|View single post by Johan Steele|
|Posted: Tue Jan 9th, 2007 09:14 pm||
Life NRA,SUVCW # 48,Legion 352
Lt, 1st Battery MN Lt Arty
Following letter addresses to Alexander Ramsey after the battle of Shiloh
Dear Sir: The people of our state are probably anxious to learn the fate of the Minnesota volunteers who fought at the late battle of Pittsburg, Tenn; and as the First Minnesota Battery was the only representative of our state in the terrible fight, I deem it my duty to send you a short account of the proceedings on the memorable 6th of April.
At our arrival here on the 18th of March, we were attached to the Fourth Brigade of General Sherman’s Division but a very few days before the battle alluded to all the artillery and calvary forces were attached as independent commands to the six divisions of General Grants army. Under this new arrangement we were attached to General Prentiss division, and on Saturday the 5th moved to our new camp, immediately on the right of General Prentiss headquarters. The organization of our division was not complete yet. Several new Wisconsin regiments had just arrived from Milwaukee and took their camps a little to the and in front of our camp. Still our line was the advance of the left wing, and although it was generally believed after the skirmish on Friday, the 4th of April, that considerable rebel forces were close to our line. No precautionary measures seem to have been taken, for outpost were only about a mile beyond our camp.
Sunday morning came, bright as a Minnesota summer morning; the boys were all busy to get the camp in as good order as possible when, at about half past seven o’clock, we suddenly received orders to get ready immediately and to move to the front of our camp. Up to this time we had no idea of the terrible work before us, and all thought that probably a reconnoitering expedition was intended. In a very short time we were ready and started out, following the Fifth Ohio Battery, whose camp joins ours. Now, we heard a few shots and hurried on as fast as possibly; but scarcely had we reached the camp in front when a lively musket fire was opened on our infantry. Immediately after leaving the first row of tents, we formed battery under most galling fire from the rebel skirmishes, and almost simultaneously with the Fifth Ohio Battery, opened dire artillery fire of the day.
At our arrival at the scene of action, our infantry were already retreating in every direction, and very soon, instead of being covered by our infantry, we were left behind alone covering the retreat of our running protectors. The Fifth Ohio Battery had lost some horses and now fell back, leaving several pieces in the hands of the enemy. One of our men and two horses were killed before we commenced firing; another and third one, all belonging to my section, were wounded in quick succession. Now, Captain Munch’s horse was shot in the head and immediately afterwards the captain himself was severally wounded in the leg. My horse was wounded in both fore legs. Several others horses had received severe injuries and our pistion became extremely critical. The enemy had already outflanked us, and only a retreat could save the battery from being taken; consequently, we left our position and under a perfect storm of bullets, reformed close to our camp, where in connection with the remaining forces of the Fifth Ohio Battery, we again opened with spherical case and canister, and continued firing until all of our infantry had again given way and enemy was pressing in upon us on all sides.
Our division now fell behind the line coming to support, under General Hurlbut, and after a short rest General Prentiss formed the remainder of the division again on the left centre of our line. Two of our rifled pieces had by this time been rendered unserviceable and were ordered to the rear. The remaining four pieces had by this time been rendered unserviceable and were ordered to the rear. The remaining four pieces took their position under the direct orders of General Prentiss. The terrible work was now progressing rapidly. The rebel made the fierce attacks successively on the centre, the right and left wings ever trying to find the weakest point and always shifting their forces from one another. At the point where I was stationed, on the right of one Cavender’s Missouri Batteries the enemy made several ineffective efforts to break our centre with his artillery, which we silenced three times, and kept his infantry in respectful distance.
Lieutenant Peebles maintained his position on our left nobly, and at a charge of the Louisiana regiment, completely mowed them down with canister. The enemy however also took good aim; two of our Cannoneers were here killed and Lieutenant Peebles severely wounded in the jaw, Sergeants Clayton and Connor severally wounded and a number of horses killed.
The attack of the enemy now became desperate along the whole line; our left wing gave way the rebel were also gaining on our right and while we kept them continually in check in the centre, the bullets already commenced to come in at our rear, showing that our left wing was thrown entirely and that we would shortly be cut off. At this moment Brigadier General Wallace ordered us to retreat and we commenced to move off in good order. Passing down through a narrow valley we say rebels advancing in large numbers upon our right wing, and coming up a hill which commanded their line, we commenced throwing canister at them, but were soon obliged to fall back and amid a terrible crossfire which treatment to kill every man and horse, which we all here miraculously escaped unhurt.
Arriving at the bluffs of the Pittsburg Landing, I tried to get the whole battery in the best possible condition again and succeeded, by dismounting and changing pieces to get five pieces in good shape at least able to open fire again. Our batteries now took their posts in order to repulse the expected attack of the last position; we located our five pieces, together with Marllgrafs Eighth Ohio Battery on a hill commanding a large ravine and subjecting the enemy to a cross fire of eleven pieces in case of an attack. General Buell’s forces had by this time arrived on the opposite side of the river and commenced crossing over. This caused great rejoicing and inspired the men for the coming struggle. The rebels knew that this last attack would decide the day, and at about six o’clock in the evening opened fire on us again. I had just come over to the centre to ascertain the position of our forces, in order to render our fire more effectively. When the enemies shells commenced flying over our heads in the direction of the river and a few moments afterwards the pieces of the First Minnesota Battery joined in such a cannonade as has never been witnessed on this continent. It was really majestic, and no army would have been able to take that position. General Beauregard had found out by this time that he could not water his horse in the Tennessee river that evening and fell back to our camps just after dark. A heavy rain storm had drenched us thoroughly during Sunday night yet the Minnesota Battery was ready for another trial and being without an immediate commander (as General Prentiss had been taken prisoner) I reported to General Grant who learning our position ordered me to keep the same until further orders and as Monday’s fight was mostly done by General Buells forces who had been crossing all night and steadily poured in, we remained there until we were removed to our old camp again.
Our boys have behaved nobly and I am satisfied they have shown themselves worthy of their state and people. I add, Minnesota was the first to volunteer its men for service. In most critical moments of that bloody day they exhibited an astonishing coolness and bravery. Even with their numbers diminished they served their guns like old soldier, and while many batteries lost part or all of their pieces, we have satisfaction that we have brought out every piece that was brought into the conflict.
As the attack was so unexpected our baggage teams had been lost almost everything in our possession for the whole camp was thoroughly plundered on Sunday night. The newspapers will have so much to say about the battle of Pittsburg that it is unnecessarily for me to add much more. I will only state in regard to the killed and wounded that from what I have seen, the number of killed and wounded on both sides cannot be less than 10000.
Yours most respectfully W. Pfaender
First Lietenant, Commanding First Minnesota Battery