General Grant had already commenced to concentrate his forces at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee river.
General Albert Sydney Johnston had now been placed in command of the Confederate Army and was concentrating all available troops at Corinth, Mississippi, eighteen miles from Pittsburg Landing, for the purpose of giving battle to General Grant.
On April 3rd Johnston began to move his army out of Corinth, and on the morning of April 6th Johnston attacked Grant at Shiloh church, a few miles west of Pittsburg.
Johnston had intended to attack Grant on the 4th before Buell could reinforce him from Nashville, but owing to heavy rains and bad roads he did not get his army there until the evening of the 5th.
It was common talk at that time that Beauregard, who was second in command, opposed the marching of the army out and attacking Grant, but advised waiting for Grant to attack Johnston at Corinth.
It was told at that time that at a general meeting of the Staff officers at Corinth, that Beauregard strongly opposed the attack on Grant. General Polk chanced not to be present, and General Johnston went to see him and when he returned he said to the officers present: "The old Bishop says to attack Grant and to capture his army, then destroy Buell and march my army to the Ohio river, if not to the Great Lakes of the North."
There has been more diversity of opinion concerning this battle than any other battle of the Civil War. The question has been asked and answered in different ways: "Who lost Shiloh for the Confederacy?" Governor Isham G. Harris of Tennessee, who was serving on Johnston's staff, said he notified Beauregard of Johnston's death and that Beauregard had plenty of time to have captured Grant before night. Dr. Y. R. Lemonier, an acknowledged authority on war matters, says in defense of Beauregard, that the fighting lasted until dark and that Beauregard had no time to advance.
I was but a small boy at that time, not yet eighteen years old, but carrying a musket as a private in that battle, and living near there and being well acquainted with the surrounding country around there at that time, and I hope that I will be pardoned for giving the details of what I saw of one of the greatest battles of the Civil War.
The regiment to which I belonged, the 154th. Tennessee had been camped for some time in the town of Purdy, fifteen miles northwest of Shiloh. On the evening of April 4th. orders were read to us to get ready to march at daylight the next morning, with three days cooked rations in the possession of each man.
At sunrise on the morning of April 5th we left Purdy; each man knowing that a great battle was about to be fought, and because of its outcome a great victory was possible for us that would likely turn the tide of the war.
I believe that never before did a body of military men march into battle with a greater confidence of victory than the Confederates at Shiloh.
We were encamped less than two miles of Grant's army; everywhere could be seen men, horses, wagons, artillery and everything that goes with an army preparing for battle.
It will perhaps seem strange to the men of today that as efficient a General as Grant was, that he would allow an army of fifty thousand men to come, and as it were, camp at his door and he should know nothing of it. It is a fact that many Confederate regiments were camped within half a mile of Grant's pickets. Why Grant did not find out that they were there will perhaps always remain a mystery.
That night of April 5th Johnston's army lay down to sleep, muddy and tired from marching over the slippery roads, each man well knowing that on the morrow those two armies of well over one hundred thousand men would grasp each other in a death struggle for victory.
All historians, North as well as South, agree that Grant's army outnumbered Johnston's, some giving Grant's numbers as high as two to Johnston's one, but that, I think, is too high, and army statistics do not substantiate such an assizement.
The next morning, April 6th just as the first grey streaks of day began to appear in the east, the Confederate skirmish lines commenced to drive in the Federal pickets on our right, and soon musket firing was heard in Grant's entire front. By daylight the firing had become general and from the pop and rattle of picket firing it resembled the steady roar of a terrific storm.
My regiment, the 154th Tennessee was held in reserve and we were kept close up to our line of battle. Men were soon coming back wounded and bleeding, and all informing us that the enemy was giving way, although we already knew that to be a fact owing to the forward movement of the firing.
We soon began to pass over dead men just recently killed, and then the orders came for us to go forward double quick.
The enemy held a strong position on the old Purdy and Pittsburg road north of the Shiloh church.
We soon forced the enemy back, capturing a six gun battery of field artillery, said to be the finest battery of field artillery in the United States. I forgot the name of the Commander of this battery, but it had been made at Chicago and paid for and presented to this company by the ladies of Chicago, and it seemed that its defenders were determined not to give it up. Their horses had been killed and they could not get it moved away; they and their infantry supports stayed with their guns until we were within thirty yards of them when a murderous fire from muskets forced them to retreat, leaving many of their men lying dead among their guns.
This battery was captured and recaptured several times during the war, but at the battle of Nashville, Tennessee December 15, and 16th. the federals recaptured and held it until the end of the war.
From this point forward in the battle of Shiloh each time the Federals made a stand they were driven from their position, and when the Confederates reached a position one half to three fourths of a mile from the river we were halted. The Federals had disappeared from our front, their small arms had ceased and only the large guns from their gunboats were firing shells, which were passing over our heads high in the air and falling harmless in our rear.
The men were clamboring for an advance. When word was brought to us that Johnston was killed and we were ordered back to where we had camped the night before, each soldier fully believed that Grant's army would be surrendered the next morning. The Federals had left the field in disorder and were huddled under the bluff at Pittsburg Landing, and in a large field just below the landing at the mouth of Snake Creek and were offering no resistance whatever, except from their gunboats.
I have never talked with but one Federal soldier who was there who did not say that they expected to surrender. Nevertheless, General Grant in his history of the war says the idea of surrender never occurred to him, a strange assertion, to say the least.
As to the time of day that we fell back, I cannot say, but we fell back to our camps of the night before, some four miles, and reached there before dark.
A battle had been fought at Shiloh that day of April 6th. and won by the Confederates.
The next day Johnston's body was sent to Corinth and lay in the home of Colonel I. M. Inge, waiting for a train to take it to New Orleans, where it was buried and remained until it was later removed to Austin, Texas where it now sleeps in his adopted state.
The next morning we were preparing our breakfast and discussing what would be done with the prisoners and other matters concerning the forthcoming surrender, as we supposed, when a courier came and ordered our Colonel to move his men forward, that the enemy was advancing. The battle was renewed and about 4:00 P.M. Beauregard, who had taken command, ordered a retreat.
Buell and Mitchell had reinforced Grant the night before from across the river with forty - some historians say fifty - thousand men.
The battle of Shiloh, one of the greatest battles of the war, had been fought for the second day April 7, and lost by the Confederates.
I believe that all Confederates and most Union soldiers agree that had General Johnston lived two hours longer Grant would have had to surrender his army, and had Johnston lived to hours longer Grant would have never been President of the United States and American History would have read quite differently. But back to the reality of what occurred at Shiloh.
The night of the 7th. all roads leading south and west were crowded with men, horses, artillery and everything belonging to an army, and through mud and rain Beauregard was on his retreat to Corinth, which place his men reached the next day in a disordered condition. Had Grant pushed on at this point a large part of the Confederate army could have been captured.
A Terrier and a Mastiff had been engaged in combat and each time the Terrier showed his teeth he brought blood from the Mastiff, and when the Terrier withdrew the Mastiff was content to lie down and rest.
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