Report of
Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman
U. S. Army
Commanding Fifth Division

 

Gen. William T. Sherman's report on his recognizance of the retreating Confederate army and the skirmish at Fallen Timbers, April 8, 1862.

 

Gen. Sherman made a short report to Gen. Grant that describes his recognizance and limited pursuit of the retreating Confederate Army of Tennessee with two brigades of troops that included Col. Buckland's Brigade and the 48th Ohio under Lieut. Col. Parker. This recognizance in force by Sherman's bone tired troops was ordered to make sure the Confederate Army was truly retreating. It was halted by Col. Forest's Cavalry who were serving as a rear guard for the retreating Confederates. One of the more sensational moments in the war occurred when Forest boldly ordered his men to charge the Union skirmishers over muddy ground and through fallen trees in what is sometimes called the Battle of Fallen Timbers. At one point Forest either lost control of his horse or his senses and dashed alone into the line of infantry formed by Sherman in response to the Confederate assault. He is said to have come to within a very short distance of Sherman himself. Sherman states in an 1881 speech, but not in this report, that "I am sure that had he not emptied his pistols as he passed the skirmish line, my career would have ended right there." Forest, severely wounded by a musket shot to the left hip near his spine, spurred his horse and escaped to the South. The picture of these two legendary men facing each other with chaos all about them around forms a battle scene worthy of a dramatic painting even though the action at Fallen Timbers is but a whimper following the anguish of Shiloh.

 


 

OR: Series I, Vol..X, Part 1, Chap XXII pp. 639-641.
KY., TENN., N. MISS., N. ALA., AND S. W. VA.
RECONNAISSANCE FROM SHILOH

Report of Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, U. S. Army.

HEADQUARTERS FIFTH DIVISION,
Tuesday, April 8, 1862.

      SIR: With the cavalry placed at my command and two brigades [Hildabrand's 3rd and Buckland's 4th] of my fatigue[d] troops I went this morning out on the Corenth road. One after another of the abandoned camps of the enemy lined the roads, with hospital flags for their protection. At all we found more or less wounded or dead.
      At the forks of the road I found the head of General Wood's [6th] division. At that point I ordered cavalry to examine both roads, and found the enemy's cavalry. Colonel Dickey of the Illinois cavalry, asking for re-enforcement's, I ordered General Wood to advance the head of his column cautiously on the left-hand road, whilst I conducted the head of the Third Brigade of the fifth Division up the right hand road.
      About half a mile from the forks was a clear field, through which the road passed, and immediately beyond a space of some two hundred yards of fallen timber, and beyond an extensive camp. The enemy's cavalry could be seen in this camp, and after a reconnaissance I ordered the two advanced companies of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, Colonel Hildabrand, to deploy forward as skirmishers, and the regiment itself forward into line, with an interval of 100 yards. In this order I advanced cautiously until the skirmishers were engaged. Taking it for granted this disposition would clean the camp, I held Colonel Dickey's Forth Illinois Cavalry ready for the charge. The enemy's cavalry came down boldly to the charge, breaking through the line of skirmishers, when the regiment of infantry, without cause, broke, threw away their muskets, and fled. The ground was admirably adapted to a defense of infantry against cavalry, it being miry and covered with fallen timber.
      As the regiment of infantry broke, Dickey's cavalry began to discharge their carbines and fell into disorder. I instantly sent orders to the rear for the brigade [both the remains of Hildabrand's 3rd, see Fulton's report; and Buckland's 4th, see Buckland's report] to form line of battle, which was promptly executed. The broken infantry and cavalry rallied on this line, and as the enemy's cavalry came to it our cavalry in turn charged and drove them from the field.
      I advanced the entire brigade [Hildabrand's 3rd, see Fulton's report] upon the same ground, and sent Colonel Dickey's cavalry a mile further on the road. On examining the ground which had been occupied by the seventy-seventh Ohio we found 15 dead and about 25 wounded. I sent for, wagons and had all the wounded sent back to camp and the dead buried; also the whole camp to be destroyed. Here we found much ammunition for field pieces, which was destroyed; also two caissons, and a general hospital, with about 280 Confederate wounded and about 50 of our own. Not having the means of bringing these off, Colonel Dickey, by my orders, took a surrender, signed by my medical director Lyle and all the attending surgeons, and a pledge to report themselves to you as prisoners of war; also a pledge that our wounded would carefully attended and surrendered to us to-morrow as soon as ambulances could go out.
      I inclose the written document, and a request that you will cause to be sent wagons or ambulances for the wounded of ours to-morrow; also that wagons be sent out to bring the many tents belonging to us, which were pitched all along the road for 4 miles. I did not destroy these because I know that the enemy cannot remove them. The roads are very bad, and the road is strewn with abandoned wagons, ambulances, and limber boxes. The enemy has succeeded in carrying off the guns, but has crippled his batteries by abandoning the hind limber-boxes of at least twenty guns.
      I am satisfied the enemy's infantry and artillery passed lick creek this morning, traveling all last night, and that he left behind all his cavalry, which protected his retreat, but the signs of confusion and disorder mark the whole road.
      The check sustained by us at the fallen timbers delayed our advance, so that night came upon us before the wounded were provided for and dead buried, and our troops being fagged out by three days of hard fighting, exposure and privation, I ordered them back to camp, where all now are.
      I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
                                                                        W. T. SHERMAN,
                                                Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
M
AJOR-GENERAL GRANT,
      Commanding Army in the Field.

 

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