Monday, October 15, 2012

Official Reports of the Battle of Shiloh: No. 66 – Col. John A. McDowell, 6th Iowa Infantry, Commanding the 1st Brigade, 5th Division, Army of the Tennessee

No. 66.

Report of Col. John A. McDowell, Sixth Iowa Infantry, commanding First Brigade. 

Camp, Shiloh, Tenn., April 9, 1862.

At the first alarm of the enemy's attack, Sunday, the 6th, the line of the First Brigade was formed, as per previous orders, to hold the Purdy road and the right front. Two companies of the Sixth Iowa were detached to defend the bridge crossing Owl Creek and one of the 12-pounder howitzers of the Morton Battery placed to command the crossing on the hill at the right of our encampment. About 8 o'clock the line was thrown forward to the brow of the hill, and the remaining guns of the Morton battery brought up to command the several openings to the front, and from this position several shots were fired on the enemy's masses, not then formed into line, and the Fortieth Illinois Infantry were ordered forward and to the left to support the right of the Fourth Brigade, in which position they became warmly engaged, when the order came to fall back to the Purdy road. This was accomplished with difficulty, from the extended front of our line, at that time three-quarters of a mile in length, on and over a broken and wooded surface, and at the time when the only passable (the main) road was filled by the teams of the brigade. Yet the change of position and front was just accomplished when the order to send the battery to the center was received. The five guns were immediately dispatched. The other, from the position of guarding the bridge, not coming up in time, remained with the brigade, as the passage by the road had in the mean time been cut off.

In this position and front a few rounds were exchanged, and the skirmishers were again thrown forward. When it was known that we were cut off from the center by the enemy in force on the center and across the road and by a large force in the old field on our left and their cavalry to the left and rear, the howitzer was placed on our left front under cover, and the enemy driven from the field by a few discharges of canister. Soon after, at about 10 o’clock, Major Sanger brought the order to move to the center and rear. This was accomplished as soon as possible under the annoyance of the enemy's skirmishers. Here our front was again changed to the former front of the general line of engagement.

By the general’s order the Fortieth Illinois was advanced to support of the batteries in the center, and the opening filled by the Sixth Iowa, being flanked from its position on the right to the center, leaving the Forty-sixth Ohio on the right and a little to the rear. These dispositions remained unchanged for a period of nearly two hours, when, at about 12.30 o’clock, the enemy, finding no opposition on the right, brought a large force to our right and fronting our flank, causing us to suffer a cross-fire from superior numbers both on the front and flank. It was here that the brigade suffered its greatest loss.

In passing to the right through the thicket and crossing the ravine I was thrown from my horse and severely shocked, and was at that time moving to have the Forty-sixth fall back behind the crest, when Colonel Worthington changed front and gave the enemy the first fire. The Fortieth had gone forward against the enemy's battery so far as to become entirely separated from the rest of the command. At a little past 1 o’clock the Forty-sixth were ordered to retreat, and lost in this retreat 14 killed and a large proportion of their wounded. The Sixth fell back with less loss.

Afterwards, during the day and the day following, different portions of each regiment were attached to other commands, and of the Sixth Iowa and Fortieth Illinois these fragments were detained with Colonel Garfield and General Nelson, by the order of the general commanding, until Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

The behavior of my men and of their officers, almost without exception, was creditable, and of this I shall in another manner properly notice.


 Colonel Sixth Iowa, Commanding First Brigade.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume X (Serial No. 10), Part I, pages 254-5

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