Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brigadier General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, April 11, 1862

CAMP SHILOH, April 11, 1862.

Well, we have had a big battle where they shot real bullets and I am safe, except a buckshot wound in the hand and a bruised shoulder from a spent ball. The first horse I rode was one I captured from the enemy soon after I got here, a beautiful sorrel race mare that was as fleet as a deer, and very easy in her movements to which I had become much attached. She was first wounded and then shot dead under me. This occurred Sunday when the firing on both sides was terrific, and I had no time to save saddle, holsters or valise. I took the horse of my aid McCoy1 till it was shot, when I took my doctor's horse and that was shot. My camp was in advance of all others and we caught the first thunder, and they captured all our tents and two horses of mine hitched to the trees near my tent were killed, so I am completely unhorsed. The first man killed in the battle was my orderly close by my side, a young, handsome, faithful soldier who carried his carbine ever ready to defend me. His name was Holliday, and the shot that killed him was meant for me. After the battle was over I had him brought to my camp and buried by a tree scarred with balls and its top carried off by a cannon ball.

These about embrace all the personal events connected with myself. My troops were very raw and some regiments broke at the first fire. Others behaved better, and I managed to keep enough all the time to form a command and was the first to get back to our front line. The battle on Sunday was very severe. They drove back our left flank on the river, but I held the right flank out about a mile and a half, giving room for reinforcements to come in from Crump's Landing to our north, and for Buell's army to land. Beauregard, Bragg, Johnston, Breckenridge, and all their big men were here, with their best soldiers and after the battle was over I found among the prisoners an old Louisiana cadet named Barrow, who sent for me and told me all about the others, many of whom were here and knew they were fighting me. I gave him a pair of socks, drawers and shirt and treated him very kindly. I won't attempt to give an account of the battle, but they say that I accomplished some important results, and General Grant makes special mention of me in his report which he showed me. I have worked hard to keep down, but somehow I am forced into prominence and might as well submit.

One thing pleased me well. On Sunday we caught thunder and were beaten back. Buell arrived very opportunely and came out to see me. The plan of operations was agreed on, and his fresh Kentucky troops to advance boldly out direct from the steamboat landing to Shiloh, my headquarters. I was on the right and to advance when he got abreast of me. This was done, and I edged to the road, and reached it about five hundred yards from here, just where the hardest fighting was, and then met the same Kentucky troops I had at Muldraugh's Hill. They all recognized me and such shouting you never heard. I asked to pass their ranks and they gave me the lead. I have since visited their camps and never before received such marks of favor. John's brigade is also here, indeed we must now have 75,000 men. Figures begin to approximate my standard. Halleck is coming with reinforcements. We have been attacked and beaten of our enemy. Now we must attack him.

This would occur at once, but it has been raining so that our roads are almost impassable. The enemy expected to crush us before Buell got here. The scenes on this field would have cured anybody of war. Mangled bodies, dead, dying, in every conceivable shape, without heads, legs; and horses! I think we have buried 2,000 since the fight, our own and the enemy's; and the wounded fill houses, tents, steamboats and every conceivable place. My division had about 8,000 men, at least half ran away, and out of the remaining half, I have 302 soldiers, 16 officers killed, and over 1,200 wounded. All I can say this was a battle, and you will receive so many graphic accounts that my picture would be tame. I know you will read all accounts, cut out paragraphs with my name for Willy's future study, all slurs you will hide away, and gradually conceive yourself that I am a soldier as famous as General Greene. I still feel the horrid nature of this war, and the piles of dead and wounded and maimed makes me more anxious than ever for some hope of an end, but I know such a thing cannot be for a long, long time. Indeed I never expect it, or to survive it. . . .

1 After the first appearance of this letter in Scribner's Magazine, April, 1909, Captain J. T. Taylor of Leavenworth, Kansas, who was one of Sherman's aides at Shiloh, informed me that it was his horse, and not Captain McCoy's which was shot under the General. In corroboration of the statement, he sent me letters of General Sherman vouching for the fact that Captain Taylor lost a horse in the manner described, and calling upon the War Department to reimburse him for it. In Captain Taylor's letter (April 12, 1909) he says: "Of course I do not expect any correction or controversy to grow out of this. General Sherman had greater things on his mind day and night than the name of an aide." He informs me, further, that he is the sole survivor of Sherman's staff at Shiloh. — Editor.

SOURCE: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 220-3

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