Civil War Surprises: A Tale of Two Diarists at Shiloh
Years ago, I took my first trip to New Orleans for my first archival experience at Tulane University. At the time, I was hunting down any information I could find about the 6th Louisiana Infantry for a personal research project, but I spent some additional hours rifling through a few boxes of Civil War documents. I thumbed through diaries, letters, some colorful postcards, and scrapbooks with a sense of childlike wonder and excitement to see what the next box would reveal. I didn’t find much about the 6th Louisiana as I had hoped, but I had another item on my list that I had to see before leaving. On the Tulane University Special Collection database, the item was listed simply as a diary belonging to C. M. Horton of the Crescent Regiment (also considered the 24th Louisiana Infantry), Company H (considered the third Company H of the regiment under Captain John Knight), with entries dating from 1862 to November, 1863. What I found instead surprised me.
The first page of the diary has absolutely nothing to do with C.M. Horton. Instead, at the top of the first page, the owner of the journal identifies themselves as J.W. Pownall of the 70th Ohio Regiment, Company F. The journal appeared to be nothing more than a sick report book for the company, listing countless names, written in light pencil, and whether those soldiers were off duty or in the hospital. The extensive record begins in January of 1862 and goes on for nearly two dozen pages, the last of which was dated for April 6 of the same year. I turned the page and discovered handwriting that didn’t match the previous entries. Instead of the monotonous listing of names, an inscription in black ink read:
“This book was found on the Battle field of Shiloh, April 7th 1862”
Signed by C.M. Horton of the Crescent Regiment. The next several page-turns listed the roll call of his company with little marks that only Horton would know the meaning of. Only then, did the entries become interesting. Horton began this portion of the journal with entries dating back to March 5th, 1862, each briefly describing the events of the day as he experienced them, comprising only a few sentences. I didn’t have much time to read the journal while I was there, but requested scans of the pages to study later.
After my trip, I also decided to do some investigative work into the stories of these two men, their regiments, and how they may have come to share this journal. Beginning with the original owner, John Wesley Pownall was born on September 20th, 1836 in Manchester, Ohio, the eldest of what would be eight children by Isaac and Julia Ann – the youngest born in 1862. Their family owned a farm valued in 1850 at $3,000, which likely explains why, at age 24, John was still listed in the household in 1860 and had not struck out on his own yet. He was not initially swept up into the energetic frenzy of enlistment as soon as the war broke out, but even the news of the battle at Bull Run would not deter him from joining up with the 70th Ohio Regiment, Company G, under Captain Watson Foster on October 17, 1861. He signed up for a three-year stint with the Union.
By December, Colonel J.R. Cockerill organized the remainder of the 70th Ohio at the country fairgrounds in West Union, comprised of seven companies in total. The 70th Ohio was initially sent to Ripley to guard against a Confederate attack that never came. In February, Pownall and his regiment joined the Fourth Brigade of the Fifth Division, along with the 48th and 72nd Ohio. By early March, they were ordered to Pittsburgh Landing, encamped just three miles from the landing near the Shiloh Church on the Corinth Road. The regiment made up the left of the brigade’s line under the command of Colonel Ralph Buckland, just to the left of McDowell’s brigade that was positioned on the extreme right of the Union line. On April 3rd, Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman ordered the Fourth Brigade to make a reconnaissance to determine the nearness of any Confederate advance. They initially found nothing, but skirmished with pickets and cavalry for most of April 5th. On April 6th, Pownall wrote his final entry in the journal, presumably before the outbreak of the battle.
Throughout the day, the 70th Ohio was continually pushed back by the advancing Confederates in a northeastern direction – primarily facing Brigadier Generals Patrick Cleburne and Patton Anderson’s brigades -, withdrawing and reforming the line a number of times before the day was over. It can be assumed that Pownall dropped the journal somewhere between their original campsite along the Corinth Road and their final bivouac that evening parallel to the Hamburg-Savanna Road on the eastern side of Owl Creek.
The Confederate soldier in this drama, C.M. Horton, is a hard man to track down. What is conclusive about his military service is that he enlisted with the Crescent (Blues) Regiment, a militia unit out of New Orleans, on March 5, 1862 with the immediate rank of 1st Sergeant, which may imply that he had some wealth or education to suggest a higher position than private. According to a veteran of Company B, the regiment was “composed of eleven companies, the elite of the young men of Louisiana society, all between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five.” Horton became part of Company H (3rd), under Captain John Knight. He was only to serve for 90 days in the regiment. According to his entries in the journal, the regiment joined up with the infamous Washington Artillery and left New Orleans on March 8th to begin “camp life in ernest” at Grand Junction by March 11th, only to proceed to the location of Camp Smith in Corinth a few days later. Between that time and the battle, Horton drilled and participated in a number of dress parades around Corinth. On the day before the battle, Horton wrote that General Albert Sidney Johnston passed by his regiment in march and remarked, “I am glad to find you in such good spirit. I think we will beat the Yanks out today.”
Colonel Marshall J. Smith commanded the Crescent Regiment during the battle, part of Colonel Preston Pond, Jr.’s Third Brigade, Second Army Corps under Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg. They took up the extreme left of the brigade’s line, first charged with guarding the bridge over Owl Creek. By the afternoon, they were ordered to the center of the Confederate line, crossing Duncan Field to engage Brig. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss in the infamous “Hornet’s Nest.”
The soldier of Company B wrote after the war, “At 4 P.M. we entered dense wood, in front of which there was an open, four-acre field. Beyond this there was a thick virgin forest in which the enemy was safely ensconced. Presently a terrific cannonading took place. This was the ‘hornet’s nest,’ without which Shiloh would have been a skirmish. Here General Ruggles had massed sixty-two pieces of artillery. His concentrated fire drove away the Union batteries, but did not dislodge their infantry from the old road. We were then ordered to charge… It was here, under such unfavorable circumstances, that our regiment in its virgin assault charged with such éclat and fiery spirit that one could say: ‘These men were born under the jaws of belching cannon.’… Our baptism of fire we received in Duncan field; and our Crescent boys soon made it a crimsoned, hallowed spot. But O the comrades who here in a few minutes were laid cold in death!”
Of the battle itself, Horton wrote – with considerably less flair than his comrade – in the journal for the April 6th entry, “Formed line of Battle early in the morning – but did not get into the fight until about one P.M. [and] Jones Regiment surrendered to us also Genl Prentice [drove] the Fed to their lower Camps, then the gunboats shelled us back. Camped in Camp of 49th Illinois. Capt. Knight wounded.”
The regiment rejoined Pond’s brigade on the extreme Confederate left behind the cavalry units of the Mississippi and Alabama Battalion under Lieutenant Richard Brewer, and the unattached Texas Regiment under Colonel John Wharton. Directly across from them, bivouacked Sherman’s Fifth Division and the 70th Ohio Regiment with John Wesley Pownall. That night, both soldiers would be drenched by the torrential downpour, only Horton was harassed by the gunboats from the Tennessee River.
On the following day, Union reinforcements under Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace joined the fight, slamming into the Confederate left – against the Crescent Regiment – as the rest of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s line pushed the enemy back from whence they came. The Crescent Regiment is credited with saving the 5th Company of the Washington Artillery that day, preventing the capture of three of the battery’s guns. Of April 7th, the day he found the journal, Horton wrote, “Had a brush for an hour or two lost several men – then formed for a Grand battle and waited an attack it not coming we began to fall back upon Corinth, walking at 9 P.M. in a heavy rain which we stood in all night. Todd mortally wounded.” The Crescent Regiment suffered 23 killed, 84 were wounded, and 20 missing by the end of April 7th.
The 70th Ohio Regiment, along with the rest of Cockerill’s brigade, moved to the southeast to mingle with Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s division to assist in the reversal. By the evening, the Confederates were in retreat and the brigade had returned to their original camp. The casualties for Cockerill’s brigade were numbered at 9 killed, 57 wounded, and 26 missing. In an official report after the battle, Cockerill wrote, “Our camp had been torn down by the enemy… plundered of nearly everything-officer’s uniforms, camp equipments, blankets, knapsacks, haversacks, clothing, &c.” Part of this lost property may have been Pownall’s journal, though it’s uncertain if the Crescent Regiment were part of the group that plundered the camp. It’s equally likely that the journal may have been lost somewhere on the battlefield itself during the Union’s withdraw on April 6th, though the 70th Ohio and Crescent Regiment did not battle one another directly.
Thus, the exact circumstances of how Pownall lost the journal and how Horton found it remains under conjecture. As for the fates of the soldiers, that is documented much better. Pownall received a medical discharge in October of that year from a surgeon in Cincinatti. He returned home and in 1863, married Kizia (sometimes spelled Kezhia) Hill, a local girl that also lived in Sprigg, Ohio. Pownall would later enlist again, this time alongside his brother, Aaron – then twenty-one years old – on September 1st, 1864, joining Company H of the 182nd Ohio Regiment, likely at Camp Chase in Columbus. John was promoted to Sergeant the following month. The 182nd Ohio Regiment spent a few months training in Major General George Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland in the Military Division of the Mississippi and the Department of the Ohio. They engaged with Confederate General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee at the battle of Nashville and remained to guard the city after Hood’s retreat. The Pownalls mustered out on July 7th, 1865. John and Kizia would continue the farming tradition, having three children before his death in 1906.
C.M. Horton was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on May 22nd following the battle at Shiloh. The regiment was first disbanded on June 3rd, having fulfilled their 90-day enlistment term, but was reorganized mid-September and engaged in minor operations across southern Louisiana, including the battle at Labadieville and Bisland, before garrisoning Brashear City in the summer of 1863. In November, the regiment was joined by the 11th and 12th Louisiana Infantry (Confederate Guard Response) to create the Consolidated Crescent Regiment. Horton continued with the regiment, this time within Company A. However, he would not be joining the regiment at Mansfield or Pleasant Hill that spring. He was permanently assigned by Special Orders No. 48 to the Headquarters District – presumably in Shreveport – and was somehow wounded on February 17th, 1864. From there, Horton disappears from record as far as I am able to research. His journal only documents his daily activities as far as January 7th of 1863, the last portion of which is primarily roll calls of the regiment.
What I find extra surprising is that Horton never tore out the first pages of the journal that belonged to John Pownall. Those names may have meant nothing to him, but he didn’t destroy any part of this memento of the Shiloh battlefield. Just why he didn’t tear them out is not well understood, but perhaps it has something to do with an inscription on the inside cover. It first lists John Pownall’s name and his rank, then below he wrote, “When this you see Remember me.” It’s a rather common little turn of phrase from the era, often written on the back of photographs given to loved ones. Perhaps Horton saw Pownall’s request and honored it by preserving the journal in the state that he found it.
 “Horton, C. M., Crescent Regiment, Company H, 1862 November – 1863,” Louisiana Historical Association collection, Manuscripts Collection 55, Box: 13, Folder: 2, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118.
 1850 U.S. census, Adams County, Ohio, population schedule, Sprigg, p. 86 (handwritten), dwelling 567, family 567, Isaac Pownall & household; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 657; 1860 U.S. census, Adams County, Ohio, population schedule, Sprigg, p. 128 (handwritten), dwelling 629, family 629, Isaac Pownall & household; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 928.
 “70th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.” Ohio Civil War. October 20, 2022. https://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/70th-regiment-ohio-volunteer-infantry/.
 “Memorial to Louisianians at Shiloh,” Confederate Veteran, Vol. 22, p. 342
 Compiled service record, C.M. Horton, 1st Sergeant, Company H (3rd), Crescent Regiment; Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana, record group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
 “Memorial to Louisianians at Shiloh,” p. 42
 Arthur Bergeron, Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865, (Baton Rouge,: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), p. 130
 “70th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.”
 1860 U.S. census, Adams County, Ohio, population schedule, Sprigg, p. 131 (handwritten), dwelling 672, family 672, E.B. Hill & household; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 928.
 Pownall, John & Aaron, The National Archives At Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; NAI Title: U.s., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934; NAI Number: T288; Record Group Title: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773-2007; Record Group Number: 15; Series Title: U.s., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934; Series Number: T288; Roll: 378 – accessed via ancestry.com ;
 “182nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.” Ohio Civil War. October 20, 2022. https://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/182nd-regiment-ohio-volunteer-infantry/.
 Bergeron, p. 130-132
 Compiled service record, C.M. Horton, 2nd Lieut, Company A, Consolidated Crescent Regiment; Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana, record group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
4 Responses to Civil War Surprises: A Tale of Two Diarists at Shiloh
Sheritta–magnificent researching! What a fascinating story to have unearthed. Good job.
Shiloh is a place I need to visit. I have never been there.
Thank you very much for a great, well researched paper. Very interesting
Wonderful story. Thanks