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More on the Unlucky 13th

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  • 2 weeks later...

Had a read of the above link a few days ago and have been considering how to respond:

1)    A comparison could be made between the after battle treatment given to Myer’s 13th Ohio and Behr’s 6th Indiana (Morton Battery) and why the disparity in treatment occurred.

2)    An examination of the Ohio regiments and leaders accused of poor performance (71st Ohio, 13th Ohio Battery, 53rd Ohio, Colonel Thomas Worthington) could be conducted to determine validity of the charges, and who was to blame.

3)    An assessment of General Hurlbut’s performance on Sunday 6 April 1862 could be conducted to determine if that leader succeeded or failed (and if he failed, decide if the interaction with Myer’s 13th Ohio Battery was the cause of that failure.)

Along which course would you like to proceed?

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  • 5 weeks later...

Seemingly a study on any unit being reported as having cowardly conduct could be an interesting topic.  The 71st Ohio's story of flight has been fairly well proven to be an exaggeration, and seemingly there is some evidence that the 13th Ohio Battery suffered from an unfair account from Hurlbut as other reports I mention in the two blog posts allude to.  I do not know enough of Hurlbut to surmise if he warrants a pass or fail grade.

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From my reading of the Battle of Shiloh, BGen Hurlbut was required by Sherman to provide him reinforcements: Hurlbut sent Veatch’s Brigade west, and it supported McClernand. BGen Prentiss also requested reinforcement: Hurlbut took personal command of his remaining two brigades and led them south, towards the sound of the guns. Acting-commander Sherman did not order Hurlbut south; and U.S. Grant was yet to arrive by boat from Savannah. BGen Stephen Hurlbut moved his force south, intending to join Prentiss in vicinity of the Sixth Division camps, but Prentiss’ withdrawing men were encountered 1000 or so yards north of Camp Prentiss. So Hurlbut quickly arranged a defensive line to halt the Rebel advance; and that initial defensive line was not ideally placed…
Part of that hurried initial placement was Myer’s 13th Ohio Battery. One source indicates Hurlbut ordered the battery into position, expecting it to take advantage of local terrain, and was surprised when Myer went into battery on the wrong side of the crest. Another source states: “General Hurlbut ordered Myer to that exact position.” And another source indicates Hurlbut ordered Myer’s Battery moved forward to the desired position, via orders sent through an aide who brought Myer and his battery up from the rear.
Will we ever learn the Truth? Unlikely, due the bias of all the key witnesses and participants. 
But based upon Stephen Hurlbut’s subsequent actions, at Shiloh and afterwards, I do not believe he intentionally sacrificed Myer and his 13th Ohio: there was either a communication breakdown; or General Hurlbut assumed Captain Myer knew his job better than was actually the case.

References:  SDG topic “Stephen A. Hurlbut”
Major David W. Reed’s “Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged”
OR 10 part 1 page 209 [Hurlbut indicates, “Myer positioned his battery too far forward, so as to lose advantage of the slope.” I believe this refers to “wrong side of the military crest” of a hill, or local prominence: by taking position slightly in rear of the true crest (the military crest) the terrain itself provides some protection from enemy fire.] Page 208 – Stephen Hurlbut: “I ordered Captain Myer to come into battery ON THE REVERSE SLOPE OF A CREST OF GROUND…” (emphasis by Ozzy.) Page 208 – Stephen Hurlbut: “The 13th Ohio was brought forward by repeated orders through my aides.”

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Perhaps most revealing: on page 210 of OR 10 part 1 General Hurlbut admits, "...the transaction [of the 13th Ohio Battery abandoning their post in disarray] was seen by 4000 brave men, who never showed their backs to the enemy..."

Knowledge of this unpalatable event would have been witnessed, become subject of camp rumours... and more than passing interest would have prompted fellow soldiers (who stood and fought) to enquire... to demand, "What became of them?"

The tragic stampede of the 13th Ohio Battery can be explained, but not excused. To condone such "cowardice" (lack of resolve, dissipating fortitude, failure to hold their post) could be fatal to morale and discipline. However the 13th Ohio Battery ended up in their predicament, the Division commander, BGen Hurlbut, had no choice but to make an example of their unacceptable conduct.

Chinese proverb: "Punish one, teach one hundred."

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Brigadier General Hurlbut

Although originally from South Carolina (where Lieutenant William T. Sherman met him during the Second Seminole War mobilization) Stephen Hurlbut relocated north and practiced Law in Illinois and was active in local politics in that state. Following Lincoln’s Inauguration during the Secession Crisis, Stephen Hurlbut offered to go south and investigate “the true state of affairs in and around Charleston.” Upon his return north, after revealing his intelligence that “There were no Union men to be found there; they are preparing for war” Hurlbut was awarded with appointment to Brigadier General and was soon commanding troops in northern Missouri protecting railroads. Too great a fondness for alcohol was Hurlbut’s undoing: he was removed from command and returned to Belvidere Illinois in disgrace.

Almost simultaneously, William T. Sherman suffered a nervous breakdown and was removed from command in Kentucky. When Sherman’s friend from California, Henry Halleck, took over command of the Department of Missouri, he took special pains to rejuvenate Sherman’s career by placing him “in charge” of Benton Barracks (really just an opportunity for Sherman to rest and settle his nerves.) Brigadier General Sherman learned of the plight of his old friend, Stephen Hurlbut, and suggested to Halleck that a similar effort be made to rejuvenate Hurlbut’s career: Brigadier General Hurlbut was installed as commander of Benton Barracks (really just an opportunity for Hurlbut to dry out, and regain composure.) A third officer, newly-minted Brigadier General William K. Strong, an outstanding accountant but not a military man, was also installed at Benton Barracks as Commandant of that facility (and benefited from the schooling provided by Sherman to become an effective officer who was placed in command at Cairo in 1862.)

Sherman was installed at Paducah, ostensibly to “forward troops and supplies to Grant’s operation against Fort Donelson.” But Sherman was also “allowed” to syphon away sufficient troops to establish his own division. A similar opportunity awaited Hurlbut, who arrived at Fort Donelson just after it surrendered, and was placed “in command of the Post” during U.S. Grants frequent departures to Clarksville (and Nashville.)

The Divisions of Sherman and Hurlbut were subsequently advanced to Savannah and Pittsburg Landing in March 1862, under Expedition command of C.F. Smith. Sherman took charge of probes against the M & C Railroad; Hurlbut landed his troops at Pittsburg Landing and went into camp. The amount of “training” provided by BGen Hurlbut is unknown (although Regimental drill was accomplished.) The Third Iowa Infantry, familiar with Hurlbut in Missouri and aware of his alcohol problem, were aghast at his return to command… of THEM. They make mention of their displeasure in letters home during March 1862.

Along the way, the 13th Ohio Battery arrived at Pittsburg Landing, and became one of several units that “slipped through the cracks” and remained, unassigned, in vicinity of the bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. As “acting Campground Commander, in temporary absence of the injured C.F. Smith” William T. Sherman was responsible for assigning new units to camps (and should have confirmed their assignment to Brigades and Divisions.) Those command assignments should have been performed by U.S. Grant after 18 March; and anyone that arrived at Pittsburg Landing earlier (under C.F. Smith’s command) should have been identified by Grant (or Sherman) and assigned to a brigade… but many were not. This was not Hurlbut’s problem, as he had no official role in such assignments, or the placing of units not belonging to him, in camp.

By available accounts, Myer’s 13th Ohio Battery joined Hurlbut’s Fourth Division, physically, within 48 hours of the Rebel attack on 6 April 1862. With perhaps twenty or twenty-five units of infantry, cavalry and artillery assigned to his division, 48 hours (if Hurlbut knew the attack was coming) was insufficient time to concentrate on ONE unit of artillery, and make sure that one battery was properly trained. There does not appear to have been much opportunity for Live Fire exercises, so observing how the 13th Ohio Battery conducted this activity, from unlimber to fire, and back to limber, would likely not have been possible.

On the morning of April 6th with the sound of guns getting louder, Hurlbut detached Veath’s Brigade; then responded to Prentiss’s request for assistance by personally leading what remained of the Fourth Division south. Intending to join Prentiss at his camp, BGen Hurlbut was surprised by masses of Union troops streaming north towards the Landing; Hurlbut halted his advance and threw out a defensive line in order to arrest the advance of Rebels pursuing Prentiss’s fleeing Division. When BGen Prentiss was encountered, in company with two batteries of artillery and making solid effort to reform his shattered division, Hurlbut permitted Prentiss to “pass through his defensive line” and ultimately accorded Prentiss and his troops placement at the extreme right end of Hurlbut’s line (which after the casualty that befell Myer’s Battery was readjusted into a more defensible position, a bit further north.) Prentiss donated a section of guns (Munch’s Minnesota Battery under Peebles) to Hurlbut; one section (Pfaender) was defended by the 14th Iowa Infantry of WHL Wallace shortly after the Second Division joined on Prentiss’s right; and a third section of one gun was briefly defended by the 12th Iowa Infantry before it suffered a casualty and withdrew to the Landing.

Hurlbut held his ground; met with U.S. Grant when that officer visited on horseback about 10:15 -10:30; and the Fourth Division shared in the use of the Missouri Light Artillery (positioned just behind the Second Division, firing over the top of the infantrymen 200- 400 yards to their front; but occasionally called forward in sections to provide direct support.) These were Stone’s, Welker’s and Richardson’s Batteries, under supreme command of Major Cavender.

Mann and Ross applied their guns more forward of Cavender, in direct support of Hurlbut. (And Hickenlooper supported Prentiss.) And at about 1:30- 2 p.m. Ross’s Michigan Battery was sent to the rear, to their camp, for rest and ammunition (with no instruction to return to the line.) Hurlbut was under increasing enemy pressure, and appears to have made correct adjustments to defend his Division as it conducted a controlled “detachment from engagement” and reposition further north. And it is my belief, based on documents viewed over the years, that Stephen Hurlbut INTENDED to re-establish his line at the new position occupied by Ross’s Battery. But Lindsey’s Cavalry rushed north across ground abandoned by Stuart’s Brigade and arced towards the west… and there was Ross, horses hitched to guns and caissons, unable to take aggressive action. This capture of Ross occurred just before, or simultaneous with Hurlbut’s redeploy north; and Hurlbut continued his withdrawal (which resulted in all but elements of the Third Iowa Regiment making it to safety at the Landing.) The loss of Ross is inadequately explained by Hurlbut; and is part of the reason I believe there was more intended for Ross than merely “rest and re-arm.”

Hurlbut took control of men returning to the Landing as they arrived; and assigned them new positions in Grant’s Last Line. Hurlbut fought his Division well; benefited from actions of Lauman and Pugh (and Reed’s 44th Indiana Infantry is often accorded “best performer Day One at Shiloh.”) And Hurlbut successfully redeployed his Division (unlike Prentiss and half of WHL Wallace) and was able to continue the fight.

Following the battle, letters written by men of the Third Iowa repeat their suspicions regarding Stephen Hurlbut; but acknowledge that the General had overcome that earlier flaw, and had proven himself to be a Leader they would follow to Hell, if necessary.


The Bloody Third (3rd Iowa History soon to be released by SDG contributor, Tim Jeffers.)

"Stephen A. Hurlbut" by Ozzy, SDG topic of 17 MAY 2015.

Letters of William T. Sherman [on file at University of Notre Dame.]

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  • 3 weeks later...

Treatment of Myer vs. Behr

Behr and the 6th Morton Indiana Battery

·         Brigaded with 1st Brigade (McDowell) of Sherman’s Fifth Division;

·         After early morning April 6th operations in vicinity of Owl Creek Bridge, all 5th DIV forces were ordered to fall back [towards the crossroads] at about 10 am.

·         This “backward movement” became confused as racing mule teams pulling wagons headed east along the Purdy Road, blocking the redeploy of Buckland’s Brigade further north, across that road… and Waterhouse’s Battery was captured… and the charging Rebels continued to press north.

·         In desperation, BGen Sherman seized control of Behr’s Battery [opportunely arriving from the west, to near Sherman] and ordered Behr to unlimber and commence firing. Behr unlimbered, but before firing a shot, Captain Behr was shot down; his artillery men fled the scene, leaving their guns behind.

·         Behr was killed; his men fled; five guns were captured [a sixth gun (Mussman) was on independent duty with the 1st Brigade and remained in action til nightfall].

·         After Shiloh, the 6th Morton Indiana was re-armed and returned to service under Lieutenant Michael Mueller.


Myer and the 13th Ohio Battery

·         Not brigaded; under control of Hurlbut’s Fourth Division (from 4 APR 1862);

·         Apparently a poorly-trained, inexperienced artillery unit;

·         On the morning of 6 APR 1862 BGen Hurlbut led two brigades of his Fourth Division south “towards the sound of the guns” at the request of BGen Prentiss for support;

·         Approaching to within half a mile of Prentiss’s camp, Federal soldiers fleeing north streamed to either side of Hurlbut’s advance; Hurlbut shook his division into line and BGen Prentiss in company with Hickenlooper’s Battery and Munch’s Battery allowed to pass through; Prentiss gathers his available force and will extend Hurlbut’s line towards the west;

·         Myer arrives [possibly after repeated calls to “Come forward”] and takes position; this position appears to have been directed by an aide of BGen Hurlbut, who may have received a specific order, or maybe a general order, from Hurlbut to “Unlimber here.”

·         Myer takes position [Hurlbut says “on wrong side of military crest”]. THIS appears to be point of contention: “Did Hurlbut order Myer to take position ‘Right Here,’ or did Hurlbut give instructions to an aide to position Myer “about there” and rely on Myer’s artillery knowledge to position his Battery to best advantage?”]

·         In process of unlimber, a lucky hit from Robertson’s Alabama Battery explodes an ammunition chest;

·         Myer and [all? most of?] his men abandon the guns and flee to the Landing. [Another Federal regiment spiked the abandoned guns of Myer's Battery.]

·         Myer is not seen again until a day or two after completion of the Battle of Shiloh.

·         After Shiloh the artillery unit formerly known as 13th Ohio Battery was disbanded.



·         There is no doubt Sherman told Behr to unlimber “Right here; right now.” There were witnesses. And Sherman’s order directly led to what happened to Behr.

·         There is debate about “who told Myer WHAT?” Hurlbut has no way of knowing what the aide ACTUALLY told Myer to do. [Did more than one aide speak to Myer, resulting in confusing orders? It is reported, "Several attempts were made to bring Myer forward."]

·         Behr had no room to maneuver; Myer may, or may not, have had room to maneuver; depends on the orders.

·         Behr was killed; and his men fled.

·         Myer fled, along with his men.

·         Behr had no opportunity to “gather his force and try again.” Myer was away for days and did not attempt (no obvious attempt) to gather his force and try again. [Brigadier General Prentiss withdrew from his initial position, gathered together what force was available, and took position to Hurlbut’s right; many of Prentiss’s men continued their flight all the way to the Landing. If Prentiss joined them at the Landing, and did not reappear until days later, the same fate that befell Myer would have been visited upon Prentiss.]

[Notice at top of this post, the title: "Treatment of Myer vs. Behr." It was (and is ) understood that when talking about the Commander of a unit, you may be speaking of/ referring to his Unit as well. After the Battle of Shiloh, there would likely be little difficulty getting volunteers and new recruits for the "battle hardened, hard-done by Sixth Morton Indiana Battery, which lost its brave commander at Shiloh." And from the available records, that appears to have been the case.]


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