|View single post by Wrap10|
|Posted: Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 02:48 am||
|Since the Confederates never launched a serious attack on Grant's Last Line, I think the question of whether Buell's arrival saved Grant's army on the 6th pretty much answers itself. By the time Buell's men arrived on the west side of the river and started getting into line, the danger had largely past. Of course, that's clearer now than it was at the time.
But even though Buell's men didn't save Grant on the sixth, they did provide a huge psychological boost. Just the knowledge that help was on the way played a role in the Union army's mindset on the battle's first day. And their arrival at the end of that day was greeted with a mixture of elation and relief.
Probably the real question concerning Grant is what the difference might have been on the 7th, if Buell's army was not on the scene. There's no way to know for sure, but that never stops me from guessing.
First, I don't think Grant would have retreated in any case, unless he felt he absolutely had no choice. It went against his nature as a commander. Even without Buell's army on the scene, I think Grant would have stayed put on the west side of the river, and either defended against a possible attack or gone on the attack himself.
If the Confederates attack first, I think Grant's men would have held out against it. Especially if the Rebels had repeated their main tactic from the day before, and basically charged straight ahead, across Dill Branch Ravine and straight into the strongest part of the Union line. It may have been relatively close to the river, but of all the Union positions at Shiloh, that one was the strongest, far and away in my opinion.
Ole's point about walking down and then back up Dill Branch is very well taken. Imagine having to cross that canyon through perhaps waist-deep water, climb up the other side, and then attack a wall of artillery supported by infantry. In my opinion, the army most likely to be wrecked by such an attack was the Beauregard's, not Grant's.
Maybe the best chance the Rebs had to break that line would have been to hit it on the opposite flank, across Tilghman Branch. Relatively speaking, that was likely the weakest part of the line even after Wallace arrived. But even then I have doubts they could have broken through and won the battle. And Grant could have shifted troops, and even artillery, to meet the threat.
The biggest question might be whether Grant would have attacked on the 7th, in Buell's absence. That's a tougher one to answer, but I do think it would have been possible, and I do think he would have wanted to do this. In fact, I think he would have been chomping at the bit to do it. And if he felt his men were up to it, I think that's the option he would have wanted to take. Grant was an aggressive commander from start to finish. It's just the way he seems to have been wired.