Overview of the Civil War: The Western Theater: the Opening Moves

Short History of the Battle of Shiloh Church, Tennessee
Source: National Park Service

During the winter of 1861-1862 Federal Forces pushing southward from St. Louis, Mo., captured Forts Henry and Donelson (see map) on the Tennessee and Cumberland
Map showing general area around Shiloh Church Rivers.  This action forced Gen. A.S. Johnston to abandon southern Kentucky and much of West and Middle Tennessee, including Nashville.  After withdrawing further south, he established a new line covering the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the only direct railroad link to Richmond and Memphis.   Realizing that he could not wait for another Federal advance, Johnston began concentrating 44,000 men at Corinth, Miss. (see map) whence he hoped to take the offensive and destroy Gen. U.S. Grant's Union Army of the Tennessee before it could be joined by Gen. D.C. Buell's Army of the Ohio.

Grant.gif (18946 bytes) The Federals had not expected the rapid collapse of the Southern defenses; thus there was a delay before Grant's Army of the Tennessee, 40.000 strong, moved south along the Tennessee River toward Pittsburg Landing, 22 miles northeast of Corinth (see map).  Ordered to wait there until Buell's army joined him, Grant camped his men in the woods and fields around Shiloh Church.  Concerned about the large number of raw recruits in his army, Grant drilled his men rather than fortify his position. Johnston's attack on Grant was originally planned for April 4, but repeated delays postponed by 48 hours.
Beauregard.gif (18611 bytes) As a result, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, Johnston's second in command, feared that the element of surprise had been lost and recommended withdrawing to Corinth. But Johnston refused to consider retreat. When Johnston's Army of Mississippi  hit the Federal camps on the morning of April 6, the Confederates achieved complete surprise. (the Union division commanders had done little or no patrolling, and the senior commander on the field, Gen. W.T. Sherman, treated all reports of Confederate troops in the area with contempt.)
Some Northern troops fought doggedly to hold their line; others fell back and re-formed elsewhere.  Many who had never been in combat fled for safety to the Tennessee River.  The Southern army rolled over one Union position after another until noon.  Then along the Sunken Road, the Federals finally established and held a line that stopped the Southern Advance.  Confederate soldiers knew that they had struck a "Hornets' Nest", and named it that.  Rather that seek a way around the stronghold, the Southerners charged the position repeatedly
None of these attacks succeeded until Confederate Gen. Daniel Ruggles brought up 62 cannon, the largest artillery concentration until then seen on a North American battlefield.  Under cover of hammering guns, Confederate infantry swept forward, surrounded the Union defenders and captured most of Gen. Benjamin Prentiss' division.  That sacrifice bought time for Grant to establish a final defense line near Pittsburg Landing.
To the right and left of the Hornets' Nest, Federal forces fell back before the Confederate attack, and the fighting became a confused slugging match.  On both sides, regiments became disorganized and companies disintegrated. 
Johnston.gif (16720 bytes) Johnston was killed while trying to push home attacks on the river side of the battlefield to isolate the Unionists from the landing, and Beauregard took over the Confederate command. By late afternoon Grant's surviving troops were safe in their final line.  His chief of Artillery, Col. J.D. Webster, had established a line of 53 guns on the heights around Pittsburg Landing.  The Confederates, now as disorganized as the Federals, tried the flanks of the Federal position.  The Union right beat them off easily.  The vanguard of Buell's army crossed the Tennessee and filed into position on Grant's left covering Pittsburg Landing.  Union infantry, artillery, and gunboat fire on that flank hurled back the Confederates attempt to cross the rugged Dill Creek terrain, and the fighting sputtered out for the night.  While the Confederates tried to reorganize, Northern gunboats sent salvoes crashing into their lines at 15 minute intervals, and the remainder of Buell's army crossed the river.

By dawn on April 7, the combined Federal armies numbered 55,000 men.  Beauregard, unaware that all of Buell's army had arrived, planned to continue the attack and drive the Northerners into the river.  At 6 a.m. the Confederates went on the offensive and were, at first, successful.  The stronger Union armies, however, soon began to push the Confederates back.  Realizing that he had lost the initiative, Beauregard tried to break the Union drive by counterattacking at Water Oaks Pond.  The Federal advance was stopped, but their line did not break.  Low on ammunition and food and with 15,000 of his men killed, wounded, or missing.  Beauregard knew he could go no further.  He withdrew beyond Shiloh Church and began the weary march back to Corinth.  The exhausted Federals did not pursue.  The battle was over.

On April 8, Grant sent Sherman south along the Corinth Road to try to catch the retreating Confederates.  Ten miles out he ran into the Southern rear guard under Col. N.B. Forrest. Sherman abandoned the pursuit.

In late April and May the Federals crept toward Corinth and seized it, while an amphibious force on the Mississippi was destroying the Confederate River Defense Fleet and capturing Memphis.  From these bases the Federals pushed down the Mississippi to besiege Vicksburg.  After the surrender of Vicksburg and the fall of Port Hudson in Louisiana in the summer of 1863, the Confederacy was effectly cut in two.  The war went on.

In terms of the Poche Family, the majority of the family was in the 18th Louisiana Infantry and the 30th Louisiana Infantry.  The 18th fought at Shiloh, Mississippi in 1862 and exactly two years later to the day,  it was fighting at the Battles of Sabine Crossroads (Battle of Mansfield) and Pleasant Hill in western Louisiana.  At both battles, the 48th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry was also engaged.  To get a different perspective about life "on the other side" read their Regimental History.

The plight of the Pochés of the 18th Louisiana at Shiloh was described in the Journal of the Orleans Guard:

"6th-At 5 o'clock ordered into line of battle; marched to and fro until 8, through woods and fields.  At about half-past 8 passed through the abandoned camp of the 6th Iowa.  Found there a bountiful supply of bread, hot from the oven, any amount of provisions, wine, fruits, and other delicacies; enough all together to feed ten regiments.  Halted there for a half hour.  Passed soon after to another camp, abandoned by its occupants at our approach, not without their firing a parting volley.  The Crescent [Crescent Regiment] at this camp diverged (owing probably to the dense woods) from the line of march of the Orleans [Orleans Guards Battalion] and the 18th Louisiana.  After half an hour's march further on, just as it was preparing to assault another camp, it was assailed by a brisk musketry fire, which proved to be from the 6th Kentucky and a Tennessee regiment.[27th Tennessee Infantry]   These troops, at sight of the blue uniform brought out from New Orleans, mistook the Battalion for the enemy.  Two men were killed by this error.

At five o'clock joined the 18th La. in a ravine, about half a mile from the Tennessee River. Remained exposed to the enemy's fire from the plateau of the hill in front of its line of battle, and to the shells of the enemy's gunboats.

The Battalion here awaited the order of General Preston Pond, who stood twenty yards off; the enemy meanwhile was a half mile from the Tennessee river, which they had fortified.  They were now awaiting our attack, having already repulsed that of the 16th Louisiana.

Mouton.gif (19632 bytes) The cry of "Forward the 18th!" was now heard on our right.  "Follow me" was given in the well known voice of Col. Mouton [Commander of the 18th].  Then the regiment [18th La.] disappeared as it charged up the hill, and we could only judge by the lugubrious concert of cannon and small arms that their attack had
commenced.  It had charged full of fire, and its ranks well dressed.  When we next saw it, it was mutilated, cut to pieces, leaving behind
it a path of blood.  Men could be scarcely recognized.  Their shirts were covered with blood and their faces disfigured with hideous wounds.  At this point, Major Queyrouze [Orleans Guard Commander] gave the order to charge to the Orleans Battalion. This was promptly obeyed, men moving forward, as if they were a machine, to the top of the plateau.  The command of "fix bayonets" was given, and this was answered by the men with a hurrah.  Then they moved forward on a double-quick, under galling fire.  The battle flag fell from the hands of G. Poree, the color-bearer, who was shot dead.  Before touching the ground it was caught by Gallot, who was shot dead through the head; then seized by Coiron, whose arm was shattered while holding it.  The fourth standard bearer was Percy, who was also wounded.  The fifth time it was seized, without ever having touched the ground, by a soldier, whose name is know unknown.

At forty paces from the enemy we opened fire.  This  lasted for a few moments, after which they were driven from the field.  The tramp of a large body of men was, now heard.  While we were expecting our total destruction, the division reached the field, with the blue flag and white center ovale, which had previously been pointed out as indicating Hardee's command."

Bergeron in his "Reminiscences of Uncle Silas - A History of the Eighteenth Louisiana Infantry Regiment" reports of the episode that "the bullets whistled around our heads resembling the music of swarming bees ... [After the charge], Colonel Mouton shed tears of mortification and sorrow over the loss of the men of whom he was so proud... Col. Mouton's clothes and saddle had a dozen bullet marks ... Every man in our company save three or four could show bullet marks upon his clothes... Company A and E [that of Lieutenant S.A. Poche and F.N. Poche - My Note] lost 2 men and 20 wounded" 

On May 10th, many companies within the 18th were reorganized and Lieutenant Poché was made Captain of Company E through election by his men. Alexis Poché of the Orleans Guards was reported missing and was captured after Shiloh.  He was sent to St. Johns Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio and from there on to the Military Prison in Cincinnati.  Eventually he was exchanged at Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Octave Joseph Poché of the Watson Battery was later to fight at the Battle of Corinth and participate in the Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana where he was captured and later paroled.

Shiloh Order of Battle
The 18th Louisiana Infantry Regiment was in the 2nd Corps (Maj. Gen. Bragg) and the 1st Division (Brig. Gen. Ruggles) and the 3rd Brigade (Col. Pond).


Confederate Cannon Battery like those at Battle of Shiloh

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