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Hike Report: Grant's Last Line of Defense

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Below is Mona's report from the final hike on April 6th, during this year's anniversary hikes. Sure it's been several months ago now, but this way it helps build the suspense, and keeps you checking for the latest hike reports! :)

Mona also wrote some good reports on Bjorn's Iowa monuments hike, as well as his hike on Fallen Timbers. I'll be posting these later in the week, or possibly next weekend. Also, Mona wanted to make sure and credit Bjorn, as she said he was very helpful when she was trying to recreate these hikes. So a big thank you to Mona and also to Bjorn!

Here's a map showing the area covered by this hike...


And here is a map showing the approximate location of all the position markers/stopping points during the hike. Blue "x's" are Union positions, red "x's" are Confederate. The white "x" indicates the starting location of the hike...


As with Dan's reports, I've included some maps and a few pictures. The maps are from Bing.com. The position marker photos are from the Monument Location System on the NPS web site for Shiloh. So here with go with Mona's report on the hike titled, "General Grant's Last Line of Defense"....


We met at the Indian Mounds kiosk at the eastern edge of Cloud Field. Bjorn presented a short program of Lincoln’s creation of the gunboat/land operations. From there the hike began by heading into the woods along the new “Mounds Area” trail. We came out at Riverside Drive at the Indian Mounds, and proceeded down to the Dill Branch Ravine area.

Here we stopped for a time, and Bjorn discussed the activities of the gunboats Lexington & Tyler, which are now represented by two naval guns placed at the wayside located at this spot. [Map & picture for gunboats position marker...]





We proceeded down into the ravine at this juncture, and walked west across the ravine - picking one’s way across the meandering stream. We climbed up the north side to Chalmers Marker (#398). Here Bjorn discussed Chalmers’ advance late on the 6th.

[Map & picture for Chalmers' position marker...]



Bjorn explained that the main force didn’t crest the ravine - only a few skirmishers advanced much further. This tablet (#398) is 800 yards from Grant’s line (two times the effective range of rifled muskets). So Chalmers made no real impression on the Federal line. All the southerners really did was to expose themselves to the massive artillery fire on the other side of the ravine, with no chance of defending themselves effectively. However, casualties in this action were light, even for Chalmers’ men.

Moving westward we then crossed several feeder ravines to the markers for Jackson’s brigade (#407), Deas’ brigade (#385), and Anderson’s brigade (#356).

[Map & picture for Jackson's position marker...]



At the marker for Jackson’s brigade, Bjorn explained that Jackson’s men advanced alongside Chalmers to this point, only to discover that they had run out of ammunition! They swiftly retreated without launching an attack. [Note that the marker indicates that skirmishers did cross the ravine.]

At the marker for Deas brigade (#385 - this brigade was originally commanded by Gladden), we learned that Deas arrived at this spot with only about 250 men out of 2,500 that had been with Gladden at the beginning of the battle. Upon arriving here, Deas and his men waited and waited for orders to attack, but the orders never came. As a result of this miscommunication, Deas and his men retreated without having advanced any further.

[Map & picture for Deas' position marker...]



To the left of Deas, marker # 356 indicates the location of Anderson’s brigade. Like Deas’s, Anderson’s men waited for orders that never came, and finally fell back without advancing. During their retreat, the Federal gunboats began to fire. Being further west in line than any of the other units discussed on this hike, Anderson’s men were directly exposed to the exploding gunboat shells. Several men were killed by this fire. This was an example of an important military technique of the gunboats, which can be explained by the sentence, “I can touch you, but you can’t touch me.” Anderson decided to bravely stand in place - and die by fire that he could not return. More foolish than brave.

[Map & picture for Anderson's position marker...]



We then marched on and emerged onto the Corinth-Pittsburg Landing Road, and walked up to Lt. Nispel’s earthworks and line of artillery. Bjorn told of the decapitation of Captain Irving Carson of Grant’s staff (The Headless Horseman of Shiloh). Grant’s non-emotional reaction led historians to depict Grant as the tough, cigar-chomping warrior.

[Map & picture for Nispel's Battery, also known as Schwartz' Battery. Picture is from 2008 anniversary hikes...]



We then moved to the siege guns where there was more discussion of Grant’s artillery line and Buell’s arrival.

[Map showing location of Nispel's Battery & siege guns...]


This ended the hike, with some participants going back to their vehicles at the visitors center, some backtracking to Cloud Field, and the “gunners” going on with Bjorn to cross back over Dill Branch Ravine, past the Indian Mounds, and back to their cars in Cloud Field at dusk.


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You're very welcome, Mona. The point you made in your email is a good one though, about how it's hard to translate into a photograph what it's like walking up, down, and through that ravine. I started to include one or two shots I took of the ravine during the 2007 hikes, but the vegetation is so thick it's hard to get a sense of just how wide it is where the southerners crossed. Or maybe I just couldn't figure out how to convey it.


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