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On April 9th 1862, a much-anticipated report detailing events at the recent Battle of Shiloh began making its way to the newspapers of the North. Written by Major General Grant, the concise description of that bloody engagement is below presented, as it appeared in the Coudersport, Pennsylvania weekly, The Potter Journal of Wednesday 23 APR 1862. Filling most of two printed columns (on page 2, beginning column 4) and titled, "Battle at Pittsburg: Official Report of Gen'l Grant," this published account is as close as Ulysses S. Grant ever got to an Official Report.

Click on the below image, and zoom in...

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[provided by Chronicling America, a project of the Library of Congress.]

If the expanded image is unclear, try this direct link:     https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86081096/1862-04-23/ed-1/  (and select Page 2).

 

 

 

 

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“Battle of Pittsburg: Official Report of Gen’l Grant”

[a review by Ozzy]

The above Shiloh report (which General Grant ever after claimed was not official, yet somehow found its way into the National newspapers) was published by The Potter Journal of Coudersport Pennsylvania on Wednesday 23 April 1862 (page 2 cols. 4 & 5.) The report consists of 29 paragraphs (not including title, or closing signature) and is worth a close read to determine how Major General U.S. Grant viewed the Battle of Shiloh (and presented his interpretation to the world) in the immediacy of its conclusion, keeping in mind that this report was written on Wednesday 9 April 1862.

Para.                    Subject Discussed

1.      “It becomes my duty again to report another battle fought…” [At the time Shiloh erupted, U.S. Grant had led actions at Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and had occupied Paducah – all of which can be acknowledged as successes – Ozzy.]

2.      “On Sunday morning our pickets were attacked and driven in by the enemy.” [Notice how Grant claims the Battle of Shiloh began: a picket engagement. No mention of Moore or Powell or Peabody, and my guess is this detail of how the battle began came directly from BGen Benjamin Prentiss, in probably the only face-to-face meeting between Grant and Prentiss, at or just after 1030 Sunday morning.]

3.      [Though creatively worded, Grant acknowledges that the battle began well to the south of Sherman’s position, and expanded, initially, towards Prentiss’s position.]

4.      [Grant acknowledges that “his whole line was forced back a significant distance.” He then states his interpretation of the enemy’s intention “to turn my left, and get possession of the landing and transports.”]

5.      [The important role of the Navy is recorded; as is obscure mention of the siege guns on the bluff above Pittsburg Landing.]

6.      [Grant recognizes the importance of “deep, impassable” Dill Branch ravine, and makes mention of this feature to lay his claim that “no troops were necessary” – Buell’s troops – “to the east of the siege guns.”]

7.      Grant mentions a small, insignificant attempt by the enemy to assault the Landing late in the day; and accords credit for driving away those attackers to the Navy (and thereby denies any credit to Buell and his Army of the Ohio.)

8.      “During the night, the divisions of Crittenden and McCook arrived.”

9.      “Lew Wallace, at Crump’s Landing (six miles below) was ordered at an early hour in the morning to hold his division in readiness to move in any direction it might be ordered.” [The foundation is laid for scapegoating of Lew Wallace: “early hour” could be 5 am… sunrise… 7 am… “Be ready to move” – all Wallace had to do was wait for the orders to come, and follow those orders… “At 11 am those orders were delivered.” This is as close to the correct time of Baxter’s arrival ever admitted by U.S. Grant (which likely took place near to 1130.) “Wallace was ordered to move up to Pittsburg” – exactly where Lew Wallace was directed to move, and by what route (if any route was clearly specified) has been the subject of contention, ever since…]

10.  “During the night, all was quiet.” [Curious, that Grant jumps past events of Day One, to arrive at the termination of Day One, at paragraph 10, less than halfway through report.]

11.  “Wood’s division arrived in time to take part [Day Two].” [This sets the “end time” for Battle of Shiloh: anyone who arrived afterwards – George Thomas – gets no credit.]

12.  [Grant’s reason for “no pursuit” is given: his troops were exhausted from two days of fighting. Does not mention Halleck’s order not to pursue “any significant distance.”]

13.  “Night [of the Second Day] closed in cloudy, with a heavy rain…” [General Grant jumps all the way past the end of the battle, and adds “rain-affected roads” as another reason for no pursuit.]

14.  “General Sherman, however, followed the enemy…” [After laying out the difficulties with pursuing the enemy, Grant introduces Sherman: a stalwart who made the attempt. Sherman was Grant’s selection as “Hero of Shiloh.”]

15.  “Nothing but hospitals and dead bodies [as far as Sherman pursued…]”

16.  “I cannot take special notice in this report…” [A furphy… because Grant uses this “unofficial” report to boost those he feels deserving, while awarding a back-hander to those who “do not deserve credit.” This report is a political construct.]

17.  “Buell can write his own report of the battle…” [Afterwards, Grant claimed that “the failure of Buell, and Grant’s own division commanders, to submit timely reports of the battle, contributed to his own lack of an Official Report.”]

18.  “I feel it my duty, however… to [accord recognition to General Sherman].” [The second mention of Sherman, with no mention – as yet – of Hurlbut, WHL Wallace, Prentiss… although after heaping shovels full of cudos on “The Hero of Shiloh,” General Grant does mention his other division commanders by name, and gives them joint credit, “for maintaining their places” – Can a compliment be any more obscure? Not only is Buell’s role minimized, but Grant’s own division leaders “just kept their heads above water, and held the line” while Sherman shot forward and picked up the slack, everywhere. (Prentiss was away, enjoying Southern hospitality… WHL Wallace died April 10th… and Hurlbut was a drunk (who should just be grateful for being allowed to participate)… and McClernand… or Lew Wallace: Grant could care less if those two loose cannons ever read what he had to say about them in his report.  ]

19.  “General Prentiss was taken prisoner on the first day’s action…” [Combined with the claims that reporters began to publish on April 9th, this non-specific time of capture – “first day’s action” – can be read as “first action of the day,” and contributed to many readers believing that Prentiss and his men were taken prisoner early in the day. A false charge that Prentiss fought for the rest of his life.] “And WHL Wallace was severely, and probably mortally wounded. His Assistant Adjutant General, Captain McMichael, is missing, and was probably taken prisoner.”

20.  [General Grant lists his Staff by name… those deserving of recognition, anyway. John Rawlins is included well down the list; Clark Lagow, W.S. Hillyer and William Rowley have their names misspelled. Missing from the list is Algernon Baxter, the QM that delivered the confusing orders to Lew Wallace.]

21.  [Colonels Webster and McPherson are accorded additional mention.]

22.  [The credit accorded McPherson continues… especially as concerns “his knowledge of all the ground around Pittsburg campground” …which may be a back-handed award of “credit” for “not entrenching at Pittsburg Landing.”]

23.  “The country will have to mourn the loss of many brave men…”

24.  “The exact loss in killed and wounded will be known in a day or two…”

25.  “At present I estimate 1500 killed and 3500 wounded…”

26.  “The loss of artillery was great…”

27.  “The loss to the enemy was greater than ours…” [This was always claimed during the Civil War – even when it was known not to be true – because civilians always accord Victory to the side which lost the least men (and held the ground after the battle was over.) In the confused reporting after Shiloh, this was Grant’s attempt to assert Victory by reporting, “we lost fewer men,” and “we held the ground, at the end.”]

28.  “The enemy suffered terribly from demoralization and desertion.” [This theme played out later after the May 1862 occupation of Corinth, following which Generals Pope and Halleck convinced themselves that, “the Rebel Army was coming apart, and probably would not fight again…”]

29.  “A Flag of Truce was sent from General Beauregard…” [This ties into the wishful thinking expressed in para.28 and harks back to “that other” flag of truce, received by General Grant at Fort Donelson…]

General observations:

·         General Grant makes no mention of his late arrival (four hours or more, after first contact) at Pittsburg Landing;

·         There is no clarity provided on when Prentiss surrendered;

·         “An advance was ordered on Monday morning.” Not, “I ordered the advance,” or “General Buell and I ordered the advance, after consultation…” [The advance just happened – see para.10.]

·         The reported start of Day Two – 9 am – ignores Lew Wallace getting the ball rolling at daybreak – see para.10;

·         U.S. Grant does not take direct credit for anything, except submitting this unofficial report (see para.1). But, Grant makes use of the trick: “Pull everyone else down, and those left standing, stand tall.” The only man who truly shines is W. T. Sherman.

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I agree with Bjorn and his observation, in relation to points 3 and 4, that by placing green troops to encamp in your most advanced positions, some who had never fired their muskets, and likewise sending forward troops into line with no ammunition, was, well, a major mistake.  How any military officer can allow such a tactical faux pas to take place is mind boggling. Not entrenching, Point 22, is one thing, but putting rookies in the front line of your army as your first defense, again, that placement of troops was not thought out to any extent.  Either it was done on purpose, and whoever issued the orders for such a camp layout is an idiot, or it was not thought out, and still someone is an idiot, because it should have been thought out.  The buck stops at Grant.  It is hard enough to maintain control of an Army when you are with the Army, much less when you are hanging out at the Cherry Mansion and not “in the field”.  I think you are right Ozzy.  Grant was sly on this account.  Praise your friends and those you want to see shine, barely mention others, again, to leave room for scapegoats, say nothing to shed blame on yourself (Grant’s late arrival). 

I, for one, have never thought much of Lew Wallace’s arrival in any shape, form, or fashion.  His absence had no influence on the first day of battle.  But, his arrival did influence the 2nd day, much more than he gets credit for IMHO.  Was Wallace going to come in on the first day and somehow single handedly deliver a crushing blow to the Confederates?  Looking back is hindsight 101.  We know the number of troops involved.  At the time, the combatants did not.  Wallace was not going to go blindly plowing in not knowing what was ahead of him.  So, the whole, “when did Wallace get his orders, why the counter-march, how did he get lost”, all the blah blah blah associated with Wallace has always puzzled me as to why modern historians are so engulfed by it. 

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How “green” is Green?

A number of interesting points are introduced by Stan in the above post: 1) Green troops; 2) the siting of the Sixth Division; 3) lack of preparation for attack by Confederates; 4) General Grant away at Savannah; and 5) the Lew Wallace brouhaha.

1)      Although historians have attempted to brand all of the participants (North and South) at Shiloh as “green troops,” there was no one-size-fits-all in that contest. Some of Bragg’s troops had participated in the Battle of Santa Rosa Island (and others had been under fire from artillery during two prolonged gunnery duels at Pensacola.) The Sixth Division, as confirmed by Bjorn Skaptason, possessed both green troops (61st Illinois, 18th Wisconsin, 15th Michigan) and experienced regiments (25th Missouri, which fought at Lexington as 13th Missouri; 21st Missouri, which fought Battle of Athens and was involved in operations versus guerrillas; and 18th Missouri, which was involved in operations against guerrillas.) In addition, the artillery batteries belonging to Hickenlooper and Munch appear to have been knowledgeable in the operation of their equipment (unlike Myer’s Battery, belonging to Hurlbut’s Division.)

2)      William Tecumseh Sherman, acting as Campground commander (in absence of General Charles F. Smith) made the assignments of camp sites, based upon supposed intention to commence a march, and conduct offensive action against Rebel troops in vicinity of Corinth: there was no serious contemplation of Rebel attack upon the campground at Pittsburg Landing.

3)      Contributing to “false sense of security” at Pittsburg Landing: I believe that General Grant considered his frequent and differently-targetted raids against the Memphis & Charleston R.R. and Mobile & Ohio R.R. as sufficiently concerning to Beauregard and Johnston to “keep those Rebel commanders rooted in place, on the defensive.” Grant entertained no serious thought of Rebel attack; believed “action would only take place when he (Grant) ordered it” and used his abundant spare time, while waiting for Buell, to relax at the Cherry Mansion, and “instill discipline” in his commanders.

4)      The more I study the lead-up to Shiloh, the less I find support for General Grant remaining at Savannah: nothing good came of his remaining at Savannah.

5)      Lew Wallace brouhaha. Newspaper readers were told that, “Lew Wallace spent all day marching within sound of the battle, only six miles away, yet never arrived in time to take part” – Why? Soldiers belonging to Prentiss and Hurlbut and WHL Wallace were told that “Lew Wallace was coming to reinforce them,” but he never showed up – Why? General Grant believed he’d ordered Lew Wallace to do one thing; but Lew Wallace stated that his orders directed him to do something else. Both Generals had witnesses that supported their versions of the Truth. How can that be? [But, truth be known, the Wallace Wrong Road Controversy was useful in shunting attention away from other matters… like, “When did Grant arrive at Pittsburg Landing?” and “Why were the Federal troops surprised?” and “How did Grant and Buell conduct (and coordinate) their activities on Day Two?” and “Why were there so many Federal casualties?” ] If you can make it appear that “everything bad happened because of incompetent Lew Wallace,” then the real answers never have to be found.

 

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On #15--"Nothing but hospitals and dead bodies--as long as Sherman pursued"....there was the "pursuit order" so this part of the report "overlooks" the fighting at fallen timbers.on the 8th.

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Mona

Having written this report on 9 April 1862, General Grant was aware of the attempted pursuit by Sherman (and Dickey's cavalry) on Tuesday. But, instead of recording that, "The attempted pursuit by Sherman was a failure," the effort was "spun" into the story incorporated in paragraphs 14 & 15 (in such a way that Sherman emerges as a heroic figure.)

A fore-runner to a more fantastic report submitted by General Grant, just a few months later, in which Edward Ord is accorded credit for a battle -- in which he did not even participate -- this written commendation of Sherman by Grant provides proof that, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

Cheers

Ozzy

Reference:  https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.hwanm2;view=1up;seq=78  OR 17 part 1 pages 64 - 69 (Iuka).

 

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When I refer to "green troops", I mean basically civilians.  Basically no drill, never fired their weapons.  Putting troops THAT green on the front lines is just insane.  By sheer luck, they stood their ground.  But, say had those green troops all run when the first shots were fired.  The Confederates would have readily destroyed the other veteran units due to sheer weight of numbers.  But, what if's.  

When looking at the Federal perspective it can't be said that "no attack was expected at Pittsburg Landing" AND ALSO say, "we were not surprised on April 6th".  Those statements totally contradict one another.  The Federals were surprised, plain and simple.  Having said that, I think the Confederates were actually surprised when the dawn patrol came along.  Hard to know if the Confederates were expecting it, or if when it happened they thought the weight of the whole Federal Army was about to come crashing down.

Lastly, yes, Lew Wallace.  I believe it simply is smoke and mirrors.  Watch what the left hand is going while the right hand is actually at play.  You hit the nail on the head Ozzy.  By distracting the masses with Wallace being lost and late, the questions that really needed to be answered were swept under the rug.  Point 5 is spot on.  

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