Jump to content
Shiloh Discussion Group
Sign in to follow this  
idaho native

Army of Mississippi Advance to Pittsburg landing _ Battle of Shiloh

Recommended Posts

The Rebels seemed to have a fear of the gunboats and always were planning around them, so they must have had some effectiveness.  ASJ's original plan was to push the Yanks away from the landing.  While part of the reason for this may have been to prevent Grant from escaping on steamboats with his army, another may have been a fear of the gunboats.  Massing an army in the space you suggest would sure seem to expose them to the gunboats just pouring fire into an area they would have to traverse or even where they massed to attack.  I don't think communication would be that difficult (Gen. Grant request you concentrate your fire to the area south of the Landing Rd.).  You wouldn't need a lot of accuracy, just a lot of firepower, which the gunboats had.

Jim

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nothing like practice to get your range:

http://brownwaternavy.org/tennriver.htm

March 9, 1862

TYLER attended a "recruiting party" at Savannah, TN, during which several local citizens joined her crew. Meanwhile, LEXINGTON again shelled the area around Pittsburg Landing but her fire was not returned.

 

April 6, 1862

 Though the actions of the gunboats in this momentous battle seem limited, the importance of their contribution was later described by Major General Leonidas Polk, CSA, whose troops were; ". . .within from 150 to 400 yards of the enemy's position, and nothing seemed wanting to complete the most brilliant victory of the war but to press forward and make a vigorous assault on the demoralized remnant of his forces. At this juncture his gunboats dropped down the river, near the landing where his troops were collected, and opened a tremendous cannonade of shot and shell over the bank, in the direction from where our forces were approaching." And by General P. G. T. Beauregard, CSA, who reported; "The enemy, moreover, had broken [the Confederate troops'] rest by a discharge at measured intervals of heavy shells thrown from the gunboats; therefore, on the following morning the troops under my command were not in condition to cope with an equal force of fresh troops, armed and equipped like our adversary, in the immediate possession of his depots and sheltered by such an auxiliary as the enemy's gunboats.

April 8, 1862

Though there has been much debate over the importance of the gunboats in turning back the Confederate attack on April 6, at least one of President Lincoln's long-time friends and advisors seemed to have little doubt:

[align=right]EXECUTIVE MANSION

Washington, July 30, 1862[/align]

His Excellency President Lincoln

DEAR SIR: I went to Pittsburg Landing immediately after the battle there and spent three days riding over the field. From all I could learn I believe the gunboats Lexington and Tyler, commanded by Lieutenants Gwin and Shirk, saved our army from defeat. At least it is within bounds to say they rendered us invaluable services.

It seems to me very clear that these gentlemen ought to be promoted for their gallant bearing in this action.

[align=right]Yours, truly,

Leonard Swett [/align]

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jim

In your last post, my I please suggest better sources for a reference.  General Polk is just someone I don't care for as a reference.  He had a faulty perspectrive of the battle and its fighting.  He had little impact and influence with the troops during the battle.  He misinterpeted the battle situations.  His statement "Opened a tremondous cannonade --- over the river bank" alone proves his misunderstanding of the situation.  Why have some described the gunboats firng in this manner while many referecnes exist that the troops ignored the firing?  They quickly learned of the range limits they had and reacted accordingly. 

Who is Leonard Swett?  Where does he come into this?  His information is hearsay and how can a civilian unuse to the fighting, gauge the gunboat firing several days after the event?

As for General Beauregard, his statement appears like he is giving an excuse for calling off the battle at 6 pm.  Its justifying his actions, not the argument of the gunboats and the dangers of their fire.  

I have enjoyed this exchange of thoughts concerning this stage of the Battle of Shiloh.  However, the time has come to conclude my discussions as I belive I am now void of any further thoughts. I'm going back to bed now to refresh the brain cells, which is why I sleep for long time periods.

I look forward to the next exchange of cannister fire with you Jim.

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yea  i believe ur right about Chalmers he was a great commander gave invauable service to Forrest later on was also a fine citizen after the war. Pretty good points on ASJ i never gave much thought to him not attacking Prentiss makes u wonder but i know he would have continued on and that may well have been another way to success. As for the gunboats i believe they were successful but in a psyological way and sometimes thats even more the better i know we confederates feared them yankee gunboats:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

O. Edward Cunningham  Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 page 325:

"At the time of the battle, many participating Confederates believed Beauregard gave the withdrawal order due to the presence of the the Lexington and Tyler, whose fire had begun to take considerable effect on the Southerners as they approached closer to the river.  Although he did not cite the gunboats' fire as a reason for the withdrawal, Beauregard did mention it in some detail, indicating that it may have subconsciously influenced his decision."

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Jim,

I guess I lied about not having anything else to say. 

Your last post about Beauregard and the Gunboats is not sustainable as a accurate quote.  To many "Ifs" "Theys" and implied thinking of "I think he said this or that".  A quote should be directly from the person involved and not the rumor mill.

Now I will rollover and go back to bed.

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ron, that's the problem with unilateral ceasefire declarations, they rarely hold up.

Official Records time.  From Cornell Univ. Library web site http://dlxs2.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/

Col. William Preston's report, just after capturing the 18th WI camp and moving 600 to 800 yards toward the river:  "The enemy then, apparently attracted by the staff, commenced shelling the camp where we stood, and some heavy gunboat shells burst over us."  Sounds like pretty good communication was going on fairly early with the gunboats.

Brig. Gen. Patton Anderson:  "The enemys gunboats now opened fire. General Buggies directed me to move forward a short distance, and by inclining to the right to gain a little hollow, which would probably afford better protection for my men against shell than the position I then occupied. I gained the hollow and called a halt ordering the men to take cover behind the hill and near a little ravine which traversed the hollow. We occupied this position some ten or fifteen minutes, when one of General Ru ggles staff directed me to retire to the enemys camp, beyond the range of his floating guns. In filing off from this position several men were killed and many wounded by the exploding shells of the enemy."

Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers:  "About this time the gunboats from the river began to throw their shells among us, and we pressed rapidly forward in line of battle toward the center, where the battle seemed to be raging fiercely."  "It was then about 4 oclock in the evening, and after distributing ammunition, we received orders from General Bragg to drive the enemy into the river. My brigade, together with that of Brigadier-General Jackson, filed to the right and formed facing the river and endeavored to press forward to the waters edge, but in attempting to mount the last ridge we were met by a fire from a whole line of batteries protected by infantry and assisted by shells from the gunboats." 

Brig. Gen. S.A.M. Wood:  "At the request of Brigadier-General Buggies I marched to the right, to his support. The enemy was driven towards the river and back upon his batteries. I received an order from Major-General ilardee to move to the center and front, which was immediately obeyed, bringing my command under the fire of the gunboats; but we pressed on until we found that the shells, iu the main, passed beyond our line. Coming upon a line of troops immediately in my front I halted and ordered the men to rest, selecting a position the most secure from the shelling. From the shells at this point I had 14) killed and many wounded." 

Col. Robert P. Trabue:  "Finding the troops who had come in from my right halting 100 or 200 yards in my front, I allowed the Sixth and Fifth Kentucky Regi- ments hastily to exchange their guns for Enfield rifles which the enemy had surrendered, and I then moved up and rejoined General Breckin- ridge, who, with Stathams and Bowens brigades, was occupying the front liuie, being on the crest of the hill (or high land) overlooking the narrow valley of the Tennessee River, on which and near by was Pitts- burg Landing. Having been halted here for more than an hour we endured a most terrific cannonade and shelling front the enemys gunboats. My coin- mand, however, had seen too much hard fighting to be alarmed, and the Fourth Kentucky stood firm, while some of our troops to the front fell back through their lines in confusion. In company D, of this regiment, I lost at this place 11 men, and Lient. H. M. Kellar, of the Fifth Regi- ment, was wounded."

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Jim's quote from Cunningham's book, about Beauregard and the influence of the gunboats, can certainly be considered a valid source, even if the subject of the gunboats themselves is open to debate. I don't have Cunningham's book handy, but I know he cites numerous sources. They can be checked.

I do think there is evidence showing that the fire of the gunboats had an impact on the Confederates toward the end of the day, including Beauregard. It may have been more psychological than real, but it's a lot like the idea of perception vs reality. If you think something is true, you'll act as if it is true even if it isn't. Many of the Confederates seem to have realized that the danger from the gunboats was more perceived than real, especially as they got closer to the river - but not until after the fact. At the time though, with the shells literally screaming past, the danger undoubtedly seemed real enough. Look at some of their quotes for evidence.

One thing I would question though is that quote from Preston about receiving gunboat fire in the morning, after leaving the camp of the 18th Wisconsin. I could be wrong, but I don't remember anything about the gunboats opening up that early in the day, and it would have been one heck of a risk if they had done so. They had no idea at that point who was where, or even how the battle was progressing.

And as I think has been hit on here, they had no direct line of sight, so they were having to use indirect fire. That would have certainly been the case trying to land something between Stuart's camps and Prentiss's camps without hitting any Union troops, when you weren't sure where they were. I suspect that Preston's memory was playing tricks on him after hearing the real thing from the gunboats later in the day. Or maybe Hurlbut's artillery made that much of an impression on him at the time, and he thought some of the fire was from the gunboats.

Perry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ron, getting back to our argument....I mean, discussion....about Johnston. :) I just don't think we can say with absolute certainty what he would have done. His plan called for sweeping the Union army away from the landing, and there's evidence that he apparently thought he was doing that as early as 9:00 or so that morning. His 2:00 attack offered him the same kind of opportunity, only this time it was real. Or was it? That's what we'll never know, but he was on the left flank of a large part of Grant's army, and he may have seen it as the chance to finally turn them away from the landing. He may not have done so as well, and may have ordered an advance toward the north with Withers and maybe Bowen's men, while trying to pin down Hurlbut and Prentiss with the rest. This he may have done. But nothing he had done to that point suggests he would have. That's my take on it.

Of all of the officers on that flank, including Bragg, Withers, Breckinridge, Chalmers, Jackson, etc., none seem to have considered an advance straight north instead of turning toward the northwest. If Johnston had been alive and had done so himself, it appears he would have been the only one. His would have been the only voice that mattered, obviously, but would he have perceived an opportunity that no one else seems to have seen? Maybe and maybe not. That's the best we'll ever be able to do. I think the answer is, "probably not," but again, that's just my own best guess.

On the size of the 2:00 attack, I was including the troops west of Bowen's men, where the attack was largely repulsed. Also, the official report I mentioned, about Chalmers saying the turning movement conformed to Johnston's overall plan, actually came from Withers' report. Here's the exact quote:

"Satisfied by the report of the energetic and indefatigable Clanton that there was no enemy on our right, and being convinced by the heavy and continuous firing that they were in force on our left, the division was ordered to wheel on a movable pivot to the left. This movement, which was in accordance with the general plan of battle, as explained by the commanding general to the division and brigade commanders, soon developed the enemy in strong force, who stubbornly contested our advance, but were driven before the cool and steady Jackson and the gallant and impetuous Chalmers."

Whether an attack on Grant's Last Line would have succeeded at 5:00 instead of 6:00 is hard to say. Daniel has an interesting take on it in the endnotes of his book. See endnote #119 on page 366 and #125 on page 367. That latter note is also the 'alternate scenario' I was thinking about earlier, even though I got some of the details wrong.

Perry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perry, I agree with the psychological aspects of the gunboat firing and this is where they did the most damage, it was perceived and not real. Among the quotes of the firing, mixed in with those that mention this firing are very few examples of damage, and others that illustrate the southern soldiers quickly realized the firing was mostly hiss and bang. There are quotes that mention many rebels ignored the firing. There is a quote of a union officer that states the firing was mostly for psychological effect. Generally speaking, it is well known that indirect and not corrected firing is not effective. The greatest impact on the confederates was General Beauregard and not the gunboats.

If you refer to the morning firing of the gunboats, do you mean the morning of Monday, April 7th? They did continue to firing until about 5 am when told to stop firing.

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[user=25]Ron[/user] wrote:

If you refer to the morning firing of the gunboats, do you mean the morning of Monday, April 7th?  They did continue to firing until about 5 am when told to stop firing.

Ron,

Preston's statement indicates that he thought gunboat shells were bursting over their heads on the morning of the 6th. I think he probably just remembered wrong, or mistook regular artillery fire as coming from the gunboats.

Perry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perry,

No. they did not fire on Sunday, April 6th until Lt Cdr Gwin sent a officer ashore to ask permission to fire against the rebel army and to aid the union forces.  Receiving this approval, fire was opened about 4:30 to 5:30 PM time period.

They fired at a more rapid rate at first but did reduce their fire about night time to one shell every 15 minutes.  It was this rapid fire for the first (about ) 2 hours that may have led to the statements of "Fierce and rapid gunboat firing" but this firing was soon slowed.

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks to all who took part in this discussion. I have just reread these posts and discussions and now believe this topic and answering posts to be at least, the best discussion we havd had in the discussion group. That's what we are about.

I wish this topic could continue with another exchange of ideas but the replies did a good job of DISCUSSION.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×