We were all spoilin’ for a fight.

Pittsburg Landing, April 1862

https://i2.wp.com/www.civilwargazette.com/tours/shiloh/photos/Pitt_Landing_north_7x5.jpg“Before sunrise [I] left the boat and strolled to the top of the hill, which rises precipitously, and to a great height from the Landing. It was a most invigorating, peaceful, quiet Sabbath morning. Not a sound fell upon the ear.”
–Capt. James G. Day, 15th Iowa

“We were all spoiling for a fight, and there was no little amount of grumbling done by members of the Regiment on account of the fear that we would not be there in time to take part in the battle.”
–Sgt. W. P. L. Muir, 15th Iowa

In 1862 Pittsburg Landing amounted to nothing more than a log cabin or two atop a forty to fifty foot high bluff above the Tennessee River. Its significance to the Union forces was that it offered a potential staging area for a planned advance against Corinth, Mississippi, twenty miles to the southwest. The plateau stretching inland from Pittsburg Landing offered dry ground on which an entire army could camp—near the Tennessee River, which was its line of supply, yet safely above the flood waters of what had been a very wet spring.

A small Confederate detachment occupied the landing in early March, but left after Union gunboats shelled them. The first Union troops steamed up the river March 14 and disembarked here. They were two brigades under the command of Brigadier General Stephen A. Hurlbut , sent by Maj. Gen. Charles F. Smith , then temporarily commanding the Army of the Tennessee. Smith sent another division of Union troops—four brigades under Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman — steaming past the landing and on up the river to try to reach and break the strategic Memphis & Charleston Railroad. The ubiquitous floodwaters stopped Sherman from accomplishing his mission, so he turned back and, on orders from Smith joined Hurlbut at Pittsburg Landing on March 15. Smith recognized the value of Pittsburg Landing as a base and ordered Sherman to move out into the countryside and secure an area large enough to encamp the whole army. Over the weeks that followed, steamers swarmed into Pittsburg Landing carrying more and more troops.

By early April Ulysses S. Grant was back in command of the Army of the Tennessee. Five of the army’s divisions, totaling about 35,000 men, were encamped in an area stretching two and a half miles inland from this landing, with another division four miles down river at Crump’s Landing. On the morning of Sunday, April 6 a number of steamboats lay along the bank here. Some of them had just tied up that morning about daylight, bringing the brand-new 15th and 16th Iowa regiments. Fresh from their home state, the Iowa soldiers had never yet loaded their government-issued rifles. On another steamer newly arrived that morning was Anne Wallace, wife of Brig. Gen. William H. L. Wallace . Her husband, who commanded the Second Division, encamped less than half a mile away, was unaware of her surprise visit. All witnesses agree that it was an unusually pleasant, sunny spring morning.

Engraving after an artwork by J.O. Davidson, published in “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War”, Volume I, page 489. It shows six transports at Pittsburg Landing shortly after the Battle of Shiloh, in April 1862

Recommended read:

The Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd Fifteenth Iowa Infantry 1861-1863 by Cyrus F. Boyd Louisiana State University Press, 1998.

BOYD, Cyrus F.
Residence Indianola, nativity Ohio.
GAR Post 171, Ainsworth, Brown County, Nebraska.
15th Iowa Infantry Co. G.

Recommended link to learn more about the Battle of Shiloh


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