He Was a New Union Lieutenant at Shiloh. The Horrors He Witnessed Left Scars That Never Healed.


With his military paused at Pittsburg Touchdown, Tenn., in early April 1862, ready the arrival of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Military of the Ohio from the east, Ulysses S. Grant was assured he was on the verge of dealing a decisive blow to Common Albert Sidney Johnston’s Accomplice Military of the Mississippi, stationed about 20 miles away at Corinth, Miss. Union victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February had given Grant management of the higher stretch of the Tennessee River, permitting the final to launch a forceful thrust into the Accomplice heartland.

Johnston, nonetheless, stung Grant early within the morning April 6 with a strike on the Military of the Tennessee’s proper flank, manned by Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman’s fifth Division and Brig. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss’ sixth Division. A number of hours of determined, chaotic preventing adopted that preliminary assault, and though Johnston can be misplaced, mortally wounded, the Accomplice onslaught continued unabated. By dusk on the Battle of Shiloh’s first day, the Federals discovered themselves all however surrounded in entrance of Pittsburg Touchdown itself.

Grant famously turned the tables the next day, helped by the in a single day arrival of Buell’s reinforcements, to safe an unlikely victory and one other notch in a budding warfare document of success. For a lot of Union troopers, Shiloh was their first style of true fight. Amongst these was Lieutenant Ephraim Cutler Dawes, 21-year-old adjutant of the 53rd Ohio Infantry, in Sherman’s division—camped close to the Shiloh Church on the battle’s opening day. The 53rd, a part of Colonel Jesse Hildebrand’s third Brigade, had been in service for under two months.

Dawes, an 1861 graduate of Ohio’s Marietta School, can be a part of the one of many warfare’s extra exceptional preventing households. His older brother, Rufus, turned lieutenant colonel of the sixth Wisconsin Infantry, serving first in Northern Virginia with an all-Western brigade that will turn into referred to as the legendary Iron Brigade for its exemplary document of heroism in battle. Each brothers survived the warfare, however in late Could 1864, Ephraim’s subject service ended when he was severely wounded on the Battle of Dallas, Ga., throughout Sherman’s Atlanta Marketing campaign. Rufus can be mustered out of the Military of the Potomac that August.

The next is a condensed model of Ephraim’s postwar account of his experiences that first day at Shiloh, which he penned for the Army Order of the Loyal Legion of the USA (MOLLUS). Grammar and punctuation of the unique are retained.

On Friday, April 4th, there was a substantial skirmish about one mile in entrance of our camp. Some prisoners have been captured. They have been confined in Shiloh Church over night time. I didn’t see them. Those that did reported that they claimed to be the advance of an amazing military, that will drive us into the river the following day.

As a outstanding member of the Iron Brigade, Rufus Dawes (left) garnered larger fame than brother Ephraim (proper). Nonetheless, the youthful Dawes’ warfare accomplishments shouldn’t be discounted. (Ohio Historical past Assortment; Courtesy of The Dawes Arboretum)

Saturday, April fifth, was a day of rumors. Colonel [Jesse J.] Appler was very uneasy. About 4 o’clock within the afternoon, some mounted males have been seen on the finish of the sector, south of our camp. The colonel despatched an officer with a platoon of males via the woods to search out out who they have been, and to convey them in, if enemies. The boys have been gone a while, just a few pictures have been heard, and the officer returned, reporting that the mounted males had escaped him and his males had been fired upon, by what gave the impression to be a picket line of males in butternut garments.

Colonel Appler ordered the regiment in line and despatched the quartermaster, Lieutenant J.W. Fulton, to Common Sherman with this report. The quartermaster got here again and stated within the listening to of most of the males: “Colonel Appler, Common Sherman says: ‘Take your d—-d regiment to Ohio. There isn’t any enemy nearer than Corinth.’” There was fun on the colonel’s expense, and the regiment broke ranks with out ready for an order.

At seven o’clock P.M., Colonel Hildebrand despatched phrase to Colonel Appler that Common Sherman had been to his tent, and advised him that the pressure in entrance of our military had been positively ascertained to be two regiments of cavalry, two regiments of infantry, and one battery of artillery. He had directed Colonel Hildebrand to ship the Seventy-seventh Ohio Regiment at 6:30 A.M., Sunday, April sixth, out the Corinth highway to a degree referred to as the See Home…to help a motion of our cavalry, meant to assault and drive away or seize the a part of this pressure in our rapid entrance.…

About 4 o’clock Sunday morning, Colonel Appler got here to my tent and known as: “Adjutant, rise up, fast.” I hurried out and walked with him to the left of the camp. We might hear occasional pictures past our pickets. He stated he had been up all night time, and that there had been fixed firing. Whereas we have been standing there, our picket of sixteen males got here in. They reported that they’d heard a great deal of firing, and have been certain that there was a big pressure in our entrance….

The colonel despatched me to kind the regiment; then, known as me again, directed me to go to Colonel Hildebrand; once more known as me again, and eventually despatched a soldier to the brigade picket line, which was not 300 yards away, to determine and report the info. Earlier than the soldier was out of camp, a person of the Twenty-fifth Missouri Regiment, shot within the arm, got here hurrying towards us, and cried out: “Get into line; the rebels are coming!”

Colonel Appler hesitated not, however ordered the lengthy roll, and shaped the regiment on its coloration line. The one mounted officers within the regiment then have been the lieutenant-colonel and the quartermaster. He despatched one in all these to Colonel Hildebrand and one to Common Sherman with the report of the wounded man. Common Sherman’s quarters have been nearer to us than Colonel Hildebrand’s, and the quartermaster returned first, and stated, this time in a decrease tone: “Common Sherman says, ‘You should be badly scared over there.’”

Left: Recruiting poster for J.J. Appler’s 53rd Ohio, which fought with the 57th Ohio and 77th Ohio beneath Sherman in Colonel Jesse Hildebrand’s third Brigade. Sherman later lauded the 61-year-old Hildebrand (above) for his poise beneath hearth. Sadly, the colonel died of pneumonia simply 11 days after Shiloh. (Ohio Historical past Connection; Cowan’s Auctions)

An officer of our regiment, simply away from bed, got here operating to the road half-dressed, and cried out: “Colonel, the rebels are crossing the sector!” pointing to the lengthy open subject south of our camp. Colonel Appler ordered the regiment to maneuver to the left of the camp, going through south, and directed me to go on the head of the regiment and halt it on the correct level. As we filed left, one of many firms that had been despatched to help the pickets got here again via the comb, the captain exclaiming, as he took his place in line: “The rebels on the market are thicker than fleas on a canine’s again.”

…The intense gun barrels of the advancing line shone via the inexperienced leaves. I gave the command, “Entrance! left costume!” and, hastening to Colonel Appler, who was in rear of the middle of the regiment, stated in a low tone: “Colonel, look to the precise.” Colonel Appler regarded up, and, with an exclamation of astonishment, stated: “That is no place for us;” and commanded: “Battalion, about face; proper wheel!”

Presently, about 6:45 A.M., the tents have been standing, the sick have been nonetheless within the camps, the sentinels have been pacing their beats, the officers’ servants and firm cooks have been making ready breakfast, the main points for brigade guard and fatigue obligation have been marching to their posts, and in our regiment the sutler store was open. This order introduced the regiment again via its camp. Colonel Appler, marching in entrance, cried out a lot of occasions, within the loudest tones of his shrill, clear voice: “Sick males to the rear!” It’s pointless so as to add that they obeyed. The regiment halted on the forehead of the elevation in rear of the officers’ tents, marched ten paces ahead, confronted about, and the boys lay down within the brush the place the bottom started to slope the opposite means.

Two items of artillery of [Captain A.C.] Waterhouse’s battery [Battery E, 1st Illinois Light Artillery] took place on the precise of the regiment, because it halted, and Common Sherman and employees rode alongside its entrance, stopping just a few paces in entrance of the sixth firm….

Common Sherman together with his glass was trying alongside the prolongation of the road of…troops marching throughout the tip of the Rea subject, and didn’t discover the road on his proper. Lieutenant Eustice Ball, of Firm E of our regiment, had risen from a sick mattress, when he heard Colonel Appler’s command, and was strolling alongside in entrance of his firm. I noticed the Accomplice skirmishers emerge from the comb which fringed the little stream in entrance of [our] camp, halt and lift their weapons. I known as to him, “Ball, Sherman shall be shot.” He ran towards the final, crying out, “Common, look to your proper.” Common Sherman dropped his glass, and seeking to the precise noticed the advancing line of [Confederate Lt. Gen. William J.] Hardee’s corps, threw up his hand, and exclaimed, “My God, we’re attacked!” The skirmishers fired; an orderly fell useless by the final’s facet. Wheeling his horse, [Sherman] galloped again, calling to Colonel Appler as he handed him, “Appler, maintain your place; I’ll help you.”

The showdown in this sketch—an attack by the 14th Wisconsin on the Washington (La.) Artillery—occurred on April 7, when Grant’s army reversed the course of the battle en route to victory. But it matched much of the close-quarters fighting that dominated the Shiloh action the previous day. (Library of Congress)
The showdown on this sketch—an assault by the 14th Wisconsin on the Washington (La.) Artillery—occurred on April 7, when Grant’s military reversed the course of the battle en path to victory. However it matched a lot of the close-quarters preventing that dominated the Shiloh motion the day before today. (Library of Congress)

The view from the excessive floor the place I stood right now was one by no means to be forgotten. In entrance have been the steadily advancing traces of Hardee’s corps, marching in excellent order, and lengthening till misplaced to sight within the timber on both flank. In an open area within the Corinth highway a battery was unlimbering. Instantly in entrance of the spot the place Common Sherman’s orderly lay useless, there was a bunch of mounted officers and a peculiar flag—darkish blue, with a white heart.

The camps of [Colonel Ralph] Buckland’s and Hildebrand’s brigades have been in sight; all of the regiments have been in line, these of Buckland have been marching ahead; there have been nice intervals between them, for illness had made heavy inroads within the ranks….There was a pointy rattle of musketry far to the left, on Common Prentiss’ entrance. The lengthy roll was beating in [Maj. Gen. John] McClernand’s camps. The Accomplice battery fired, its first shot reducing off a tree prime above our Firm A. The 2 items of Waterhouse’s battery every fired a shot, limbered up, and returned to the battery camp; a Accomplice regiment got here via the road of our officer’s tents; Colonel Appler gave the command to fireside; there was an amazing crash of musketry on the entire entrance….The battle was pretty on.

The hour marked by the primary cannon shot was seven. The primary hearth of our males was very efficient. The Accomplice line fell again, rallied, got here ahead, obtained one other volley, and once more fell again, when our colonel, who was behind the left wing, cried out, “Retreat, and save yourselves.”

Two or three firms on the precise, whose commanders didn’t hear this order, stayed till they noticed the rest of the regiment going again in confusion, after which marched again, so as, to a ravine in rear of a regiment of McClernand’s division which had simply come ahead. Right here the regiment was rallied with out issue. Common McClernand was there, and in individual ordered it into place in entrance of Common Sherman’s headquarters, designating the purpose the place the precise ought to relaxation. The regiment marched to the place indicated. The colonel [Appler] walked quietly alongside close to the entrance. There have been many bullets singing via the air, however he paid no consideration to them. In its new place the 2 proper firms, A and F, have been separated some thirty yards from the rest of the regiment by a deep however brief ravine. Colonel Appler remained with them whereas I went to the left.

One in every of McClernand’s regiments went to our entrance and without delay turned hotly engaged. Waterhouse’s battery was firing down the ravine between our camp and the Fifty-seventh Ohio camp. An excellent many males in our left have been shot right here by a fireplace which they may not return due to McClernand’s regiment in our entrance.

L–R: The 57th Ohio’s Lt. Col. Americus Vespucius Rice—undeniably one of many warfare’s biggest names—and 77th Ohio Main Benjamin Fearing figured considerably within the Federals’ resilient Day 1 protection. (Nationwide Portrait Gallery)

As I turned to return from the left to the precise, I noticed the Fifty-seventh Ohio, which had been preventing on its coloration line, falling again via its camp, its ranks damaged by the standing tents, regardless of the efforts of its gallant lieutenant colonel, A.V. Rice, the one subject officer with it. It appeared to me we might assist them by transferring the size of a regiment to our proper and maybe save the road. I ran to the place the colonel was mendacity on the bottom behind a tree, and stooping over stated, “Colonel, allow us to go and assist the Fifty-seventh; they’re falling again.” He regarded up; his face was like ashes; the terrible worry of demise was on it; he pointed over his shoulder together with his thumb in an indefinite path, and squeaked out in a trembling voice, “No; kind the boys again right here.”

Our depressing place flashed upon me. We have been within the entrance of an amazing battle. Our regiment by no means had a battalion drill. Some males in it had by no means fired a gun. Our lieutenant-colonel had turn into misplaced within the confusion of the primary retreat, the main was within the hospital, and our colonel was a coward! I stated to him, with an adjective not essential to repeat, “Colonel, I cannot do it!” He jumped to his ft, and actually ran away.

The sergeant-major, W.B. Stephenson, who was an outdated faculty pal, had adopted me as much as the road. I stated to him, “Go, fast, and order every firm to shut as much as the precise.” I went to Captain Wells S. Jones, of Firm A, and stated, “Captain, you’re in command; Appler has run away. I’ve ordered the regiment to shut as much as the precise; allow us to assist the Fifty-seventh.” He replied, “All proper, get the boys collectively; inform each firm commander my order is to remain on the entrance, and are available again as fast as you may.”

I ran down the road, stopping a second to talk to courageous outdated Captain [J.R.] Percy, of Firm F. He swung his sword over his head and stated, “Inform Captain Jones I’m with him. Allow us to cost!”

“Wait until we get collectively,” I replied, and he assented. Simply then the regiment in our entrance which had been preventing most gallantly broke to the rear. I handed throughout the ravine and met the sergeant-major, who stated, “The boys have all gone.” The place or why they went, we couldn’t then think about.

Grant held subordinates William T. Sherman (left) and John McClernand in several regard. Shiloh bolstered the Grant-Sherman bond; by 1863, McClernand was gone. (Library of Congress; Medford Historic Society)

It transpired that our brigade commander had ridden over and ordered them again to “the highway.” He didn’t designate what highway; they anticipated him to conduct them, and went again till they discovered a highway and remained there till Main [Benjamin D.] Fearing with the remnant of the Seventy-seventh [Ohio] got here alongside, once they positioned themselves beneath his command. I went again to Captain Jones, who had moved a bit of technique to the precise….

Bullets now started to come back from our left. The battery swung round and commenced to fireside nearly to its rear. Males from Prentiss’ division have been passing very quickly behind us. The Seventeenth Illinois Regiment got here up in lovely order, and, forming on the precise into line, on our left, started to fireside on the Confederates who have been coming now from the south-east. We continued firing nearly west….

The Confederates had now captured three of Waterhouse’s weapons. They swarmed round them like bees. They jumped upon the weapons, and on the hay bales within the battery camp, and yelled like loopy males. Captain Jones moved our little squad, now lowered to about forty males, to affix Lieutenant-Colonel Rice…who was nonetheless making a struggle on the left of Shiloh Church. Of seventy males in Corporations A and F, nineteen had been killed or wounded, eight or ten had gone to the rear with badly wounded males, one had fallen in a gap, and when pulled out had permission to go to the rear by probably the most expeditious route.

No orders had been issued in our brigade in regard to care of the wounded. No stretchers have been offered. No stretcher bearers had been detailed. We had not but realized that in victory was the one battle-field humanity. When a person was wounded, his comrades took him to the rear, and thus many good troopers have been misplaced to the firing line.

We joined Colonel Rice, and…together with his males, drove again a disorderly line that was pursuing us, after which, with the Seventy-seventh Ohio, made a line parallel with the Corinth highway, the precise of this line resting close to Shiloh Chapel, and the left extending towards the river.…

There was a great deal of dysfunction right here. Each physique needed cartridges. There have been three sorts of weapons in our brigade and 6 within the division, all requiring ammunition of various caliber. Of our brigade not over 4 hundred males have been current. The brigade commander had disappeared. Throughout the first struggle he had displayed probably the most reckless gallantry. On the time he rode his horse straight between the opposing traces of battle, however when the Seventy-seventh and Fifty-seventh Regiments have been pushed from their camps, he assumed that their usefulness was at an finish, and rode away and tendered his providers to Common McClernand for employees obligation. This line was quickly damaged; bullets got here from too many factors of the compass. The scenario was aptly described by a person who was hit on the shin with a glancing ball. It damage him awfully and he screamed out. His captain stated, “Go to the rear.” As the road broke and commenced to float via the comb, [he] got here limping again and stated, “Cap, give me a gun. This blamed struggle ain’t received any rear.”

‘The Most Horrible Wanting Wound I Noticed’

The trauma to Ephraim Dawes’ jaw and mouth from his 1864 wound is clear within the post-surgery photograph above; he later grew a beard to assist masks the scars. Dawes was carrying this bloodstained frock coat when he was shot at Dallas, Ga. (Ohio Historical past Connection (2); Dawes’ Coat Courtesy of the Dawes Arboretum)

Whereas the success of Iron Brigade Lt. Col. Rufus Dawes is well-known, the catastrophic heroics of his youthful brother, Ephraim, on the Battle of Dallas, Ga., one way or the other are likely to get ignored by many Civil Struggle fans. On Could 28, 1864, the youthful Dawes was rallying his wavering 53rd Ohio Infantry as Accomplice troops closed in. Dawes was struck by a bullet to his left jaw, which, in line with Non-public John Duke of the 53rd Ohio, “took off his decrease lip, tore the chin in order that it hung down, took out all of the decrease tooth however two and reduce his tongue.” As Duke recalled: “It was probably the most horrible trying wound I noticed throughout my complete military service.” Dawes survived the ghastly harm, however it ended his energetic navy profession and he underwent a number of surgical procedures over the following few months to reconstruct his decrease jaw. In September 1864, Dawes underwent probably the most troublesome of these, enduring most of a 1½-hour process with out anesthesia after an preliminary dose of chloroform wore off. The wound ultimately healed and he regained his speech. After the warfare, the 53rd Ohio members voted unanimously to current Dawes with the regiment’s nationwide colours. —M.A.W.

On the Purdy highway, two regiments of Buckland’s brigade [48th and 72nd Ohio] have been in line. Our males and the Fifty-seventh fell in with the Forty-eighth Ohio. Right here was extra confusion than I noticed at any time throughout the day. The troops who retained their group have been in ok form, however there have been many disorganized males; the highway was nearly blockaded with groups hurrying from the battle line; a battery was attempting to get into place; the Confederates charged; there was a brisk hearth for just a few moments. Our line gave means in any respect factors….

There was a brass gun caught between two small timber, apparently deserted by all however one man who sat on the wheel horse crying. I took seven of our males and known as to Colonel Rice, who took a dozen or extra of his males. In a second we broke down the saplings and launched the gun….

We hurried to affix the closest troops and fell in with the Seventieth Ohio Regiment, which we now noticed for the primary time. I don’t know the place we have been, and suppose nobody else had. Throughout was a roar of musketry; instantly about us was the silence actually of demise, for the bottom was strewn with the slain of each armies. Colonel [Joseph]

Cockerill rode on the head of his regiment in a wonderfully cool matter of truth means, as if it was his customized to move via such scenes each Sunday morning. He marched the regiment alongside the highway…a number of hundred yards, the place I noticed the sergeant-major of the Seventy-seventh Ohio Regiment within the brush close to by….

Shiloh flag of the Lake Windfall Cadets, Co. C, 4th Louisiana Infantry, much like the one utilized by the Orleans Guard Battalion. This and different firm banners have been later banned from use inside the Military of Tennessee and despatched dwelling. (Non-public Assortment)

In an open subject on decrease floor to our proper was a regiment with full ranks, uniformed in blue, marching by flank to the drum beat. Their course was obliquely throughout the trail of the Seventieth Regiment; just a few moments would convey them collectively. It didn’t appear doable {that a} Union regiment in such situation could possibly be coming from the battle line. I stated, “They’re rebels. I’m going to fireside on them.” He stated, “They aren’t.” The wind lifted the silken folds of their banner. It was the Louisiana State flag!

All of us had weapons, and dropped to our knees and fired. The boys on the highway noticed us, ran ahead, and a rattling volley ran alongside the road. The Louisianians broke in dysfunction to their rear, and we marched unhurt previous the purpose of hazard….

A Accomplice battery was now in place…the road of its hearth was fairly actually towards our troops. If we might observe it and never get shot we might absolutely discover any person. There was an outdated farm highway alongside which we ran, falling on our faces at every report of the cannon….I believe we went half a mile after I noticed Colonel Hildebrand sitting on his horse by an outdated log barn intently watching the swaying traces and wavering banners of troops, preventing throughout an extended open subject south. “Now, we’re all proper,” I stated to our males, and directing them to lie down in a bit of gully I went to the colonel, and stated, “Colonel the place is the brigade?” “I don’t know; go alongside down that highway and I assume you will discover a few of them.”

…“Why don’t you include us, get the boys collectively and do one thing?” I stated. “Go alongside down that highway,” he answered sharply, “I need to watch this struggle.”

The unit with the Louisiana state flag Dawes
noticed was possible the Orleans Guard Bat-talion. Non-public Octane Fellon fought with the Guard at Shiloh, later presumed killed. (Heritage Auctions, Dallas)

Cannon shot have been whizzing via the air, bullets have been spatting towards the outdated barn. It was not a perfect place to tarry, so calling my males we adopted the highway, crossed the top of a deep ravine and located Lieutenant [Jack] Henricle, a typical battle image. His arm and shoulder have been coated with blood, the place a wounded man had fallen towards him, his coat was torn by a bullet, his face was stained with powder, his lips have been blackened by biting cartridges, he carried a gun. His eyes shone like hearth. He was the person we lengthy had sought. I stated to him, “Jack, the place is the brigade?” He replied, “A part of your regiment and a part of ours are proper down this fashion a bit of means.” I felt like falling on his neck and weeping for pleasure, however didn’t, and solely stated, “What time is it?” I used to be amazed when after consulting his watch he replied, “1 / 4 to 3 o’clock.”

We walked quickly down the highway, and shortly discovered that portion of our regiment which had fallen again early within the morning; about 2 hundred and fifty sturdy, now beneath command of Lieutenant-Colonel Fulton. Close to them was the Seventy-seventh Regiment, having about the identical variety of males….With them was a battery that had arrived on the touchdown that forenoon, had not but been beneath hearth, and had obtained no orders no matter. They have been in entrance or south of the primary highway main from Pittsburg Touchdown to Corinth, and a number of other hundred yards west of some heavy weapons, which I suppose have been of the well-known siege gun battery which figures so largely in all accounts of the battle. A couple of minutes after I reached the regiment, Captain [J.H.] Hammond, who was Common Sherman’s A.A.G., rode up and gave to the commander of the battery an order which I didn’t hear, after which coming to us, cried out in an excited tone: “Sidney Johnston is killed! Beauregard is captured! Buell is coming! I would like volunteers to exit and help this battery!”

On the command “Consideration!” our males fell in, and we marched out the primary Corinth highway to its junction with the highway operating from Hamburg to Crump’s Touchdown; marched alongside it a bit of technique to the precise, then a brief distance ahead, the place the battery went into place with our regiment on its left….The battery had hardly opened hearth when it was answered by a Accomplice battery with shot and shell. At first, the shells burst far behind us, and the spherical shot reduce off the limbs of the timber above our heads. However quickly one other Accomplice battery started to fireside at a special angle, in order to partially enfilade the road….In a really brief time it had disabled two weapons of our battery and killed ten or twelve horses. Our battery males, nonetheless, stood as much as their work till they’d fired away their final spherical. I suppose this artillery hearth lasted an hour. I don’t suppose a single man, both in our regiment or the battery, was killed or wounded….

In about one-half hour, the firing ceased nearly as all of a sudden because it had begun. We weren’t fairly sure what the consequence had been, so, alone accountability, I despatched a dependable man to go down the road so far as doable and discover out the scenario….I distributed items of paper…to the corporate commanders, to take the names of the boys current….

This was the tip of my first day beneath hearth. Within the mild of subsequent expertise, I can see many issues I may need accomplished significantly better, however as I recall the circumstances then present, I’ve no apologies to make. 

Steven Magnusen, who writes from Indianapolis, is the creator of To My Greatest Lady: Braveness, Honor, and Love within the Civil Struggle—The Inspiring Life Tales of Rufus Dawes and Mary Gates (GoToPublish, 2020).

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