Several pivotal Civil battlefields lie within close proximity to each other— Battle of Chicamaugua : Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. These sites make up the very first National Military Park. All are within 20 miles or less of Chattanooga, TN, a key strategic point for both the Union and Rebel forces. During the winter and spring of 1862- 1863, Union General Rosecrans had out maneuvered the Confederate General Braxton Bragg and systematically pushed his troops out of Tennessee. In late summer Bragg’s plans were to retake Chattanooga, a railroad hub and key to the mid –south through Georgia. Three large Confederate armies came together from great distances to amass a large force to retake the city. Bragg had concentrated his forces in La Fayette, GA, only 20 some miles south of Chattanooga. By September 17, Bragg had been reinforced by the Virginia division under the command of General John Bell Hood and the Mississippi division under Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson. This was the first time the Confederate forces had moved troops from one theatre to another for a strategic purpose.
The countryside to the east of Chattanooga is a series of mountain ridges running from northeast to southwest with valleys in between which are fairly rolling. At the time of the Civil War some of the land was cleared and cultivated and some was densely wooded. Several small farms were located in the valleys and some of the battle sites are named for the landowners there, such as Snodgrass Hill. Chickamauga Creek turned and twisted through the valley east of Missionary Ridge and Pigeon Mountain. Along the Creek the brush was thick and the ground was often swampy. The battle of Chickamauga took place over 7,000 acres as groups of troops encountered the enemy up and down the valley in some very difficult terrain. .Before the battle began, Union troops were scattered over 40 miles of ground.
Rosecrans was not expecting to meet Confederate troops in battle. Bragg has withdrawn to La Fayette but Rosecrans mistook this for a retreat and a victory for the Union.
Chattanooga was such an important strategic city that the Confederates wanted it back, and the battles of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain both took place after Chickamauga in an attempt to take back the city.
From the “History of the 115th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry” by Isaac Henry Clay Royse (published in 1900): “ In the afternoon of the 18th of September Whitaker’s brigade marched out the Ringold Road with the view of taking possession of Redhouse bridge over the Chickamauga, if it could be done without bringing on a general engagement.” After reaching Spring Creek, half a mile past McAfee church, the troops in advance were fired upon by Scott’s brigade of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry. A line of skirmishers (scouts) from the 96th Illinois and another from Aleshire’s battery drove the Confederates before them a half mile or more, losing only one man killed and three wounded. The Confederates withdrew and as night fell, the 115th rested under arms until 4 a.m. and then quietly withdrew to McAfee church.
The following morning, September 19th, 1863, shortly before dawn Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s soldiers began a series of aggressive attacks on the Union troops camped along the east bank of the Chickamauga Creek. The intent was to force a wedge between the Federal troops and Chattanooga, only 10 miles to the northwest. The goal was to take possession of the Chattanooga and La Fayette (Georgia) road. The Confederates gained some ground but could not break the long Union line. Around 11 p.m. General Longstreet’s divisions arrived, giving the Confederates greater advantage in number of troops (65,000 vs. 60,000 Union troops). When the battle commenced on the morning of September 20th, Rebel troops began coordinated attacks on the Union left flank, closest to the prized roadway.
In the densely wooded Union line, Rosecrans, the commanding general, failed to see a division of troops, and thought there was a gap in the line. He ordered Brigadier General Thomas Wood to move his troops to fill the gap. Wood knew there was no gap but he had been berated in front of his fellow officers earlier in the day for failing to move quickly enough and so he obeyed the orders he was given, creating a hole in the Union line. Confederate General Longstreet sent eight brigades in three lines through that gap. The federal troops were pushed off the field and began to retreat to McFarland’s gap, the only way back to Chattanooga.
Union commander George H. Thomas took command of scattered troops, belonging to several divisions who had not fled the field and consolidated them into a defensive position on Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill for a last stand. Confederate soldiers continued to assault them but the Union troops stood firm. Scores of men were killed and wounded in this attack. When these brave soldiers were almost at the breaking point, they were reinforced by two brigades of the Union’s reserve corps, including men from the Illinois 115th Infantry. These men were under the command of Maj. General Gordon Granger. They had been guarding a road but when they entered the battle they brought fire support and badly needed ammunition. Granger had shouted “I am going to Thomas, orders or no orders.” Thomas’ men protected the bulk of the army withdrawing through McFarland’s Gap and the original positions of the Union left. Thomas and his troops began to withdraw at darkness and the remaining men ran out of ammunition again. Granger was left in charge and issued the order to fix bayonets and charge. The remaining 563 men from the 21st and 89th Ohio and 22nd Michigan were captured. Thomas earned the title “The Rock of Chickamauga” for his role. Longstreet estimated he had ordered at least 25 separate assaults against Snodgrass Hill. The tenacious defense of Snodgrass Hill had earned the other retreating troops precious time.
Other heroes of the battle were Federal mounted cavalry troops called the “Lightning Brigade” from Illinois and Indiana under the charge of Col. John T. Wilder. With their Spencer repeating rifles they were able to delay a force many times their size. The Spencer rifle could get off 14 rounds per minute, a huge improvement over the 2-3 rounds per minute from other rifles of the Civil War.
Chickamauga was a Confederate victory but Bragg failed to follow up strategically. He failed to secure Chattanooga or to destroy Rosecrans’ army. Two months later the battle for Chattanooga would commence again. Chickamauga was the bloodiest battle of the western front with 16,000 Union men killed, wounded, captured or missing and 18,454 Confederates killed, wounded, captured or missing. Some divisions lost as much at 50% of their forces at this 2 day battle. Bragg lost ¼ of his troops. The thick woods and swamps of Chickamauga Creek made clearly drawn battle lines impossible. The officers of both sides had a poor view of the battlefield and armies shifted positions frequently. This led to vicious close-quarters combat which was particularly deadly.
The Illinois 115th lost about half of its men at Snodgrass Hill. For its gallant conduct in that action it received special commendation of its commanding generals and was granted the honor of carrying the division colors on the following day, as a mark of distinction. Company C of the 115th was made up of men chiefly from Wabash County. From the 115th Infantry Company C, Frederick Gadde of Edwards County died at Chickamauga. Thomas J. Freeman of Wabash County died at Chattanooga on October 16 of wounds (likely incurred at Chickamauga) and Wilbur F. Brown of Edwards County died at Chattanooga, October 14, 1863 of wounds (probably received at Chickamauga). William Frederick Schmidt and his close friend Christian Lipper, both from Evansville were in the battle of Chickamauga. William was saved by his comrade Christian who dragged him from the battlefield after he had been left for dead. These men later moved to Wabash County and raised large families. Edna Sickbert and Norman Schmidt are the descendants of William Schmidt and Ted Bosecker is the descendant of Christian Lipper.
Eleven local civil war units took part in the siege of Corinth and one unit participated in the battle of Corinth. This is the one civil war site where almost all the local troops visited.
The Siege of Corinth, MS took place during the early summer months of 1862. Confederate troops had dropped back to Corinth after the battle of Shiloh, bringing their wounded with them. General Halleck, said to be the greatest military strategist of his time, amassed 100,000 troops to take the city of Corinth.
Corinth was an important railroad hub for the Confederate states. The Army of the Ohio, the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the Mississippi converged on the town preparing to engage the Confederate commander Beauregard. The Union armies heavily entrenched and kept moving forward and entrenching, advancing five miles in three weeks. On the night of May 29th the Confederate commander P. G. T. Beauregard gave his troops 3 days rations, advised them to prepare for battle, set up Quaker cannons (logs to simulate cannon), had drums and buglers play all night and had his troops slip away, using the railroad to move wounded, supplies and troops. On May 30th when union troops moved into Corinth, they found no enemy there to engage. The Union referred to the Confederate retreat as “the evacuation” and Union troops were then moved elsewhere. But every one of those 11 local units was there digging in the Mississippi red earth and throwing up earthworks. One can hardly imagine the yards of dirt moved to prepare for this battle and all by men merely digging and carrying the dirt to its new location. There was no heavy equipment, no horse drawn scrapers or other equipment to assist.
The Illinois 40th Volunteer Infantry spent much of the month of May 1862 entrenched around Corinth as detailed in the history of the unit as written by Sergeant E. J. Hart of Company E. Companies D and E were from Wayne County, Illinois. Company I was made up of men from Wabash and Edwards counties. After marching from Pittsburg landing, on the Tennessee River and following a route which Rebel troops had used to flee from Shiloh, on May 2nd the 40th commenced building breastworks, the first they had built since leaving Paducah, KY. Several companies were issued Springfield rifles and turned in their old Harper’s Ferry muskets the following day. Sherman’s 5th division army formed a junction with the main army and was at the extreme right. General Pope’s division was at the extreme left of the circular line facing the city of Corinth which was about 8 miles long. The 40th regiment occupied the left portion of McDowell’s brigade (part of Sherman’s division) and was on the far right, the third regiment from the right. At the end of the day orders were received to advance the next morning so everyone was occupied the rest of the day preparing food to be carried into battle. They were told to have at least 2 days rations in their haversacks at all time for any emergency.
After a day’s march forward, the 40th again began digging another line of earthworks. Each regiment built the works in front of its own line. This was called camp Number 2 and they remained in this camp until May 7. On that date they advanced another mile and stopped in thick underbrush which was cleared for a camp and another line of earthworks was built (Camp No. 3). On May 11th the 40th Infantry advanced a mile and a half, erected another line of breastworks and cleared timber in front of their line for 100 yards to allow artillery to have full view with no obstructions.
On May 13th the line advanced a mile and a half and made contact with a heavy Rebel picket. The pickets were driven away and union breastworks were put up on the path which was previously occupied by the Rebel pickets. This was Camp No. 4 and it was permanently occupied in spite of heavy Rebel fire. The Union pickets were posted about a thousand yards ahead of the breastworks and kept up a continual fire with the Rebel pickets.
On May 17th, two regiments were sent forward to ascertain the strength of the enemy. They were under heavy fire but the Confederates retreated a mile. On May 21 the whole line advanced again and occupied the ground held by the Rebels the evening before. They immediately began to dig rifle pits quietly. They dug all afternoon and most of the night while General Sherman passed along occasionally and encouraged the troops. The troops were very appreciative and worked harder, for they loved General Sherman. The following day the works were strengthened and six large siege guns were brought in and set into position. Each gun was drawn by six yoke of oxen and these guns were nicknamed the ox battery. Field pieces were set up on the right and left of the ox battery about every thirty or forty feet. (A bit of research found that field pieces or cannon were 10, 20 or 30 pounders. The 30 pounders were the siege guns. Lots of information is on the internet if you just type in field pieces or field artillery in a search engine.)
On May 28th preparations were made to move forward again with the line moving out at 7 a.m. with the 40th Infantry in front supporting a battery of 2 twenty-four pounder Parrot guns. Parrot guns were an improvement made by welding/forging a thick iron band around the hindmost portion of the gun barrel. This added to the gun’s strength and durability. When the line reached the point of the picket line (in advance of the main portion of the troops), it halted, the guns were ordered into position very quietly and they commenced firing into the Rebel picket line. The Rebels retreated beyond the reach of the guns. A column of men was deployed to the right and left of the gun battery and the supporting 40th infantry. The entire line advanced forward and halted until around 3 p.m. The rebels tried desperately to break the Union lines, moving forward while yelling and screaming. As the Confederates moved forward the guns opened up and the columns right and left began firing, driving the Rebel troops back in confusion.
After dark another line of breastworks was set up with the men working all night long with no rest and with no light, lest they alert the Rebels of their position, draw fire or allow artillery to fix a position. By morning they were another mile nearer Corinth. On May 29th the 40th and the other regiments in their brigade were moved back to the right, the position they had originally occupied. This position was on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and 3 miles north of Corinth. Again they erected breastworks but were allowed to rest and eat a good supper that evening. This was camp No.7 and their last at the siege of Corinth. On May 30th early in the morning, news came that the Rebels were gone and Union troops entered the Rebel fort. There was great cheering as the Union troops entered the city of Corinth. They spent the day inside the city and the 40th moved back to Camp No. 7 to spend t
The Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi took place during June and July of 1863. Controlling the Mississippi river was paramount to success for the Union army under the direction of Ulysses S. Grant. He had systematically divided the Confederacy into sections with decisive campaigns to take strategic locations and weaken the enemy. Vicksburg was located on a range of high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River about equal distances from Memphis, Tennessee and the Gulf of Mexico. These bluffs were composed of hard packed clay and the erosion of several streams had separated the bluffs by deep ravines which were choked with cane and vines.
Of the 17 local military units fighting in the Civil War, 11 of these units participated in the Siege of Vicksburg. Although they were not much different than other units, I am using a “History of the 40th Illinois Volunteer Infantry” to assist in writing this article.
On May 14, 1863, Federal forces had attempted to engage Confederate troops under the command of Joseph E. Johnson at Jackson, MS, some 50 miles east of Vicksburg. Knowing he was outnumbered, Johnson slipped away but remained in the area and threatened Federal troops as they surrounded Vicksburg. The following day Grant moved his forces west towards Vicksburg. General William T. Sherman, as part of Grant’s forces remained at Jackson and destroyed Confederate supplies and any buildings and military installations there. Confederate forces under Pemberton attempted to join Johnson but were blocked by an attack by Grant’s troops at Champion’s Hill, a bloody battle where the same ground changed hands three times during the day. Pemberton ultimately retreated with his troops towards Vicksburg and entrenched on the Big Black River. This river runs roughly southwest between Jackson and Vicksburg and empties into the Mississippi about 25 miles below Vicksburg. The historic Natchez Trace crosses the Big Black River. Confederate forces had to retreat across the river but burned the bridges after crossing, delaying Union forces in their march toward Vicksburg. The 40th Illinois Regiment moved to Sherman’s command on June 23, 1863 at Black River and skirmished with Johnson’s army until the fall of Vicksburg.
After Confederate forces burned the bridge on the Big Black River, Federal troops were slowed down but did cross and took Haines/Haynes Bluff on May 18. On June 2 the Illinois 18th Infantry on board a steamboat , moved up the Yazoo River to Haines Bluff where they marched five miles and went into camp on the hills about 12 miles northeast of Vicksburg, within hearing distance of the incessant bombardment of Vicksburg. On June 16 the 18th Illinois Infantry, composed of 369 men ready for duty, moved near Division Headquarters, close to the center of the Federal line surrounding Vicksburg. Their duty here was to protect the Federal forces surrounding the city from attack by Confederate forces in their rear.
Vicksburg was easy to defend and difficult to attack. The city was impregnable from the Mississippi River. In May 1862, Farragut, the commander of the Union forces on the river had attacked from the river to no avail. The people of Vicksburg were pro-Union, having close ties to the mid west through river trade. After Confederate troops occupied the city Confederate Major Samuel Lockett reinforced and fortified the city. The work took several months to complete and took advantage of the natural terrain. Seven forts protected roads and the Vicksburg and Jackson Railroad. Every 200 yards advanced artillery batteries were placed, completing 8 miles of entrenchments to defend the city. Confederate troops burned houses along their line so their firing would not be obstructed. Federal sharpshooters picked off rebels inside lines so rebels built covered passageways from camps to the front.
By May 19 Pemberton’s men had begun to run out of supplies. The Union had built roads from a supply depot on the Yazoo River and was well supplied. The surrounding countryside was stripped of provisions so no provisions were available to aid the people and soldiers at Vicksburg. Grant’s troops attacked the city on this date but the attack was strongly repulsed. Confederates knew the city would eventually fall and Confederate General Pemberton asked his president, Jefferson Davis, for reinforcements but they could not come. General Longstreet would have been the most likely to assist but General Robert E. Lee had planned to invade the North (Gettysburg) and would not spare any troops to attack the Union from the rear. A different decision by Lee could have changed the course of history.
May 22, Union gunboats under Porter began bombarding Vicksburg from the Mississippi. Citizens in the city dug caves into the earth to stay in during the shelling. Negroes hired out to dig and were much in demand. This was a coordinated attack by land and water, using field cannon and sharpshooters from the land and mortars from the Mississippi. The attack came from west, north, northeast and east but the south was not covered. If Confederates tried to escape south they would be trapped between the Big Black River and the Mississippi. The synchronized attack began at dawn as five ironclads came up the Mississippi to attack Confederate positions and artillery shelling came from the land to soften up Rebel forces. At 10:00 a.m. Union troops advanced, some carrying ladders to scale the steep hills. The Rebels, low on ammunition, held their fire until that point to save ammo. The fierce fight continued until late afternoon with great losses of Union soldiers without any advance in Union position. Grant concluded the city could only be taken by siege.
After the battle Confederate soldiers crept onto the battlefield and took rifles and ammunition from the Union dead. They reinforced their position with cotton bales, sand bags and timbers and waited for the next attack. Rebel morale had been low after a series of defeats by had now returned.
A sustained bombardment by mortars from gunboats on the Mississippi began on May 23 and continued to the end of the siege. The citizens of Vicksburg were living in their caves. On June 20 Grant again began intensely bombarding with all cannon on land and all the fleet in the river, beginning at 4 a.m. and ending at 10 a.m. 2/3 of the shots over shot their military targets and landed in the city.
Much of the month of June was consumed with mining and tunneling underground to go under Confederate positions with explosives so these rebel strongholds could be disrupted and then overrun immediately after the explosion. The largest of these explosions was under the 3rd Louisiana Redan (a V-shaped fortification projecting toward an expected attack) at 3 p.m. on June 25. The one ton mine blew off the top of the hill and created a crater 12 feet deep and 50 feet in diameter but only killed 6 Confederates working on a counter-mine (a mine to stop or subvert the planned attack). The Confederates at the 3rd Louisiana Redan had pulled back to another fortification and strongly defended their position against the Illinois infantrymen who stormed the area after the explosion but who had to negotiate the massive crater.
Grant continued to keep one eye on the rear hoping Johnson’s troops would not come to attack the Federal troop’s rear flank and come to Pemberton’s defense.
By late June Confederate troops were on ½ rations—14 oz. of food per day. They were exhausted from constant attacks, weak, sick and almost starving. Citizens of Vicksburg were paying exorbitant prices for food when they could get it. Water was in short supply because of the dry summer. On June 28 Pemberton received a letter signed “many troops” which praised the struggle of his command but insisted it was useless to continue the struggle. A mutiny was threatened if Pemberton did not surrender. Commanders under Pemberton were polled and most agreed there was little to no hope. At 10 a.m. on July 3 white flags were placed along the Confederate works. At 3 p.m. Grant and Pemberton met to discuss terms. Confederate troops were paroled, saving the Union the cost of feeding and transporting 30,000 prisoners to Cairo, IL and then on to Washington, D.C. or Baltimore and then to POW camp on the James River. At 10:00 a.m. on July 4, 1863 Confederate troops marched out of Vicksburg, weeping, after 47 days of siege.
After Vicksburg fell, Johnson pulled east again and was engaged by Federal troops again at the battle of Jackson in July. The Illinois 40th Infantry was engaged in the battle at Jackson on July 16 the officers and men of the Regiment were compliments in public orders for bravery and gallant conduct. After the battle the Regiment destroyed bridged and railroads in and around Jackson and then returned to black River, north of Vicksburg until September 25, when they marched into Vicksburg then boarded vessels to Memphis.
he evening. By June 6th the 40th Illinois Infantry had marched west and left the area of Corinth.
After the Confederate retreat, the Union troops under General Rosencrans occupied the town, taking advantage of its east-west railroad the Memphis and Charleston and its north south railroad the Mobile and Ohio. The stretch of the two intersecting lines was the length and breadth of the Confederacy. After a quiet summer, in October 1862 the Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn tried to take back the town on the 3rd and 4th. They succeeded in penetrating to the very center of the city where the two railroad lines crossed but the Union troops fought hard and took back the town at a very heavy cost of life on both sides.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil war, the Wabash County Museum is researching and publishing information about the local troops who fought in that war. It is the intention to take the published information about local units of Civil War soldiers and bring it to the average reader and make the civil war and its battles 150 years ago more understandable. Most of us know the major campaigns and the most famous generals, but how did our local troops fit into this War Between the States? As I have learned from my research in local newspapers, archives and unit histories, there were many sides to the issues. There are local heroes and many young men who did their duty to country, as they saw it. Many didn’t return home and of those who did return, many suffered with long term injuries.
When the Civil War broke out in April 1861 it had been brewing for many years as state’s rights advocates clashed with federalists. Political compromises were made to keep the union together as long as possible before the differences became too great and war broke out when state after state seceded from the union. Northerners and Southerners alike thought it would be a short war. Young men strutted and bragged about showing those “Yankees” or those “Rebels” just how quickly they would be defeated. Lincoln first called for 60,000 troops for 90 days service and most folks thought the war would be over in 90 days. Few suspected just how long it would drag on, how much devastation would occur, how many men would be lost and how strongly committed their enemy was.
After the first battle of Bull Run, in which the union troops were defeated on July 21, 1861, Lincoln called for more troops. The South named the battles after the nearest town while the North named them after terrain features such as rivers or streams. Confederates referred to this as the battle of Manassas. Manassas, Virginia was a village with a vital railroad junction located south of Washington, D.C. Union troops moved toward that railroad junction and Confederate troops met them near a stream called Bull Run. The union soldiers crossed the Bull Run creek near a country chapel called Sudley Church. The little church became a hospital for union soldiers as the battle grew fierce and soon there were over 300 wounded Union troops around the church who were captured. The date and place of the battle was announced in advance and a crowd of spectators; men accompanied by women in fine hats with parasols, including several senators, had gathered to observe the battle, taking picnic lunches. When the fighting grew heavy, the buggies and carriages of civilian observers scurried back to Washington, D.C. for their safety. By 6 p.m. Lincoln received a telegram that the battle was lost. The Union was humiliated and the Confederates were jubilant.
Men all over the country began to campaign for units to be raised from their home counties. One of these men was Theodore S. Bowers of Mt. Carmel, IL. Bowers was born in Pennsylvania and by the age of 20 had come to Wabash County and learned the printer’s trade, becoming the editor of the Mt. Carmel Register. He had a great standing in the community because of his position at the newspaper and this made it possible to raise a company for the 48th Illinois Infantry Regiment very quickly. Bowers was asked to be the captain of the company, but refused and joined as a private. In September 1861, Company G, made up of men from Wabash County and Company H with men from Wabash and White counties joined the rest of the 48th Illinois Infantry Regiment at Camp Butler, Illinois. Men in the 48th Illinois came from Pope, Clay, Hardin, Washington, Marion, Wabash, White, Wayne and Clay counties and one company was from Kentucky. On November 11 the 900 men moved out to Cairo, Illinois and constructed barracks for their winter quarters.
In January the regiment was assigned reconnaissance near Columbus, KY on the Mississippi River. The battle of Belmont at Columbus was a raid by Union troops on the Confederate stronghold and was designed to test Confederate strength. It was the opening of the Union’s western campaign. (The Columbus-Belmont State Park is a great place to visit a battlefield within a days’ drive, where the fortifications built by Confederates and later occupied by Union forces are still visible and reconstructed buildings give the history of the site. A great chain was constructed across the Mississippi to keep union ships from passing and gaining control of the great river.)
In January of 1862 T. S. Bowers had been appointed as clerical assistant at Brig. General Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters.
In March 1862 the regiment was assigned to the Army of the Tennessee where the regiment participated in the campaign against Ft. Henry on the Tennessee River and Ft. Donelson on the Cumberland River.
More to come. Claudia Dant, Wabash County Museum
The battle of Shiloh or Pittsburgh Landing April 6, 1862
The Army of the Tennessee, under the command of U. S. Grant, had made its way up the Tennessee River (south) to Pittsburg Landing. The plan was to march overland 22 miles to attack Corinth, MS which was a key strategic railroad center. Grant’s Commander Halleck, the commander of the West, ordered him to wait before attacking for the additional support of Don Carlos Buell, commanding 55,000 men called the Army of the Ohio. Buell’s men had been occupying Bowling Green, KY and marched to Nashville, TN and then on to join Grant’s troops at Pittsburgh Landing. During the wait for the Army of the Ohio, Grant made plans for future campaigns and left his men in the charge of William T. Sherman, whose headquarters were in the one room Shiloh Church four miles south of Pittsburg Landing.
Many of the men which Sherman was commanding had not seen combat. The site seemed easy to defend since it was bounded by the Tennessee River and three creeks. It was surrounded by heavy woods and steep gullies which would seem to deter an attack and no defensive breastworks were prepared. Pickets were only one hundred yards from the camp.
By April 2 Buell’s troops were close to Savannah, TN and the Confederate commander Albert Sidney Johnson recognized that he needed to destroy Grant’s forces before Buell arrived. He ordered 4 corps under the command of Hardee, Polk, Bragg and John C. Breckinridge to advance on Shiloh and attack the following day. General P.G. T. Beauregard, second in command, wanted to also advance troops on parallel roads, delaying the arrival of the troops by one day. The spring weather turned wet and cold and the last of the Confederate troops did not leave Corinth, MS until April 5. The Confederates advanced to within 2 miles of the Union camp. The green Rebel troops were warned to keep quiet but they made considerable noise, even shooting game. Union troops heard and saw the rebels and some light fighting occurred. Federal skirmishers were sent out to find Confederates before dawn on April 6 and when they ran into Hardee’s advancing troops, the battle began. The Confederates set up two very long battle lines with Breckinridge’s troops held in reserve. These battle lines were so long it was not possible for commanders to control their corps during the battle. Hardee’s men led the assault and routed many Yankees in their camps. By 8 a.m. enough Union troops had resisted to prevent the Confederates from breaking their line. The Confederate attack was fierce for 2 to 3 hours but then lost momentum when southern troops plundered the food in Federal camps, where breakfast had been cooking, as most Confederate troops had not eaten in days.
Union commander Prentiss placed 1,000 men in an excellent position in a wood behind a brush obstructed fence at the edge of a sunken wagon road. The Confederates had to advance over open fields to attack the superior position. Prentiss was reinforced by two fresh Federal divisions commanded by Hurlbut and Wallace. Grant, several miles away at Savannah, heard the fighting and sent General Lew Wallace, commanding a division, six miles south toward Shiloh Church. The sunken road was attacked throughout the afternoon by as many as 17,000 Rebel forces in many waves with never more than 4,000 troops attempting to advance at a time. The firing from the Union position came so furiously that the Confederates called it the Hornet’s Nest. At around 4 p.m. Confederate General Daniel Ruggles brought in 62 cannon and concentrated the heaviest bombardment ever seen in American history, using hundreds of rounds of grape and canister shots into the Hornet’s Nest.
By evening many of the Federal troops had withdrawn to a new battle line at Pittsburgh Landing. Two regiments were forced to surrender. Fighting tapered off until morning but throughout the night Federal troops reinforced their position. Confederate General Beauregard felt he had won the battle and intended to finish off the Union army in the morning. The fighting had been so fierce that thousands of men lay wounded on the field, many badly burned by the heavy use of artillery. Rain fell through the night and it was described as “A Night in Hell”. There was no fresh water and many soldiers fell ill from drinking contaminated water. Gangrene set in on untended wounds. It is no wonder that Shiloh stands as one of the bloodiest battles of the civil war. At dawn the fighting began again as fresh union troops attacked the ground which Confederates had taken the day before. The Confederate position was around Shiloh Church and they resisted stubbornly throughout the morning but by mid afternoon Confederates retreated, taking as many as 5,000 wounded men back to Corinth, MS. 18,000 men became ill from drinking contaminated water. Information gleaned about local troops fighting at the Battle of Shiloh includes these troops:
66th Illinois Infantry Regiment, also known as Birge’s Western Sharpshooters. 31 of the men in Company I of this regiment mustered in with a Wabash County post office address, mostly from Friendsville and Lancaster, including William Penn Beesley, referred to in an earlier article in this series.
48th Illinois Infantry Regiment lost over half of its men killed or wounded at Shiloh. This was the regiment which had a company formed by Theodore S. Bowers, the editor of the Mt. Carmel Register newspaper. He was still with his unit at this time but later in the month of April was detached from the regiment and assigned as aide de camp to General U. S. Grant.
The 49th Illinois Infantry Regiment lost 17 men killed and 99 wounded including their Lieutenant Colonel Pease, the commander of the Regiment, and Major Bishop.
40th Illinois Infantry Regiment lost one commissioned officer killed and three wounded; 42 men killed and 148 wounded. From the History of the 40th Illinois Volunteer Infantry written by Sgt. E. J. Hart: “Col. Hicks, in the thickest of the fight, was in the front, urging his men on, directing their fire into a Rebel battery close in our front, from which we succeeded in driving its gunners, when his horse was shot from under him. As soon as the colonel recovered his feet again, a ball struck him in the left shoulder, rendering him almost helpless.” He was moved back to the river to receive treatment and the regiment was ordered to retreat. “After retreating some distance, Major Smith ordered a halt and succeeded in getting the thinned ranks in order again”. The men lay down to rest and stay out of the fire of enemy shells. A passing general’s aid inquired what regiment it was and asked why they were not moving forward. He was told all their cartridges had been expended. The aid indicated that they should fix bayonets and be ready for the next renewed enemy advance. They did so but were ordered back to the river about 4 p.m. to support a line of heavy siege guns there. The regiment spent the night there with no food and little sleep, “remaining in line and under arms all night”. The following morning of April 7 they were furnished with ample rations and placed under command of General Nelson, part of Buell’s army, to operate as a reserve unit to the fighting on the left. The enemy was engaged and steadily pushed back with little damage to the unit, with only one man being killed at that time. Eventually the enemy retreated, falling back past their own tents. The unit stayed there until evening and was then ordered back a mile and a half where they did picket duty throughout the night. A heavy rain fell with no shelter while they remained on duty and the men many years later said that night of picket duty on Monday of Shiloh was the most disagreeable night they ever spent in the army.
Tuesday the 8th they moved to the camps of the 71st Ohio Volunteer Infantry where they were ordered to remain and bury the dead near that place. They had helped themselves to the rations at that camp but the returning 71st complained heartily. After burying the dead, the regiment rested at that place the following night and then returned to their own camp on Wednesday the 9th. They found their own camp had been destroyed by the enemy and all their possessions left behind, such as knapsacks, had been robbed of their clothing and mementos such as miniature photos of their loved ones which had been destroyed by being ground into the soil by the enemy. The remaining stay in the camp was very sorrowful and unpleasant because everyone had some calamity to mourn, from losing their comrades to the loss of their mementos from home. Captain Hicks returned home to Salem, IL to recover from his wound. When his health returned, he rejoined the regiment on July 18, 1862.
The 18th Illinois Infantry Regiment was under the command of Major Eaton, acting Colonel, and Colonel Lawler at the battle of Shiloh. They were ordered to the front and marched towards Corinth, MS and engaged the rebels about a mile from camp. The line of battle was formed and the fight became fast and furious. Major Eaton was pierced by a ball and was taken from the field with Captain Brush taking command. The battle went on without ceasing and about 1 p.m. Captain Brush was wounded twice, compelling him to leave the field of battle. Captain Anderson was next to take command and remained in command through the remainder of the engagement. Of the 435 officers and men in the regiment, 10 were killed, 63 wounded and 2 went missing. The three color bearers were all killed in the first day’s battle. Major Eaton had resigned on April 1st but the notice of the acceptance did not reach him before the battle. He died of his wounds after commanding the Regiment in the Battle of Shiloh.
The 32nd Illinois Infantry Regiment went into action at the Battle of Shiloh at 8:30 a.m. and withstood three severe charges with slight loss. They were then ordered to the extreme left of Hulburt’s Division which was hard pressed by Breckinridge. The rebels made repeated desperate assaults and General Albert Sidney Johnson, the rebel commander was killed there. The 32nd Illinois held their position until about 3 p.m. being at short pistol range most of the time. When all their ammunition was exhausted and they were forced to use the cartridges in the boxes of the dead and wounded, the regiment retreated with fixed bayonets under terrible enemy fire. By the end of the day the regiment lost 44 killed and 212 wounded or taken prisoner. This was more than 50% of the men of the regiment.
A glance at Union muster rolls shows many who were discharged with a disabled status in June of 1862, shortly after Shiloh when sufficient time had passed to see that they would not mend or come back to fight. Shiloh remains one of the most remembered battles of the civil war for the number of men lost.
4 local regiments fought in Tennessee early in the Civil War; the 66th Illinois Infantry, the 48th Illinois Infantry, the 18th Illinois Infantry and the 30th Illinois Infantry. Most regiments did not see action prior to this time; they were training and it was winter. Winter was not a good time to go to war in the era before paved roads and mechanized vehicles; so most generals waited through the winter and planned strategy. Seven ironclads used in the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers campaign were built in the 5 months through the fall and winter of 1861-1862 and two steamboats were converted to military use. All were under the command of Admiral Andrew H. Foote and would work closely with the U.S. Army commanded by Ulysses S. Grant.
On February 4, the 30th Illinois Regiment was part of a much larger force which moved up the Tennessee River approaching Ft. Henry. Ft. Henry was a Confederate earth works on low ground on the east bank of the Tennessee River not far from the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The Confederate strategy was to hold the Mississippi River and generals had heavily fortified Columbus, Kentucky with very large cannon and a giant chain stretching across the Mississippi. They failed to see a threat from the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers until it was too late to complete their fortifications. Grant saw the weakness in the Tennessee and Cumberland River valleys and recognized the potential to move into the south on these waterways which were not well reinforced. Ft. Henry was commanded by Brigadier General Tilghman. On February 6, 1862 he sent 3,000 of his troops overland to nearby Ft. Donelson only 12 miles east on the Cumberland River. This nearly emptied the fort. Tilghman stayed behind with only artillery and wounded men on a hospital ship. Federal gunboats were proceeding south up the Tennessee River and approaching the fort. They had entered the mouth of the Tennessee near Cairo, IL and planned to attack Ft. Henry on February 7. Federal troops had landed north of the fort. Tilghman knew things did not look good so he sent his troops away overland and used the artillery to delay Federal troops to give his retreating men time to get to Ft. Donelson.
At around 11 a.m. on February 6 four ironclads and 3 wooden gunboats fired on Ft. Henry. Artillery in the fort returned fire. The fort surrendered at 2 p.m. 88 Confederate troops and 16 patients aboard the hospital ship were taken captive along with Gen. Tilghman.
15,000 Federal troops under Grant arrived late, due to very wet conditions. They occupied the Ft. for a brief time before marching on to Ft. Donelson. Illinois 30th Regiment was part of the attack on the fort. The Illinois 18th Regiment entered Ft. Henry on February 6 after the surrender. The Illinois 66th Regiment reported they occupied Ft. Henry on February 9. The gunboats returned to the Ohio River to proceed up the Cumberland River with its mouth at Smithland, KY.
Ft. Donelson was commanded by Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson. He had succeeded Tilghman and he called for reinforcements. General A. S. Johnson sent troops from Kentucky. Gen. Gideon Pillow from Clarksville, TN and Gen John B. Floyd from Russellville, KY were ordered to Ft. Donelson. By the time Federal troops arrived at Ft. Donelson, Confederate strength was 12,000 men under the command of 3 Brigadier Generals. On February 12, U. S. General Grant marched 12,000 men to Ft. Donelson in spring-like weather conditions. Many of the men abandoned their overcoats and bedrolls along the route of the march because it was so warm. They surrounded Ft. Donelson on the 13th and that night the weather turned deadly cold with temperatures dropping to 10 degrees with wind, rain and sleet. The union troops were caught off guard. They had no food and could not build campfires for fear of drawing fire from the Confederates defending the fort. Many froze to death because of their folly.
On February 14 Federal boats arrived carrying 10,000 more troops. In mid afternoon 4 gunboats attached Ft. Donelson at 2,000 yards. They drew no fire and moved in to 1,000 yards. Two guns fired from the fort. When the federal gunboats moved to 400 yards, 12 Confederate cannon opened fire ripping into the boats and disabling them one by one.
On the ground, Ft. Donelson was surrounded. The river was on the northeast and Federal troops were on the southwest. The Confederates attempted to move east and break out. They captured a vital road but did not take the chance to escape, believing that Federal troops were being reinforced. The Illinois 18th Infantry regimental records reports they were in the fierce fighting for this road. The attack to the east left the west side of the Confederate line weak. This was where Grant ordered a bayonet charge. The Confederate generals could not agree on a strategy, their men were outnumbered 4 to 1 and they had no food and not enough ammunition. Grant demanded unconditional surrender on February 16 after 3 days of fighting. The Illinois 48th regimental history reports they charged the enemy on Feb 13, were under fierce fire on Feb 14 and were fiercely engaged on Feb 15. The Illinois 30th took part in the battle Feb 13, 14 and 15. The Illinois 66th Regiment reports skirmishing at the front of the battle on February 13.
The capture of Fts. Henry and Donelson opened up a vital river route through the south which was important to the Union strategy and dealt a severe blow to the Confederates.
Today if one wants to visit the site of these battles, “The Trace” through Land Between the Lakes takes a route to Ft. Donelson National Military Park approximately 40 miles west of Clarksville, TN. Sounds like a fun weekend drive. The park will be commemorating the 150 anniversary of the campaign throughout 2012 with a variety of encampments, living history program, films, author visits and more.
The Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern took place on March 7-8, 1862 in northwestern Arkansas.
Union Brig. General Samuel R. Curtis, commanding the army of the southwest, came south from central Missouri and drove Confederate forces under command of Maj. General Sterling Price out of Missouri and into northwestern Arkansas.
Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn reorganized Confederate troops and launched a counter-offensive hoping to recapture northern Arkansas and Missouri. This is one of few battles where Confederate troops outnumbered Union troops
Union forces were primarily from Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio and over half were German immigrants who were placed in the 1st and 2nd divisions under the command of Brig. General Franz Sigel, also a German immigrant. Native born regiments were assigned to the 3rd and 4th Divisions. Company C of 36th Illinois Infantry was composed of mostly men from Sumner, IL in Lawrence Co.
Union General Curtis, expecting an attack, fortified a defensive position on the north side of Sugar Creek in Benton County, Arkansas. Their position was on either side of Telegraph or Wire Road. Telegraph Road went northeast from Little Sugar Creek to Elkhorn Tavern. This is less than 50 miles east of Bentonville, AR modern day headquarters of Wal-Mart and around 20 miles west of Eureka Springs, AR home of the famed Passion play. The man-made Beaver Lake is now nearby.
Confederate General Van Dorn split his forces in half and sent them north to try to get behind the union troops instead of attacking them head on in their entrenched position. The Confederates made the 3 day march from Fort Stephens, moving east, in the midst of a freezing storm and arrived hungry, tired and strung out along the line of march. Union Gen. Curtis had left his supply trains behind to make better speed, which was a smart decision. He had been warned of the Confederate movements by scouts and Arkansas union sympathizers. 700 Union reinforcements came from the southeast from Huntsville, marching 42 miles in 16 hours (record time). On March 6, union troops were sent to obstruct the Confederate pathway which led from Twelve Corner Church and Cross Timber Hollow. Numerous trees were cut down to block the roadway and had to be cleared before confederate troops could advance with their equipment. The Confederates under Van Dorn did not have an engineer corps to help with removing the trees, were marching by night, worked together poorly and were exhausted.
The plan was for two divisions of Confederate troops to reach Cross Timer Hollow by dawn but only the head or first of the men marching in one division made the target destination. Because of the delay, troops under Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch were ordered to take Twelve Corner Church and then to meet troops commanded by Major General Sterling Price at Elkhorn Tavern. Federal patrols detected both these threats on the morning of March 7. Union General Curtis sent troops up the Wire Road to join the 24th Missouri Infantry at Elkhorn Tavern because he was not certain where the main Confederate force was located.
The Confederate forces under the command of Gen. Benjamin McCullough were composed of a brigade of cavalry under Brig. Gen. James McIntosh, a brigade of infantry under Col Louis Hebert and a combined force of Native Americans from Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole cavalry under Brig. Gen. Albert Pike. These troops swung west on Ford Road and engaged parts of the Union army at a small village called Leetown, where there was a fierce firefight. Shortly before noon on March 7 a union force riding north through timber espied an entire Confederate division under McCullough marching east on Ford Road only a few hundred yards away. A small number of union troops were ordered to attack to give time to deploy union artillery. Three union cannon began shelling the Confederate troops. The Confederate troops were ordered to wheel to the south and attack. The massive Confederate charge overwhelmed the union troops. The Union cannon were captured. Two companies of troops from Iowa were ambushed by Cherokee troops with a large number killed and wounded and then the wounded were murdered and several were scalped.
Two companies of skirmishers from the Illinois 36th Infantry were posted along the southern edge of this same belt of timber which separated two farm fields. Federal gunners began lobbing shells over the belt of timber. Their first shells panicked the Cherokees who rapidly retreated and could not be rallied.
In the fighting around this belt of timber, two Confederate Generals were killed, General Sul Ross leading the 6th Texas Cavalry and General McIntosh. This left Col. Louis Hebert in command although he was not aware of this. Hebert had led his troops on the left flank into the woods for a powerful attack. Confederate colonels on the right flank began to fall back to await orders from Hebert. The right flank was eventually boxed in on three sides and retreated to Ford Road. A small group of Confederate soldiers with Hebert became separated from the rest of their troops in the smoky fighting and were lost in the woods, only to be captured later in the day. Confusion reigned among the Confederate command because of lack of clear chain of command and some units retreated to Twelve Corners Church with others being left in the field and some marching back toward Camp Stephens.
Temperatures fell rapidly after dark, making all concerned miserable. In the early morning hours of March 8, Brig. Gen. Sigel sent scouts into the open prairie west of Elkhorn. A knoll was discovered which would make an excellent artillery position. The 1st and 2nd Union divisions were ordered to march up Telegraph Road and deploy on the left of troops under the command of Union Col. Jefferson C. Davis (not to be confused with Confederate President Jefferson Davis) whose troops had routed the Confederate troops under Hebert in the previous day’s fighting. Davis ordered an Illinois battery to fire a few salvos into the woods opposite his position which provoked a sharp Confederate reaction. Three Confederate batteries opened fire, causing two Union batteries to retreat and Davis to pull his men out of the open and back into the woods. Confederates pushed forward but were driven back.
The 1st and 2nd Union divisions moved into place in a long line to the left of Davis’ troops. Another division took its place on the far left around 8:00 a.m. and then more troops fell into the union line generally facing north. This is possibly the only time during the war when an entire army was visibly deployed in one continuous line of battle from flank to flank. 21 cannon were placed on the knoll west of Elkhorn. Federal artillery began an effective fire upon the 12 Confederate guns opposed to them. When Confederate gunners pulled back under deadly fire, two batteries were ordered to take their place. One of the new batteries panicked and fled. The Confederates were not able to counter the Union fire. After the Confederate guns were rendered nearly harmless Gen. Sigel directed the Union guns to fire into the woods at the Confederate infantry near the base of Big Mountain where the projectiles created a deadly combination of rock shrapnel and wood splinters driving the Confederate Missouri Brigade from its positions. The artillery barrage softened up the enemy position and paved the way for an infantry assault. Union infantry edged forward during the bombardment. The Confederate commander discovered that his reserve artillery ammunition was six hours away on a wagon train and realized he had no hope of victory. Confederate troops retreated on the Huntsville Road. Two divisions of Union troops were sent forward and when they met at Elkhorn Tavern without engaging the retreating Confederate troops, victory was declared shortly after 11:00 a.m.
Two companies of Illinois 36th Infantry Regiment were engaged in fighting on March 6 at Bentonville, on March 7 at Leetown and on March 8 at Pea Ridge. One company was captured briefly but most of the men were freed when they accidentally met up with troops under the command of Brig. Gen. Sigel who were retreating. Private John H. Harris from Tompkins (part of Company C) was killed in the fighting at Pea Ridge on March 7.
After the defeat at Pea Ridge, Confederate troops never again threatened the state of Missouri. Within weeks Van Dorn’s army was transferred across the Mississippi river to the Army of Tennessee, leaving Arkansas with no defensive troops.
Pea Ridge National Military Park was founded in 1956. It is one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields. A reconstruction of Elkhorn Tavern, the scene of the heaviest fighting stands at the original location.
The 66th Illinois Infantry was organized at Benton Barracks near St. Louis, MO during September and October of 1861. Eight companies of sharpshooters were collected from Illinois, Missouri and from other places. The purpose of the Regiment was to be used as skirmishers. These men were assigned to harass the enemy in advance of larger forces. They were armed with Demmick, American Deer and Target rifles but carried very little other equipment. They traveled light and moved quickly when needed. Three of the companies came from Illinois including Company I with men from Lawrence and Wabash counties. William P. Beesley of Wabash County was one of these men. His diaries are at the Wabash County Museum and have been transcribed and are on display there. The diaries begin in January of 1862 in Sturgeon, Missouri. Prior to the initial entries in the diary these events had already been experienced by the regiment: From December 14 through the 1, 1861 the regiment was constantly engaged in fighting and skirmishing with rebel bushwhackers (guerillas) of Sterling Price’s army. On December 20th companies I and H of the 66th regiment were engaged in brisk fighting with Keene’s confederate scouts in which the confederate commander was captured after an exchange of fire between officers armed with revolvers. On December 28, 1861 the regiment captured Columbia, Missouri and then went on to overpower the enemy at the Battle of Mount Zion. In January of 1862 the regiment scouted and skirmished at Renick, Macon and Centralia. This was a great deal of action compared to the other local infantry regiments who were primarily encamped for long periods of time between major battles.
On the first page of the 1862 diary, W. P. Beesley writes that he is from Decker’s Prairie, Wabash County, IL and volunteered at Friendsville. His entries are brief, usually 1 or 2 lines at a time in tiny handwriting. Beesley lists the amount of money he paid for the parts of his uniform and the serial number of his Henry rifle (#2545). He describes the weather, his activity in camp and participation in battles or skirmishes, including Ft. Donelson. Among the artifacts at the Wabash County Museum belonging to W. P. Beesley is a pair of target shooting glasses pictured here. The ends of the ear pieces have a small opening which was used to tie a ribbon or string through to hold the glasses on.
The entire list of those men serving in the 66th Illinois Regiment can be found in the civil war section at ilgenweb.net. Nearly all of the men listed as belonging to Company I were from Wabash County and the surrounding communities of Bridgeport, Olney and West Salem. Several men with names recognizable from Wabash County are listed from Junto. It will take more research to discover just where Junto was located.
The 40th Illinois Infantry Regiment was organized on August 10, 1861 and was assigned to the Army of the Tennessee (just as the 48th Illinois Regiment was) but did not see battle until the Battle of Shiloh Church in April 1862.
Several years ago Frank Pixley made copies of two regimental histories, one of which was the 40th Illinois history and gave them to the Wabash County Museum. According to the 40th Illinois unit history, written by Sgt. Ephraim J. Hart of Company E from Mt. Erie, Illinois, attorney Stephen G. Hicks of Salem, IL began raising the 40th Illinois Regiment on May 1, 1861 but was not allowed to admit his regiment until July 25, 1861. Attorney Hicks received permission for the regiment to move to camp at Clear Lake, near Springfield on August 6, 1861 and then had to arrange transportation on the Ohio and Mississippi railroad himself by going to St. Louis and meeting with the president of the railroad. Men from Wabash County apparently marched, or otherwise moved to Xenia, Illinois where they joined the rest of the 40th Illinois. As the special train passed through other towns more companies of men boarded the train as it made its way north to the camp. In each community along the route, great crowds of patriotic well-wishers gathered around the railroad stations, playing music, cheering and sometimes even treating all the recruits to meals before the train left for the next city. The regiment had 681 men when mustered in and with additional recruits later had a total of 920 men. They came from Hamilton, Franklin, Marion, White, Wayne, Edwards, Wabash and Clay counties.
When first arriving in camp the 40th Illinois was issued guns referred to as the old “Harpers’ Ferry” muskets with percussion locks and began to drill every day. On Friday August 30th the regiment moved to the Mississippi River and the steamer Des Moines transported the men to Birds Point, Missouri opposite Cairo, Illinois. On September 5 they received their uniforms and began to do picket duty. Within 2 days they moved to Paducah, Kentucky to join several other Illinois regiments. Paducah is located on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Tennessee River at the terminus of the Ohio and New Orleans railroad. This strategic point was occupied to keep the rebels from transporting supplies up the Tennessee River.
The Siege of Vicksburg