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 Posted: Tue Nov 7th, 2006 05:48 pm
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calcav
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One of the more persistent myths surrounding the battle of Shiloh is that Wallace was lost trying to reach the field. Lew Wallace’s Third division was camped to the north of the other five divisions of Grant’s army. One brigade at Adamsville, another at Stoney Lonesome and the third at Crump’s Landing. This division was posted to the north to observe Confederate activity along the Mobile & Ohio Railroad near Purdy. Because the Third division was isolated Wallace and Grant’s division officers devised a contingency plan for troops to march north to Wallace’s aid in the event he was attacked. This route avoided the swampy morass along Snake Creek. The distance to be covered was about six miles.

 

On the morning of April 6th Grant, at his headquarters in Savannah, heard the sound of the fighting and headed up river to the encampment. Passing Crump’s Landing Grant stopped long enough to tell Wallace to prepare his division to march overland to Pittsburg Landing. He would send orders to march once he arrived on the scene.

 

Wallace marched his two outlying brigades to Stoney Lonesome and awaited his orders. (There were no unruly mules slowing his preparations). After assessing the situation Grant dispatched his staff Quartermaster, Captain A.S. Baxter with orders for Wallace to move to the battlefield. Fearing he might err in relating Grant’s verbal order, Baxter wrote them down as dictated by Grant’s assistant adjutant general, Capt. John A. Rawlins. Taking a steamboat to Crump’s Landing, Baxter reached Stoney Lonesome by around 11:30 a.m. Wallace told Baxter he was familiar with the route as he had recently placed the road in order. Taking an extra few minutes, Wallace saw that his men were fed and then set out on the march at noon.

 

Wallace set out on the route which would bring him up on the right of Sherman’s camps via Overshot Mill. A second courier was dispatched by Grant an hour after Baxter left to ensure that Wallace had received his orders. This courier returned stating (erroneously) that Wallace refused to march without written orders. Annoyed by this unnecessary delay, Grant sent Capt. William Rowley with firm orders for Wallace to march. By 2:30 p.m., still with no Wallace on the field, Grant sent two staff officers to find out what the delay was. Colonel James McPherson and Capt. Rawlins found Wallace not on the River Road as they expected but on the Shunpike road two miles south of Adamsville. It was here that Wallace learned that the army had been pushed back and if he continued on his current route he would come up behind enemy lines and be cut off.

 

Up to this point the errors had been in miscommunication. Wallace, wanting his more experienced troops to reach the battlefield first, ordered the column to countermarch rather than a simple about face. This meant that the lead brigade doubled back over the entire length of the column. More delays came when the column halted for the rear elements to catch up. Wallace’s 5,800 men arrived on the field at about 6 p.m., too late to assist in the fighting on the 6th.

 

Wallace was made a scapegoat for his performance on the 6th, though little of the fault was his own. Grant assumed Wallace would approach via the River road which Brig. Gen. William Wallace’s 2nd Division had been working hard to make serviceable. Lew Wallace had no reason to believe that the Shunpike road which avoided the swampy ground was not the correct path to take. Poor communication was the problem not a question of not knowing roads or a lack of urgency.

 

I ran through these events quite quickly and left out many details. For more information check out Wallace’s and Grant’s reports in the Official Records, Blue and Gray Shiloh! Edition by Stacy Allen, Shiloh: Bloody April by Wiley Sword and Shiloh by Larry Daniel. As a side note, for those that still claim Wallace was too slow, several members of our staff followed Wallace’s route in a spring time recreation of his march. Knowing the route and having the advantage of paved roads, our eight folks were hard pressed to match the time that Wallace made in his trip to Shiloh.

 

Concerning the story that soldiers were caught in their tents and bayoneted while wrapped in their blankets is also untrue. The battle opens at dawn which was about 4:30 a.m. The first camps to be attacked (Hildebrand's brigade of Sherman's division and Peabody's brigade of Prentiss') are not hit until between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. The battle, which had been occuring in Fraley, Seay and Rhea fileds, had been going for several hours before the first camp was overun.

 

Fuller - In regards to your PM message of my ever getting tired of living at Shiloh I would have to say no, not ever. Which makes it hard to explain why I just moved out. I work at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center and the half hour drive each way was getting old. My wife and I rented the Duncan House in Corinth which turns 150 years old this year. It was used by Beauregard as headquarters prior to Shiloh and by Rosecrans from July to October of 62. We'll miss living on the park but we are pretty excited about living in Corinth

 

Tom

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