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Lew Wallace at Shiloh
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles
March 17, 1862 Major General Lew Wallace and his division stop at Crump's Landing to destroy the tracks of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Tennessee
  Battle of Shiloh
  Lew Wallace
April 6, 1862
April 7, 1862
Battle of Pittsburg Landing [Union]
Battle of Shiloh [Confederate]

Ulysses S. Grant [US] defeats Albert Sidney Johnston [CS] in southwest Tennessee. P. G. T. Beauregard assumed command following Johnston's death

Confederate Losses
1,723 dead
8,012 wounded
959 missing
Union Losses
1,754 dead
8,408 wounded
2,885 missing
Tennessee
  Ulysses S. Grant
  Sherman's Memoirs on Shiloh
  P. G. T. Beauregard
  Battle of Shiloh
  Braxton Bragg
  William Tecumseh Sherman
  Bloodiest Civil War battles
  Don Carlos Buell
  Albert Sidney Johnston
  John Breckinridge
  William Hardee
  William 'Bull' Nelson
  Lew Wallace
  Army of the Tennessee
  James McPherson
  Army of Mississippi


Lew Wallace at Shiloh

Notes: During the timeframe of this article, both Lew Wallace and Frank Cheatham were promoted from brigadier general to major general. Both are referred to by the higher rank.

Major General Lew Wallace, author of Ben-Hur
Lew Wallace after the battle of Shiloh
On March 13, 1862, Major General Lew Wallace and his Third Division landed at Crump's Landing with orders to destroy the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The rest of the Army of West Tennessee (not yet renamed to its more familiar name, the Army of the Tennessee) continued 4 miles upriver to Pittsburg Landing. Wallace's mission was quickly accomplished by his cavalry without Rebel opposition, but as he deployed his men between Crumps and Adamsville, Wallace encountered Confederate resistance. Chosing to bivouac two brigades along the stage road between Crumps and Adamsville, he kept Morgan Smith's brigade near his command vessel, the John R. Roe.

From the time he arrived, Wallace was concerned about the enemy presence - the Third Division engaged Rebels in several skirmishes. His men began improving the Shunpike, which headed south from Stoney Lonesome, a small group of cabins on the stage road. Shunpike ended at the Hamburg-Purdy Road, to the west of William Tecumseh Sherman's headquarters.

When Albert Sidney Johnson arrived in Corinth in late March, he ordered Major General Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Cheatham to advance to Bethel Station to prevent further Union raids. When he arrived, Cheatham informed Johnston that he was facing Lew Wallace's division that appeared to be detached from Grant's main force. Johnston knew the Union plan was for Buell and Ulysses S. Grant to combine forces, then subdue his Rebel army by sheer numbers. When Johnston heard Wallace was detached, he estimated Grant's force at Shiloh to be 37,000 men and began making plans to attack at Pittsburg Landing.

A cat and mouse game between Cheatham and Wallace led Wallace to advance his entire division towards the Confederate garrison at Purdy, forming a line of battle at Adamsville. At this point Sherman garrisoned a regiment at the Owl Creek bridge on the Hamburg-Purdy Road because this was now the main route for communication with Wallace's detached division. Meanwhile, Frank Cheatham wired for help. The telegram was the impetus for Johnston to order his forces to advance on the Union Army at Shiloh.

At dawn on April 6, 1862 almost 50,000 Confederates hit Sherman and Benjamin Prentiss, driving them back towards Pittsburg Landing, well past the Hamburg-Purdy Road. Wallace was awakened about 6:00am by an orderly who told him about the sound of battle. Wallace chose to concentrate his forces at Stoney Lonesome rather than Crump's Landing because of the improvement his men had made to Shunpike. Taking it south would be much easier than traveling the River Road, which had suffered heavily from recent rains and heavy use.

Travelling south from Savannah, Tennessee, in his command vessel The Tigress, Grant met Wallace amidstream on the Tennessee River. Grant told Wallace to be ready to move south at a moment's notice but did not order any actual movement. Leaving the landing only lightly guarded, Wallace ordered a horse left so a messenger could ride to his army's outpost at Stoney Lonesome.

Grant sailed to Pittsburg Landing, arriving about 9:00 am. It didn't take him long to realize how desperate the situation was. Before he left to meet with the individual commanders in the field, Grant issued orders for Lew Wallace to move up to the field of battle and form on the right flank of his army. Grant's adjutant, John Rawlins, wrote the order on paper and dispatch a courier by boat to Crump's Landing. From Crump's, the courier rode to Stoney Lonesome and gave the order to Wallace, probably about 11:30 am.

Grant's decision to visit each of his commanders in the field took him to Sherman's headquarters on the extreme right of his line. Grant told his friend that Lew Wallace was on his way. Before leaving to meet Sherman at the Hamburg-Purdy Road, Wallace allowed his men a light lunch to prepare for the roughly 5-mile march along Shunpike and Purdy Road. Only one major obstacle laid in their way, the crossing of Snake Creek.

Before completing the crossing of Snake Creek, staff Captain Rowley reached Wallace with the news that the right flank of Grant's army was now disorganized and had been pushed back closer to Pittsburg Landing. The Union Army no longer controlled the Purdy Road bridge over Owl Creek or the entrance of the road to the battlefield. Upon hearing this, Wallace opted to countermarch his lead brigade back through his column (a complicated maneuver that is rarely practiced) rather than simply turning his division around. This meant that his forward brigade would have to march through itself and two other brigades stretched across three miles of road.

In the meantime, Sherman had fallen back to a position near the Hamburg-Savannah Road and determined to hold a bridge over Snake Creek, which he (correctly) assumed would be Wallace's second option. Wallace decided to return to the River Road and move down it to Pittsburg Landing. At 2:30 Grant dispatched Lieutenant Colonel James McPherson and Captain John Rawlins to find his missing division. They took a circuitous route to Overshot Mill on Shunpike where they finally met the rear elements of Lew Wallace's division.

Finding Lew Wallace further down the column, McPherson told him to hurry to support Grant's army. Wallace then told his lead men to break until the rear of his column closed up. As Grant's men fumed, Wallace delayed his advance for more than an hour. He would not reach the battlefield until after 6:30pm.

Interesting facts: Both Lew Wallace and his father, David Wallace, attended West Point. Both a gate (off 9W, not open to the public) and a road bear the name Stony Lonesome.

Links appearing on this page:

Albert Sidney Johnson
April 6
April, 1862
Army of the Tennessee
March 13
March, 1862
Pittsburg Landing
William Tecumseh Sherman

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles

Lew Wallace at Shiloh was last changed on - October 7, 2011
Lew Wallace at Shiloh was added on - March 24, 2007



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