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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#7 of 52)

Shiloh: Advancing on the Rebels
“As soon as the regiments of our brigade could land and form their companies, we were off at the double-quick for the front. In less than half a mile from the river we commenced passing over the dead bodies of our men, who were killed on Sunday evening; and a little further on came the ground held by the enemy during the previous afternoon and night. Along the roads, and in the woods, we passed men coming to the rear, who were wounded in every conceivable manner. Some would tell us “Our men are cut to pieces!” others, “You’ll soon get to where there’s hot work!”

“A run brought us to the rear of our lines. By order of Gen. Hurlburt, the 57th was detached from the brigade, and sent to assist his division. As soon as we could load our pieces the regiment moved out and formed on the left of an Illinois regiment. In our front lay an open field several hundred yards wide, and the enemy were in the timber on the other side. To our right and near was a battery, which kept up a constant fire, shelling the woods in front.
“When the line was formed, the command was given to advance across the open field on double-quick, raise the yell, and drive the enemy from the woods. Our colors were unfurled, and with a cheer the line advanced briskly across the open ground, until we reached the timber, when we gave them a sharp volley of musketry, to which they gave a feeble reply, and immediately started on the retreat. The fire of the enemy was both weak and scattering.
“We continued the pursuit some distance when, they opened on us with artillery; but on account of our being on lower ground, and a heavy timber between us, their shells were all too high, and caused no damage. Lying down on the ground we awaited their advance; but none was made, and in a few moments we withdrew a short distance, with the hope of drawing their battery into an ambuscade and capturing it.
“A line of skirmishers was now thrown forward, which followed some distance, when the pursuit was abandoned, and the men were ordered to rest on their arms. Remaining until dark on the line occupied at the close of the engagement, we were then moved some distance to the right and ordered to stand all night in line of battle, so that we might be prepared for any daring attempt which the enemy might make to regain his lost ground. No fires were allowed, and without either supper or sleep we took our places in the line, to pass another long and dreary night.

“Soon after dark the rain commenced falling and continued all night. In a very short time we were completely soaked. Our caps did not prevent the water from running down the backs of our necks, and we resigned ourselves to the thorough drenching we received during the weary hours of that memorable night on the field of Shiloh.

“After daylight we built small fires, and made coffee in tin-cups. I shall never, while I live, forget the appearance of my hands on that morning. I was so completely chilled and benumbed with the cold that it was in vain I attempted to straighten my cramped fingers; and my limbs resembled those of drowned persons after they had lain several days under water.”

(Shiloh, Tennessee, April 7, 1862)

Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.

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