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Shiloh

Do you have the new PRENTICE eBook?
The Civil War Battle at Shiloh
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Fall 2000 and Revised 4 May 2004

A number of descendants of the Prentice, Prentis and Prentiss families fought at the Civil War Battle of Shiloh, including Joseph Rollin Prentice, great-grandfather of this Editor. We thought it would be of interest to our viewers, who had kin there, to read three accounts which we found on the Internet.

Here is an account by reporter T. B. Coon:

    We have followed the Perkin's Company of the 8th or Eagle regiment from Camp Randall to their first appearance on the battlefield at Fredericktown. We will now follow the fortunes of the Wheeler Company of the 16th regiment. Winter had set in before the Wheeler Company reached Camp Randall. The 16th regiment did not remain long at Madison but were rushed South in early Spring and within a few weeks as raw troops they took a prominent part in the great battle of Pittsburg Landing.

    The battle of Pittsburgh Landing or Shiloh, was fought on the 6th, 7th, and 8th of April, 1862. The first name is taken from a landing on the Tennessee river near which the battle took place, and the name "Shiloh" from a log meeting house some two or three miles from the landing, and which formed the key of the position of the Union army.

    General Grant in an article on this battle says: "Shiloh was the severest battle fought in the west during the war, and but few in the east equaled it for hard, determined fighting. I saw an open field in our possession on the second day over which the confederates made repeated charges the day before, so covered with dead that it would have been possible to walk across the clearing in any direction, stepping on dead bodies, without a foot touching the ground." He also says:

      "The confederate assaults were made with such disregard to human life that our line of tents soon fell in their hands. The national troops were compelled several times to take positions in the rear, nearer to Pittsburg Landing. In one of these backward moves, on the 6th, the division commanded by General Prentiss (Fn. 1) did not fall back with the others. This left his flank exposed and enabled the enemy to capture him with about 2,200 of his officers and men."

    Space will not allow any general review of this great battle. But I feel fortunate in being able to present an account of it, as given at the time by a member of Captain Wheeler's Company and the 16th regiment.

Here is another war correspondent's report:

    Pittsburg Landing, April 16, 1862. Editor Free Press. I wish you to find room in the Free Press for a few lines from the "Chippewa Valley Guards" and the gallant regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. We arrived at Pittsburg Landing March 20, 1862, encamped on the river until the 23rd, when orders came to strike tents and move forward, which we did, and encamped on a beautiful slope about two miles from the river, southwest.

    On the 1st of April we received orders to strike tents and move forward on the frontier in General Prentiss' division -- Colonel Peabody's Brigade. Saturday afternoon we were reviewed by General Prentiss and staff and he told the boys they composed as good a regiment of men as he ever saw. The general looked pleased, and his compliments filled the minds of the boys with such heroism as none but heroes can feel. But all this time we little thought that across this small field, in the thicket, stood the renowned Beauregard, Hardee and Bragg, watching our movements and looking up all the weak points in our line but nevertheless such was the case.

    Sunday morning our pickets encountered the enemy about one mile from our camp. The alarm was given -- the long roll sounded and our boys fell into line in double quick. General Prentiss rode along our lines telling us to use all speed for God's sake, for the enemy were advancing in force. Accordingly we hastened forth to the sons of chivalry. We crossed the field before mentioned, entered the woods for a few rods, and there beheld the foe advancing in columns, eight deep, and lines extending five miles; and behind this column came the second, third and fourth columns in battle array and behind this mass of human beings, came ten thousand more detailed to gather up the wounded and as fast as a man fell, to seize his gun and rush forward to battle.

    Our brigade struck bold and defiant as if inviting the enemy to come on. On they came, with overwhelming forces, determined to drive all before them and when within forty rods of our lines the 16th opened fire, which swept them down in great numbers. The second fire from the 16th killed their chief, S. A. Johnson, who rode a beautiful white charger in front of his men, accompanying them to what he supposed -- victory. We were not within supporting distance of any other regiment but appeared to be fighting the whole southern army on our own account.

    When our colonel perceived that they were flanking us right and left, then came the order to fall back and take a new position. This was the time we suffered our first loss, William Archer, James Walker, John Francisco and Louis R. Belknap fell dead, pierced by rebel bullets; it was there M. E. O'Connell, James Crawford, and John Jones fell badly wounded. in our retreat we brought off our wounded and drew up in line of battle in front of our tent.

    On they came, and in crossing the field before mentioned, we poured volley after volley into their midst that slaughtered them terribly. It was here that Oliver H. Browning and John Hanegan fell dead. At the same time, our Lieutenant-Colonel was badly wounded, shot through the thigh, and was carried off the field. Andrew Chambers and Thomas Gilfin were wounded here -- shot through the legs; also Jason P. Long, who was shot through the knee. Poor fellow, I fear he will lose his leg.

    We then had orders to fall back again through our camp. On this third retreat it began to resemble an Indian fight. It was every man for himself -- behind trees and logs -- contesting the ground inch by inch against twenty times their numbers. Our regiment fought on the retrograde movement about one mile when we made another stand, which told fearfully on the enemies side with no loss to ourselves. When our colonel, who stood firm as a rock of adamant saw we were likely to be flanked, and in fact, we were in the enemy's cross fire -- gave the orders to face back again.

    About this time there came reinforcements who had not yet been engaged -- who took the enemy in hand and gave us a chance to fall back and rest for a time. In a short time we rallied again and went into the fight, refreshed by the short respite we had had. It was on this fourth and last stand that the battle raged the fiercest. All along our lines for two hours we were held in reserve engaged only a part of the time.

    This was a trying time, the bullets flying thick as hail -- bombs bursting in all directions -- grape and canister in profusion. Here we lost some of our best officers. Colonel Allen was shot through the arm and was obliged to leave the field. The command then fell on Major Thomas Reynolds -- who, by-the-way, is as brave a man as ever drew a sword -- who was ordered to fall back to the river bank to recruit, to give a chance to Buell's men who had began to arrive. Our line had been gradually driven toward the river up to the time of Buell's reinforcement, and would have been whipped and taken prisoners, had it not been for Buell. He was the Blucher of the day that saved us from defeat. (Fn. 2)

Here is an account which appears at CONFEDERATE-TIMES-L@rootsweb.com; Conf Vet Feb 1911 Shiloh.

    A BOY'S IMPRESSIONS AT SHILOH, BY T. B. ANDERSON, GALLATIN, TENN.

    I was in the battle of Shiloh as a boy in the 28th Tennessee Infantry, commanded by Col. John P. Murray, Breckinridge's division. Early in the night of April 6, 1862, we were ordered out from Corinth, and we marched all night. Early next morning we broke in on the Yankees' breakfast arrangements, and we captured the entire camp, securing all of the provisions that the inner man desired. It was ready cooked, but our business was so pressing that we had no time to eat.

    After the enemy had time to form, we ran up against something. We fought them for a long time on the crest of a hill with a valley in front. There we lost our major, Jim Tolbert. The ball that ended his life passed so near my head that I dodged.

    We had fought them bitterly, when the gallant Gen. John C. Breckinridge rode up, carrying his hat in his hand, and said: "Charge them, Tennesseeans ! Charge them!" And we did it, sweeping everything before us. In passing over that ravine I could have walked on dead Yankees (Fn. 3). When we gained the crest of the intervening hill, we received the surrender of Prentice's Brigade. As a boy I jumped up and down, thinking the war, was over on seeing all those men stack their arms. But we fought them the rest of the day, until we crowded them back to the Tennessee River.

    That evening we lost the noble, the grand Sidney Johnston. We had them about ready to surrender, when we were ordered to lay down in line of battle. Beauregard was then in command, and I wonder why we did not reap the fruits of that victory.


Fn. 1: General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss was a descendant of Valentine Prentice who came from England in 1631 and settled in Roxbury, MA.

Fn. 2: Joseph Rollin Prentice, also a descendant of Valentine Prentice and cousin of General Prentiss, was among those reinforcements. Joseph is a great-grandfather of Linus Joseph Dewald, Editor of the PRENTICE NEWSLETTER, who is descended from Joseph's daughter, Florence.

Fn. 3: His mention that "...In passing over that ravine I could have walked on dead Yankees..." may indicate that such measurement was common among soldiers who fought at Shiloh. Joseph Pentice, mentioned in Fn. 2, above, in describing his experiences in the battle at Shiloh the next day, said he "...could have walked half a mile from where he was after the battle by walking on bodies instead of the ground."

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