Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Armies Move to Shiloh

After Grant captured Forts Henry and Donelson, the Confederate position in the west quickly crumbled. Albert Sydney Johnston, the Confederate commander, found his thin line falling apart. His men were panicked, so he abandoned Nashville and headed south. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard collected the disorganized remnants of his forces at Corinth, Mississippi. The government in Richmond gave him every man they could spare, stripping men from the coastal defenses. Johnston's army grew to the size of 55,000, the largest army assembled by the South to that point in time. On the Northern side, Henry Halleck was rewarded for Grant's victories and Buell's Army of the Ohio was placed under his command. He ordered Buell to join Grant's Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg landing, so that Grant would not be outnumbered by the large force Johnston was building. Grant had 43,000 men in six divisions, but he would soon be joined by Buell's 30,000.
A. S. Johnston

Johnston intended to strike before Buell arrived. Although he had the greater numbers, Grant's men were veterans while many of Johnston's had never fired a shot. He hoped to overcome this with a surprise attack. Grant was surrounded by marshes with a river to his back, and Johnston and Beauregard hoped to overpower him before he could make a resistance. The Confederates set out on the morning of April 3rd, at the insistence of Beauregard and Braxton Bragg, a Corp commander and Chief of Staff. However, the march was much slower than expected. They only marched 9 of the 20 miles which had been planned. They were not in position to attack until the evening of April 5th, 150 years ago today. Beauregard was for retiring, as he thought they had lost the element of surprise since the troops had been within earshot of the Federals for hours, practicing their shooting and rebel yells. However, Johnston, Polk and Bragg thought that the troops would be demoralized by retreating at that moment, so it was decided to continue with the attack the next morning. Johnston had issued this general order to his army:
"Soldiers of the Army of the Mississippi: I have put you in motion to offer battle to the invaders of your country. With the resolution and disciplined valor becoming men fighting, as you are, for all worth living or dying for, you can but march to a decisive victory over the agrarian mercenaries sent to despoil you of your liberties, property and honor. Remember the precious stake involved, remember the dependence of your mothers, your wives, your sisters and your children on the result; remember the land; broad and abounding and the happy homes and the eyes that would be desolated by your defeat. The eyes and hopes of eight millions of people rest upon you; you are expected to show yourselves worthy of your race and lineage --- worthy of the women of the South, whose noble devotion in this war has never been exceeded in any time. With such incentives to brave deeds, and with the trust that God is with us, your general will lead you confidently to the combat --- assured of success. A. S. Johnston."
Braxton Bragg


Post a Comment