Short History of the Battle of Shiloh Church,
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|
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.
|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.|
|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.|
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
|The plight of the Pochés of
the 18th Louisiana at Shiloh was described in the Journal of the Orleans
|"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
|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
|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.
|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
|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
|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).
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