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Col. Preston Smith's Report on Actions Of 154th Tennessee Senior Infantry At Shiloh.


April 19, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following as the report of the part taken by my command in the engagements of the 6th and 7th instant:

In obedience to the order of Brigadier-General Johnson I moved forward my command, the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Tennessee Regiment, at daylight on Sunday morning, on the road leading to Pittsburg, and proceeded to form a line of battle, my regiment being on the right and Blythe's Mississippi regiment on my left; these two regiments forming the right wing of Brigadier-General Johnson's brigade, this wing resting on the right of the road and the brigade held in reserve to support Brigadier-General Clark's brigade.

We followed the movements of that command until about 8 a. m., when an order was received from Major-General Bragg, through an officer of his staff, directing me to lead my regiment into action. This order was executed by moving my regiment by the right flank through a large open field, exposed the while to the shot and shell of the enemy's guns, placed in a road in front of us. I continued to march the command by the flank until it had crossed a muddy creek, some 300 yards from the enemys battery, when the line of battle was formed under a galling fire from the battery, infantry, and sharpshooters.

At this point the gallant Capt. Marshall Polk, with a section of his battery, advanced to my immediate front, and poured into the enemys works and on his battery a heavy and well-directed fire of grape and canister. After he had fired seven or eight rounds I directed him to cease firing and ordered my regiment forward.

Right here I received orders from Major-General Bragg to push my command forward. The order was promptly executed and in gallant style, driving the enemy from his guns with much loss and capturing his battery of four pieces. In this charge I lost heavily, but continued to press on the enemy, now driven beyond his first encampment some 600 or 700 yards, capturing a section of another battery, containing two pieces, some 200 yards this side of an old field, through which the disordered columns of the enemy could be seen retreating.

At this point I ordered Sergt. J. J. Pirtle, of Polks battery, Company G, to move his gun forward on the hill, to open on the enemy retiring over a neighboring field and hill. This order was executed in gallant style and with great execution, causing destruction and consternation among the already broken ranks of the enemy.

At this point I was joined by the Thirty-third Tennessee Regiment Colonel [Alexander W.] Campbell, and another regiment-I think an Alabama-and three companies of the Fifth Tennessee, Lieutenant-Colonel [C. D.] Venable. Having advanced this command into the field, we were greatly annoyed by the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, to which we were much exposed. I therefore commanded the men to take cover by a hill and a line of fence hard by, while the piece in charge of Sergeant Pirtle, which had been ordered up, threw grape and canister into the wood, to dislodge the enemy and drive him from his position. On this gun the enemy concentrated his fire, killing and wounding in a short time some of the men and all of the horses attached to the piece.

I cannot speak in terms of too high commendation of Sergeant Pirtle and Corp. John Kenney on this occasion, both of whom exhibited great coolness and intrepidity, and abandoned their gun at last with many regrets at their inability to move it from the field. I regret to say that a detail, which I had ordered from the infantry to their assistance, failed to reach those gallant men in time to enable them to save their piece.

Being still annoyed by the enemy's sharpshooters, I ordered the several regiments to fall back to the woods, some 200 yards, there to form, sending out at the same time Companies B and G, of the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Tennessee Regiment, and the three companies of the Fifth Tennessee, under Lieutenant-Colonel [C. D.] Venable. as skirmishers, to ascertain and report what enemy there might be on our left.

While the command was thus being formed Lieut. W. B. Richmond, aide-de-camp to Major-General Polk, came up, and directed me to report to General Polk for orders, and Lieutenant-Colonel [Marcus J.] Wright to take command of my regiment and to move it forward to the cross-roads, to a point to the right of the position it then occupied. On reporting to General Polk I was directed to take command of the brigade of General B. R. Johnson, that gallant officer having received a painful wound, which compelled him to leave the field. I proceeded at once to take command of the brigade, which I formed on the right of the avenue leading by the second encampment of the enemy, on the Pittsburg road, and just beyond the cross-roads. On my arrival there I found about 150 men of the Fifteenth Tennessee and about 200 of Blythe's Mississippi regiment fit for duty. The ranks of the One hundred and fifty-fourth and Second Tennessee I found also much reduced. Scarcely had the command been placed in position in order of battle ere the enemy advanced through the woods north of our position and opened a heavy and well-directed fire upon us. The One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Regiment and Blythe's Mississippi regiment, under the command of Major [James] Moore, Colonel Blythe and Lieutenant-Colonel [D. L.] Herron having previously fallen, were at once moved into the woods to meet and engage his advancing columns.

After a sharp conflict of some thirty minutes' duration, it having been reported to me that the One hundred and fifty-fourth Tennessee had exhausted their ammunition, I ordered that regiment to withdraw, and the Second and Fifteenth Tennessee to move forward, which they did promptly, driving the enemy back after a fierce engagement of fifteen or twenty minutes. In this engagement the whole command suffered severely.

At this time, my ammunition wagons having arrived, I sent the One hundred and Fifty-fourth, Second, and Fifteenth Tennessee Regiments to suppiy themselves with ammunition, retaining Blythe's Mississippi regiment for the support of the battery placed at this point. Before the return of the regiments sent back for ammunition the enemy advanced his sharpshooters on the road in front of the battery, and was annoying the command greatly by his well-directed fire. Perceiving that the single regiment there supporting the battery was not sufficient to hold the position, I ordered up Company L, of the One hundred and fifty-fourth Regiment (Captain [E. A.] Cole), aimed with Maynard rifles, to be deployed as skirmishers on the right and in front of my position while another regiment was coming forward.

Riding back about 200 yards, I brought up the Fourth Tennessee, Lieutenant-Colonel [O. P or F.] Strahl commanding, which came up to the conflict in most gallant style to the relief of Blythe's regiment and Captain [E. A.] Cole's company, which were hotly pressed by the enemy, and a fierce and somewhat protracted engagement drove the enemy in great disorder from this portion of the field, to which he did not again return during the day.

The One hundred and fifty-fourth and Second Tennessee having reported with ammunition, the One hundred and fifty-fourth, by direction of Major-General Polk, under whose immediate supervision all of the movements of the army on this portion of the field had been conducted, was ordered to the support of a battery in the avenue before spoken of. The Second Tennessee, having been joined by the Thirty-third Tennessee, was placed in position to repel a threatened attack of the enemy on our right.

Soon after this we were ordered forward to the support of a line of battle, composed of the Thirty-eighth Tennessee and some other troops, on the left of the road leading to Pittsburg, the One hundred and fifty-fourth having been ordered to the support of Swett's (Arkansas) battery. In this position we moved forward and occupied the last encampment of the enemy, in the direction of the river, from which my command retired, under orders, about sunset. Having seen the Second Tennessee Regiment encamped for the night at the cross-roads near General Beauregard's headquarters, I started out to ascertain where the Fifteenth Tennessee and Blythe's Mississippi regiments had encamped, neither of which commands had reported to me after retiring for ammunition during the afternoon. I found Blythe encamped not far from General Beauregard's headquarters, and learned that the One hundred and fifty-fourth Tennessee, with portions of the Fifteenth and Second Tennessee and a few of Blythe's command, had returned in the direction of their encampment of the previous night, at which place I found them about 12 p. m.

At this part of my report I beg leave to speak particularly of the gallant bearing of Col. J. Knox Walker and Lieutenant Colonel Smith, of the Second Tennessee, and Lieutenant-Colonel [Marcus J.] Wright, Major [Ed.] Fitzgerald, and Adjutant [W. H.] Stovall, of the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Tennessee Regiment, and to express my high admiration at the soldierly bearing of the officers and men generally of my command throughout this bloody and eventful day.

I would also mention the Thirty-third Tennessee Regiment, under Colonel [Alexander W.] Campbell, which constituted a part of my command during a portion of the day, and beg leave to say that, although comparatively a new regiment, there was not a command that came under my observation that better preserved its organization on the field and met the shock of the enemy with more coolness and firmness or who went into the action under a more daring and gallant leader.

At an early hour on Monday morning, in obedience to an order of Major-General Cheatham, I moved the One hundred and fifty-fourth Tennessee, and a portion of the Second Tennessee, under Captain [Samuel] Vance, forward on the Pittsburg road, having previously sent forward a portion of Blythe's Mississippi regiment and the Fifteenth Tennessee to rejoin their respective commands. When we had approached near the quarters occupied on Sunday night by General Beauregard, hearing heavy firing on our right we were hastily thrown into line of battle, under the directions of Generals Polk and Cheatham. At this point I was joined by a portion of Blythe's regiment, commanded by Major [James] Moore. The line of battle thus formed was composed of the One hundred and fifty-fourth and Sixth Tennessee and detached portions of other commands, making about three regiments, which, when formed, were moved rapidly forward under the lead of Major-General Cheatham. In advancing the One hundred and fifty-fourth, a portion of Blythe's regiment, and a company under Captain [Samuel] Vance, of the Second Tennessee, were detached from the line by a thick skirt of woods, undergrowth, and marshy ground. While moving my command by the flank, to avoid these obstacles, I met Brigadier-General Withers, who directed me to hurry to the support of Brigadier-General Chalmers, who was hotly pressed by the enemy on our right.

At this point I met Col. George Maney, of the First Tennessee Regiment, who directed his command to fall in on my left. Moving my command towards the point indicated at double-quick time, I met Brigadier-General Chalmers, who led my command in person to the point where he most needed support. Here having formed my command in line of battle, I moved to the place occupied by the enemy's camp on the hill from which we received a galling fire as we advanced. Moving steadily forward, we drove the enemy from his position to a hill beyond, though at a considerable loss in killed and wounded on our side.

The enemy, from his position on the hill, again opened upon us with a battery and his infantry, and a stubborn engagement was kept up for an hour and a half when, my ammunition being exhausted, I directed the command to be retired from the field for the purpose of procuring ammunition, while I went forward to advise Brigadier-General Chalmers of my purpose. This command was executed in good order. While going forward to Brigadier-General Chalmers position I received a shot through the right shoulder with a Minie ball, inflicting a painful wound and disabling my sword arm. This and the wounding of my horse twice on Sunday were the only casualties to myself.

On retiring for the purpose above stated I fell in with Brigadier-General Withers command, and remained with him and under his orders until ordered to retire my command from the field in the direction of Corinth.

I cannot close this report without expressing my profound thanks to Lieutenant-Colonel [Marcus J.] Wright, who, though struck on the leg on Sunday by a ball, which gave him much pain, continued with the command, giving me most valuable aid; to Maj. Ed. Fitzgerald, who, while encouraging the men in charging a battery on Sunday, had his horse shot under him and continued to cheer them on to victory; to Adjt. W. H. Stovall, Capts. M. M. Patrick, E. A. Cole, S. Fowlkes, jr., George Mellersh, J. S. Moreland, J. H. Edmondson, Alphonso Cross, Richard H. Randolph, Michael Magevney, jr., and W. B. Yowell, and to the company officers, with but few exceptions, of the One hundred and fifty-fourth Senior Regiment; to Lieutenant [Thomas] Brownrigg, Captains [J. H.] Sharpe and [William T.] Nesbit, and the other company officers of Blythe's Mississippi regiment, whose conduct came under my observation; to Captains [Samuel] Vance and [W. P.] Triplett, of the Second Tennessee Regiment, and to the officers and men generally of my command for their gallant and resolute bearing throughout those eventful and hard-contested days.

Herewith I send the reports of the several regimental commanders, which will serve to show where the different corps were during the two days when away from my immediate command; also that of Lieut. Thomas R. Smith, commanding battery. Of this gallant officer I would say his bearing was that which should ever characterize a soldier. He deserves [well] of his country.

I have the honor, sir, to be, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding.

Maj. J. D. PORTER,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

SOURCE: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, Part 1, Pages 446-450.

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