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Grant's Savior

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This certainly is a long debated question and because of the many advocates on both sides, nothing has been settled.  Now, I come along to place more confusion into the argument.  I have long believed that Grant's army of the Tennessee was much too wrecked from the first days battle because of casualties, equipment losses, many soldiers absent from their units and the extensive battlefield confusion and disorganization.  The surviving units were greatly reduced in numbers and many commanding officers lost.  Grant did well in putting up a battleline and posting units for the attack the next morning.  Buell's arrival was fortunate for ALL union forces and yes, his troops did help stablize the union line on Sunday night as his troops took over a sector of the line and expanded their frontage. I firmly believe that darkness ended the first days fighting, not any action by the combatants. 

As to Sharon's question, "Did Buell save Grant or did Grant save himself"?  On Monday morning, as the union armies stood in battleline, Grant's survivors held only about one-third of the front which was one and one-quarter mile long, Buell held the other two-thirds of the front.  This clearly indicates the importance of the presence of Buell's army.  On Monday morning, the ability of Grant's men to hold the front without Buell's help would have been in doubt.  What is hardly debatable is that both Grant and Buell had their troops under firm command in a compact organization.  Contrast this with the complete disorganization and heavy losses of the rebel army.  I believe that Buell's presence in the early morning hours of Monday, April 7th stablized the front for the union forces and DID remove any threat from the rebels.  However, Buell did not save Grant only because of a lack of a threat from the rebels.

But the actions of Grant's and Buell's forces during the fighting on Monday is key to the answer to the main question, did Buell save Grant? Buell's men started the attack early by moving into the northern Cloud field and skirmish line firing began with Forrest's cavalry pickets and Chalmers brigade. This action was shortly followed by Lew Wallace starting artillery fire into the Jones field against Pond's rebel brigade.  Without going into all of the intermediate actions of Monday from start to the final attack on the Shiloh Church plateau, Grant's men steadily advanced against the rebel left wing, under Bragg, applying very heavy pressure.  In contrast, Buell's men after their earlier advances from the Cloud field became stalled against the rebel positions along the Purdy road below the Sarah Bell cottonfield and the Daniel Davis wheat field. Further, Sooy Smith's attack down the Eastern Corinth road was repelled and he pulled back to the sunken road.  NOTICE THAT NO MAJOR ATTACK WENT DIRECTLY THROUGH THE WIDE OPEN SPACES OF THE DUNCAN FARM FIELD ON SUNDAY OR MONDAY. McCook's division, of Buell's army, advanced west along the Main Corinth road and hooked left at the review field then became stalled.  Buell's army ended their advance in these positions while Grant's continued onto the Shiloh Church plateau against heavy rebel rearguard actions and continued in pursuit of the rebels.  (Yes, I agree that Grant's pursuit of the rebels was feeble. )

The above long discussion is my basis for the belief that Buell's presence was essential to the total union effort on the second day of the battle. But don't forget that the rebels could not have attacked Grant so Buell actually, did not save Grant's army.  Without Buell's presence, the rebel and union armies would probably stood in place looking at each other with small probing attacks until the rebels realized they had to retreat because they would have been out of food, ammo and had far too many wounded to take care of. I believe that Grant's men were important to Buell's forces and the reverse is also true.  One could not do the job without the other.  The results achieved was by a MUTUAL EFFORT, despite the poor feelings and communications between the commanders, by both armies and the benefits belong to both.  The credit for the victory belongs to both Grant and Buell but since, Grant and Sherman wrote the history of the battle, they took the credit and DOWNPLAYED BUELL'S ROLE.

Let me close this long statement by simply stating that Grant's army was more more aggressive and Buells forces became winded and timid.  In balance, I consider Buell to have been timid when his army came up against a rebel defensive line along the Purdy road.  At the decisive late hours, it was Grant's men doing the pushing. The exception to the above is the role of Lew Wallace which was very very, very timid and slow.  Buell did not save Grant only because the rebels were in no shape to attack agressively on Monday. 

IT DOES APPEAR AS IRONIC THAT THE UNION FORCES THAT ARRIVED FRESH ON THE BATTLEFIELD, LEW WALLACE AND BUELL'S THREE DIVISIONS ALL BECAME WINDED AND TIMID IN THE AFTERNOON ON MONDAY WHILE GRANT'S DIVISIONS, THAT WERE KICKED AROUND ON SUNDAY HAD TO FINISH THE JOB ON MONDAY EVENING.

Ron

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[user=24]Rebel[/user] wrote:

Man, either the clock is off on this thing or you think of some rather strange things at 3am in the morning...

Well there really is a legitimate explanation. I got up to let my rottweiler Shiloh out & then was reading a book "The Compact History of the Civil War" & because I could not get back to sleep I decided we needed a new topic to illicit some discussion within the group.:)

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Buell could also be faulted for bringing on the battle in the first place.  If he hadn't been so slow in getting to Shiloh and linking up with Grant, Johnston would not have attacked.

Jim

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Jim,

Your thought of Buell bringing on the battle is expanding the question from  battlefield tactical situation to theater wide strategy.  Do you want to do this?  There are even more scenarios at the theater level leading into even more "what ifs". Some of these "what ifs" apply on the confederate side as well, such as "What if Van Dorn's army arrived in time for the battle"?

interesting

Ron

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Ron,  I've gone down the Buell/Van Dorn road in my mind a few times.  I always seem to get to the point where it would probably lead to a greater slaughter on both sides.

Jim

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[user=28]WI16thJim[/user] wrote:

Buell could also be faulted for bringing on the battle in the first place.  If he hadn't been so slow in getting to Shiloh and linking up with Grant, Johnston would not have attacked.

Jim: I think there is a great deal of truth to what you say, Buell seemed to be stymied by the Duck River which he was either unable or unwilling to ford to expedite getting his forces to Savannah. Nelson finally forded the river and headed toward Savannah while Buell was still pondering.

One wonders if Buell was really interested in furthering the cause and cooperating with Grant or if he was just perpetrating some more of the petty jealousies that hindered effective cooperation at times in both the Union & Confederate Armies.

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A WHAT-IF question

What if VanDorn and Buell both arrived in time to fight.  Compare VanDorn"s aggressive style of fighting with Buell's timid nature.  Jim, sink your teeth into this question.

Ron 

 

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Ron, great analysis.

Just to play devil's advocate a little, I think Buell actually did get his version of the battle out, and was pretty harsh of Grant in the process. Grant and Sherman got their own versions out as well of course, but I wouldn't say that their version became the accepted version of the battle, with Buell getting written out of the story. They had what one could politely call differing points of view. :)

Going back to Sharon's original question, as it relates to the end of the day on April 6th, I think the answer to that can be found on the opposite side of Dill Branch Ravine. When Beauregard ordered his army to pull back without fully attacking Grant's final defensive line, the battle was over for the day. You can't save someone from an attack that never comes, and since the Confederates never fully tested Grant's Last Line, there was nothing for Grant's men to be saved from.

As Ron's post indicates though, there was more to the story than just that, and pointing out that Buell's men did not save the day on April 6th - which the veterans of the two armies argued about far into the future - it's still hard to overestimate the psychological effect on Grant's army of Buell's arrival. Whatever animosity existed after the fact, they were very happy indeed to see help arrive that night.

Concerning Van Dorn, that's a good point about his aggressiveness, but I really don't think he proved himself to be a great commander. He was out-generaled by Curtis at Pea Ridge, and delayed far too long in responding to Johnston's summons to join him at Corinth. Under Johnston though, he would have most likely have become, in effect, another corps commander, and in command of the largest corps in Johnston's army. So maybe the comparison of Van Dorn to Buell wouldn't really fit completely.

But, that said, if the Confederates still attack under this scenario, with Buell on the scene for the Union and Van Dorn for the Confederates, then Buell's habitual "slowness" might not be as big a negative factor for the northern side as it may first appear, since like Grant, all he really has to do is play defense.

It's an interesting scenario though. But again, Ron, really good analysis of April 7th.

Perry

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i believe if Van Dorn makes it to Corinth its over for the Union army no doubt could you imagine Van Dorn and the prisners from Donelson at Shiloh i guess i just lean a little southern on Buell i believe he does save Grant its not just the battlefield results you must consider the confidence factor he puts back into Grants army when he arrives on the banks of the TN River on Sunday night after an almost sure defeat during the day it must have felt really good to the Union army to see Buells men come ashore i know it would have for me if i had survived that first day 

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But that is assuming that the Confederates would have won in an attack on Monday.  They were almost as beaten up as the Feds, and would have to been on the attack again, so the outcome, even without Buell, but of course with the addition of Wallace, would be enough in doubt that one can't say Buell saved Grant.

Jim

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Ron, after reading Perry's thought's of the addition of Buell/Van Dorn and seeing they pretty much were what I thought, I wasn't going to respond.  But then I had to wonder what the addition of Buell would have had on the 16th WI.  I've read where it was planned to encamp Buell down towards Hamburg, but they surely would have connected to Grant's army.  Would some of them camped in front of the 16th, providing a buffer to the initial attack?  Would the presence of Buell's army cause Johnston to use a different plan of attack?  Would he have even attacked, even with Van Dorn?  Dang What ifs!

Jim 

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A responce to thoughts by Jim and Perry.

Perry

Yes, if Van Dorn arrived in time before the battle, he would have become a corps commander under Albert Sidney Johnston.  But this arrangement would have further complicated the confederate order-of-battle. Further, he (Van Dorn) was not familiar with the terrain but despite this, he would have attacked and continued to attack because of his aggressive nature. He probably would have proved to be the most aggressive corps commander in the battle but does not necessarily mean he would have been effective.  His unability to properly plan and support a attack might mean some of his attacks would have been driven back (it just occurred to me that the rebel corps commanders did a poor job of staging attacks so Van Dorn would have been normal).

 

Jim

Buell's army was scheduled to bivouac at Hamburg if it had arrived before the battle.  If this occurred, this certainly would have changed the dynamics of the battle for Johnston.  It would have extended the battle line over a very large distance, much too long for a commander to effectively control.  The rebels had to attack Buell at Hamburg because they could not leave a union army on their right flank as they moved on Pittsburg Landing. Would he have attacked?  I believe he would do so.  I  believe that Albert Sidney Johnston would have attacked in almost any circumstances.  He needed to restore the confidence of the army and the country in him.  He was determined to attack as psychological factors may have been adversely effecting him at this time, following the earlier losses. 

Ron

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Ron, I believe you are right on your assessment of Johnston's determination to attack.  I still wonder about the affect this stretched out line would have had on the 16th WI.  Most likely the attackers would have been stretched out, also, taking some pressure off of Prentiss.  Would this have allowed Prentiss to resist the attack?  Slow it down even more?  Would Johnston have come up with a better plan, that would actually have had better results?  I think my head is starting to hurt!

Jim

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Jim

No, Prentiss was doomed by his own folly.  He choose to not believe his best brigade commander, Peabody.  He made bad decisions with Madison's brigade in the Spain field fight and his retreat was a rout.  He had no control over the rout and when the men dropped down to the ground in the sunken road, it was more their choice not his.  His performance was terrible and he was not in the proper mind set before the battle.  As further proof (if this is proof), his conduct at the end of the Hornets Nest, the delayed surrender, getting trapped and a forced surrender really was a very poor performance. finally, he was another political appointee. 

I deplore the confederate tendency to lose men in large surrenders at the time they needed these men, Fts Henry and Donelson, Hornets Nest, Island #10 and the many men who just disappeared after the lost battles of Mill Springs and Elkhorn Tavern.  What were they thinking?

Sorry, I now preach

Ron

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Jim

No, Prentiss was doomed by his own folly.  He choose to not believe his best brigade commander, Peabody.  He made bad decisions with Madison's brigade in the Spain field fight and his retreat was a rout.  He had no control over the rout and when the men dropped down to the ground in the sunken road, it was more their choice not his.  His performance was terrible and he was not in the proper mind set before the battle.  As further proof (if this is proof), his conduct at the end of the Hornets Nest, the delayed surrender, getting trapped and a forced surrender really was a very poor performance.  What ever was in his mind when he told his confederate captors that Buell was arriving could only been further a lack of understanding of his role, duties and a knowledge that you don't tell the enemyanything.  But it could also have been stupidity?  Finally, he was another political appointee. 

I deplore the confederate tendency to lose men in large surrenders at the time they needed these men, Fts Henry and Donelson, Hornets Nest, Island #10 and the many men who just disappeared after the lost battles of Mill Springs and Elkhorn Tavern.  What were they thinking?

Now Perry, don't ask me how I really feel about him.

Ron

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You know, I actually feel as if I need to defend Prentiss here, even if just a little. Maybe if I sit still for a few minutes and breath deeply, the feeling will pass.

Maybe if I do it really quickly it won't be so bad. The thing is, I don't disagree with everything you say about Prentiss, Ron, but maybe it's just a bit too harsh on the old boy. (Did I just call him an old boy? He was younger than I am now, at the time of the battle. Man, I am getting old.) Whatever faults Prentiss displayed at Shiloh, and there were one or two :), one thing I have to give him serious credit for is this - after his division got blown apart, he recovered his mental faculties remarkably well, and went on to give a good account of himself for the rest of the day.

There's a lot more that could be said on that subject, but I guess the short version is that this was no simple accomplishment, and not every officer was able to do it. Especially given what he and his men had experienced out along that first defensive line. If that's not enough to make a person absolutely snap, I'm not sure what is. If Prentiss did temporarily snap, he recovered himself, and stayed in the battle. Not everyone did that.

In fact, the evidence is pretty strong that Prentiss was indeed badly rattled by what had happened that morning, to which I simply say, who wouldn't have been. I'm not surprised by this. Yes, much of that situation was his own doing, but once the shooting starts you have to deal with it, and that's where he was. But it's noteworthy to me - and again, I'm pretty critical of Prentiss at Shiloh most of the time - but it's noteworthy to me that after that initial shock, he appears to have actually rallied what remained of the rest of his division, retained command, and returned them to the fight. He was still emotionally on edge at the time, I'm certain of it. But he pulled himself back together enough to try and lead his men. He gets points from me for that.

The other thing where Prentiss is concerned, for me, is that even though I'm critical of many of his decisions, I firmly believe that once the battle started, he was doing his level best to make good decisions. And he didn't shirk from the responsibility. At least not during the battle. I think he may have done so after the fact when looking back on things, but that's for another time. He made some bad decisions that day, sometimes for what probably seemed to him to be good reasons.

But while I fault those decisions, I don't fault his effort. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I strongly suspect that his effort in the Hornets Nest may have been largely grounded in what happened along his first line that morning. Simply put, I think he was mortified by what happened out there, and he wasn't going to let it happen again. Plus, I suspect at some level he understood that he was largely responsible for his division's lack of readiness that morning. All of that coalesced in his Hornets Nest stand. Including, I suspect, his decisions not to retreat when everyone else was doing so.

His surprisingly open conversation with his captors may have had a similar catalyst. As I think I may have said before, I really doubt it crossed his mind that he may have been passing along valuable information to the enemy. It just makes no sense to me that he would have willingly done such a thing, especially after what he had just been through. I think it was more in the nature of a taunt, as the only remaining way he had of fighting back. I'm not really trying to defend him here as much as understand why he did what he did.

Good grief, now see what you've made me go and do? It's all your fault Ron!

Perry

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Hamburg came up in the discussion here, so I thought a map might be helpful for anyone unfamiliar with it's location. The map below shows Hamburg's location relative to Shiloh. This is where Buell's army most likely would have come ashore had they arrived prior to the battle...

Map for Hamburg

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Perry: I just love the aerial maps. This one really shows what sections of the park will be more accessible when they get Sherman Rd & Cavalry Road reopen. Looks like there will be great access to Jones field.

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Guest 23RD TENN

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

I deplore the confederate tendency to lose men in large surrenders at the time they needed these men, Fts Henry and Donelson, Hornets Nest, Island #10 and the many men who just disappeared after the lost battles of Mill Springs and Elkhorn Tavern.  What were they thinking?

Now Perry, don't ask me how I really feel about him.

Ron

Ron,

my thoughts on what they were thinking, is what was Davis thinking?  placing men in areas to be cut off and surrounded, or in the case of Donelson having idiots in charge. One of these being Floyd who caused trouble for Lee just a few months prior. as to the hornets nest you know as well as I do that Bragg had a large hand in that, along with some others who thought the only way to take a position was by frontal attack.

about the only good idea Bragg ever had was recognizing the south needed large mobil armies.  and the only thing he was good at doing was retreating. Bully for Bragg he's hell on retreat.

you also had some interesting comments about what might have happened on the second day if Buell wouldn't have been there. what's your thoughts if Johnston would have been alive the next morning and the rebel army would have been in the same shape that it was?

23rd tenn

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Randy, I agree with your thoughts about Floyd and Bragg and Davis.  This indicates that the confederate government and military had problems, chief of which was a tendenacy to argue and follow orders, Leonidas Polk and Gideon Pillow come to mind.  As to frontal attacks, I agree with you again but 10 times over.  At the battle of Shiloh, the successful attacks were flank attacks and there was some made.  Most of the time, since this battle was fought in disconnected small unit fighting, the local commanders found it simplier to just attack head-on. Little thought was given to flank attacks.  The VERY LARGE CHIEF example of a successful flank attack was the collapse of the Hornets Nest.  The position fell not from the rebel frontal attacks but by the left flank being turned by Breckinridge's and Wither's attack up the River road about 3:30 to 4:40 pm.  Also include the collapse of the federal right flank along the Eastern Corinth road and the Hells Hallow, when the confederate troops advanced east through the woods to the Stacy field and along the Main Corinth road behind the Duncan farm cabins. These were Trabue's, Cleburne's, Stewart's men Etc. 

What would Albert Sidney Johnston do?  Randy, I need to leave this question for now.  I have not thought of that possibility and I need to ponder it.  All I will say for now is that it was a great loss for the confederacy because I happen to believe that A S Johnston was maturing in his duties.  If he lived, the history of the western confederacy would have been differant in a better manner.  But still far too many difficulties remained such as the size of Dept 2, lack of men, lack of weapons, poor pool of officers.  Could he overcome them?????? 

I go now, off to ponder,  hhhmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ron 

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