Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The 16th and 18th Wisconsin on the Second Day

On the second day of battle, April 7th, the 16th Wisconsin under Major Reynolds occupied several different positions along the line but were not actively engaged.[1] Private Jones said of the second day that “we were engaged all day in pursuit of the enemy and were not once under fire. The enemy commenced retreating early in the morning, and, so far as our regiment was concerned, we could not catch up with them. The running this day was done by the other fellows.”[2] This description is far too simplified. The Confederate retreat did not begin until the afternoon and although the Confederates were forced from every position they left some positions much more easily than others.

During the second day the few remaining officers of the 18th Wisconsin gathered together 250 men into a battalion in order to support a battery. They advanced behind Buell’s forces and reached their old camp about four o’clock. Here they remained while the rest of Buell’s force pursued the retreating Confederates. During the evening the stragglers came into camp so that by the next day the 18th Wisconsin numbered about 500 men.[3] Governor Harvey wrote that “many regiments of that fight may well covet the impressions, which the Eighteenth Wisconsin left of personal bravery, heroic daring and determined endurance.”[4] A month after the battle the NW Times would write, “The ridiculous story that the Tigers, or any portion of the 18th regiment ran away at the battle of Pittsburg, is now fully exploded. The whole particulars of the battle having been received, it appears that the 18th were formed in line of battle but a few moments before the rebels were upon them, and undrilled as they were, and as inexperienced were men and officers, they stood their ground like old heroes . . . The brave men of the Tigers’ and of the 18th generally, as well as all our Wisconsin boys, have won imperishable honors on the bloody field of Pittsburg.”[5]

When the 18th Wisconsin returned to its camp Edward Dickerson found a Confederate in his tent, mortally wounded in the abdomen. The Confederate looked up at Dickerson and said, “I know you! You’re the man who stomped in the top of the cracker barrel.” The dying Confederate went on to say that he had been one of an advance party of Confederates who had crept up on the Union encampment the night before the battle to watch the Union camps.[6] Thomas Jefferson Davis of Company C of the 18th Wisconsin wrote home that although he had lost his overcoat, knapsack, haversack, canteen, quilt and blanket when the Confederates captured his camp on April 6th he had been able to recover all of it from scattered equipment left all over the battlefield. Davis had trouble finding good paper and ink to write letters but luckily had found a book and was using pages from it.[7]

In his official report, written in November, Prentiss praised the 18th Wisconsin’s colonel, JS Alban, and lieutenant colonel, Beall, saying that they were “until they were wounded, ever to the front, encouraging their command.” He also praised the 18th Wisconsin’s brigade commander, Colonel Madison Miller. “Miller was during the day in command of a brigade, and was among those taken prisoner. He acted during the day with distinguished courage, coolness, and ability.”[8] Miller had served in the Mexican War and had been commissioned captain in the 1st Missouri on April 20th, 1861. He had been appointed colonel of the 18th Missouri on January 31st, 1862 and given command of a brigade soon after reaching Pittsburg Landing. After he was released from Confederate prisons he was placed in command of the Third Brigade of the Second Division of the Sixteenth Army Corps in the Army of the Tennessee. He held that command from January 18th, 1863 to March 15th, 1864 when he resigned his commission. He was subsequently made a Brevet Brigadier General.[9]

The 18th Wisconsin remained in camp for several days after the battle and was soon visited by Governor Louis P Harvey. Immediately Governor Harvey appointed Captain Gabriel Bouck of the 2nd Wisconsin as the new colonel for the 18th Wisconsin. Captain Jackson, of Company B, being the senior captain present assumed command of the regiment until Colonel Bouck reported for duty on May 12th.[10] The appointment of Bouck over the head of Beall upset some soldiers in the 18th Wisconsin and in the state of Wisconsin. The Badax County’s NW Times responded though that the 18th Wisconsin needed a commander well versed in military movements and with military experience and added that “a better selection for the command of the Eighteenth regiment could not have been made.”[11] The Oshkosh Courier said that General Sherman had recommended Bouck to Governor Harvey when he visited the battlefield. Bouck had served under Sherman as a captain in Sherman's brigade at Bull Run. The Courier also said that since Governors Harvey and Solomon (he made the appointment official due to the untimely death of Harvey) and General Sherman thought the appointment justified that the friends of Lieutenant Colonel Beall should "show more discretion and good taste by acquiescing in the action of the appointing power, with some show of grace, than in 'ventilating' their disappointment in ill natured comments, and unfounded aspersions, upon Col. Bouck."[12]

[1] Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, pp 634-5.
[2] Jones, “Shiloh,” p 59.
[3] Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, p 659. Quiner does not identify what battery the 18th Wisconsin supported.
[4] Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Wisconsin, year ending September 30, 1863. (Madison, WI: William J Park & Co., 1863.) p 85.
[5] Nanzig, The Badax Tigers, p 51-2.
[6] Dickerson, Edward E Dickerson at the Battle of Shiloh. p 6.
[7] Nanzig, The Badax Tigers, p56-7.
[8] OR 10:1, 279.
[9] Eicher, John H & David J Eicher. Civil War High Commands. (Stanford: Stanford, CA, 2001.) p 390.
[10] Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, p 660.
[11] Nanzig, The Badax Tigers, p 55. Gabriel Bouck was the son of New York Governor William Bouck. Gabriel was Wisconsin's attorney general from 1858 to 1859. He also served two terms in the Wisconsin state assemble (1860 and 1874) and was also elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. (Ref: Oshkosh Northwestern)
[12] Oshkosh Courier. May 16, 1862. Page 2, column 1.

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