Question of the Week: 4/6-4/12/20

It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh. In your opinion, who was the best commander at that battle? Why?

13 Responses to Question of the Week: 4/6-4/12/20

  1. Everett Peabody. He sounded the alarm by pushing forward a patrol to Fraley Field and helped buy the Federals much needed time.

  2. In complete agreement with billhenck – Everett Peabody. Despite Prentiss’ attitude and objections he showed initiative and acted decisively at the cost of his life. Then, people being what they are, Prentiss took full credit for this movement, among other fibs of his. If you’re going to have a question of the week for worst commander, Prentiss gets my vote.

  3. W.H.L.Wallace had already been identified by Grant as one of his best
    commanders, when he set up the firm defense of the sunken road. Late
    in the day, when Wallace received what proved to be a mortal head wound,
    the command devolved to Prentiss who undeservedly was hailed a hero. At
    the time of Prentiss’ surrender, he had only had a quarter of the number of
    men under his command than the 8000+ Wallace had been holding the line
    with all day.

  4. John Bowen. I see there is a more recent blog entry on him. He formed the first Missouri unit to officially serve in the Confederate Army – parolees from the Camp Jackson Affair & some SE Missourians – at Memphis, TN as the First Missouri Infantry. They were also the first Confederate Missourians to see action east of the Mississippi, and would be joined by their brethren after the latter’s defeat at Pea Ridge.

  5. 14corps:

    A court martial for Grant? No way.

    Yes, Grant was caught by surprise. But once the battle began, he conducted himself superbly. Example: Late in the afternoon of the first day, Grant ordered Col. Joseph Webster to collect all the artillery he could find and station the guns on a ridge above Dill’s Branch on the Union’s extreme left flank. These guns and cannon aboard two nearby timberclads thwarted the last charge of the Confederates on the first day of the battle.

    By the end of the first day, the Rebs were exhausted. Beauregard planned to attack the second day, but such a move would have been defeated, even without Buell’s reinforcements.

    But by the end of the first day, Grant – as usual – wasn’t thinking about defense; he was thinking about attacking. Sherman said to Grant, “Well Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant replied, “Yes. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.” And that’s exactly what he did, sending the Rebs in full retreat back to Corinth.

    Charles Martin was absolutely correct in his above comment.

  6. I’m gonna need some help here, because for the life of me I can’t remember the name(s), but I’m going to go with the naval commander(s) at Shilo. Naval gunfire support proved critical at times there. The USS Lexington and the USSTyler performed well when called upon.

  7. I had not thought of the naval bombardment keeping the Confederates
    on the defense. Bob Ruth, can you provide the chain of command up from
    William Gwin and James Shirk ? (preferably all the way to Capt.
    Farragut’s immediate superior)

    1. Eric:

      Gwin was the senior naval officer at Shiloh, i.e. Shirk’s superior. Andrew Foote was still commander of the inland fleet at the time of Shiloh.The fleet was based in Cairo, Ill, However, Foote who sustained injuries to his foot (I kid you not) at Fort Donelson, took a medical leave in May 1862, just after the Battle of Shiloh. After returning to duty, he died of disease.

      Gwin was later mortally injured during Grant’s Vicksburg campaign.

      While I’m a huge fan of Grant, my hero failed to realize how the Tyler and Lexington could assist him at Shiloh. Out of frustration that his timberclads were not being used effectively,, Gwin sought out Grant for more specific instructions. After finally locating the general, Grant told Gwin, in essence, do anything you want. After the battle, Grant obviously felt guilty about his oversight. He went out of his way to praise the contribution of both warships and their captains,.

      Grant’s failure to realize the potential of the Tyler and Lexington was mystifying, an anomaly. No CW general used the navy and amphibious troops more often and more successfully than Grant. (This is the theme of a book I am writing.) But at Shiloh, Grant dropped the ball. Hey, even the best of commanders screw up every now and then. Bottom Line: Despite his missteps, Grant’s never-say-die attitude won the day.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!