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From a jack to a King

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From W.S. Hillyer's letter of April 11th 1862 it is apparent U.S. Grant and his Staff officers believed they had the situation as they found it fully in hand within an hour or two of arriving at Pittsburg Landing on April 6th. Sherman was being pushed back, to be sure, but only gradually and grudgingly; Hurlbut, Prentiss and WHL Wallace were established in a naturally strong position; and orders had been sent for the 3rd Division to come up from Crump's, and the arrival of that strong, fresh force of reinforcements would be enough to tip the scales and assure Federal victory. Hillyer in his letter makes mention of Grant "sending staff officers flying across the battlefield, effecting orders" and Captain Hillyer, himself, was sent by General Grant on one occasion to direct a cavalry reconnaissance.

At about 1pm Grant, Rowley (and possibly Hillyer) set out for another meeting with General Sherman; they were riding west along the Pittsburg-Purdy Road when they encountered the just-returned Cavalry officer, Frank Bennett, at the intersection with the Savannah-Hamburg Road (sometimes called the River Road.) And what Bennett reported -- Lew Wallace was not coming via the River Road -- must have hit General Grant like a hammer. Wallace's reinforcing division had been promised to Hurlbut/WHL Wallace; LtCol James McPherson had even identified the position where Lew Wallace would go...

After sending Rowley and Bennett away back north (with orders to bring Lew Wallace via the River Road) General Grant aborted the intended meeting with Sherman: the priority now was to find out from Quartermaster Baxter what directions he'd delivered to Lew Wallace. Grant turned back east. And, as if the non-arrival of Lew Wallace wasn't enough bad news, when the General gained the bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, the steamers he'd sent hours earlier to ferry Nelson's men across from the east bank were still there, with no sign of activity in their vicinity. This had to be the low-water mark for Grant's fortunes (and outlook) on Day One: neither of his anticipated sources of reinforcements were coming.

It is my belief that a readily-available staff officer (Captain Clark Lagow) was now pressed into service; given a hurriedly written order directed to "Commanding Officer, Advanced Forces" and verbal orders to "Hurry forward General Nelson." Lagow departed immediately on an available steamer (and at some stage during his transit down river put his verbal orders to General Nelson into written form, signed "C.B. Lagow ADC" [Papers of US Grant vol 5 pages 17-18].

General Grant entered the HQ building (where I believe John Rawlins acted as point-of-contact in Grant's absence) and probably confronted his Assistant Adjutant General in regard to what orders he'd authorized Baxter to deliver to Lew Wallace. While engaged in this conversation, word must have come that "the Tigress had just returned." Grant and Rawlins rode down to the Landing and boarded Tigress to confront Baxter. Present at this meeting in the Ladies' Cabin aboard the Headquarters boat were U.S. Grant, John Rawlins, W.S. Hillyer and A.S. Baxter.

The time was just after 1:30 pm.

Just an attempt to connect some dots...


References to be found in SDG posts "Buell meets Grant" ..."Letter of W.S. Hillyer" ... "Impression of Grant" ..."Where was Grant?"

N.B.  Apologies to Ned Miller for use of his 1957 song title, "From a Jack to a King."



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While General Grant, John Rawlins (and possibly W.S. Hillyer) were meeting with Quartermaster A.S. Baxter in the Ladies' Cabin aboard Grant's floating HQ, Tigress... Buell arrived.  And U.S. Grant must have believed all of his Christmasses had come at once. For Grant had no idea where Buell was on the morning of April 6th; he'd even sent his urgent message addressed to "Commanding Officer, Advance Forces" in order to cover the possibility Buell would not receive it (but perhaps BGen William "Bull" Nelson instead.)

Now, just before 2pm (according to Captain Hillyer) Don Carlos Buell was at Pittsburg Landing, with all the benefits that implied: in particular, substantial reinforcements were enroute. Grant's reliance on Lew Wallace should have diminished... except D.C. Buell informed U.S. Grant that Bull Nelson had only departed on his ten mile march (with a significant portion through swamp) about the same time Buell, himself, left Savannah on the steamer. But Buell's description of Grant during the course of this brief meeting is telling: Grant was composed; aware of his situation, and not "rattled" by it. Buell was fooled by Grant's "poker face," for the Commander of the Army of the Tennessee had maintained a facade during their entire meeting, even stressing Lew Wallace's "imminent arrival" (which must have impressed J.B. Fry, Buell's Chief of Staff, when he looked back at  that performance, later.) At 2pm General Grant sent away Captain Hillyer with directions to "gather together sufficient steamers to transport Crittenden's division from Savannah" and written orders for General Crittenden to execute that move. (Hillyer reports that he arrived in Savannah by 3:30.)

Meanwhile, after dispatching Hillyer, Grant and Rawlins mounted horses (Buell seems to have left his horse in Savannah) and the pair rode quickly up the bluff... effectively ditching Buell (who seems to have been happy to "admonish the many shirkers" while awaiting arrival of his Army of the Ohio.) At the top of the bluff, the mounted pair encountered LtCol James McPherson. Still wanting reinforcements on the field soon as possible, Grant sent away Rawlins and McPherson north, up the River Road, with orders to "hurry Lew Wallace." Satisfied this situation (IRT reinforcements) was finally under control, General Grant did what must be done: spoke to Colonel Joseph Webster and directed him to "position all available artillery along the east-west line atop the bluff from Pittsburg Landing, pointing south."

And the Commander of the Army of the Tennessee rode away west to commence that overdue meeting with Sherman.

It was just after 2:30 pm.



N.B.  References used include SDG topics "Buell meets Grant" and "Impression of Grant" and "Grant's Decisions" and the April 11th 1862 letter of W.S. Hillyer. Also "Shiloh Reviewed" by Don Carlos Buell. Much of the above interpretation revolves around my belief that the delay in expected arrival of reinforcements sparked U.S. Grant to initiate placement of the Siege Guns (and construct Grant's Last Line of Defense) sooner, and more completely, than otherwise would have occurred.



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General Grant's overdue meeting with William Tecumseh Sherman occurred just before 3pm (as recorded by Sherman in his Memoirs on page 238). Sherman recalls having "fought four long hours, from 10:30, to hold his position 'north of the 5th Division camps and original line.'" Now, here was U.S. Grant, bringing wondrous news, cheering news:

  • Don Carlos Buell had arrived (and Grant had just spoken to him, in person)
  • Buell's Army of the Ohio was on hand, just across the Tennessee River... shortly to arrive at Pittsburg;
  • Lew Wallace had been "put right" and would be arriving on the Battlefield -- soon -- via the River Road and Wallace Bridge across Snake Creek. That bridge must be protected at all costs [my interpretation -- Ozzy].

I believe that through this 3pm meeting, General Grant gave tacit approval for W.T. Sherman and forces under his control to fall back to the Savannah-Hamburg Road (aka River Road)... and no further.


Reference:   http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=yale.39002009162026;view=1up;seq=243  Sherman's Memoirs

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