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William Preston Johnston, in his life of General Johnston, page 602, says: "At Shiloh there was much dislocation of commands. * * * Everybody seemed to have assumed authority to command a junior officer, and as the order was Help me,' or 'Forward,' it was always obeyed with alacrity. There was not much etiquette, but there was terrible fighting at Shiloh."
The forward movement of our lines of battle commenced very early on the morning of the 6th, and in a few moments the troops I commanded became engaged in combats with what appeared to be independent brigades and divisions.
Each line of battle attacked by us at first offered a stubborn resistance, but finally yielded and retired towards the river. Between I and 2 o'clock, while reforming my brigade, preparatory to moving. upon a line of battle which was formed in front of a camp upon the crest of a hill, and separated by a ravine from my position, General Albert Sidney Johnston rode up and personally gave me directions to make the attack, waiving his arms towards the enemy and saying Charge that camp.'
William Preston Johnston, in "Life of his Father, " page 595, says: 'He (General Johnston) gave Colonel Wheeler, of the 19th Alabama, afterwards distinguished as a cavalry general, his order to charge."
Very many of my command saw me gallop up to General Johnston and knew that the order came direct from the commander of the army, and this added to the enthusiasm with which they charged under a very heavy fire, driving the enemy and capturing a number of prisoners. The enemy fell back upon a second Federal line of battle, which occupied another crest, but after delivering an artillery fire, we charged this line, again capturing prisoners, the enemy retreating rapidly beyond our view.
Hearing a heavy fire to my left and front, I moved rapidly in that direction, encountering in a burning wood a large force, which retreated after a sharp engagement. About 3 o'clock I came upon two Mississippi regiments warmly engaging a long and dense line of battle.
The Federals largely outnumbered and outflanked the Mississippians, and were forcing them back, while the Mississippians were fighting at close range, most gallantly and doggedly holding every foot of ground as long as possible, the men seeming to turn and fire upon the advancing enemy at nearly every step.
The color-bearers of the two regiments were very near the advanc
ing line, and General Chalmers himself was gallantly riding among the troops. I was impressed that this was a persistent effort on the part of the enemy to penetrate our line, and I determined to resist and prevent it at all hazards. I advanced my entire brigade, fully 1,600 strong, in one handsome, regular line. General Chalmers and his battle-worn troops passed to my rear, and I took up the fight with all possible determination.
General Chalmers' Report, vol. 10, page 550, says:
"After a severe firing of some duration, finding the enemy stubbornly resisting, I rode back for General Jackson's Brigade. I did not see General Jackson, but, finding Colonel Wheeler, called upon him to take up the fight, which he did with promptness and vigor. I sent a staff officer to command my brigade to lie down and rest until they received further orders."
The Nineteenth Alabama was the earliest to meet and check the enemy, but the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Alabama soon came upon my left. The Second Texas was on the right of the brigade, and as my movement had been something in the nature of a swing `to the left, that regiment had further to march and met with some delay in getting into action.
The enemy's advance was checked, and for a time he held a strong position, partly protected by the slope of a ridge and a part of his line being also protected by the fence and the buildings and outhouses of a settlement. We finally dislodged him from this position, and the enemy, retreating a short distance, both lines fought at close range as severely as is ever experienced in a battle.
I do not know the losses sustained by the other regiment, but the Ninteteenth Alabama lost about twenty killed, and 140 wounded in about fifty minutes.
About an hour after taking up the fight from General Chalmers, the firing ceased in front of the Second Texas, and Major Runnels, of that regiment, rode up and directed my attention to a white flag on the enemy's line.
In a moment firing ceased in my immediate front, and by my direction Major Runnels galloped up to the officers who were displaying the flag, and in a moment returned with an exclamation that "the entire army had surrendered."
I moved the brigade up in good order directly in front of the surrendering enemy, and, by great efforts, succeeded in keeping the men in rank and the brigade in line. I saw the necessity for this, as
some other troops had come up, and were becoming virtually disorganized, officers, as well as men, leaving the ranks and mixing among the prisoners and scattering the captured camps.
While in this position some cavalry rode up from our rear and passed between the Nineteenth Alabama and the Second Texas and took position between the prisoners and Pittsburg landing.
Abbot's Battle Fields of '61, page 257, says:
'After a short delay, Bragg availed himself of the opportunity to attack the 'Hornet's Nest' by the flank. The movement was attended with complete success.
Generals Wallace and Prentiss showed themselves worthy of the trust reposed in them by Grant and fought stubbornly until the former was shot down with a mortal wound, and the latter, with 3,000 men, was surrounded and captured by an overwhelming force of Confederates.
Generals Bragg and Withers came up and directed me to take the prisoners to Corinth, but, upon my suggestion that the battle was not over, General Bragg allowed me to detail for that purpose one regiment of the brigade (Colonel Shorter's), and I promptly formed the rest of the brigade into line, replenished ammunition and moved forward toward the river.
We met a warm fire, mostly from artillery, and when near the river, suffered some from the gunboats.
A rapid ascent to the crest of a ridge near the river placed my brigade some 300 yards in advance of our general line, most of which was still at the foot of the ridge.
Looking back, I saw the greater part of the troops withdrawing to the rear.
Night came on, and General Withers sent an order to retire. On Sunday evening the head of General Buell's army reached the field, and the next morning 21,579 soldiers of that army were in line of battle, side by side with Grant's army, making the total Federal force with which we contended on the 6th and 7th, 70,893.
Many Confederate regiments had almost disbanded during the night, and the second day it is doubtful if we had more than 15,000 men on the field, but they were the elite of the army and fought with unsurpassed heroism.
THE SECOND DAY'S BATTLE.
Early on the morning of the 7th, under orders from Generals
Hardee and Withers, I moved forward towards the river and soon met the advancing enemy.
By General Hardee's orders I deployed the entire 19th Alabama Regiment as skirmishers, and with this regiment thus deployed, resisted for a time the advance of a solid line of battle.
I was soon driven back upon the main body of my brigade; my entire line became warmly engaged, and continued to fight with more or less severity during the entire battle.
It rained during most of the morning, and the air being still, both armies were much of the time enveloped in clouds of smoke.
Twice, in conjunction with General Chalmers, I charged up a hill and drove the enemy from a favorable position, but both times they were re-enforced and retook the position from us.
General Chalmer's Report, Vol. 10, page 552, in discussing these charges, says:
"Colonel Wheeler, of the 19th Alabama Regiment, was fighting with the Mississippians and bearing the colors of his command, in this last charge so gallantly made."
In reference to this part of the battle, William Preston Johnston, page 643, says:
"Chalmers was at one time detached from the command of his own brigade by General Withers in order to lead one of these conglomerate commands, and Colonel Wheeler had charge of two or three regiments thrown together. ***Chalmers seized the colors of the 9th Mississippi and called on them to follow. With a wild shout the whole brigade rushed in and drove the enemy back until it re-occupied its first position of the morning. In this charge Wheeler led a regiment, carrying its colors himself."
The 1st Missouri Regiment having been added to my brigade, I continued engaging the enemy with varied severity until about 3 o'clock, when my command was increased by the addition of the Crescent Regiment, under Colonel Marshall I. Smith. At this time the entire line withdrew to the crest of a hill and, pursuant to orders from General Withers, I took position in advance of the other troops. General Withers in his report, Vol. 10, page 535, in referring to this, says:
The command slowly and in good order retired and formed line of battle as ordered, the advance line under Colonel Wheeler."
A little later the bulk of our army commenced withdrawing from the field, and I was instructed to act as the rear guard with the 19th
Alabama, Ist Missouri, some small detachments and a section of artillery.
The gallant colonel of the 1st Missouri, Lucius L. Rich, having been mortally wounded, the regiment was now commanded by Major Olen F. Rice.
The enemy were in heavy masses in my front, but they showed no disposition to advance, and the firing was at long range and without much effect.
General Buell (page 295) speaks of this firing, but says: "The pursuit was continued no further that day."
General Grant (page 109) speaks of the fight continuing till 5 P. M. He also says his force was too fatigued to pursue immediately. I remained on the field until dark, and then withdrew about three miles, and at midnight General Bragg gave me verbal instructions to hold that position.
On the next morning, the 8th, Generals Sherman and Wood, each with a division, advanced, but, after feeling our lines, retired. I remained in the position close up to the enemy for about a week, and, with the exception of scouting parties, which approached our lines, the enemy remained quietly in their camp.
General Breckenridge had halted his command between my position and Monterey, and the day after the battle rode down to my bivouac, and the following day continued his march to Corinth. General Withers, in his report of the withdrawal from the field (Vol. X, page 535), says:
The remainder of the troops marched to within a mile of Mickey's, where they were placed under command of Colonel Wheeler, who throughout the fight had proved himself worthy of all trust and confidence, a gallant commander and an accomplished soldier."
And General Bragg (page 468) speaks of the noble service of "the excellent regiment of Colonel Joseph Wheeler."
The public seem to have regarded the surrender of General Prentiss, with 3,400 Federal soldiers, as the leading feature in the battle of Shiloh, and discussions have taken place as to what troops are entitled to the most credit and also as to the hour that the surrender took place.
William Preston Johnston (page 620), in speaking of Prentiss' surrender, says:
"Each Confederate commander-division, brigade and regimen