Monday, October 29, 2012

Official Reports of the Battle of Shiloh: No. 84. Col. Alexander Chambers, 16th Iowa Infantry

No. 84.

Report of Col. Alexander Chambers, Sixteenth Iowa Infantry (of the Second Brigade).

Near Pittsburg Landing, April 24, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to report that on Sunday morning, April 6, while my regiment was preparing to join General Prentiss’ division, as was previously ordered, an aide of General Grant ordered my regiment in line on the right of the Fifteenth Iowa Volunteers, to act as a reserve and prevent stragglers from reaching the river. The line had been formed but a short time when I was ordered to march it, following the Fifteenth Iowa, to General McClernand’s division, whose right was giving way. At this time large numbers of men in squads were returning. Cavalry, infantry, and several batteries of artillery were met on the road without being disabled or having lost their horses or expended their ammunition. From 9.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m., the time occupied in reaching the battle-field, we met more men returning, of all arms, than belonged to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Regiments, but I must say, for the credit of the State of Iowa, not one of her quota did I meet.

On crossing an open field, beyond which was the position of the rebels, two of my command were wounded. My regiment was formed on the right of this field in rear of a fence. An aide ordered the regiment to be formed across this open field, which was raked by heavy fire of musketry and a part of a battery of artillery. I marched the men there and ordered them to lie down, when the greater part of the enemy's fire passed harmlessly over us. I had, however, several wounded here. From this position the regiment was ordered forward to the edge of timber, within close range of the enemy, as many of my men were wounded at the same time by both ball and buck-shot. The right of the regiment was of very little service, as they were not in a position, from the lay of the ground, to fire with much effect; but the left of the regiment became hotly engaged with the enemy, and did great execution.

For nearly or quite an hour the regiment held its ground against a much larger force of the enemy, supported by artillery, when they were compelled to give way to their destructive fire and advance or be captured. Word came down the line that a retreat had been ordered, but no such order came through me. At this our whole line gave way and became mixed up with other regiments. My regiment was rallied by Lieut. Col. A. H. Sanders to the number of about 300 and was posted in rear of a battery during the remainder of that day and night, during which time those who had become mixed with other regiments returned and reformed with those under the lieutenant-colonel, I having been wounded and struck by a spent ball in the hip-joint, which was very painful, and rendered me quite lame.

The next day the regiment held the same position in rear of this battery during the fight. I am thus particular in giving an exact account of the part taken in Sunday's and Monday's fight, as some correspondents have been trying to throw the disgrace of their own regiments’ actions on a new regiment that had never gone through the motions of loading a gun even, but notwithstanding this behaved with as much gallantry as any regiment on the field, as its list of killed and wounded will show, for the time they were engaged.

With a few exceptions all the officers and men behaved with judgment and gallantry. The field officers were particularly cool under a destructive fire and rendered great assistance. The horses of all the field and staff officers were killed or wounded, evidently showing an intention on the part of the enemy to pick off the most prominent officers. Captains Ruehl and Zettler, both gallant men, were killed or mortally wounded, and First Lieut. F. N. Doyle, a brave and efficient officer, was also killed.

The loss during Sunday's fight was 2 officers and 16 non-commissioned officers and privates killed, and 9 officers and 94 non-commissioned officers and privates wounded, and 15 non-commissioned officers and privates missing.*

I inclose a list of the killed, wounded, and missing,

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel Sixteenth Iowa Volunteers.

General McClernand's Division, Army of West Tennessee.

*But see revised statement, p. 104

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 286-7

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