Saturday, April 7, 2012

Shiloh, Apr 7, 1862 (Part 2)

Due to the wounding of three of it's officers, the remaining members of the 25th Kentucky Infantry were assigned to Col. McHenry's command on this morning.  The official consolidation would come a few days later and the combined units would fight the rest of the war as the 17th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, USA.

Hurlbut's Division took the center of Grant's line of attack, with McClernand to his right and Sherman at the right flank.  Today they were taking the fight to the rebels from a position of strength.  Grant's reinforcements (Buell and Lew Wallace) had been positioned during the night while Beauregard's expected support was yet to cross the Mississippi River.  By all accounts, the fighting on this second day was equally ferocious as on the first.

McClernand's Road on the Shiloh Plateau. Note the opposing cannon marking the locations of Federal and Confederate Batteries on this day of reconquest.
Photo by the author- all rights reserved

As Hurlbut's division advanced, McClernand was falling behind and called for support.  The Seventeenth was sent to his aid and the Union advance continued.  Later, at Cavalry Field, Sherman's advance was completely halted by a concentrated counter-attack and he called for reinforcements.  The Seventeenth was sent to his aid and, again, the Union advance continued.  By late afternoon, Beauregard had been driven back to Shiloh Meeting House and conceded the field to the Union armies.  Under the protection of cavalry led by Tennessee's General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Kentucky's General John Hunt Morgan,  they made an organised retreat to Corinth in hopes of receiving reinforcements before the prized railway junction was attacked.

The next morning, General Sherman sent a small force of about 250 infantry to monitor the Confederate withdrawl.  The final engagement of the Battle of Shiloh ocurred when this force was turned back by Forrest's cavalry units near Michie, TN in an engagement known as the Skirmish at Fallen Timbers.

                                   Sherman's advance and hold at Cavalry Field.
                                   Photo by the author- all rights reserved

General Grant's decision to not pursue Beauregard's armies, like every other decision he made, has been much criticised.  He stated, understandably, that his armies were in no condition to continue.  This was not entirely true as Buell and Lew Wallace had been fighting for only one day and were capable of chasing the defeated rebels, but to what end?  It would have been reckless to leave the high ground with it's all-important river landing and the stores of supplies scattered all over the plateau in pursuit of a defeated enemy into an unknown terrain. 

On the other hand, with General Halleck due to arrive in a few days, Grant surely remembered the old general's admonishment to not seek any engagement with the enemy and thought it better to have his surviving forces organised and presentable to the conservative Halleck. The Battle of Shiloh was, after all, initiated by a Confederate attack but should Grant pursue, Halleck might charge him with disobeying a direct order.

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