Obscure Confederate Brigade Commanders of Shiloh

A variety of Confederate brigade commanders at Shiloh were for a long time something of a mystery to students of the war. Only minor details could be gleamed and for a few there were not even photographs. Each was a colonel, and for most Shiloh was their first and last battle. I did find a few photographs in my research and I wish to share them here.

Preston Pond

Among the most controversial was Preston Pond. A Louisiana politician, Pond led the 16th Louisiana. He was a hard drillmaster and generally unpopular, particularly with the 18th Louisiana. The men felt brigade command should have gone to Alfred Mouton, their beloved commander who had West Point training. Even worse, after Shiloh they blamed Pond for a failed attack on the afternoon of April 6. The men of the 16th Louisiana seemed to agree. They did not reelect him colonel. Alfred Roman, second in command of the 18th Louisiana and a friend of P.GT. Beauregard, spoke ill of Pond, likely ensuring he was not made a general. A disgusted Pond went back to Louisiana. I found his photograph in the archives of Southeastern Louisiana University.

Another commander who ostensibly did poorly at Shiloh was Robert M. Russell. He had already made a questionable showing at Belmont but by virtue of seniority, he led a brigade at Shiloh. On April 6 his men attacked William Tecumseh Sherman’s camp and were scattered. Charles Clark, Russell’s division commander, seemingly did not trust him and led part of his brigade in the assault. On April 7 S.A.M. wood tacitly blamed Russell for failing to hold the left flank. It was unfair, as Russell had few men and he was out-numbered and out-flanked by Lewis “Lew” Wallace’s division.

Robert Russell

Russell was not without talent. He had graduated West Point and ably led cavalry before the war. Although out of command after Shiloh, he was sent to western Tennessee to recruit cavalry. Instead, he was captured, but in late 1863 he finally fulfilled his mission and raised over 1,000 cavalrymen. From 1864-1865 he led the 20th Tennessee Cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest. Two images have surfaced of Russell, one of them held, but not owned by, the Governor Gordon Browning Museum and Genealogical Library in McKenzie, Tennessee. The image shows him in the uniform of the Provisional Army of Tennessee.

Walter Scott Statham has the misfortune of often being called Winfield Scott Statham. He was popular with his men and very brave. After Shiloh there was a push to promote him but he died of illness in Vicksburg. His brigade went to Thomas Benton Smith, who would lead the outfit from Baton Rouge until his wounding and capture at Nashville. I stumbled upon Statham’s corrected name and a reference that his image could be found in the Dartmouth College yearbook for 1853. The picture was inserted after the war and shows him in uniform.

Walter Scott Statham

John C. Marrast of the 22nd Alabama led Adley Gladden’s brigade in Shiloh’s last hours. The unit had been scattered on April 6. Gladden died of a mortal wound and both his successors, Daniel W. Adams and Zacharah C. Deas, suffered wounds. Marrast acted as Deas’ second in command for most of April 7 and showed coolness under fire, but poor health kept him out. Marrast’s image is at the Alabama Department of History and Archives.

John C. Marrast

Robert Smith of the 10th Mississippi acted as second in command to James Chalmers and led his brigade late on April 7. He did exceptionally well, but died at Munfordville before he made general. His distraught and wealthy brother erected three obelisk monuments to Smith in Jackson, Munfordville, and Edinburgh, perhaps the only Confederate monument in Scotland. I found one grainy image of Smith online, but cannot wholly confirm if it is him as no source is given. I present here in case someone recognizes it.

Robert Smith

Sadly, other brigade commanders remain without any images. William H. Stephens was popular, good at drill, and brave. He left his sickbed in Corinth to go with his beloved 6th Tennessee. He was only an interim commander since George Maney was on detached duty the morning of April 6. He was wounded in a foolish morning attack at Duncan Field, his brigade guided in by Benjamin Cheatham. His health was shattered and he never again saw action.

William K. Patterson of the 8th Arkansas acted as second in command to S.A.M. Wood, leading the brigade or parts of it throughout April 6-7. He did well but never made general. Nor did August Reichard of the 20th Louisiana, who led an ad hoc brigade on April 7. Despite, or perhaps because of Beauregard’s support, this prominent member of New Orleans’ large German community was never promoted. Poor health forced him to resign in 1863.

We thankfully have images of nearly every Federal brigade commander, but among that bunch there are a few. James Baker of the 2nd Iowa found himself briefly in brigade command, but seems to have done little. Same is true of Francis Quinn of the 12th Michigan. He replaced Benjamin Prentiss in division command (effectively a brigade), but was unengaged on April 7 and there were accusations of cowardice. Silas D. Baldwin of the 57th Illinois led an ad hoc brigade on April 7. Amory K. Johnson of the 28th Illinois led a brigade on April 7, helping to break the Confederate center near noon.

If by chance you know where to find any images of the above let me know. I hope to have some more for my upcoming books on Shiloh.

This entry was posted in 160th Anniversary, Battles, Leadership--Confederate and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Obscure Confederate Brigade Commanders of Shiloh

  1. Given the general confusion in the two days of fighting at Shiloh, I was actually surprised there were not many more colonels who didn’t manage the jump to general during the three subsequent years of war, on both sides of the fields. Thank you for reminding us of some of the lesser known.

    • Sean Michael Chick says:

      It seems many of the colonels who did end up in brigade command (Deas, Adams, Smith, Martin, etc.) did end up making general.

  2. Lyle Smith says:

    I had thought Pond’s brigade was sent all over the battlefield at Shiloh and that he generally was considered a steady leader. Pre-war Louisiana militia, but born in New Hampshire to a New Hampshire doctor’s family that moved south when he was young. His parents’ house still stands in Jackson, LA.

    • Sean Michael Chick says:

      Pond was fairly unpopular in most accounts I have seen, particularly from the 16th and 18th Louisiana. Tellingly, most other accounts are mute in praise as well as commendation. As to where he fought. it was mostly in the Shiloh Church, Crescent Field, and Jones Field area.

  3. Thanks for the interesting article.

  4. Sean: When researching my book “Confederate Colonels” I tracked down relatives of Col. Smith and that’s the photo they had of him.

    • Sean Michael Chick says:

      That is good news. Any way to contact them? I would like to use the image in an upcoming Shiloh book.

  5. Pingback: Week In Review: April 3-10, 2022 | Emerging Civil War

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!