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Ozzy

A Message sent by Steamer

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Sent from Pittsburg Landing on April 6th 1862 to:

"Commanding Officer Advance Forces near Pittsburg, Ten -- 

General:

The attack on my forces has been very spirited from early this morning. The appearance of fresh troops on the field now would have a powerful effect both by inspiring our men and disheartening the enemy. If you will get upon the field leaving all your baggage on the East bank of the river it will be a move to our advantage and possibly save the day to us.

The rebel forces is estimated at over 100,000 men.

My head quarters will be in the log building on top of the hill where you will be furnished a staff officer to guide you to your place on the field.

Respectfully & etc.

U.S. Grant, Major General"

Our full understanding and appreciation of the above message suffers because it does not carry the clock time of its sending, leaving many to believe it was sent by General Grant within an hour or two of his arrival on the Battlefield. Some even believe Captain W.S. Hillyer was the courier who took the above message to Savannah. But the message is actually a politely-worded order which contains many interesting elements:

  • sent from Pittsburg Landing
  • sent by MGen Grant (not Rawlins, or another aide)
  • sent to "the Commanding Officer" [because U.S. Grant did not yet know General Buell had already arrived in vicinity of Savannah]
  • "fresh troops now would have an inspiring effect"
  • "leave all your baggage behind" [This direction had unintended consequences.]
  • "the rebel forces is estimated at over 100,000 men" [Did Grant believe this estimate; or merely sent for effect?]
  • "My HQ are the log building on top of the hill" [Identifies General Grant's desired point-of-contact.]

The above message was sent by courier, and intercepted by Don Carlos Buell before 2pm as he steamed up the Tennessee River (and is recorded in Buell's 1887 Century article, "Shiloh Reviewed.")

Ozzy

 

 

 

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To me, the above message reads as a "cry for help," and if it had been sent shortly after General Grant's arrival at Pittsburg Landing would be eminently understandable. But the fact that it was sent early afternoon (my best estimate indicates Buell received it within fifteen minutes of 1:30pm) -- at a time when Sherman and McClernand were strongly engaged, but holding their own (even including a significant attempt at counter-attack) and Hurlbut, Prentiss and WHL Wallace were providing staunch resistance to Braxton Bragg and Albert Sidney Johnston, gives pause: "What was going on between 1 and 1:30 that sparked in Grant the need to send this message?"

Ozzy

 

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Brands' book (2013, p 180) quotes the April 6th letter/order extensively. Brand gives me the impression that he believed the order was written from Savannah, though Brand's narrative is not precisely referenced and seems to me to be drawn from both the order quoted by Buell and Grant's Memoirs. Brand quotes Grant "I had been looking for this..." as if this quote comes from his order to Buell, but that sentence does not appear there. If Grant had been looking for the attack "on monday or tuesday" he sure wasn't looking much on Sunday. Grant's use of the future tense "will be" ("...my headquarters will be in the log building...") suggests he was not on the field at the time the letter was written. Now I would parse "will be found" as being consistent with his presence, but he did not add "found". 

There are no inflected forms for the future in English (nothing like those -ed or -s endings in the other tenses). Instead, the future tense employs the helping verbs will or shall with the base form of the verb: She will leave soon. We shall overcome.

Grant's writing style in his Memoirs and elsewhere was very succinct. Gertrude Stein, partly because of Grant's simple, direct writing style, called Grant's Memoirs "One of the ten best books ever written by an American" while comparing it to Caesar's Commentaries. Edmund Wilson also praised Memoirs very highly. 

Where besides in Century is the letter/order reproduced? Buell may have edited it.

Brand 2013 p180.JPG

Buell Century Magazine 1886 p 753.JPG

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Rbn3

Thanks for making mention of "the other messages" sent by Grant (or his AAG, John Rawlins) to officers of the Army of the Ohio (beginning with the April 5th acknowledgement that Buell would arrive April 6th), for there were several messages:

  • April 5th  US Grant to Buell:  "I will be here [at Savannah] to meet you tomorrow..."
  • April 6th  US Grant to Buell:  "Heavy firing is heard up the [river] indicating plainly that an attack has been made upon our most advanced positions. I have been looking for this but did not believe the attack could be made before Monday or Tuesday. This necessitates my joining the forces up the river instead of meeting you to-day as I had contemplated. I have directed General Nelson to move to the river with his Division. He can march to opposite Pittsburg. -- Respectfully your obedient servant, US Grant, Major General Commanding  [Uncertain how this message was sent from Savannah in the morning before Grant embarked on Tigress, but Buell does not indicate that he received it (Papers of US Grant vol 5 page 17.)]
  • April 6th  Rawlins to BGen Nelson:  "An attack having been made on our forces, you will move your entire command to the river opposite Pittsburg. You can obtain a guide easily in the village." [Papers of US Grant vol 5 page 18] Sent by courier from Savannah (Cherry Mansion to Nelson's Camp) before Grant and Staff departed on Tigress.
  • April 6th, between 1 and 1:30pm (estimate), sent by courier aboard steamer from Pittsburg Landing to vicinity of Savannah, from US Grant to "Commanding Officer, Advance Forces" details as above [and can be found in Papers of US Grant vol 5 page 18.] Grant was uncertain who was senior officer Army of the Ohio in vicinity Savannah at time message was sent, but Don Carlos Buell intercepted this message during his passage upriver, probably between 1:30 and 1:45. 
  • April 6th at 2pm:  after Buell arrived at Pittsburg Landing and met Grant aboard Tigress, Captain W.S. Hillyer (ADC) was tasked by General Grant with taking sufficient steamers to Savannah to bring up Crittenden's Division. General Grant may have written the orders for Crittenden to march; or Hillyer may have been given authority to write the orders. Once at Savannah (about 3:30pm according to Hillyer) the Captain ADC had similar orders delivered to Crittenden, Wood, McCook (and possibly Thomas). [OR vol 10 part 2 pages 95-6]
  • April 6th  Clark Lagow ADC to BGen Nelson [OR vol 10 part 2 pages 95-6] More detail on this particular message to come...

Regards

Ozzy

 

http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/17896/rec/20  Papers of US Grant vol 5

http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=Lagow;rgn=full text;idno=waro0011;didno=waro0011;node=waro0011%3A2;view=image;seq=98;page=root;size=100   OR vol 10 part 2

 

 

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Many years ago I started purchasing the Papers of U.S. Grant as they were issued. Volume 5 came out in 1973 at a price of $15 ($85.21 in 2017 dollars http://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=15&year=1973). I also once had a complete, though mixed, set (126 volumes) of the OR, most bound in calf, plus the atlas set. I recently downloaded for free volume 5 in 15 seconds. I was (and still am) a book collector of sorts with a poor focus. From a financial point of view I would have been much better off collecting buggy whips.

The footnote to the "heavy firing" letter of the 6th indicates that Buell made no mention of receipt of that letter in his Report of April 15th, 1862 or in the Century Review article 23 years later. The footnote also states that Buell "implied" he had no contact with Grant until getting to Pittsburg Landing, but also states that in the Century Review Buell said he received the "Commanding Officer" letter while aboard the steamboat en route.

The irony is that on the 5th Grant wrote to Buell "The enemy is at and near Corinth are probably from 60 to 80 thousand. Information not reliable.[emphasis added}"

Then, after hearing the cannons early the next morning Grant wrote he "...did not believe the attack could be made before Monday or Tuesday."

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Rbn3

The flow of thought evident upon reading General Grant's messages to officers of the Army of the Ohio (April 5 and 6) evolves from "complacent, going through the motions (of preparing for the march on Corinth)" ...to "Holy Smokes!" ...to resolute determination of "Let's get this done."

Ozzy

N.B.  I agree: books will always have an important place; and hopefully a few libraries will continue to hold onto their paper copies in spite of the growing popularity of the Internet. I find that the ever-increasing availability of historic references online is beneficial, however... I also notice "broken links" making previously accessible online references "unavailable."  Always good to have a "hard copy" of the most important references. 

 

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Unintended Consequences

There can be no doubt of General Grant's intentions when he included with the above courier-delivered message to "Commanding Officer, Advance Forces: ...if you will get upon the field leaving all your baggage on the East bank..." 

  • Speed up overall march of men toward Pittsburg Landing, and
  • Preserve space on steamers for men (primarily infantrymen) meaning fewer steamers/steamer-trips required.

Unfortunately, "all your baggage" was interpreted to include ammunition wagons as well as tents and foodstuffs. And some infantry weapons had unusual calibre, or difficult-to-find ammunition, with no certainty it would be available through Grant's Supply System. [To counter this oversight, an amendment was issued to orders, directing "ammunition wagons to accompany Buell's divisions" for transport to Pittsburg Landing.]

In addition, "Leave your baggage on the East bank of the river" was interpreted as "Abandon it, now... upon receipt of orders. Do not move it further west; leave adequate force to guard the abandoned supply wagons."  On its face, this seems like a reasonable idea... except all of Buell's Force was using the same Waynesboro - to - Savannah Road; each division following the one in front (with perhaps 3 miles spacing between divisions.) And it is to be remembered that a "baggage train" was not a handful of wagons: the ratio then in use was 25 wagons (full of supplies) and mules required to pull them, for every 1000 men. The abandoned wagons were not moved any meaningful distance away from the road; and when guards were posted to protect those wagons, their defensive perimeter affected the route subsequent troops were forced to follow to avoid entanglement with road-blocking wagons and the troops guarding them.

Almost all of Buell's division commanders made mention of the problem caused by "abandoned baggage trains" in their Shiloh after-action reports. In addition, BGen T.J. Wood (6th Division) makes mention of the series of three conflicting orders he received during his march [OR 10 page 377]: the first said "leave your baggage and supply train;"  the second order directed Wood to "bring your ammunition and supply train." (Troops had to be sent back to move the abandoned wagons forward.) While commencing the march in accordance with the 2nd Order (and finding the road ahead blocked by wagons of another division), a third order was received directing all the baggage (including ammunition wagons) was to be left behind, under guard.

Night fell on April 6th (and then the rain bucketted down) as Wood attempted to comply with his orders...

Ozzy

 

References:  OR 10 page 302 (McCook);  page 377 (Wood);  page 88 (BGen Milo Hascall)

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