Directions for Lew Wallace at Shiloh on April 6, 1862 1 comment

Although Grant tried to argue that he wanted Lew Wallace merely to march to Pittsburg Landing and had ordered him there, the evidence contradicts him. Even John Rawlins used a different destination while defending Grant and assailing Wallace.The Third Division’s destination was assuredly William Sherman’s right flank. Lew Wallace and four of his subordinates identified the orders’ stated objective as the right of the army, denoting Sherman’s right. Algernon Baxter, who carried the orders to Wallace, remembered giving him instructions “to march his command at once by the river road to Pittsburg Landing, and join the army on the right.” As the writer and deliverer of the message and its recipients all agreed, additional corroboration was redundant. But on the first day of battle, Grant informed James McPherson, according to the engineer, that Baxter’s orders referred to “a position on our right.” Sherman’s autobiography related how Grant told him, during their first meeting around 10:00 a.m., that he ordered Lew Wallace’s division “to come up on my right,” which at that time was near the Owl Creek bridge on the Hamburg-Purdy Road. Rowley, shortly after noon, rode to Wallace with Grant’s instructions to “form his division on the extreme right.”Throughout the day, people reported that they looked for Wallace’s approach from the right, not from the rear, which was where the River Road entered the Union camps.

[Here is a book review I wrote that concerns Lew Wallace.]

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One thought on “Directions for Lew Wallace at Shiloh on April 6, 1862

  • Mike Maxwell

    Let me start by saying that I do not believe US Grant intentionally sent confusing orders to Lew Wallace on the morning of April 6, 1862. However, the orders as delivered by Baxter were confusing, and contained substantial amounts of unnecessary ‘instruction.’ (And THIS from a man who was known for issuing excellent, concise orders.)

    Either Rawlins attempted to assist his Boss (WHY, you have to ask), or US Grant was himself ‘impaired,’ and experiencing muddled thinking on the morning. [I am looking into the possibility of migraine headache, ever since I uncovered records that Grant suffered them before Vicksburg, and Appomattox… and after Fort Donelson.] Now, to address your points:

    Sherman’s right. The orders delivered by Baxter, far as I can tell, did not include reference to ‘Sherman’s’ right; they referred to SMITH (the old commander of the 2nd Division, before WHL Wallace.) However, poor handwriting, or misunderstanding, may have led someone to conclude ‘right of Sherman’ was indeed being indicated (especially since the Shunpike came in from the ‘right of Sherman.’)

    Baxter’s recollection. This was revealed years after the fact, after all the tainted evidence was out there. And all the controversy. Unfortunately, to me, Baxter’s statement smacks of ‘coaching,’ because it contains too many elements that US Grant (and Rawlins) would ‘desire’ to see appear on the record.

    McPherson, Rawlins and Rowley. These officers, working for Grant (and supporters of Grant) gave statements one year later, which appear in the OR today. These statements were written when the ‘stitch-up’ of Lew Wallace was in full swing, and that officer was considering whether or not to press his case before a Military Tribunal. (I am unsure whether Halleck was ever consulted in the matter, but Lew Wallace sought Sherman’s advice, and decided NOT to proceed.)

    On our right. Which way did Grant’s Army at Pittsburg Landing face? South? West? Southwest? To me, the RIGHT of Grant’s Army was Owl Creek Bridge, not Snake Creek Bridge (with its mislabelled ‘Wallace Bridge’ moniker.)

    Sherman at 10am… This is just a few minutes AFTER US Grant met with an Illinois cavalry unit, put its commander, Captain Hoteling, on his Staff for the day, and decided to send Lieutenant Bennett away, over Wallace Bridge and up the River Road. And upon meeting Major General Wallace, he was directed to ‘Give my regards to Major General Wallace. And direct him to proceed to Pittsburg Landing. You [Bennett] being the guide.’ Why did Grant feel necessity… urgency… to send this messenger? Worse, why did Lew Wallace ignore him?

    The third messenger, Rowley, arriving early afternoon with explanation WHY Lew Wallace had to turn around, convinced the Major General of the authenticity of the orders. So Wallace counter-marched his division to Snake Creek Bridge and the River Road. And arrived at Pittsburg Landing after dark.

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