“We drove the officers from their hot coffee and out of their tents, capturing their camp and tents. Captain Shoup and John Loftin and Clay Lowe each got a sword. In the quartermaster’s tent we found thousands of dollars in crisp, new bills, for they had been paying off the Yankee soldiers.”
– Pvt. William E. Bevens, 1st Arkansas
By the time it reached its camps, Peabody’s brigade was nearing the point of disintegration. The colonel, who had already been wounded four times, galloped this way and that, waving his sword and trying to get his men to rally. “The 25th Missouri is disgraced,” he shouted, as the regiment, which he had commanded before rising to brigade command, continued to fall back. Then he toppled to the ground with a bullet through the head. Many of his troops kept on making fairly unorganized efforts to defend the camp, dodging between tents and wagons and squeezing off shots when they could, but within minutes the Confederates had overrun all four of the brigade’s regimental camps. The time was 8:30.
Now began a phenomenon, repeated throughout the day, by which the Confederates’ own success worked against them, disorganizing their army and slowing its advance: hundreds of Southern soldiers dispersed in each of the captured camps, rifling through tents and knapsacks and reveling in their new-found booty. “We drove the officers from their hot coffee and out of their tents, capturing their camp and tents,” crowed Pvt. William E. Bevens of the 1st Arkansas, and continued with a report on his friends’ winnings: “Captain Shoup and John Loftin and Clay Lowe each got a sword. In the quartermaster’s tent we found thousands of dollars in crisp, new bills, for they had been paying off the Yankee soldiers.” Elsewhere on the battlefield, in the dozens of Union camps overrun that day, eager Rebels found more varied plunder. In the camp of the 43rd Illinois they found Col. Adolph Engelman’s larder and ate up “several jars of anchovies, about eight pounds of the best swiss cheese, [and] four pounds of chocolate.” The German-American colonel later wondered why they left his barrel of sauerkraut alone. The Rebels also took the instruments of the 43rd’s band. Throughout the captured camps many Confederates sat reading love letters from the Yankee soldiers’ sweethearts back in the North.
Johnston was appalled at this process that was sapping his army’s combat strength and wasting precious time. It was hard enough trying to stop the enlisted men from ransacking the camps, and then Johnston saw a junior officer engaged in the same activity. “None of that, sir,” Johnston thundered, “We are not here for plunder.” The young officer, who had apparently not realized he was neglecting his duty, looked crushed. Softening, Johnston picked up a Yankee tin cup. “Let this be my share of the spoils today,” and rode off, carrying the cup in his right hand instead of a sword.
Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War, by Larry Daniel.