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Perry Cuskey

Anniversary Hikes Field Report

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Below is the first part of my ‘field report’ on the Shiloh anniversary hikes. I’ll try to post an overview of each hike as time permits. They are written from my own point of view, relating my own experiences as I remember them. So here we go…

[b:6c24c61a4c]Pre-Hike Reconnaissance[/b:6c24c61a4c]

I arrive at the park about four in the afternoon on Thursday, April 5th. First stop is the visitors center to pay my entrance fee and talk with a couple of the rangers about the upcoming hikes. After that I head out into the park for a bit, to spend a little time roaming around on my own. Dogwoods and other flowering plants add a splash of color to the park. Temperature is probably in the mid-50’s with sunny skies and no wind. A gorgeous afternoon. It’s good to be back at Shiloh.

I meet up with Dan around 5:30 and the two of us decide to do a little exploring in the park while it’s still light enough to see. We tramp around Rea Field and the Crossroads before ending the day with dinner at the nearby Catfish Hotel. In all the times I’ve visited the park, this is my first time at the well-known eatery. Bottom line, it’s worth the visit. After a good dinner it’s off to Savannah for some shut-eye. A full day awaits us tomorrow.

[b:6c24c61a4c]Day One - April 6th[/b:6c24c61a4c]

Wake up at 3:30 a.m. and drag out of bed to prepare for the first hike of the day. Starting time this morning is five o’clock. Forecasts had predicted lows this morning near freezing, but as I step outside for the first time shortly after 4:00, it is chilly but does not feel as cold as I had feared. Still, I‘m glad to have a heavy jacket on. A nearly full moon casts a soft glow across an almost cloudless sky. All is quiet. It is nice out, even given the chill in the air. With luck we should have a little sun today.

Arrive at the visitors center shortly before five. Several other folks are already on hand, waiting in the parking lot. At least one brave soul is out here without a jacket of any kind. I’m glad it isn’t me. About five o’clock one of the rangers opens the main door and kindly lets everyone inside. Time to pay entrance fees and check in for the hike. Since I paid the day before when I first arrived, I stand off to the side till everything is ready to go.

There are maybe ten or fifteen people inside with me. A decent number of folks for a walk in the dark at five in the morning. But as I stand there more people start to come inside. And then more. And then still more. And then still more again. All told, my rough-guess is that about 40 people, and possibly more, show up for this early-early morning hike. I’m impressed.

A gentleman standing beside me says hello and introduces himself as Steve Cantrell. We talk for several minutes while the rangers conduct roll-call, checking to see who is here and who isn’t. Turns out that Steve has a family connection with the park in that some of his ancestors once owned property in the area. He took part in last year’s hikes and enjoyed them so much he’s back for round two. Steve and Dan will turn out to be my hiking partners for most of the weekend. Being a veteran of last year’s dawn patrol however, Dan has decided this year to reenact Grant’s first morning at Shiloh and will arrive from Savannah a bit later in the morning, in time for our next hike.

[b:6c24c61a4c]Hike #1 - Dawn Patrol[/b:6c24c61a4c]

Our first hike of the day will cover events leading up to the opening shots of the battle. We are to split into two groups. One group will re-trace the dawn patrol ordered by Union Colonel Everett Peabody, the other group will reenact the Confederate picket post that greeted that patrol.

The rangers tell everyone to choose - Yankees on one side of the room, Rebels on the other side. With my long-held interest in Peabody it’s an easy choice for me - I will hike down the road as an imaginary Yankee. I expect to see far more Rebs than Yanks - I’ve been told this is usually the case - and am somewhat surprised to see the two groups are just about even. Everyone files out the door and head for the parking lot. Steve very kindly offers me a ride, being that we are both Yanks this morning, and off we go.

We arrive at the site of Peabody’s headquarters around 5:30 and gather around our ranger for a brief overview of how Colonel Peabody came to order out the patrol we are about to re-trace. Our guide for this Union hike is ranger Charles Spearman. Our ‘opponents’ on the Confederate side are led by ranger Bjorn Skaptason. Both men will prove throughout the weekend that they are well versed in the battle and the park. After hearing of Peabody’s concerns for the safety of the Union army - the reason for the patrol we are about to re-create - we head down Reconnoitering Road. (Click on the picture below for a larger view.)


[b:6c24c61a4c]The need for speed[/b:6c24c61a4c]

As Charles heads off down the road, it quickly becomes apparent that our patrol is going to scoot along much faster than did the original under Major James Powell, one hundred forty five years ago this morning. In fact, had Powell’s patrol strolled along at the pace we’re currently setting, they would probably have crashed right through the Confederate picket line and driven the entire Rebel army back to Corinth on sheer momentum. Despite our best efforts, Steve and I quickly fall behind. It will become a common theme on virtually all of the hikes this weekend.

Now and then during our semi-sprint, Charles turns around and relates what our 1862 counterparts might have experienced along this same route. After a few hundred yards, for example, we have passed our picket line and are now by ourselves, out beyond our own lines. There is nothing ahead of us now but the dark, the woods, and the unseen enemy. And the tiny flames shooting out from our leader’s hiking boots as he scorches along the road.

After winding our way along through the semi-darkness, we arrive at the Main Corinth Road. Near this spot in 1862 Powell had formed his men into a skirmish line and advanced into nearby Fraley Field, after a brief encounter with Confederate cavalry pickets.

Following in their footsteps fourteen-and-a-half decades later, we halt, listen briefly to the story of the encounter with the cavalry troopers, and form two columns before advancing down the path toward Fraley Field. Unlike our 1862 counterparts, we already know what waits for us at the end of the path. And also unlike them, we know that no one is going to be shooting at us when we get there. Still, the moment is telling. Walking through the woods along this path, in the dim light of early morning, it is not difficult to imagine the emotions the men on the original patrol must have felt as they traversed this very same ground, at nearly the very same hour, on this very same day, in 1862. (See picture.)


[b:6c24c61a4c]Cameras at 20 paces[/b:6c24c61a4c]

Emerging into Fraley Field, we can barely make out what appears to be an “enemy” skirmish line perhaps one hundred yards in the distance, just beyond a small stream that bisects the field. Our Confederate counterparts have arrived first, and have been waiting on us. They are located about where the first of two small picket lines were established by the Confederates on the night of April 5th, out in front of the main picket line near the junction of Fraley and Wood fields.


Our guide, Charles Spearman, begins to tells us of the firefight that took place here the morning of the battle. After several minutes our counterparts across the way begin advancing toward us. Not to be intimidated by such blatant aggression we accept the challenge and advance as well, meeting our opponents near the small stream. Among those joining us as a witness to the approaching clash is Stacy Allen, historian of Shiloh National Military Park. It is the only appearance he will make this weekend. Which may speak to the importance he gives to Peabody’s morning patrol.

The two lines, one Union and one Confederate, halt within a few feet of each other, poised in battle formation. Instead of guns and bullets however, we exchange camera flashes and shivering smiles in the cold, gray dawn.


Charles Spearman and Bjorn Skaptason take turns telling us about the events leading up to and including the early part of the battle, and how this morning encounter in Fraley Field is alerting the rest of the Union army to the approaching danger. They clearly regard the patrol and resulting firefight as a vital moment in the battle.

As Stacy Allen informs us, the patrol has uncovered the presence of the Confederate army, and caused the battle to begin near the front of the Confederate army instead of inside the Union camps. It will prove to be an important distinction. Stacy also talks about the important role that the surrounding terrain had played in the battle, and how Johnston and his commanders had not begun the battle with a clear understanding of the Union army’s position. The Confederate army, in effect, was not initially aligned with the Union camps in the manner that Johnston had thought it was.

He also stresses the importance of Halleck's standing order not to bring on a battle with the enemy before everything is ready. This oft-repeated order of Halleck's, as Stacy points out, will cause the Union officers at Pittsburg Landing to continually back away from potential encounters with Confederate patrols. This, as he informs us, helps explain the apparent mystery of how 45,000 Confederate troops could almost literally sneak up on Grant's army.

The first exception to this rule of Union backpeddling was Everett Peabody. As Stacy explains it, there have been other patrols, but each encounter with the enemy has resulted in a quick retreat, in compliance with orders. Peabody's is the first and only patrol that qualifies as a "combat patrol" as Stacy Allen phrases it, sent out in violation of orders for the express purpose of finding the enemy and alerting the rest of the army to the approaching danger.

After these very interesting talks, everyone poses for photographs, as we do our best to smile and look natural while shivering in place. Someone has brought two flags, one Union and one Confederate, that have been carried into “battle” by a couple of volunteers. The flags, as we have been told, are sponsored by a state-run preservation society (the name of which I unfortunately cannot recall), and are to by flown over every important battle sight in the state of Tennessee before the end of the year. Today they have flown over the battlefield of Shiloh.

As this opening hike draws to a close and most of the 21st Century Yankees begin the trek back up Reconnoitering Road and their waiting vehicles, I stop for a moment to ask Stacy Allen a question. Larry Daniel had stated in his book on Shiloh that the importance of Peabody’s morning patrol may have been overstated. He felt that the Confederates had spoiled their own surprise by delaying their advance that morning, and by the slowness of that advance once it got under way. I wanted to know Stacy Allen’s opinion on that.

He agrees that the Confederates were slow in starting and in moving forward; but regardless of when they had started, Peabody’s patrol would have been out there looking for them. And the battle would still have started out beyond the Union lines as a result. He adds that he regards Peabody’s patrol as being a very important moment in the battle.

By now it’s closing in on 7:00, and Steve and I head back up Reconnoitering Road. Our pace is much more leisurely than on the way down. For the moment at least, we appear to have this part of the park to ourselves. By now the sun is starting to appear over the horizon, and we can make out details in the surrounding woods.

Except for the birds and critters nearby, it is quiet. We do not manage to re-join Charles or the rest of the morning patrol before they depart, but more than likely he has ended the hike by informing everyone of the final stand made by Peabody’s brigade near their camps, and that Peabody himself has been shot and killed while trying to rally his men. To all intents and purposes his brigade now ceases to exist. A short time later Prentiss’ other brigade is overrun in Spain Field. The fight for Pittsburg Landing is now underway in earnest. But for Peabody, the battle of Shiloh is over.

For Steve and I, and the other folks here for the anniversary hikes, our adventures in the park are only beginning. We are off to an excellent start.

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[b:e6c7d6d80c]Hike # 2 - Retreating with the 53rd Ohio[/b:e6c7d6d80c]

[Note - I've included a few thumbnail pictures with this post. When you click on the pictures it will open a new window where you can see the picture full-size.]

Our second hike of the day begins at 8:00 near Shiloh Church. Dan has arrived from Savannah and joins Steve and me in time for this hike. Dan and Steve had met during last year’s hikes, so this is something of a reunion for them. A good crowd is on hand. Perhaps 35 or 40 people are out here with us, ready for some serious battlefield tramping. They won’t be disappointed.

Our guide is ranger Bjorn Skaptason, the “Confederate” leader of the skirmish line back in Fraley Field on the first hike of the day. He will go turncoat for this hike as we don imaginary Yankee uniforms and join the 53rd Ohio, one of the most famous regiments at Shiloh. But, as folks who have studied the battle know, they are famous for a bad reason - breaking and running early in the battle.

The theme of our journey will be one of leadership - both good and bad. And as Bjorn will explain, the problems faced by the 53rd were largely due to leadership of the bad kind. We are also going to do something this morning that, Bjorn believes, has probably never been done before. We are going to re-trace the route followed by the men of the 53rd as they fled from their camp.

[b:e6c7d6d80c]Marching around in Rea Rhea Field[/b:e6c7d6d80c]

After giving us some background on the men and officers of the regiment, Bjorn leads us off toward Rea Field, site of the 53rd Ohio’s encampment. (For years, the field’s name has been spelled “Rhea Field,” and is even still spelled that way on a sign at the field itself. Larry Daniel states in his book on Shiloh that the proper spelling is “Rea,” after the family that once owned the property. I‘ve decided to go with Daniel‘s spelling.)

Although it is not exactly warm by now, the sun is up and is starting to take the chill off a bit. Unfortunately that won’t be the case by late this afternoon. But that’s for later.

Arriving in Rea field , we gather near the location of the regimental color line - where the men would ’fall in’ when called into line - while Bjorn explains how the camp was laid out. It is a good reminder of how this battlefield was also a campground. Something Dan had brought up the previous evening as we walked around this same field. (See picture below.)


Fairly lax discipline in the army had allowed the 53rd’s commander, Colonel Jesse Appler, to locate his regimental camp some 400 yards away from the rest of Sherman’s division. Though this choice of campsite violated orders, Sherman, a West Point graduate, merely grumbled about volunteer officers not following orders. Nothing more was done.

Bjorn thus made the point that right from the start the 53rd began to suffer from a lack of leadership, from the army and division level right down to their regimental commander. The regiment’s isolated position would make it a prime target when the battle began, and place them in a dangerous position.

The sound of gunfire coming from Fraley Field early on April 6th had already drawn most of the regiment’s attention when a wounded member of Powell’s patrol stumbled through camp and warned the men that “the Rebels are coming.” It was all that Appler needed to hear. He had the long roll sounded and had the men fall into line, facing west.

Soon thereafter the colonel shifted positions around the field two more times in response to additional enemy troop sightings, as the Confederates began their attack on the Union army. He first moved them to what at that time was roughly the center of the field, facing toward the south, then shifted them to a woodline on the east edge of the field and had them face back to the west once more.

About this time Sherman arrived in the field to see things for himself, and narrowly escaped death when a line of Rebel skirmishers cut loose with a volley at nearly point-blank range.

Only the day before, Sherman had derided Appler’s concern about enemy activity in the area. Even as the battle opened he had sent a message that Appler must be “badly scared over there.“ All that changed very quickly. Shot through the hand and now fully aware of the danger, Sherman hollered for Appler to hold on and he would be supported. The division commander then wheeled his horse and raced back up the ridge to alert the rest of his division. The 53rd was on its own.

On the same date and at nearly the same hour one hundred forty five years later, we too are shifting positions around Rea Field, as we re-create the movements of the 53rd Ohio on that eventful morning.

Unlike that April day in 1862 though, we cannot see as far as could the men jogging around with a very worried Colonel Appler. Rea Field is today much reduced in size from its wartime appearance, and the undergrowth in the surrounding woods is much heavier. Sight lines on most of the battlefield were better than what they are in the park today, which helps explain how and why people standing in 1862 where we are standing in 2007 could see and report on events that they quite simply could not have seen had the woods around most of this battlefield looked then as they do now.

[b:e6c7d6d80c]Appler falls apart[/b:e6c7d6d80c]

All things considered, it’s quite possible that Jesse Appler wished with all his heart that he was not seeing what was in front of him that April morning in 1862. An approaching enemy battle line was topping the ridge that runs across Rea Field, and moving toward his regiment’s position. But the Rebs were in a bad fix. Due to the angle of their advance their left flank was exposed to fire from Union infantry and artillery on the ridge near Shiloh Church, and soon after they came within view of the 53rd, the boys from Ohio ripped into them. Badly shot up from two directions, the Confederates quickly fell back.

For a fair amount of time in fact, Appler’s men held the southerners at bay on the far end of the field. They were doing well, despite their isolated position. And it was at that moment that Appler, his nerves stretched past the breaking point, suddenly jumped up and called out for the men to retreat and save themselves. Almost immediately the situation changed from a successful defense to a mad retreat. Appler managed to do with a single holler what the Confederates had not been able to do with large numbers of bullets - shatter the Union line in Rea Field.

Odds are the men would have been forced to pull back at some point as it was - their position was being outflanked by enemy units behind them even as they stood their ground in Rea Field. But at least they would have had a chance to maintain order and keep the regiment intact. Instead, the wild retreat started by Appler would scatter the 53rd and drain away nearly all of its fighting strength.

Standing along the same line they defended in 1862, we are poised to join them on their trek. But without the threat of bullets or capture. Bjorn produces a compass. A few chuckles break out. But the compass isn’t for laughs. This won’t be any general “they went over there somewhere” sort of thing. He intends to get this right. When he says we’re going to re-create their route, that’s exactly what he means.

[b:e6c7d6d80c]Finding history in Lost Field[/b:e6c7d6d80c]

Bjorn gets a reading off his compass and away we go, plunging into the woods. I quickly realize that Charles Spearman has nothing on this guy when it comes to speed. The fact that we’re now heading through the woods instead of along a paved road apparently makes no difference. These ranger types can [i:e6c7d6d80c]move[/i:e6c7d6d80c].

We cross Peabody road and enter the woods on the other side, heading northeast. Thanks to my interest in Peabody, who’s camps are nearby, I’ve walked through these woods before. It’s the only thing that keeps me from totally losing my sense of direction. But it won’t save me for long.

After a bit we stop in what at the time of the battle was an open field. Now called Lost Field, the site sits in the woods several hundred yards northeast of Rea Field, behind the gap between Sherman’s and Prentiss‘ divisions. If Bjorn’s theory is correct, we are quite likely the first people to follow the remnants of the 53rd Ohio to this point since the battle. If so, we are making a little history of our own. (See picture.)


Those members of the 53rd Ohio who managed to keep together stopped here for a short time after bolting Rea Field. During the brief halt, as Bjorn tells us, a few of Appler’s officers decide that if the colonel loses it like that and runs off again, they aren’t going to follow him. The technical term for this is mutiny, as Bjorn points out. No small matter in the military. But these men are here to fight, not run away. Shortly thereafter what’s left of the regiment heads off in the general direction of Shiloh Church, in an attempt to re-join the rest of Sherman’s division.

[b:e6c7d6d80c]Fighting once more[/b:e6c7d6d80c]

Bjorn takes another compass reading and we start out after them through the woods, trailing several decades behind. (See picture.)


After a bit I guess to myself that we’re going to emerge north of Shiloh Church. Instead, we emerge southeast of it. Oops. So much for my sense of direction.

We halt in a clearing below the church, and Bjorn asks us if we know where we are. He then points to the vehicles parked around the church and emphatically says, “your cars!” Everyone laughs. More than a few of us got turned around during that prolonged romp through the woods.

It doesn’t appear that we have lost any members on our “retreat” however. That was unfortunately not the case for the 53rd Ohio. What began as perhaps a 600-man regiment at the start of the battle had been reduced to a mere 75 soldiers following their retreat. It occurs to me - and probably several other folks on this hike - that the regiment by that time did not greatly outnumber those of us standing in this clearing 145 years later.

In 1862, Appler responded to the situation by lying down behind a log to rest. No doubt his nerves needed the quiet time. But there was still this little matter of the largest battle in the history of the continent raging a few feet away. When an officer of the 53rd suggested that it would be a good idea to get back into the fight, Appler at first refused, and then finally responded by rising to his feet, and running for his life. True to their word, the remaining officers and enlisted men of the 53rd did not follow.

At this point, the 53rd finally got a dose of some long overdue ‘good’ leadership. The men remaining with what was now in effect a company-sized outfit wanted nothing more at the moment than to get back into the fight. Lt. Colonel Robert A. Fulton now assumed command and managed to find another regiment to which they could attach themselves. They took part in the fighting around the church, and helped defend against the Confederate flanking move that would finally break Sherman’s line.

During the worst of this affair, as Bjorn tells us, a member of the 53rd suddenly rose up, walked toward the Confederates, knelt down, took aim at the enemy line a few feet away, and fired his musket at point-blank range. He then re-loaded, took aim, and fired again, repeating the action several times while turning to shout encouragement to his astonished comrades behind him. Predictably, the courageous young man was very soon shot and killed, and the rest of the Union troops were forced to retreat a short time later.

Bjorn informs us that the name of this solider has never been known before, but says that research has uncovered his probable identity. He then tells us the soldier’s name, and while I unfortunately cannot now recall it, I do recall the moment.

Of all the countless images called forth during our hikes over the next two days, listening to our guides’ vivid descriptions of what happened around where we are walking, it is this image - this unforgettable image of magnificent, suicidal courage - that defines the weekend for me. And although he does not say so, I rather suspect that the person who did the digging to learn this soldier’s name was Bjorn himself.

Soon after this, our hike draws to an end. We return to our cars and the 21st Century, and leave the men of the 53rd Ohio to the pages of history. It’s been quite a day so far, and truth be told, if the entire weekend had included nothing more than the two hikes we’ve already been on, it would be worth the trip. But, it is only 9:30 in the morning and we are not yet halfway through today’s tramping itinerary.

We are also in for a bit of a change. We’ve been marching around as Yankees since five o‘clock this morning. It’s now time to desert the boys in blue and don the uniform of the Army of the Mississippi. We’re about to secede from the Union, and tag along with Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston.

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Great job Perry.. Excellant report on the hike.. Want to take a minute to add my two cents.. and that is about all it is worth when compared to our trusty moderators report..

When Appler had his "high speed come apart" all but two of the companies broke and ran. These were Companies A & F and were led by Capt Wells Jones and Capt James Perry respecitvely. It was eluded to by our tour host that these gentleman had spent more time training their respecitve companies before the battle. Subsequently, there were less likely to panic.

Even though their withdrawal was more orderly Company A & Company F did follow the rest of the 53rd Ohio. The officers finally managed to rally the troops in the camps of the 4th Illinois Calvary in Lost Field (A71 on your Shiloh Trailheads map). The actual line was formed at the peak of the ridge near the modern day burial ground of the 49th Illinois Infantry (BG12 on your Shiloh Map). It was at this point where the discussion of relieving Appler of his command took place.

After a discussion between Capt's James and Perry the decision was made to reconnect with the Union main line. Appler began taking himself out of the command loop at this point with a "Whatever you guys want to do is fine with me" approval of the decision.

The 53rd Ohio proceeded to the area near the modern day Confederate Burial Trench #4 (Point 24 on your Shiloh Map). However, only Companies A & F arrived with a total of 75 men. The balance of the regiment became lost and ended up on the Hamburg Purdy Rd totally leaderless. Their actions during the rest of the battle are unclear..

At this point when pressed for a decision Appler basically gave up his command by running from the field. The decision was made to attatch themselves to the 77th Ohio who was fighting in the camps of the 29th Illinois until the collapse of the Shiloh Church line. It was here that the incident took place where the soldier from the 53rd Ohio was killed between the lines.. This individual is believed to be Charles A. Winnebern from Company A. Mr Winnebern was a 19 year old farmer from Locust Grove Ohio. Like Perry, I would be willing to bet that Bjorn was the one who identified this soldier..

Now, for a discussion question. We know that Companies A & F attatched themselves to the 77th Ohio. The rest of the regiment found themselves on the Hamburg Purdy Road without a leader. Does anyone know or would like to research the role that these troops played during the balance of the battle.. Or for the rest of the war for that matter?? Sort of a "53rd Ohio.. The Rest of the Story" type of post...

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Dan, thanks for the "rest of the story" about the 53rd. That tape recorder of yours was darn sure a good idea. I'm going on memory with all this and sometimes the details get a little hazy, even after only a single week. Thanks especially for the name and details on Charles A. Winnebern. I really should have written that down, as the story really struck home with me.

Good question on what happened to the rest of the 53rd after they left Lost Field. I was beginning to think we were going to head across the Hamburg-Purdy Road ourselves there for a bit. Wild-guessing it, they probably wound up back by the landing, but I don't know.

Bjorn did point out that the regiment itself went on to have a good war record after Shiloh. Too bad we never hear about that. All we ever seem to hear about them is what happened in Rea Field. After getting home from the park, I read where Sherman gave them a talk after the battle, and called them "a pack of cowards." I'll bet that went over well.


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Thanks for putting together this forum. It gives people who enjoy visiting the park a chance to continue their conversations about the Shiloh National Military Park (SNMP), the battles of Shiloh and Corinth, and Civil War history and memory.

I appreciate that you liked the anniversary programs. Having a good crew of battlefield hikers makes the whole process of researching and creating the program worthwhile. I know that all of the rangers were quite impressed with the high level of interest and understanding exhibited by the visitors to the anniversary event.

Sorry about the pace of the hikes. Organizing the event requires balancing the number of programs we want to provide with time restraints. I can imagine future anniversaries with fewer topics but longer programs. Anyway, we really do apprciate everyone coming out and hanging in there.

With respect to the 53rd Ohio program, your post summarizes what we were trying to cover pretty well. It helps that Dan recorded it. I'll add a few bullet points to clarify stuff I didn't cover well, or couldn't get to at all within the limited structures of the program. It is hard to provide citations on the fly, although we do try hard to tell you how we know what we know (or think we know).

1) The strength of the regiment, according to David W. Reed, was about 640 (don't have Reed in front of me right now). Regimental Adjutant Lieutenant E. C. Dawes reported fewer than 500 fit for duty on the day of battle. That is from personal correspondence. Dawes' stuff is in the Newberry Library, Chicago. The non-duty men were mostly sick, although there is evidence that labor details were made before the alarm was sounded. Do not know whether these men joined the line or retreated with the sick.

2) Company A, Captain Wells S. Jones, and Company F, Captain James R. Percy, held the right flank of the regiment when Colonel Appler ordered the retreat from Rea field. In my opinion their better performance was the result of better leadership and training, but also proximity to support (the right was closer to Waterhouse's battery), and remoteness from the Confederate threat (on the regiment's front, left and rear) were factors. Jones provided valuable information in newspaper interviews that are part of the Dawes collection. He also apparently contributed stories for John K. Duke, History of the Fifty-third Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infatry (Portsmouth: 1900).

3) The rally point is in dispute. 4th Illinois Cavalry camp is most likely point because it is suggested in multiple sources, and it is so designated on a hand-drawn map of the action in the Dawes Collection. Other possibilities are in the rear of the 49th Illinois (about 500 yards further northeast), or in the rear of the 18th Illinois (about 500 yards NE of 49th Illinois). Neither of the alternates corresponds well with subsiquent known movements of the unit.

4) The stop at the Confederate burial trench was the approximate location that Companies A & F outpaced the rest of the regiment. Colonel Appler was leading the march (filing to the right). At this point the left 8 copmpanies apparently halted. They were immediately to the rear of the 57th Ohio camp while that regiment was heavily engaged on their color line.

5) "Rest of the Story" on the left 8 companies is that they were ordered to fall back "to the road" by Colonel Hildebrand, the brigade commander. Hildebrand failed to lead the battalion to their new position, and the captains of those companies fell back to Hamburg-Purdy road in understandable confusion. At Hamburg-Purdy the company officers attempted to reorganize, and soon managed to attach themselves to 77th Ohio, Major B. D. Fearing commanding. Fearing's ad hoc battalion took position west of Park Tour Stop #6 (Water Oaks Pond), and were routed and scattered during the "Crossroads" disaster.

6) Captain Jones' detachment connected with the the remnant of the 57th Ohio, Lieutenant Colonel A. V. Rice commanding, and took position to the left of the 77th Ohio in the area of our last stop. The nearby camp was 77th Ohio, not 29th Illinois. The monument to 29th Illinois is nearby and marks that unit's position on the left of the Third Brigade remnant during the final phase of the defense of the Shiloh Church position.

7) The valorous soldier killed near this position was likely Charles L. Winterburn, Company A, 53rd OVI. The ID is a confident inference. The story is from personal correspondence by E. C. Dawes, with supporting statements by Wells S. Jones. Personal information on Private Winterburn is from the Ohio Adjutant General's report, and from Census records now easily accessible through Ancestry dot com. According to 1860 census information Charles L. Winterburn was a 17 year old farmer living with his parents Samuel and Elizabeth Winterburn at the Locust Grove Post Office neighborhood in rural Pike County, Ohio. He was the oldest of 8 children. He was 19 years old on the date of enlistment, September 12, 1861, and was killed in action April 6, 1862 at Shiloh (Ohio AG report).

A program that further traces the experiences of the regiment throughout the battle would be quite interesting, but would go well beyond the scope of the 90 minute, two-mile walk.

Thanks again, Perry, for summarizing the anniversary events so well. I look forward to future posts.


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I want to take a moment to welcome you to the board.. It is an honor to have you here.. I hope that you post often..

I think everyone realizes that Bjorn is one of the presenters of the Shiloh Battlefield Hikes.. I have been on all of his hikes during the past two years and found them absolutely amazing.. Last year when I went to Shiloh I thought I knew a lot about the battle.. I can honestly say, that I learned more about the battle during those battlefield hikes last year than I learned about the battle in studying on my own for the last 6 years.. This year my knowledge of the battle grew exponentially over what I learned last year... I just want to say that you and and the other leaders done a great job...

Again welcome aboard and I (for one) hope you are back leading hikes next year

Your Humble Servant

Dan Graff

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Thanks for posting and welcome to our dedicated little group. Compared with the others gathered here, I am still a new student of the battle.

I've heard so many good things about you and your knowledge of the battle from Perry and Dan. I look forward to your participation and sharing your insights with us.


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With regard to the 53rd Ohio, I would hope that Appler was taken to task for his deeds that day. Did he remain in the army or did he realize command was not his forte?


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Hi Bjorn,

Thanks for the kind words, and welcome to the board. Very nice to have you join us.

No need to apologize about the pace of the hikes. I'm really just having a little fun with that in my posts. Although I'm also thinking about investing in a pair of spring-loaded hiking shoes before next April gets here. :)

The hikes all finished on time, as we talked about later, and from what I could tell most people didn't have any problem keeping up. I know this for a fact because I was usually in a good position to see just how many people [i:19ac344474]were[/i:19ac344474] keeping up.

Seriously though, the hikes were great, and I would very much recommend them to anyone who is considering taking part next year.

I thought the subjects covered this year were well chosen, and very well presented. A good deal of preparation obviously went into each one. If the number and amount of time devoted to each program stayed consistent, I think it could work. It certainly did this year. Folks can always pick and choose among the offered programs.

But fewer programs that go into more detail and/or cover more ground in more time, as you mentioned, might be worth a look as well. There is just so much great stuff to choose from - stories to delve into about individual soldiers and units, aspects of the battle that don't get a lot of attention, and so forth. Like following the various parts of the 53rd Ohio, as you brought up. It would be hard for me to cut something out if I were the one making the choices. But then again, you can't hardly go wrong with what you do choose.

Thanks for that additional information on the rest of the 53rd Ohio, and filling in the blanks. It's very helpful. And it also gives a very good sense of just how chaotic that whole situation was. That's one thing that I always have to remind myself about this battle - just how unexpected it was, especially for the men in Grant's army. It's difficult to fathom what that must have been like, going from a normal Sunday morning routine to a full-scale battle with virtually no warning. It's also easy, or I've found it can be with me, to get caught up in reading about the details of the battle and forget that we're basically talking about guys who were brand new to all of this. Most of them were not exactly combat hardened veterans. I have to remind myself of that quite a bit.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to post that extra information. It's appreciated, and it is also a big help to my fuzzy memory, which is being forced against its will to help me with these long-winded narratives about the hikes. I may have to make the rest of them a little shorter.

Thanks also for an excellent anniversary weekend. Please pass that message along to Charles, Tom Parson, Stacy Allen, and the other rangers at the park if you get the chance. It was an A+ experience. The only suggestion I would make to possibly improve the hikes in the future would be the installation of a rapid-transit system to help folks like me keep pace. (Just kidding.)

Again, welcome to the board, Bjorn. Hope you get the chance to take part here on a regular basis.


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Thanks for posting and welcome to our dedicated little group. Compared with the others gathered here, I am still a new student of the battle.

I've heard so many good things about you and your knowledge of the battle from Perry and Dan. I look forward to your participation and sharing your insights with us. . [/quote:429c523fc6]

Let's see, as I recall the deal, Dan and I say good things about Bjorn on the discussion board, and he gives both of us 50% off all merchandise from the bookstore. Isn't that how it was, Dan?


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Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone. I would like to post as often as I can, but like most of us I am not always the master of my own schedule. I do enjoy following these discussion and will chime in whenever I can.

Perry, please don't edit down your "long winded" descriptions of the walks. I think they are quite good. I love the pictures. Thanks for posting them. They don't have the staff at SNMP to send someone out to document these events. Also, public history is sometimes a pretty ephemeral exercise. What happened on the walks, what questions were raised and what we discovered in walking the ground are all things that cannot be discovered the in the research and writing processes that lead up to these events. So write away, please.

Belle raised a question about Colonel Appler that Dan responded to, I think. I can add a little more to that. Colonel Jesse J. Appler was discharged from the military on April 18, 1862, in accordance with the recommendations of a military commission set up by General W. T. Sherman to review the performance of officers of his division during the battle. The commission's decision seems to equate roughly with what we might call a "general discharge," neither honorable nor dishonorable. After the hike some of us discussed this, and guessed that a decision to let the guy go with some honor intact might have avoided a messy court martial that might have raised questions about leadership on the division level and higher.

In Jesse Appler’s post-war life he was subject to a good deal of contemptuous public treatment, although he did not seem to suffer economically because of his public loss of face. As you can imagine, he was not a guest of honor at regimental reunions. Today he serves Shiloh historians in the same role that seems to be reserved for men like Nathaniel Banks or Franz Sigel in general Civil War historiography. British military writers call the type a “Sally,” someone that you set up just to knock down.

I guess the main point to understand about Appler, in my opinion, is that he was exactly the kind of guy that the people of the Union wanted to lead their armies in 1861, a vocal and patriotic civic leader – a “first citizen” of the community – a self-made man from the pioneer mold. At the same time Americans were still very suspicious of professional soldiers. That suspicion probably extended to professionalism in general – lawyers and doctors, etc.

In retrospect we view the “political generals” (and colonels) with the same contempt that Appler received from his community. Part of this results from failures by men like Appler or Hildebrand (and I could go on). However, part of it results from the outcome of the conflict between professional soldiers and citizen soldiers during the war. The pros won. Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan led the armies that saved the Union. Logan, McClernand, Lew Wallace, and other talented “amateurs” were pushed aside.

Finally, on the subject of the good leadership that emerged on the battlefield, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Fulton became lost during the first retreat and did not join the regiment again until about 2:30. This information comes from multiple sources, but it does conflict with the report Fulton made and is found in the OR. Captain Jones led the detachment that joined the stand at Shiloh church. Once Fulton rejoined the regiment near the siege gun battery he served gallantly, if not capably, for the rest of the engagement. To put the best face on his performance one can say that he did better than Colonel Appler.

Fulton caught a terrible case of Typhoid after the battle and returned to Ohio expecting to die. Jones was promoted over Fulton and Major Harrison Cox (also off duty ill) to replace Appler as Colonel. Then Fulton recovered and returned to duty. That’s another equally fascinating story.

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Perry, please don't edit down your "long winded" descriptions of the walks. I think they are quite good. I love the pictures. Thanks for posting them. They don't have the staff at SNMP to send someone out to document these events. Also, public history is sometimes a pretty ephemeral exercise. What happened on the walks, what questions were raised and what we discovered in walking the ground are all things that cannot be discovered the in the research and writing processes that lead up to these events. So write away, please.[/quote:e23a5c7968]

Thanks Bjorn. I posted a note on the third hike last night, and as anyone will see who wades through it, it is as long winded as the others. As I said before, the hiking posts are all from memory, so if you or Dan or anyone else who was there catch any mis-steps, don't hesitate to point them out.

On the pictures, I'm afraid I didn't take as many on the actual hikes as I originally meant to, but I'll try to post at least one picture with each hike. Sometimes it will be one that I took while out in the park on my own, but goes with whatever hike I'm writing about.

Great information about Appler, and how the public view of professional soldiers helped put him in the position he was in at Shiloh. I remember you covered those leadership issues during the hike as well. One point that struck home with me was how the people didn't get the leaders they deserved so much as that they got the leaders they wanted. I don't think I had ever heard it put that way, but it's an excellent point. I'm sure that Appler wasn't a guest of honor at post-war reunions as you say, but do you know if he ever attended any with the regiment?

It's an interesting contrast between the professional soldiers and the 'political generals,' and how as you point out, it was a group of pros that finally rose to the top and won the war. I've seen some historians point out that Lincoln made good use of the political generals to help prop up public support for the war among certain groups at various times. So that even the 'bad' generals could serve a useful purpose, even if they sometimes did their best work outside the battlefield.

Finally, on the subject of the good leadership that emerged on the battlefield, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Fulton became lost during the first retreat and did not join the regiment again until about 2:30. This information comes from multiple sources, but it does conflict with the report Fulton made and is found in the OR. Captain Jones led the detachment that joined the stand at Shiloh church. Once Fulton rejoined the regiment near the siege gun battery he served gallantly, if not capably, for the rest of the engagement. To put the best face on his performance one can say that he did better than Colonel Appler.


Thanks for the catch on Fulton and Jones. I got that wrong in my original note. So I'm now going to retreat and try to save myself!


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I have not found any evidence that Colonel Appler ever attended a reunion. He gets trashed pretty bad in the local papers that cover those events.


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In fairness to Perry I was scheduled to do the one on the Hornets Nest and Peach Orchard.. But, that is the one where Perry and I were taking a little side trip with Bjorn and got in on that one really late... I have been wanting to get back to the tapes of the 2006 walks and use those.. but life has been interfering big time...

Ron, have you got some kind of topic that could start a discussion on the battle??? Without a doubt you have read the new Shiloh Book... Why dont you toss something out for us to chew on???

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We're still waiting on the rest of your Shiloh anniversary field walks. When are you going to post them?


I guess I am a little overdue with that, aren't I. I'll try and get the next one up over the weekend. Knock wood.


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