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Ozzy

General Grant's decisions

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I have encountered claims that "General Grant made no decisions of note" during Sunday, April 6th; that Division commanders and Brigade commanders made all the important decisions, independent of U.S. Grant. Foremost among these claimants is Don Carlos Buell, particularly in his 1885 article, "Shiloh Revisited." Of course, it does not help matters that General Grant arrived at Pittsburg Landing several hours after first contact that Sunday morning.

Over the past several months, I have collected every instance of an order issued, or a decision made on Day 1 by U.S. Grant. In an effort to acknowledge the importance of Grant's decisions (in order of their occurrence) I present what I believe are the Top Ten Decisions/Actions taken by General Grant on April 6th 1862.

  • First, is an order that had been introduced weeks earlier, but was still in effect Sunday morning; an order that originated with Henry Halleck, but which was vehemently reiterated by U.S. Grant... "Do nothing to bring on a general engagement."  This order tempered the mood prevalent at Pittsburg Landing: instilled in some a feeling of dread, or hopeless despair; while others simply became more alert, and refused to become "victims."
  • Next is an order issued to WHL Wallace, following on the scare of a Rebel attack from Purdy on April 4th. That order directed WHL Wallace to be prepared to support Lew Wallace's 3rd Division in event of emergency. But General Sherman was also "reminded" to be prepared to support Lew Wallace, if necessary... and to be ready to call for Hurlbut's Division as well, if the situation required [Badeau's Military History of US Grant, page 72].
  • Grant's decision to stop at Crump's Landing while enroute to Pittsburg Landing set the stage for a frustrating game of hide-and-seek with Lew Wallace, which lasted all day... by ordering Lew Wallace to "Wait in readiness to move in any direction."
  • Shortly after arrival at Pittsburg Landing, Grant sent away Baxter (via John Rawlins) with the most unnecessarily complex orders imaginable for Lew Wallace: General Grant believed he had ordered General Wallace to "come immediately to Pittsburg Landing via the River Road."  But he had actually failed to reduce the many options available to the Commander of the 3rd Division to one. The orders, as issued, still allowed options (that Grant was unaware existed.)
  • The initial meeting with General Sherman by U.S. Grant (which most sources indicate occurred at approximately 10am) provided reassurance to Sherman that Grant was here, and would provide whatever assistance was necessary to enable Sherman to achieve his goals: men, ammunition, artillery. And General Grant was heartened that he had a fellow West Point-trained military commander, who knew how to conduct himself now that the general engagement had been initiated.
  • The next (and perhaps only) meeting -- between U.S. Grant and Benjamin Prentiss -- occurred at about 10:30. During this meeting, in vicinity of the Hornet's Nest, Grant ordered Prentiss to "Hold this position at all hazards." (Subsequent communications between Prentiss and Grant appear to have been conducted via courier... primarily Edwin Moore, who avoided capture by being with Grant, delivering a message from Prentiss.)
  • At approximately 1:20pm General Grant sent away Captain W.R. Rowley with orders for Lew Wallace, directing the 3rd Division to "come to Pittsburg Landing via the River Road." The receipt of these orders about 90 minutes later, inadvertently eliminated any chance of the 3rd Division's participation in fighting on Day 1. (Meanwhile, General Grant continued to promise the Imminent arrival of Wallace's Division to On-scene commanders, giving them hope of substantial reinforcement.)
  • At approximately 2:30 General Grant directed his Chief of Staff, Colonel Joseph Webster, to begin accumulating artillery pieces at the top of the bluff above Pittsburg Landing (which becomes Grant's Last Line of defence.)
  • At approximately 2:30 after meeting with General Buell, Grant sends Captain W.S. Hillyer on a steamer to Savannah, with instructions to "bring up Crittenden's Division, and arrange their transport to Pittsburg Landing." Hillyer's subsequent actions insure there are sufficient Federal troops on hand to win the Battle on Day 2.
  • Just after 4pm as General Hurlbut and his 4th Division are completing their withdrawal to the bluff above Pittsburg Landing, Grant puts Hurlbut in charge of assembling a "fighting force" consisting of his troops, and augmented from all the men who arrive from the south. These men, in combination with Colonel Webster and Cavender's artillery, (and with Sherman and McClernand in contact to the west) make up Grant's Last Line.

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2017

Ozzy

 

References:   OR 10 part 1 (reports of Grant, Sherman, Prentiss and Hurlbut)

Memoirs of US Grant

Memoirs of W.T. Sherman

http://www.aotc.net/Buell_home.htm   (See "Shiloh Revisited")

http://archive.org/stream/militaryhistoryo1881bade#page/72/mode/2up   Adam Badeau's Military History of US Grant at archive.org

 

 

 

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