I thought it was relevant, at this point, to insert Isaac’s speech given at a GAR installation ceremony on December 17, 1895. Isaac’s Civil War journal entries will continue after these postings.
Isaac was an avid reader of newspapers and other periodicals. He read accounts of the war by the Generals and others who published their memoirs of their wartime experiences after the war ended. As time passed and the war became a fading memory, printed recollections evidently did not portray the Battle of Shiloh as Isaac experienced it. The memoirs of General Ulysses S. Grant were especially troubling to Isaac. As a result, Isaac gave the following speech to clarify the matter. Part 1 of the speech follows with Parts 2 & 3 to follow.
December 17, 1895
Battle of Shiloh
Commander & Comrades
I believe there was one requirement if I gave a talk on the battle of Shiloh to day it should be brief as owing to installing ceremonies & other business our time would be limited & I assure you I came prepared to comply with the request as far as briefness is concerned
I believe there is no other battle of the late war seen from so many different Standpoints & disputed in so many different ways as this Battle of Shiloh or Pittsburg landing, we called it by the latter name for several days after the battle, when it began to be mentioned in the papers as Shiloh, taking the name from a small log meeting house about 2 miles from the Tennessee river, this was a Methodist Church & gave its name to the Country or neighborhood close around the Church also to a Spring, close by, by the way as nice a spring as I ever saw not overly large but the water was very clear & came up thru white sand in great plenty I only saw the Spring once & then had the good fortune to Camp right by it when guarding commissary Stores from the landing the Summer after the battle, it was a quiet pleasant place in the _____ deep woods & I suppose its founders would have thought it the last place in the world to be torn & devastated destroyed & I might say desecrated by the ruthless hand of war
on this beautiful Sabbath morning, the 6th of apr 1862 nature had done her best to make this an ideal day the sun shone warm the trees were all out in leaf a day better Calculated for peace than war but the Confederate forces & Johnson at Corinth 25 miles away had been making preparations the last few days for an attack on our out posts 3 divisions Commanded by Genls Prentiss Sherman & Hurlburt accordingly History Says 3 divisions Commanded respectively by Hardee Bragg & Polk with Breckenridge bringing up a reserve so secretly had this movement been arranged that the union forces hadn’t the Slightest intimation of danger when Hardees divison fell on Shermans left & then struck Prentiss’ division dashing into Camp on the heels of a murderous shower of Shell & bullets wholly unprepared the union troops were only partly dressed & some were getting breakfast the confusion was fearful & history States that thro the heroic exertions of Genl Sherman the army was saved from instantaneous root
Meanwhile Polks division was pushing for Shermans rear to cut off his Communications & when this was prevented the whole Confederate force fell on Prentiss’ Division a gallant struggle was made but overpowered by numbers the line was broken up & Genl Prentiss & about 2000 of his troops were taken prisoner & sent to Corrinth & right here the very fiercest of this days battle was fought our army was poorly organized as a whole & part of it not organized at all any farther than by regiment & thus the Confederates met our forces in detail & whipped them in detail they being wholly organized would meet a division brigade or regiment of our Army & they were forced to fall back or be captured & by noon the Confederates held the Camps of Sherman McClernand Prentiss & Stewart & occupied the whole line from which our forces had been driven the forces of Hurlburt & W H L Walace suffered terribly during the afternoon they prevented the rush of the Confederates thro the center but were themselves steadily forced back towards the river when about 4 oclock Genl Wallace fell mortally wounded was carried from the field on a litter & the rebel genl Albert Sidney Johnson was also mortally wounded all day reenforcements under genls Lew Wallace & Buell [were] looked for but failed to arrive to take any [part] in this first days battle.
Part 2 continued in the next post.