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Union Army Water Borne Advance to Pittsburg Landing

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After the battle of Ft. Donelson the union army had been gathering on a fleet of boats between Ft Henry and the railroad bridge. This included the 3 divisions of Ft. Donelson, the first, second and third, commanded by C. F. Smith, McClernand an Lewis Wallace, A 4th division was added commanded by Brig. Gen. S. A. Hurlbut and a 5th by Brig. Gen. W. T. Sherman. With Smith in command of the expedition he headed down river aboard the Golden State with portions of the 40th Illinois arriving at Savannah on the right bank of the Tennessee River on March 5th. Behind Smith were a fleet of more than 80 steamboats carrying the 5 divisions and conveyed by 3 gunboats, a vast procession extending miles along the winding river, each boat with its pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. The fleet began arriving at Savannah on the 11th, and lined both shores of the river. Lew Wallace's division sent a party to the railroad west of the river, striking it at Purdy, tearing up a portion, but doing little permanent injury and returned. On the 14th Smith sent Sherman's division up the river to strike the railroad at Eastport. Rain fell in torrents, roads melted to mud and small streams rose with dangerous rapidity. The expedition, arrested by an unfordable torrent returned just in time to reach the landing by wading through water waist-deep. The boats left (Savannah) in the night of the 15th of March and stopped at Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the river about nine miles above Savannah. Hurlbuts division was already on boats at the landing, having been ordered there by Smith on the evening of the 14th.

Wow a fleet of 80 steamboats plying the waters of the Tennessee River crowded with troops. What a sight to behold. This has to be one of the first large movement of troops by water during the war.

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Sharon,

I hadn't thought about it like that before, being one of the first large troop movements by water in the war, but I think you're right. Offhand I can't think of another such movement prior to Shiloh. McClellan undertook his Peninsula Campaign later that spring of course, but that was after Shiloh.

I've tried to picture that image when I've visited the area, of seeing all those boats in one place. That must have been quite the sight. I've done the same thing down at the landing there at the park, taking a book with that picture of those boats lined up along the shore and trying to picture it in person. Somehow, there doesn't seem to be room. In fact, the landing always strikes me as being such a small place for such a big event as what took place around there.

 It's also pretty interesting to me how the weather played a factor in helping to bring about the battle where it took place, since without all that rain the Union army may have ended up concentrating at a different location. They may also have been successful in cutting the Memphis & Charleston Railroad east of Corinth, which may have altered the campaign in some manner. Although it's quite possible the Confederates would have repaired the damage quickly, like they did after Wallace's cavalry struck the Mobile & Ohio.

But when you look on a map, there are so many other places other than Pittsburg Landing where the Yankees could have landed and threatened both Corinth and the railroad. Something that appears to have given the Confederates quite a headache worrying about.

So much about this campaign that can draw you in and hook you.

Perry

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In pursuance of Gen. Smith's instructions to occupy the (Pittsburg) landing strongly Sherman ordered Hurlbut to disembark his division and encamp it at right angles to the (Corinth) road about a mile out. The Corinth Road designated was the one lying nearer to the river. About half a mile beyond the position selected for the camp the roads fork, 1 being the Corinth road running SW, the other running nearly due W. passing about 400 yards N of Shiloh Church, crossed Oak Creek and Owl Creek immediately above their junction, and continued to Purdy. Gen Hurlbut the same day issued a field in minute detail, and the 1st & 2nd Brigades being all of the division at hand, marched to be prescribed point, Burrows' battery being posted at the road: the 1st Brigade at right angles with the road, with its left at the battery, The 3rd Brigade at right angles with the road, its right at Burrows' battery and Mann's battery at its left. The 2nd Brigade, commanded by Col. Veatch subsequently arived, camped at the rear and partially to the right of the 1st brigade, so as almost to interlock with the camp of Gen. Smith's division.

On the 18th Sherman's division of 4 brigades landed and moved out a few days later to permanent camp. The 2nd Brigade, sent to watch some fords of Lick Creek was posted in the fork of a cross-road running to Purdy from the Hamburg Road. The 4th Brigade, commanded by Col. Buckland, camped with its left near Shiloh Church and its color-line nearly at right angles with the Corinth Road. The 1st brigade commanded by Col. McDowell went into camp to the right of Buckland and was separated from him by a lateral ravine running into Oak Creek; the camp was pitched between the Purdy Road and the bluff-banks of Oak Creek. The 3rd brigade commanded by Col. Hildebrand, was posted to the left of Shiloh Church, the right being near the church. Precision in camping was not exact, and the left regiment of Col. Hildebrand's Brigade, the 51st Ohio, in order to enclose a fine spring of water within the brigade, pitched its camp about 200 yards to the left and front of its next regiment the 57 Ohio, and was separated by a stream with swampy boarders which emptied into Oak Creek. Sherman's headquarters were to the rear of Shiloh Church. His batteries, Taylor's and Whitehouse's, together with his cavalry, were camped in rear of the infantry.

All you folks with intimate familiarity with the battlefield should be able to visualize where these two divisions of union troops were camping.

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General Grant arrived at Savannah on March 17, and assumed command and on the same day ordered Gen. C F Smith's Division to Pittsburg Landing. His 2nd Division encamped not in a line but in convenient localities on the plateau between Brier Creek and the river. McClernand arrived at the landing a few days later and selecting the most level ground, laid out the most regular camp. His front crossed the Corinth Road about two-thirds of a mile in rear of Shiloh Church, the road intersecting near his left flank, the direction of his line was to the north-west, reaching toward the bluffs of the valley of Snake Creek.

Gen. C F Smith received an injury to his leg by jumping into a yawl early in March 1862. It became so aggravated by the end of March that he was obliged to move from Pittsburg Landing to Savannah and turn over his troops at the landing to Brigadier General W H L Wallace.

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In conjunction with this discussion of water-borne forces, I would recommend a review of the following link to The Papers of U.S. Grant, vol.4, pages 357-365. Of interest due to mention of Corinth (and Eastport Railroad Station) and twenty thousand Rebel troops in vicinity. [Remarkable, too, in that Confederate forces had only been building in those locations a few scant days -- impressive intelligence collection.]

 

153 years ago, the Expedition to cut the Memphis & Charleston, and the Mobile & Ohio railroads began with much promise, only to get bogged down at a place called Pittsburg Landing, where a recently-reinstated U.S. Grant was put back in command, with orders to 'wait for Buell.'

 

Ozzy

 

 

http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/17403/rec/1     (Papers of U.S. Grant, vol.4, begin page 357)

 

 

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