25th Alabama soldier tells story of Battle of Shiloh

On the 5th day of April 1862, the army had marching orders and we took up the line of march toward the Tennessee River. Late in the evening we arrived within less than a mile of the enemy camp and put in line of battle where we remained all night with orders for the men to lie on their arms and while it was quite cool weather, fires were all extinguished at nightfall. Early on the next morning we were on our feet and ordered forward in line of battle. Up to this moment I didn’t remember to have heard a gun fired, but we felt the real tug of war was upon us. And I venture to say that not one percent of the men in line of battle has ever been under fire in battle before.

I remember to have been very anxious for the ball to open and to realize what is was to be in the rush and storm of the conflict of arms. Our line of battle was several miles long and our part of the line, as we advanced was over an undulating wooded country and the line marched in perfect order and on the right and left as far as the eye could see, the line of battle and the regimental battle flags were waving in the calm morning breeze.

Having advanced some three quarters of a mile, we came upon an elevation and looking down the decline some four hundred yards there stood a yankee line of battle.

We had orders to hold our fire till within good shooting distance. When we had advanced to within 200 yards of their line they fired on us. We at once returned the fire. After exchanging a few rounds we were ordered to lie down which the men very promptly did and after continuing the fire for a little while, we were ordered to charge and up we got and at them we went with what was afterword known in army circles on both sides as the “Rebel Yell” and they instantly took to their heels.

Our regiment ran into an artillery camp and as an evidence that we had taken them by complete surprise we found their breakfast cooking on their campfires and such camp equipage, we had not dreamed of such as clothing, blankets in large boxes not even opened and an endless variety of eatables with fruits, pickels, etc and any amount of glass and silver ware. This detained our onword movement for some half hour during which time the enemy had reformed just over the hill and opened on us with their artillery.

I will say just here that the yanks having the first fire on us, gave them somewhat the advantage in cutting down our men. Our Brigadier General (Gladden) was mortally wounded by the first volley as well as a number of other officers and men. General Gladden was just in rear of our regiment when he was wounded – he was carried to the rear and if I remember his leg was amputated from which he soon died. Colonel Zack Deas being the Senior Colonel of the brigade took command [1].

I will here relate a little incident of a man in my company. In the summer of ’61 when the company was being raised at Oak Level one B.J. Waddell who had just returned from Texas joined our company and had a fine rifle gun which he had secured in the west and insisted that he must carry it to shoot yankees and in our first engagement which I have already described, having shot his rifle a few rounds and while on his knees trying to reload, a yankee bullet struck him in the heel, which disabled him in the balance of the war and while he is still living and resides near Anniston, Alabama. I don’t think he has ever recovered from that gun shot.

Our lines were reformed at the yankee camp and we were ordered forward upon the enemy and we soon repulsed them the second time and during the live long day we would charge and counter charge and the rush and storm of battle seemed to make the ground beneath us tremble.

My information is that the official reports of that historic battle gives the casualties in killed, wounded and captured at about ten thousand on each side, aggregating twenty thousand fell in one day.

Among the killed on our side was General Albert Sidney Johnson, our Chief Commander. I do not remember to have seen him during the battle that day, but I remember to have seen a member of his staff Governor Isham G. Harris, then Governor of Tennessee and into whose arms General Johnson fell when he was shot.

I remember also that during the hottest of the fight was the first time I saw Colonel T. Hindman who commanded that day an Arkansas Regiment and who was afterword a Major General in the Army of Tennessee. Captain Harper of Company “A” in our regiment was killed outright. Lieutenant T.G. Slaughter, one of the bravest of the brave fell seriously wounded on that day from which he has never recovered till this day, but has been for forty years an efficient and honored itinerant Methodist preacher.

Just before night we had driven the enemy for over two miles back to Pittsburg landing on the Tennessee river. So near were we to the river that they shelled us from their gunboats with their mortar guns. About two hours by —. Colonel Prentiss with his Kentucky Brigade were captured and marched to the rear.

About dark the firing ceased and it began to rain and rained nearly all night. And so far as I could see or hear the army rested for the night without being reorganized or without orders of any kind for the next day.

Early next morning, we were attacked by fresh troops, but owing to the exhausted and disorganized condition of our troops we fell back that afternoon to the community of Corinth. The Federal army approached cautiously toward that point and laid seige to that place, but we held it till sometime in May when we fell back to Tupelo, Mississippi.

HISTORY OF THE 25th ALABAMA INFANTRY REGIMENT
1861 – 1865 A Narrative by
CAPTAIN WILLIAM P. HOWELL
Company I
Compiled and Edited by
Steven L. Driskell

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