– Pvt. Edgar Embley, 61st Illinois
“Several times the enemy essayed to move out from the shelter of the woods across the intervening thickets, but each time our guns ”double-shotted with canister” tore great gaps in their ranks and drove them back to cover.”
–Capt. Andrew Hickenlooper, 5th Ohio
“If I brought on the fight, I am to lead the van.”
– Col. Everett Peabody, 25th Missouri
“We were soon dumbfounded by seeing an enormous force of Confederate troops marching directly toward us,”
– Pvt. Charles Morton, 25th Missouri.
By 7:30 a.m. Peabody’s full brigade had taken position along this low ridge overlooking Shiloh Branch to the southwest, prepared to resist the Confederates who were advancing from that direction. Several hundred yards to the right rear (east; see Stop 5) Prentiss’s other brigade, commanded by Col. Madison Miller, was also coming into line. Some 650 yards directly behind Peabody’s men lay their own camps. About half a mile to the left rear, due north, the nearest troops of Sherman’s division peered southward toward this area, glimpsed formations moving through the trees (much less forest intervened in those days), and wondered what it all meant.
Peabody and Prentiss themselves were not quite sure what their new fight meant. They thought it might be merely a very large skirmish, but Prentiss was furious about it just the same. Angrily he berated Peabody for starting a battle without permission. With his reconnaissance patrol being driven back despite reinforcements, Peabody had more pressing business at the moment than making explanations to an obtuse superior. As he turned his horse toward the sound of the firing he snapped a salute and called back, “If I brought on the fight, I am to lead the van,” and galloped off to put his troops on position on this ridge.
A few minutes after 7:30, Peabody’s men here saw a number of rabbits running toward them up the slope. Moments later they saw what had caused the strange behavior of the small animals. “We were soon dumbfounded by seeing an enormous force of Confederate troops marching directly toward us,” recalled the 25th Missouri’s Pvt. Charles Morton. Albert Sidney Johnston’s grand attack was finally underway, and the whole Confederate army was moving forward—haltingly at times, because of their inexperience and the rough ground, but inexorably.
The Confederate troops who attacked Peabody’s men here belonged to the brigades of Brig. Gen. Sterling A. M. Wood and Col. R. G. Shaver, men from Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. They came right up the slope from Shiloh Branch, keeping the best line they could among the trees and underbrush. Heavy fire from Peabody’s line drove them back, but they rallied and came on again, pushed to seventy-five-yard range, and volleyed into the Union ranks. Casualties were heavy on both sides. With other Confederate formations sweeping around both his flanks, Peabody had to order a retreat, and what was left of his brigade headed back toward the camps, gaining speed and losing organization all the way.
Recommended link to learn more about the Battle of Shiloh
Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War, by Larry Daniel.