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Perry Cuskey

Grant's Army Surrenders!

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Reading through an account of the battle by Ephriam C. Dawes, an adjutant in the 53rd Ohio at Shiloh, which does an excellent job of conveying the unmitigated chaos of the first day. Dawes stayed with what remained of the 53rd after the wild retreat from Rea Field, and after an adventurous day ended up along the northern side of Grant's final defensive line late in the afternoon. After all the firing had died down for the day, Dawes talked with a man who had just come from the landing area, and who had a pretty startling story to relate. I'll let Dawes tell it from here...

"moz-screenshot.pngOne of the officers called me to listen to the story of a man who had just come from the river. This man said, 'Our army has surrendered.' I said, 'How do you know?' He replied, 'I saw them.' I said, 'How did they do it? What did you see?'

"He said, 'I saw a regiment of our cavalry drawn up in a line on the river bank, each man standing at his horse's head, with his arms and accouterments lying at his feet, and a rebel officer going along the line taking down the men's names.'

"I said, 'What do you propose to do about it?' He replied, 'I propose to get up a party and build a raft and float down the river to Paducah.' I said, 'You can't get any men here. If the army is surrendered, and there is only one officer taking the names of all of them, he will get along to us in about six months after our time is out.'"

A short time later word arrived that the army had not in fact surrendered, and that Buell's army was now at hand.

Dawes obviously realized the surrender story almost certainly wasn't true, but his response is a gem. If the Rebels had a single officer taking down the names of Grant's entire army, he would get to the 53rd Ohio about six month's after the regiment's enlistment was up! :)

The account is in Sketches of War History, and appears under the title, "My First Day Under Fire at Shiloh." The account above appears on page 20 of Dawes's article. Here's a link in Google books...

My First Day Under Fire at Shiloh


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