View single post by Wrap10
 Posted: Fri Aug 29th, 2008 12:47 am
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Joined: Sat Jul 28th, 2007
Location: Oklahoma USA
Posts: 97

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I can't keep up with all these different topics!

But, you've hit on a personal favorite of mine in speaking about Prentiss at Shiloh. He was something of a hero to me when I was young and first learning about Shiloh. Hero of the Hornet's Nest and all. The first time I came across anyone suggesting that he may not have been the hero we've always heard about was when I read Wiley Sword's outstanding book on Shiloh. Sword paints a much different picture of Prentiss at Shiloh than the traditional image.

It can get to be a long story, especially when I'm the one telling it. Brevity isn't one of my strong points, sad to say. But the nutshell version is that Prentiss inadvertently contributed to the Union army's unpreparedness prior to the battle, and then later tried to cover up that fact. He also seems to have exaggerated his role in the Hornet's Nest.

Also, Prentiss never gave credit to one of his brigade commanders, Colonel Everett Peabody, for attempting to warn him of the perilous situation the army was in prior to the battle, and who also sent out the dawn patrol that uncovered the Confederate advance, and alerted the rest of the army to the danger. Take away what Peabody did, and the battle will very likely take a much different course than it did in reality.

Peabody was killed early in the battle - a fact that Prentiss did not even bother to mention in his official report. The patrol that Peabody sent out went against Prentiss' express orders, and when he found out about this at the start of the battle, Prentiss actually threatened Peabody with a courtmartial. Not in so many words, but the implication was crystal clear.

When he wrote his official report of the battle, Prentiss largely glossed over what had happened late on the 5th, and early on the 6th. He also appears to have exaggerated his role in the Hornet's Nest, which takes up the lion's share of his report. His version of the fighting in the Hornet's Nest has been largely accepted through the years, and until fairly recently the Hornet's Nest itself has long been considered the battle's defining event. That seems to be changing.

In any case, without making this too much of a novel, my own opinion of Prentiss at Shiloh is that he gave a good account of himself in the Hornet's Nest, but he and his men did not singlehandedly save Grant's army. I also don't care for the way he ignored Peabody. On the Hornet's Nest itself, I think it should still be considered an important part of the battle, but probably not the turning point, as it has so long been portrayed. There was much more to the battle than that.

I do love the whole subject of Prentiss and Peabody though. It's pretty fascinating to me.


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