Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Interesting Find: A Shiloh Letter, April 8, 1862

As those of you who know me or follow the blog will no doubt know, while Antietam and the Maryland Campaign are my main topics of study, I do have other areas of interest in the Civil War as well. The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 and Kennesaw Mountain are one area of interest, and so is the Battle of Shiloh. I was born on the anniversary of Shiloh, and went to visit there earlier this year with my dad. I did quite a few posts on Shiloh (all of which can be found here), as it is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating battles of the war. The human interest stories of Shiloh are very compelling, and the fact that it was the first of the great battles of the war adds a certain mystique to it. While First Bull Run was a major event in 1861, the first truly great and terrible battle of the war that saw killing and death on a grand scale took place along the Tennessee River in April 1862. For anyone who has been to Shiloh, you will understand when I say it is a place you will never forget.

Anyways, I have been in the Western Reserve Historical Society library lately doing some research on an upcoming and heretofore unannounced project, and I came across the following letter from Captain Peter Hitchcock of the 20th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In Hitchcock's papers at the WRHS, there are folders and folders of beautiful, well written letters to Sarah Jane Willcox, his future wife, while Peter was in the army. Some of the letters resemble love poems they are so well written. Hitchcock also does a great job of describing some of the combat that he saw. Below is one example. This is a letter Peter wrote to his love, Sarah, on April 8, 1862, one day after the Battle of Shiloh. It can be found in the Peter Hitchcock Papers, Container 28a, of the Western Reserve Historical Society.  The 20th Ohio was a part of Lew Wallace's 3rd Division of the Army of the Tennessee which arrived late in the day on April 6th, but in enough time to reinforce Grant and take part in the battle on April 7th.

April 8, 1864, Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee, HQ 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division

You will be surprised to learn that our Brigade with the balance of the Division at Crumps Landing were day before yesterday ordered to move to this place to support the forces here as they had been attacked by the combined rebel forces under Beauregard.

Day before yesterday at about 2 o’clock we left Adairsville for the new position from that time until late at night we were on the way marching, probably 8 or 9 miles on reaching here we learned that our forces had been driven back from their position up nearly to the river, probably a distance of 5 miles, our center had suffered the most and were pushed closest to the river. Beauregard had sent in word that he was going to drive our forces all into the river. General Buell’s forces at about the time we arrived also arrived on the opposite side of the river, and were crossing all night, but only a small portion got over to assist in the battle. We have had a splendid victory. Early yesterday morning our forces commenced the attack, and although the ground was inch by inch hotly contested, our forces kept pushing them farther and farther away, though at places and times they drove us back, still onward pushed our forces, until the last grand stand by the enemy was made on the ground we now occupy, here all along the lines (probably 8 miles) for two hours or more there was a continuous round of musketry and cnanon, at last the enemy gave way, and reired in any good order. Their losses are immense, and ours must be very great there is no doubt over 6,000 killed and wounded. Our regiment though engaged has had few men lost, one killed of Co. B., Capt. William Rogers Co A., wounded, and about 10 or 12 privates of Sunday companies some very badly, our Lt. Col. had his sword shot while in his hand.

I am all safe, only having been well scared several times by stray shots. You can learn more from the papers of the engagement, than I can tell you. I have no time to write as I am wanted with the teams, tell all at home I am safe and well.

We move on Cornith from this point I suppose.

From your own,

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