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 Posted: Tue Jan 16th, 2007 02:45 pm
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Fuller
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Here's a question for the board...

Which Conf. unit was responsible for the death of Gen. Johnston at Shiloh?



 Posted: Tue Jan 16th, 2007 06:08 pm
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ole
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Fuller:

Do you have some convincing evidence that he was hit by friendly fire? I ask in all seriousness because I've not read that one yet and would like to know where you found it. I've read authors who believe it was friendly fire, but can't prove it; I've read authors who speculate that it could have been a yankee bullet (wheeling his horse, etc., presenting his back to the enemy); but I've not yet run across an account that claims friendly fire.

I'll get back tonight with at least the regiments he was leading (if someone else doesn't beat me to it.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Jan 16th, 2007 09:01 pm
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Fuller
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Ole,

This post was made as a great way to start a good eduational discussion.  Was he shot by his men?  I can only imagine what the scene must have looked like.  Bullets zipping by from every direction.  The fatal hit was made in the back of his leg, correct?  How can we know for sure where the hits came from.  I am going off of Col.  William Preston's official account.  He said he was hit in the back of the leg and also two other balls hit him.  His horse was also wounded in the attack.  I'm just trying to figure out if those same shots that hit him were the same shots that hit his horse.  Could the horse have been hit first causing him to loose control and put himself in a vulnerable position?  These are more of questions than statements.  I would just love to hear what others have to say.  Educate me please!

Fuller 



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:02 am
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CleburneFan
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Writer Steven Woodworth in his book "Jefferson Davis and His Generals" which I have before me because I referred to it in another thread tonight, says that a "stray bullet" hit Johnston's right calf a few inches below the knee severing a major blood vessel. At that moment Johnston was on horse back in front of a regiment of Tennesseans at the Hornet's Nest. He was right beside Governor Isham Harris who took him to relative shelter. No doctor was nearby.

Woodward does not discuss whether the fatal shot could have been from friendly fire. He is more concerned with how the war might have been different if Johnston had lived and maintained overall command of the Western Department. 

My own theory for what it is worth is that in the Hornet's Nest, it might have been  well nigh impossible to know where bullets came from, especially given that the general's horse having been hit twice probably was unsteady and moving around.

As for the regiment closest to Johnston at the time, it was a regiment of Tennesseans, but I don't know the exact one.

 

Last edited on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:04 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:22 am
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Well, this is interesting! An article at Wikipedia states that it "is probable" that Johnston was killed by Confederate fire as no Union forces were close enough at that moment.  It also says his wound was to the popliteal artery, not a vessel as Woodworth states in his book.

The trouble with Wikipedia is that one cannot be certain how authentic such details are. But for what it is worth someone at Wikipedia has stated the possibility of Johnston's having been hit by a fellow Confederate. I do think the hit to the artery makes more sense than one to a vessel. Whether Johnston was within range of Federal fire...that I do not know.

------------------------------


I'll amend this one last time. On further research on the web, I have found that Johnston was leading the 45th Tennessee regiment of Maj Genrral John C Breckinridge's command. This same web site also named Johnston's horse, Fire Eater. There is no discussion of whether the fatal wound is from friendly or enemy fire.

Last edited on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:58 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:59 am
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ole
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An article at Wikipedia states that it "is probable" that Johnston was killed by Confederate fire as no Union forces were close enough at that moment.  It also says his wound was to the polipital artery, not a vessel as Woodworth states in his book.

I'll go along with Wikipedia in that it "is probable" that Johnston was hit by his own troops. I would have to question that there were no Union forces close enough to do it. They were close enough that his brigade commanders couldn't get their troops moving to attack, so he chose to lead the attack.

The trouble with Wikipedia is that one cannot be certain how authentic such details are. But for what it is worth someone at Wikipedia has stated the possibility of Johnston's having been hit by a fellow Confederate. I do think the hit to the artery makes more sense than one to a vessel.

Quite right. You can't take Wikipedia information to the bank. It's a good place to start, though. FYI, veins and arteries are both "vessels."  Woodworth was avoiding specificity by saying "vessel" rather than putting another hour or two into naming the artery when it would add nothing to the story.

Ole

Last edited on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:25 pm by ole



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:19 am
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ole
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I'm just trying to figure out if those same shots that hit him were the same shots that hit his horse. 

Fuller: From descriptions I've read, he was nicked behind the knee just above his boot top. If that is true, the ball would necessarily continue into the horse. But then, it could have been a ricochet. I know nothing about other hits.

Could the horse have been hit first causing him to loose control and put himself in a vulnerable position? 

I don't know how the horse could have put him in a more vulnerable position that that he chose for himself:  Leading an infrantry charge mounted. If his boys didn't get him, the yanks surely would have. The mounted man makes a better target of himself than the flag-bearer.

Fan posted: .....in the Hornet's Nest, it might have been well nigh impossible to know where bullets came from, especially given that the general's horse having been hit twice probably was unsteady and moving around.

Minor observation, Cleburne Fan. This action took place at the Federals' left, which Johnston intended to turn -- not technically in the Hornet's Nest.


Thanks for opening the thread. Things were getting a bit slow.

Ole



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 05:35 am
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Fuller
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Great to get things rolling!

I have to refer back to the official records of Col. William Preston..."the artery of his left leg having been severed by a ball.  He was also struck by two other balls, and his horse was wounded twice."  We know the bottom of his boot was thrashed as was several places on his uniform.  That hit on his boot could have also struck his horse, causing it to become uncontrolable.  I'm not so certain that his horse was hit first the more I think about it.  I say this because of first hand accounts that state he simply slumped in his saddle.  One second he was giving orders, the next he knew his wound was serious.  None of the accounts mention his horse bucking in pain.  Preston (Johnston's bro in law) more or less stated he just happened to look over and see Fire Eater had been wounded.  The positioning of his wound is what makes me wonder...

Fuller 



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 02:38 pm
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ole
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Fuller:

When a commander selects a horse from his string to ride into battle, he picks the one that doesn't spook. It is, therefore (to my mind, at least) not very likely that Fire Eater acted badly. Just a thought.

And as an aside: Sherman regularly kept four horses. One was his favorite for a comfortable ride; one was steady in the face of noise and fire; the other two were presumably occasionally used to relieve his favorite.

As another aside: A long, long time ago I read an amusing anecdote about a general and his horse during (I think) the Penninsula Campaign. It seems that the horse had the annoying habit of turning his back to the battle. So the general, naturally desiring to direct the battle while facing it, would reverse himself in the saddle. The mental image automatically returns to that general whenever a discussion turns to horses.:D

Ole



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:08 pm
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Fuller
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Ole,

I can agree with you that the least spooked horses were "the chosen ones".  However, how would they totally know how the horse would react to a bullet in it's gut without shooting it first to see? :shock:

And as an "a**"ide...The general you mentioned above was in good position to say "You wanna kiss my what?" :D

Fuller

Last edited on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:44 pm by Fuller



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:23 pm
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There is no official listing of any particular Confederate unit which may have caused the fatal wounding of General Albert S. Johnston at the Battle of Shiloh. Speculation that he was shot by friendly fire arises due to the nature of his wound, a rifle ball that entered the back of his right knee tearing the poplitreal artery. The possibility of friendly fire assumes that Johnston was facing the enemy at the time he was struck and there is no certainty of this. Johnston's horse "Fire Eater" was struck twice and was more than likely very active in its movements because of the sound and events occurring all around. Keep in mind that this was the horse’s baptism of fire and his behavior was not documented. Johnston was very active himself in organizing an attack against the Union left and was most certainly not sitting static when the wounding occurred. I do not think it will ever be known which unit, let alone which side, fired the fatal bullet.

 

In his book Shiloh: Bloody April, author Wiley Sword contends that General Johnston was struck by a .577 caliber Enfield bullet. Author Charles Roland in Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics states it was a "minie ball" which could have been one of several calibers of rifled bullet. The ball was extracted by Beauregard's staff surgeon Dr. Choppin but it is unclear what type and caliber it was. Keep in mind that the battlefield was a very fluid, dynamic situation. Soldiers had fought back and forth over that precise piece of real estate and weapons and ammunition had been dropped and scavenged as needed to continue the fight. Even if the exact type of weapon were identified there is no way to conclusively prove if a southern or northern soldier fired it.

 

The actual location of Johnston’s wounding is on a small knoll less than a hundred yards from the southeast corner of the Peach Orchard. He was most definitely in range of several union regiments of Pugh’s brigade of Hurlbut’s division and McArthur’s brigade of W.H.L. Wallace’s division. On the Confederate side Statham’s, Bowen’s and Chalmer’s all had troops within range of General Johnston.

 

Johnston died with a tourniquet in his pocket. It is very possible that he himself was unaware of the fatal wound until he reeled in the saddle due to loss of blood. On February 5th, 1837 A.S. Johnston participated in a duel with Felix Huston in Texas. On the fifth or sixth exchange of shots Johnston was hit in the right hip. It was a bad wound and he was in bed for weeks recovering. There was nerve damage and he lost a degree of feeling in that leg.



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:38 pm
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Fuller
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Hey this is great!  I'm very impressed with the responses I've received in a little more than 24 hours.  Thank you!

Tom, a tourniquet in his pocket?  That's the first I've heard of that.  I've always heard a tourniquet could have saved him.  It might had saved him.  I'm not a doctor but he did bleed out pretty quickly.  We could speculate his survival if his surgeon would have been on site and properly attended the wound and stopped the bleeding...

This is all great discussion.  Thanks for all of your two cents.

Fuller



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:52 pm
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calcav
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Another intresting point about the wound; that artery is self sealing if it is severed. But the ball tore the vessel without cutting it in two. Another one of those cases where "if it had only been a fraction of an inch to the side".



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:59 pm
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This morning I dug into "Shiloh: Bloody April" by Wiley Sword because of its detailed account of the battle. Appendix A in the back of the book goes into greater detail still than the main body of Sword's book.

It states that the fatal minie ball was fired from Johnston's rear as he lead Statham's brigade and came from a forty-five degree angle to the general's right. Sword writes that it is "probable" that Johnston was struck by his own men. In fact, Johnston was struck four times, but only one was a fatal shot.

Sadly even it did not have to be a mortal wound if  rescue had come soon enough. Part of the problem was that the wound bled into his boot and was obscured. At foist, it was believed Johnston had ben shot in the chest or torso.

About Fire-Eater. Sword reports that Gov Harris tried to ride Johnston's horse because his own had run away. Fire-Eater was so crippled, Harris dismounted and discovered the animal was wounded in three legs. Another officer reported he had been shot in both hams. However Harris somehow did ride him back to the rear.

I have to ask this question as someone who has never been in a battle and knows little of Napoleonic warfare. I'm asking as a rank amateur. What in the heck was the highest ranking Confederate general in the Western theater doing leading a mounted charge against a determined enemy in front of raw recruits who hadn't seen much or any battle before that day and had resisted Breckinridge's attempts to get them to fight? 

What Johnston did was inspired, brave, courageous, audacious, daring...but was it smart?



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 04:24 pm
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Johnston was desperately trying to salvage a battle plan that had turned into an unmanageable mess. His plan to turn the Union left and drive the enemy into the swampy bottoms of Owl Creek had not materialized due to a misunderstanding of the enemy’s position. Johnston thought the Union camps were lined up north to south facing west. When he struck the enemy line he thought he was on the left flank and devoted 2/3’s of his troops to turn the line. But he had actually struck the Union center, not the left as planned. His forces were actually driving Grant toward Pittsburg landing instead of away from it. Gathering what ever troops he could find, Johnston was attempting to turn the actual left flank when he was struck down.



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 05:47 pm
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ole
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Calcav:

Stacy Allen said the same thing -- that Johnston thought the yanks were lined up north to south and facing west. That would validate Johnston's plan, but.... They were known to be on the way to Coringh; why on earth would he expect the yanks to be facing west? True, Grant and Sherman were apprehensive of Confederate activity in the west, but would Johnston have known that? Perhaps he had spies that told him, but wouldn't the spies have also told him of the dispositions to date? Sherman was about the first to deploy and he was definitely east/west and facing south (with most of one brigade watching the Owl Creek bridge). If he also knew Lew Wallaces disposition, he would likely not have known McClernand's, Hurlbut's, and WHL Wallace's positions as they arrived later. (Assumption: I know they arrived well after Sherman, and am basing the assumption that Johnston was making his plans before their positions were taken up.)

Back to Johnston's fatal wound: I had understood a bullet "nicked" the back of Johnston's knee (tore the artery) inplying that the bullet had not been found. If a bullet entered behind the knee, it must have been spent or it would of purt near tore his leg off -- notwithstanding a numbness in the leg, he'd have felt the blow. Given the range of a .577 minie, it would therefore seem unlikely to have come from his own troops.

And on to the horse: Even if Fire Fly had been steady as a boulder, Johnston would have been wheeling right and left and rearward while exhorting the troops to follow him. Given that excited troops are prone to error, it remains that Yanks would be more inclined to shoot in his general direction than Confederates.

Fuller:

A tourniquet most certainly would have saved him. The problem is, he was apparently unaware of the wound or it's gravity until it was too late. If he knew where it was, he was apparently unable to communicate with those who laid him out to search for the wound which was, meanwhile, pumping the last pints out of him.

Great discussion, folks. Thank you.

Ole

Last edited on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 05:55 pm by ole



 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 08:59 pm
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Well, Ive been checking through various volumes of The War of the Rebellion without any results towards Johnston being hit by friendly fire. Found a report by Johnston's Aide-de-Camp, Colonel William Preston, which says Johnston led Bowen's Brigade into battle before recieving the fatal wound. Using that, I found a report of one Colonel Issac L. Dunlap, Commander 9th Arkansas Infantry and one of Bowen's regimental commanders, also says Johnston was leading the brigade. However, Dunlap says Johnston lead them for ony two or three hundred yards before ordering them forward as Union Forces were before them. From Dunlap's description it sounds like another 200 or so yards from where Johnston ordered the brigade forward.

 

Preston's Report http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/pageviewer?root=%2Fmoa%2Fwaro%2Fwaro0010%2F&tif=00422.TIF&cite=http%3A%2F%2Fcdl.library.cornell.edu%2Fcgi-bin%2Fmoa%2Fmoa-cgi%3Fnotisid%3DANU4519-0010&coll=moa&frames=1&view=50


Dunlap's Report http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/pageviewer?root=%2Fmoa%2Fwaro%2Fwaro0010%2F&tif=00642.TIF&cite=http%3A%2F%2Fcdl.library.cornell.edu%2Fcgi-bin%2Fmoa%2Fmoa-cgi%3Fnotisid%3DANU4519-0010&coll=moa&frames=1&view=50



 Posted: Thu Jan 18th, 2007 02:17 pm
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Albert Sailhorst
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If no Yankee unit was near enough to be shooting, then what were the Confedrates shooting at??

At the split second that the shot was fired, Johnston could have been facing in any direction...i.e; giving orders to his troops, facing the enemy to see their direction/formation/movement, he could have begun to turn in order to move or see from a different angle.....It's split second bad timing....At a certain point in space and time, he could have just as easily "turned" into the path of a bullet.....

This is an interesting post, however, because I'd not yet heard the theory that he was struck by one of his own.

Do we know if the fatal minie ball had 3 grooves or 2??....

 

Albert Sailhorst, Scott's TN Battery



 Posted: Thu Jan 18th, 2007 03:56 pm
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Albert good to see you back.  I can just imagine ASJ was on the move in every direction at the same time like you say.  Who can tell where the bullet came from and since others have said no one knows what was done with it I would think we could never know who fired the fatal shot.

I do have a picture in my mind of ASJ being everywhere at the same time urging his men on , checking out where the Yankees were, back and forth back and forth . 

I think the question was a good one as it did bring out some really good postings on the subject. 



 Posted: Thu Jan 18th, 2007 04:01 pm
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Thanks, Hellcat. Your post and links are what make a forum valuable.

Ole



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