Letter written by Captain George Rogers of the 20th OH Infantry of Col. Charles Whittlesey’s 3rd Brigade, to a friend from Camp Shiloh, TN. Rogers writes about the Battle of Shiloh, and describes encountering a Confederate battery supported by a brigade of Creoles [Orleans guards], who were led by General P.G.T. Beauregard himself. Rogers’ regiment, along with a small battery [Thurber’s Battery I, 1st Missouri Light Artillery], opened heavy fire on Confederate troops, forcing them to begin a retreat. He states his most vivid memory of the battle was of watching an officer shoot his wounded horse to put the animal out of its misery, weeping all the while. The regiment has just received orders to move up the river towards Corinth, and Rogers also mentions that General Halleck recently arrived at the camp.
Camp Shilo, Tennessee
April 12th 1862
My Dear Friend =
Since writing you last I have had the honor of engaging in the great battle which came off here on the 6th & 7th inst. As our division [Major General Lew Wallace’s 3rd Division] did not arrive on the scene of action till late on Sunday night I am unable to give you any particulars concerning the disasters of that day’s fighting. The newspapers have informed you how completely the enemy routed our forces the first day – how they drove them almost to the very [???] edge, and how if they had enjoyed a few more hours of daylight the whole army under Gen. Grant should have been annihilated. Thanks to Providence, night came on just when our safety lay in darkness. Before the next morning our division of ten thousand came up from below and Buell was able to throw across
the Tennessee [River] several brigades of fresh troops. Men who had put forth every effort to reach Savannah in time to engage in the fight they knew to be impending.
With the assistance of these reinforcements we were able to give events a different character to the engagement of Monday. I will not tire you with a detailed account of the movements of our division – of the movements of others I know know nothing – We were ordered to take position on our right flank and by keeping steady in the advance to turn the enemy’s left, an order which was executed in so skillfull a manner and with such eminent success as to receive from all parties the most enthusiastic praise. Our brigade was on the right of our division, and our regiment on the right of our brigade. Our maneuvering was made in a zig-zag line constantly bearing away to the left in order to menace the enemy’s rear. The line of march over which we passed was
over five miles in extent – every foot of which in some part of our division front was stubbornly contested by the enemy. About three o’clock or perhaps a little sooner, our brigade came by a beautiful and rapid movement upon a heavy battery of the enemy’s, support- ed by a brigade of Creoles commanded by Beauregard in person, who – with flag in hand at the head of the brigade – was endeavoring to rally his forces for a final effort to retrieve his lost fortunes. Our regiment being in the advance moved quickly to the right and seemed to the enemy as if about to come upon his rear. To meet this danger the enemy changed the front of one of his regiments. Having advanced several rods into an open field on the opposite side of which was the enemy’s battery and reserves, we halted in order to draw
his fire. Misconstruing the meaning of our halt, the rebels began to move toward us – seeing which we fell back to the edge of a woods for cover, and immediately opened a heavy fire, which in conjunction with our little battery which had just taken position on our left – soon caused the enemy to halt, then hesitate and eventually to make a precipitate retreat, carrying with them their battery of heavy guns. Our regiment pursued them as rapidly as the character of the ground would permit for about three miles farther – which was in addition to the five miles above alluded to – our skirmishers picking off the rear guard and picking up the stragglers, You will thus see that we had the honor of [silenceing?] the last gun of the enemy in the great battle of Shilo or Pittsburg. As our regiment was engaged in crumbling the enemy’s flank and menacing his lines of communications, the character of the engagement in front did not permit him to punish us as severely as we deserved. Our loss in killed and wounded amounts to about twenty – among the latter is Capt William Rogers of Co. A who was struck in the shoulder
with a grape shot. He is now with his command. [???] men in my company were just nicked, scarcely enough hurt to be called hit – My men behaved most admirably and although in nearly every company in the regiment someone showed the pale feather, I was surprised to find my own an exception. The battle ground is very extensive and the number of forces engaged on both sides must have amounted to from one hundred and thirty five thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand. The enemy’s forces it variously stated by the prisoners at between seventy five and one hundred & twenty five thousand. On Sunday we must have had at least thirty five thousand perhaps 4 [???] = On Mondy sixty thousand men in the fight. I will not attempt to entertain you by descriptions of the horrors which the field presented during the fight, but especially afterwards
it was but a reproduction of those scenes of which half of history is occupied in depicting – I can assure you of one thing, however, and that is those things don’t affect one very much while he is engaged in fighting. What moved me more than anything during the engagement was the effort of a field officer to dispatch the noble animal that had carried him safely across a great field, over which the fight was raging furiously. In crossing, the horse had received a shot in his lower jaw – the officer seeing the animal could not be saved, mounted his led horse, and riding several times around the wounded brute, discharged six balls from his pistol into the horse’s body – bringing him with the last shot, to the ground – the man the while weeping like a child. But in a moment the scene was changed – the tears were dried and that humane rider plunging his rowles into the side of his fresh horse, flew across
the plains to welcome new dangers. That scene however remains the most vividly painted in my memory of all those I saw on that memorable day.
At present our division occupies the upper camps – and our regiment is bivouacked in the one [???] surprised by the enemy on Sunday morning. Orders have just been received for us to move up the river farther in the direction of Corinth. This looks very much as if we were to have the advance in the next move. I am also just informed John G. Stephenson, who was this morning detailed as Brigade Sergeant Major, that Gen Halleck arrived this morning. Anyhow, a major general’s salute was fired by the gunboats this morning.
I shall be glad to hear from you at any time and if I am not mistaken you owe me a couple of letters – please direct them to Savannah, Ten –
Miss Elza Russell
Mt Vernon OH
Captain George Rogers, of the 20th OH Infantry, was 25 years old at the time of Shiloh. Having served as an ensign with the 4th OH Infantry during McClellan’s 1861 West Virginia Campaign, Rogers later fought at Corinth and in Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign before resigning as a captain in Feb. 1863. Rogers accepted a commission as lieutenant colonel of the 4th USCT in September of 1863, and served through the remainder of the war. He was breveted colonel and brigadier general for war service, March 13, 1865.