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Lew Wallace at Shiloh
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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.
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.
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Lew Wallace at Shiloh was last changed on - October 7, 2011
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