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Ozzy

Careful, or your nose will grow...

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There are some exceptional "tall tales" to be found in the Official Records of the Civil War, and we all have our favourites... But I would be hard-pressed to find a more bare-faced contrived furphy than the one expressed by General William Tecumseh Sherman on April 10th 1862 in his after-action report IRT the Battle of Shiloh. Included at the bottom of page 253 of OR 10, Sherman asserts:  "The enemy captured seven of our guns on Sunday, but on Monday we recovered seven guns -- not the identical guns we had lost, but enough in numbers to balance the account."

Confirmed by examination of the record, Sherman's Fifth Division had been assigned the following artillery (lost guns in parenthesis):

  • Waterhouse  (3)
  • Taylor             (0)
  • Behr               (5)

On its face, this is a minor mistake: total of 8 artillery pieces actually lost, as against seven reported by Sherman as lost. However, it must be remembered that Waterhouse was forced to abandon a gun during one of his northerly movements. So the total becomes... 9.

And allowance must be given for the combined operations that commenced with MGen McClernand's offer of assistance before 8am. Initially, BGen Sherman requested only a squadron of cavalry with which to conduct surveillance; but that quickly expanded into a request for support from the First Division. And McClernand provided that support, initially via separately directed troop movements and actions; but following on the assembly (and collapse) of the 2nd Line along the Hamburg-Purdy Road at about 10:30am the operations of the 5th Division and 1st Division become practically indistinguishable. And this "incorporation" of two distinct Army divisions into the "Sherman & McClernand Joint operation" is cemented further through the employment of Major Ezra Taylor, who began the day as Sherman's Chief of Artillery; but who assumed control of the employment of artillery of the 1st Division after 10:30am.

That said, Taylor cannot be given blame for the disaster that befell Jerome Burrows and his 14th Ohio Battery (all six guns lost about 10:30 due to concerted effort of SAM Woods' Brigade.) But Major Taylor admits (OR 10 page 274) "taking responsibility for ordering two guns of Schwartz into position" (one gun lost.) And on page 275:  "Dresser's Battery (Captain Timony) was put in battery under my direction on Sunday... in front of General McClernand's HQ" (four guns lost.)

[General McClernand admits to maintaining control of McAllister's Battery; so its loss of one gun, captured by the 4th Tennessee, is attributable to him.]

Therefore, the total number of guns lost by Sherman (or agents of Sherman) on April 6th stands at 14.

Ozzy

 

References:  OR pages as sited

DW Reed's Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged (1903) pages 91-101.

 

 

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Damage control. He probably thought he was going to be sacked.  Quickly, he was portrayed as a hero. Ozzy, I'm glad you mentioned that you think people lied in their accounts. Whenever I say something like that I feel like I'm committing a sacrilege. 

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Roger

I agree: Sherman was exercising damage control by scripting his report in the way he did. But I did not call Sherman a liar (and notice I never used the word "lie" in my original post.) Lies, lied and liar are emotive words that polarize people when used: General Sherman merely "practiced deception."

"But, it's the same thing," I hear you say; and I must disagree, because there are acknowledged graduations for "massaging the truth..."

  • Shading a story to garner a favourable impression of the teller of that story [Sherman's tale of Seven Guns]
  • Adjusting content to develop a favourable impression of a character in your story [Sherman expressed strong support for Major Ezra Taylor, while failing to mention Taylor's many actions that resulted in significant artillery losses: men, horses and guns]
  • Attempting to convince someone that "black is white" [Jesse Appler is the poster-child for this one. I do not know Appler's temperament prior to his arrival at Pittsburg Landing, but Sherman so rattled him (discrediting reports of "Confederates seen in the area") that the man had to begin to doubt his own sanity. Then, when the attack was obvious, Sherman rides up to him and tells him, "Wait here. I'm going to get help."  And Sherman rides away.  -- One of my favourite airline jokes follows a similar track: I begin to wonder if this joke pre-dates invention of the airplane?]

Best of luck with your book project (keep at it til it's done)

Ozzy

 

 

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Not to be outdone was Major General Sterling Price at the Battle of Corinth; (the other Shiloh battlefield). 

He captured five guns (one from Battery D, 1st Mo., and four from Battery H, 1st Mo.) on October 3rd but only claimed to have taken two.

The next day, October 4, he claims to have captured "more than forty pieces of artillery." This took place near Battery Powell, where, truth be told, only eleven guns were taken. After a period of about fifteen minutes the divisions of Davies and Hamilton counterattacked and took back the eleven guns. Or was it more than forty? At the end of the paragraph he notes, "We brought off also the two guns captured at the outer line of fortifications on the 3rd." He didn't bother to mention he was not bringing the "more than forty" with him back to Ripley.

Total captured - 4

Total claimed - 2 plus "more than forty"

Number lost - 5 (he was correct in his report with this)

Tom

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Thanks Ozzy, I appreciate that. The 77th Ohio went through many chapters, Shiloh being the high point, they went through the advance on Corinth, marching and counter marching across northern Mississippi to Memphis. They were assigned as prison guards at the old penitentiary in Alton, Illinois for 11 long months, then participated in the Little Rock campaign and occupation of the city. They returned to Marietta in the winter of 1863 - 64 to reenlist and recruit . They embarked on what  became known as the Camden expedition where most of the regiment was captured at the battle of Marks Mills and were marched to Camp Ford prison near Tyler, Texas. Ten months of captivity. The men that were not captured were formed into a battalion that participated in the Mobile Bay campaign siege of Spanish Fort. At the war's end they became pawns in an expedition that was sent to the Rio Grande to counter the forces of Emperor Maximilian. The men were left there for months, finally they mustered out in March, 1866. 

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Tom

Thanks for sharing the report concocted by MGen Sterling Price, illustrating that "shading the truth" was not confined to Federal officers.

One more officer who deserves Special Mention is John A. McClernand. I just reviewed his Shiloh report (following on recent discussion of Buckland, Hildebrand and Confederate attacks against Sherman)... and one would swear that MGen McClernand fought the Battle of Shiloh almost single-handed. Any reference to Sherman follows the format:  "joined by a portion of General Sherman's Division" and "supported by a fragment of Sherman's Division" and "While my troops were fighting bravely, Sherman's were being borne back by the enemy on my right."

And not only Sherman takes a hit: every other Federal division commander comes in for criticism:

  • WHL Wallace:  "The 7th Illinois being separated from the 2nd Division was formed by me as a reserve."
  • Hurlbut:   "A portion of Veatch, the 15th Illinois and 46th Illinois, supported my left."
  • Prentiss:   "Firing growing less frequent in Prentiss' direction signalled a partial abatement of resistance offered by his division."
  • Lew Wallace:  "On Day 2, Sherman and Lew Wallace were seen advancing in the same general direction [as me, who was acting as trail-blazer.]"

Of his own performance, McClernand states:  "I pressed the advantage" and "I rode along my line and gave the order, 'Forward'" and "I ordered up McAllister (one of half-a-dozen times McAllister is mentioned) and I kept the enemy in check some time..."

The really sad thing about this Shiloh report:  http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/010/0114

...it wasn't the first time.

McClernand spent more time writing his Belmont report than it took to fight the battle:  http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/003/0277

And of course, McClernand won the Battle of Fort Donelson, too:  http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/007/0170

[I believe these wordy, self-serving, self-congratulatory reports helped broaden the rift that developed between John McClernand and U.S. Grant (who began the war as "best buddies"); and of course the frequent letters McClernand wrote directly to President Lincoln (explaining how everyone was incompetent, except John McClernand) did not win him any friends.]

Ozzy

 

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