Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fog of War Is Lifting

The regiments that had occupied, and almost been driven from, Pittsburg Landing are  now finding some time at the end of the day to rest before going to sleep.  The campfires are surrounded with tales of heroism and cowardice under fire. The volunteers are just beginning to assemble the big picture of the battle as they exchange stories with survivors from other parts of the field.  They soon realize that, no matter how bad it had been for them, there was always someone that had it worse.

To the outside world, the fog of war yet enshrouds the battle.  The leading Confederate newspapers report on the "glorious victory at Shiloh" as late as April 11th, while some US newspapers still deny that Grant was the victim of a surprise attack. On April 14th, the New York Times prematurely reports the death of Beauregard, surmising that he must have died from wounds received at Pittsburg on the second day of the battle. 

First point of attack on Hornet's Nest.

On this date, however, one death was confirmed- that of the great southern general Albert Sidney Johnston.  He was considered by President Davis to be the best general in the Confederate Army and was greatly mourned throughout the southern states.  Johnston was mortally wounded in the Peach Orchard on Sunday afternoon when a minnie ball cut an artery in his lower leg.  He rode to that part of the field after hearing reports that the attack was failing on his right flank.  These reports would have been about the two failed attempts of Stephens' Brigade to cross the Bell's wheat field against the crossfire from Lauman (with the Seventeenth at point) and direct fire from the Hornet's Nest.  Johnston ordered Stephens Brigade to join Breckenridge on an all-out assault on the Peach Orchard.

Point of attack on the Peach Orchard.

Johnston was accompanied by Governor Isham Harris of Tennessee who, when hearing of a Tennessee regiment refusing to charge, rode off to shame his troops into action.   Shortly after Harris returned to his friend's side, the general slumped in his saddle and was assisted to the ground. In a protected ravine east of the orchard, he succumbed to the loss of the blood which had been secretly filling his boot.

Editor's Note: News links courtesy of Seven Score and Ten website.  For access to this daily sesquicentennial news update, click on the title at "My Favorite Links".

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