Western Swing 2021: Day 02

Our swing through western battlefields with the American Battlefield Trust continued today with a trip to Shiloh. What an amazing battlefield!

Join Kris White, Chris Mackowski, and Garry Adelman, along with special guest historian Parker Hills (Brig. Gen., ret.) of Battle Focus Tours, for a day on the battlefield. Tune in to the great videos ABT has posted on their Facebook page:

Join us from atop Pittsburg Landing in the Shiloh National Cemetery for a summary of how the Union and Confederate Armies end up at Shiloh. Garry Adelman is the Chief Historian of the American Battlefield Trust, and General Parker Hills is representing Battle Focus Tours.

Now we take a look at what led the Confederate Army to Shiloh from the “off the beaten path” location of Johnston’s Last Bivouac just outside of Shiloh National Military Park.

Garry Adelman is the Chief Historian at the American Battlefield Trust, General Parker Hills is representing Battle Focus Tours and Dr. Chris Mackowski comes to us from Emerging Civil War.


Join General Parker Hills of Battle Focus Tours as he details the beginning of the Battle of Shiloh.

General William T. Sherman did not know a Confederate attack was coming until deer and rabbits began scurrying out of the woods. Learn more about the coming attack from General Parker Hills of Battle Focus Tours and Dr. Chris Mackowski of Emerging Civil War.

Join us for a hodgepodge of topics regarding the Shiloh National Military Park and the soldiers who fought there (including General Parker Hills naming the worst man to ever dawn a military uniform).

Garry Adelman is the Chief Historian of the American Battlefield Trust, General Parker Hills comes to us from Battle Focus and Dr. Chris Mackowski is the Editor-in-Chief of Emerging Civil War.

Garry Adelman and General Parker Hills detail one of the most iconic locations of not only the Shiloh battlefield but of the entire Civil War.


9 Responses to Western Swing 2021: Day 02

  1. It is always good to see a solid re-telling of the story of Shiloh. And overall, this is a commendable introduction to the Union setting up the staging ground/ camp ground at Pittsburg Landing (where the Union NEVER intended battle to be joined versus Rebels.) A few minor quibbles:
    – US Grant was sidelined because he went to Nashville without authorization. Rumors that he may have been drinking were not proven. (Being away from his HQ at Fort Donelson from 21 – 27 FEB (Halleck assumed he had followed orders and redeployed to Fort Henry) kept USG out of contact via telegraph with Halleck for nearly a week; and Halleck was irate when he found out why USG was not at Fort Henry.)
    – US Grant did not place Lew Wallace as Grand Reserve at Crump’s Landing; and he did not place Sherman or Hurlbut at Pittsburg Landing. Charles F. Smith was responsible for those assignments. However, once USG arrived at Savannah and resumed overall command in the field, he took responsibility for all troop placements by leaving Lew Wallace at Crumps and adding McClernand’s and Smith’s-cum-Lauman-cum-WHL Wallace’s Second Division to the staging ground at Pittsburg. Prentiss’s Sixth Division began taking shape in late March, three miles SSW of Pittsburg Landing, in the direction of Corinth.
    – USG maintained his HQ at Savannah at the Cherry Mansion until 7:11am on Sunday April 6th 1862… despite “intentions” sent to Halleck to relocate his HQ to Pittsburg Landing. Meanwhile, USG made use of his flagship, steamer Tigress, to visit Crumps and Pittsburg Landing on a nearly daily basis. (Until end of March 1862, the nearest telegraph line from Savannah was at Fort Henry, half a day by steamer away. By about April 2nd a poor telegraph connection was made from Savannah east to relay station at south end of Buell’s line stretched from Nashville: USG continued to make use of steam packets to Fort Henry to communicate with Halleck.
    – As mentioned in the first video, MGen Halleck intended to come personally to Pittsburg/ Savannah soon as Island No.10 was in Union control, and Buell had joined with Grant. [NOTHING was supposed to happen at Pittsburg Landing until Halleck got there. In early April 1862, the main game in Halleck’s Department was taking place at Island No.10]. In meantime, USG was under orders from Halleck: “Do nothing to bring on a general engagement.” (This restriction may have led to failure to identify the presence of significant Rebel troops on 4 April 1862 during a running five-hour skirmish involving Sherman’s troops; and Federal infantry pickets and cavalry patrols may have been deliberately curtailed to avoid bringing on the forbidden general engagement.)
    The Rebels commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston made the unexpected (by the Union) decision to force a battle at the Union campground of Shiloh/ Pittsburg Landing: Grant and Sherman believed the Rebels would meekly wait for battle to come to them at Corinth. As Rebel forces collected at Corinth, PGT Beauregard remained at Jackson Tennessee (the main depot and HQ of the Mobile & Ohio R.R. and Beauregard stayed at the home of Railroad executive, Milton Brown, until relocating himself to Corinth on or about 24 March 1862.) General Beauregard underwent throat surgery (for what was then termed “laryngitis”) end of JAN 1862. For the next six months, General Beauregard suffered complications so severe that he was bed-ridden for days at a time; and associates described his appearance as “jaundiced.”
    The original Rebel plan (as envisioned by Johnston) was to drive the Federals west and north, away from Pittsburg Landing and into the swamps of flooded Owl and Snake creeks, where Grant’s Army would be captured or destroyed. The plan actually executed pushed the Federals north and east, TOWARDS Pittsburg Landing, where 1) Buells Army of the Ohio would find a ready beach head; 2) steamers full of ammunition waited to resupply Grant’s Army; 3) two powerful gunboats waited within flag signal range in the Tennessee River to provide Federal artillery support via 8-inch guns.
    Third Video. Peabody and Powell rightly get credit for preventing Federals being surprised by ambitious Rebels. But to denigrate Prentiss “as a buffoon” is wrong. It is my belief that Colonel Peabody was Acting Sixth Division Commander overnight 5/6 April while BGen Prentiss slept. As Acting Commander, Peabody was authorized to send forward scouts and probes; and to reinforce those scouts with Duty Soldiers, if required. The problem between Peabody and Prentiss was initiated when Peabody sent forward Colonel David Moore and half of his 21st Missouri Regiment, to bolster Powell, without informing Prentiss that he was doing so (as this was an escalation of offensive operations that only the Commander of the Sixth Division could authorize.) Colonel Moore arrived on the scene of action, quickly realized that he needed reinforcements, and sent back for the remainder of the 21st Missouri. The messenger woke BGen Prentiss… who 1) was surprised that Moore required “the remainder of his regiment as reinforcements” (reinforcements for WHAT?) and 2) Colonel Peabody had not shown common curtesy in alerting General Prentiss to what was going on, prior to arrival of the messenger from Moore. Prentiss sent the remainder of the 21st Missouri forward… and then rode over to the camp of the 25th Missouri to confront Colonel Peabody.
    Fourth Video (Sherman). Sherman was the Acting Commander of Shiloh Campground. He was tasked with enforcing Halleck’s directive, passed via Grant: “Do nothing to bring on a general engagement.” And Sherman believed his own rhetoric: “The Rebels would not be so stupid to attack us so far from their base at Corinth; therefore they ARE NOT attacking us.” Sherman continued to disbelieve… until he got shot.
    Video Five. Myth and Memory. We all have our favorite recent revelations. Peabody is one recent revelation (early 20th Century) rightly acknowledged. But, Prentiss did not “flee to the landing” with thousands of other Federal soldiers. He conducted a fighting withdrawal, leapfrogging his two artillery batteries – Munch and Hickenlooper – north until they were incorporated in the line established by BGen Stephen Hurlbut. Prentiss’s decimated division (perhaps 500 men remained with him on the Hornet’s Nest/ Sunken Road Line) was bolstered by the arrival of over 1000 men belonging to Colonel Tindall’s 23rd Missouri Infantry. Prentiss extended right (NW) of Hurlbut; and Prentiss’s friend and fellow Mexican War veteran, WHL Wallace, acting commander of Smith’s Second Division, extended right of Prentiss. Prentiss, Wallace and Hurlbut shared artillery during the course of the day; Prentiss was directly ordered by MGen Grant, “Hold this position at all hazards.” When Hurlbut withdrew north, Prentiss and Wallace adjusted their line to better hold the position. When WHL Wallace attempted to withdraw (about 4 – 4:30pm) he was shot down, mortally wounded. The 1200 surviving Sixth Division troops, and 2000 Second Division troops left behind by Wallace, were under command of senior officer on the field Prentiss. And all were captured at 5:29pm when Prentiss was surrounded, and surrendered. The Rebels delayed too long counting and recording their prisoners: those who could not walk were left behind; everyone else was marched away south towards Corinth… and six month’s confinement in POW camps. Benjamin Prentiss deserves credit for: 1) fighting withdrawal to join with Hurlbut; 2) following Grant’s orders, to the letter; 3) Providing sound leadership while incarcerated in Southern POW camps; 4) fighting to restore the reputation of Iowa and Missouri troops (reported in newspapers as “asleep in their beds, and captured early, before noon” at Shiloh.)
    Video Six. Shiloh Church was completely dismantled and carried away by souvenir hunters before the end of 1862.

  2. It’s so fun to listen to General Parker Hills in this series. Love Garry’s last remarks about engaging with the battlefield. Great stuff!

  3. When I visited Shiloh(2X), I was struck by how “pristine” it seemed. The videos capture that feeling. Parker is a great storyteller.

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