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Army of the Mississippi at Pittsburg Landing Feb-Mar 1862

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About the close of February, Gen. Beauregard sent a field battery supported by 2 regiments of infantry, to occupy the river-bluff at Pittsburg Landing, 23 miles NW from Corinth, and 9 miles above Savannah. Lt. Commander Gwinn, who was stationed at Savannah with two gunboats the Lexington and the Tyler proceeded to Pittsburg Landing on March 1, and after a brisk skirmish, silenced the battery and drove it and its support away. Gen. C F Smith, in pursuance of the authority given him by Gen. Halleck, selected this point of assembly for the Union army.

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For the record, the units involved in the fighting on March 1 were the 18th Louisiana Infantry Regiment and Miles' (Louisiana) Artillery, Company A, also known as Gibson's Louisiana Battery. A small detachment of Mississippi cavalrymen had accompanied them to the area but did not participate in the fighting. There is a good account of this action in "The Civil War Reminiscences of Major Silas T. Grisamore, C.S.A.," which I edited and was published by LSU Press. After remaining near the landing on March 2, the 18th Louisiana fell back to Monterey, where it was camped when the Federals began disembarking.

 

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Relevant Passages Relating to First Shiloh,

The Civil War Reminiscences of Major Silas T. Grisamore, C.S.A

 by Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr.,  pp. 19-22  (extracted from http://www.navyand marine.org/ondeck/1862firstshiloh_bergerson.htm)

Original title: Reminiscences of Uncle Silas: A History of the Eighteenth Louisiana Infantry Regiment

February 26. Struck half of our tents and leaving Company K to guard the remainder, we departed towards Pittsburg Landing, distant about 20 miles." (35)

February 28. Arrived at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. This was simply a shipping point. There were but two buildings, one on the bank of the river, and the other about 200 yards back. The road is cut down through the bluffs which are 100 feet above highwater mark. A tract of land about 200 yards wide and a half mile in length along the river was cleared and cultivated; behind was dense woods. Our company, with that of Capt. Druilhet, was stationed in the ravine between the two dwellings, whilst the remaining seven companies were encamped in the woods behind the open field-all being invisible from the river. In the evening I was ordered to take a detail of men and picket the point near the mouth of Owl Creek about one mile and a half down the river.

In posting my sentinels in such position as to best conceal them from view, I stowed them away so snugly that when I undertook to relieve them in the darkness, I hunted around half an hour before I could find one of the posts.

March 1. Being relieved, I returned to camp and partook of a good breakfast. We had been fairing sumptuously since we reached Corinth as we could obtain anything we wanted at very low prices.

J. V. Knoblock was appointed corporal in place of L. Gautreaux discharged.

March 1. 1862. Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee River. Miles Artillery, commanded by Capt. Claude Gibson, (36) came in the morning and posted two howitzer pieces on the bank of the river about 100 yards below our camp and four other pieces about 300 yards further up the river on a high and conspicuous bluff .(37)

 About 12 o'clock N., the report was circulated that "gun boats were coming," and upon looking down the river two columns of black smoke curling over the tree tops attested the correctness of the statement. (38) As they advanced up the river, apparently unconscious of any enemy, the pieces on the bluff above us opened on them. They made a few shots which were doubtless well aimed but which fell short of their mark some 200 or 300 yards. As soon as the position of the battery was exposed, the boats prepared for action. We were immediately called to arms, and whilst the officers were endeavoring to form their companies the shells were whizzing over our heads, causing every one of us to bow down just at the moment we were commanded to "eyes right," to jump backwards at the command of "right dress." Our captain, who seldom lost the equilibrium of his mind, became a little excited on the occasion, but the line was finally formed. It was the first time any of us had ever heard the peculiar music of a bomb shell, and I believe without exception every man thought he was going to be hit just below the ear; at least every fellow first bowed his head and then came down on his knee. Solemn as the affair was likely to be, I know that several of us could not keep from laughing at the sudden and uniform movement of everyone as a shell passed over our heads.

A few well-directed shots from the boats caused the battery above to fall back, whilst the two howitzers, from not being properly prepared, were not fired at all, and all fell back into the woods.(39)

Col. Mouton, who was absent at the beginning, came up and assumed command. Our company was ordered to a rifle pit that was being made on the bank of the river in front of our camp, but not being completed, we were unable to protect the men in it and being too far from the boats to have any effect upon them with our arms and visible to the gunners who were now firing upon us, we were withdrawn to the rear, not however until two or three shots passed so close to us that we could feel the wind raising the hair on our heads. Had one of the shots been a couple of feet lower it would have enfiladed the company and settled up the accounts of a good many of us.

The troops were then all withdrawn to the woods behind the field and concealed. The enemy, after shelling the woods in every direction, sent a detachment of about 100 men on shore.(40) Having never seen but our company and the battery, it is presumed that they imagined the force on land to be small and to have retreated. As soon as they reached the top of the hill, forming into line, they advanced towards the woods, where they were met by the fire of the whole regiment. The enemy precipitately rushed to their boats, our men following them closely, and as they were obliged to embark on small crafts, the gun boats not being able to get nearer than 50 yards of the shore, they became good marks for our men, who could fire from the top of the steep banks and step back out of their sight whilst they were reloading their pieces.(41) The gun boats were wooden affairs, and our riflemen silenced their pieces easily.(42) Had the battery been present then we could have sunk them or compelled a surrender. As it was, they floated off down the river and did not use their engines until the current had carried them a mile or more below the scene of action. Our loss was about a dozen killed and wounded.(43) The enemy report 12 killed and 60 odd wounded and missing.(44) The missing with three exceptions were all in the Tennessee River.

Lieutenant Lavery (45) of the Orleans Cadets was shot through the thigh, and Lieutenant Watt (46) of Capt. Huntington's company was slightly injured by a shell, these being the only officers hurt. The engagement lasted three hours. The shells of the enemy being thrown promiscuously throughout the woods played havoc with the branches of trees, frequently cutting them off over our heads. Once whilst we were posted in the road some distance back, Lieutenant Gautreau remarked that whilst we were doing nothing, he might as well stand behind a tree which was close by, and he accordingly took that position, but no sooner had he posted himself than a shot cut off a limb which came tumbling down at his feet and caused him to so completely change his mind that he was satisfied the open road was the safest place.

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