Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood, Shiloh After Action Report
Col. J. B. Fry,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Chief of Staff
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my division in the battle of the 7th instant:
About midday on the 6th instant, while two brigades of the division— the Third Ohio Cavalry, and the three batteries of Cockerill, Cochran, and Schultz, with the baggage and supply trains— were on the march toward Savannah, and about 18 miles thence, an order was received directing me to leave baggage and supply trains in the rear and to press forward with the troops, provided with three days’ rations in their haversacks and 40 rounds of ammunition in the cartridge boxes. I was also ordered to bring forward the ammunition train. While arrangements were being made to carry the order into effect I received a second order, directing me to press forward as rapidly as possible with the troops, but to bring forward also all my train· An intimation also accompanied the order that the enemy had not made a substantial attack, but simply a forced reconnaissance.
I immediately recommenced the march, in compliance with the second order, but the movement was painfully slow and laborious, as the route was entirely blocked with the numerous trains of the divisions in front. It was impossible to advance more than a mile an hour. While thus engaged I received a third order at 5.30 o’clock p.m. reiterating the first order, with the additional direction not to bring on the ammunition train. I was also informed with this order that the attack seemed to be in earnest Dispositions were at once made to comply with this order but before these were fully completed night had fallen, and two brigades (less the Fifty-first Regiment Indiana; Volunteers, left as a guard to the train) and the batteries commenced a night march over a road almost inconceivably bad and obstructed by wagon trains, many of which were immovably stuck in the mud. With all these embarrassments to impede the movement and render it laborious and slow, about 12 o’clock the darkness became impenetrable and the rain began to fall in torrents. It was impossible to see a pace in advance, and it was absolutely necessary to halt until the storm had passed and the road had become sufficiently illuminated to permit the onward movement. The troops were eager to advance to the assistance of their hard-pressed brethren, and their chafing and impatience under the inability to advance may be more readily imagined than described.
So soon as the subsidence of the storm and the faint returning light permitted-the march was resumed and pressed vigorously. Savannah was reached early on the morning of the 7th, and so soon as possible the embarkation for the battle-field commenced. Wagner’s Brigade (the Twenty-first), consisting of the Fifteenth, Fortieth, and Fifty-seventh Indiana and Twenty-fourth Kentucky Volunteers, was first embarked. In order to hasten, by my personal supervision, the embarkation of the remainder of the troops I remained in Savannah till the Twentieth Brigade (Garfield’s) embarked, and ordered one of my aides-de-camp, Captain Lennard, to accompany the Twenty-first Brigade to the battlefield and report it to the commanding general. The brigade had fully debarked by 12 m., and for its operations from that hour to my own arrival, at I p.m., I refer to Colonel Wagner’s report, herewith submitted, with the simple remark that it did good service in driving the enemy from his last strong stand, and compelling him, by a vigorous pursuit, into a rapid retreat. The Twentieth Brigade, consisting of the Sixty-fourth and Sixty-fifth Ohio and Thirteenth Michigan Regiments, was embarked so soon as transports were ready, and finding it would be impossible to get transportation immediately for the artillery and cavalry of my division, I accompanied this brigade. It was debarked on arriving at Pittsburg with the least possible delay, and under an order received from Major-General Grant to conduct it to whatever part of the field on which the firing seemed to be hottest, I led it to the engagement.
By this time the valor of the troops hitherto engaged had been crowned with the deserved success of forcing the enemy from his last obstinate resistance, and it was left to the Twentieth Brigade simply to vigor in the pursuit. This was done at once, and though pressed with vigor, it was never near enough to reach the fugitives with small-arms, notwithstanding it was under the fire of the battery covering the retreat of the enemy. General Garfield’s report is herewith submitted, showing more in detail the operations of his brigade. It was unfortunate that transports could not be obtained to bring forward the artillery with the foot of my division. I cannot doubt the usefulness and efficiency of its action, after the artillery previously engaged had been materially exhausted in pressing the retreat of the enemy, and, perhaps fortunately, causing it to degenerate into an utter rout.
As early as practicable after the pursuit had been desisted from I reported the Twentieth Brigade to the commanding general (Buell), and was ordered to place it to the right of the Twenty-first Brigade, which he had already placed in position. The two brigades bivouacked the night of the 7th instant on the line of the retreat of the enemy, ready for the battle on the morrow should he have the temerity to renew the contest.
On the 8th I was ordered to make a reconnaissance with the two brigades and Captain Stone’s battery (in conjunction with two brigades and a cavalry force, under Brigadier-General Sherman), several miles in advance, on the enemy’s line of retreat. By this reconnaissance it was discovered that the enemy had retreated rapidly and in disorder, leaving many of his wounded and dead in his rear. The line of retreat was marked by abandoned and destroyed stores and munitions of war and arms. Various field hospitals filled with wounded were discovered on both sides of the road by which he had retreated. It was also determined satisfactorily by the reconnaissance that the main body of the enemy repassed Lick Creek, distant several miles from the battle-field, on Monday night, leaving only a cavalry force in rear to protect his rapid retreat. The Fifteenth Brigade (Brigadier-General Hascall’s) was detached, by an order of the general commanding, three days’ march from the Tennessee River, to make a detour by the way of Lawrence-burg, which prevented it, notwithstanding it made a rapid and laborious forced march, from arriving on the battle-field until 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. Worn as it then was, it was anxious to participate in the forced reconnaissance. The troops under fire behaved with great coolness and were eager to engage the enemy. The cheerfulness and alacrity with which they bore the labor and fatigue of rapid march, compactly conducted, of 140 miles, from Nashville to Savannah, is an earnest of their zeal to be present in the great battle and victory, and I take great pleasure in commending their soldierly conduct, as well on the march as in the action, to the notice of the commanding general.
From the part borne by my division in the action, where all behaved well, it is difficult to discriminate individuals for special commendation; but I deem it only an act of justice to signalize the brigade commanders, Brigadier-General Garfield, commanding the Twentieth, and Colonel Wagner, commanding the Twenty-first Brigade for their good conduct and efficiency.
To the officers of my personal staff, Captain Schlater, assistant adjutant-general, and Captain Lennard, Thirty-sixth Indiana, and Captain Clark, Twenty-ninth Indiana, aides-de-camp, as also to the officers of my general staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Gass, Sixty-fourth Ohio; Surgeon Mussy, senior medical officer of the division; Lieutenant Gregg, Sixty-fifth Ohio, division commissary; Lieutenant Hunt, Sixty-fifth Ohio, division ordnance officer, and Lieutenant Martin, Twenty-first Ohio signal officer, my thanks are specially due for their promptness and general good conduct.
A field desk was captured on the field by my division, containing the order of General A. Sidney Johnston, commanding the Grand Army of the Mississippi, organizing his army for the late great battle. The order shows how grand and well organized was the attacking force, and bears evidence that the troops had been drawn from every available source. The desk also contained a copy of General Johnston’s address to his army. The address, made on the eve of the march to the encounter, shows that the commander-in-chief sought to inflame the zeal and courage of his troops by the most incendiary appeal, as well as proves how momentous was the conflict through which our troops have so fortunately and honorably passed.
A copy of the order and address is herewith submitted,(*) as also of my own order of congratulation to the division.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
TH. J. WOOD,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.