Relating to First Shiloh
The Civil War Reminiscences of Major Silas T. Grisamore, C.S.A
by Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., pp. 19-22
Original title: Reminiscences of Uncle Silas: A History
of the Eighteenth Louisiana Infantry Regiment
26. Struck half of our tents and leaving Company K to guard the remainder,
we departed towards Pittsburg Landing, distant about 20 miles." (35)
February 28. Arrived at Pittsburg Landing on the
Tennessee River. This was simply a shipping point. There were but two buildings,
one on the bank of the river, and the other about 200 yards back. The road is
cut down through the bluffs which are 100 feet above highwater mark. A tract of
land about 200 yards wide and a half mile in length along the river was cleared
and cultivated; behind was dense woods. Our company, with that of Capt. Druilhet,
was stationed in the ravine between the two dwellings, whilst the remaining
seven companies were encamped in the woods behind the open field-all being
invisible from the river. In the evening I was ordered to take a detail of men
and picket the point near the mouth of Owl Creek about one mile and a half down
In posting my sentinels in such position as to best
conceal them from view, I stowed them away so snugly that when I undertook to
relieve them in the darkness, I hunted around half an hour before I could find
one of the posts.
March 1. Being relieved, I returned to camp and partook
of a good breakfast. We had been fairing sumptuously since we reached Corinth as
we could obtain anything we wanted at very low prices.
J. V. Knoblock was appointed corporal in place of L.
March 1. 1862. Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee River.
Miles Artillery, commanded by Capt. Claude Gibson, (36) came in the morning and
posted two howitzer pieces on the bank of the river about 100 yards below our
camp and four other pieces about 300 yards further up the river on a high and
conspicuous bluff .(37)
o'clock N., the report was circulated that "gun boats were coming,"
and upon looking down the river two columns of black smoke curling over the tree
tops attested the correctness of the statement. (38) As they advanced up the
river, apparently unconscious of any enemy, the pieces on the bluff above us
opened on them. They made a few shots which were doubtless well aimed but which
fell short of their mark some 200 or 300 yards. As soon as the position of the
battery was exposed, the boats prepared for action. We were immediately called
to arms, and whilst the officers were endeavoring to form their companies the
shells were whizzing over our heads, causing every one of us to bow down just at
the moment we were commanded to "eyes right," to jump backwards at the
command of "right dress." Our captain, who seldom lost the equilibrium
of his mind, became a little excited on the occasion, but the line was finally
formed. It was the first time any of us had ever heard the peculiar music of a
bomb shell, and I believe without exception every man thought he was going to be
hit just below the ear; at least every fellow first bowed his head and then came
down on his knee. Solemn as the affair was likely to be, I know that several of
us could not keep from laughing at the sudden and uniform movement of everyone
as a shell passed over our heads.
A few well-directed shots from the boats caused the
battery above to fall back, whilst the two howitzers, from not being properly
prepared, were not fired at all, and all fell back into the woods.(39)
Col. Mouton, who was absent at the beginning, came up and
assumed command. Our company was ordered to a rifle pit that was being made on
the bank of the river in front of our camp, but not being completed, we were
unable to protect the men in it and being too far from the boats to have any
effect upon them with our arms and visible to the gunners who were now firing
upon us, we were withdrawn to the rear, not however until two or three shots
passed so close to us that we could feel the wind raising the hair on our heads.
Had one of the shots been a couple of feet lower it would have enfiladed the
company and settled up the accounts of a good many of us.
The troops were then all withdrawn to the woods behind
the field and concealed. The enemy, after shelling the woods in every direction,
sent a detachment of about 100 men on shore.(40) Having never seen but our
company and the battery, it is presumed that they imagined the force on land to
be small and to have retreated. As soon as they reached the top of the hill,
forming into line, they advanced towards the woods, where they were met by the
fire of the whole regiment. The enemy precipitately rushed to their boats, our
men following them closely, and as they were obliged to embark on small crafts,
the gun boats not being able to get nearer than 50 yards of the shore, they
became good marks for our men, who could fire from the top of the steep banks
and step back out of their sight whilst they were reloading their pieces.(41)
The gun boats were wooden affairs, and our riflemen silenced their pieces
easily.(42) Had the battery been present then we could have sunk them or
compelled a surrender. As it was, they floated off down the river and did not
use their engines until the current had carried them a mile or more below the
scene of action. Our loss was about a dozen killed and wounded.(43) The enemy
report 12 killed and 60 odd wounded and missing.(44) The missing with three
exceptions were all in the Tennessee River.
Lieutenant Lavery (45) of the Orleans Cadets was shot
through the thigh, and Lieutenant Watt (46) of Capt. Huntington's company was
slightly injured by a shell, these being the only officers hurt. The engagement
lasted three hours. The shells of the enemy being thrown promiscuously
throughout the woods played havoc with the branches of trees, frequently cutting
them off over our heads. Once whilst we were posted in the road some distance
back, Lieutenant Gautreau remarked that whilst we were doing nothing, he might
as well stand behind a tree which was close by, and he accordingly took that
position, but no sooner had he posted himself than a shot cut off a limb which
came tumbling down at his feet and caused him to so completely change his mind
that he was satisfied the open road was the safest place.
35. General Ruggles had ordered the 18th Louisiana, Miles
Artillery, and a cavalry detachment (2nd Mississippi Cavalry Battalion?) to
Pittsburg Landing to observe and defend the area (ibid., VII, 909).
36. The Miles Artillery had left New Orleans for
Columbus, Kentucky, on February 8, 1862 (New Orleans Daily Picayune. February 9,
37. Second Lieutenant Charles A. Montaldo commanded the
two 12-pounder howitzers of the Miles Artillery, and Junior 1st Lieutenant E. D.
Terrebonne had charge of the tour 6-pounder rifled pieces located about a
thousand yards south of the howitzers (CSR, Roll 395 ).
38. The two Federal gunboats were the Tyler, Lieutenant
William Gwin, and the Lexington, Lieutenant lames W. Shirk (Official Records of
the Union and Con federate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (Washington,'
D.C., 1894- 1922), Series 1, Vol. XXII, p. 643, hereinafter cited as OR, Navies.
Unless otherwise indicated, all citations are to Series I).
39. Lieutenant Montaldo withdrew his howitzers without
firing a shot after the gunboats opened on his position. During a court-martial
in mid-April, be testified that he did not have enough men or the proper
implements It) work his guns. The rifled section opened with three of its pieces
and exchanged rounds with the gunboats for ten to fifteen minutes before withdrawing.
Testimony in the court-martial proceedings of Montaldo reflects badly on Captain
Gibson's leadership. The court concluded: "It appears from the evidence
that the company was not in a state of preparation either as to discipline,'
numbers, instruction or appliances, thereby not only hazarding the lives of the
men entrusted to these officers, but the cause they were engaged in
defending." General Pierre C. T. Beauregard,'s reaction to the proceedings
was even stronger: "The evidence in the case manifestly shows a degree of
culpability and neglect of duty on part of Captain Gibson which should have
caused him to exercise more forbearance toward Lieutenant Montaldo-To have ordered
the Lieutenant to the front with a mounted stovepipe would have been an absurdity
perhaps equal to but not greater than with Howitzers which it was impossible (as
shown by the evidence) to discharge." The battery was never again engaged
with the enemy and ceased to exist after its consolidation with a Missouri
battery on June 30, 1862 (CSR, Roll 395; Bergeron, Guide to Louisiana
Confederate Military Units, 32).
40. Two boats from each gunboat took ashore portions of two crews and detachments of Companies C and K, 32nd Illinois Infantry Regiment (sharpshooters) OR, Navies, XXII,' 644).
41. Later the Federals reported that they had fought two
infantry regiments and one cavalry regiment (ibid.).
42. Lieutenant Gwin wrote that the Tyler was exposed to
"a tremendous fire of musketry" and was "perfectly riddled with
43. The 18th lost approximately seven men killed and
thirteen wounded (New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 9, 11, 1862).
44. The Federals reported losing two men killed, six
wounded, and three missing (OR, Navies, XXII,' 645, 646).
45. First Lieutenant John T. Lavery. One account stated
that when he was wounded, he refused to leave the field, and "having
borrowed a Maynard rifle, he leaned against a sapling,' and blazed away as hard
as he could," (New Orleans Daily Picayune March 11, 1862).
46. First Lieutenant Andrew J. Watt "was struck with an iron ring of a grape stand, which had glanced from a tree,' bruising his leg very severely, but did not prevent him from following up the fight" (ibid. ).
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