Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), Tennessee,
April 6-7, 1862
From the Official Records of the Navies
[Note: In these nineteenth century style communications, the addressee appears below the closing salutation and name of the sender.]
from report of Flag-Officer Foote, U.S.N., transmitting reports of commanding officers
Report of Lieutenant Gwin, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Tyler
Report of Lieutenant Shirk, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Lexington
Letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Flag-Officer Foote, U. S. Navy, expressing the thanks of the Department
Report of Major-General Grant, U. S. Army, commanding District of West Tennessee
Letter from Leonard Swett, esq., to the President, giving special credit to the Navy
Extract from report of Flag-Officer Foote, U.S.N., transmitting reports of
U. S. FLAG-STEAMER BENTON,
Island No. 10, April 11, 1862.
SIR: I also enclose reports from Lieutenants Commanding Gwin and Shirk, of the gunboats Tyler and Lexington, in the Tennessee, giving a graphic account of that great battle and the assistance rendered our army by those boats near Pittsburg, stating, that when the left wing of our army was being driven into the river, at short range they opened fire up on them, silencing the enemy, and, as I hear from many army officers on the field, totally demoralizing his forces and driving them from their position in a perfect rout in the space of ten minutes.
These officers and men, as well as those of Commander Walke and the officers and men of the Carondelet and Pittsburg, behaved with a degree of gallantry highly creditable to them and the Navy.
I proceed to-day with the entire flotilla to New Madrid and hope to leave to-morrow for Fort Pillow, or the next point down the river which may attempt to resist the raising of the blockade.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. H. FOOTE,
Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.
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Report of Lieutenant Gwin, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Tyler.
U. S. GUNBOAT TYLER,
Pittsburg, Tenn., April 8, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to inform you that the enemy attacked our lines on our left the morning of the 6th instant at 6:30 and by his overwhelming numbers forced our men to fall back in some confusion. At 9:25. finding that the rebels were still driving our left wing back, I steamed up to a point 1 mile above Pittsburg, taking a good position to support our troops should they be forced down to the banks of the river. At 10:15 the Lexington, Lieutenant Commanding Shirk,. joined me, having come up from Crump's Landing. After a short time she returned for the purpose of supporting the command of General Wallace, which occupied that point. Not having received any instructions from the commanding general in regard to the service to be rendered by the gunboats, I awaited them patiently, although for an hour or more shot and shell were falling all around us. Feeling that could some system of communication be established the Tyler could be of great advantage to our left wing, at 1:25 p.m. I sent an officer, requesting that I might be allowed to open on the woods in the direction of the batteries and advancing <nor22_763>forces of the rebels. General Hurlbut, who commanded on our left, sent me word to do so, giving me directions how to fire, that I might do it with no damage to our troops, and expressing himself grateful for this offer of support, saying that without reinforcements he would not be able to maintain the position he then occupied for an hour. Therefore, at 2:50, I opened fire in the line directed with good effect, silencing their batteries on our left. At 3:50 ceased firing and dropped down opposite the landing at Pittsburg; sent Mr. Peters, gunner, on shore to communicate with General Grant for further instructions. His response was to use my own judgment in the matter. At 4. p.m. the Lexington, Lieutenant. Commanding. Shirk, having arrived from Crump's Landing, the Tyler, in company with the Lexington, took position three-fourths of a mile above Pittsburg and opened heavy fire in direction of the rebel batteries on their right, the missiles of which were falling all around us. We silenced them in thirty minutes. At 5:35, the rebels, having succeeded in gaining a potation on the left of our line, an eighth of a mile above the landing at Pittsburg and a half a mile from the river, both vessels opened a heavy and Well-directed fire on them, and in a short time, in conjunction with our artillery on shore, succeeded in silencing their artillery, driving them back in confusion.
At 6 p.m. the Tyler opened deliberate fire in the direction of the rebel right wing, throwing 5-second and 10-second shell. At 6:25 ceased firing.
At 9 p.m. the Tyler again opened fire by direction of General Nelson (who greatly distinguished himself in yesterday's engagement), throwing 5-second, 10-second, and 15-second shell, and an occasional shrapnel from the howitzer, at intervals of ten minutes in direction of the rebel right wing until I a.m., when the Lexington relieved us and continued the fire at intervals of fifteen minutes until 5 a.m., when our land forces having attacked the enemy, forcing them gradually back, it made it dangerous for the gunboats to fire. At 7 I received a communication from General Grant (enclosed is a copy) which prevented the gunboats from taking an active part throughout the rest of the day. Lieutenant Commanding Shirk deserves the greatest praise for the efficient manner in which the battery of the Lexington was served.
At 5:35 p.m. the enemy were forced to retreat in haste, having contested every inch of the ground with great stubbornness during the entire day. The officers and men of this vessel displayed their usual gallantry and enthusiasm during the entire day and night.
Your old wooden boats, I feel confident, rendered invaluable service on the 6th instant to the land forces. Gunner Herman Peters deserves great credit for the prompt and courageous manner in which he traversed our lines, conveying communications from this vessel to the commanding generals.
The rebels had a force of 100,000 men, A. S. Johnston (killed, body found on the field), Beauregard, Hardee, Bragg, and Polk, being their commanding generals. Governor George W. Johnson, provisional governor of Kentucky, is a prisoner in our hands, mortally wounded. Loss severe on both sides; ours, probably 10,000. The rebels suffered a much greater one. I think this has been a crushing blow to the rebellion.
I am happy to state no casualties occurred on either of the gunboats.
The Tyler expended 188 shell, 4 solid shot, 2 stand of grape, and 6 shrapnel. Enclosed I send you Lieutenant Commanding Shirk's report.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieut., Comdg. Division o/Gunboats, Tennessee River.
Flag-Officer A. H. FOOTE,
Comdg. Naval Forces, Western Waters.
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Report of Lieutenant Shirk, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Lexington.
U. S. GUNBOAT LEXINGTON,
Pittsburg, Tenn., April 8, 1862.
SIR: On the morning of the 6th instant, while lying at Crump's Landing, I heard severe cannonading in the direction of Pittsburg. I got underway and stood up the river to communicate with Lieutenant Commanding Gwin, of the Tyler.
Upon my reaching this place I found that an attack had been, made upon our army by the rebels in force. I returned to Crump's, to support the division under command of General Lew. Wallace, when I found that his division had proceeded to join the main force back of Pittsburg Landing.
I then steamed back to this place, and no instructions reaching the gunboats from the commanding general on shore, we were forced to remain inactive hearers of the desperate fight until the left wing of our forces, having been forced back and completely turned, and the rebels getting so near the river that the missiles from their batteries fell thick and fast over and around us, enabled us to use our great guns with such effect that the fire of the enemy was silenced in thirty minutes.
This was between 4:10 and 4:40 [p.] m. Again, at 5:35 [p.] m. the enemy having gained a position on the left of our lines, within an eighth of a mile of the landing and of the transports, we again, with the Tyler, opened fire upon them, silencing the enemy, and, as I hear from many army officers on the field, totally demoralizing his forces and driving them from their position in a perfect rout in the space of ten minutes.
The firing on the part of the land forces then ceased. At 8 o'clock I went down to Crump's Landing, and finding that everything was quiet there, returned to this place.
At 1 a.m. on the 7th I relieved the Tyler, Lieutenant Commanding Gwin, in a position immediately above the landing, and fired, until daylight, a shell every fifteen minutes into the enemy's camp.
Yesterday, at daylight, the fight recommenced between the two parties on shore and continued until 5 p.m., when the enemy left in a hurried retreat.
The gunboats occupying a position on the left of our lines not being allowed to fire. I spent the morning and part of the afternoon in acts of mercy, picking up the wounded who had found their way to the river and conveying them to the hospital boats.
I must say that the gallantry and good conduct, of the officers and men whom I have the honor to command, displayed upon this occasion, as often before, are beyond all praise.
I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,
JAMES W. SHIRK,
Flag-Officer A. H. FOOTE, U. S. Navy,
Comdg. U. S. Naval Forces, Western Waters, Cairo, Ill.
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Letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Flag-Officer Foote, U. S. Navy, expressing the thanks of the Department.
NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 19, 1862
SIR: Yours of the 11th instant, enclosing reports from Lieutenants Commanding Gwin and Shirk, of the steamers Tyler and Lexington, on the Tennessee River, giving a graphic account of the battle at Pittsburg Landing on the 6th and 7th instant, and the signal assistance rendered to the army and the country by the gunboats under their command, has been received and read with interest. This is another evidence of the gallant and invaluable service rendered by the Navy on the Western waters. Although the force was small and auxiliary to the army, the successful efforts of the gunboats in checking the enemy and repelling their advance are felt and acknowledged by the country.
You will communicate the thanks of the Department to the officers and men of your command who participated in the battle of Pittsburg Landing.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Flag-Officer A. H. FOOTE,
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Report of Major-General Grant, U. S. Army, commanding District of West Tennessee.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE,
Pittsburg, April 9, 1862.
CAPTAIN: It becomes my duty again to report another battle fought between two great armies, one contending for the maintenance of the best government ever devised, the other for its destruction. It is pleasant to record the success of the army contending for the former principle.
On Sunday morning our pickets we, re attacked and driven in by the enemy. Immediately the five divisions stationed at this place were drawn up in line of battle, ready to meet them. The battle soon waxed warm on the left and center, varying at times to all parts of the line. The most continuous firing of musketry and artillery ever heard on this continent was kept up until nightfall, the enemy having forced the entire line to fall back nearly halfway from their camps to the [Pittsburg] Landing.
At a late hour in the afternoon a desperate effort was made by the enemy to turn our left and get possession of the Landing, transports, etc. This point was guarded by the gunboats Tyler and Lexington, Captains Gwin and Shirk, U. S. Navy, commanding, four 20-pounder Parrott guns and a battery of rifled guns. As there is a deep and impassable ravine for artillery or cavalry, and very difficult for infantry, at this point, no troops were stationed here, except the necessary artillerists and small infantry force for their support. Just at this moment the advance of Major-General Buell's column (a part of the division under General Nelson) arrived, the two generals named both being present. An advance was immediately made upon the point of attack and the enemy soon driven back. In this repulse much is due to the presence of the gunboats Tyler and Lexington and their able commanders, Captains Gwin and Shirk.
A flag of truce was sent in to-day from General Beauregard. I enclose herewith a copy of the correspondence.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT,
Captain N. H. McLEAN,
A. A. G., Department of the Mississippi, St. Louis, Mo.
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Letter from Leonard Swett, esq., to the President, giving special credit to the Navy.
Washington, July 30, 1862.
DEAR SIR: I went to Pittsburg Landing immediately after the battle there and spent three days riding over the field. From all I could learn I believe the gunboats Lexington and Tyler, commanded by Lieutenants Gwin and Shirk, saved our army from defeat. At least it is within bounds to say they rendered us invaluable services.
It seems to me very clear that these gentlemen ought to be promoted for their gallant bearing in this action.
His Excellency President LINCOLN.
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