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Ron

The most secret battle of the US Civil War

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The best kept secret of a  large battle of the civil war was and still is the Second Battle of Shiloh.  It was fought on Monday, April 7, 1862 and is distinctly seperate from the first battle of Shiloh which was fought on Sunday, April 6, 1862.  The first battle of Shiloh was a confederate victory fought between General Albert Sidney Johnston for the confederates and General U. S. Grant for the federals.  The second battle of Shiloh was fought by General P. G. T. Beauregard for the confederates and General Don Carlos Buell for the federal army and was a union victory.  The character of these two battles was completely different because a change occurred in both armies overnight that altered the fortunes of both armies.  The value of Grant's tenacity throughout the day on Sunday and overnight is clearly evident on Monday when Grant's union army appears on the field with compact units, restored with ammunition and a chain of command intact.  Contrast this with the confederate continued confusion, no efforts to supply the rebels with food and ammunition and completely broken chain of command. 

General Buell's importance also emerges because of the 15,000 fresh, well supplied and trained troops he brings to the party.  These, together with Wallace's late arriving but fresh troops, places a new army in front of the rebels.  This new army is backed up by the remnants of three of Grants divisions.  This Second Battle of Shiloh is Buell's fight because his troops occupied over seventy percent of the union front.  His sector was from the Tennessee River, west to almost "the Crossroads" below the Water Oaks Pond. Grant's sector was in the Jones Field, Crescent Field, and onto the Shiloh Church Plateau close to the Main Corinth Road.  This is not a large sector. 

This battle remains a secret battle because it was and is little reported and discussed even on this discussion group.  Books concerning the battle of Shiloh cover the first battle much more completely but give only minor coverage to the second battle of Shiloh.  Both Daniel's and Cunningham's books devote only a single chapter to the second day's battle while Sword's book covers the second battle of Shiloh in two chapters. Two out of 22 chapters to cover a fierce hard fought battle?  Yet, the armies fought over the same ground in the same positions as the first day's battle only facing in another direction.  The fighting was severe, tenacious, with large numbers of casualties.  It is my estimate that 4,000 of the confederate casualties occurred during the second battle of Shiloh. 

Therefore, to further your understanding, knowledge and reading pleasure and to start a dialogue, fill in the blanks concerning the second battle of Shiloh.  I bel;ieve that the letters and diaries of the soldiers mention this battle but I don't have access to any.  Can you supply any diary and letter citations about battle?  What are your thoughts concerning the Second Battle of Shiloh?

Ron

(Come on, get your teeth into this one.  Remember my flock of bulls will go where I send them.) 

 

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Ron:

Give me a day or two.. I really want to sink my teeth into this post.. However, we are finnishing up a house remodel and I feel like I have been trampled by the flock of bulls.. 

Someone else dive into this one while I finnish this project..

Your Servant

Rebel

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Guest 23rd tenn

Ron:

 

WOW!

Great topic, I agree with you 100%, in all my reading the 1st days fight is gone into in great depth, but the 2nd day isn't touched on as much.

I think there is a couple of reasons the 2nd day is often overlooked, from the southern view point it's considered a defeat, so not as many what to read about that. Northern viewpoint is that  nothing was really gained except that they kept from being beaten again on the second day of fighting. The union generals were mainly fighting the second day to regain their honor of being beaten so bad, seems I read some where once that most people of the day looked upon it as a defeat even though the south was driven away.

As to how bad the fighting was, read some of the reports in the OR, I know Pat Cleburne had quite a bit to say about the second day, and felt that if he'd have had his whole brigade that he wouldn't have had to give any ground. He was ready to stay on the battlefield the night of the 7th until ordered to withdraw, and was wondering why.

I'll have to do some more reading so as to be able to say more. Again, great topic.

 

Randy

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Randy:

The union generals were fighting on the second day (the second Battle of Shiloh) because they were in the presence of the enemy and they had to fight.  If they didn't fight on that day, than they would have to surrender.  Surrender was a remote possibility as both Grant and Buell were now out for blood (so to speak).  Surrender was not an option to a army deep in enemy territory, caught in a small area between Snake Creek and the Tennessee River and still with plenty of fight left in them. You might say that the union army had the confederates in a trap. 

The more I read, study and consider the Battle of Shiloh, the more I admire the tenancity of Grant.  this is unfortunate because I study the entire civil war from the southern prospective. Please don't ask me why.

Ron

P.S.  I like your Hardee flag. 

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It's certainly true that the second day's battle doesn't get near the attention that the first day receives. I think Randy hit on a big reason why since, realistically speaking, the South could only have won the battle on the first day. Conversely the North could only have lost it on the first day, unless they retreat across the Tennessee overnight. Which, with someone other than Grant in command, might very well have happened.

Considering how the war evolved in reality after Shiloh, it's a staggering possibility what a southern victory in that battle might have meant, and what it would almost certainly have changed. For starters, it means no more Grant commanding Union armies. That's a virtual certainty. It nearly happened even though he won. If he loses? He's gone. In all likelyhood, the same is true for Sherman.

But realistically speaking, the only chance the Confederates had to win at Shiloh was on April 6th. So that was their only chance to alter history. To change the course of the war from that point on, and possibly chance the outcome of the war as well.

So rightly or wrongly, the battle on April 7th is largely looked on as an afterthought. The opportunity to change history, from our point of view at least, was present only on April 6th. Even though there was another battle on April 7th, it was won by the same side that eventually won the war. So it doesn't have the same glamor effect, if you will.

Plus, I think there is a sense - again, from our perspective looking back - that the outcome on April 7th was a foregone conclusion, whereas the previous day has a sense of uncertainty about it almost to the very end. Even the Confederate counterattack on April 7th has a feel of futility about it. As if all they are doing is delaying the inevitable.

With all that said though, we should probably keep in mind, especially on a discussion board dedicated to the battle, that all this sense of inevitablity about April 7th is only true in looking back. It wasn't true for the folks there at the time. Even as the battle ended on April 7th for instance, there were many in the Union army that expected the battle to be renewed again the next day. They could not have known that, except for a brief rear-guard action on the 8th, the fighting was truly over.

That's one of the challenging aspects of studying historical events, is trying to lay aside our knowledge of what came after. It certainly is for me. We know what happened after Shiloh. We can read about it, study it, and talk about it. But for all those people around Pittsburg Landing on the evening of April 7th, 1862, the future - our past - was as much a mystery to them as our own future is to us. For them, there was no Antietam, or Stones River, or Gettysburg, or Vicksburg, or any of the other numerous battles that came after Shiloh. It was all a blank slate, just as tomorrow morning is for us.

Anyway, even though April 7th doesn't have the drawing power of April 6th, we should still pay attention to it. As Ron points out, it was a large battle in its own right, even separate from April 6th.

I've read that the casualties from April 6th are estimated to have been about 17,000, which means the casualties on the 7th would be roughly 6,000 - 7,000. Compared to the day before, well, it doesn't really compare. But consider this - the fighting on April 7th at Shiloh produced more killed, wounded, captured and missing than did the battle of First Manassas. Which prior to Shiloh was the largest battle in American history. Meaning that all by itself, the battle on April 7th ranked as one of the worst battles in American history up to that time. And again, for those folks, "up to that time" was all they had to go by.

So yes, April 7th does indeed deserve our attention.

Perry

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could If the first day was a Confederate victory it was a pyrrhic victory. They had lost their commander and many of their officers. Any command control they had was strictly on a very local and on the spot type. Regiments and brigades were mixed up and ammunition of all types was low. Any logistical structure was what indidividuals  could lay their hands on.

I agree that second day has not been fully covered and need examining, but  the Confederates had lost any chance of victory very early at the beginning of the attack on the 6th.

Jim G

 

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The more I read, study and consider the Battle of Shiloh, the more I admire the tenancity of Grant. this is unfortunate because I study the entire civil war from the southern prospective. Please don't ask me why.

Oh, perhaps it has to do with that intriguing idea of what-if. Since the South didn't win the war, we wonder what might be different, and in what way, if they had. Personally, I'm glad the war turned out the way it did. Even so, as far back as I can remember I've often wondered what a different outcome in this or that battle might have changed, and about the possible consequences of a southern victory in the war itself. Human nature I suppose. Plus, I've never been convinced that the outcome of the war was a foregone conclusion until very late in the game.

In any case, you're not alone in your assessment of Grant. Here's an excerpt from Bruce Catton's Grant Moves South, where he talks about the importance of Shiloh, and some of the reasons why he felt it turned out the way it did...

"It had been a very near thing indeed, and the most that could be said for the Northerners was that they had beaten off an unexpected attack; and yet one of the decisive struggles of the Civil War had been won. The end of the war was a long way off in April of 1862, yet when the exhausted Confederates drifted southwest from Pittsburg Landing a faint foreknowledge of what that end would be went down the road with them.

"The Northern victory had been purely negative, but it was of far-reaching consequence. For this was one battle which the Confederacy had to win in order to survive, and the Confederacy had not quite been able to win it. In the long run many things killed the dream of Southern independence; one of them, compacted in the wilderness above the Tennessee River, was made up of the desperate fighting of many Middle Western soldiers, the power of the row of guns on the bluff in the twilight...and with these, the unbreakable stubbornness of Ulysses S. Grant."

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Concerning the Second Battle of Shiloh, I believe the battle was fought in three phases, the first was the preliminary moves that occurred before 6:30 am, with Nelson's move on Cloud field and Wallace's weak move towards Jones field.  The main portion of the battle was from 6:30 am to about 1:30 pm fought over the entire battlefield.  The third phase was after 1:30 pm and consisted of the several confederate attempts of a rear guard nature ending about 4;00 pm when they retreated below the Shiloh Church plateau.

It was during the first phase that the confederate army arose from their slumber to the sound of rifle and cannon fire.  They were disappointed to find an active union army advancing on them when they expected to find that army gone. 

In the second phase, they quickly became determined to complete the battle and began to resist the union attack. The fighting was determined on both sides by the individual soldier and their leaders, with individual acts of heroism occuring.  The confederate soldier fought in this phase with determination and, I believe, with no thought of the battle being lost.  Several times, rebels were surprised when their regiment was ordered to retire as they must have thought the battle was going well.   

The third phase was a series of confederate withdrawals and rear guard actions with some local sharp fighting of a short duration.  This is the phase of the battle where any "lost cause" thought may originate from. 

The confederates were to loose between 4,000 and 4,500 men on the second day which attests to the fierceness of the fighting. These losses occurred mainly in the second phase of 7 hours while the fighting on the first day suffered about 6,000 casualties in 11 hours.  This equates to about 550 casualties per hour in the first battle (Sunday) and 650 casualties per hour during the second battle (Monday).  Yes, these are my estimates so you are welcome to agree with them but if you disagree, watch out for my flock of bulls.  

A side note, it was with interest that I noticed that Nelson's division was fought out by noon and no longer was able to participate in the battle except to continue to stand in line.  This also, may illustrate the fierceness of the fighting during the late morning hours.  I also took note of the poor and slow performance of Lew Wallace's division during this second day of fighting, very poor when you consider that he actually did not meet strong resistance.  He seemed to have halted to await the advance of Sherman's men to arrive on his left flank, twice he had to be directly ordered to advance.

Ron  

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On the second days fight at shiloh,it is a good topic. It is of the opinion of some that the south was destined to loose at Shiloh but i believe the second days battle begs to differ . They fought so hard that day to be so broken up. I respect Grant one of the best fighters Lincoln had probably the best. But had it not been for Buell on day two who knows? I have not used my typing skills since high school twenty six years funny how it all comes back i think i am going to enjoy this:D

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I don't think Buell's arrival was what made the Union victory possible. It helped but Grant had good position and a chance to reorganize. The Confederat attack on day one had so disorganized the Confederates that any hope of victory was problematical. I plan to go back reread Bloody April as I think Sword was where I got this idea.

 

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WOW!  A great discussion.  I like Perry's comment about hindsight being 20-20.  I doubt anyone there thought it was over until it was over especially since this was the worst battle fought on the North American continent up to this time.  I have to confess I am a great admirer of Grant & Sherman & McPherson, but without Grant's influence the union army would have surely retreated.  Grant and to a lesser extent Sherman were criticized severely by the press after the battle & yes if they both had been relieved of command or put out to pasture after Shiloh I expect the war would have turned out differently.

On a side note I thought the blue battle flag with the white moon was Cleburnes & I do know at times he was associated with Hardee's Division.  Sharon

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Guest 23rd tenn

Sharon,

 

the flag you are referring to is known to be Cleburne's flag later in the war. It was named the Hardee flag early on and in the latter part of the war to make all the regiments be more the same the AOT started doing the same as the ANV and everyone carried the same style of flag. That is except Cleburne's division, they continued to carry the Hardee style flag. The 23rd Tenn carried the same flag until it was captured in June of 64 in front of Petersburg. As far as I know Cleburne's division carried it all the way to the end.

 

Randy

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Jim:

I agree that the rebels were disorganized but I disagree that Buell's arrival was not decisive.  The rebels were disorganized by the battle and fighting and also by their poor arrangement of attack waves.  However, the federals had their own problems that balanced out some of the rebel difficulties.  Grant's position along the River Road and the Pittsburg Landing Road was not as strong as you seem to think.  True, his army retreated back into what became a strong compact grouping of men but the terrain was not that good.  The area was flat and open with a few trees and underbrush.  There was no folds in the ground to offer cover to the troops, it is flat.  I am referring to the area west of the Dill Creek Ravine, a area open to the south towards the Cloud Field and also, southwest towards Stacy Field.  Don't forget that most of the federal artillery had been sent back to be in Colonel Webster's line of guns. The area near the western end of Grant's final line did not have as much artillery.

Buell's arrival added 15,000 troops to the federal forces while Grant had only 12,000 men (including Wallace's Division) most of whom had been in major fighting.  Grant had almost as many of his soldiers hiding below the bluffs and on riverboats as he had in the line.  Buell's army took position along two-thirds of the front while Grant could only occupy one-third of the front.  Buell's men fought over the ground and the important terrain features of the first day and retook them while Grant only fought in the Jones' Field and Water Oaks Pond area on the second day.  If Grant's troops were the more decisive, compared to Buell's army, as you seem to believe, why then did Wallace's division of 7,500 men suffer less than 300 casualties in the fighting? 

The severity of the fighting is indicated by the about 4,500 casualties suffered by the rebels on the second day during seven hours of the main fighting.  This is 650 casualties for each hour.  On the first day, the rebels suffered about 6,000 casualties in eleven hours for a loss of 550 men per hour. These figures are estimates made by me and can be disputed but I believe the point of the fierceness of the fighting on day two will be little changed. 

The fighting during the Second Battle of Shiloh (Monday, April 7th) was just as severe as that during the First Battle of Shiloh (Sunday, April 6th) and still remains little appreciated and gratly under-reported.

Regards to all

Ron

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 The 23rd Tenn carried the same flag until it was captured in June of 64 in front of Petersburg

Randy:  This might be a dumb question but did the 23rd Tennessee fight in the western theatre for a while & them move east?  Just curious.  Sharon;)

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Guest 23rd tenn

[user=45]idaho native[/user] wrote:

 The 23rd Tenn carried the same flag until it was captured in June of 64 in front of Petersburg

Randy:  This might be a dumb question but did the 23rd Tennessee fight in the western theatre for a while & them move east?  Just curious.  Sharon;)

Sharon,

The 23rd was in Cleburne's brigade at Shiloh and later was in his division at Murfreesboro. Later on they were in Bushrod Johnson's division at Chickamauga. When Bragg sent Longstreet to Knoxville, Johnson's division was sent with it. When Longstreet returned to Virginia in the spring of 64 the 23rd went with him and remained until the end. That is why they carried the Hardee flag until June of 64, like the other regiments that had been in Cleburne's division they continued to carry it. Unfortunately that flag was captured during the fighting when the Union forces almost were able to walk right into Petersburg. After that their regimental flag was of the style of all other regiments carried by the ANV.

Randy

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Ron

I agree with your views on the second day battle of shiloh the guns were undermaned some were low of ammo the Union right was weak and they was a lot of boys in blue in the TN river could Grant work through all this and win day two without help;perhaps :D But Ron i must ask  how does a guy from Michigan get to be so rebel friendly :)

Perry neal

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Perry:

I have always favored the southern side while reading of the civil war probably because I tend to cheer for the underdog.  I have been cheering for the south but (alas) the result has not changed yet.  On a tour to Shiloh in 2000,  the other members of the group voted me a honorary rebel. 

I also favor the southern side because I think they had better leaders and the average rebel soldier endured much more in the three and one-half years of campaigning.

I can afford the luxary of this position because the war is long over.  But, if war did start again, somehow, I would stay north.  As a southern soldier, I would be in Eldridge's Tennessee Battery (Memphis Light Artillery), with some men from Hardin County TN, the county where the Battle of Shiloh was fought.  As a northern soldier, I would be in Battery M, 1st Michigan Light Artillery from Mt. Clemens MI near my hometown.

Ron

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Ron,

I think the real issue we are all interested in is on which side (north or south) the raging flock of bulls would have fought on.  I can see where they could have tipped the balance either way, especially on the 1st day at Shiloh.  Jim 

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Ron

Bully for you for favoring the south i do to for the same reasons , i like your choice of the artillery also. I live in hardin co. and belong to a living history artillery group out of Savannah. But to delight some of my Northern friends i had another ancestor who jumped on the Tyler when it came down the TN and joined the yankees for the fight at Pittsburg Landing Hardin CO. was pretty much pro union then.I am proud of my yankee g.father too :D

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Talking a little about what side one favors and how it came to be that way...it's interesting, because I think I came to favor the North, at least in part, because it seemed like nearly everyone else favored the South. Plus when I was very young and just starting to learn about the war, I was more or less bombarded with disparaging remarks about all things Yankee. This from in-laws we would visit in Chattanooga and Atlanta, and also from other folks in those areas.

I've always been a bit of a contrarian, so that might explain it in part. But the real problem was, none of what I kept hearing squared with what I was learning on my own. (No, not from my teachers in school - on my own. What I learned about the war while I was in school would qualify as a very bad joke.) The same was true about Grant. I kept hearing about how he was little more than a stupid, falling-down drunk who did well to tie his shoes correctly in the morning. Yet from what I could tell, anytime Grant turned up somewhere he did just one thing - win. And the more I learned, the more apparent it became that he did that winning with daring and brains. I came to admire him for that, and also because it seemed like almost no one else did. I've never understood that. In that sense, Grant qualifies to me as an "underdog." He has to be one of the most under appreciated figures in all of American history.

And how a person could not be moved by the poignant story of his final campaign, when he outmaneuvered death long enough to finish his memoirs, is beyond me. You don't have to be a "Yankee" to be touched by that epic struggle. Just a human being.

So I guess that's a large part of why and how I came to be an unapologetic "Yankee," and a big fan of U.S. Grant. I respect and admire the southern fighting man. He deserves the praise he receives. But at the same time, he wasn't exactly fighting paper tigers.

Perry

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Alright, now that I've wandered off-topic, it's time to continue my Lew Wallace impression and locate a suitable shortcut back to the intended line of thought. (It's Ron's fault. His written instructions didn't specify an exact route. I could prove this, if I still had the instructions with me, but I seem to have misplaced them...)

There have been some excellent points made so far, and I think we all probably agree that April 7th is largely overlooked, and deserves more attention than it gets. We know why the first day's battle gets so much attention, and is considered important. But in your opinion, why should the second day's battle get more attention than it does? Because of the fighting in and of itself? Because of the missed opportunities? Could the Confederates have still won the battle? Did Grant and/or Buell miss a chance to destroy Beauregard's army? Some other reason(s)? What should be the attention-getter for this day? And why is it that, as Ron points out, April 7th at Shiloh is virtually forgotten?

Perry

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As to favoring sides, I have to concur with Perry's comments however I say this with the knowledge and background of an individual who grew up in an area that literally did not have a dog in the fight so to speak.  What I learned at home or at school  in Idaho or in innumerable books I have read was not tainted by either a northern or southern persepective or from the comments of relatives who, in prior generations, were directly impacted by the conflict. 

The import to me of the northern victory is the legacy it left to all of us and that is a united country that grew economically, politically and socially to be a leader in the free world. 

I can see how  a certain segment of the population cannot respect Sherman but in reality he was carrying out the direction of both the commander in chief and the head of the Unted States Army.  It is harder to see how people cannot respect Grant for his tenacity and perserverience and doing what he had to do to win the war even as the northern press was titling him "butcher" for the mounting casualties in the Overland Campaign.  While he might not have been a great president he certainly should be ranked alongside Napoleon (I say this as a long time fan of Napoleon) and others as one of the worlds greatest generals.  His deference for the feelings of others and generous terms at Appomattox are no small part of this greatness.  When union troops were cheering and celebrating after the surrender he sent orders around to have the celebration stoped as not to demean the confederates because "they were our countrymen again".  Having said I have a great admiration for Sherman & Grant I will also go on the record and state that I have a great deal of respect for the military abilities of NBF and Cleburne as well. 

I make these comments from beautiful Salmon Idaho where I spent part of yesterday at the Sacajawea Center learning more about the Corp of Discovery.  I would recomend to all of you to "Go West Young Man" (& women too) where you could get both a different perspective on the the Battle of Shiloh and other things as well.  Sharon

 

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I may of been a little strong in saying that Buell's force was not decisive. I just don't think they "saved Grant's army" the way that some people seem to think. As for Wallace I don't think he was the most aggresive leader and didn't push hard enough either the 1st or 2nd day. I am not sure of the exact source but he didn't advance as far as others who weren't in as good a shape.  That is another topic all together. I for one still don't understand his performance the 1st day.

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Jim;

Sorry for late response but are you speaking of General Buell or General Lew Wallace or both?  Your thoughts fit both of them. 

A thought of mine is that Wallace was very timid in advancing on the battlefield, he halted his advance waiting for Sherman and McClernand to cover his flank.  The discussion of Wallace's march on Sunday will never be settled but I vote against his arguments for the delay. Common good sense told everybody else that the army was in serious danger and they rushed forward to the battle.  Buell knew something was up and pushed his men forward.  Buell was further away than Wallace so why the difference in preformance?

I still find Buell lacked aggressive moves on the battlefield.  

Ron

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