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 Posted: Thu Aug 28th, 2008 12:35 am
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Wrap10
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5fish wrote: Wrap10,

The issue come down to which road Wallace used. What about a general's discretion? I have read about Generals doing much worst things then taking the wrong road. A wrong road that would have put him in a better place to support Sherman then the other road. I think of Sickles at Gettysburg moving out of his place in line or I have read about generals who refused to do something during a battle causing great harm due to thier discretion. But a road??

Shiloh was a big black eye for the army and Grant and someone had to be fed to the wolfs. They pick Wallace and he got a desk job for the rest of the war. I wonder why Grant picked Wallace of all the Generals to chose from?

 


In a sense, you could probably say that the controversy does revolve around whether Wallace had discretion on which route to take. But he never used that as a reason for his choice, so far as I know. He never said that his orders gave him choice of route. According to Wallace, they simply told him to come up and form on the right of the army, which he understood to mean Sherman.

Grant on the other hand was very specific that he had ordered Wallace to come in by way of the River Road, thus arriving in rear of the army. His orders were verbal, and went through two other people, one of whom wrote them down, before they reached Wallace. So it's possible that the reference to the River Road got lost in transmission, although we'll never really know.

The whole problem apparently stemmed from a prearranged plan worked out between Lew Wallace and W.H.L. Wallace, commanding one of Grant's divisions camped at Pittsburg Landing, and the closest division to Lew Wallace's men. The isolated nature of Lew Wallace's division was a cause of concern for Grant, as he suspected that any attack would be aimed at Wallace and not at the rest of the army. So he had the two Wallace's work out a plan by which Lew Wallace could be supported in case of such an attack. (Actually his orders may have been a bit more general than that, and not directed only at W.H.L. Wallace among the division commanders at the landing. I can't remember about that. But he was apparently the only one to cooperate with Lew Wallace.)

The most direct route was the River Road, but all the rain was causing Snake Creek to overflow the bridge along that road fairly often, so an alternate plan was worked out that involved a longer route, along the road known as the Shunpike. The idea was that W.H.L. Wallace would march out from the landing to the Hamburg-Purdy Road, turn north, and eventually reach Lew Wallace by way of this Shunpike route. In the actual event it worked in reverse, with Lew Wallace taking the Shunpike instead of the River Road. He wasn't lost, as we so often hear. He knew where he was going. It's simply that he wasn't going where Grant wanted him. It wasn't until he was well along the way that he learned of his mistake, and that Grant wanted him at the landing. I don't know that Grant ever knew about the alternate route that had been worked out between the two commanders.

But when Grant issued his orders, his intent was not to have Lew Wallace support Sherman. His intent was that Wallace would support the entire army. My guess is that he intended to use Wallace's men as a general reserve.

I think the real culprit in the whole affair was probably miscommunication. It's possible that Grant's orders, as written, directed Wallace to come in by the River Road, and Wallace, for whatever reason, elected to ignore that part, and take the Shunpike instead. It's possible that this happened, and I've seen it speculated. But we can never really know. But I think it's just as likely, if not more so, that Wallace simply made an honest mistake.

I think I'd have to disagree somewhat that Shiloh was a "black eye" for Grant's army. The Union won the battle, and Grant, as well as his men, had fought hard and well. But Grant did of course come in for what may very well have been the most severe criticism he faced during the war. This was due in no small part to the stories getting out of Grant being caught so badly off guard by the attack that many of his troops were bayoneted in their tents while they slept. Not so, but that was the story.

Plus, the number of killed and wounded from Shiloh quite simply dwarfed everything that had ever come before, in all of American history. Nothing else was even close. People in the North were stunned by the casualty figures. Keeping in mind here that we're talking the spring of 1862, before the war had evolved into the bloodbath we now think of, the numbers from Shiloh were almost beyond comprehension. Combine those two things - a staggering number of dead and wounded, and reports that Grant allowed his army to be caught totally off-guard - and we can see how, in response, lynchmobs seemingly ruled the day. Someone had to pay for the negligence that led to all that butchery. And that someone was going to be Grant.

As for Grant's treatment of Wallace, the only thing he really had to go by was what he was told by his own officers who were involved, and by what Wallace later wrote. Perhaps it's no surprise, given all that happend on the 6th, that Grant was more inclined to believe his own staff officers rather than Wallace.

To some extent, Wallace turned out to be his own worst enemy here, as he was apparently not very communicative to Grant's staff officers during the infamous counter-march. They would later report, in effect, that Wallace dragged his feet on this march, and did not appear to be concerned for the safety of the army, or see the need for a rapid march. When we view the march from their perspective, it's easy to see why they felt as they did, and in fact it appears they have a valid case. But I also think that every decision Wallace made on that counter-march, from first to last, was made out of a sincere desire to deliver his men to Grant in the best possible shape, and ready to go into battle.

And again, I think Stacy Allen might take issue with the idea that Grant actually tried to make a scapegoat out of Wallace. I haven't been able to track down that essay though, unfortunately.

Perry

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