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The Division That Never Was: The Failure at Prentiss’ Divisional Camps hike (video)

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Thanks for posting this valuable, in-depth analysis by Bjorn Skaptason of Prentiss's Division. We tend to take for granted that the Sixth Division was under-sized, and inexperienced when fighting erupted morning of April 6th 1862. Yet, there was more experience (25th Missouri, 21st Missouri and 18th Missouri; as well as General Prentiss, Colonel Peabody, Colonel Moore, and Major Powell ) than we recognize; and as for "under-sized," truth be known, on the morning of April 6th, all of the elements required for a full-sized division were present at Savannah and Pittsburg Landing, but someone dropped the ball. And that someone was not Benjamin M. Prentiss.

"The Division that Never Was" gets viewers to think (again) about a subject with which we believed we were familiar. And, as with all of your videos, this one demonstrates the value of "getting another perspective" of a "widely-understood subject."

All the best



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  • 4 months later...

Greetings to all,

I missed the anniversary hikes but this video of Bjorn’s hike describing the spirited defense of their camps put up by the Sixth Division and their commanding general is really quite good. Many thanks to Tony for posting it and to Bjorn for the extensive preparation showing that the Sixth Division put the hurt to the Rebels even if, eventually, they were overwhelmed and lost their camps.

The final walk was made from the camp of the 18th Wisconsin to Prentiss’s Headquarters.

Bjorn related the order Prentiss gave to his division to fall back fighting. How many men did fall back fighting is impossible to know but there are a couple accounts I found which described the fighting in this area of the battlefield as the men of the 6th Division fell back from their camps.

The intrepid Captain Andrew Hickenlooper described his battery’s fall back from Spain Field to the color line of his camp where Union troops tried to rally and form a new line. Hickenlooper’s camp was just west of Prentiss’s headquarters so the action he described occurred between Prentiss’s headquarters and the camps of Colonel Madison’s brigade.

Hickenlooper’s account of the battle of Shiloh can be found in Sketches of War History 1861-1865, Vol. V. Hopefully this link will get you there.


                On page 414 we find Hickenlooper’s claim of providing a warning to the rest of the army.

                It was thus the Fifth Battery met and assisted in checking the first determined onslaught of the enemy, giving nearly two precious hours’ notice of approaching danger to the still slumbering army far to the rear.

                On page 416 Hickenlooper described the backward movement from Spain field to their color line at their camp.

                Barely in time to escape the touch of bayonets, over ditches, between trees, through underbrush, over logs, every rider lashing his team, we gain an opening, when the bugle’s “Battery, halt,” again brings order out of apparent confusion, and the shattered battery has a chance to breathe for the first time since early morning.

                It seems an age, and yet but two, or at most three, hours had elapsed since we passed to the front with all the pomp and pride of conscious power. Slowly we moved backward, saving ourselves from capture only by bringing the remaining sections alternately into action, until we reached the color-line of our camps, upon which an effort was being made to reform our disorganized forces.

                On page 422 Hickenlooper noted his last conversation with Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss as the Hornets’ Nest collapsed.

                It was then General Prentiss informed me that he feared it was too late for him to make the attempt to withdraw his infantry, but that I must pull out, and, if possible, reach the reserves, or forces forming in the rear. I bade the General--as brave a little man as ever lived—good-by, and, under whip and spur, the remnant of our battery dashed down the road, barely escaping capture.

                Near the end of the hike a participant brought up the Shiloh novel by Shelby Foote in which she said the Mississippi and Alabama troops gave full credit to the men of the 6th Division for the fighting they did to slow the Confederate “avalanche.” I have not read Foote’s novel on Shiloh but for a Confederate view of a man who was there I refer those interested to an article written in 1901 by Isaac Ulmer and titled “A Glimpse of Johnston Through the Smoke of Shiloh” and published in The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 10, July 1906 – April 1907.

                Isaac had a front row seat in the attack on the 6th Division because he was a member of Company C of Wirt Adams cavalry. On the morning of April 5th, 1862 Ulmer’s company was ordered to report to General Albert Sidney Johnston to serve as his cavalry escort for the coming fight.

As you read Isaac’s account he is describing mostly the attack on Prentiss’s camps because we know that Johnston was directing the movements on the Rebel right flank. Eventually Isaac refers to the fighting even further to the right as the Rebel attack moved against Stuart’s brigade. Isaac gave no definite locations in his descriptions because he probably did not know exactly where he was but if you have an understanding of the fighting for Prentiss’s camps and the attacks on Stuart and then McArthur you can get a good idea of what Isaac is describing and where it is.

Following is a segment from Isaac’s article relating to the attack on Prentiss’s camps. I assume he is referring to the camps of the 2nd brigade under Colonel Madison Miller.

“I remember about this time of day, say 10 or 11 o’clock, or perhaps a little earlier, we rode into the enemy’s encampment, from which our infantry had previously swept them. The tents were pitched in company formation and full of the impediments of a field force. Evidently they had been interrupted at an early breakfast. At some of the camp fires the breakfast was untouched, and some of the men partly undressed, lay dead in the tents, and yet they say no surprise was acknowledged by Genl. Grant. I do not know how this was, but they fought stubbornly from position to position. (Some of our after experience of surprisals make us think of occasions, when we knew that surprised Yankees could and would fight.) I will not notice further this controversy, but I here add my testimony to the gallant stand made hour after hour that day by this Federal Army. The carnage of this field was terrible. Nearly one man in three being either killed or wounded. Battery after battery was knocked to pieces, and their brave dead lay silently attesting how bravely they had fought.’

                Near the end of the article Isaac gave his opinion of General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss when he wrote:

                But enough; the gallant Prentiss with the large part of his brigade had been captured some time in the evening, numerous other prisoners had been sent to the rear,…


                “The gallant Prentiss;” a tribute from a Confederate who was there.


                Surprisingly even with my rudimentary internet skills I astonished myself by finding a link to the full article published in The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association. Hopefully the link works as I am not sure I could do it again. The link gets you into the magazine and you scroll the pages. Here is the link


                I found a copy of Isaac’s article in the folder for the 3rd Alabama Cavalry at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. There were some slight changes between the article I found versus what was published in the quarterly. I thought the description in the article I found was better than that published so the paragraph I included came from the article I found. You can compare what I wrote with the published article to see the differences.

Somewhere in my research materials I have an account by a member of the 18th Missouri. Unfortunately I could not find the original documentation but wanted to pass along my recollection of what this soldier said as it relates to the retreat of the 18th Missouri through the very area of the battlefield covered by Bjorn’s hike. If I find the account in my files I will edit this posting. Hopefully my memory is sufficient to get the point across.

The 18th Missouri soldier related how, around 1895, he and a group of other 18th Missouri soldiers walked the battlefield with David Wilson Reed and pointed out to him locations where they had made a “stand” as they retreated from their camp to the Hornets’ Nest area.

What stood out was that they identified five locations where they thought Reed should put in a tablet depicting where they had turned around and stood their ground for a while and then retreated further. (I say five but it might have been four, maybe three) Reed did not put in that many tablets. He just put in one for the position held by the 18th Missouri from 8:30 am to 9:00 am. This was the second position taken by the regiment after they retreated from their first position. It was near their camp.

The reason to point this out is that it reveals how units made a fighting retreat through the woods and fields even if those positions are not recognized with tablets.


The final item of interest I will point out is what Captain E B. Whitman wrote to Major General J. L. Donaldson on March 26, 1866 concerning Whitman’s efforts to locate the bodies of buried soldiers, Union and Confederate, on the Shiloh battlefield. Union soldiers were reinterred in the new national cemetery which graces the hill above the landing today. Whitman was tasked with finding bodies of Union soldiers throughout the area around Pittsburg Landing. General Donaldson was the Chief Quartermaster of the Military Division of the Tennessee.

I obtained a typed transcript of Whitman’s letter from the Shiloh National Military Park. To make sure that copy was correct I followed up with a trip to the National Archives in Washington DC to read the original handwritten document that Whitman sent to Donaldson. Except for a minor error that referred to the Bay field in the typed document when Whitman wrote the Ray field the typed copy matched what Whitman had written. Whitman’s R was mistaken for a B.

I have included only that part of Whitman’s letter that related to Shiloh and his observations as to where the heaviest fighting occurred.

Captain Whitman started his March 26, 1866 communication with General Donaldson with the opening sentence:

                “Having completed the exploration of the Battleground of Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing, I hasten to communicate briefly the results of my labors since the last report.”

                                Following is Captain Whitman’s description of his efforts at locating the bodies of the fallen at Shiloh.

                “I come now to the most important and interesting portion of my work of this section – an inspection of the battlefield of Pittsburg Landing or Shiloh Church. Seven days of uninterrupted labor of the entire party have been devoted to the work; and, I flatter myself, with a good degree of success. A space of territory containing about twelve square miles has been examined minutely. An aggregate of about four hundred linual miles of travel have been accomplished on the grounds. The field has been swept by the entire party, deployed in manner of skirmish line, at such distances from each other as to leave the intervening space within easy observation. In this manner we passed over the entire battlefield back and forth, the outer man scoring the trees as he went, to guide on the return. Every grave, group of graves and trench have been carefully noted and the location recorded by point of compass and distance from some prominent point or object easy of recognition. The separate graves have been counted and each lot and group recorded by itself. Every legible name, number, and inscription has been copied. Plans of the road, fields, houses, etc., will be prepared, and in addition to a written description, the location of the larger group of graves will be noted on the place.

                The result of the exploration has been the discovery and localizing of the burial places of eighteen hundred and seventy four union dead. Six hundred and twenty have been identified by headboards and inscriptions, and the inscriptions copied. Of all these, sixty five (65) are solitary graves situated here and there over the entire field. There are eighty nine groups of separate graves containing more than two in the group. Twenty one trenches containing at the most moderate estimate, two hundred and fifty four bodies – probably more – have been notices. All of these solitary graves, groups and trenches occupying no less than one hundred and seventy eight different localities scattered from the bank of the river to the extreme exterior line, and from the extreme right of the right wing to the extreme left of the left wing covering all the fighting ground of that memorable and bloody contest.”

                The above two paragraphs show the extent of the work that Captain Whitman and his force performed in locating bodies on the Shiloh battlefield approximately four years after the fight

                The next paragraph and one sentence of the following paragraph are for those interested in knowing the truth about Shiloh. The following words of Captain Whitman are quintessential in deriving that truth.


                “The haste of the graves of the Union dead, as well as the trenches and mounds covering the rebel dead, marks most distinctly the progress of the fight, and the points where each party suffered most severely. The appearance of the very woods themselves indicated the points at which the fight raged most fiercely. On our left, covering the ground over which General Prentiss was driven from the Ray and Spain lands across the Barnes and George farms to the Bell field where he was finally captured, the slaughter of the Federal troops seems by the number of graves to have been terrible. (Bold added) At one point N.E. of the Widow Bell’s house where an Indiana Battery is said to have been stationed, the brush and small trees are mown off as with a scythe, and the number of rebel dead is greater than at any other point. The ground is now white with their bones.

                On our right also the rebels seem to have suffered most severely, while in the center there seems to have been less fighting as fewer graves are found.”


                Captain E. B. Whitman, who was physically on the Shiloh battlefield just four years after the battle when the evidence of the fighting was still fairly fresh mentioned just one general officer in his report and where that officer fought “the slaughter of the Federal troops seems by the number of graves to have been terrible.” That officer is Brigadier General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss. It is not Sherman, it is not McClernand, it is not Hurlbut and it is not WHL Wallace. It is Prentiss.

                Because Bjorn’s hike covered the spirited defense of their camps by the 6th Division and their route of retreat to the Hornets’ Nest I thought this thread would be a good place to add some information that corroborates Bjorn’s hike and would be of interest

                “The ground is now white with their bones” could very well be the area of the battlefield where Johnston sustained his mortal wound. I believe the Indiana battery erroneously referred to by Whitman was Willard’s battery.




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Hello Hank,

Concerning the good General, I was wondering what your views were on his statements in his official report concerning Peabody's conduct during the battle, as well as what he said about the Colonel's role in alerting the army to presence of the enemy prior to the attack.


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Hi Perry.


I know you are funning me because Prentiss made no statements in his official report about Peabody’s conduct in the battle and his role in alerting the army of the presence of the enemy prior to the attack. I would expound on that to clarify that there had been encounters with the Rebels prior to the morning of April 6, particularly the skirmish Buckland had that ended up facing Hardee’s infantry and even artillery at Micky’s on April 4. Prentiss was aware of a presence of enemy in the front and responded by ordering increased pickets forward on the night of April 5. But, as Prentiss admitted later, he had absolutely no idea that a full-scale attack from Johnston’s entire army was about to come down on his head. Colonel Peabody sent Major Powell out on the morning of April 6 and Powell found the entire Rebel army poised to strike the Union camps. The Colonel’s actions alerted the army to the presence of the entire Rebel army.


                I know you are aware of my views on Prentiss but others might not be so I take the liberty to refer to the following articles published in the Quincy Herald-Whig and on the website of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. These articles were slightly edited from what I wrote without my input. They are slightly different but the gist is the same.






                On my last research visit to the Shiloh National Military Park I was reminded the degree to which the unwarranted, and unsubstantiated, vilification of Prentiss has permeated the Shiloh story. I was minding my own business at the research desk leafing through files with only one of the Shiloh volunteers in presence. I had made no references to Prentiss when out of the blue the Shiloh volunteer said to me “You know Prentiss took credit for sending out the Powell patrol.”

                The volunteer was surprised when I calmly replied “That is not true.” I got back “That is what all the books say.” My calm reply was “Those books are wrong.”

                Of all people to make the untrue statement that Prentiss took credit for sending out Powell’s patrol I am not the one. The incident reinforced my objection to the fact that I cannot even visit the park without someone trying to make me dislike Prentiss by spouting out things I know are not true.


                Perry, although you did not ask my view as to why Prentiss makes no mention of what Peabody did during the battle I am going to give it. Ozzy has made some recent posts that are relevant to the subject as to why is there no mention of Peabody’s actions before and during the battle in Prentiss’s report?


                In the forum “April 7” thread “Value of the POWs” Ozzy broached the subject of Prentiss’s official report with the following:

Prentiss, Prisoners and Prognosticating

Nature abhors a vacuum... and I have attempted over the past several months to determine, "Why was General Prentiss' Report of Battle of Shiloh in error, as regards the roles of Peabody and Powell ?" (Errors of omission, as in, "no credit given for the early morning reconnaissance ordered by Colonel Peabody and performed by Major Powell.")

                The death of Peabody was not discovered until the 25th Missouri regained their camp on April 7. Early newspaper accounts listed Peabody as wounded. Peabody’s brother made the trip from Massachusetts with the understanding that Everett Peabody had been severely wounded. When the brother arrived at Shiloh he discovered his brother had been placed in a wood crate and he took him back home to Massachusetts for burial and thus removing Colonel Peabody far away from western theater of battle.

                Meanwhile the last time Prentiss saw Peabody was in the camp of the 25th Missouri when they had their altercation and Prentiss told Peabody that he was responsible for bringing on the engagement. Prentiss never saw Peabody again and could not very well write about Peabody’s actions during the fight when he had no idea what Peabody had done. Prentiss included observations on Madison Miller, Jacob Tindall and Colonel C. S. Albans because they were with Prentiss during the fight and he could vouch for their actions.

                Prentiss was on his way to Memphis along with a couple thousand other prisoners by the time Peabody was confirmed killed. The only way Prentiss could learn of Peabody’s death is if someone told him but all the prisoners were sent off the battlefield on the night of April 6.

                During his imprisonment Prentiss might have read some smuggled newspapers but otherwise what Prentiss was hearing was how he and his men had surrendered first thing.

                Prentiss was finally released from prison and arrived in Washington DC on October 17, 1862. He spent a busy day visiting Lincoln and relating how the prisoners had been mistreated and it was going to take a big effort to bring the south to heel. That night Prentiss was serenaded and gave a speech and immediately left for Quincy, Illinois with a group of five or six other officers. He was given a 30-day leave.

                He passed through Chicago where he was serenaded again and he gave a speech along with several of the other officers.

                Prentiss then traveled home to Quincy, Illinois. The trip was a whirlwind of activity. By this time it was over six months after Shiloh and the war had moved on. During this journey the only way Prentiss would have known of the death of Peabody is if someone told him. There is no reasonable expectation that someone would have told Prentiss what Peabody had done during the battle so he could include it in his report.

                Prentiss did not return to an existing division where he could get information about the battle from a staff. He returned alone to Quincy.

                The usual sequence for an official report by a senior commander was that he would wait to receive the reports of his underlings to aid in the preparation of his report. Prentiss had no such advantage. He had never read or had in his possession the reports of the members of his division.

                Prentiss was writing blind using just his memory and understanding of what had happened. Prentiss had not a clue as to what had transpired concerning Peabody ordering out Powell’s patrol. This is evident in his report when he attributed the start of the fighting to the combative Colonel David Moore.

                One missing puzzle piece for me was to confirm that there were no officers of the 25th Missouri among the officer prisoners captured along with Prentiss. Ozzy posted the link he found to a list of officers captured at Shiloh. The list has no officer from the 25th Missouri who might have been able to tell Prentiss what transpired in their camp concerning the actions of Peabody and Powell.

                The date of November 17, 1862 shows that Prentiss procrastinated the writing of his report. Prentiss felt no need to get his story out as quickly as possible. He waited until the last day of his leave to finally write it. The report was not Prentiss’s top priority as other events were taking place in Quincy at that time. The papers are full of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln after the September battle at Antietam. Prentiss was busy as he was invited to give speeches relating to the very important mid-term elections. In November Prentiss married a 24-year old woman to be his second wife. That surely cut into the time he had to write a report about Shiloh.

                It is surmised by some that the reason Prentiss did not mention more about Peabody and his death on the battlefield is that he hated Peabody. If that is the criteria than Peabody must have been the most hated man in the brigade. Of the five official reports submitted by regimental officers of Peabody’s brigade only one lists the death of Peabody. (Col. Francis Quinn of the 12th Michigan). Lt. Col. Robert Van Horn of the 25th Missouri must have really hated Peabody because he did not mention the death of Peabody in his report. The big difference between those officers and Prentiss is that they knew Peabody had been killed but Prentiss did not. General Grant was so impressed with Peabody (and Julius Raith) that he did not mention him in his report either. But we did learn all about Sherman’s boo-boo to his hand from Grant.

                Prentiss did not note the deaths of Colonel Tindall of the 23rd Missouri and Colonel Albans of the 18th Wisconsin in his report but he did mention their outstanding service which he witnessed. I guess Prentiss hated them too.

                My view is that had Prentiss known of the deaths of Tindal and Albans he would have mentioned their sacrifice in his hastily written report. If Prentiss did not know of the deaths of Tindal and Albans it is logical to conclude he did not know of the death of Peabody either when he wrote his report.

                But why is there no mention of the part played in the opening of the fight by Major Powell? Because Prentiss did not know the fight was initiated by Powell’s patrol. Prentiss believed that the fight was initiated with the troops under the command of Colonel David Moore.

                Then that brought up the question as to when did Prentiss finally learn that the fight was initiated by Major Powell’s patrol?

                I set to work on this myself (just a retired engineer doing the type of Shiloh research that Shiloh revisionist historians just won’t do) and through luck and lots of hours in archives I found out that every time I found a report, letter, speech and a newspaper account where Prentiss described the opening of the fight he always attributed it to Colonel David Moore. I have found nothing in which Prentiss gave any indication he knew of Powell’s patrol.

                Therefore, my view is that the answer to when Brigadier General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss learned of the early morning patrol by Major James E. Powell is – NEVER. Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss went to his grave never knowing of Major Powell’s patrol and how the battle of Shiloh truly started.

                The idea that Benjamin Prentiss deliberately dissed Colonel Peabody by not acknowledging Peabody’s role in sending out Major Powell’s patrol that ended up alerting the army and gave it time to defend itself fails to scrutiny. Prentiss can hardly be expected to have credited Peabody with doing something of which Prentiss was unaware.

                The good General is doing just fine. He sleeps well and I appreciate the opportunity to explain why. There is a lot more to be told.




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Who Sent Colonel Moore

I have been following this discussion with interest; and in process of viewing the above video, “The Division that Never Was,” by Tony Willoughby, and featuring the excellent introduction of Prentiss’s Sixth Division by the well-prepared Bjorn Skaptason, beginning at the 36:45 mark, a jarring error jumps from the video, when Mr. Skaptason indicates, “how Colonel David Moore and his handful of 21st Missouri companies came to find themselves in front of the Sixth Division on Sunday morning,” stating that, “As Major Powell fell back, he encountered five companies of the 21st Missouri under Colonel David Moore… When the skirmish started in Fraley Field, General Prentiss decided he needed to send some reinforcements… so General Prentiss sent Colonel Moore with five companies of the 21st Missouri.”

The problem with this statement, is Benjamin Prentiss was likely still asleep when Colonel Moore marched those five companies forward; and it could very well be the subsequent increased firing or arrival of a messenger from Colonel Moore (requesting the remainder of his 21st Missouri be sent forward) is what awoke General Prentiss from his slumber.

How do we know this? In the very first line of the fourth paragraph, as Benjamin Prentiss details in his Shiloh report his initial actions of Sunday morning, April 6th, he states, “At 3 o’clock on the morning of Sunday, April 6, Colonel David Moore, 21st Missouri, with five companies of his infantry regiment, proceeded to the front…” [Note that Prentiss does not take credit for sending Colonel Moore, because at 3 o’clock (even before Major Powell made initial contact) it is safe to assume that Benjamin Prentiss was asleep.]

Prentiss’s first action in regard to Moore that morning is recorded, “At this stage a messenger was sent to my headquarters, calling for the balance of the 21st Missouri, which was promptly sent forward.” [This sending of reinforcements to Colonel Moore is the first action indicated as being taken by General Prentiss upon waking up – his first decision, with resulting action, which can be attributed to Benjamin Prentiss that morning.]

So, who sent Colonel Moore forward ?  Remember that David Moore was wounded Sunday morning, was removed from the field, and subsequently escaped the capture(s) that occurred during the day (and which resulted in much of the 21st Missouri – that had not been killed or wounded – being sent away south as prisoners.) So, Colonel Moore was available to submit his Shiloh Report (but with General Prentiss being unavailable), the report was sent to Prentiss’s Assistant Adjutant General, Henry Binmore, on 11 April 1862. In that report, David Moore states, “On Sunday morning, at about 6 o’clock, being notified that the picket guard of the First Brigade had been attacked and driven in, by order of Colonel Everett Peabody, commanding the First Brigade, I advanced with five companies of my command…” [pp.9 - 10 report to be found in The 21st Missouri Regiment Infantry Veteran Volunteers (1899) by N.D. Starr & T.W. Holman   http://archive.org/stream/21stmissouriregi00holm#page/n3/mode/2up   .]


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             Of course Ozzy’s observation is correct. I heard this somewhere else recently that Prentiss sent out David Moore to reinforce Powell and wondered where that could possibly come from. One is left to surmise how anybody could arrive at that conclusion when Moore clearly stated in his report that it was an order from Colonel Peabody that sent Moore and five companies of the 21st Missouri to Powell’s aid.

But it was interesting to note that Lt. Col. Woodyard did indeed put in his report; “I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 6th of April, before sunrise, General Prentiss ordered Colonel Moore, with five companies of our regiment, to sustain the pickets of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry.” Woodyard’s comment reinforced the fact that the situation was so chaotic that Woodyard did not even know it was Peabody that sent Moore out with the first five companies and that it was done to “sustain the pickets of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry.”

I kept an eye out for a confirmation of Moore’s report concerning who ordered him out with five companies to reinforce Powell. I finally found it in the following letter written in 1883 by William French, who was there. Not only was he there but he was Moore’s adjutant. His short letter contains other interesting points that blow holes in the Shiloh revisionist ship that will aid in sending that ship down to the deep where it belongs.

William French’s letter was published on April 12, 1883 in the National Tribune. Copies of the National Tribune are available online. Just google National Tribune and it should show up.

It is a short letter so I typed it up and here it is.

 One Regiment that was Not Surprised.


To the Editor National Tribune:


               “As the manner in which the battle of Shiloh was fought is now under discussion, I would like, with your permission, to relate what I know about it. There was at least one regiment, the Twenty-first Missouri, commanded by Colonel David Moore, which was not surprised. On Saturday morning, April 5th, the day before the battle, General Prentiss, commanding the division to which we belonged, held a review, and at that time some rebel cavalry were seen in the vicinity. In the afternoon he ordered Colonel Moore to take five companies of his regiment and reconnoiter on our front. We went out about a mile and found numerous traces of the presence of rebel cavalry. The inmates of a house which we visited told us that the rebels were in large force, and that we would be attacked the following morning. Colonel Moore reported this fact to Colonel Peabody, who commanded the brigade, and also to General Prentiss, but no notice was taken of it, except that the pickets were strengthened. The next morning found us up early and ready for orders, and presently Colonel Peabody’s adjutant arrived with instructions for Colonel Moore to take out five companies. The pickets had been fired on in the meanwhile, and the Colonel met them falling back. They reported a heavy force in front of them, and the Colonel sent back to camp for the remaining five companies, and taking the pickets with him marched to the front. We had gone about a mile, and were in sight of the house where we heard the afternoon before that we were to be attacked, when the rebels fired on us. Colonel Moore was shot twice. He dismounted and told me to take care of him and keep a sharp lookout. He formed his regiment in line of battle and the boys began to deliver a very rapid fire. At this time an orderly arrived from Colonel Peabody and wished to know whether Colonel Moore could hold his position until he could re-enforce him. Colonel Moore sent back word that he would; but no re-enforcements came, however, and for about an hour we held the ground alone. The Twenty-first Missouri never did better shooting than on that Sunday morning. It was on that field that Colonel Moore was wounded for the third time. A minie ball broke his leg below the knee, and he was taken back to the camp, and afterwards placed on a gunboat on the river, If, after all the fighting we went through that Sunday morning, any of our boys were shot down near their tents, I, for one, don’t pity them. They had plenty of warning. Colonel Moore held his ground faithfully and bravely, and justice indeed has never been done him for the part he took in the battle of Shiloh.”

                                                                                                                William French

Athens, Mo.                                                                                                      Co. F, 21stMo.


Wiley Sword wrote in his book on page 138; “About 7 P. M. Moore advised Prentiss that the results of his reconnaissance were negative.” That is not what Prentiss wrote in his report nor is it what William French wrote in this letter. William French wrote that they found evidence of Rebel cavalry and were told by citizens that they would be attacked in the morning. Colonel Moore reported this information to both Colonel Everett Peabody and Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss.

                The Shiloh revisionists want you to believe that Moore reported nothing to the front of the camps and that Moore’s report is why General Prentiss did nothing as Peabody harangued him about Rebels to the front of his brigade. But the record clearly shows that Moore reported the presence of cavalry and the reaction by Prentiss was to send out additional pickets to strengthen the picket line and authorize additional patrols that eventually culminated in the 3 a. m. patrol by Major James E. Powell and ordered by Peabody. While Prentiss authorized reconnaissance patrols he was unaware as to the timing of those patrols. I have found nothing to indicate that Prentiss was at Peabody’s camp on the night of April 5th. Peabody, Powell and others were taking their case to Prentiss at his headquarters. As it got later on the night of April 5th Peabody continued to receive reports that heightened his alarm and increased his anxiety to know just what was in front of his brigade. But Prentiss was not there and did not have the latest information that Peabody had.

                It is bewildering to hear revisionists claim that Moore reported that he found nothing actionable. Moore wrote in his report; “In pursuance of the order of Brig. Gen. B. M. Prentiss, commanding Sixth Division, Army of the West Tennessee, I on Saturday proceeded to a reconnaissance on the front of the line of General Prentiss’ division and on the front of General Sherman’s division. My command consisted of three companies from the Twenty-first Missouri Regiment—companies commanded by Captains Cox, Harle, and Pearce. A thorough reconnaissance over the extent of 3 miles failed to discover the enemy. Being unsuccessful, as stated, I returned to my encampment about 7 o’clock p. m.

                What Moore is referring to is that he did not find any Rebels that he could shoot. Moore does not relate that he found evidence of rebel cavalry but Prentiss wrote that in his report and acted on it by strengthening the picket line. Prentiss wrote “At about 7 o’clock the same evening Colonel Moore returned, reporting some activity in the front—an evident reconnaissance by cavalry. This information received, I proceeded to strengthen the guard stationed on the Corinth road, extending the picket lines to the front a distance of a mile and a half, at the same time extending and doubling the lines of the grand guard.”

                It should be noted that Moore is pretty specific about the afternoon patrol he took out. He even gave us the names of the commanders of the three companies he took out on the patrol. He makes no mention of going on patrol joined by Major James E. Powell as claimed by Wiley Sword in his book. The idea of a patrol going out with both Moore and Powell just makes no sense and is not backed up by any account that I can find. It is simply one of the figments of Sword’s imagination that has found its way into the narrative and gets repeated by other historians who just repeat another historian’s work without scrutiny.

                But Prentiss confuses the issue with his report because he gets events out of sequence. Prentiss wrote in his second paragraph: “Saturday evening, pursuant to instructions received when I was assigned to duty with the Army of West Tennessee, the usual advance guard was posted, and in view of information received from the commandant there of, I sent forward five companies of the Twenty-fifth Missouri and five companies of the Twenty-first Missouri Infantry, under command of Col. David Moore, Twenty-first Missouri. I also, after consultation with Col. David Stuart, commanding a brigade of General Sherman’s division, sent to the left one company of the Eighteenth Wisconsin Infantry, under command of Captain Fisk.

                At about 7 o’clock the same evening Colonel Moore returned, reporting some activity in the front—an evident reconnaissance by cavalry. This information received, I proceeded to strengthen the guard stationed on the Corinth road, extending the picket lines to the front a distance of a mile and a half, at the same time extending and doubling the lines of the grand guard.”

                The way Prentiss composed these paragraphs gives the impression that Moore returned at 7 o’clock p. m. from a patrol consisting of five companies of the Twenty-first Missouri and five companies of the Twenty-fifth Missouri. But that makes no sense and does not fit the timing given by Moore in his report.

                Moore clearly wrote that he returned to camp at 7 p. m. after leading the three-company patrol he took out 3 miles. It makes no sense that at dusk with night approaching Prentiss would order a huge patrol of ten companies to go mashing around through the woods in the dark.

                My view is when Prentiss stated “I sent forward five companies of the Twenty-fifth Missouri and five companies of the Twenty-first Missouri Infantry, under command of Col. David Moore, Twenty-first Missouri” he is not describing a patrol but rather he sent Moore forward with ten companies to strengthen the picket line. Prentiss stated years later that these troops were sent forward with the order to stay through the night and try to capture some Rebels if they could.

                At some point on the evening of April 5th communication ceased between Prentiss at his headquarters and what was occurring in front of Peabody’s brigade. Prentiss felt he had responded to information received by sending out additional pickets. When Prentiss retired to his tent he believed that the war god David Moore was out on the picket line with ten companies of troops. However, apparently the pickets returned to camp at some point.

                When Powell’s patrol moved forward at 3 a. m. Prentiss was unaware of that fact. When Peabody heard pretty heavy firing and wounded men came into camp informing him that Powell could use some help Peabody sent his adjutant to Colonel Moore and told him to go to Powell’s aid with five companies.

Moore did so and encountered the retreating Powell on the road east of Seay Field. Moore believed the Rebels were just a patrol and that they could be beaten back if Moore had the other five companies of the 21st Missouri. Moore sent an orderly back to camp to have the other five companies of the 21st Missouri sent to him. But the orderly did not follow the command chain. The orderly did not go to Peabody but instead went all the way to Prentiss at his headquarters.

                Prentiss described the arrival of the orderly in a speech in 1882; “Early in the morning, on the 6th of April, 1862, it was my duty, from what I had learned, to feel the enemy. I had been admonished on the Friday evening before that battle that an enemy of some force was in our front. Not at 3 o’clock, but on the evening of Saturday, before the sun had set, the details were made, and the order given throughout my division to advance the pickets and strengthen them with additional numbers. I did send to the front the gallant Moore, with five of his companies—three at first, and doubting their ability to meet the enemy, I sent two more on my right. On my left two companies of the 18thWisconsin were advanced one mile to the front. In the center, one company of the 61st Illinois and one of the 18th Missouri were sent forward as extra pickets, with instructions to remain until daylight and see if they could not capture some of the marauders that had been engaged in committing depredations immediately in our vicinity. Early on that Sabbath morning, before (while seated at my breakfast news came to me from the gallant Moore) I had heard the musketry fired in front, and heard the skirmishing, an orderly came galloping into camp and said: “General, the compliments of Gen. Moore. He requests me to say to you that he has met the enemy. Send his other five companies and he will lick them.” That is the language that came to me. Gen. Prentiss sent those other five companies of his regiment to him.”

                The work “admonish” had a different meaning back in the 1800s. The meaning was more close to “informed” as nowadays it is deemed more critical to be “admonished.” Here it is 20 years after the battle of Shiloh and Prentiss related what he believed happened. Note Prentiss remembered sending “to the front the gallant Moore” “to advance the pickets and strengthen them with additional numbers.” Prentiss had no clue as to Powell’s patrol on the morning of April 6th and the available record, including his 1882 speech shows that Prentiss had no clue as to Powell’s patrol when they placed him in his casket in February of 1901. He never mentioned Powell’s patrol and Peabody’s involvement because he never knew. Prentiss believed that Colonel David Moore was at the front with five companies and when he got a messenger from Moore wanting the rest of his regiment that just reinforced Prentiss’s belief that Moore had been involved with the start of the fighting.

                Back to French’s short letter and the wealth of information it contains for our consideration.

1.       1. French described how Prentiss ordered Moore to take out an afternoon patrol. French wrote five companies but Moore stated just three in his report. French reported they found numerous traces of Rebel cavalry. This contradicts the revisionist claim that Moore found nothing.

2.       2. French described how they were informed by citizens that the Rebels had a large force and that the Union camp would be attacked in the morning. French wrote that Moore passed this information on to both Prentiss and Peabody but that no serious note was taken except to strengthen the pickets. Here is a first indication that French was unaware of Powell’s patrol. It is also the only source I have seen that informs us that not only did Moore alert Prentiss but also Peabody.

3.       3. French confirmed the fact that Moore received an order from Peabody to take out five companies and move to the front. French gave the reason for this order is that the pickets had been fired upon. A second indication that French was unaware of Powell’s patrol. In addition this observation supports Moore report that it was Peabody that ordered him forward. Both Colonel David Moore and his adjutant, William French, say Peabody ordered Moore forward with five companies and they were there.

4.       4. French wrote that Moore met the pickets falling back and stopped them while sending back for the other five companies of the 21st Missouri. This is the third indication that French was unaware of Powell’s patrol and concluded that the men they encountered had been on picket duty instead of a five company patrol that Peabody had ordered to the front. French made no comment but it has been noted that the orderly Moore sent back for the other five companies went to Prentiss and not Peabody.

5.       5. French described the location of their fight as the house they had visited the day before during their reconnaissance which is at Seay Field. Seay Field is not three miles from the camp of the 21st Missouri. Based on Moore’s description that he moved in front of Sherman’s division it appears that he advanced beyond Seay Field but where Moore actually went is open to question.

6.       6. French wrote of Peabody sending an orderly to ask if Colonel Moore could hold his position until Peabody could reinforce him. I have not seen that referenced anywhere else. Finally French declaimed that “Colonel Moore held his ground faithfully and bravely, and justice indeed has never been done him for the part he took in the battle of Shiloh.” Of that French is totally correct.

Rather than receiving justice for his role in the battle of Shiloh Colonel David Moore now receives ridicule and mockery at the hands of the Shiloh revisionists. He is depicted as a liar and a buffoon who could not find his way through the trees in front of Peabody’s camp without losing his way.

        There is no better example of how Shiloh revisionism has adversely affected the modern history of the battle of Shiloh than reading about the opening of the fight in Keven Getchell’s Scapegoat of Shiloh. What a shame that readers of that book who are not familiar with the battle of Shiloh will believe any of what Getchell wrote concerning the opening of the fight. Getchell did Moore and Prentiss a severe injustice in his book because he followed the Shiloh revisionist mantra.

        With that I close this posting even though I have so much more to tell.

        But tomorrow is another day and how it came to be that Colonel David Moore has been falsely depicted as a liar and a buffoon will be revealed in an upcoming posting.



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As I was updating a Quiz Question at the time Hank posted the above, I've had first chance to read -- and mostly agree -- with his information. Two bits of information that have been revealed of late also shed light on "the purpose of Powell's patrol" (and it was not "finding the enemy." ) Private Baker's published remarks in 1883 indicate that "Major Powell went forward to a house suspected of harboring Confederate cavalry with the intention of capturing a Rebel cavalryman and bringing him back within Union lines, in order to interrogate him and determine what were the Confederate intentions." (A close read of Colonel Quinn's Shiloh report also alludes to this Capture Attempt [OR 10 page 280.] ) Private Baker goes on to claim that Major Powell, finding the enemy in too great of force for his small body of stalwarts, returned to the camp of the 25th Missouri, gathered together a bigger force, and attempted the same exercise again... but drew fire from the Rebels along the way [see "PVT Baker, 25th Missouri" in SDG.]

The second "bit of information" comes from closer reading of "Who sent Colonel Moore on the morning of April 6th ?"  Because, if as so many claim that, "Colonel Peabody knew the Rebel Army was out there, about to launch a surprise attack" ...then why does he send only half of David Moore's force to engage the whole Confederate Army? Why not sound the Long Roll, get everyone up and moving (including General Prentiss)?

[From my own reading, this "keeping of Prentiss in the dark" while Colonel Peabody 1) sent forward Powell, 2) sent forward half of Moore, and 3) allowed General Prentiss to awake to the sound of music (without revealing -- himself, personally -- what was going on) is what enraged the just-awakened Benjamin Prentiss. By the time Prentiss awoke, Peabody had been "in charge" for an hour, and had not 1) beat the Long Roll, 2) sent word to other Division commanders (2nd and 4th Division) what was taking place, and 3) had not moved forward sufficient force or artillery to deal with "the whole Rebel Army." These three actions (with the possible exception of beating of the Long Roll, which occurred at 6 a.m.) were accomplished by General Prentiss a short time after "being roused from slumber."

If Colonel Peabody had gone to General Prentiss (after sending away Colonel Moore and his five companies) and explained what took place (and waited for Benjamin Prentiss to get over his initial anger), Colonel Peabody would likely have been forgiven, the fight would have proceeded, and Prentiss's Shiloh report would have been written differently. 

[But, it does not appear that Colonel Peabody even revealed to Colonel Moore the true reason why he was being sent forward (as Moore reported it was "due to the picket guard being attacked and driven in" -- which could only have been told him by Colonel Peabody.]

The "rest of the story" is not always pleasant...




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Hank's statement at the end of his last post -- "David Moore has been depicted as a liar and a buffoon" -- rang true. So, I conducted research to determine the level of regard for the man who may have been responsible for saving the Union at Shiloh...

David Moore’s Reputation Impugned

In order to facilitate the elevation of Colonel Everett Peabody and Major James Powell to “hero status,” (for initiating contact with the enemy, early morning of Sunday, April 6th 1862) some have called into question the reputation of General Benjamin Prentiss. (Pull down Prentiss, and those who remain standing, stand tall, in comparison.) But, it appears as if that “re-examination” was not sufficient, as Colonel David Moore has been caught up in the “toppling of false heroes.”

The following is a list of “character flaws” and supposed actions attributed to David Moore (Colonel, 21st Missouri) and derived from a variety of sources:

1.      He was the abrasive leader of a Home Guard unit, and did not make an effort to get along with his neighbors;

2.      He and his 1st NE Missouri Home Guard took part in an insignificant action, hardly worth mentioning, known as the Battle of Athens;

3.      He and his men resisted incorporation into “Federal Service” because they selfishly insisted that staying and watching over the military backwater of Missouri was more important;

4.      When he finally sailed up the Tennessee River to join Grant’s operation, Colonel Moore allowed his men to shoot up the riverbank, endangering women and children;

5.      Major General Grant, upon preferring charges against Colonel Moore for allowing his men to fire indiscriminately, stated, “If it can be proven as fact, then the 21st Missouri will cease to exist as a regiment; it will be busted up, and the men scattered.”

6.      The 21st Missouri remained in limbo, pending outcome of Moore’s court-martial;

7.      On 2 April 1862, upon conviction of one minor charge, Colonel Moore only received a reprimand from General Grant (in peacetime, his Army career would have ended.)

8.      On 5 April, Colonel Moore conducted a reconnaissance patrol that “failed to find the Rebel Army, which was obviously about to attack; he may have intentionally “found nothing” (in accordance with instructions from BGen Prentiss)”

9.      Colonel Moore was sent forward Sunday morning by Brigadier General Prentiss… [continue reading, below]

10.  When he finally did go forward, to fight Rebels that were obviously there, Moore got himself shot and removed to the rear.

Here is my defence of David Moore:

1.      Home Guard units tended to be “criticized” and “ridiculed” by regular Army units because they lacked obvious structure; they lacked “real” uniforms (David Moore wore his Mexican War uniform while recruiting); they lacked “discipline;” and they were seen as “part-time,” stay-at home soldiers. [During the guerrilla conflict that was Missouri in 1861- 1866, it was found that local men, who knew their neighbors, were essential to defeating guerrillas.]

2.      The Battle of Athens (5 AUG 1861) seemed big… until Wilsons Creek (10 AUG 61)… which seemed big until Belmont… Fort Donelson… Shiloh…

3.      Easy for someone living in homogeneous Chicago or Boston to ridicule the concerns of some hayseed in Missouri (whose neighbors would actually injure his family or property, if given the chance.) The Home Guard was the “last line of defence” in debatable land. (Compare the removal of Home Guard troops with what took place in Chicago and Boston, where loyal State Militia remained behind, even after sending volunteers south.)

4.      The 21st Missouri was mustered into Federal service 1 FEB 1862, and in March received their new weapons at Benton Barracks, just before departing to join Grant’s operation. And just like many other Union regiments, they tested their new weapons during the voyage to Savannah Tennessee. For some reason, Colonel David Moore was selected as “fall guy” for allowing his men to do the same, or LESS, than others had done before.

5.      Not only was Colonel Moore on trial… but his regiment waited in limbo, camped overlooking Pittsburg Landing, until the outcome of that court-martial: NO joining Peabody or Prentiss was permitted, until afterwards.

6.      When the 21st Missouri was sent to join the Sixth Division, one regiment of Peabody’s 1st Brigade was removed to make way for them (18th Missouri).

7.      By placing Colonel Moore under the more senior Everett Peabody, it prevented Moore from being in the 2nd Brigade with the junior Colonel, Madison Miller.

8.      Colonel Moore arrived at Camp Prentiss on or after April 2nd 1862, giving him three days (or less) to become familiar with the ground in front of the Sixth Division. The assignment to lead a reconnaissance provided needed exposure to the ground in his front; and the likely instructions – “Find out the intentions of the enemy; but do nothing to bring on a general engagement” – allowed probable determination whether there was an imminent threat. Moore’s was a “fact-finding mission,” to gather information, return that information to the Sixth Division, and assess that information. To assume that the reconnaissance was “for show,” or to “intentionally find nothing” fails to recognize the limitations within which Prentiss and Moore (and Peabody) were ordered to operate.

9.      Prentiss did not send Moore forward on Sunday morning; Colonel Peabody sent Moore forward. If Prentiss had sent Moore, he would have no cause to be upset with Peabody. Due to the fact Colonel Peabody ordered this escalation of effort (sending additional elements of the Sixth Division forward, without telling his commander, BGen Prentiss) THIS is what caused “the hooting” from Prentiss that morning.

10.  “Colonel Moore, as further proof of his incompetence, got shot, and was removed to the rear.”  Really…?

It is my interpretation that much of the disparagement of David Moore stems from lack of understanding… of the confused situation in Missouri; of the difference between Home Guard and State Guard troops (and neither of these organizations were synonymous with State Volunteer regiments, North or South); of “guilt by association” with currently- out-of-favor Benjamin Prentiss; of assuming, “he was court-martialed, so he must have done something to deserve it” as proof that David Moore was a loose cannon, or incompetent.

My own understanding from research: David Moore was a strong, dedicated Union man; a natural leader, who took a stand (expressed his viewpoint) in country where a substantial portion of his neighbors held firmly to opposing views; a man who acted in accordance with his beliefs in defence of his home, his family, and his Country.

Finally, the more one reads, the more safe is the conclusion that Major Powell (in conjunction with Colonel Peabody) “initiated contact, disrupting an enemy preparing to launch an attack against Federal forces at Pittsburg Landing.” Likewise, Colonel Moore. by sending back to Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss for reinforcements, alerted Prentiss to what was taking place, and allowed the Commander of the Sixth Division to take the necessary actions that curtailed the Confederate surprise… bought more TIME, and ALERTED the Federal forces to his rear of the immediate danger.




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On 4/18/2018 at 1:40 AM, Ozzy said:


Thanks for posting this valuable, in-depth analysis by Bjorn Skaptason of Prentiss's Division. We tend to take for granted that the Sixth Division was under-sized, and inexperienced when fighting erupted morning of April 6th 1862. Yet, there was more experience (25th Missouri, 21st Missouri and 18th Missouri; as well as General Prentiss, Colonel Peabody, Colonel Moore, and Major Powell ) than we recognize; and as for "under-sized," truth be known, on the morning of April 6th, all of the elements required for a full-sized division were present at Savannah and Pittsburg Landing, but someone dropped the ball. And that someone was not Benjamin M. Prentiss.

"The Division that Never Was" gets viewers to think (again) about a subject with which we believed we were familiar. And, as with all of your videos, this one demonstrates the value of "getting another perspective" of a "widely-understood subject."

All the best



I can imagine that, had Peabody lived, well, actually, I wonder what would have happened?  I am sure Prentiss would have had him arrested and brought up on charges.  Too many "what if" scenarios, and I do not like what if's.  But I wonder what would have happened had that been the case.

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