Grant’s 9:30 a.m. arrival at Pittsburg Landing, April 6, 1862 8 comments

It turns out that I have too kind to General Grant in at least one area. The time of his arrival at Pittsburg Landing—after hearing cannon-fire at his headquarters ten miles downriver in Savannah and boarding his flagship Tigress for the trip upriver—has been a subject of controversy.


Grant and many of his friends and supporters selected earlier-than-actual times (with those of J.F.C. Fuller and William Rowley being absurdly early), which would minimize Grant’s blunder of being away from the army when the battle began about 5 a.m. See the list below. Both Grant and William Carroll had initially asserted later times but later revised them in Grant’s favor. Myself and several historians, on the other hand, determined that around 9 a.m was a much more realistic estimate.


But the logbook for the woodenclad gunboat USS Tyler, which Chief Ranger Stacey Allen commendably acquired, shows almost conclusively that Grant arrived even later than that. The beginning of the logbook’s relevant entry states:



April 6th. 62

From 8 to 12

Clear + Warm

heavy firing heard back of Pittsburgh. John Warner started down at 9. o’clk. Tigress Came up at 9.30  Evansville at 9.45  We got underway at 9.55 . . .”


This is rather conclusive evidence that Grant arrived around 9:30. Further confirmation comes from John Warner starting down from the landing at 9. This would indicate that she traveled some ten minutes downriver before meeting Tigress, which then took some twenty minutes to reach Pittsburg. Now, it’s possible that these times may be somewhat wrong, but naval timekeeping probably far exceeded the army’s for accuracy, and the USS Tyler logbook times are relatively congruent with those provided by the USS Lexington log.


This later time suggests that the artillery had been firing for an hour or so before Grant boarded Tigress. It also increases the likelihood that Grant went to Sherman first, before stopping by Hurlbut’s side of the field.


I had previously determined that the logbook for USS Lexington stated that the steamer John Raine (which the ORs incorrectly transcribed as John Ramm) passed Crumps Landing at 9 o’clock on the morning of April 6th. I had hypothesized that they had possibly meant John Warner. The Tyler’s log, however, indicates that there were two boats descending the Tennessee with news of the battle’s beginning. The somewhat unreliable recollection of Captain Marsh that Tigress met John Warner between Savannah and Crumps Landing (almost impossible, according to the Tyler’s log), therefore, might have been a reference to John Raine instead.


The sampling below of Grant’s supposed arrival times from himself and various supporters is somewhat indicative of their reliability:


Friendly reporters

William C. Carroll: 8:30

“Casco”: soon after 8:00


Staff and other officers

William Rowley: about 7:30

Douglas Putnam, Jr.: near 8:00

John A. Rawlins:  around 8:00

John A. Logan: by 8:00

William S. Hillyer: about 8:30

J.D. Webster: about 8:30

W.F. Brinck ordnance officer: between 7:30 and 8:30



J.F.C. Fuller in Grant & Lee, a Study in Personality and Generalship: 6:00

William Belknap, et al. in History of the Fifteenth Regiment, Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry: about 8:00

Ulysses S. Grant in his Personal Memoirs: “On reaching the front” about 8:00 (The description is of Pittsburg Landing, but his use of the word “front” is wrong.)

John Emerson in “Grant’s Life in the West”: at 8:00

James Harrison Wilson and Charles A. Dana in The life of Ulysses S. Grant, general of the armies of the United States: at 8:00

Timothy Smith in Shiloh: Conquer or Perish: 8:15-8:30, but possibly as late as 9:00


There’s always something new to learn about the American Civil War.

Share this:

8 thoughts on “Grant’s 9:30 a.m. arrival at Pittsburg Landing, April 6, 1862

    • Joseph Rose Post author

      Actually, Karl, there are slight intimations that Grant may have been drinking the previous evening. The captured Benjamin Prentiss apparently told the enemy that Grant had been on a drunk downriver. I should confirm this, but I think Grant had gone to Pittsburg early on April 5th, returned to Savannah, and then boarded Tigress for an evening trip. One report has him sleeping on Tigress at Savannah, and a reputable source had him awake at midnight. There’s hardly anything near being conclusive, however.

  • Moe Daoust

    This is what historiography is all about! Separating fact from historical fiction. Well done Joe!

  • Joseph Rose Post author

    I should also note that this later arrival time does lessen the delay in Grant’s sending Baxter downriver to Lew Wallace with instructions to march (although Grant still could not have done it immediately upon reaching Pittsburg unless Baxter took an unconscionably long time to make the short cruise downriver on Tigress to Crumps with a quick horseride to Stoney Lonesome).

  • Mike Maxwell

    It is said that “a man with a watch is always sure of the time; but a man with two watches is never sure.” This, I believe sums up the problem with determining “times of actions” at Shiloh: the Rebels were operating on Corinth time; Grant was operating on Rawlin’s time (no timepiece of his own); the Navy had the most accurate time (but only the Navy was making use of Navy time.) Meanwhile, everyone was setting their timepieces to Local Apparent Noon, and I would bet that timepieces on the battlefield at Shiloh could be found up to 30 minutes different, one to another.
    That said, I have long trusted a letter Captain W.S. Hillyer wrote to his wife on April 11th 1862 (before the need to massage times to stitch up Lew Wallace) as providing reasonably accurate timings for Grant’s actions on April 6th (once you factor in that Hillyer was most likely still operating on St Louis time, having just returned from that place and St Louis time was perhaps a half hour out from Pittsburg Landing (making Grant’s arrival at Pittsburg Landing about 9am by Hillyer’s timepiece, instead of the 8:30 he reports in his letter.) Is it possible that Grant arrived aboard Tigress between 9 and 9:30? Most definitely; and here is a suggested timeline (based on 9:15 arrival):

    9:15 Grant arrives, disembarks with injured leg, rides to top of bluff;
    9:30 Grant meets with WHL Wallace, between Sunken Road and top of bluff. Finding attack verified, Grant sends away Lagow to release Federal officers under confinement; sends away Rawlins to “bring Lew Wallace from Crump’s Landing.” (Rawlins delegates Baxter to deliver the most convoluted message imaginable.)
    9:40 While galloping west, Grant meets Battalion of 2nd Illinois Cavalry lined up: Lieutenant Frank Bennett is sent away north across Wallace Bridge and up River Road with instructions to “guide Lew Wallace back to here.”
    9:50 Grant meets briefly with General Sherman, just north of Shiloh Church. Assured that Sherman has his situation under control, Grant departs after about five minutes to ride east and consult with Hurlbut and Prentiss.
    10am Sherman’s 1st Line collapses (unknown to Grant, who is riding away east).

    Of course, this timeline can be adjusted a bit. However, I believe it is impossible for Grant to have arrived after 9:30, so pending future information, to say Grant arrived between 9 and 9:30 is probably the best assumption, at the moment. (All references to be found at Shiloh Discussion Group and OR 10.)
    Mike Maxwell

    • Joseph Rose Post author


      Thanks for the informative post.

      I’ve always wondered how the arrested officers got released. But one soldiers’ recollection had Colonel Geddes being released in time to lead his men to the field, and Geddes’ own official report said, “About 8 o’clock on the morning of the 6th I ordered the regiment under arms and formed line of battle in front of my encampment, awaiting orders to proceed to the front.” MacArthur also went to the field before Grant’s arrival (according to my reading). I’ve assumed that these officers were probably released by McPherson in Grant’s name.
      I would also push back the time Grant sent the orders for Lew Wallace. If done at 9:30, then it would have taken Baxter two hours for the downriver trip. If Grant arrived at 9:30 and took a half hour or more before sending the order, it would seem to be more reasonable.

      A search of the ORs didn’t turn up either “local noon” or “noon gun.” I also assume that naval time was based on local time (as would be true of the army officers stationed for weeks at Pittsburg Landing), and the navy was probably more accurate.


  • Mike Maxwell

    Thanks for adding the “time of US Grant’s arrival at Pittsburg Landing” as a post at Shiloh Discussion Group; hopefully someone with as-yet undisclosed information will be inclined to comment.
    As regards the release of Federal commanders McArthur, Chetlain, Morgan, Reed and Geddes from confinement for minor disciplinary infractions on the morning of April 6th, that release was accomplished through Special Orders No.47 (under signature of Lieutenant Lagow, on Staff of US Grant). [Papers of US Grant vol. 5 page 19, in notes associated with Grant’s letter of April 6th to “Officer in Army of the Ohio.”]
    IRT Captain Baxter and his use as messenger to Lew Wallace, it is my belief that US Grant tapped Rawlins with the duty to “bring up Lew Wallace.” The convoluted orders (as received by Lew Wallace) included information that Grant would have imparted to Rawlins, in particular “joining on the right of CF Smith” and “leaving a small force behind to defend the stores at Crump’s Landing.” Perhaps John Rawlins got too busy to take the message himself; perhaps he felt his services were more in need at Pittsburg Landing. Whatever the reason, A.S. Baxter was tasked with delivering the message (possibly after significant delay on the part of Rawlins.) Rawlins did his best to repeat the complex order (as issued by Grant) but Baxter found it confusing… and eventually attempted to write it down on a scrap of paper found on the deck of a steamer. [Getchell’s “Scapegoat of Shiloh” and Lew Wallace “An Autobiography”]
    As for military time-keeping, the first recorded use of “synchronized watches” was performed by U.S. Grant in May 1863, in preparation for a coordinated operation during the Vicksburg campaign. Prior to that operation (in reading the Official Records of the Civil War), it appears the Army was content to operate and record activity to the nearest half hour. Without a town clock with which to set your timepiece, the only method available was watching for the transit of the sun through a cloudless sky, and setting “12 Noon” (sometimes called “Meridian Passage” or just “Meridian”) on the watch as the sun reached its highest point in the sky… Local Apparent Noon.
    Mike Maxwell

Comments are closed.