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The Unlucky 13th

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Had to read through the attachment to “The Western Theatre in the Civil War (The Unlucky 13th at Shiloh)” a couple of times to glean the full story. But, if true, it is damning: Captain Myers reported with his battery to Savannah “about the 20th of March” and was told by the Commanding General [on 20 March 1862 this would be Major General Grant] to “take your company on shore at Pittsburg Landing, and go up on the bank and search out ground for [your] camp wherever [you] please, and wait for further orders.” These orders did not come until early April, when it appears Burrow’s 14th Ohio Battery was transferred from Hurlbut to McClernand, and Myer’s 13th Ohio Battery was assigned to BGen Hurlbut. (Hurlbut indicates the 13th Ohio Battery reported to him for duty on Friday 4 April.)

[A similar re-assignment resulted in Munch’s Minnesota Battery and Hickenlooper’s 5th Ohio Battery reporting to BGen Prentiss at about the same time…]

As regards the performance of the 13th Ohio Battery on the morning of 6 April 1862 there appears to be a combination of bad luck; poorly considered decision as regards battery placement; and inexperience of the officers and men of the 13th Battery. The lack of familiarity with BGen Hurlbut did not help matters. The hit accomplished by Confederate Artillery (believed to be Robertson’s Alabama) which exploded the ammunition chest likely killed and disabled horses and panicked the men. Such a lucky strike, with resultant thunderous roar and shrapnel, would likely have panicked any green unit: the men of the 13th Ohio Battery were unfortunate that THEIR unit was the one so affected. But, the attempt to “pin the blame” on Stephen Hurlbut was misguided: BGen Hurlbut did not direct Myer’s Ohio Battery to Pittsburg Landing without adequate instructions; and BGen Hurlbut was not responsible for the explosion of the ammunition chest.

An excellent, thought-provoking article...

 

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Thanks, Ozzy, for the elaboration!  It was Hurlbut's staff officer that insisted on the deployment location of the battery, so not certain if Hurlbut had input to that decision filtered through his staff officer or not.  I have come across a few more articles for a Part II.

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I have always seen what happened to them as a perfect storm. They were poorly placed by Hurlbut, poorly trained, and poorly led. One thing I recently ran into was the Captain Felix Robertson's thoughts on the matter. He felt their withdrawal was due to both his accurate cannon fire and a lack of infantry support. Robertson did not think that Hurlbut's first position on the south end of Sarah Bell Field was ever occupied, but rather Hurlbut said the division was positioned there after the battle to cover what happened to the 13th Ohio Battery. It would be a scandal sending a green battery far ahead of the infantry.

After sifting through reports and recollections, I think Robertson exaggerated, but there is some truth to the idea that the 13th Ohio Battery was not properly supported. I think Hurlbut's first line was only half formed, and mostly on the eastern end of the field. Once the battery routed and Adams' brigade approached, Hurlbut wisely fell back.

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I am with you, Sean.  A poorly suited position, taken under fire immediately, a direct hit on a caisson within moments of moving into position...all these seem to add up to a bad situation more than one of cowardice.  

Most likely Robertson exaggerated, as most were prone to do, but when you take his comments in context of other comments of the 13th, Hurlbut excepted, then the picture seems again to be one of circumstances.

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One matter complicating this is Robertson. He was a good battery commander, but also strict, mean, and committed war crimes later in the conflict. Was he being unusually magnanimous to the 13th Ohio Battery (they were after all fellow artillerymen), bragging, or did he want to take Hurlbut down a peg?

 

check out the attached letter from SNMP. Also included are accounts from the 52nd Tennessee and 10th Mississippi. They are not directly related, its just how the file was sent to me.

Robertson Mosier Learned letters - Robertson Battery, 52nd TN, 10th MS.tif

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Thank you for sharing that letter.  It is true that the good battery commander might have been stretching to fit a narrative, but it also helps to confirm for me that the 13th was more likely placed in a bad spot.

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