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Full text of "In the Ranks at Shiloh"

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IN THE RANKS AT SHILOH 

*By Leander Stillwell, Late First Lieutenant, 61st 
Illinois Volunteer Infantry. 

The battle of Shiloh was fought on April 6 and 7, 1862. 
In 1890 I wrote an article on the battle which was published 
in the New York Tribune, and later it appeared in several 
other newspapers. It has also been reprinted in book form 
in connection with papers by other persons, some about the 
war, and others of miscellaneous nature. The article I wrote 
twenty-five years ago is as good, I reckon, if not better than 
anything on that head I can write now, so it wiU be set out 
here. 

There has been a great deal said and written about the 
battle of Shiloh, both by Rebel and Union officers and writ- 
ers. On the part of the first there has been, and probably 
always will be, angry dispute and criticism about the con- 
duct of General Beauregard in calling off his troops Sunday 
evening while fully an hour of broad, precious daylight still 
remained, which, as claimed by some, might have been utilized 
in destroying the remainder of Grant's army before Buell 
could have crossed the Tennessee. On the part of Union 
writers the matters most discussed have been as to whether 
or not our forces were surprised, the condition of Grant's 
army at the close of the first day, what the result would have 
been without the aid of the gunboats, or if Buell 's army had 
not come, and kindred subjects. It is not my purpose, in 
telling my story of the battle of Shiloh, to say anything that 
will add to this volume of discussion. My age at the time 
was eighteen, and my position that of a common soldier in 
the ranks. It would therefore be foolish in me to assume 
the part of a critic. The generals, who, from reasonably 

♦Judge Stillwell is now a resident of Erie, Kansas. 

460 



voi.xv,Nos.i.2 7^ the Ranks at Shiloh 461 

safe points of observation, are sweeping the field with their 
glasses, and noting and directing the movements of the lines 
of battle, must, in the nature of things, be the ones to furnish 
the facts that go to make history. The extent of a battle- 
field seen by the common soldier is that only which comes 
within the range of the raised sights of his musket. And 
what little he does see is as ** through a glass, darkly.'' The 
dense banks of powder smoke obstruct his gaze; he catches 
but fitful glimpses of his adversaries as the smoke veers or 
rises. 

Then, too, my own experience makes me think that where 
the common soldier does his duty, all his faculties of mind and 
body are employed in attending to the details of his own 
personal part of the work of destruction, and there is but 
little time left him for taking mental notes to form the basis 
of historical articles a quarter of a century afterward. The 
handling, tearing, and charging of his cartridge, ramming 
it home (we used muzzle loaders during the Civil War), the 
capping of his gun, the aiming and firing, with furious haste 
and desperate energy — ^for every shot may be his last — these 
things require the soldier's close personal attention and make 
him oblivious to matters transpiring beyond his immediate 
neighborhood. Moreover, his sense of hearing is well-nigh 
overcome by the deafening uproar going on around him. The 
incessant and terrible crash of musketry, the roar of the 
cannon, the continual zip, zip, of bullets as they hiss by him, 
interspersed with the agonizing screams of the wounded, or 
the death shrieks of comrades falling in dying convulsions 
right in the face of the living — these things are not conducive 
to that serene and judicial mental equipoise which the his- 
torian enjoys in his closet. 

Let the generals and historians, therefore, write of the 
movements of corps, divisions, and brigades. I have naught 
to tell but the simple story of what one private soldier saw 
of one of the bloodiest battles of the war. 

The regiment to which I belonged was the 61st Illinois 
Infantry. It left its camp of instruction ( a country town 



462 Leander Stillwell J- 1- s. h. s. 

in southern Illinois) about the last of February, 1862. We 
were sent to Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, and remained 
there drilling (when the weather would permit) until March 
25th. We left on that day for the front. It was a cloudy, 
drizzly, and most gloomy day, as we marched through the 
streets of St. Louis down to the levee, to embark on a trans- 
port that was to take us to our destination. The city was 
enveloped in that pall of coal smoke for which St. Louis is 
celebrated. It hung heavy and low and set us all to cough- 
ing. I think the colonel must have marched us down some 
by-street. It was narrow and dirty, with high buildings on 
either side. The line officers took the sidewalks, while the 
regiment, marching by the flank, tramped in silence down the 
middle of the street, slumping through the nasty, slimy mud. 
There was one thing very noticeable on this march through 
St. Louis, and that was the utter lack of interest taken in us 
by the inhabitants. From pictures I had seen in books at 
home, my idea was that when soldiers departed for war, 
beautiful ladies stood on balconies and waved snowy-white 
handkerchiefs at the troops, while the men stood on the side- 
walks and corners and swung their hats and cheered. 

There may have been regiments so favored, but ours 
was not one of them. Occasionally a fat, chunky-looking 
fellow, of a gloomy cast of countenance, with a big pipe in 
his mouth, would stick his head out of a door or window, look 
at us a few seconds, and then disappear. No handkerchiefs 
nor hats were waved, we heard no cheers. My thoughts at 
the time were that the Union people there had all gone to 
war, or else the colonel was marching us through a ^'Secesh*^ 
part of town. 

We marched to the levee and from there on board the 
big side-wheel steamer. Empress. The next evening she 
unfastened her moorings, swung her head out into the river, 
turned down stream, and we were off for the **seat of war.'^ 
We arrived at Pittsburg Landing on March 31st. Pittsburg 
Landing, as its name indicates, was simply a landing place 
for steamboats. It is on the west bank of the Tennessee 



Voi.xv,Nos.i.2 7^ the Banks at Shiloh 463 

river, in a thickly wooded region about twenty miles north- 
east of Corinth. There was no town there then, nothing but 
**the log house on the hilP' that the survivors of the battle 
of Shiloh will all remember. The banks of the Tennessee 
on the Pittsburg Landing side are steep and bluffy, rising 
about 100 feet above the level of the river. Shiloh church, 
that gave the battle its name, was a Methodist meeting house. 
It was a small hewed log building with a clapboard roof, 
about two miles out from the landing on the main Corinth 
road. On our arrival we were assigned to the division of 
General B. M. Prentiss, and we at once marched out and 
went into camp. About half a mile from the landing the road 
forks, the main Corinth road goes to the right, past Shiloh 
church, the other goes to the left. These two roads come 
together again some miles out. General Prentiss' division 
was camped on this left-hand road at right angles to it. Our 
regiment went into camp almost on the extreme left of Pren- 
tiss' line. There was a brigade of Sherman's division under 
General Stuart still further to the left, about a mile, I think, 
in camp near a ford of Lick Creek, where the Hamburg and 
Purdy road crosses the creek ; and between the left of Pren- 
tiss' and General Stuart's camp there were no troops. I 
know that, for during the few days intervening between our 
arrival and the battle I roamed all through those woods on 
our left, between us and Stuart, hunting for wild onions and 
** turkey peas." 

The camp of our regiment was about two miles from the 
landing. The tents were pitched in the woods, and there 
was a little field of about twenty acres in our front. The 
camp faced nearly west, or possibly southwest. 

I shall never forget how glad I was to get off that old 
steamboat and be on solid ground once more, in camp out 
in those old woods. My company had made the trip from 
St. Louis to Pittsburg Landing on the hurricane deck of the 
steamboat, and our fare on the route had been hardtack and 
raw fat meat, washed down with river water, as we had no 
chance to cook anything, and we had not then learned the 



464 Leander Stillwell J- 1- s. h. s. 

trick of catching the surplus hot water ejected from the boilers 
and making coffee with it. But once on solid ground, with 
plenty of wood to make fires, that bill of fare was changed. 
I shall never again eat meat that will taste as good as the 
fried ^'sowbelly'' did then, accompanied by '^flap-jacks'' 
and plenty of good, strong coffee. We had not yet settled 
down to the regular drills, guard duty was light, and things 
generally seemed to run **kind of loose." And then the 
climate was delightful. We had just left the bleak, frozen 
north, where all was cold and cheerless, and we found our- 
selves in a clime where the air was as soft and warm as it 
was in Illinois in the latter part of May. The green grass 
was springing from the ground, the *' Johnny-jump-ups" were 
in blossom, the trees were bursting into leaf, and the woods 
were full of feathered songsters. There was a redbird that 
would conie every morning about sun-up and perch himself in 
the tall black-oak tree in our company street, and for per- 
haps an hour he would practice on his impatient, querulous 
note, that said, as plain as a bird could say, **Boys, boys! 
get up ! get up ! get up ! " It became a standing remark among 
the boys that he was a Union redbird and had enlisted in our 
regiment to sound the reveille. 

So the time passed pleasantly away until that eventful 
Sunday morning, April 6, 1862. According to the Tribune 
Almanac for that year, the sun rose that morning in Tennes- 
see at 38 minutes past five o'clock. I had no watch, but I 
have always been of the opinion that the sun was fully an 
hour and a half high before the fighting began on our part 
of the line. We had *' turned out" about sun-up, answered 
to roll-call, and had cooked and eaten our breakfast. We 
had then gone to work, preparing for the regular Sunday 
morning inspection, which would take place at nine o'clock. 
The boys were scattered around the company streets and in 
front of the company parade grounds, engaged in polishing 
and brightening their muskets, and brushing up and cleaning 
their shoes, jackets, trousers, and clothing generally. It was a 
most beautiful morning. The sun was shining brightly 



voi.xv,Nos.i-2 7^ the Ranks at Shiloh 465 

through the trees, and there was not a cloud in the sky. It 
really seemed like Sunday in the country at home. During 
week days there was a continual stream of army wagons going 
to and from the landing, and the clucking of their wheels, the 
yells and oaths of the drivers, the cracking of whips, mingled 
with the braying of mules, the neighing of the horses, the 
commands of the officers engaged in drilling the men, the 
incessant hum and buzz of the camps, the blare of bugles, and 
the roll of drums — all these made up a prodigious volume 
of sound that lasted from the coming-up to the going-down 
of the sun. But this morning was strangely still. The 
wagons were silent, the mules were peacefully munching their 
hay, and the army teamsters were giving us a rest. I listened 
with delight to the plaintive, mournful tones of a turtle-dove 
in the woods close by, while on the dead limb of a tall tree 
right in the camp a woodpecker was sounding his ^^Long 
rolP' just as I had heard it beaten by his Northern brothers 
a thousand times on the trees in the Otter Creek bottom at 
home. 

Suddenly, away off on the right, in the direction of 
Shiloh church, came a dull, heavy **Pum!" then another, and 
still another. Every man sprung to his feet as if struck by 
an electric shock, and we looked inquiringly into one an- 
other's faces. ^*What is thatT' asked every one, but no 
one answered. Those heavy booms then came thicker and 
faster, and just a few seconds after we heard that first dull, 
ominous growl, off to the southwest came a low, sullen, con- 
tinuous roar. There was no mistaking that sound. That 
was not a squad of pickets emptying their guns on being 
relieved from duty; it was the continuous roll of thousands 
of muskets, and told us that a battle was on. 

What I have been describing just now occurred during 
a few seconds only, and with the roar of musketry the long 
roll began to beat in our camp. Then ensued a scene of 
desperate haste, the like of which I certainly had never seen 
before, nor ever saw again. I remember that in the midst 
of this terrible uproar and confusion, while the boys were 



466 Leander Stillwell J- 1- s. h. s. 

buckling on their cartridge boxes, and before even the com- 
panies had been formed, a mounted staff officer came gallop- 
ing wildly down the line from the right. He checked and 
whirled his horse sharply around right in our company street, 
the iron-bound hoofs of his steed crashing among the tin 
plates lying in a little pile where my mess had eaten its break- 
fast that morning. The horse was flecked with foam and 
its eyes and nostrils were red as blood. The officer cast one 
hurried glance around him, and exclaimed: *'My God! this 
regiment not in line yet! They have been fighting on the 
right over an hour ! ' ' And wheeling his horse, he disappeared 
in the direction of the colonel's tent. 

I know now that history says the battle began about 
4:30 that morning; that it was brought on by a reconnoitering 
party sent out early that morning by General Prentiss ; that 
General Sherman's division on the right was early advised of 
the approach of the Eebel army, and got ready to meet them 
in ample time. I have read these things in books and am not 
disputing them, but am simply telling the story of an en- 
listed man on the left of Prentiss' line as to what he saw 
and knew of the condition of thing at about seven o'clock that 

Well, the companies were formed, we marched out on the 
regimental parade ground, and the regiment was formed in 
line. The command was given : ^ ^ Load at will ; load ! ' ' We 
had anticipated this, however, as the most of us had instinct- 
ively loaded our guns before we had formed company. All 
this time the roar on the right was getting nearer and louder. 
Our old colonel rode up close to us, opposite the center of 
the regimental line, and called out , ** Attention, battalion!" 
We fixed our eyes on him to hear what was coming. It turned 
out to be the old man's battle harangue. 

*' Gentlemen," said he, in a voice that every man in the 
regiment heard, *' remember your State, and do your duty 
today like brave men." 

That was all. A year later in the war the old man 
doubtless would have addressed us as *' soldiers," and not 



Voi.xv,Nos.i.2 In the Ranks at SJiiloh 467 

as ** gentlemen," and he would have omitted his allusion to 
the *^ State," which smacked a little of Confederate notions. 
However, he was a Douglas Democrat, and his mind was 
probably running on Buena Vista, in the Mexican war, where, 
it is said, a Western regiment acted badly, and threw a cloud 
over the reputation for courage of the men of that State 
which required the thunders of the Civil AVar to disperse. 
Immediately after the colonel had given us his brief exhorta- 
tion, the regiment was marched across the little field I have 
before mentioned, and we took our place in line of battle, the 
woods in front of us, and the open field in our rear. We 
*' dressed on" the colors, ordered arms, and stood awaiting 
the attack. By this time the roar on the right had become 
terrific. The Rebel army was unfolding its front, and the 
battle was steadily advancing in our direction. We could 
begin to see the blue rings of smoke curling upward among 
the trees off to the right, and the pungent smell of burning 
gun powder filled the air. As the roar came travelling 
down the line from the right it reminded me (only it was 
a million times louder) of the sweep of a thunder-shower in 
summer-time over the hard ground of a stubble-field. 

And there we stood, in the edge of the woods, so still, 
waiting for the storm to break on us. I know mighty well 
what I was thinking about then. My mind's eye was fixed 
on a little log cabin, far away to the north, in the backwoods 
of western Illinois. I could see my father sitting on the 
porch, reading the little local newspaper brought from the 
postof fice the evening before. There was my mother getting 
my little brothers ready for Sunday school ; the old dog lying 
asleep in the sun ; the hens cackling about the barn ; all these 
things and a hundred other tender recollections rushed into 
my mind. I am not ashamed to say now that I would will- 
ingly have given a general quit-claim deed for every jot and 
tittle of military glory falling to me, past, present, and to 
come, if I only could have been miraculously and instanta- 
neously set down in the yard of that peaceful little home, a 
thousand miles away from the haunts of fighting men. 



468 Leander Stillwell J- 1- s. h. s. 

The time we thus stood, waiting the attack, could not 
have exceeded five minutes. Suddenly, obliquely to our 
right, there was a long wavy flash of bright light, then an- 
other, and another ! It was the sunlight shining on gun bar- 
rels and bayonets — and — there they were at last! A long 
brown line, with muskets at a right shoulder shift, in excellent 
order, right through the woods they came. 

We began firing at once. From one end of the regiment 
to the other leaped a sheet of red flame, and the roar that 
went up from the edge of that old field doubtless advised 
General Prentiss of the fact that the Eebels had at last struck 
the extreme left of his line. We had fired but two or three 
rounds when, for some reason — I never knew what — ^we were 
ordered to fall back across the field, and did so. The whole 
line, so far as I could see to the right went back. We halted 
on the other side of the field, in the edge of the woods, in 
front of our tents, and again began firing. The Rebels, of 
course, had moved up and occupied the line we had just aban- 
doned. And here we did our first hard fighting during the 
day. Our officers said, after the battle was over, that we 
held this line an hour and ten minutes. How long it was I 
do not know. I ''took no note of time.'' 

We retreated from tliis position as our officers afterward 
said, because the troops on our right had given away, and 
we were flanked. Possibly those boys on our right would 
give the same excuse for their leaving, and probably truly, 
too. Still, I think we did not fall back a minute too soon. 
As I rose from the comfortable log from behind which a bunch 
of us had been firing, I saw men in gray and brown clothes, 
with trailed muskets, running through the camp on our right, 
and I saw something else, too, that sent a cMU all through 
me. It was a kind of flag I had never seen before. It was 
a gaudy sort of thing, with red bars. It flashed over me 
in a second that that thing was a Rebel flag. It was not 
more than sixty yards to the right. The smoke around it 
was low and dense and kept me from seeing the man who 
was carrying it, but I plainly saw the banner. It was going 



voi.xv,Nos.i.2 In the Ranks at Shiloh 469 

fast, with a jerky motion, which told me that the bearer was 
on a double-quick. About that time we left. We observed 
no kind of order in leaving ; the main thing was to get out of 
there as quick as we could. I ran down our company street, 
and in passing the big Sibley tent of our mess I thought of 
my knapsack with all my traps and belongings, including 
that precious little packet of letters from home. I said to 
myself, *'I will save my knapsack, anyhow;" but one quick 
backward glance over my left shoulder made me change my 
mind, and I went on. I never saw my knapsack or any of its 
contents afterwards. 

Our broken forces halted and re-formed about half a 
mile to the rear of our camp on the summit of a gentle ridge, 
covered with thick brush. I recognized our regiment by the 
little gray pony the old colonel rode, and hurried to my place 
in the ranks. Standing there with our faces once more to 
the front, I saw a seemingly endless column of men in blue, 
marching by the flank, who were filing off to the right through 
the woods, and I heard our old German adjutant, Cramer, 
say to the colonel, '*Dose are de troops of Sheneral Hurlbut. 
He is forming a new line dere in be bush." I exclaimed to 
myself from the bottom of my heart, ^' Bully for General Hurl- 
but and the new line in the bush ! Maybe we '11 whip 'em yet. ' ' 
I shall never forget my feelings about this time. I was 
astonished at our first retreat in the morning across the 
field back to our camp, but it occurred to me that maybe 
that was only ^^ strategy" and all done on purpose; but when 
we had to give up our camp, and actually turn our backs and 
run half a mile, it seemed to me that we were forever dis- 
graced, and I kept thinking to myself: *^What will they say 
about this at home?" 

I was very dry for a drink, and as we were doing nothing 
just then, I slipped out of ranks and ran down to the little 
hollow in our rear, in search of water. Finding a little pool, 
I threw myself on the ground and took a copious draught. 
As I rose to my feet, I observed an officer about a rod above 
me also quenching his thirst, holding his horse meanwhile 



470 Leander Stillwell J- 1- s. h. s. 

by the bridle. As he rose I saw it was our old adjutant. At 
no other time would I have dared accost him unless in the 
line of duty, but the situation made me bold. *^ Adjutant, '* 
I said, **What does this mean — our having to run this way? 
Ain't we whipped?" He blew the water from his mustache, 
and quickly answered in a careless way: ^*0h, no; dat is all 
ride. We yoost fall back to form on the reserve. Sheneral 
Buell vas now crossing der river mit 50,000 men, and vill 
be here pooty quick ; and Sheneral Lew Vallace is coming from 
Crump's Landing mit 15,000 more. Ve vips 'em; ve vips 'em. 
Go to your gompany." Back I went on the run, with a heart 
as light as a feather. As I took my place in the ranks be- 
side my chum. Jack Medford, I said to him: ^* Jack, I've just 
had a talk with the old adjutant, down at the branch where 
I 've been to get a drink. He says Buell is crossing the river 
with 75,000 men and a whole world of cannon, and that some 
other general is coming up from Crump's Landing with 
25,000 more men. He says we fell back here on purpose, and 
that we're going to whip the Secesh, just sure. Ain't that 
just perfectly bully?" I had improved some on the adju- 
tant's figures, as the news was so glorious I thought a little 
variance of 25,000 or 30,000 men would make no difference 
in the end. But as the long hours wore on that day, and 
still Buell and Wallace did not come, my faith in the adju- 
tant's veracity became considerably shaken. 

It was at this point that my regiment was detached from 
Prentiss ' division and served with it no more that day. We 
were sent some distance to the right to support a battery, 
the name of which I never learned.* It was occupying the 
summit of a slope, and was actively engaged when we reached 
it. We were put in position about twenty rods in the rear 
of the battery, and ordered to lie flat on the ground. The 
ground sloped gently down in our direction, so that by hug- 
ging it close, the rebel shot and shell went over us. 

It was here, at about ten o'clock in the morning, that I 

NoTE.--Some years after this sketch was written I ascertained that this 
battery was Richardson's, Co. D, 1st Missouri Light ArtiUery. 



Voi.xv,Nos.i.2 In the Ranks at Shiloh 471 

first saw Grant that day. He was on horseback, of course, 
accompanied by his staff, and was evidently making a per- 
sonal examination of his lines. He went by us in a gallop, 
riding between us and the battery, at the head of his staff. 
The battery was then hotly engaged; shot and shell were 
whizzing overhead, and cutting off the limbs of trees, but 
Grant rode through the storm with perfect indifference, seem- 
ingly paying no more attention to the missiles than if they 
had been paper wads. 

We remained in support of this battery until about 2 
o'clock in the afternoon. We were then put in motion by 
the right flank, filed to the left, crossed the left-hand Corinth 
road ; then we were thrown into the line by the command : ''By 
the left flank, march.'' We crossed a little ravine and up 
a slope, and relieved a regiment on the left of Hurlbut's line. 
This line was desperately engaged, and had been at this point, 
as we afterward 's learned, for fully four hours. I remem- 
ber as we went up the slope and began firing, about the first 
thing that met my gaze was what out West we would call a 
** windrow" of dead men in blue; some doubled up face down- 
ward, others with their white faces upturned to the sky, brave 
boys who had been shot to death in ''holding the line." Here 
we stayed until our last cartridge was shot away. We were 
then relieved by another regiment. We filled our cartridge 
boxes again and went back to the support of our battery. 
The boys laid down and talked in low tones. Many of our 
comrades alive and well an hour ago, we had left dead on 
that bloody ridge. And still the battle raged. From right 
to left, everywhere, it was one never-ending, terrible roar, 
with no prospect of stopping. 

Somewhere between 4 and 5 o'clock, as near as I can 
tell, everything became ominously quiet. Our battery ceased 
firing; the gunners leaned against the pieces and talked and 
laughed. Suddenly a staff officer rode up and said some- 
thing in a low tone to the commander of the battery, then rode 
to our colonel and said something to him.^ The battery 
horses were at once brought up from a ravine in the rear, 



472 Leander Stillwell J- 1- »• ^^' s. 

and the battery limbered up and moved off through the woods 
diagonally to the left and rear. We were put in motion by 
the flank and followed it. Everything kept so still, the 
loudest noise I heard was the clucking of the wheels of the 
gun-carriages and caissons as they wound through the woods. 
We emerged from the woods and entered a little old field. 
I then saw to our right and front lines of men in blue moving 
in the same direction we were, and it was evident that we were 
falling back. All at once, on the right, the left, and from 
our recent front, came one tremendous roar, and the bullets 
fell like hail. The lines took the double-quick towards the 
rear. For awhile the attempt was made to fall back in order, 
and then everything went to pieces. My heart failed me 
utterly. I thought the day was lost. A confused mass of 
men and guns, caissons, army wagons, ambulances, and all 
the debris of a beaten army surged and crowded along the 
narrow dirt road to the landing, while that pitiless storm of 
leaden hail came crashing on us from the rear. It was un- 
doubtedly at this crisis in our affairs that the division of 
General Prentiss was captured. 

I will digress here for a minute to speak of a little inci- 
dent connected with this disastrous feature of the day that 
has always impressed me as a pathetic instance of the pa- 
triotism and unselfish devotion to the cause that was by no 
means uncommon among the rank and file of the Union 
armies. 

There was in my company a middle-aged German named 
Charles Oberdieck. According to the company descriptive 
book, he was a native of the then kingdom of Hanover, now 
a province of Prussia. He was a typical German, flaxen- 
haired, blue-eyed, quiet and taciturn, of limited and meager 
education, but a model soldier, who accepted without ques- 
tion and obeyed without a murmur the orders of his military 
superiors. Prior to the war he had made his living by 
chopping cord-wood in the high, timbered hills near the mouth 
of the Illinois river, or by working as a common laborer in 
the country on the farms at $14.00 a month. He was un- 



Voi.xv,Nos.i-2 In the Ranks at Shiloh 473 

married, his parents were dead, and he had no other im- 
mediate relatives surviving, either in his fatherland or in 
the country of his adoption. He and I enlisted from the 
same neighborhood. I had known him in civil life at home, 
and hence he was disposed to be more communicative with 
me than with the other boys of the company. A day of two 
after the battle he and I were sitting in the shade of a tree, 
in camp, talking over the incidents of the fight. '* Charley,'^ 
I said to him, ^^How did you feel along about four o'clock 
Sunday afternoon when they broke our lines, we were falling 
back in disorder, and it looked like the whole business was 
gone up generally?'' He knocked the ashes from his pipe 
and, turning his face quickly towards me, said: **I yoost tells 
you how I feels. I no care any dings about Charley ; he haf 
no wife nor children, f adder nor mudder, brudder nor sister ; 
if Charley get killed, it makes no difference ; dere vas nobody 
to cry for him, so I dinks nudding about myself s ; but I tells 
you, I yoost den feels bad for de Cause!" 

Noble, simple-hearted old Charley ! It was the imminent 
danger only to the Cause that made his heart sink in that 
seemingly fateful hour. When we heard in the malignant 
and triumphant roar of the Rebel cannon in our rear what 
might be the death-knell of the last great experiment of 
civilized men to establish among the nations of the world 
a united republic, freed from the curse of pampered kings 
and selfish, grasping aristocrats — ^it was in that moment, in 
his simple language, that the peril to the Cause was the 
supreme and only consideration. 

It must have been when we were less than half a mile 
from the landing on our disorderly retreat before mentioned, 
that we saw standing in the line of battle, at ordered arms, 
extending from both sides of the road until lost to sight in the 
woods, a long, well-ordered line of men in blue. What did 
that mean, and where had they come from? I was walking 
by the side of Enoch Wallace, the orderly sergeant of my 
company. He was a man of nerve and courage, and by 
word and deed had done more that day to hold us green and 



474 Leander StUlwell ^' ^- s. h. s. 

untried boys in ranks and firmly to our duty than any other 
man in the company. But even he, in the face of this seem- 
ingly appalling state of things, had evidently lost heart. I 
said to him: ^^ Enoch, what are those men there forT' He 
answered in a low tone: **I guess they are put there to hold 
the Rebels in check till the army can get across the river.'' 
And doubtless that was the thought of every intelligent sol- 
dier in our beaten column. And yet it goes to show how little 
the common soldier knew of the actual situation. We did 
not know then that this line was the last line of battle of the 
*' Fighting Fourth Division'' under General Hurlbut; that 
on its right was the division of McClernand, the Fort Donel- 
son boys; that on its right, at right angles to it, and, as it 
were, the refused wing of the army, was glorious old Sher- 
man, hanging on with bulldog grip to the road across Snake 
Creek from Crump's Landing by which Lew Wallace was 
coming with 5,000 men. In other words, we still had an 
unbroken line confronting the enemy, made up of men who 
were not yet ready, by any manner of means, to give up that 
they were whipped. Nor did we know then that our retreating 
mass consisted only of some regiments of Hurlbut 's division, 
and some other isolated commands, who had not been duly 
notified of the recession of Hurlbut and of his falling back 
to form a new line, and thereby came very near sharing the 
fate of Prentiss' men and being marched to the rear as 
prisoners of war. Speaking for myself, it was twenty years 
after the battle before I found these things out, yet they are 
true, just as much so as the fact that the sun rose yesterday 
mornins:. Well, we filed through Hurlbut 's line, halted, 
re-formed, and faced to the front once more. We were 
put in place a short distance in the rear of Hurlbut, as a 
support to some heavy guns. It must have been about five 
o'clock now. Suddenly, on the extreme left, and just a 
little above the landing, came a deafening explosion that fairly 
shook the ground beneath our feet, followed by others in ouiek 
and regular succession. The look of wonder and inquiry 
that the soldiers' faces wore for a moment disappeared for 



voi.xv,Nos.i.2 7^^ the Ranks at Shiloh 475 

one of joy and exultation as it flashed across our minds that 
the gunboats had at last joined hands in the dance, and were 
pitching big twenty-pound Parrot shells up the ravine in front 
of Hurlbut, to the terror and discomfiture of our adversaries. 

The last place my regiment assumed was close to the 
road coming up from the landing. As we were lying there 
I heard the strains of martial music and saw a body of men 
marching by the flank up the road. I slipped out of ranks 
and walked out to the side of the road to see what troops 
they were. Their band was playing '^Dixie's Land,'^ and 
playing it well. The men were marching at a quick step, 
carrying their guns, cartridge-boxes, haversacks, canteens, 
and blanket-rolls. I saw that they had not been in the fight, 
for there was no powder-smoke on their faces. ^^What 
regiment is thisT' I asked of a young sergeant marching on 
the flank. Back came the answer in a quick, cheery tone, 
*'The 36th Indiana, the advance guard of BuelPs army." 

I did not, on hearing this, throw my cap into the air and 
yell. That would have given those Indiana fellows a chance 
to chaff and guy me, and possibly make sarcastic remarks, 
which I did not care to provoke. I gave one big, gasping 
swallow and stood still, but the blood thumped in the veins 
of my throat and my heart fairly pounded against my little 
infantry jacket in the joyous rapture of this glorious intelli- 
gence. Soldiers need not be told of the thrill of unspeakable 
exultation they all have felt at the sight of armed friends in 
danger's darkest hour. Speaking for myself alone, I can only 
say, in the most heart-felt sincerity, that in all my obscure 
military career, never to me was the sight of re-inforcing 
legions so precious and so welcome as on that Sunday evening 
when the rays of the descending sun were flashed back from 
the bayonets of BuelPs advance column as it deployed on the 
bluffs of Pittsburg Landing. 

My account of the battle is about done. So far as I saw 
or heard, very little fighting was done that evening after 
BuelPs advance crossed the river. The sun must have been 
fully an hour high when anything like regular and continuous 



476 Leander Stillwell J- 1- s. h. s. 

firing had entirely ceased. What the result would have 
been if Beauregard had massed his troops on our left and 
forced the fighting late Sunday evening would be a matter 
of opinion, and a common soldier's opinion would not be con- 
sidered worth much. 

My regiment was held in reserve the next day, and was 
not engaged. I have, therefore, no personal experience of 
that day to relate. After the battle of Shiloh, it fell to my 
lot to play my humble part in several other fierce conflicts 
of arms, but Shiloh was my maiden fight. It was there I 
first saw a gun fired in anger, heard the whistle of a bullet, or 
saw a man die a violent death, and my experiences, thoughts, 
impressions, and sensations on that bloody Sunday will abide 
with me as long as I live.