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Army of Mississippi Advance to Pittsburg landing _ Battle of Shiloh

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The Army of the Mississippi

General Albert Sidney Johnston

This army assembled near Corinth, Miss. It was organized into four army corps and commenced its movements toward Pittsburg April 3, 1862, under General Order No. 8, which directed the Third Corps, Major General Hardee, to moved from Corinth by Ridge road to near Mickey's, at the intersection of the Ridge road with road from Monterey to Savannah; the Second Corps, Major General Bragg, to assemble at Monterey and move thence to the Ridge road near Mickey's, in two columns, the left wing by the Purdy and the right wing by the Savannah road, falling in behind Hardee's corps; the First Corps, Major General Polk, to assemble at Mickey's, taking the road behind Bragg's corps; Ruggles's division coming from Corinth by the Ridge road; Cheatham's division from Bethel and Purdy; the reserve Corps, Brigadier General Breckinridge, to assemble at Monterey, from Burnsville, and follow Bragg's corps to Mickey's and fall in behind Polk's corps; the cavalry to deploy on the flanks guarding Lick Creek fords on the right and the road to Stantonville on the left. The order contemplated an attack upon the Union camps near Pittsburg Landing at sunrise Saturday morning, April 5, but on account of and roads and other delays the several corps were not in position assigned them until nearly dark on Saturday, and the attack was deferred until Sunday morning, April 6. The army bivouacked Saturday night in order of battle, the Third corps in the front line across the Pittsburg Landing road one-half mile in advance of the forks of the Bark road; the Second Corps 800 yards in rear of the first line; the First Corps in column of brigades in rear of the second line; the Reserve Corps 1 mile in rear on the road to Mickey's. General Johnston established his headquarters at the fork of the old Bark and Pittsburg roads. The forward movement to the attack commenced at about sunrise Sunday morning, April 6, General Johnston in person accompanying the right, Gladden's and Shaver's brigades,a until the first camp was attacked. He then rode to the left, where Cleburne's brigade was advancing to the attack,a and from there conducted Stewart's brigade to the right. He then, from the camp of the Eighteenth Wisconsin, directed the movements of Chalmers's and Jackson's brigadesb to the right, while Hardee, who was with him here,c was directing Shaver, Wood, and Stewart to the left. General Johnston then ordered the reserve corps forward, and at 12:30 was placing these troops in position south of the Peach Orchard, he and his staff occupying for over an hour a position due south of the center of the Peach Orchard, on the left bank of Locust Grove Creek.d From this point he went forward behind Bowen's brigade, and was killed near the southeast corner of the Peach Orchard at 2:30 p.m. His body was carried to Corinth that afternoon and was buried at New Orleans, La. Gen. G. T. B. Beauregard, second in command, and commanding the army after 2:30 p.m., had his headquarters Saturday night at the present forks of Bark and Pittsburg roads.e At 10 a.m. Sunday morning the general and his staff moved forward to within one-half mile of the camps (near Plum Orchard hospital, according to Captain Irwin). About noon he moved up to the Rhea House and at 2 p.m. forward to the crossroads near Water Oaks pond. Here he received information of the death of General Johnston and assumed command of the army. At night his headquarters was established at General Sherman's tent, near Shiloh Church. From this point he directed the battle on Monday. When he directed the army to retire he personally placed a brigade and several pieces of artillery in position on the first ridge south of Shiloh Branch; a battery at Wood's house and Breckinridge's corps on the high ground near Bark Road, and then with his staff retired to Corinth via Monterey.

1913 Report of the Shiloh National Military Park Commission

http://www.shilohbattlefield.org/commission/Pages/Mississippi/missdiv.htm

 

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Some have questioned General Johnston's abilities as I have.  Long have I thought of this and still have not come to a conclusion.  Lets say, its a open question.  However, I do believe his value in the western confederacy could have been to control the politics of the factions within the army.  Also, his thoughtful considerations of the governors of the states, the senators and other leaders would have made him effective as a blender of governmental factions. He would have been excellent as a theater commanders, in charge of the entire area with two or more groupings of troops under his overall command.  This is the organization that was attempted in 1863 with General Joseph Johnston which lasted until June 1863 when Johnston took command of the relief attempts for Vicksburg. 

 General Leonidas Polk was suitable for only a rear area command of recruiting, supplies and good will.

Ron

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That's a good analysis of Johnston, Ron. I like him personally, but as far as how he would have fared after Shiloh, if he had lived, I'm like you. It's just too hard to say. I think I've mentioned before that I consider Johnston to be a question forever in search of an answer. He did poorly in Kentucky, but later took responsibility for it, and attempted to redeem the situation with a very bold counter-strike. The planning was bad and their maps were faulty, and some people question the execution, and Johnston's personal role in the battle. It's an open debate, but I don't think he can be faulted for his daring. Hitting Grant's army at Pittsburg Landing might seem to be an obvious move in retrospect, but it was quite a gamble at the time. And one that not everyone would have made.

I do think that Johnston's value can be seen more clearly when evaluating his successors, although even that can be a little dicey. But I do think you make a good point about his ability to hold together some of the factions that later developed among the officers, and caused so much trouble for that star-crossed army. And he may well have learned from his experience in Kentucky, and have done a better job as a department commander than did Joe Johnston during the Vicksburg Campaign, assuming that whole scenario had still played out the same.

The sense I get from Old Joe at that time is that he wanted to be somewhere else. Namely, Virginia. I think ASJ would probably have done a better job in that situation, and given Grant more of a run for his money. I don't know if it would have changed the outcome as Grant was incredibly persistent and resourceful. But it might have been more of a challenge with A.S. Johnston overseeing everything on the southern side.

Perhaps not, but I do believe that, as either his son or Charles P. Roland later wrote, Johnston had the ability to learn from his mistakes, and grow as a commander, the way Grant did. I think we started to see some of that at Shiloh. But that's as far as the story takes us with him. The question is still searching for an answer.

Perry

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yea Deltaboy i believe ur right on the loss of ASJ was a unrecoverable loss for the South if he survives there is no Grant there is no Sherman they are either killed captured or relieved and sent to some Indian post out west and who would ol Abe find to replace em if anyone so i will go out on a limb and say the war was won for the Union at Shiloh . ASJ had a way of rallying the men and he was doin that awfully well i believe he said we must yet conquer this day or perish and he would have done everthing he could to do that. A briallant victory on the banks of the TENN. :)

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I believe that Grant's final line would have been strong enough to withstand any assualt upon it.  There is just as good a chance that if ASJ had survived and attempted to crush Grant on the evening of the 6th and on the 7th, that he would have caused such damage to his army that it may not have survived, pretty much ending the war in the west in the Union's favor.

Jim

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Reply to Jim and a further thought.

I agree with Jim based on the events that did happen.  A confederate attack through the Dill Creek ravine and against the line of guns put in place by Colonel Webster would have been a disaster for the south.

But consider that if AS Johnston had lived, he would have been in command on the eastern portion of the battlefield where the majority of the confederate army was now concentrated.  Beauregard was not present on the eastern battlefield and could not have organized and pushed a proper attack.  Johnston could have, he would still push the attack and not be diverted to any side show. Prentiss' surrender was such a side show which the rebels did fall for in actuality.  Johnston would have pushed troops up quickly and (I hope) attacked around the head of the Dill Creek Ravine where the union artillery was not at.  Webster line started more to the east.  Further, union infantry support for the line of guns was sketchy at best.  The rebel assault could have been quick and advance faster then the union troops could disengage.  The gunboats could not fire at the attackers if they were close to the union troops and there was poor communications to keep them informed.  In short, they would have become useless.  At say, 6 pm, Buell's troops had not come ashore and now, we have a totally different tactical situation. 

Please consider that questions have been asked about Johnston's battlefield abilities but on Sunday afternoon, April 6th from 11 am to his death, he never had a better moment of military leadership. As Sherlock Holmes said, "The games'afoot". 

Now, all of you gamers and what-iffers, what is your take on this battlefield problem??

Ron

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Jim,

Sorry buddy, but thats not a accurate scale map.  Check the Trailhead graphics map for the locations of Webster's line of guns.  You will see them more to the east of the head of the ravine.  Directly facing a rebel attack at the head of the ravine would have been Hurlbut's fragments and a very few survivors of W H L Wallace's divisions, with no artillery support.  Sherman's and McClernand's artillery, what was left of it, lined up at the intersection with the Hamburg-Savannah road and to the north. 

As to passing Prentiss' surrender site, a armed brigade with cavalry units would have been ample to handle the disarmed troops.  No problem there Jim.

Thanks for your thought provoking questions

Ron 

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Ron,

It's not that I don't think that scenario is possible, but a lot of it hinges on Johnston and/or other southern commanders having a firmer grasp on the situation than it appears they probably did at the time. But the Really Big Question revolves around, "What would Johnston have done?"

Would he have continued the turning movement that took place in reality, or would he instead have recognized an opportunity and attempted to make a thrust toward the landing. And if the latter, who does he use? Chalmers Brigade is probably the best bet, but I think even Chalmers said in his report that by executing that big turning movement, they thought were conforming to Johnston's plan to sweep the enemy away from the landing. Double-check that report for me though, as it may have been someone else. But I'm thinking it was Chalmers.

Plus, Bragg was on that flank at the time, and apparently never grasped the situation. Would Johnston have done so? We'll never know, but he almost certainly made a similar mistake earlier in the day, after smashing through Prentiss's Division. He seems to have mistook that for Grant's left flank and quickly sent several units off toward McClernand and Sherman as a result. My wild guess is that he does the same thing that afternoon east of the Peach Orchard, and attempts to swing around Prentiss, just as happened in reality.

Plus, there's a bit of a mystery that I think Larry Daniel touches on in his book, in the end notes, about the 2:00 p.m. assault. He suggests, I think, an alternative whereby Johnston basically loads up on the right against Stuart and/or McArthur, overwhelms those badly outnumbered troops, and simply outflanks the Peach Orchard/Hornets Nest line. Instead, he simply tried to smash through it. If he was going to make an end run against a weak spot, that was a good time and place to do it. It apparently never occurred to him, or he did not realize how weak Stuart really was. If he did not see the opportunity then, I think there's a good chance he would not have seen the other one a little later. It's just a guess, but it's all we have to go on.

If they do come around and attack along the head of the ravine instead of through it though, that's probably their best chance to break Grant's Last Line. But the margin for error seems like it's pretty small. They have to recognize the situation in time, organize an attack, and hit the Union line hard enough to make a breakthrough, then press the attack home enough to prevent re-enforcements from other parts of the line from sealing the breach. That's a lot to ask in the limited amount of time they had left. Especially for troops as exhausted and low on ammunition as they were.

It's an interesting subject though, and I certainly don't claim to have the answers. Makes for a good debate.

Perry

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Perry,

Much to say about your post.  Johnston ordered and pushed the 2 pm attack designed to clear the union left flank and open the way to the landing.  I believe that he was firm in his resolve this time.  He had a plan in his head that was lost with his death.  If he lived, i believe he would have continued the plan.  He had the troops on hand to do it.  His 2 pm attack had six brigades attacking on the eastern side of the battlefield.  Three of these brigades were on the river side of the Hamburg-Savannah road aligned against McArthur and Stewart, whose commands by this time were in fragments.  The other three brigades were in the Sarah Bell Cotton field and they pushed Hurlbut's troops out of the peach orchard.  His 2 pm attack was centered on the Hamburg-Savannah road and that was the axis of direction that Johnston would have used to attack on up to Grant's last line.

As to the direction of the attack.  No Official Report describes the attack as planned against the pocket of union troops but only a movement up the road.  Yes, they turned to the west against Prentiss' troops in the pocket but Johnston was not there.  I believe that Johnston would not have turned the direction of the attack. 

As to a mistake earlier in the day, that was then and the 2 pm attack was now.  He was in a different frame of mind.  His plans and direction of the 2 pm attack were quite clear.  Actually, from his vantage point in the Sarah Bell Cotton field, he had little knowledge of the fighting, directed by Bragg in the Hornets nest and the sunken road area.  His interest was the River road and the landing area.   

Your thoughts concerning overwhelming Stewart and McArthur was exactly what happened.  Chalmers', Jackson's and Bowen's brigades overwhelmed McArthur and Stewart and pushed them back up the River road, through the woods east of the road and drove them out of the area.  They were completely defeated with only remnants remaining. Remember, Hurlbut's division was able to enter the line again close to dark with reduced numbers because the pressure was not kept up against them.  None to very few of Stewart's and McArthur's men were able to enter the line again, because they were throughly defeated. 

Lastly, as events were, time was very short and an attack was very uncertain.  However, if Johnston was able to push the attack north up the River road, it would have been sooner, 30 minutes to one hour sooner . The turn to the west against the trapped union troops was about 5 pm and the attack by Chalmers in the Dill Creek ravine was at 6 pm.  I suggest that the same attack by Withers' division, up the River road around the head of the Dill Creek ravine, would or could have been at 5 pm.  Withers would be followed by Breckinridge's division.  There were other troops available.   

Good post Perry, and here is my counterattack.

Ron 

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I've read that it takes a 3 to 1 superiority in manpower to have a successful assault.  That probably is where the defenders are dug in.  It still would probably have taken a 2 to 1 ratio to carry the Last Line, which would have never got this moniker if the battle continued past this point.  Grant would have fought till he stood in the water at the landing.  Could the Rebs have mustered that many that fast at this point?  Then there is the problem of the gun boats.  Would they have been more effective against a massed attack at the Dill Creek head?  The seige guns were pretty stationary, but the rest of the batteries could be moved to meet an assault.

Jim 

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Jim,

I discount the gunboats as useless at close ranges.  They still had to fire at high elevations to clear the bluffs along the river. 

You are asking about the fighting at close range if the confederates did make an attack.  I believe that it would have been too close for comfort on both sides.  I agree that Grant would have fought with tenacity with any rssource he had at hand including some of Buell's troops that would have been rushed across the river sooner than they did land.

Don't overlook the time element if the battle continued after dark.  Darkness would have put a stop to the battle and there would have been a withdrawal but by whom????

Ron

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Ron, you say you discount the gun boats, but I don't think it would have been too hard for the boats to go downstream to a point where they would have an easy trajectory in the main attack area.

Jim

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Jim,

Gunboats down river?

Who would and how would you control the firing?  How you they communicate to get the range and direction?  How would they know where the main trajectory area was?  During the civil war, artillery fire was line-of-sight.  The fire control they had was a spyglass or binoculars but how can they be used when the target is on top of a bluff upriver?  If they tried this, the gunboats would be dangerous to both armies.

Ron

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A few signal flaggers could have relayed instuctions.  Gun boats were always lobbing shells to where they couldn't see.  You wouldn't go for the front liners, but sure could play havoc on those coming up in the rear to reinforce or resupply.  Your attack area would tend to funnel the Rebs together, and I'm sure Grant would have swing some arty over, also.  And I still don't believe there were enough Rebs available to take the landing.  At 5 PM the numbers on both sides had to be fairly close.

Jim

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Wiley Sword decribes the landing as a complete pandimonium low on ammo. low on gun crews infantry having to be rushed up from the river to man the guns one officer issues the order dont take time to form for all will be lost if you do. Now that dont seem like that strong of a line to me but its a great debate thats been goin on for years and everybody has an opinion:)

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It would have been interesting to see what chaos was going on behind the CSA line.  It was obvious on the Union side as it was hemmed in at the landing.  All battles have rear choas.  Shiloh was worse as there were so many green troops. The fighting would have been up and over the bluff.  I think your confusing the landing and the final line.

Jim 

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naw i dont think so Jim my friend and any chaos behind lines of the confederates is were ASJ if he had lived would have rallied together for the final attack ,some people have a way of doin that like he had done during the day. Hey are you comin for the hikes in april would luv to sit and discuss Shiloh with u over a beverage sure enjoyed ur last visit.

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Perry, a few reasons the Union rear would look more choatic than the CSA's, would be that the sick and non-combatants would have gone to the river immediately, while the Rebs wouldn't have brought their's into the attack.  Any combatants who skedaddled on the Union side also collected at the landing, where on the Southern side, the only thing to stop them was the Gulf of Mexico.  Even ASJ can't rally what he can't catch.

I would love to be at Shiloh in April (or for any other time of the year for that matter), but it's not looking good right now. 

Jim 

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Well, that's one of the nice things about what-if's. Since it's something that never actually happened, no one's opinion can really be proven wrong. :D

Of course, it can't be proven right either. :)

Ron, as usual you make a good argument (which is a very irritating habit of yours), and you might be right about ASJ continuing the attack along the Hamburg-Savannah Road axis. But again, there's just no way to be sure. I'm very stubbornly inclined to think he would probably have turned the attack toward the northwest and encircled the Hornets Nest defenders as happened in reality, thinking that by doing so he was sweeping the bulk of the Union army away from the landing area. It's funny though, in that I used to think he would probably have recognized the opportunity, and pushed the attack straight toward the landing. But I've since come over to the Dark Side. They have cookies, after all. I like cookies.

Johnston did bring some power to bear against Stuart and McArthur, but his brigades were very evenly spread out from east to west, over toward the edge of the Davis Wheat Field. It does not appear that there was any concerted effort on his part to "overload" on the far right. That's basically where Jackson and Chalmers emerged after their counter-march, and they just hit straight ahead against what was in front of them. They could have, and probably should have, done so sooner. But it appears they were uncertain about how strong the line was that they faced across the way. Fortunately for the defenders. Any determined assault would probably have carried the ground, especially against Stuart's badly over-matched survivors.

But when the attack finally hit, Stuart had no chance, and McArthur's men, despite a valiant effort, didn't fare much better. The ripple effect obviously forced Hurlbut to make a decision, and he acted quickly to readjust his line. The question for the Confederates then becomes, "What next?" It's at that moment that Johnston departed the mortal plane, before he had a chance to answer the question. So others had to answer it for him, and that answer will probably be debated until who knows when.

I like Johnston, and I do tend to side more with the folks who give him good marks at Shiloh than with those who give him bad marks there. But I'm just not convinced that he would have continued the attack toward the landing. You're right that the morning's action and the afternoon's actions, were two different situations. And I do believe that Johnston re-routed his reserve to the far right after getting word of Stuart's supposed division, because he realized that Prentiss was not, in fact, Grant's left flank as he originally believed. So in short, I do think he realized his mistake, and was attempting to correct it. There is what I think to be some evidence to support that idea, in fact.

But when you look at the details of the 2:00 attack itself, I think that's where the evidence starts to fade away. In relation to the entire army, there were a lot of units on that far right flank for that attack. So in that sense, he had sort of "overloaded the flank" at that point. But in the attack itself, not so much. The units were not arranged to bring more pressure to bear against any one point.

Plus, it was not a true flank attack. It was a straight-forward rush against the units defending that flank. Ironically though, the real flank attack occurred later, after Johnston was already gone. The question is simply whether he would have done the same thing. I think it was in his plan, and his mind, to do so. But he would have needed to re-evaluate the situation after the 2:00 attack. He never got that chance.

Perry

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the gunboats firing straight up dill branch ravine, their fire was not very effective but the sound was very effective in unnerving the confederate troops. from their vantage point at the mouth of dill branch they were firing pretty much a flat trajectory up dill branch ravine.

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Perry,

Johnston's 2 p.m. attack did not reach to the Davis Wheat Field.  The pressure was east of the River road and against the peach orchard in the Sarah Bell cottonfield, reaching to about the middle of the field.  Davis field was the responsibilty of Gladden's and Gibson's troops, Zack Deas troops (Gladden) extended Statham's line further into the Sarah Bell Cotton field  but were not the main show of the 2 pm attack and Gibson's brigade was in the woods making the third (I think) assault on the Hornets Nest).  They are not considered part of the 2 pm attack.

The attack on the east side of the Hamburg-Savannah road had three rebel brigades attacking two splintered federal brigades, McArthur and Stewart.  For this attack, Withers had Chalmers' brigade on right, Jackson in middle and Bowen's brigade on left along the road.  One regiment of Statham's brigade, the 20th Tennessee was also on the east side of the road.  The attack formation west of the road included Statham's brigade which reached to about one-third across the Sarah Bell Cotton field and the line was extended to the west, still in the Sarah Bell field by Stephen's brigade (led by Col. Maney and Gladden's brigade (led by Col Zach Deas).  Deas troops reached the vicinity of the Davis Wheat field.  The attack formation, east of the River road, had three brigades still with good strength and well formed up against two badly shattered federal brigades.  The rebel line across the Sarah Bell Cotton field had three brigades in line, only one of which had good numbers stll in reasonable condition, Statham's.  The other two were reduced in numbers after being severly handled and were in a mixed up condition.  Statham's brigade did attack and applied heavy Pressure that forced Hurlbut's men back. 

The rebels were aligned to bring heavy pressure against the federal ragged line.  Withers' ordered two of Jackson's regiments to join with Chambers' brigade in the attack against Stewart, so at least six regiments attacked fragments of only three union regiments already badly beaten up.  The other two of Jackson's regiments moved with Bowen's brigade which meant six rebel regiments against three union regiments of McArthur's brigade.  Perry, is this not heavy pressure.  The results speak for it self.  Of the three confederate brigade commanders, Chambers, Jackson and Bowen, Jackson was the weak link and sending his regiments to serve under the other two was a very smart move.  Bowen was a very good brigade commander and CHAMBERS WAS AT THIS BATTLE, THE FINEST BRIGADE COMMANDER OF ALL.  HE GETS A GRADE OF A+++++++

The attack east of the road was a success, pushing McArthur and Stewart back out of the ravines.  In Fact, the union retreat turned into almost a rout.  It was the forward movement by the rebels here that outflanked Hurlbut's new line near the Wicker field.  Hurlbut quickly withdrew back and up the road into the northern edge of the Cloud field at 4 pm where it attempted a brief lived stand in a new line.  The rebel advance quickly drove this line out of the Cloud field.  So you see, this was the 2 pm attack in its later stage, about 4:30 already in the cloud field with the ability to continue the advance north towards the landing.  Chalmers and Jackson were beyond the fighting in the Hell's Hallow but got turned in towards Prentiss for the Hell's Hallow.  This brief discription of the attack proves the tenacity of the attack, inspired by AS Johnston, the continued push up the River road towards the landing, they reached the Cloud field before being turned to the west.  Correct me if i'm wrong but I believe Bragg was now in the area and he may have ordered the turn towards Prentiss' men.  I say again, firm in my belief that Johnston would NOT have done that. Besides Withers' two brigades, Statham and Bowen's brigades were behind them and two of Breckinridge's brigades were in the area to continue the attack against the last line.  This post contains many facts of actual operations and positions and also some theories.  This is not all quess work and theory.  There is evidence for thinking a continued movement was possible even after AS Johnston's death.  The union army in the area along the River road was a wreck, all troops fleeing or now prisoners. You may ask what troops were available to the rebels but I answer you with the same question about the federal army.  FINALLY, REMEMBER IF THE REBELS MOVED NORTH AND NOT WEST, THEY COULD HAVE ATTACKED AT 5 PM AND NOT 6 PM AS HAPPENED. 

Hey folks, pay more attention to Brigadier General James R Chambers, he was a good one.

I enjoy your information. 

Ron

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Jim,

Sorry my friend, it would not have worked-----gunboat firing in a tactical situation!  The fighting would be too fluid and too fast in movements.  Signal flags had been tryed, they didn't work.  How effective could unaimed firing be.  Their unaimed firing would have further hampered by the elevations necessary to clear the bluffs. Heavy artillery firing as suggested by you did not come into use until 1914, WWI.  The surprise is that a new item you would not think of allowed this type of firing.  That is the field telephone.  The greatest improvements in artillery firing was the field telephone and recoil cylinders and these did not arrive on the scene for about 40 years. 

Ron

 

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