Jump to content
Shiloh Discussion Group

Pittsburgh Landing - Buell's Army

Recommended Posts

Some War Reminiscences of Henry W. Engelbrecht

Written by Himself. Translated from German to English by E.H.E. (son Henry)

**I wanted to note that my G.G. Grandfather's account below was translated into english by his son. Henry Engelbrecht enlisted in June 1861 directly upon arriving into the United States from Germany. His entire company E of the 2nd Kentucky Volunteers was German speaking. They were under the Direction of General Buell, followed by General Nelson and Col. Bruce. This portion about the Battle of Shiloh was only a portion of the Civil War Reminiscenses that he had written. - Patrick Kelley

You have read a report of the battle of Pittsburgh Landing or Shiloh. It may be interesting to read the report of one who actually took part in the that battle. In the reports you read of fighting or victory, but not of what the individual soldier and the wounded endured. The writer of this belonged to the army of General Buell. On the evening of April 5the army encamped near the small town of Savanna, some ten miles north of Pittsburgh Landing on the east bank of the Tennessee River. We hoped to have a few days of rest since we had just completed a strenuous march from Nashville, Tennessee, a distance of some 120 miles. But with the dawn of the following morning (April 6) we were awakened by heavy cannonading to the south and knew at once that a serious battle was in progress. We prepared to march, but it was noon before we received the orders to proceed. Then, however, we pressed forward very rapidly so that we arrived opposite the battlefield at 3:30. But what a sight for our eyes. The whole opposite high bank of the river was covered with wounded and fugitives (slackers). Shells flew over our heads telling us that the enemy was not far away. During the night we were ferried across the swollen river. My regiment was one of the first to cross and we reached the scene of battle about sundown. Darkness put a stop to fighting so that we did not come into action that evening.

The night was one not easily forgotten. We were ordered to the front and lined up for battle expecting at any moment the attack of the enemy. It began to rain in torrents so that were soon standing in water. As we were exhausted from the strenuous march, most of us sat down to rest even though we were wet to the skin. However, there was little rest. Ten times at least the pickets sounded the alarm. Besides shells screeched above our heads all night. Toward morning (April 7) we got ready for the battle that would surely come. We had only a few crackers to eat which we downed with a drink from our canteens, water, of course. As soon as it was possible to see ahead we were ordered forward. The enemy retreated during the night and we were sent forward across the battle field of the first day to get into touch with him. The ground was literally covered with dead men and horses with broken down wagons and other implements of war. It did not take long before we were in touch with the enemy. Our company was kept in reserve, but halted in the middle of an open field in full view of the enemy army which was concealed in the underbrush a few hundred paces ahead. We were exposed to their fire. We had a number of dead and wounded. Before long we were order to advance. The battlefield was covered with woods and in places there was extensive underbrush. When we approached one of these thickly wooded sections, we realized that the enemy was before us. A bullet killed our captain. We prepared to fire, when suddenly we were met by a terrific rifle fire from the unseen enemy, a fire so rapid that I cannot understand today that our whole company, which was exposed to the full force of the fire, was not completely wiped out.

But here my participation in the battle ended. I had fired only a few times when I felt a blow on my left leg below the knee. The fact that I was just then resting on my right leg when firing my rifle prevented me from falling. However, I knew what the blow meant. I sat down, laid down my gun and examined my leg. I realized that I was not only wounded, but would be a cripple, since the leg was shattered. The first sensation which I felt was a severe thirst, which I could fortunately quench with the remainder of the water in my canteen. Then I placed my leg in the most possible comfortable position. I did not feel much pain and quenched the flow of blood as best I could. Here I lay in the midst of a rain of bullets, wounded and helpless. Also the thought came to me that I might be taken prisoner. I looked about me and realized that I had many companions in woe. The ground was literally covered with dead and wounded. The battle did not interest me any more and I did not realize for some time that my regiment had advanced and had driven the enemy back out of their position. The first assistance I received from a comrade, who exchanged his full canteen for my empty one. That was all he could do, since he must advance. How long I lay there, I cannot say. Finally, some men came to gather the wounded. Two came to me. They had a blanket on which they laid me to carry me, but since that twisted the protruding bones of my shattered leg, the pain was so severe that I begged them to lay me down. At this moment a four mule ammunition wagon passed which was half full of ammunition cases. The driver wan anxious to get our of reach of the enemy's fire, but stopped and I was loaded on top of the boxes. Just then the firing came closer and the driver whipped up his mules to get away. The ground was very rough and I was bounced from side to side barely saving myself from being thrown out by clutching the sides of the wagon. We had not gone far, when the wagon halted, the ammunition boxes were transferred to another wagon and I was again loaded on the wagon together with other wounded. One of them was a man who had marched at my side into battle. He was also wounded in the leg and I learned later, died of his wound. We were taken to a hospital center, where more than a hundred wounded lay in line and only two physicians with a few assistants were in attendance.

One of the surgeons stepped to the wagon and after he had seen my wound, ordered me to be placed into a tent. I hoped that now I would receive attention, but I remained all that day and the following night without food and without attention. Only on the afternoon of the 8th the surgeon came again and examined my wound. I was taken out of the tent and realized from the preparations that were made that my leg was to be amputated. I had by this time realized that my leg must be amputated, since my foot was without sensation. I was chloroformed and the only sensation I felt was when the saw cut through my bone above the knee. When I regained consciousness the physician had completed his work and I was taken back into the tent. The only attention that I received was from a man who had been wounded in the breast and who had been told by the physician that he had only a week to live. All the food that he could give me were a few crackers and a cup of cold coffee. That was all he had. Thus I lay until Wednesday evening, the third since my wound had been received.

On Wednesday evening the ambulance came to take us to the waiting steamboat. Several of us were taken in the first load. The horses and driver had practically no rest for four days and we barely escaped being dumped into the river. The steamer was not quite ready and we were laid into the bushes by the side of the river and only by calling attention to ourselves by yelling did we escape being left behind. We were the last to embark and since the decks were covered with wounded were placed into a small bunk, that is, I was alone in the bunk, the last empty space on the boat. I soon felt by the motion of the boat that we were on our way. Our destination was the military hospital at Paducah, Kentucky. Since I had not had a warm meal since Sunday and very little to eat since then, I hoped to get at least a cup of hot coffee. The long night passed and the morning came, but since I was in a cabin, I could not see what was going on on the deck. Finally with much effort I succeeded in opening the door and asked for something to eat. I was told that breakfast had been served some time ago and the waiter was surprised to find me, “the forgotten man” in the cabin. He told me that the cupboard had been emptied, but succeeded in getting a cup of cold coffee. That was all I received until the boat landed at Paducah on Friday evening. Here the most seriously wounded were taken to the courthouse. I was among them. The largest room containing 64 beds was for those who had lost a limb. I was one of the first to be taken in, but it did not take long to fill every bed, and already the dead were being carried out to make room for others.

Thus far the written report of my father. He remained in Paducah until his wound was healed and he could be dismissed. The government provided him with a wooden leg, which he learned to use so well that he could walk without a cane and that people who had known him for ten years did not know that he had a wooden leg. He received a pension which, small at first, was during his last years of life raised to $42 a month. Every fourth year the government furnished a new leg or $125 in cash. Since father was handy with tools, he repaired his leg himself and usually drew the cash. He worked for several years at shoemaking and gardening and then entered Addison Seminary to prepare for teaching. After only two years in the seminary he graduated, thus realizing a dream which he had even before he left his home in Germany. He first taught at Farmers Retreat, Indiana, a school which at times had an enrollment of more than a hundred pupils. Here he met my mother and here the first three children of a family of eight children were born in an old log school house at one end of which two rooms had been boarded off for the teacher’s residence. After six or seven years a new home was built for the teacher, but we lived in it only two years, when father accepted a call to Columbus, Indiana, where he taught for eleven years the country school of the city congregation. The school was six miles from town and the roads were mud roads, almost impassable in spring. Here the other five children were born. Then father accepted a call to Logansport, Indiana, and here the children grew up and most of them made their home

After 37 years of service in the schools, father resigned in 1905 and died February 13, 1910 at the age of 68 years and 4 months. - E.H. Engelbrecht]

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks PKelly. That is a great account, and I'm glad you posted it for us.

Can you imagine being hauled off the battlefield on top of ammunition boxes, in the middle of a battle? Good lord. Although I love where he says the driver was in a hurry to get away from the fighting. Yeah, I would think. :)

Also have to marvel somewhat at the matter-of-fact way in which he describes his wounding. It sounds as if his account was written quite some time after the battle, but that still struck me.

Hard to say for sure of course, but based on his account, and the location of the markers for the 2nd Kentucky, I'd take a semi-educated guess that he was wounded somewhere around Bloody Pond. He makes no mention of being near a pond though, so it could have been in or near Wicker Field, just to the north. Or even after they advanced past Bloody Pond. But it sounds like they were in an established position at the time.

I'm also guessing that he may have been taken to the field hospital in Stuart's former camp, down on the far southeast edge of the park. His description sounds like a good match for that, and it's clear he was not taken to the landing until after his leg had been amputated.

But his description of his experience is very telling. Just being in the battle was awful enough, but being wounded, and all that entailed, made it so very much worse for anyone unfortunate enough to have to endure that.

Not sure if you've had a chance to visit the park yet and see the markers for your ancestor's regiment, but just in case, here's a link to their page on the Monument Location System for Shiloh...


And here's their locations in the park, courtesy of Bing Maps. Clicking on the "Road" link on the upper-right, then clicking on the "Automatic" option from the drop-down menu, will let you zoom in close enough to see the last two markers. The first one is so deep in the woods you can't make it out...

2nd Kentucky April 6th Bivouac

2nd Kentucky Bloody Pond Marker

2nd Kentucky Final Position Marker

And even though I'm not absolutely certain this is where he was taken, and there's no marker shown right now, here's the link and the map location for the field hospital...


Map of Field Hospital Site

Do you know if he ever re-visited the battlefield after the war, possibly after the park was established?


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

WOW!  Thank you, PKelley, for posting this.  This really brings the battle about as close up and personel as you can get.  May a thousand bluebirds of happiness bless your path for sharing it. 

This is the first time I've read of Nelson getting to a point across from the landing so early in the afternoon.  For some reason, I've always thought he arrived about dusk.  I wonder why they weren't transported across immediately??

Is PKelley a screen name or is Kelley your last name?  My mother came from the Delavan, WI Kelleys. 


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Thanks for all of the great information! I have never been to the park, but hope to get there very soon. I am sure that it will help to bring the story into even more vivid detail! I'm not quite sure how he survived all of this as many others in this battle were not so lucky. I am certainly glad he got the use of the 1st army field hospital and did survive, or I wouldn't be here myself!!

As far as I have ever heard, I don't believe that he ever went back to the battlefield after this. In some ways, you can't blame him!

Pat Kelley

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking of survival I find it astounding how some soldiers survived serious wounds and others died from what one might perceive to be a slight wound. Probably depended on their constitution and the care they received in some cases. Just consider the following:

Confederate officer John Brown Gordon was wounded 5 times at the Battle of Antietam. He survived. His wife had a lot to do with nursing him back to health.

Joshua L Chamberlain was shot with the ball entering his body through one side near the hip and out the other. He was breveted for gallantry on the battlefield because they thought he would die. He survived and lived to a ripe old age however I think he suffered from his wounds for the rest of his life. As did Winfield Scott Hancock who was wounded at Gettysburg.

It does not really seem like Stonewall Jackson's wounds received at Chancellorsville were that bad but he died of pneumonia.

Well anyway am glad your gg grandfather survived!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...