Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Diary of Alexander G. Downing: Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, Tuesday, April 8, 1862

We formed a line of battle early this morning and remained in line about two hours.1 So many men throughout the camp were firing off their loaded rifles, preparing to clean them, that the officers thought a battle was in progress out in front. About 9 o'clock word came in from the front that there was no rebel in sight, and we were ordered back to our quarters. We spent the day in burying the dead, both our own and those of the rebels.

Our battle line had been at the south end of Jones’ Field, where a few days before we had cleared the timber for a review ground. This place was fought over so often by both armies and the dead lay so close that one could walk on dead bodies for some distance without touching the ground. There were over three thousand five hundred dead on the battlefield, and something like five hundred dead horses. Seven hundred bodies of the rebels were put into one grave. It is an awful sight to see the dead lying all about. It rained this forenoon, but cleared off this afternoon. The heavy rains have soaked the ground, making it very muddy. About five thousand of our forces arrived today.

1 It has been said by some that from General Grant down to the commonest private in the ranks of the entire Army of the Tennessee, all the men cared for on Monday afternoon, the second day of the battle of Shiloh, was to get back to their camps. I cannot believe the statement, for on Tuesday, the 8th, when we were ordered into line of battle, on that gloomy, rainy morning, and a cold wind blowing from the northwest, I know by the sentiment of the boys in my own company, that they would have gone to the front then if ordered to do so. We felt that the loss in our company was too great not to follow up the victory. — A. G. D.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 43

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