Although it is a rather common assertion in many biographies of Grant and in battle histories of Shiloh, there seems to be little reliable evidence that the General was using crutches when he boarded Tigress at Savannah on April 6th and debarked to ride around the battlefield. This may be one of the stories which had their genesis in his Personal Memoirs (“As it was, my ankle was very much injured, so much so that my boot had to be cut off. For two or three days after I was unable to walk except with crutches”). In 1868, Albert Richardson’s unreliable biography had already related how Grant’s horse slipped, “nearly breaking the ankle of his rider. The General suffered excruciating pain, and was lamed for several weeks.”
Grant’s letter at the time, on the other hand, indicate that the swelling and incapacitation only came after the first—if not the second—day of battle: “I was not hurt much at the time but being in the saddle all of Sunday and Monday, and in the rain the intervening night without taking off boots or spurs my ancle swelled terribly and kept me on crutches for several days, unable to get on a boot.”
Despite this very clear and contemporaneous account from the person who should know best, I’ve already identified twenty-three Civil War historians and biographers (and there are others, I’m sure) who have Grant on crutches at the start of the battle. Some even mention his having a crutch strapped to his saddle.
Are there any participants in the battle who mentioned at the time that they saw Grant on crutches or with a crutch attached to his saddle? Please let me know.