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Relevant Passages
Relating to First Shiloh

Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War

by Larry J. Daniel,  pp. 68-70

INTERSECTING RAILROADS, the Memphis & Charleston and the Mobile & Ohio, coming together at a sixty-degree angle, gave Corinth its strategic value and sobriquet- "the Crossroads of the Confederacy. Settled in 1854, the town had a prewar population of 1,200. The business district consisted primarily of one- and two-story gabled woodframe structures. Most of the stores were whitewashed, with the notable exception of the post office, which was pink. Businesses included the usual drygoods stores, blacksmith shops, livery stables, saloons, and restaurants, along with a drugstore, bakery, tailor shop, picture gallery, the local office of the Aetna Insurance Company, and three hotels, the most renowned of which was the Tishimingo, located next to the Memphis & Charleston depot. There was a square brick courthouse, five churches (only one of which was bricked), a sawmill, and a long farmer's market with cupola. A number of quaint Frenchstyle cottages graced the western section of town, along with the threestory Corona Female College. Many trees on the residential side offered a pleasant shade. Ruggles arrived in town on February 17 and, by order of Polk, assumed command of northern Mississippi and Alabama.(26)

The vulnerability of the region had already been demonstrated. Shortly after the fall of Fort Henry, a squadron of three Federal gunboats had ascended the Tennessee River to Florence, Alabama, where they docked on February 8. More hysteria than damage was created, although nine of the thirteen steamboats below Muscle Shoals were destroyed. The gunboats then returned casually downriver, burning an abandoned Confederate camp at Savannah, Tennessee.(27)

The immediate supervision of northern Alabama fell to Brigadier General Leroy P. Walker, with headquarters in Tuscumbia. Only four and a half months earlier, this Huntsville, Alabama, native had served as secretary of war in the Davis administration, but a dispute with the president and poor health had forced his resignation. The paltry force at his disposal included James Clanton's 1st Alabama Cavalry, scouting the north bank of the Tennessee River, and a poorly armed Arkansas battalion at Tuscumbia. Ruggles forwarded two twenty-four-pounder siege guns to Walker, who made plans to construct a battery at Chickasaw, about ten miles above Eastport, Mississippi. The work would not be completed until March 10.(28)

Eastport concerned Ruggles. An enemy force landing at that place could take the fourteen-mile road to Iuka and destroy the vital eighty-yard-long Bear Creek bridge of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, four miles east of town. To guard against such a possibility, Brigadier General Chalmers had been sent to Iuka to command a makeshift brigade composed of units recently arrived from eastern Tennessee.(29)

On the night of February 20, Ruggles received news of yet another naval incursion. That morning a lone gunboat (U.S.S Tyler) had landed at Hamburg, Tennessee. Residents were told (falsely) by sailors that transports would follow the next day. Actually, the Federals had planned a bold dash upon the Bear Creek bridge. After moving on to Eastport that day, the Yankees were informed by excited locals that the bridge was protected by 3,000 to 4,000 Confederates (in truth about 1,500). Having only fifty sharpshooters aboard, Lieutenant William Gwin canceled the operation and leisurely returned to Cairo.(30)

Leaving Eastport and Tuscumbia to Chalmers and Walker, Ruggles concentrated on the landings north of Corinth. On February 18, only two regiments were in town, the 16th and 19th Louisiana, the last having no cartridges. The 17th and 18th Louisiana and a battery were on the way, however, and would thus secure the town. He dispatched two companies of the 2nd Mississippi Cavalry Battalion to Purdy, Tennessee, to observe east, toward the river. In late February, the 18th Louisiana, the Miles Light Artillery, and a cavalry detachment were dispatched to watch river activity at a place twenty-three miles north of Corinth by the name of Pittsburg Landing. (31)

THIRTY-THREE-YEAR-OLD Colonel Alfred Mouton, a West Point graduate, civil engineer, and son of a former Louisiana governor and United States senator, was a man with a mission. He had been ordered to monitor activity at Pittsburg Landing, a site nine miles upriver from Savannah and on a direct approach to Corinth. His 18th Louisiana arrived on February 28, following a grueling two-day march, with the battery coming up the next morning. (32)

The Louisianans found their destination rather bleak-"three log cabins and a pigsty," described one. The Pittsburg-Corinth Road cut through the bluff down to the river. Near the edge of the bluff, north of the road, sat a log dwelling, and about a hundred yards back was a second cabin, a ravine separating the two. The third cabin was positioned two hundred yards south of the road. A cultivated field, two hundred yards wide and a half-mile long, ran along the back of the bluff; behind the field was a heavily wooded area. The landing had originally been settled back in 1848 by the family of Pittser Miller Tucker, called "Pitt" Tucker. He established a frontier trading post that dealt largely in hard liquor. When other families settled nearby, Pitts Landing became Pittsburg Landing. (33)

About noon on March 1, two Federal gunboats rounded Diamond Island and steamed into view. Shots were exchanged with Claude Gibson's battery for ten to fifteen minutes. Mouton ordered his eight companies to safety in a deep ravine behind the bluff, but two or three shots passed so close they "could feel the wind raising the hair on our heads," wrote a member. Gibson's gunners were "compelled to travel." The eight-inch navy guns continued to pound the landing for an hour, after which a hundred armed sailors and infantry sharpshooters boarded skiffs and put ashore. After burning one of the cabins, they formed a line and advanced toward the woods. The Louisianans suddenly burst forth from ambush. "As we rose the brow of the bluff, Corporal Huggins C. Ensign, of the Orleans Cadets, fell, torn and mutilated by a [navy] shell, his left arm broken and left side torn out," noted a horror-stricken comrade. The Yankees quickly fell back to the safety of their boats. Mouton counted twenty-one casualties in the sharp engagement, the enemy about thirteen. Although claiming victory, the colonel thereafter kept only a light picket in observation. He withdrew his regiment inland about three miles to a log Methodist church by the name of Shiloh.(34)

26. Ernie Rice, "A History of the Corinth, Mississippi Depot," NEMMA. Joseph T. Sanders, "M. A. Miller's Sketch Book of 1860," M.A. thesis, pp. 51-64; OR, vol. VII, pp. 890, 894; Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1862. M. A. Miller was a civil engineer with the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. In 1860, while staying at Corinth, he sketched every business street and scores of homes, thus capturing the Civil War appearance of the town.

27. Edwin C. Bearss, "A Federal Raid Up the Tennessee River," pp. 261-70.

28. Faust, ed., Encyclopedia, p. 797; OR, vol. VII, pp. 887-88, 909; vol. X, Pt. 2, p. 304.

29. OR, vol. X, Pt. 1, p. 646; Pt. 2, p. 313; Bearss, "Federal Raid," p. 266; Civil War Centennial Commission, Tennesseans in the Civil War  vol. 1, pp. 2 56-57. Chalmers's brigade included the 38th Tennessee, 5th Alabama Battalion, 9th Mississippi, and a section of artillery, and at that time numbered perhaps 1,500.

30. OR, vol. VII, pp. 421,619, 894, 895.

31. Ibid., pp. 895, 909.

32. Faust, ed., Encyclopedia, p. 515; OR, vol. VII, p. 909; Bergeron, ed., Grisamore, pp. 19-20.

33. New Orleans Picayune, March 11,1862; B. G. Brazleton, A History of Hardin County, Tennessee, p. 35; Memphis Commercial Appeal, May 3, 1952.

34. Chicago Tribune, March 7, 8,1862; Cincinnati Commercial, March 4, 5,1862; Nashville Times, March 11, April 9, 1862; New Orleans Picayune, March 6, 9, 11, 1862; Mobile Advertiser & Register March 14, 1862; OR, vol. X, pt. 2, p. 8; Bergeron, ed., Grisamore, pp. 19-22. The gunboats were Tyler and Lexington. The Federals reported losses of two killed, six  wounded, and three missing, but the Southerners found three dead and captured four.

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