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Friday 4 April 1862 and the Picket Skirmish

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The Picket Skirmish of Friday, April 4th 1862 has been discussed “in passing” on the way to the more interesting and important Battle of Shiloh (which erupted Sunday morning, April 6th.) In many ways, this Picket Skirmish was a “dry run” for the Big Show on Sunday. We at SDG believe we are familiar with this skirmish, but are we?

 

Here are a series of questions:

  1. What was the weather on 4 April 1862?

  2. What Federal forces were involved that Friday (actually engaged?)

  3. What Confederate forces were involved (actually engaged or fired rounds?)

  4. At what time on Friday did the first exchange of gunfire occur (to nearest half hour)?

  5. Who was the most senior Federal leader involved?

  6. Who was the most senior Federal leader to survey the ground on Friday?

  7. Who was the most senior Confederate leader involved (either at scene of action, or directing that action from the rear)?

  8. At what time did the “engagement” end (to nearest half hour)?

  9. At what time did Major General Grant meet with BGen W.T. Sherman on Friday?

  10. What action did Major General Grant order as result of the Picket Skirmish?

  11. How many total casualties resulted (USA and CSA)?

  12. Which of the Confederate prisoners taken on April 4th were interviewed by Grant?

  13. What happened to these “ten” Confederate prisoners? [Grant records 8 prisoners.]

  14. How many Federal prisoners were taken on April 4th? What happened to them?

 

Can you answer them all?

 

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The Weather and other References

 

In a Letter dated 4 April 1862, Bugler Charles Dickey of Illinois reports the weather at Pittsburg Landing: “The weather is rather uncomfortable warm in the daytime, but the nights are delicious, just cool enough to sleep well.” BGen WHL Wallace in his Letter of 5 April to his wife reports the “skirmish in front of General Sherman's division,” and recalls, “last night brought storm and rain.” Confederate soldier L. I. Nixon, who began April 4th seven miles south of Shiloh Church recorded in his diary: “It commenced raining before day...” Lieutenant J.J. Geer reports “a torrent of rain” that fell on Friday afternoon, before sunset. General William Hardee, in his report following the April 4th Skirmish, recorded: “The rain fell in torrents, swelling streams to where they became impassible. Our planned overnight march [of 4/5 April] was cancelled.”

Based on the above, it appears Friday, April 4th began with a clearing shower. The sun came out, and the day warmed (probably to the low 80s) before cloud and showers returned during the afternoon, turning into heavy rain and storms late in the evening, with rain persisting until daybreak on Saturday. [The same band of stormy weather allowed USS Carondelet to run the gauntlet at Island No.10 on Friday evening.]

 

Here are a few other references that may be of use IRT Picket Skirmish of April 4th:

SDG “Shiloh account, pre-battle patrols” by Stan Hutson on 20 AUG 2017.

Geer, J.J. “A Yankee Loose in Dixie” (1862) pages 23 – 26 available online https://archive.org/stream/beyondlinesory00geer#page/25/mode/1up

SDG “Correspondence (Union) – April 4, 1862” posted by Manassas 1

SDG “Correspondence (Union) – April 5, 1862” posted by Manassas 1 [especially reports from General Sherman and General Grant regarding events of that Friday.]

OR 10 part 1 page 89 Report of U.S. Grant to General Halleck IRT Picket Skirmish

OR 10 part 1 pages 89 – 90 Report of W. T. Sherman

OR 10 part 1 pages 90 – 92 Report of Colonel Ralph Buckland

http://dan-masters-civil-war.blogspot.com/2019/01/general-buckland-explains-battle-of.html  Buckland comments on Picket Skirmish

OR 10 part 1 page 93 and page 567 Reports of General William Hardee.

William Posegate Letter of 11 APR 1862 at http://www.48ovvi.org/

Corporal William Srofe Letter of noon 4 April 1862 at http://www.48ovvi.org/ 

https://cmkinhuntercm.wordpress.com/category/1862/page/1/  SGT I. N. Carr 11th Iowa diary entry for 4 APR 1862

SDG “Another reporter's story” [Surgeon Frank Reilly knowledge of Picket Skirmish]

https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84031490/1862-04-14/ed-1/seq-1/ Daily Chicago Tribune of 14 APR 1862 page one report of Surgeon Frank Reilly [with details of Picket Skirmish of April 4th.]

https://archive.org/details/lifelettgeneral00wallrich/page/182 Life and Letters of WHL Wallace (especially pages 180 – 182.)

https://pickusottawail.com/murals/general-w-h-l-wallace/ Recent mural added at Ottawa.

https://archive.org/stream/recollectionswit00thomp#page/206/mode/2up SGT Seymour Thompson (3rd Iowa Infantry) recalls events of Friday, April 4th on pages 206 – 207.

http://content.lib.auburn.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/civil/id/23854/rec/20 L.I. Nixon of the 26th Alabama records in his diary entry for April 4th, “We saw a bare-headed Union officer escorted to the rear (before sunset) and after sunset, picket firing was heard away to the east.”

 

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im going to have to answer these bit by bit..very busy dont have much time at all to research..

1-warm in the morning which led to later showers...

2-Ohio..72nd--48th--70th  5th Oh cav

4-2-2:30pm

5-Sherman

6-Buckland

14-7 men and 1 officer Herbert of the 70th

will be back..go to go check my cows that are calving....

Mona

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Mona

Thanks for having a look at this topic, and I agree with your start time (2 – 2:30pm) and your list of Union forces that participated appears to be complete (48th OVI (one man, 1/LT Geer, serving as Staff officer to General Buckland) and 72nd OVI (of Sherman's Fifth Division) Buckland's 4th Brigade. 5th Ohio Cavalry, Co's B & H. And the Picket engaged belonged to the 70th OVI.) The events of April 4th had potential to develop into something more momentous, and yet the gunfire that erupted could NOT be heard at Crump's Landing; and many of the forces camped north and east of Sherman's Division were unaware that anything unusual had taken place that Friday afternoon.

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Other considerations...

 

2 APR Lew Wallace's force moves towards Purdy. This “expedition” is misinterpreted and its size overstated, likely leading to initiation of Rebel advance from Corinth.

3 APR IAW orders dated April 2nd WHL Wallace is placed in temporary command of Smith's Second Division (and likely informed personally by Major General US Grant.) BGen Wallace writes his wife that day and informs her, “[he will move from the First Division to the Second Division] and assume command tomorrow.”

3 APR Lew Wallace tells US Grant of concern IRT possible Rebel move on him from Purdy. [This concern is repeated April 4th.]

3 APR Likely based on report that “the Tennessee River is falling” received from WT Sherman and Colonel Webster, General Grant orders rebuild of “Wallace Bridge” over Snake Creek. Colonel McPherson and a work party from the Second Division spend all day Friday rebuilding the bridge, with only the approach ramps remaining to be attached. [Without approaches, it would be extremely difficult to move artillery onto, and off of the bridge.]

3 APR Probing scout sent towards Monterey before dawn Thursday, authorized by Sherman (involving 5th Ohio cavalry and in conjunction with 54th Ohio, an attempt to ambush CSA cavalry.) Ambush unsuccessful; but several rebels captured [Papers of USG vol.5 p.5].

3 APR Telegraph line from Savannah to Waynesboro completed, with first contact with General Bull Nelson that evening [Nelson is informed that his advance party has arrived.] As efforts to get telegraph to function are underway, US Grant is likely present at the shop on Main Street Savannah during much of Thursday and Friday observing events, and sending/receiving sample messages.

 

References:

SDG “Not just pictures...” post of 5 July 2017 [“Report of Special Correspondent of Cincinnati Gazette” dated 1 April 1862, which was published April 4th.]

SDG “General Johnston, an 1885 Disagreement” post of 23 AUG 2019 [details move of Wallace towards Purdy on April 2nd and Confederate response.]

Papers of US Grant vol.5 page 3 [General Nelson's advance in sight.]

Papers of US Grant vol.5 pp.11 – 12 [April 4 report of Hammond to Rawlins.]

 

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Another curious aspect...

Part of what makes “the skirmish” of 4 April 1862 difficult to comprehend, is that it appears to have commenced between 2 and 2:30 pm. And yet regiments were still falling into line late in the evening (with the last alerted regiments being dismissed about midnight.)

Did this afternoon skirmish really persist until nearly midnight? Or was something else going on?

 

 

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Item No.3: Rebel units involved

 

According to published reports, the Rebel unit that initiated contact with a picket post manned by soldiers of the 70th Ohio Infantry was Clanton's 1st Alabama Cavalry. In effect, the advance elements of Grant's Army were engaged by advance units of General Johnston's Army. But, how can a mounted group “sneak up” on an attentive force of well posted infantry pickets?

According to Surgeon Frank Riley, the Union pickets were playing Euchre (a card game imported to the United States by Belgium) and taken unawares... their attention was misdirected. Surgeon Riley also reports that “one of the card players was shot in the hand by the attacking Rebels.”

https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84031490/1862-04-14/ed-1/seq-1/ Daily Chicago Tribune of 14 APR 1862 page one.

 

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Two key players in the Picket Skirmish

4 April 1862

 

There were two men intimately caught up in the Picket Skirmish of 4 April 1862 who, despite direct involvement somehow get little mention by historians. The first of these is James H. Clanton. Born in Georgia in 1827, Clanton migrated to the State bordering on the west with his family as a child, attended the University of Alabama, but suspended his studies in order to participate in the War with Mexico. The military veteran returned to Alabama in 1847, studied law, and passed the bar and by 1850 was living and practising in Montgomery. Gravitating towards politics, James Clanton served in the Alabama State Legislature in 1855 and was involved in the Presidential Election of 1860 (as supporter of John Bell and the Constitutional Union coalition.) Following the November election, and subsequent eruption of the Secession movement, James Clanton organized a company of horsemen and in early 1861 rode to the Florida coast (where a protracted standoff involving Federal occupation of Fort Pickens denied Southern control of Pensacola Harbor.) Captain Clanton's Company was joined over subsequent months by other horse enthusiasts; but in a location requiring infantrymen and artillerists, there was not much to occupy cavalry on the white sand beaches except to act as orderlies for senior officers; act as mounted pickets and conduct patrols; and perform courier duties (Major General Bragg's district initially stretched from Pensacola City west to the Navy Yard, Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee, a distance of twenty miles; and over time that territory extended one hundred miles west to include Mobile.) And over time, the growing number of independent cavalry companies in Bragg's Department of the Gulf led to their amalgamation, and creation of the First Alabama Cavalry, with James Clanton elected as Colonel.

The relatively relaxed assignment on the Gulf Coast came to an abrupt end with the arrival of news that Fort Donelson had fallen. Bragg's Army of Pensacola was ordered north; and Clanton's Alabama Cavalry found itself in Corinth Mississippi. And appears to have been assigned patrol of territory extending north from Corinth. When the decision was taken in early April to march Johnston's Army north, Clanton's Cavalry was already familiar with Pea Ridge and Monterey; and loosely assigned to Brigadier General James Chalmers, the cavalry outfit extended its reach further north, northeast, northwest... screening the advance... approaching to within pistol distance of the sprawling Union encampment supplied from Pittsburg Landing. Safe houses with welcoming locals were identified, and some of those safe houses acted as base of operations for daily patrols. Unbeknownst to Clanton's Cavalry, at least two of those safe houses were detected, and subsequently surveilled by Union scouts. And that unwitting detection led to an operation launched pre-dawn of April 3rd in an attempt by Federal cavalry to surprise Rebel cavalry at a safe house, and scare it away to the east... into an ambush mounted by companies belonging to the 54th Ohio. The attempted ambush failed because the horsemen rode away to the northwest, instead. But the Federal operation bagged one wounded horseman; and one captured. And Colonel Clanton made his report in person to BGen James Chalmers.

 

The other man deserving of discussion is Leroy Crockett of "New York."

Born in 1831 in Ohio, Crockett was raised on a farm; and as a young man went to work in grain buying and storage. With eruption of War due to Rebel attack on Fort Sumter, Leroy Crockett joined a military unit that promised “honor, prestige, and a good-looking uniform,” the 1st U.S. Chasseurs of New York. Mustered into the unit (also known as 65th New York Infantry) the men performed drill in their distinctive, French-inspired uniform until a high proficiency had been achieved... and then were called south for duty protecting the National Capital, where they arrived in August, not long after the embarrassment of Bull Run. A battalion of the Chasseurs saw action during the September 11, 1861 Battle of Lewinsville; and the regiment is recorded as involved with the October 1861 Reconnaissance to Lewinsville (but it is unknown, at this time, whether First Lieutenant Crockett was present at either, neither or both, of those engagements. Regardless, he knew military drill and basic infantry tactics (according to Hardee.)

The 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry was recruited during OCT/ November 1861 and had Ralph Buckland as Colonel and Herman Canfield as LtCol; and neither man knew military drill. When the man tentatively selected as Major decided to withdraw his name from consideration, Colonel Buckland seized the opportunity and poached Lieutenant Crockett from the New York unit, and installed him in the 72nd OVI as Major on 26 NOV 1861. Records at the time indicate Major Crockett “was a strict, stern disciplinarian; and he took military drill seriously. But, it was also acknowledged that the Major exhibited a fine balance of care and concern for the welfare of soldiers under his charge, making sure they had adequate provisions and shelter. His men may not have loved him; but they respected him” [extract of a recollection of then-Captain John Lemmon 72nd OVI.]

 

 

References:

https://archive.org/details/alabamaherhisto00brewgoog/page/n684/mode/1up Brewer pp.677, 475

Party Politics in Alabama, 1850 – 1860 by Lewy Dorman (2014) pp.202 -204.

The Struggle for Pensacola, 1860 – 1862 by Mike Maxwell (2020) Appendix One.

OR 10 pp.86 – 87. Reports of Taylor and Chalmers.

https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=B45C3A8D-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A James Clanton's entry at NPS site.

Clanton's Alabama Cavalry https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=CAL0001RC

POW Prison Record for Madison Georgia, 1861 – 1865.

https://www.rbhayes.org/collection-items/local-history-collections/crockett-leroy-colonel/ bio and list of letters sent and received by Union army officer Leroy Crockett, 72nd OVI.

http://dan-masters-civil-war.blogspot.com/2018/06/honoring-lieutenant-colonel-leroy.html bio.

72nd OVI history.  https://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1136

https://www.nytimes.com/1861/09/02/archives/letter-from-the-first-united-states-chasseurs.html

Cincinnati Daily Press 15 SEP 1861 page 1 col.4 “The Fight at Lewinsville” details action of 1st U.S. Chasseurs at Lewinsville near Washington, D.C. on 11 SEP 1861 https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84028745/1861-09-15/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1861&sort=date&rows=20&words=Chasseurs&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=12&state=Ohio&date2=1861&proxtext=Chasseur&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

Another Chasseur/ Battle of Lewinsville connection https://sites.google.com/site/wppricememoir/home/1861---1865-the-war-years/1861-battle-of-lewinsville from 1905 Dahlonega Nugget.

Major Crockett's record of muster with 72nd OVI on 26 NOV 61 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112047586026&view=1up&seq=95 Ohio Regimental Rosters vol.6

https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/65th_Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf Original muster in with 1st U.S. Chasseurs (65th NY Inf) on 15 July 1861 (page 491).

https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=5942EB91-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A Leroy Crockett's entry at NPS site.

 

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"Summarized to the point of being Unrecognizable"

In his otherwise excellent Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged (1902) Major D. W. Reed's summary of the Picket Skirmish (on page 13):

“During the Confederate advance from Monterey on the 3rd there had been skirmishing between the cavalry of the two armies, and on the 4th [of April] one of Buckland's picket posts was captured. Buckland sent out two companies in pursuit of the captors. These companies were attacked and surrounded by Confederate cavalry, but were rescued by Buckland coming to their relief with his whole regiment.”

The above condensed version of events leaves readers with a false sense of 1) what units were involved; 2) how long the emergency of April 4th persisted; and 3) where this Picket Skirmish took place. Subsequent posts will attempt to rectify this lack of clarity.

Ozzy

 

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Picket Post in Trouble

 

The Picket Post operated by Lt Herbert of the 70th OVI appears to have occupied a building near the lane leading to Gen. Meek's Place. This lane was reached by heading west from Pittsburg Campground across Owl Creek Bridge, follow the recently completed Shunpike to the intersection with the Purdy Road, and proceed west along the Purdy Road a further half mile to the junction with the lane to Gen. Meek's (follow the left fork.) It is believed the 70th OVI Picket Post was sited in this vicinity four miles west of Shiloh Church. [And for comparison, Captain Walden's Company D of 6th Iowa operated a Picket Post on the Shunpike in vicinity of the Western approach to Owl Creek Bridge, perhaps a mile or so east of Lieutenant Herbert's picket post.]

On Friday 4 April between 2 – 2:30 pm Colonel Buckland and an aide were riding west along the Shunpike to inspect drill being conducted by a battalion of the 72nd OVI supervised by Major Crockett. Hearing gunfire from the direction of Herbert's Picket Post, Colonel Buckland continued to the drill field, ordered Major Crockett to suspend training, and march Companies B and H back to camp, via a detour to investigate the occurrence at the picket post. Upon arrival, there was found blood and disorder, evidence of a fight, but no men. Buckland's aide, Lieutenant Geer, was sent back to camp to inform Colonel Cockerill (whose 70th Ohio had lost the picket post) and order him to bring sufficient men forward; and to report the loss of the picket post to General Sherman. Geer departed; and Buckland and Crockett continued their investigation and deliberation.

At about 3:30 J.J. Geer returned from his duty as courier, and made his report to Colonel Buckland; and Buckland retracted his previous order to “Return to camp,” and gave instructions to Major Crockett to “establish a skirmish line in the vicinity” and to continue investigating the fate of the missing men (and try to determine in what direction the Rebel cavalry, obviously responsible for the disaster, had carried away their captives.)

And with that, Colonel Buckland took his departure and rode back to camp, and determined how best to take control of the situation.

 

References:

OR 10 pages 90 – 92: Buckland's report.

OR 10 pages 89 – 90: Sherman's report.

SDG topic “General Meek's Place” (for Atwell Thompson map of location).

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Geer and Crockett

 

Colonel Buckland departed; and Major Crockett assigned men from the 72nd Ohio to the picket post, and inspected the placement of his skirmish line.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Geer attempted to solve the mystery of, “Which way did they go?” And he rode towards a long, straight, south-tending road to see if he could catch a view of anything moving away in the distance... and immediately found himself in trouble.

“Halt, dar!” demanded a gruff voice.

[And the mystery was solved: besides sending a party to escort the captives away, the squadron of cavalry belonging to Clanton's 1st Alabama had remained in vicinity, apparently observing the reaction of the Federals to the depleted Picket Post.]

 

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