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Passages from

Shiloh: Bloody April”

by Wiley Sword.

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Order of Battle
Battle of Shiloh
April 6 - 7, 1862


First Division
Third Brigade
Col. Preston Pond, Jr. 16th Louisiana
16th Louisiana, Maj. Daniel Gober
18th Louisiana:
Col. Alfred Mouton (wounded)
Lieut. Col. Alfred Roman
Crescent (Louisiana) Regiment, Col. Marshall J. Smith
Orleans Guard (Louisiana) Battalion, Maj. Leon Querouze (wounded)
38th Tennessee, Col. Robert F. Looney
Ketchum’s Alabama Battery, Capt. William H. Ketchum’s

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The following is an excerpt
from Mr. Sword’s book about the battle of Shiloh

Action on the Federal Right, 12 noon - 5 p. m., April 6, 1862:

Fortunately for the Army of the Tennessee James C. Veatch’s brigade had not been entirely scattered during the breakup of McClernand’s initial line near Review field. Veatch had been able to keep two regiments together during the ensuing chaos, and he put them in line along the Corinth Road east of McClearnand’s subsequent position.

After repulsing Shaver’s and a portion of A. P. Stewart’s attack along the Corinth road, the 14th Illinois and 25th Indiana had gone north, to a ridge on the west side of Tilghman’s Branch of Owl Creek. Here Veatch was able to link up with some of Hare’s infantry and form a substantial line. “Our guns cooled and we got a new supply of ammunition,” later recalled one of Veatch’s officers. “There was only a skirmish fire on our right and front, but to the left in the direction of Prentiss’s division, the battle still made a loud, overpowering roar.”

Several hours later this line still had not been attacked. Yet someone thought it best to withdraw across the creek valley and occupy a new position just west of the 15th Illinois’ camp. Here, along much of this new front, lay Cavalry field, with the deserted tents of a cavalry battalion standing stark against a rugged backdrop of timer.

About 4 P.M., just as Veatch’s line was settling in place,
a Confederate regiment dressed in blue came up and occupied the former Union position. This unit was Pond’s 18th Louisiana Infantry, commanded by the bantam-sized former railroad engineer, Jean Jacques Alexandre Alfred Mouton. Mouton was French, like many of his men, and his volatile temper was already aflame.

As Pond’s brigade had gone forward against McDowell’s abandoned camps earlier that morning, only half of the brigade was present. Pond characterized his advance as extremely cautious. Since he was posted on the army’s extreme left flank he thought it necessary “to keep my force in hand to hold Owl Creek against any and every contingency.” Because of going slowly, his two regiments and a battalion had not seen significant action prior to the Federal retreat from Jones field, about 2 P.M.

At that time the 18th Louisiana Infantry, coming up on the left of Trabue’s Kentuckians, somehow got in front, and
as a nearby Confederate officer observed, their blue uniforms cost them dearly. Mouton noticed about five hundred of Sherman’s men in full retreat from Hare’s camp and he rushed his regiment “at double-quick” to cut them off.

Trabue’s men were then close to the 18th’s flank, but were unnoticed. Seeing the blue uniforms ahead, they opened fire, immediately throwing Mouton’s regiment into disorder. When the artillery joined in, the shaken Louisianians became angry. Shouting “we fire at anybody that fires at us, God damn,” the 18th returned the fire. Finally a staff officer went to investigate and signaled both parties to cease firing. Only then did the bloodshed stop.

Pond had become thoroughly confused by the exchange. Not knowing where the fire came from, he imagined that he had bypassed a large enemy force. After halting his brigade, Pond ordered a retreat back to the edge of the woods. There was much delay before the 18th warily advanced into Hare’s vacant camps and rounded up twenty Federal prisoners, who apparently had been to sick to run away.

Not only was Trabue’s advance disrupted; the entire Confederate offensive in this sector stalled when Pond further procrastinated. Although his line had quickly re-formed, Pond decided to await the arrival of Ketchum’s battery before proceeding to the front. In all, nearly two hours elapsed before Pond received “a peremptory” order from Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson of Beauregard’s staff to move his brigade forward.

All this time McAllister’s battery of 24-pounder howitzers had been shelling the Confederates from a ridge east of Tilghman Creek. When Ketchum’s guns finally came up to join Hodgson in Jones field, the two batteries began firing shell and spherical case into Cavalry field, driving some of Veatch’s Federals from the abandoned camps back into the woods.

The prospect for a successful charge now seemed good, if it was supported by Ketchum’s field gun, which were gradually being advanced by half battery. Yet here occurred another of the tactical blunders that had been plaguing the Confederate attack since morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Samuel W. Ferguson, U.S.M.A. 1857, was an aide-de-camp on Beauregard’s staff. Sent by that general to assume command of a brigade “without a commander” Ferguson was led to the wrong portion of Pond’s command, that consisting of the 16th and 18th Louisiana and the Orleans Guards Battalion, which Pond still led.

On his way forward Ferguson had encountered General Hardee. Hardee told him to lead Pond’s troops “by the left flank as far as possible to the rear of a camp of the enemy...and, if possible, to take it in reverse.”

Ferguson and Pond thus inevitably collided. Pond resisted turning over command to a junior officer, and when Ferguson made a reconnaissance and ordered a charge, there was a dispute. Both attempted to command.

Unknown to Pond and Ferguson, an aid from General Hardee’s staff had just approached Ketchum’s battery and ordered it further to the left, where some of Sherman’s infantrymen were believed to be reforming.

Deprived of half their artillery support, Pond’s Louisianians filed into the ravine bisected the creek valley, running east between the camps of the 14th and 15th Illinois. Pond hoped to use the second ravine to cover his approach to the enemy’s open-field permitter. But when only halfway along this ravine, Ferguson ordered a direct assault. Although McAllister’s battery was immediately in front, the distance was great-about three hundred yards.

Pond thought it a mistake. So did Mouton, but they ordered their men up the slope, the several regiments still being in column. Three of McClernand’s regiments, the 8th and 18th Illinois and the 13th Indiana, held the timber that skirted Cavalry field in front.
Running over the rim and onto the open ground came the
blue coated Louisianians, their advance being closely watched by one of Veatch’s Illinois officers.

“[They] dashed up the slope...with a loud yell, square in the face of McClernand’s men, and in front of two [24] pounder [guns],” observed the officer.

“The yell was...taken out of them,” wrote a jubilant Federal officer, “but they right faced and went off in such good order that a shell from one of the [cannon] cut the same thigh off a file of four, and then cut a file closer-a sergeant, nearly in two.”

Having taken losses that amounted to 207 officers and men, or about 40 percent of those present, the 18th Louisiana staggered away to the north and out of the fighting for the day. Although their brigade confronted Sherman during the early-evening hours, they posed no serious threat to the vital Hamburg-Savannah Road line. “I was alone with my brigade,” wrote Pond, “without” As a result he merely moved to within three hundred yards of the roadway and opened a desultory fire with artillery, which was suspended at nightfall.

Pond and his men had been thoroughly shocked by the debacle they had witnessed. “The order to charge the battery was prematurely given,” they later protested. Had they understood that the attack itself was unnecessary, there would have been even greater despair. Emboldened by their success against Pond, McClernand’s and Veatch’s men were about to organize a countercharge when the bright prospect of triumph suddenly turned to impending disaster.

The 25th Indiana and 14th Illinois were still firing at Pond’s retreating troops, just as the broken fragments of Federal troops retreating from the Hornet’s Nest line began to appear in wild disorder through the woods. Close behind moved Trabue’s Confederates.

The breakup of the Federal line was so rapid that Veatch’s two regiments were separated and threatened with being entirely cut off. “I saw nothing left for me to do but reluctantly to withdraw from the advantageous ground occupied,” said the shocked commander of the 25th Indiana. Nearby, a dazed Federal officer looked up into a line of gray infantry, halting only a few yards away. “Run, Colonel, run,” shouted a sergeant as he dashed by. “In an instant the air seemed full of bullets,” said the officer, who began running sideways, fearing that he would be shot in the back.

Passing through a hollow near Hurlbut’s headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Camm of the 14th Illinois found a young soldier running alongside him. “I heard a bullet ‘thug’ against him, said Camm, “his head fell upon my shoulder and I caught but one word, ‘Mother.’ ”

Continuing his hasty retreat in the direction of the landing, Camm approached his regiment’s camp and ran to the nearby spring to quench his burning thirst. “[Here I] found a Rebel soldier, one of the 18th Louisiana, laid full length, spread out and arms downward in the water,” Camm recalled. “I pulled the body out and turned it over....He had several bright colored woolen shirts on, evidently intended to resist bullets, but one had struck him in the breast and passed through clothing and body.”

Shocked at the sight, Camm passed on to ghastly scenes of carnage as he stumbled toward the Landing. War no longer the grand adventure that it had once seemed. It was a grisly, deadly earnest business, suddenly abhorrent to nearly all who beheld it.

The faces of the beaten Federal troops streaming north to the Landing reflected the agony of their ordeal. Among them an Illinois lieutenant under McClernand studied the faces of the men of his regiment. “No one ran,” he noted, “they just walked on sullen...their terror hidden under the cloud of smoke.”

Another officer also regarded the massive pall of smoke. “The clouds of smoke rising all over the field made the day seem like night,” he wrote. To many it seemed fitting. The black mood of despair then hanging over the Federal army proclaimed that the battle was all but lost.”

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Updated on 7 March 2006...1505:35 CST


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