Bonus: WHERE was this man on April 6th, 1862?

 

 

Ozzy

 

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Only person off the top of my head who would definitely be a first choice of Grant's would be McPherson, then again McPherson was Chief of Engineers at Shiloh, and didn't even reach the rank of Major General until October of '62..so I think it's pretty safe to say it wouldn't be a non Major General be in charge of a Division. 

 

Hmm...that's a toughie...nice one Ozzy! ;)  

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Paul

 

A logical conclusion... although McPherson is incorrect.

 

[As an additional hint: this officer was 'remotely involved' in Grant's Campaign against Belmont in November 1861.]

 

Regards (and Happy Christmas!)

 

Ozzy

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I have heard this before but have never seen any particulars on it.

 

Grant was impressed by William Hervey Lamme Wallace and pushed for his promotion from Colonel to Brigadier General after Fort Donelson. I would consider him to possibly be the one except I have read a lot about Will Wallace and have never seen reference to that. Also, the BONUS question would then be too easy.

 

Grant did not hesitate to give Will Wallace command of the 2nd division after CF Smith became too ill to continue command.

 

Of Grant's six division commanders at Shiloh on April 6, 1862 only Lew Wallace and McClernand were Major Generals while Will Wallace, Hurlbut, Prentiss and Sherman were brigadiers.

 

I googled -grant prentiss first choice division - and the first item that popped up was the original posting on this forum

 

My choice is Richard J. Oglesby. He was marching around Missouri and Will Wallace had learned that Confederates were moving from Columbus to Belmont in order to cut off an expedition being led by Oglesby and that is why Grant attacked Belmont. Oglesby was on leave on April 6 which Grant granted him because no attack was expected. (I found this in Hughes - The Battle of Belmont) There is a brigade monument at Shiloh for Oglesby but Hare commanded the brigade on April 6, 1862.

 

Oglesby was a long time friend of Lincoln and is credited with branding Lincoln as the rail-splitter. Also he spent an hour with Lincoln on April 15, 1865 just before Lincoln had dinner and went to Ford's theater. Lincoln asked Oglesby to go with him but he declined. (I just read this stuff so it hasn't been vetted). Oglesby had been wounded at Fort Donelson as a Colonel and had been promoted to brigadier general. Later he was mortally wounded at Corinth but refused to die. He was elected governor of Illinois in 1864. Skipped a term and got elected again in 1873 and promptly named himself U. S. Senator from Illinois and left the state in charge of the lieutenant governor. This could of been the start of the list of shenanigans  attributed to governors of Illinois. Former Governor Rod Blagojevich is currently domiciled in the Federal Correctional Facility just a few miles from my home. Illinois did not seem to care much as they elected Oglesby governor again in 1885.

 

Hank

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Hank

 

Your answer is so close, that it is deserving of two hints:

 

Hint #1:  Major General Grant submitted this man's name to Washington on March 1st, 1862 (along with Oglesby and WHL Wallace) 'advocating for promotion to Brigadier General.'

 

Hint #2:  This man is credited with introducing Elmer Ellsworth to Abraham Lincoln. [Ellsworth was gunned down in Alexandria, Virginia in May 1861, and became the First Martyr of the Union Cause.]

 

Cheers

 

Ozzy

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I had thought it could be "Black Jack" John Logan and Generals in Blue notes WHL Wallace and John Logan each have their rank of brigadier from March 21, 1862. It says Oglesby was from March 22, 1862. So by deduction Logan must have been the third man along with Wallace and Oglesby.

 

"Black Jack" was wounded at Fort Donelson so he was recuperating on April 6, 1862, somewhere.

 

But for confusion sake the 32nd Illinois was commanded at Shiloh by another John Logan.

 

I had not seen where John Logan had introduced Elmer Ellsworth to Lincoln.

 

John Logan attended Shiloh College in Shiloh Hill, Illinois. Too bad he missed the battle.

 

William Lynch, colonel of the 58th Illinois was just 22 years old when Governor Yates issued an order for him to raise the regiment. What helped Lynch was that he had been a member of Ellsworth's Zouaves and had drilled in front of Indiana Governor Morton and also Schuyler Colfax. They served for positive references for Lynch with Yates and Yates gave him a chance.

 

This blew the whole evening but I learned some good stuff.

 

Hank

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Hank

 

As I researched this topic, I ran across Black Jack Logan, 'Mentioned in Despatches' by General Grant after the action at Fort Donelson, and wondered why Grant had not tapped Logan for more responsibility in the buildup for the Corinth Campaign. But, Colonel Logan was severely wounded at Fort Donelson (hit two or three times, depending on resource consulted), and went home to recuperate... and was unavailable; and Grant knew this. Also, when the list of names was submitted, advocating for promotion to Brigadier General, Logan's name was inadvertently left off (Isham Haynie's name was on the list, instead) and Grant had to struggle to get Logan recognized as his true choice.

 

Black Jack Logan is now recognized as one of the most successful 'political generals,' but he was not tapped to lead the 6th Division.

 

One other thing I've learned from this study: the Battle of Belmont was not the 'spontaneous engagement' made out in resources proclaiming themselves to be 'histories of the war.' There was a lot more planning, and pre-positioning, including the use of feints and false troop movements, to throw the Confederates at Fort Columbus into confusion IRT General Grant's true intentions.

 

Thanks for contributing to this discussion  :)

 

Ozzy

 

 

Another hint...  The officer tapped to lead the 6th Division participated in the Fort Donelson campaign, but his immediate supervisor failed to submit an 'After Action Report' ...although a 'rough draft' of the report was eventually incorporated into the OR.

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As Sherlock Holmes said: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth"

 

CF Smith did not submit an official report at Fort Donelson and his brigades were commanded by John McArthur, John Cook, Jacob Lauman and Morgan Smith.

 

McArthur, Lauman and Cook were on the list to receive Brigadier commissions but Morgan Smith was not. Also, Smith, McArthur and Lauman all commanded brigades at Shiloh so the BONUS question would seem to eliminate them. McArthur and Smith were not at Belmont.

 

Cook was elected mayor of Springfield, Illinois and obviously new Lincoln. He also was a lawyer so there is a good probability that he introduced Ellsworth to Lincoln. Cook was "remotely involved" at Belmont when Grant ordered him to lead a diversionary column.

 

Cook received his promotion and rather than remain in the west he was transferred to the east and commanded a brigade in the defenses of Washington, DC.

 

Having eliminated everyone else the answer is John Cook.

 

John Cook started as the Colonel of the 7th Illinois infantry. At Fort Donelson he was made brigade commander leaving the 7th Illinois under Lt. Col.  Babcock. Babcock suffers from exposure at Fort Donelson and goes on leave to recover leaving the command with Major Richard Rowlett. That is why the 7th Illinois is led into the battle of Shiloh by a Major.

 

In regards to Black Jack John Logan there is a letter from Grant to Elijah Washburne dated February 22, 1862 extolling the virtues of John Logan and how Grant deems him worthy of promotion for services at Belmont and Fort Donelson. (Grant Papers - vol. 4) The list of generals for promotion after Fort Donelson was given to Lincoln by Washburne and seems based on what functions the men performed. If you commanded a division you warranted becoming a major general thus that list included Grant, McClernand, Lew Wallace and CF Smith. The list of colonels to become brigadiers was John Cook, Richard Oglesby, William H. L. Wallace, John McArthur, Isham Haynie and Jacob G. Lauman. John Logan was not on this list because he was a regimental commander, 31st Illinois. However, when Washburne submitted this list to Lincoln he included the letter from Grant requesting promotion for "Black Jack."

 

The next day Washburne, almost in a panic, wrote to John Nicolay, Lincoln's secretary, to take Isham Haynie's name off the list.

 

How did Haynie's name on the list? At Fort Donelson McClernand ordered William Morrison to attack an annoying Rebel battery on February 13. But Morrison had just two regiments, 17th and 49th Illinois, so McClernand told Morrison to get the 48th Illinois, commanded by Haynie, from Will Wallace's brigade, to join in the attack. But it turned out Haynie was senior to Morrison and he pulled rank. They attacked together but the impression was probably made that Haynie had led a brigade. That is my theory.

 

As a final note about "Black Jack" John Logan he detested West Pointers and chafed at Halleck's slow crawl to Corinth and the constant digging of entrenchments. After Corinth was in Union hands he said "My men will never dig another trench for Halleck except to bury him."

 

Ah, one more. For those who remember the nights of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago when the protesters entered Grant Park and crawled all over the statue of a general on a horse - that general was "Black Jack" John Logan.

 

Hank

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Well done, Hank!

 

The answer is indeed 'John Pope Cook of Springfield, Illinois.'  I became interested in his story after researching the 12th Iowa involvement at Fort Donelson, where Colonel Cook appeared to have performed exceptionally well, yet seemed to disappear into thin air afterwards. Attempts to research him were hampered by the similarity of his name to General John Pope. But I encountered reference to his 'selection' by U.S. Grant to command the 6th Division in so many resources, it seemed unlikely that it was a made-up story. [search 'John Pope Cook' in Wikipedia, and see what comes up.] There is even a reference on ebay...  http://www.ebay.com/itm/CIVIL-WAR-GENERAL-FT-DONELSON-SIOUX-COLONEL-7th-ILLINOIS-INFANTRY-SIGNED-LETTER-/301072293063

 

The best reference: Civil War High Commands, by Eicher & Eicher, Stanford Uni Press, California, 2001  page 183.

 

And continuing...  Where was Brigadier General John Cook on the morning of April 6th, 1862 ?

 

Happy Christmas!

 

Ozzy

 

 

All right, another hint:  Cook had not yet gone west to fight the Indians; and he wasn't called to Washington until June 1862.

 

Last hint:  Minnehaha

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Brigadier General John Cook had just returned from leave and reported his presence to Major General Ulysses S. Grant at the Cherry Mansion around 6 AM on April 6, 1862.

 

On April 9, 1862 (not a mistake the order says the ninth) special No. 49, item 10, directed "Brig. Gen. John Cook will report for duty to Brig. Gen. B. M. Prentiss, commanding Sixth Division, who will assign him to a brigade. - by order of U. S. Grant - (OR - series 1 - vol. 10 - part II - page 100)

 

By that time I think Prentiss was somewhere in Alabama.

 

Hank

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Hank

 

Don't know how you found that information, but congratulations...  I only ran across mention of General Cook arriving at Savannah, Tennessee in the wee hours of April 6th, 1862 while looking for information IRT the convoluted march of Lew Wallace (casually mentioned by John Rawlins in a report):  http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/010/0184    [eight lines from the bottom of page]

 

The fact that Cook was tapped to take command of the 6th Division in early March; the knowledge that Grant and Prentiss were not the 'best of friends' ;  and the paucity of detail IRT what John Cook was doing in Savannah... and what role he played during the battle (6-8 April) ... just left me wondering. Probably nothing, just coincidence.

 

Regards

 

Ozzy

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Ah, Jim... I knew you'd say that    :)

 

But the question:  Had you known that John Cook was in Savannah on April 6th ?  A spare General available, when Grant could use all the help he could get? What role could BGen Cook have played:

  • Act as messenger to hurry Buell to the field;
  • Accompany Grant  as 'special staff member' on his reconnoiter of the Union defenses;
  • Act as liaison with the Navy's gunboats;
  • Act as 'Chief at Pittsburg Landing' to make sure arriving men and materials were sent on to where they were needed;
  • Take charge of the thousands of stragglers collecting at the Landing. If unable to lead them back into battle, make use of them in digging rifle pits or building blinds or artillery defenses...

Instead, there is no record of John Cook doing anything...  And he left Pittsburg Landing before commencing the Crawl to Corinth.

 

Just some random thoughts (Merry Christmas!)

 

Ozzy

 

 

N.B.  And how about that:  the Minnehaha, piloted by Captain David White, features yet again.  [For more information about the Minnehaha and other steamboats involved in the Civil War, see The Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks by W. Craig Gaines, and reviewed in 'Resources,' below.]

 

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     I found the information by searching John Cook in the ORs. I was thrown off by thinking that Cook had already gone east by April 6. Rawlins letter is in the ORs and the search found it.

     I read to see what John Cook then did during the day thinking he would have gotten on the Tigress and went to the landing with Grant but there was nothing.

     I did find out that Cook County in Illinois where I was born was named in honor of John Cook’s father, Daniel Cook.

     My great-great grandfather was with the 58th Illinois and captured along with Prentiss in Hell’s Hollow and that is the emphasis behind the research I do which enables me to offer the following.

 

     The choice of Brigadier General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss to lead the 6th division was a wise and good choice. Just look at the results.

     It was men from Prentiss’s division that started the fight in Fraley Field at 4:55 AM. Prentiss held his camps till 9 AM giving four hours of advance notice to the rest of the army. Even Appler of the 53rd Ohio ordered his men in line in response to the fighting initiated by Prentiss’s men.

     After losing his camps Prentiss rallied what he could and retreated only as far as needed to join the reserve line formed along the Sunken Road by Will Wallace on the right and Hurlbut on the left.

     There in the Hornets’ Nest Prentiss with his 500 men rallied and the 23rd Missouri that joined him combined with regiments from Tuttle’s brigade and Lauman’s brigade to repel continuous attacks from Rebel brigades for six hours. They never yielded an inch.

     After Hurlbut moved Lauman’s brigade from the Peach Orchard to east of the Hamburg road to face the Rebel brigades attacking the far left flank of the Union. Prentiss stood fast as he was ordered to do and refused his line so as to continue to defend his ground and ended up giving support to Hurlbut’s men who were fighting on the flank in front of them. Prentiss and Will Wallace agreed together that they would hold their positions.

     With the formation of the Ruggle’s artillery line Prentiss and Wallace gave the orders to save the Union batteries. As Hurlbut’s men finally succumbed to the Rebel pressure and headed for the landing the Rebels did not pursue them because Prentiss’s line of about 1000 men was on their flank and needed to be dealt with.

     Will Wallace drew the 2nd Iowa and the 7th Iowa out of the Sunken Road and started to lead them to reinforce Prentiss on his left flank. But the Rebels had found the gap between McClernand and Wallace and as Wallace led the column along the main Corinth road he was shot and Colonel Tuttle took over the column and led the two regiments to the landing while sending word for the 12th Iowa and 14th Iowa to fall back from the Sunken Road. But the Rebel vise was closing in.

     The 58th Illinois still remained in Duncan Field and the 8th Iowa was the last regiment to retreat from the Sunken Road. Prentiss received assistance from the 3rd Iowa when they extended his left flank.

     The Rebel brigades that had pursued McClernand across Tilghman branch also turned towards the last remaining men who were still fighting. The entire Rebel army had stopped movement towards the landing to deal with Brigadier General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss and his rallied men from his division, the 23rd Missouri, the 8th, 12th, 14th Iowa regiments and the 58th Illinois.

     The Rebels attacked and broke through the 23rd Missouri and Prentiss’s men retreated down into Hell’s Hollow and moved to the west. In the mean time the 12th and 14th Iowa regiments retreated north through Hell’s Hollow trying to make it to the landing. The 8th Iowa left the Sunken Road last and ended up also in Hell’s Hollow fighting towards the west. The 58th Illinois finally retreated from Duncan Field along the Corinth road and also took refuge in Hell’s Hollow.

     At least 20,000 against 2,000 and for approximately an hour Prentiss and those men fought on while Grant was forming his final line and the sun was setting. This final stand was a result of both Brigadier General W. H. L. Wallace and Brigadier General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss.

     By the time the Rebels finally subdued the last Union defenders from the Sunken Road daylight was waning and the final attacks on Grant’s final line were beaten back.

     It would take 20 years for the true story of what happened in the Hornets’ Nest and the Sunken Road to start to be understood. Most of the early histories of the battle of Shiloh are pathetic they are so inaccurate. Many of them had Prentiss and the regiments with him surrendering early in the morning after being attacked in their tents. This injustice to Prentiss and the men who surrendered with him finally started to dissipate with the publication in 1879 of the biography William Preston Johnston wrote of his father, General Albert Sidney Johnston.

     Prentiss himself did not start to speak openly about the battle of Shiloh until the start of the 1880s. The Shiloh panorama was opened in Chicago in 1885 and the fame of the Hornets’ Nest and the men who fought in it grew. With the formation of the Shiloh National Military Park starting in 1895 resulting in the hiring of David W. Reed to tell the true story of the battle of Shiloh the role of Prentiss, Will Wallace, Hurlbut and the men who fought along the Sunken Road and in the Hornets’ Nest portion became known.

     Joseph Rich who fought with the 12th Iowa wrote a history of the battle that was published as a book in 1911, The Battle of Shiloh. David W. Reed stated that Rich’s book “makes many disputed points clear.” Many other veterans, who were there, applauded Rich’s book as being the best one yet. Rich wrote “The Hornets’ Nest was distinctly an altar of sacrifice.”

     By the time Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss died on February 8, 1901 at the age of 81, he had become known as the Hero of Shiloh and I say good for him.

     Obviously, there was more than one hero at Shiloh, Will Wallace, Peabody, Powell, Stuart, Hurlbut and others but none of those had been falsely maligned in the press and early histories of Shiloh like Prentiss was. Prentiss, Will Wallace and the men who fought with them in the Sunken Road and the Hornets’ Nest earned and deserve all the accolades that finally came their way once the truth was known.

     No amount of the dubious Shiloh revisionism that has occurred over the past 25 years changes that.

 

Hank

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Michele

 

Thanks for dropping by to have a look... Any thoughts about John Pope Cook?

 

Wishing you a Merry Christmas

 

Ozzy

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Hank

 

Some excellent points in your last post... and pretty much mirrors what I have uncovered during years of research. (Although there is always more to be found.)

 

By the way, I've updated my 'Member Details' page, and would appreciate if you'd take a look.

 

Regards

 

Ozzy

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Hank

" It was men from Prentiss’s division that started the fight in Fraley Field at 4:55 AM. Prentiss held his camps till 9 AM giving four hours of advance notice to the rest of the army. Even Appler of the 53rd Ohio ordered his men in line in response to the fighting initiated by Prentiss’s men." Peabody started the battle with the patrol he sent out. Prentiss threatened Peabody with discipline for starting an engagement with the enemy against orders. If Prentiss had had his way, the 6th Division would have been captured in their tents.

"After losing his camps Prentiss rallied what he could and retreated only as far as needed to join the reserve line formed along the Sunken Road by Will Wallace on the right and Hurlbut on the left." Before losing their camp, the last the 16th WI saw of Prentiss was the south end of his horse heading north. Hard to lead when your fleeing, except leading a route.

When it started looking hopeless at the sunken road, Prentiss should have saved his men to continue fighting. Only an idiot allows himself to be surrounded. Wllace and Peabody were killed, so there was no one to counter balance Prentiss' self professed claim to fame and glory. This revisionism you speak of was started by Cunningham and has brought out the truth about the heroism of Peabody and Wallace, to the determent of Prentiss.

Jim

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this question really brought out a good discussion and many inportant aspects of this time in the battle..thank you all! Merry Christmas to you all!!!

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And a Merry Christmas to you Mona, that was nice thing to write

 

stay tuned, there is more coming.

 

 

and for Michele thanks for missing me. I have done a number of trips this year and was gone the whole month of October back in the North Carolina area. I drive so I got back to Denver on October 30 after being gone a month and I just had to pass. But I am curious at what is going to done next year.

 

Hank

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To Jim, Ozzy, Michele, Mona and all others I offer my opinion in this defense of Prentiss and those who fought with him. The information contained herein is the result of many hours of research and I trust that there is something here that is new to you in your efforts to learn and understand the history of the Battle of Shiloh. That is the purpose and the only purpose. I did not start this forum but when Prentiss was attacked I decided to come to his defense using information that I have accumulated over the years.

 

            “Any man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled to. Less than that no man shall have.

                                                                        Teddy Roosevelt

                                                                        July 4, 1903

 

Items in italics are mostly from Jim’s post to show what is being responded to.

 

            Peabody started the battle with the patrol he sent out. Prentiss threatened Peabody with discipline for starting an engagement with the enemy against orders. If Prentiss had had his way, the 6th Division would have been captured in their tents.

 

            I would write the first sentence as “The battle started with the patrol Peabody sent out.” The man who actually started the battle was the intrepid Major James. E. Powell. When Powell’s patrol is fired on by the cavalry videttes before he reached Fraley Field or when he is fired on by the advance pickets of Hardcastle’s battalion Powell could have ceased to advance and avoided the fight. But the 25th Missouri boys were looking for some payback for their capture at the battle of Lexington and were not apt to turn around without a fight. So at 4:55 AM Powell and Hardcastle’s Mississippi battalion start the battle of Shiloh and skirmish, according to Hardcastle’s report, for about an hour or more.

            The orders were that patrols could go out but that they must not bring on a general engagement. Peabody violated that order and Prentiss reprimanded him as well he should have. It is ironic that Peabody received a reprimand for sending out a patrol that started the battle of Shiloh and gave the Union army time to react but there was no sinister intent on Prentiss’s part even if his language was harsh. Had Peabody lived he would not have been disciplined. Prentiss told Peabody that he would hold him responsible for bringing on the engagement. How fortunate we are there is a record of Prentiss saying that for, unlike other issues with Shiloh, it makes it perfectly clear who should receive the credit for sending out Powell’s early morning patrol.

            If Prentiss had had his way, the 6th Division would have been captured in their tents. Larry Daniel in his book, Shiloh, p. 149, has the line “Perhaps too much credit has been given to Peabody’s predawn patrol.” The argument being, which is true, that while the skirmishing began in Fraley Field at 4:55 AM the Confederate advance of Hardee’s first line did not commence until 6:30 AM. Considering that time was of the essence for the Confederates and they were in battle line the night before it is surprising that they were not ready to advance earlier. Remembering that it was the first shots of the patrol in Fraley Field that prompted the advance order by the Rebels it is possible they would have been even later had not the patrol gone out.

            On April 5, based on the presence of Rebel cavalry noticed by Major Powell during a review, Prentiss ordered out a patrol by Colonel David Moore at 4 PM with five companies of the 21st Missouri. Moore brought back a report around 7:00 PM of finding Rebel cavalry signs in the front. Based on concerns of possible Rebel attacks on the pickets Prentiss ordered a doubling of the picket line in front of his brigades. Sherman’s picket line was on the Corinth road west of Seay Field which is about three-quarters of a mile from Peabody’s camps. To reach the camps of Madison Miller’s brigade was even further.

            I assume the implication is that had Prentiss had his way the early morning patrol by Powell would not have happened. But the strengthened pickets were still out there, the Rebels were running late and Peabody and Powell were both on their heightened guard and if Prentiss had issued orders, which he did not, that patrols could not go out Peabody and Powell would have still remained in a heightened state of awareness. Perhaps with no patrol they would have sent pickets out further.

            The rebel line moved sluggishly through the ravines and forests as they advanced because the soldiers tried hard to maintain their alignment. Eventually they gave up trying to keep in line but continued forward.

            Perhaps without the patrol the Rebels could have reached Peabody’s camps by 7:00 AM. Sunday morning was an inspection day and I assume they would not still be in their tents at 7:00 AM.

            Prentiss might have had to face the attack in his camps but the idea that the men would have been captured in their tents fails.

 

            “And you ought to take very great care when you are about to praise or blame any man, that you speak correctly.” – Plato

 

            Before losing their camp, the last of the 16th WI saw of Prentiss was the south end of his horse heading north. Hard to lead when your fleeing, except leading a rout.

 

For this response I will rely on the words of men who were there to judge whether Prentiss shirked his leadership duties in attempting to rally as much as his crumbled division he could.

 

Brigadier General Stephen Hurlbut, 4th division commander, official report – April 12, 1862 – “As we drew near the rear and left of General Prentiss’ line his regiments, in broken masses, drifted through my advance, that gallant officer making every effort to rally them.

 

Colonel Francis Quinn, 12th Michigan, official report – April 9, 1862 – “At this time General Prentiss must have been taken prisoner. He was a brave man, and cheered his men to duty during the whole day. Where the fight was thickest and danger the greatest there was he found, and his presence gave renewed confidence.”

 

Colonel Benjamin Allen, 16th Wisconsin, official report – no date – “At about 6 o’clock I was ordered by General Prentiss to form my regiment and advance on the enemy. This I did, taking my position in a thicket of small timber about 80 rods in front of my camp. After remaining in this position about thirty minutes, waiting the approach of the enemy, I was ordered by General Prentiss to change front to the right, which I did, and in this position received the fire of the enemy, who appeared simultaneously on my front and left flank. We held this position, and delivered our fire with great effect, checking the advance of the enemy on our front, until we were ordered by General Prentiss to fall back, which I did, forming my second line about 40 rods in front of my camp. At this time the regiment on my right and left had fallen back, and we were entirely unsupported by any force. We maintained this position against a greatly superior force of the enemy until again ordered to fall back.

            I made my next stand directly in front of our camp. While holding this position I was re-enforced by party of Company A, who were out on picket. A desperate conflict here ensued, in which Lieutenant-Colonel Fairchild was wounded in the thigh and carried from the field. I also had my horse shot under me, and my second horse was shot dead as I was about to remount. I was again ordered by General Prentiss to fall back, take to the trees, and hold the enemy in check as much as possible until re-enforcements could arrive. My men immediately took to the trees and fell back slowly, firing upon the enemy, until the advance of General Hurlbut’s division made their appearance.” (highlighted boldness was added by me)

 

            In Colonel Allen’s report for the 16th Wisconsin there are five times that he received an order from General Prentiss. I assume the one order that does not specifically say it came from Prentiss actually did.

 

First Order: Advance on the enemy – estimated position 80 rods in front of camp

Second Order: Change front to the right

Third Order: Fall back – estimated new position 40 rods in front of camp

Fourth Order: Fall back – new position directly in front of camp

Fifth Order: Give up the camp and fall back and fight in the trees

 

            This looks to me like General Prentiss was doing his job. I had the impression from the comment that Prentiss had ignored the 16th Wisconsin and caused them harm. But if five times Prentiss braved a hail of bullets to give Colonel Allen an order that essentially moved the 16th Wisconsin to a safer position it confirms my belief that Prentiss was a good choice to lead the 6th division.

            It was claimed that “before losing their camp, the last of the 16th WI saw of Prentiss was the south end of his horse heading north.” How could that be if, while the 16th Wisconsin was still in line at the camp, it was Prentiss himself who ordered Col. Allen to give up the camp and take to the trees.

            From Allen’s report it is obvious Prentiss was leading, not fleeing and it was not a rout. The men of the 6th division took to the trees after losing their camps and fought back as best they could, except for those who went to the river, of course. One reason it was not a rout was because the Rebels stopped to pillage the camps. It turned out that having to retreat through their camps was a benefit for the 6th division.

 

“Truth once crushed to earth shall rise again.” William Cullen Bryant

 

            When it started looking hopeless at the sunken road, Prentiss should have saved his men to continue fighting. Only an idiot allows himself to be surrounded. Wallace and Peabody were killed, so there was no one to counter balance Prentiss’ self professed claim to fame and glory. This revisionism you speak of was started by Cunningham and has brought out the truth about the heroism Peabody and Wallace, to the detriment of Prentiss.

 

            Oh, dear – where to begin. Let’s start with Prentiss himself because we don’t really know much about him and it would help to know more. Prentiss was a man who:

 

  1. Attended private military school and loved the military and, in March 1843, at age 23, in Quincy, Illinois, was elected second in command of The Quincy Riflemen militia by his peers.
  2. After the murder of Mormon leaders Joseph and Hiram Smith in Carthage, Illinois on June 27, 1844 there was unrest and threats of violence in the area between Mormons and the non-Mormons. To keep the peace during 1845 and 1846 several times the young Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss was in command of men from The Quincy Riflemen whose duty it was to keep the peace. Prentiss received accolades for the job he did. In December, 1845 Prentiss arrested Brigham Young on the steps of the Mormon temple in Nauvoo, Illinois. At least he thought he had arrested Brigham Young but it turned out the Mormons had substituted an imposter. (If Prentiss wasn’t an idiot he probably felt like one.)
  3. Prentiss had married Margaret Ann Lodousky on March, 1838 and they would have seven children so while he is performing all of these military services for the government he leaves his family. The end of the Mormon duties is in May 1846 but the call for troops for the Mexican war has gone out and in June 1846 Prentiss answers the call.
  4. Prentiss joined the 1st Illinois regiment whose Colonel is the esteemed John J. Hardin who is doomed to die at the Battle of Buena Vista. Harding is so impressed with Prentiss he makes Prentiss his adjutant in June 1846.
  5. In September 1846 - A company from La Salle County of the 2nd Illinois regiment loses its captain when T. Lyle Dickey resigns due to poor health. WHL Wallace is the lieutenant. The company selects Benjamin Prentiss to be their new captain and Wallace becomes the regiment’s adjutant. Wallace writes Prentiss is the best officer in either regiment, meaning the 1st and 2nd Illinois regiments. This relationship as comrade in arms in Mexico between Prentiss and Wallace needs to be considered when Shiloh revisionists present the idea that Prentiss promoted his own fame and glory by walking on Wallace’s grave.
  6. February 22-23, 1847 was the battle of Buena Vista. Colonel Hardin is slain. WHL Wallace writes a stirring account of this battle as he is in the midst of it. For Prentiss my best information is that he was assigned to hold the city of Saltillo in case Santa Ana made an end run around the army at Buena Vista. Prentiss arrived at the Buena Vista battlefield after the fight had ended.
  7. June 1847 – March 1861 – Mexican war service ended in June 1847. Prentiss maintains his leadership in The Quincy Riflemen. Prentiss studies law, makes ropes, makes babies, gives speeches (for Prentiss loved giving speeches), made his only run for political office and shared a speaker’s platform with Abraham Lincoln. The Quincy Riflemen with Prentiss as its leader maintained a readiness for service and was one of the more experienced militia companies in the state. Prentiss’s wife dies on August 21, 1860 leaving him a widower with seven children.
  8. April 1861 – Governor Yates of Illinois called for volunteers in response to Lincoln’s call for troops and, because they were so ready, The Quincy Riflemen are the first to arrive in Springfield and Prentiss is the first officer commissioned in the state of Illinois. He is sent down with the rank of Colonel to take command of the strategic town of Cairo, Illinois.
  9. August 1861 – John Fremont orders Prentiss from Cairo to Missouri setting the stage for the rank dispute with Grant at Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
  10. Sept. 3, 1861 - Nobody’s perfect and Prentiss later regretted the way he acted. The interesting thing about the dispute is the timing of it. Prentiss put himself under arrest and returned to St. Louis on September 3, 1862. Grant returned to Cairo. On September 5, 1862 Leonidas Polk took Columbus, Kentucky and the next day Grant won the civil war by taking Paducah, Kentucky.
  11. September 1861 – After having shot himself in the foot, Prentiss ranked McClernand, Fremont assigns Prentiss to command the area of North and Central Missouri.
  12. December 28, 1862 – Prentiss fights his largest engagement (but it really wasn’t that big) in Missouri at Zion Church and soundly thrashes a Rebel force. The war in Missouri finally dies down.
  13. March, 1862 – To the great benefit of the Army of Tennessee and Grant Prentiss is assigned to command the 6th division at Shiloh.
  14. April 6, 1862 – The battle of Shiloh - Prentiss became a guest of President Jefferson Davis. A fact maybe not well known is that Prentiss’s son was on the fields of Shiloh as a drummer (I think) with Sherman’s Division. The son inquired of a passing officer, “Hey, where’s the old man?” The response “He’s over there where all the fighting is going on.” (Found that in a county history and if it isn’t true it should be)

 

            There is no biography for Prentiss, a fact for which he is mocked in a recently published Shiloh book. There are few speeches available. There is no archive of Prentiss papers. Prentiss was not a student of the battle of Shiloh even though he participated in it. He kept no files or papers of the battle. Not like Sherman who admitted he read everything he could about Shiloh. So we take what we can get. It is not a lot but it is enough.

In August 1862 Beadle’s, a publisher of dime novels in New York, published a book entitled Men of the Time containing biographies of Union generals of note at the time. I was surprised that Prentiss was included in the list and that it was published while he was still a prisoner. In it is a description and here it is:

 

            “In person, General Prentiss is of medium height, squarely built, and with a figure in which military training has not destroyed a very decided but quiet and graceful carriage. His eyes are blue, expressing equally mildness and resolution—his manners are pleasant and unostentatious in the extreme; but when necessary, express the inflexibility of an iron will. He is said to be a popular public speaker—keen, ready and cool in debate—abounding in humor, and admirably fitting in his speech to the audience and to the occasion.”

 

            Note his manners of pleasantness and unostentatious in the extreme but an iron will. Prentiss had no need for people to be impressed by him so the revisionist mantra that Prentiss gave speeches to enhance his own fame and glory does not fit. The “iron will” was displayed at the battle of Shiloh and other places like Helena.

            Later in life Prentiss would regale with fond memory how “saucy” he was in captivity. While researching Prentiss two things I noticed were that he was a patriot to the United States of the highest order and the other was that I saw no negative comments about Prentiss by any of the prisoners taken with him. I have seen no comment by a prisoner blaming Prentiss for being captured. To the contrary, I have seen comments from men who fought with Prentiss, who were there and saw what he did, refer to him as “hero” Prentiss.

            My conclusion is that the men who fought and were imprisoned with Prentiss loved him, considered him a hero and were proud to have fought with Prentiss in the Hornets’ Nest. Those men were there and if they were OK with Prentiss being termed the “Hero of Shiloh” that’s good enough for me when it is coupled to the fact that I have found no statement by anyone that objected to Prentiss being considered the “Hero of Shiloh.” That is until the advent of Shiloh revisionism of the last 25 years that now classifies Prentiss as a “false hero,” a usurper of the fame and glory rightfully belonging to Wallace and Peabody but stolen away by Prentiss because he survived the battle and they didn’t. Prentiss himself would not react to such allegations because he was comfortable just in knowing what he did but the men who fought with him would come to his defense if they could. He was their leader and if you denigrate Prentiss you denigrate them.

            There are a number of stories about the actions of Prentiss when in captivity. One is that Prentiss and the officers were housed in an upper floor of a warehouse and below them was a room that had political prisoners that were in a starving condition because they were not being given enough food. Prentiss and the officers with him knocked holes through the floor and shared what little food they had with the men below them.

            If you want the truth get it from the men who were there. After concluding that Prentiss was a patriot and the men loved him I found the book Beyond the Lines: A Yankee Prisoner Loose in Dixie by Captain J. J. Geer. Captain Geer was on the staff of Colonel Buckland and was captured at Shiloh by General Gladden on April 4, 1862. Turned out he published a book in 1863 about his experiences with references to General Prentiss which follow:

 

            “I soon formed an agreeable acquaintance with General Prentiss, who was taken prisoner on Sunday, April 6th, 1862 at Shiloh. It had generally been reported that the General had surrendered early in the morning; but this was false, for I now learned that he did not give up until five o’clock in the afternoon, thus holding at least five or six times his own number in check the whole of that dreadful day. Without doubt, history will do the gallant hero justice; for on that bloody field he displayed coolness and heroism seldom equaled, and never excelled.”

          “I found General Prentiss not one of your half-hearted war men, who fight conditionally, but a whole-souled patriot, who would destroy the institution that is the root of the war. He would not see the glorious banner trailed in the dust to uphold a few Southern aristocrats in perpetuating their horrid system of human bondage.”

          Geer had been a minister for 10 years and I think we are seeing that in his language. He was also a member of a Temperance movement but we won’t hold that against him. He continued:

 

“General Prentiss was kind and affable to all around him, and among fifteen hundred men of his command with whom I freely conversed, there was not one who did not love and respect him.”

 

          Bingo!!! One of joys of research is to realize that you had come to a conclusion and then finding someone who was actually there and knew Prentiss verify it with his opinion.

          I saw my civil war roundtable nod in agreement when one of the members got up and said that the men who became prisoners at Shiloh spent their time as prisoners talking together to “get their story straight.” The implication is that when the prisoners  came out they would make sure that they were credited with saving Grant’s army but if that was the case they did a pretty poor job of it because the first published work after the war that I have found that gave Prentiss, Wallace and the men with them credit for saving the army is William Preston Johnston’s biography of his father published 17 years after the battle. How ironic it is that the first person to give justice to the Union defenders in the Sunken Road and Hornets’ Nest was a Rebel who had served in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis. While giving the Union defenders their due the most important intent of Preston Johnston was to post for posterity the tremendous valor of the Confederate soldiers attacking the Hornets’ Nest.

          For the Union defenders it was relatively easy to defend their position. They could see the rebels coming but the rebels could not see them as they entered what Colonel Fagan of the 1st Arkansas of Gibson’s brigade termed “that valley of death.” That “valley of death” where hundreds of Confederate soldiers fertilized the ground with their blood is now referred to by Shiloh revisionists as the “least fought over area of the battlefield.”

            My great-great grandfather left the Shiloh battlefield on the night of April 6, 1862 weighing 143 pounds. When he got to the Annapolis parole camp in October he weighed 76 pounds. Now the Shiloh revisionists want me to believe that he spent his time as a prisoner “trying to get his story straight.”

            I hope that is enough table setting to give some understanding as to why I respond to the last points as I do.

 

            When it started looking hopeless at the sunken road, Prentiss should have saved his men to continue fighting. Only an idiot allows himself to be surrounded.

 

            If Prentiss was an idiot for getting surrounded he has good company: Robert E. Lee at Appomattox; Simon Buckner at Fort Donelson; Leonidas at Thermopylae: Pemberton at Vicksburg (actually that one might be true); Custer at the Little Big Horn (don’t go there I am a Custer fan); General McAuliffe at Bastogne; Lts. John Chard and Gonville Bromhead at Rorke’s Drift; Lt. Col. Harold Moore at Ia Drang.

            To accurately address the allegation that Prentiss was an idiot because he allowed himself to be surrounded it is necessary to put in perspective just who commanded and surrendered who. Prentiss did not command or ever issue any orders to the 58th Illinois and 8th Iowa of Sweeny’s brigade or the 12th and 14th Iowa of Tuttle’s brigade. Both of those brigades were in Wallace’s division. When Prentiss stood up on that short tree stump and waved his handkerchief and shouted to the Rebels “Damn you, don’t you see these men have surrendered” he surrendered only the men who could see and hear him who were the stalwarts from his division that stayed with him after losing the camps and the men of the 23rd Missouri. The four regiments from Wallace’s division, as the final act of the Hornets’ Nest was beginning, no longer had either a division commander or a brigade commander and each one would raise their own white flag and surrender on their own hook.

            The exact totals cannot be known but for an approximation just assume the number of missing in David W. Reed’s book represents a prisoner taken. For Prentiss we have 23rd Missouri (410), 18th Missouri (147), 21st Missouri (64), 25th Missouri (37), 12th Michigan (109), 18th Wisconsin (174) for a total of 941. For Will Wallace we have the 8th Iowa (379), 12th Iowa (429), 14th Iowa (273), 58th Illinois (223) for a total of 1304.

            Although Will Wallace was not alive to share the fate of the men he permitted to be captured Prentiss shared the fate with his. But since Wallace had more men captured than Prentiss the conclusion is that Wallace is the bigger idiot. Since Shiloh revisionists also want Wallace to be recognized as the hero, instead of Prentiss, to be truthful General Will Wallace should be classified a heroic idiot.

            That shows how absurd Shiloh revisionism is when they try to separate Will Wallace and Prentiss for the defense of the Sunken Road and the Hornets’ Nest. Wallace and Prentiss fought together in Mexico and at Shiloh. If one is an idiot the other is an idiot, if one is a hero the other is a hero. I have seen speeches that Prentiss gave after the war that extol the heroism of his comrade in arms. The fact that Will Wallace sort of sunk under the waves is the result of historians who wrote Shiloh accounts far past the time that Prentiss had passed from the scene. Prentiss never forgot Will Wallace and he never walked over Wallace’s grave to increase his fame and glory. Prentiss and Wallace are heroes together and Shiloh revisionism fails when it attempts to change that.

            Wallace and Prentiss agreed together they would hold their positions. At what stage did it look hopeless? That depends on whether you were there at the time or you are looking back with advantage that it is 150 years later. But when you look at the actions of Wallace and Prentiss and what occurred the answer is that it never looked hopeless to them. They had no intention of sacrificing themselves; they believed that they could hold their positions until either the sun set or reinforcements arrived. Prentiss said that at 4 o’clock he was ordered by Grant to hold his position. Grant, in his Memoirs, wrote that he visited with Prentiss at 4:30 “when his division was standing up firmly and the General was as cool as expecting victory.”

            To help visualize the final minutes of Prentiss’s refused line west of Wicker Field we have a man who was there who can assist us. He is Lt. S. D. Thompson of the 3rd Iowa and he wrote Recollections with the Third Iowa Regiment and it was published in 1864. At the time of interest the 3rd Iowa was being commanded by their Major Stone, Prentiss’s line had been refused and ran pretty much north to south and the left flank was held by the 23rd Missouri. Thompson wrote:

 

            “General Prentiss was now to our right with five regiments of Smith’s division, endeavoring to hold the enemy in check. He rode up to the Major and explained to him what he was trying to do—to hold the enemy in check, if possible, till the army could again form in the rear, or till night should put an end to the battle. He asked the Major to assist him, and that our regiment should become his left. The Major readily assented, and agreed to obey his orders.” (May Major Stone forever be remembered for this show of duty. As a result of Major Stone was captured. Note that Thompson said that Prentiss gained Stone’s assistance by asking him, not ordering him)

            “Here, then, if the spectacle of the field was appalling, it was sublime. Six regiments disputing the field with the enemy’s army, and delaying his expected triumph. He crowded furiously on, assailing us in front and flank, his soldiers howling with mingled exultation and rage, their voices rising even above the din of battle. He no longer came in lines nor in columns, but in confused masses, broken in pursuit as our army had been in retreat. His missiles swept the field in all directions. Our dead fell thickly. Our wounded streamed to the rear. We no longer had lines of battle, but fought in squads and clusters. The settling smoke obscured the vision. Comrades knew not who stood or fell. All was confusion and chaos around us.”

            “A mass of the enemy broke the regiment on our right and separated us from Prentiss. We were again compelled to retreat.”

 

            Here is when and where the situation for Prentiss became hopeless. The members of the 23rd who were north of the breakthrough headed for the landing. Those south of the break were cut off and retreated into Hell’s Hollow. Hopelessness occurred at the same time that retreat was cut off. So retreat was not possible.

            In regards to Wallace and hopelessness the Rebels had not yet reached the main Corinth rode and Wallace was unaware they were that close because Wallace was shot by Rebels as the Rebels came out of the woods. After the bullet went through his head is when Wallace probably began to realize the situation was hopeless but the 2nd and 7th Iowa did make it to the landing.

            But back to Lt. Thompson:

 

            “Soon after, General Prentiss retreating with the remainder of his troops, came upon our camp ground, and looking forward, saw the gap closed through which he had hoped to escape. Exposed to a concentrated fire from all sides, his regiments completely broken, there was no alternative but to surrender…”

            “The capture of General Prentiss affords a most striking example of the reward the most meritorious conduct may sometimes receive at the hands of public opinion. Because he held the field with a handful of troops, regardless of the number against him, and finally retreated, not to escape danger, but, when he saw the enemy surrounding him, to escape capture;--because he was thus willing to sacrifice himself, if necessary, to hold the enemy in check and save the army, the imputation of cowardice was cast upon him and the brave men who were captured with him. His fault consisted alone in not knowing when to retreat; theirs in obeying their general too well.”

 

            Please note that the above comes from a man not in Prentiss’s division and not from the defenders of the Sunken Road and Hornets’ Nest. It is one of only two publications I have found that give Prentiss and the men with him credit for saving the army that were published during the war. The other is One Year’s Soldiering by F. F. Kiner published in 1863. If you want to know the truth go to the men who were there. Kiner was the chaplain of the 14th Iowa and he was captured during the “final stand.”

            It is not known how many hours Chaplain Kiner huddled with other officers taken prisoner while they munched on their morsels of spoiled beef and moldy crackers to make sure that when they were finally released they had their story straight but here is what he wrote:

 

            “At half past five o’clock, April 6th, 1862, we were prisoners of war, but not without first having done our duty; and we felt clear of any reproach that any one might feel disposed to lay upon us. Though we were in rebel hands, we felt that the stigma of cowardice could not be attached to us as to those who deserted us and our country’s cause, and sought only to save their lives at the risk of the defeat of our army on that day. But before I pass to give our journey South, let me say, that when we were taken, to all appearances the day was considerably against our army, and it is my firm conviction that our holding out to the last, even until surrounded and captured, was the safety to a great extent of Grant’s army; for, holding in check the enemy in the centre till a late hour in the evening, gave time for our forces to arrange another line of battle in our rear, and by the time we were taken off the field, it was too late for the enemy to commence a heavy engagement that night again. By this delay, Gen. Buell with reinforcements had time to get to Grant’s assistance, which he did, and thus the next day the tide of the battle was changed in our favor. If it is true that our capture, or holding out to the last, assisted in securing the safety of the Union army, and hence the ultimate defeat of the enemy, I shall never regret my fate, though it fills the saddest period of my life.”

 

            Included in Kiner’s book is the text of a speech given by Capt. W. C. Jones in Mount Pleasant, Iowa shortly after his release from prison after six and a half months of captivity. Near the end of the speech Capt. Jones said; “Before I take my seat allow me to glance at our reception at Washington, Harrisburg, Pittsburg, Chicago and other places through which we passed. The name of a Shiloh prisoner was sufficient passport to give us access to the best of the land. General Halleck received us warmly and ordered a special paymaster to pay us which was done; and it is with pride I recall the remark made by him to General Prentiss, “By sacrificing yourselves you saved the army of the West.”

            But alas for Chaplain Kiner the Shiloh revisionists have determined that he must face up to it and regret his fate. For they have determined that “the saddest period of…” his “life” was all for naught. That Chaplain Kiner and indeed also, General Halleck, misinterpreted the facts of the battle that Chaplain Kiner not only witnessed but participated in. But fortunately for all, the Shiloh revisionists have figured out that the sacrifice by Chaplain Kiner and all the other captured men was not needed because by the time they made their “final stand” the final line, of an army in shambles and in chaos as the Rebels pushed the Union left flank towards the landing; that had the 20,000 fired-up Rebels turned their attention to Grant’s final line instead of spending an hour and an half subduing the last 2000 Union men fighting and sending them on their way to Corinth; the final line was so strong that it would have held. We know that because the Shiloh revisionists tell us it is so. But such an assertion is meaningless because it did not happen that way. The “final stand” is a fact of the battle of Shiloh and cannot just simply be erased from the analysis on the whim of Shiloh revisionism. The “final stand” benefited the Army, it is by how much benefit that is the question that should be scrutinized.

            When the point is made that Prentiss was an idiot and should have retreated earlier there is never any discussion of just how difficult that would have been for him to do. Hurlbut was fighting in front of Prentiss’s line and when Hurlbut’s lines gave way it was chaos towards the landing and all those men moved between Prentiss’s left flank and the landing. Is it a good idea to retreat into chaos? Prentiss had the ability to still resist as shown by the fact that the 3rd Iowa joined him on his left flank. The 3rd Iowa was fighting on. Should Prentiss have led his men through other regiments that were still fighting?

            Not being a military man I have obtained the opinion of a man who was. Richard L. Kiper, a West Point graduate and a retired Lt. Colonel authored the book Major General John Alexander McClernand – Politician in Uniform. On page 109 is the following sentence relative to the idea that Prentiss should have retreated earlier. “A withdrawal in the face of the enemy or under enemy pressure is an extremely difficult maneuver even with experienced soldiers and officers.”

            Shiloh revisionism is now pushing the idea that Prentiss could have retreated and made it to the final line and that the final stand by the doomed troopers was unnecessary and therefore, is unworthy of praise or recognition or scrutiny of what it accomplished. But the final stand did happen. It is a fact of the battle, it benefited Grant and his army and Shiloh revisionism cannot erase that fact.

 

            Next in line is: Wallace and Peabody were killed, so there was no one to counter balance Prentiss’ self professed claim to fame and glory.

 

            The implication of that revisionist talking point is that during Prentiss’s life time, or maybe the implication goes beyond that, but I will assume it doesn’t, he self professed to claim fame and glory at the expense of Wallace and Peabody.

            First off between the time of the war and death of Prentiss anybody, that means  millions of possibilities, could of spoke up for Wallace or Peabody.

            Having read 14 Shiloh accounts that were written during the war and up to 1875 I can say that it was surprising how pathetic they are, except one. I had no idea they were that bad. They have so much wrong and it is due because they mostly sat in a room and worked from the official reports and newspapers. In regards to Wallace, particularly the first ones published, he is ignored because there was no report done by him. Prentiss is ignored because he is in prison and his report comes later. But it takes someone familiar with the battle to know how bad they are. Not one of them (and I will request some indulgence on this as I am doing this from memory as trying to remember which one screwed up how is beyond the capability of mortal man). They start out with having Prentiss and the regiments surrendered in the morning. These are the ones printed during the war. Finally they figure out Prentiss was not captured first thing but they cannot figure out where he fought. They do not realize that Prentiss fought between Wallace and Hurlbut. But Wallace is mentioned in most of them and then once the Albert Sidney Johnston biography comes out in 1879 you start to find accounts of the battle by the men who were in it and Wallace is mentioned in all of them. It is well after Prentiss is dead in 1901 that Wallace slips beneath the surface. WHL Wallace seems to have started to fade from Shiloh memory with the 1940 park brochure that failed to mention him at all. The park information sheet used in the 1930s mentions WHL Wallace.

            Horace Greeley’s The American Conflict was published in 1866 and in it is an account of Shiloh that was one of those highlighted by the Hornets’ Nest veterans as an example of the injustice that had been served upon them. It shows that the early histories did not know where Prentiss was in the battle and assumed he was surrounded in a field in front of a line formed by WHL Wallace and Hurlbut. The early histories put Prentiss gone by 10:00 AM and Greeley at least changed that to 4:00 PM.

            On Prentiss Greeley wrote “Thus the division lost all coherence and efficiency; its leader became separated from a large portion of his command; and by 10 o’clock it had been virtually demolished. Prentiss himself, with three regiments, held an unassailed (note unassailed) position until, having long since become completely surrounded, he was finally obliged to surrender.* Then with a footnote he wrote “This did not occur till about 4 P. M.; but he had long before ceased to form a part of our line of battle, the Rebels having flanked and passed on beyond him.”

            But Greeley gave full recognition to Wallace. Rather than try to edit it I will just give to you the whole paragraph. “W. H. L. Wallace’s division was in like manner exposed to and attacked by the exultant Rebels about 10 A. M.; and for six hours was hotly engaged, with scarcely an intermission. Four times was it charged along its whole line; and every charge was repulsed with heavy slaughter. Once or twice, our men pursued their retreating foes; but the disparity of numbers was too great, and they were soon pushed back to their lines. They were still fighting as eagerly and confidently as ever, when Hurlbut’s retreat compelled them to fall back also, or be flanked and surrounded as Prentiss had been. Just now, their leader fell, mortally wounded; closing in death a day’s work which had won for him the admiration of all beholders and the lasting gratitude of his country.”

            While Wallace did not need for anyone to speak up for him until around the 1940s it is a different story for Colonel Everett Peabody. As bad as those early histories are they are bad on everything. I knew that Joseph Rich’s book, Shiloh published in 1911 should be credited with being the first published book that covered the battle of Shiloh that contained the story of how it was Peabody that sent out the 3 AM patrol and not Prentiss. Some of the early histories do not state anything about an early morning patrol but if they did it gave the credit to Prentiss. This was the result of confusion and simply assuming that if the patrol was from Prentiss’s division that he must have been the one to order it. Prentiss had no control over what historians wrote and did not ask them to do that, it just happened that way.

            It is puzzling that even David W. Reed gave credit to Prentiss for sending out the early morning patrol. But a puzzle only; not some nefarious plot hatched by Prentiss in the waning years of his life to deceive the meticulous Reed. Reed first published his history in 1902 and Prentiss died in 1901 so he never read it. Sometime after Reed published his book in 1902 he learned something that caused him to acknowledge Peabody’s contribution at the 1906 meeting of Society of the Army of the Tennessee in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It is just a sentence but it was progress even he still credited the general; “Prentiss and Peabody were so sure that the enemy was about to attack that they sent out a reconnoitering party at 3 o’clock Sunday morning with orders to go until the enemy was found.” Joseph Rich’s book giving full credit to Peabody was 1911 but the original work was done as magazine articles for the State Historical Society of Iowa in 1909. The articles were so popular the Society published a book.

            The impression the revisionists give is that it is only through their efforts that the true story of the 3 AM patrol has been revealed after 100 years. That’s not true as you see it was Joseph Rich, a man who was there, who first revealed the Peabody story in a book about Shiloh. Note I say in a book about Shiloh because the modern Shiloh histories reference two sources in the 1880s from which are drawn details about the early morning patrol and used in those books.

One is the 1889 An Illustrated History of the Missouri Engineer and the 25th Infantry Regiments by Dr. W. A. Neal. This book contains a letter by Lt. James M. Newhard, Orderly Sergeant of Company E which was in the party. Newhard’s letter is used to make the claim that Prentiss “hooted” at Peabody about his concerns and refused his request for a battery to be placed in front of Peabody’s camp. Considering it was all forest in front of Peabody’s camp and no field of fire just how much good would it had done?

Next is the 1882 publication of Michigan in the War compiled by Jno. Robertson. This book has the account of Lt. Col. William H. Graves of the 12th Michigan. The problem with these different accounts is that they conflict in details and it is difficult, if not impossible to reconcile the different versions.

William Swinton was a war correspondent who was caught eavesdropping on a conversation between Grant and Meade. But he survived Grant’s wrath and in 1867 published a book in which he chose what he thought were the twelve most decisive civil war battles. Swinton cleverly titled the book The Twelve Decisive Battles of the War.

            Swinton’s account of Shiloh is the one exception I found among the many early accounts I read that is pretty good. One can just ponder why Swinton was able to do what the others all failed yet Swinton’s book must not have gotten much notice. But it should have. I was stunned when I first read it, a book published in 1867 has the following; “By one of those undefinable impulses or misgivings which detect the approach of catastrophe without physical warning of it, it happened that Colonel Peabody of the 25th Missouri, commanding the first brigade of Prentiss’s division, became convinced that all was not right in front. Very early Sunday morning, therefore, he sent out three companies of his own regiment and two of Major Powell’s 12th Michigan, under Powell’s command, to reconnoiter, and to seize on some advance squads of the enemy, who had been reported flitting about, one and a half miles distant from camp on the main Corinth road. It was the gray of dawn when they reached the spot indicated; and almost immediately, from long dense lines of men, coming swiftly through the tall trees, opened a rattling fire of musketry. It was the enemy in force. The little band fell back in haste, firing as best they might.”

            Swinton then described the attack and the Union resistance once they realized the Rebels were upon them. He included the following; “It was now about 7 o’clock, and the resistance of the Union picket line, feeble as it necessarily was, had been of priceless service in gaining time, while the rough and impracticable interval over which the Confederates had to pass served to break up somewhat as well as to extend and thin their lines.” Here, in 1867, Swinton described the effect of the patrol Peabody sent out as “priceless.”

            But we are not done yet. Recognition of Peabody’s contribution can be traced to the very beginning. On April 12, 1862 the Chicago Evening Journal printed: “THE FIRST ATTACK - At two o’clock this morning, Col. Peabody, of Prentiss’ Division, fearing that everything was not right, dispatched a body of four hundred men beyond the camp, for the purpose of looking after any force which might be lurking in that direction. The step was wisely taken, for a half mile’s advance showed a heavy force approaching, who fired upon them with great slaughter.”

            You cannot get much closer than that.

            So why did no one speak up about Peabody’s heroic decision to send out Major Powell on that so important early morning patrol? My answer is “I don’t know.”

            One would think that the 1889 history An Illustrated History of the Missouri Engineer and the 25th Infantry Regiments by Dr. W. A. Neil would have done the trick but Dr. Neil never was in the 25th Missouri and was not at Shiloh. He was a member of the Missouri Engineers. On December 31, 1863 the 25th Missouri was joined together with Missouri Engineer Regiment. The purpose of his work was to write a history for the men who had served in both those entities and produce a roster of the men who had served to the point of providing there latest addresses. The book was produced for the men that had served in the two regiments and not for a distribution to the general public. Neal just was not trying to gain justice for Peabody. He included the letter by James M. Newhard in the book without understanding the significance of it. The real telling point is that Neal included as background an account of the battle of Shiloh written by Rev. F. Senour in his 1865 publication Major General William T. Sherman and his Campaigns. As all other accounts of that era there is no mention of Peabody in conjunction with the early morning attack and Prentiss is captured in his underwear in his camp. If Neal was trying to achieve justice for Peabody this Shiloh account in a Sherman book was not the way to do it. (Uh oh. I told myself that I would not get sarcastic but I cannot help it so here it comes). There are rumors that since Prentiss was conducting a campaign of self professed claim to fame and glory to deny Peabody the credit for sending out Powell’s patrol that he attempted to buy up all the known copies of Neal’s book and burn them. He apparently missed at least one copy and Joseph Rich found it.

            The idea that Prentiss engaged in a self professed claim to fame and glory is sent forth by the Shiloh revisionist promoters but have you not noticed that they provide no source of confirmation that it is so. I thought historians were supposed to back up their claims with facts, at least some evidence. But in this case they provide none, not a word. I am not aware that they have shown us any report, letter, speech, diary or newspaper article in which Prentiss personally took credit to sending out the 3:00 AM patrol.

            That seemed odd to me. I was a reader, trusting in their expertise, but puzzled why they provided no evidence. Was I expected to go find by myself evidence to support their claims that they use to convince me that the story of the Hornets’ Nest where my ancestor fought is an exaggerated myth? Instead of being able to trust what the revisionists say is true it became a question of “Gee, I wonder if that is true?”    

            So I went looking for evidence that Prentiss engaged in self professed claim to fame and glory. I am still looking but so far I have found no report, no letter, no speech, no diary and no newspaper article to verify that claim. So when confronted with the statement that Brigadier General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss would steal glory for himself by taking it from another I say that is not true. For you Shiloh revisionists who say it is true than prove it. Move it beyond being just your opinion and make it a fact.

            I read that there was a severe animosity between Prentiss and Peabody which is why Prentiss would steal Peabody’s heroic act and make it his own. I trusted the historians who told me that was true. But you know what? It isn’t true. Prentiss might have hurt Peabody’s feelings when he confronted him about bringing on an engagement but I have found no evidence that leads to the statement that Prentiss had animosity towards Peabody.

            It is the same with David W. Reed, the Father of Shiloh Park. Where are his defenders against the allegation that he was biased and therefore unethical, in preparing the history book and the plaques all around the park? I don’t believe that Reed was a man of subtlety. If he wanted to see to it that the Hornets’ Nest would become the icon of Shiloh being subtle about it seems pretty risky. What if nobody noticed the genius of his subtlety?

            I have the advantage of most of you because of the research I have done. Some of it is shared here because otherwise what was the purpose. In doing the research I found that the first priority for the men who fought in the Sunken Road and the Hornets’ Nest was to remove forever the stigma that had been attached for being called cowards for surrendering early in the morning. It was not to be recognized as the saviors of the Army at the expense of other men who fought at Shiloh.

            In a speech by Prentiss in 1882, the first speech he gave about Shiloh since the war, Prentiss said; “Let it not be said again that Gen. Prentiss and his command were captured early in the morning.” He does not claim sending out the 3 AM patrol, he does not claim to have saved the army; what he says is his hope that the stigma of surrendering early is removed forever for him and also for the men who fought with him. He does not leave those men out for Prentiss led those men in battle and it was Prentiss’s duty, since as the Brigadier General he had the greatest voice, to see to it that the men who had fought under his leadership would receive justice.

           

This revisionism you speak of was started by Cunningham and has brought out the truth about the heroism Peabody and Wallace, to the detriment of Prentiss.

 

            First, Cunningham’s book has been so over hyped I feel like I am expected to genuflect to it before I take it off the shelf. I have found that the truth about the heroism of Peabody and Wallace was brought out years before Cunningham’s book. The difference is that for Wallace it was there, faded away, and then came back. For Peabody it wasn’t there at first, then appeared, stayed in the background and then came and stayed.

            Otto Eisenschiml wrote The Story of Shiloh in 1946 and he gives full credit to Peabody while keeping Wallace well in the background. So Cunningham did his thesis in 1965 but it was not published until 2007 so it really is not the first one. At this time I defer in offering an opinion on when Shiloh revisionism started other than to say I do not agree it started with Cunningham.

            “to the detriment of Prentiss” – Those five words sum up the reason why I object to Shiloh revisionism. I do not understand why it is necessary with Shiloh revisionism that in order to promote the truth about the heroism of Peabody and Will Wallace it is required to be done to the detriment of Prentiss.

            To me Shiloh revisionism maligns people. Shiloh revisionism maligns Brigadier General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss. Shiloh revisionism maligns David W. Reed and Shiloh revisionism maligns the men, both North and South, who fought in the Hornets’ Nest and the Sunken Road.

            I have an ancestor who fought in the Sunken Road and on his behalf and all the others, north and south, I object to the way the history of the battle of Shiloh is now portrayed.

            I am well aware that the Shiloh revisionists will loudly proclaim that they do no such thing, except for Prentiss, of course. That Shiloh revisionism is not intended to denigrate the men who fought in the Hornets’ Nest and Sunken Road but is just intended to “get the story straight.”

            When I visited the park for the first time in 2000 I had never heard of the Hornets’ Nest. The reason I visited the park was because I had just learned that my great-great-grandfather was there with the 58th Illinois. (I realize that at this point I should declare that because I have an ancestor who fought in the Sunken Road that I have biases and that any view I express is automatically suspect but I will not grovel in face of Shiloh revisionism) I was handed an information sheet that discussed whether the Hornets’ Nest was myth or reality. That information sheet can still be found on the Park’s webpage.

            After building up my knowledge of the battle I noticed something about that information sheet and the Shiloh revisionism analysis that it contains.

            Shiloh revisionism does not recognize that my great-great-grandfather and all the others captured on April 6, 1862 were casualties. Shiloh revisionism considers that if a soldier was listed missing from any area of battlefield other than those captured along with Prentiss are casualties, but if you were captured along with Prentiss you are not worthy to be considered a casualty. The purpose of denying the captured men casualty status is so the Shiloh revisionists can “set the story straight” and claim that because there were fewer casualties in the Sunken Road and Hornets’ Nest area that no heavy fighting occurred there. That it is the least fought over area of the battlefield.

            In other words if a soldier was captured in the “final stand” their sacrifice is deleted from the equation and Shiloh revisionists do their analysis as if those men captured never existed. That denigrates the memory of those men.

            Hundreds of the men captured went into captivity wounded. Scores of them died in prison and never returned home. Others were so disabled by their prison experience that they died shortly after their release. Others were damaged for life. Many of the wounded at Shiloh were casualties but returned to their regiments well ahead of any of the prisoners who could actually recover and return to duty. Hundreds of them, like my great-great-grandfather who lost half his body weight, returned to duty and fought through to the end of the war. I believe they should be counted.

 

            I tried to get this out before Christmas but it ended up being more labor intensive than I imagined. Then my niece’s husband thought he could drink me under the table on Christmas night. He failed. I hope Jim appreciates at least that.

 

            I think all the books I cited can be found on the internet by just searching the title and author. Note that most of them are from the 1860s because if you want the true story go to the men who were there.

 

            And with that I wish you all a Happy New Year.

 

            And to Major General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss I say, sir, I know what you did. I know that you sold your cherished gold watch during your captivity in that Southern hell hole to buy food in order to give the wounded Colonel James Geddes of the 8th Iowa a chance to live and return to duty. He did both. I know that upon your release from prison the 8th Iowa regiment presented you with a replacement watch.

            I know it was Colonel James Geddes and the 8th Iowa that you called upon in the Hornets’ Nest to rush forward and save the imperiled guns of Andrew Hickenlooper’s battery. The Rebel soldiers, with courage undaunted, had charged through the thicket of the Hornets’ Nest and reached the muzzles of the guns and started to haul them away. But you got them back.

            I know what you said in Chicago upon your return to Illinois after being released from captivity in October 1862. To the detractors of you and your men who accused you and them of cowardice at Shiloh you said “We remained until half-past five before we moved from the line. At that hour, or just before, that brave and noble soldier, Gen. Wallace, fell. I had been conferring with him only a few minutes before he went down in the fight. We had determined to hold our position; we determined to sustain our government; we determined there to save the army of Gen. Grant. I think we did it. My officers think we did it. I care not what others may think. (Loud applause). General, you didn’t care what your detractors said in 1862 and I doubt you care now.

            Your obituary in your hometown of Bethany, Missouri dated February 13, 1862 pleaded and said “Let him rest in peace.” But over 100 years after your death there are those who feel it is their duty to disturb your slumber. But worry not, for truth is not on their side and they are doomed to fail. General, may you continue to rest in peace.

 

Hank

 

(I know what you are asking. It is 10,208 words and I enjoyed writing every one of them)

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Hank

 

It is said that 'any publicity is good publicity.'

 

And this forum, SDG, allows for the revelation of new information and resources; and provides for the re-discovery of older, misplaced, yet equally relevant information. And we sort it all out, weigh the relative merits, and determine 'truth' ...until the next morsel of 'previously undisclosed' information comes along.

 

While studying the Battle of Waterloo (which I believe has many similarities to Shiloh), I discovered that the same thing is happening IRT 'revision'  ...and that action took place 200 years ago.

 

I, for one, enjoyed and appreciated your formidably researched defense of Prentiss, WHL Wallace, Hurlbut, Peabody, Powell and the men who made their stand along the Sunken Road Line. Given the 'loudly proclaimed,' yet 'disappointingly unconvincing' body of evidence provided by revision-advocates, I believe that Benjamin Prentiss and his comrades-in-arms have nothing to fear: the balance of evidence favors Prentiss.

 

Regards

 

Ozzy

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Hank...Ienjoyed this ..and I agree it seems that documentation is required but then for some thoughts ..become "truth' with out the documention.mona

P.S, Missed you this past fall...

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As one of Stan Freberg's characters once said, "I ask a simple question and I get a pageant!" There is so much in this thread.

 

John A. Logan was at Fort Henry (at least on April 7th), where he helped William C. Carroll, Grant's pet reporter, submit a scoop to the New York Herald, while forcing the other correspondents further downriver before they could submit their articles over the telegraph.

 

I didn't realize that Grant wanted to tap John Cook to be a divisional commander, although I knew that Grant had befriended Cook. Cook had been accused in the plundering of Fort Henry. He was also one of the officers who gifted a sword to US Grant. People raised a very good question as to what Cook was doing during the battle. As some may have noted, his name doesn't seem to be mentioned by anyone, at Savannah or Pittsburg Landing.

 

As to the attempt to blame Prentiss for the mass surrender in the Hornets' Nest (a blame, if any, that would seem equally shared with WHL Wallace), my book, Grant Under Fire, notes:

 

Their valiant stand helped to save the rest of the Union army. Instead of honoring this feat, Grant offered two implausible assertions in his Memoirs. First, he unjustly cast blame on his subordinate for the surrender: “In one of the backward moves, on the 6th, the division commanded by General Prentiss did not fall back with the others. This left his flanks exposed and enabled the enemy to capture him with about 2,200 of his officers and men” (although most of those captured actually came from the Second Division, and Grant ignored how Wallace would have been equally guilty). Second, he improbably noted, “my recollection is that the last time I was with [Prentiss] was about half-past four, when his division was standing up firmly.” At that time, however, with the envelopment nearly complete and the flanking divisions going or gone, the grave state of affairs should have been obvious, and Grant would have been even more culpable—if he actually had been present—for not ordering a hasty retreat. In all probability, he was not there at that time. Prentiss, in a speech that the General’s Memoirs vouched for as a “correct report,” remarked that “Gen. Grant knows that I communicated to him at 4 o’clock at the landing, and tried to get re-inforcements, and received orders to hold on. I held.” Responsibility for Prentiss’ maintaining his place at all hazards, which resulted in his capitulation, belonged entirely with the army’s commander. The General’s phraseology, “one of the backward moves,” further implied coordinated withdrawals throughout the day. Instead, the retreats by Stuart, McArthur, Hurlbut, McClernand, and Sherman took place unsystematically and without any management by Grant. That commander, however, refused to acknowledge his culpability for the mass surrender."

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Wow. Way too much to get to here in a single sitting. :)

 

I'll try to respond to a few Peabody/Prentiss related items for now. To start, I'd refer to Hank's quote from Teddy Roosevelt, which goes like this: 

 

 “Any man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled to. Less than that no man shall have."

 

I think that's a fair statement. Everett Peabody not only shed blood for his country, he died for his country. Someone who was aware of that fact, and in the very best position to give him the square deal he was thus entitled to less than one year after it happened, chose not to do so. That someone's name was Benjamin Prentiss. 

 

First, last, and always, that's the one thing that I've never been able to get around when it comes to Prentiss. He deliberately slighted a fellow officer who died in the line of duty.

 

You don't do that.

 

Whether it a result of anger, resentment, or something, else is secondary to me, although I have my own opinion on what I think was probably behind it. But whatever the motivation, It was done deliberately, and no amount of rationalizing can ever wipe away that black mark against his name.  Maybe Peabody's important role in the battle would still have been overshadowed for years had Prentiss acted differently. Maybe not. But Prentiss owed him that square deal. Instead, he denied it to him. 

 

There's much about Prentiss at Shiloh to weigh on both sides of the scale. That particular brick is the heaviest one for me. It outweighs everything else, and tips the scale firmly to the negative side. It's not the only thing that does - and there are positive things there as well - but it's easily the deciding factor. 

 

Also, Prentiss gets zero credit for bringing to light the fact that Peabody ordered out the combat patrol that triggered the battle. We do have that quote attributed to him where he gave a poorly veiled court-martial threat to Peabody for ordering out a patrol against orders. But it's hardly the main source for who ordered the patrol to begin with.

 

But what does, "hold you responsible for bringing on this engagement" mean if it doesn't mean he intends to bring Peabody up on charges? That's exactly what he meant by it, and exactly what he intended to do. Until reality stepped in and shocked the hell out of Prentiss and almost everyone else. 

 

I do agree with one thing - Peabody would have faced no court martial after the battle, had he lived. Not unless Prentiss was a complete fool, which he was not. But Prentiss's remark to Peabody is revealing in another way. It clearly indicates that even after the shooting had started, Prentiss, unlike Peabody, was still unaware of the seriousness of the situation. It's my belief that it wasn't until sometime after 8:00 that morning, following Gladden's initial, disorganized attack on Spain Field, that Prentiss finally had the blinders removed, far too late. When Gladden's second attack hit in conjunction with Chalmers sweeping in from Prentiss's left flank, all illusions of a limited engagement vanished in a flash of gunfire. 

 

Prentiss at one point ordered Colonel Allen's 16th Wisconsin, and at least one of the batteries guarding the Eastern Corinth Road, to swing around and attack Shaver's brigade in the flank. The only way that makes any sense is if he believes there is no longer a serious threat on Miller's front, in Spain Field. Had he known or suspected a large force was still to Miller's front and/or left flank, he never gives that order. It inadvertently set up those men to be caught in a cross-fire, and that's exactly what happened. 

 

What does Prentiss have to say about any of this? Nothing. He makes no mention of it whatsover in his report. We only know of his 'change front' order because of Colonel Allen, and, I think Captain Munch. (It might have been Hickenlooper, but I think it was Munch.) I think Leander Stillwell also mentions it in an article on the battle, but I'm not positive offhand. 

 

On the subject of Prentiss reportedly "hooting" at Peabody's concerns, and denying him a battery of artillery on the night of the 5th because of the woods in front, if the underbrush in that area was the same in 1862 as it is now, that argument would probably make sense. But keep in mind that the woods at that time were far more open, with greater lines of sight than exist there today. Plus look at how effective Swett's Confederate battery was against Peabody's men in those same woods that morning. 

 

I don't know that a single battery of artillery would have changed the outcome for Peabody's line. It very possibly could have delayed the inevitable, but they had more problems than a single battery was going to solve. The point here though is that Peabody was asking permission to take some precautionary measures in the face of an uncertain situation. And Prentiss refused. Because of the underbrush? Not realistic to me. Whatever his reason, it points to his lack of concern for the safety of his division. 

 

I do believe that David Moore's report of his evening patrol played a role in re-enforcing that lack of concern. Had Moore come back and said, "We got problems," I'd like to think he would have listened. What he might have done I can't say, but I suspect he would have done more than he did in the actual event. But when Peabody came to him later on and said, 'We've got problems,' I think Moore's 'all clear' report, added with the general lack of concern that permeated most of the army, caused him to brush Peabody off. 

 

In any case, we learn none of that, or anything even alluding to it, from Benjamin Prentiss. It would have taken a special breed of person to stand up after what happened on April 6th and say, "Look, this guy tried to warn me and I didn't believe him. He deserves the credit." I don't know as I can fault Prentiss for not doing something the vast majority of people in his place would have had a hard time doing themselves. But he doesn't get credit for being the exception either.

 

He didn't even bother to credit Peabody for dying while leading his men. 

 

Whatever he did or didn't do later on in the Hornet's Nest, it doesn't override that single glaring fact. 

 

I started out as a big fan of Benjamin Prentiss. When I first started visiting Shiloh as a kid, I was immersed in the standard story of Prentiss as the Hero of the Hornet's Nest, and the man who saved Grant's army. I greatly admired him. 

 

That started to change after reading Wiley Sword's book. I soon went the full 180, and basically came to hate Prentiss for being what I thought of as a fraud. 

 

But something about that didn't quite sit right with me. It took a while, but I finally started to realize why, and anymore, my view of Benjamin Prentiss is a little more nuanced. Or so I like to think anyway. I tend to look on him now, more than anything, as being a flawed human being, placed in an incredibly difficult situation. He did the best he could in that situation, and just as important to me, he tried to do the best he could. He was overwhelmed by a combination of circumstances, and his own failure to comprehend the reality of the situation until it was too late. This happened at least twice to him on April 6th. 

 

But by far, Prentiss' most glaring fault to me came after the battle rather than during it, when he wrote a misleading battle report, and completely ignored a fellow officer who gave his life for the same cause Prentiss was fighting for. 

 

All in all, I think Prentiss gave a pretty good account of himself in the Hornet's Nest on April 6th. He failed to realize the threat to his division prior to the attack despite repeated warnings, and he failed to retreat in time from the Hornet's Nest because he misread the situation, not because he intended to sacrifice himself to save Grant's army. But prior to that point, he did rather well with what he had left. But taking everything together, the scale falls to the negative side for me on Benjamin Prentiss at Shiloh. 

 

That's way more than I ever intended to write, so I'll stop, but there's a lot more to talk about Prentiss, as I've come to look on him as a pretty fascinating person. He's also something of a mystery. But a fascinating mystery. 

 

The only other thing I'd respond to right now is the idea of modern-day "revisionist historians" claiming all credit for themselves, attempting to write the Hornet's Nest completely out of the story of the battle, or somehow erasing casualty figures from that area of the battlefield just to make a point........that's all a bit much for me. Especially on that last point, I'd like to see something solid to back up the claim, as I've never seen anything even coming close to such a thing on the NPS web site for Shiloh.

 

Perry

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