An eye-witness gives the following pictures of the battle-field of Shiloh:
“On that peaceful Sunday morning of April 6, 1862, the sun was rising with splendor. I had walked out to enjoy the fresh air, and, returning by my friend Lieut. Ds tent, I called upon him. Said he, H., take a cup of coffee; I have found some milk. Dont care if I do, said I. I always write home on Sunday morning, and like to do it over a good cup of coffee. Yes, I mean to write to my little wife, said D. I expect to resign soon. Dont you want a pair of new shoulder-straps, H., and bran new pair of gauntlets? I told D. I would take them; and in a moment left his tent, after making him promise to take tea with me.
“But how were things at tea time? D. was mangled and dead, lying by the roadside, at the hospital by the Landing, with hundreds of others, and I had passed the most momentous day of my life–had participated (I am since told creditably) in one of the greatest battles, exceeding in fury, courage, waste, stupendousness, and gallantry, the wildest dreams of my youth. Should your happy city, on some bright Sunday morning, be sunk, with all its life, by an earthquake, and the cold waves rolling over it in eternal solitude before night, the change could be no more unexpected, nor could it come upon you with more bewildering and stunning suddenness and awfulness. On the evening of the 5th, the 18th Wisconsin infantry arrived, and were assigned to General Prentisss division, on the front. Said Colonel——-, who had preceded them, looking for the Generals quarters, Here they come–the bully boys–they weigh just 166 pounds apiece. Just left home six days ago. The 18th Wisconsin cooked their first suppers in the field that night at nine oclock, and wrapped themselves in their blankets, to be awakened by the roar of battle, and receive, thus early, their bloody baptism. Before they had been on the field one day, their magnificent corps was decimated, most of the officers killed–the proud and exultant Colonel among the dead.
“I saw an intelligent looking man with his whole diaphragm torn off. He was holding to nearly all of his viscera with both hands and arms. His face expressed a longing for assistance and an apprehension of fatality.
“On going to the field the second day, cuz regiment strode on in line over wounded, dying, and dead. My office detaching me from the lines, I had an opportunity to notice incidents about the field. The regiment halted amidst a, a gory, ghastly scene. I heard a voice calling, Ho, friend! ho! for Gods sake, come here. I went to a gory pile of dead human forms in every kind of stiff contortion; I saw one arm raised, beckoning me. I found there a rebel, covered with clotted blood, pillowing his head on the dead body of a comrade. Both were red from head to foot. The dead mans brains had gushed out in a reddish and grayish mass over his face. The live one had lain across him all that horrible, long night in the storm. The first thing he said to me was, Give me some water. Send me a surgeon–wont you! O God! What made you come down here to fight us? We never would have come up there. And then he affectionately put one arm over the form, and laid his bloody face against the cold, clammy, bloody face of his dead friend. I filled his canteen nearly–reserving some for myself–knowing I might be in the same sad condition. I told him we had no surgeon in our regiment, and that we would have to suffer, if wounded, the same as he; that other regiments were coming, and to call on them for a surgeon; that they were humane. Forward! shouted the Colonel; and Forward! was repeated by the officers. I left him.
“The above recalls to mind one of the hardest principles in warfare–where your sympathy and humanity are appealed to, and from sense of expediency you are forbidden to exercise it. After our regiment had been nearly annihilated, and were compelled to retreat under a galling fire, a boy was supporting his dying brother on one arm, and trying to drag him from the field and the advancing foe. He looked at me imploringly, and said: Captain, help him–wont you? Do, Captain; hell live. I said: Hes shot through the head; dont you see? and cant live–hes dying now. O, no, he aint, Captain. Dont leave me. I was forced to reply: The rebels wont hurt him. Lay him down and come, or both you and I will be lost. The rush of bullets and the yells of the approaching demons hurried me away–leaving the young soldier over his dying brother.
“Nearly every rebels face turned black immediately after death. Union mens faces retained the natural pallor two or three days.
“I ate my dinner on Monday within six paces of a rebel in four pieces. Both legs were blown off. His pelvis was the third piece, and his head and chest were the fourth piece. Those four pieces occupied a space of twelve feet square. I saw five dead rebels n a row, with their heads knocked off by a round shot. Myself and other amateur anatomists, when the regiment was resting temporarily on arms, would leave to examine the internal structure of man. We would examine brains, heart, stomach, layers of muscles, structure of bones, &c., for there was every form of mutilation. At home I used to wince at the sight of a wound or of a corpse; but here, in one day, I learned to be among the scenes I am describing without emotion–as perfectly cool as I am now. My friend, Adjutant—-, and myself, on the second night, looking in the dark for a place to lie down, he said, Lets lie down here. Heres some fellows sleeping. We slept in quiet until dawn revealed that we had passed a night among sprawling, stiffened, ghastly corpses.
“I saw one of our dead soldiers with his mouth crammed full of cartridges until his cheeks were bulged out. Several protruded from his mouth. This was done by the rebels.
“On the third day most of our time was employed in burying the dead. Shallow pits were dug, which would soon fill with water. Into these we threw our comrades with a heavy splash, or a dump against solid bottom. Many a hopeful, promising youth thus indecently ended his career.
“Some of our boys were disposed to kick the secesh into these pits. One fell in with a heavy dump on his face. The more humane proposed to turn him over. O, thatll do, said a Union Missourian, for when he scratches, hell scratch nearer hell. This is a hard story, I know, but I want you to see real war.
“I stood in one place in the woods near the spot of the engagement of the 57th Illinois, and counted eighty-one dead rebels. There I saw one tree, seven inches in diameter, with thirty-one bullet holes. Such had been deaths storm. Near the scenes of the last of the fighting, where the rebels precipitately retreated, I saw one grave containing one hundred and thirty-seven dead rebels, and one side of it another grave containing forty-one dead Federals. Several other trenches were in view from that spot.
“One dead and uniformed officer lay covered with a little housing of rails. On it was a fly-leaf of a memorandum-book with the pencil-writing: Federals, respect my fathers corpse. Many of our boys wanted to cut off his buttons and gold cord; but our Colonel had the body religiously guarded.
“Many of our regiments were paid off just previously to the battle, and our dead comrades were robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The rebels were surprised and abashed at the apparent wealth of our army. They attired themselves in our uniforms, and rifled from officers trunks tens of thousands of dollars worth of fine clothing, toilet articles, and interesting souvenirs of every mans trunk. They made themselves stupid and drunk over our fine victuals and wines. They seem to have gone mad with the lust of plunder.
“To show how complete and successful was the advance of the enemy, their advance guard lay in the woods on the 5th, witnessing our parades and reviews. One of our returned paroled prisoners, a mule-driver, who was captured two days before the battle, has told me that he was taken through their whole army, which was camped three miles from ours, the night before the attack.
“A resident here told me that on the retreat of the rebel army from Shiloh, it was utterly routed and demoralized.
“After the battle was over, we, formerly citizens who had never seen of heard the hiss of bullet, gathered the margled corpses of those we had known at home and joked with the day before–friends who were as full of life, hope, and ambition as ourselves–and buried them in blankets, or sent them home in boxes, with as little concern as possible, and went immediately to joking and preparing to fight again. What spirit or principle was it that in one day gave us all the indifference and stoicism of veterans?
“Two women, laundresses in the 16th Wisconsin, running to the rear when the attack was commenced, were killed.
“My poor friend Carson,–the scout,–after having fought, and worked, and slaved from the beginning of the war, unrequited, comparatively, and after having passed hundreds of hair-breadth escapes, and through this wild battle, was killed by almost the last shot. A round shot took off his whole face and fore part of his head. Poor Carson! We all remember your patriotism, your courage, your devotion. We will cheer all we can, the bereaved and dear ones you have left.
“Surgeons on the field would halt officers and order them to strip off their white shirts for bandages. Many an officer, halted on the field, tore off his accoutrements and uniform to provide the necessary bandages.”
Originally posted 2008-04-28 00:16:14.