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Ozzy

Telegram of April 2nd 1862

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Presented is an interesting telegram sent by Major George W. Brent (from the former Army of the Mississippi HQ at Jackson, Tennessee) to General Beauregard at Corinth on April 2nd 1862: http://civilwar.rosenbach.org/?p=5512  [from "Today in the Civil War: dispatches from the Rosenbach Collection"].

Ozzy

 

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So, what could be the significance of the above telegram?

By April 1st 1862 the Confederates gathered at Corinth are watching for the initiator, the "edge" ...some reasonable justification to launch the pre-emptive strike against Pittsburg Landing that will give the Rebels "the advantage" (in conjunction with Buell being too far away to provide support to U.S. Grant.) On April 2nd the above telegram comes from Jackson reporting a Federal cavalry raid on the M & O R.R. at Union City, sixty miles north of Jackson (and in Beauregards area of responsibility.) Included in that telegram is the additional detail: "the telegraph wires appear to be down north of Humboldt."

Late on April 2nd Benjamin Cheatham relays information through General Polk to General Beauregard that, "Lew Wallace has split away from the Tennessee River and is advancing on Bethel" (another station on the M & O R.R.) Knowing that a Federal tactic (taught at West Point) involved a diversion or feint towards one point, to distract attention from the true target, this combination of reports may have been self-supporting: the Union City raid was a diversion from the true goal of Bethel. And this pair of reports may have been the "proof" Beauregard was watching for, to gain advantage and launch the attack against Pittsburg Landing.

My read of the situation...

Ozzy

 

ReferencesAutobiography of Lew Wallace, vol.1 page 454.

http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/00079/#folder_1#1   SAM Wood telegram of 3 APR 1862 reporting gunboat passed Yellow Creek.

OR 10 pages 22 and 83 - 87.

OR (Navy) vol.22 page 785.

SDG topic "They also serve, who stand and wait..." post of 18 SEP 2017.

 

 

 

 

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So what was the source of the information in Major Brent's telegram?

On March 30th Colonel Napoleon Bonaparte Buford (attached to Foote's Western Gunboats, as Commander of "soldiers afloat" making up the "Flotilla Brigade") took transports attached to the Campaign against Island No.10 and landed his force at Union-occupied Hickman Kentucky. Buford's force (comprised of Hutchen's Cavalry (LtCol Hogg), 27th Illinois Infantry (LtCol Harrington), 15th Wisconsin Infantry (Colonel Heg) and artillery belonging to Captain Sparrestrom of the First Missouri Light Artillery, Battery G) commenced a march after noon, directly towards Union City Tennessee, fifteen miles away... and bivouacked at 7pm (when it became too dark to safely move.) At dawn on the 31st, Buford advanced the final four miles, positioned his artillery on a hill overlooking the town, and attacked: Sparrestrom's Battery fired a number of rounds and Hogg's cavalry force, supported by the infantry, advanced on the Confederate defenders of Union City (about six hundred men under command of Colonel Edward Pickett.) The defenders were quickly routed; a train engine was observed racing away south, leaving its line of cars behind; fourteen prisoners were taken by Buford's force. After burning the Confederate camps in vicinity, Colonel Buford withdrew his force back to the northwest -- two hours after arriving in Union City -- with twelve wagons full of serviceable munitions and equipment captured from the abandoned camps. The Federals arrived back in Hickman before night and boarded the transports. And Colonel Buford wrote his report detailing success of the raid, that evening.

So ended the first engagement at Union City Tennessee... conducted by forces attached to the Campaign for Island No.10 ...which may have helped precipitate the Confederate move from Corinth against Pittsburg Landing.

Fact is stranger than fiction...

Ozzy

 

References:  OR 8 pages 116- 118 Report of Colonel Buford

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_Number_Ten_Union_order_of_battle  Island No.10 Order of Battle (Union)

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/475*.html

http://www.artcirclelibrary.info/Reference/civilwar/1862-03.pdf  See pages 123- 126 "Descent upon Union City"

 

N.B.  Next day (April 1st) Colonel George Roberts, attached to Buford's Flotilla command, conducted his successful raid against Confederate Fort No.1 at Island No.10, spiking guns that could have threatened the passage of USS Carondelet. Buford's force joined the Crawl to Corinth in April/May 1862.

 

 

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One other aspect to consider in regard to the April 2nd decision by the Confederates to launch the attack...

The above telegram may have been referring to the cavalry raid conducted by Curtis Horse. The other alert, provided by General Cheatham, announced that "General Wallace has split away from the Tennessee River and is advancing on Bethel."

But there was a third sortie being conducted by Federal forces on April 2nd. And it may very well be that this other Federal raid, with potential to involve thousands of troops, acted as verification that Grant's Army had fragmented, leaving a substantially diminished force at Pittsburg Landing.

What was this other April 1/2 sortie, and who was in command?

 

 

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Things got busy, end of March 1862:

  • Brigadier General Napoleon Buford (attached to the Operation against Island No.10) initiated his movement from Hickman Kentucky on the 30th, and conducted a successful Raid against Union City (an important depot on the M & O R.R., well to the northwest of Crump's Landing) on the 31st, destroying stores and taking prisoners [this raid is reported on 2 APR via Telegram to General Beauregard at Corinth from Major George Brent]
  • Curtis Horse launched a feint towards Union City from their Tennessee River camp at about the same time, riding as far west as Paris (the terminus of the MC & L R.R., well to the north of Crump's Landing) before circling round and returning to Camp Lowe on 2 April;
  • After midnight of Mar 31/Apr 1 the USS Cairo arrived at Pittsburg Landing; and at daybreak on the 1st struggled up the Tennessee River, towed by one timberclad, and in company with the other, and followed by two transports full of soldiers and artillery, reached as high as Chickasaw Bluff (within striking distance of Bear Creek Bridge on the M & C R.R., well to the south of Crump's Landing)
  • In the Autobiography of Lew Wallace, vol.1 page 454, mention is made of "a report of a Rebel threat against my 3rd Brigade (Whittlesey) at Adamsville [about 2 APR]. Immediately, Smith (1st Brigade) was in motion, advancing from Crump's and Thayer (2nd Brigade) was readied, and prepared to move west." [This activity of Lew Wallace's Third Division, apparently in motion towards Bethel on the M & O R.R. was the initiator that sent the Confederate Army of the Mississippi marching north from Corinth [movement of Lew Wallace reported by Cheatham by Telegram from Bethel]
  • After midnight of 2/3 April, in accordance with orders from Brigadier General Sherman, Colonel W. H. Taylor advanced his 5th Ohio Cavalry southwest of Pittsburg Landing towards Corinth, and engaged Chalmer's Advance in vicinity of Monterey;
  • On 3 April, SAM Wood sent a Telegram from Iuka reporting, "a gunboat has passed Yellow Creek" [probably a late report of Sherman's Raid in company with USS Cairo up the Tennessee River].

What was the "common thread" of all these Federal movements, 31 March to 2 April? It would appear to be "coordinated attacks on Confederate railroads." And most, if not all, of the Federal troops involved may have been assumed to somehow belong to the Union force camped at Pittsburg Landing and Crump's. Therefore, with such a wide dispersion of those troops, in different directions, the movement of Lew Wallace towards the west was viewed as "confirmation of a coordinated Federal effort against Confederate rail lines... and the Time to Strike."

My take on the Cheatham Telegram of 2 APR 1862, and subsequent initiation of Rebel Army movement north from Corinth

Ozzy

 

References:  Autobiography of Lew Wallace, vol.1 page 454.

http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/00079/#folder_1#1  SAM Wood telegram of 3 APR 1862 reporting gunboat passed Yellow Creek. 

OR 10 pages 22 and 83 - 87.

OR (Navy) vol.22 page 785.

SDG topic "They also serve, who stand and wait..." post of 18 SEP 2017.

 

 

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Interesting insights.  Throw in rumors and misinformation into this mix, and, well, it would not be an enviable thing to be in command, on either side, and having to make critical decisions during those weeks before the battle.

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Stan

Given the limited opportunity to collect intelligence and "attempt to get inside the enemy's head," to determine what he really intended to do (after separating out feints and misinformation), the Force under Generals Johnston and Beauregard almost got it right... The attempt against Grant at Pittsburg Landing had to be made. The only real consideration was in the timing.

Ozzy

 

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I think for Johnston, it was actually simple, and as pretty much stated in any Shiloh history book.  He knew the Federal Army was fragmented.  If he sat in Corinth and waited for an attack to come, the Federals would have the upper hand.  Actually, I think Johnston had no choice in the matter.  He had to attack, there was no other option.  Plus, attacking what he thought to be a divided army, destroy it piecemeal and you have a chance at victory.  Attack a smaller, or unsuspecting force, and destroy it and you even the odds.  Otherwise, might as well raise the white flag.  

To be fair, I have never studied the in's and out's of the pre-battle tactics and strategy, and the actual "what happened that made Shiloh happen".  It is very interesting, but I am mainly interested in the experiences of the lowly soldier in the ranks.  I think about the letters I have read, and posted, and how very little the common soldier knew about what was going on just 3 days before the battle.  With at least one instance where an educated regimental company line officer didn't even know his regimental numerical designation just days before the battle, it is amazing things went off so relatively smoothly as they basically did.   

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