Davis on Shiloh - History

Davis on Shiloh - History


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GENERAL BUELL, who was to make a junction with General Grant deemed it best that his army should march through by land, as it would facilitate the occupation of the Memphis and Charlestqn Railroad through north Alabama, where General Mitchell had been assigned. Accordingly, Bueli commenced his march from Nashville on March 15th, with a rapid movement of cavalry, followed by a division of in-fantry, to seize the bridges. The bridge over Duck River being destroyed, it was the 31st before his army crossed. His advance arrived at Savannah on Saturday, April 5th, and our attack on Grant at Pittsburg Landing was made on the next day, April 6th. The advance of General Buell anticipated his orders by two days, and likewise the calculations of our commanders.

It had been the object of General Johnston, since falling back from Nashville, to concentrate his army at Corinth, and fight the enemy in detail-Grant first, and Buell afterward. The army of General Polk had been drawn back from Columbus. The War Department ordered General Bragg from Pensacola, with his well-disciplined army, to the aid of Johnston. A brigade was sent by General Lovell from Louisiana, and Chalmers and Walker were already on the line of the Memphis and Charleston road with considerable commands. These forces collected at Corinth, and to them were added such new levies as the governors had in rendezvous, and a few regiments raised in response to General Beauregard's call. General Bragg, in a sketch of the battle of Shitoh thus speaks of General Johnston's army:

In a period of four weeks, fragments of commands from Bowling Green, Kentucky, under Hardee; Columbus, Kentucky, under Polk; and Pensacola, Mobile, and New Orleans, under Bragg, with such new levies as could be hastily raised, all badly armed and equipped, were united at and near Corinth, and, for the first time, organized as an army. It was a heterogeneous mass, in which there was more enthusiasm than discipline, more capacity than knowledge, and more valor than instruction. Rifles, rifled and smooth-bore muskets-some of them originally percussion, others hastily altered from flint-locks by Yankee contractors, many with the old flint and steel-and shot-guns of all sizes and patterns, held place in the same regiments. The task of organizing such a command in four weeks, and supplying it, especially with ammunition, suitable for action, was simply appalling. It was undertaken, however, with a cool, quiet self-control, calling to his aid the best knowledge and talent at his command, which not only inspired confidence, but soon yielded the natural fruits of system, order, and discipline.

This force, about forty thousand of all ans, was divided into four corps, commanded respectively by Major Generals Polk, Bragg, and Hardee, and Brigadier General Breckinridge. General Beauregard was second in command under General Johnston. General Beauregard says, "A want of general officers needful for the proper organization of di-visions and brigades of an army brought thus suddenly together, and other difficulties in the way of effeive organization, delayed the movements until the night of April 2d."

About one o'clock on He morning of April 3d preliminary orders were issued to hold the troops in readiness to move at a moment's notice with five days' provisions and a hundred rounds of ammunition. The orders for march and battle were issued in the afternoon. At that time General Hardee led the advance, the Third Corps, from Corinth, by the northernmost route, known as the Ridge road. Bivouacking that night on the way, he arrived next morning at Mickey's, a house about eighteen miles from Corinth and four or five miles from Pittsburg. The Second Corps, under Bragg, marched by the direct road to Pittsburg through Monterey, which it readed about 11 A. M. on the 4th, and bivouacked that night near Mickey's in the rear of Hardee's corps. The First Corps, under General Polk, consisted of two divisions, under Cheatham and Clark. The latter was ordered to follow Hardee on the Ridge road at an interval of half an hour, and to halt near Mickey S so as to allow Bragg's corps to fall in behind Hardee, at a thousand yards' interval, and form a second line of battle. Polk's corps was to form the left wing of the third line of battle, and Breckinridge's reserve the right wing. The other division of Polk, under Cheatham, was on outpost duty, at and near Bethel, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, about as far from Mickey's as Corinth was. He was ordered to assemble his forces at Purdy, and pursue the route to Monterey. He effected his junction on the afternoon of the 5th, and took position on the left wing of Polk's corps. Breckinridge's reserve corps moved from Burnsville early on April 4th, by way of Farmington toward Monterey, distant fourteen miles. It did not effect its junction with the other corps until late on the afternoon of Saturday the 5th, being delayed by the rains on Friday and Saturday. At daylight on the 5th Hardee moved, and by seven o'clock was sufficiently out of the way to allow Bragg to advance. Before ten o'clock Hardee's corps had reached the outposts and developed the lines of the enemy. The corps was immediately deployed into line of battle about a mile and a half west of Shiloh church, where Lick Creek and Owl Creek approach most nearly, and are about three n'iles apart. Gladden's brigade of Bragg's corps was on the right of Hardee's corps, which was not sufficiently strong to occupy the whole front. This line extended from creek to creek. Before seven o'clock Bragg's column was in motion, and the right wing of his line of battle formed about eight hundred yards in the rear of Hardee's line. But the division on the left was nowhere to be seen. Even as late as half-past twelve the missing column had not appeared, nor had any report from it been received. General Johnston, looking first at his watch, then glancing at the position of the sun, exclaimed: "This is not wa! Let us have our horses!" He rode to the rear until he found the missing column standing stock-still, with its head some distance out in an open field. General Polk's reserves were ahead of it, with their wagons and artillery blocking up the road. General Johnston ordered them to clear the road, and the missing column to move forward. There was much chaffering among those implicated as to who should bear the blame.. - . it was about four o'clock when the lines were completely formed-too late, of course, to begin the battle then."

The road was not clear until 2 P. General Polk got Clark's division of his corps into line of battle by four o'clock; Cheatham, who had come up on the left promptly followed. Breckinridge's line was then formed on Polk's right. Thus was the army arrayed in three lines of battle late Saturday afternoon.

The purpose of General Johnston to attack promptly is evinced in the correspondence already introduced; it is further shown in his telegram of April 3d, as follows:

To the PRESIDENT, Richmond.

General Buell in motion, thirty thousand strong, rapidly from Columbia by Clifton to Savannah. Mitchell behind him, with ten thousand. Confederate forces forty thousand; ordered forward to offer battle near Pittsburg.

Division from Bethel, main body from Corinth, reserve from Burnsville, converging t0-morrow, near Monterey, on Pittsburg.

Beauregard second in command, Polk the left, Bragg the center, Hardee the right wing, Breckinridge the reserve.

Hope engagement before Buell can form junction. 2

On April 5th I sent a telegram as follows:

GENERAL A. S. Johnston: Your dispatch of yesterday received. I hope you will be able to close with the enemy before his two columns unite.

Though much inquiry has been made, I have not been able to recover that dispatch "of yesterday" the 4th. It was anxiously sought because, in cipher (private between us), he explained distinctly his plan of battle as the previous one had his proposed order of march. It was in every respect important to attack at the earliest moment after the advance of Buell's command became known. Every delay diminished the chances of surprising the enemy, and increased the probability of his being reenforced. Had the attack been made a day sooner, not only would Buell's army have been absent, but there would have been a prospect of their timely arrival; who can measure the moral effect this would have produced? It would be useless to review the controversies as to who was responsible for the confusion and conse9uent detentions on the march, the evil of which might have been greater if the vigilance of the enemy had been equal to his self-sufficiency.

War has been called a fickle goddess, and its results attributed to chance. The great soldier of our century said, "Fortune favors the heavy battalions." But is it not rather exact calculation than chance which controls the events of war, and the just determination of the relation of time, space, and motion in the application of force, which decides the effective weight of battalions? Had the battle of Shiloh opened a day sooner, it would have been better; had it been postponed a day, to attack would have been impracticable. Had the several columns moved on different roads, converging toward the field of battle, the movements of some could not have been obstructed by others, so that the troops would have been in position and the battle have been commenced on Saturday morning. The program and purpose of General Johnston appear from his dispatch of the 3d, and from the disappointment evinced by him at the failure of a portion of the command to be present on the field on the morning of the 5th (Saturday), as he expected.

General Bragg, in a monograph on the battle of Shiloh, says:

During the afternoon of the 5th, as the last of our troops were taking position, a casual and partly accidental meeting of general officers occurred just in tear of our second line, near the bivouac of General Bragg. The Commander-in. Chief, General Beauregard, General Polk, General Bragg, and General Breckin. ridge, are remembered as present. In a discussion of the causes of the delay and its incidents, it was mentioned that some of the troops, now in their third day only, were entirely out of food, though having marched with five days' rations. General Beauregard, confident our movement had been discovered by the enemy, urged its abandonment, a return to our camps for supplies, and a general change of programme. In this opinion no other seemed fully to concur; and when it was suggested that "the enemy's supplies were much nearer, and could be had for the taking," General Johnston quietly remarked, "Gentlemen, we shall attack ar daylight to-morrow." The meeting then dispersed upon an invitation of the commanding general to meet at his tent that evening. At that meeting a further discu'ssion elicited the same views, and the sane firm decidcd dcterinination. The next morning, about dawn of day, the 6th, as the troops were being put in motion, several generals again met at the camp-fire of the genenl. in-chief. The discussion was renewed, General Beauregard again expressing his dissent; when, rapid firing in the front indicating that the attack had commenced, General Johnston closed the discussion by remarking: "The battle has opened, gentlemen; it is too late to change our dispositions." He prepared to move to the front, and his sub-ordinates promptly joined their respedive commands, inspired by his coolness, confidence and determination. Few men have equaled him in the possession and display, at the proper time, of these great qualities of the soldier.

The results of the first day of the famous battle thus begun are very summarily presented in the following brief report of General Beauregard:

At 5:00 A. M., on the 6th instant, a reconnoitering party of the enemy having become engaged with our advanced pickets, the commander of the forces gave orders to begin the movement and attack as determined upon, except that Trabue's brigade of Breckinridge's division was detached and advanced to support the left of Bragg's corps and line of battle then menaced by the enemy; and the other two brigades were directed to advance by the road to Hamburg to support Bragg's right; and at the same time Maney's regiment of Polk's corps was advanced by the same road to reenforce the regiment. of cavalry and battery of four pieces, already thrown forward to watch and guard Grier's, Tanner's, and Borland's Fords of Lick Creek.

Thirty minutes after 5 A. M., our lines and columns were in motion, all animated evidently by a promising spirit. The front line was engaged at once, but advanced steadily, followed in due order, with equal resolution and steadiness, by the other lines, which were brought successively into action with rare skill, judgment, and gallantry by the several corps commanders, as the enemy made a stand with his masses rallied for the struggle for his encampments. Like an Alpine avalanche our troops moved forward, despite the determined resistance of the enemy, until after 6 p M., when we were in possession of all his encampments between Owl and Lick Creeks but one: nearly all of his field-artillery, about thirty flags, colors, and standards, ovcr three thousand prisoners, including a division commander (General Prentiss), and several brigade commanders, thousands of small-arms, an immense supply of subsistence, forage, and munitions of war, and a large amount of means of transportation, all the substantial fruits of a complete victory-such, indeed, as rarely have followed the most successful battles, for never was an army so well provided as that of our enemy.

The remnant of his army had been driven in utter disorder to the immediate vicinity of Pittsburg, under the shelter of the heavy guns of his iron-clad gun. boats, and we remained undisputed masters of his secluded, admirably provided cantonments, after our twelve hours of obstinate conflict with his forces, who had been beaten from them and the contiguous covert, but only by the sustained onset of all the men we could bring into action.

There are two words in this report which, if they could have been truthfully omitted, it would have been worth to us the surrender of all "the substantial fruits of a complete victory." It says: "Our troops noved forward, despite the determined resistance of the enemy, until after 6 P. M., when we were in possession of all his encampments between Owl and Lick Creek " It was that "one" encampment that furnished a football for all the subsequent reenforcements sent by Buell, and gave occasion for the final withdrawal of our forces; whereas, if that had been captured, and the "waters of the Tennessee reached, as General' -Johnston designed, it was not too tnuch to expect that Grant's army would have surrendered; that Buell's forces would not have crossed the Tennessee; with a skillful commander like Johnston to lead our troops, however, the enemy would have sought safety on the north bank of the Ohio; that Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri would have been recovered, the northwest disaffected, and our armies filled with the men of the Southwest, and perhaps of the Northwest also.

Let us turn to reports and authorities. The author of The Life of General Albert Sidney Johnston says:

Of the two armies, one was now an advancing, triumphant host, with arm uplifted to give the mortal blow; the other, a broken, mangled, demoralized mob, paralyzed and waiting for the stroke. While the other Confederate brigades, which had shared most actively in Prentiss's capture, were sending back the prisoners and forming again for a final attack, two brigades, under Chalmers and Jackson, on the extreme right, had cleared away all in front of them, and, moving down the river-bank, now came upon the last point where even a show of resistance was made. Being two very bold and active brigadiers, they at once closed with the enemy in their front, crossing a deep ravine and difficult ground to get at him. Here Colonel Webster, of Grant's staff, had gathered all the guns he could find from batteries, whether abandoned or still coherent, and with stout-hearted men, picked up at random, had prepared a resistance. Some infantry, similarly constituted, had been got together; and Ammen's brigade, the "'an of Nelson's division of Buell's corps, had landed, and was pushing its way througli the throng of pallid fugitives at the landing to take up the battle where it had fallen from the hands of Grant and Sherman. It got into position in time to do its part in checking the unsupported assaults of Chalmers and Jackson.

General Chalmers, describing this final attack in his report, says:

It was then about four o'clock in the evening, and, after distributing ammunition, we received orders from General Bragg to drive the enemy into the river. My brigade together with that of Brigadier-General Jackson, filed to the right and formed facing the river, and endeavored to press forward to the water's edge; but in attempting to mount the last ridge we were met by a fire from a whole line of batteries, protected by infantry and assisted by shells from the gunboats.

In a subsequent memorandum General Chalmers writes:

One more resolute movement forward would have captured Grant and his whole army, and fulfilled to the letter the battle-plan of the great Confederate general, who died in the belief that victory was ours. .

Brigadier General Jackson, in his report, says:

My brigade was ordered to change direction again, face toward Pittsburg, where the enemy appeared to have made his last stand, and to advance upon him, General Chalmers's brigade being again on my right, and extending to the swamp of the Tennessee River. Without ammunition, and with only,,. their bayonets to rely on, steadily my men advanced under a heavy fire from light batteries, siege-pieces, and gunboats. Passing through the ravine, they arrived near the crest of the opposite hill, upon which the enemy's batteries were, but could not be urged farther without support. Sheltering themselves against the precipitous sides of the ravine, they remained under this fire for some time. Finding an advance without support impracticable, remaining there under fire useless, and believing that any further forward movement should have been made simultaneously along our whole line, I proceeded to obtain orders from General Withers, but, after seeing him, was ordered by a staff-officer to retire. This order was communicated to me as coming from General Beauregard.

General Gilmer, the chief engineer of the Confederate States Army, in a letter to Colonel William Preston Johnston, dated September 17, 1872, writes as follows:

It is my well-considered opinion that if your father had survived the day be would have crushed and captured General Grant's army before the setting of the sun on the 6th. In fad, at the time your father received the mortal wound, advancing with General Breckinridge's command, the day was ours. The enemy having lost all the strong positions on that memorable field, his troops fell back in great disorder on the banks of the Tennessee. To cover the confusion, rapid fires were opened from the gunboats the enemy had placed in the river; but the shots passed entirely over our devoted men, who were exultant and eager to be led forward to the final assault, which must have resulted in a complete victory, owing to the confusion and general disorganization of the Federal troops. I knew the condition of General Grant's army at the moment, as I had reached a high, projecting point on the bank of the river, about a mile above Pittsburg Landing, and could see the hurried movements to get the disordered troops across to thc right bank. Several thousand had already passed, and a confused mass of men crowded to the landing to get on the boats that were employed in crossing. I rode rapidly to General Bragg's oppsition to report what I had seen, and suggested that, if he would suspend the fire of his artillery and marshal his infantry for a general advance, the enemy must surrender. General Bragg decided to make the advance, and authorized me and other olhccrs to direct the commanders of the batteries to cease firing.

In the midst of the preparations, orders reached General Bragg from General Beauregard direding the troops to be withdrawn and placed in camp for the night -the intention to resume the contest in the morning. This was fatal, as it enabled General Buell and General Wallace to arrive on the scene of action; that is, they came up in the course of the night. Had General Beauregard known the condition of the enemy as your father knew it when he received the fatal shot, the order for withdrawal would certainly not have been given, and, without such order, I know the enemy would have been crushed.

In addition to the statements and opinions cited above, I will introduce from a recent publication by Thomas Worthington, late colonel of the Forty-sixth Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, two statements showing the relative condition of the two armies in the afternoon of the day of battle. It may be proper to say that Colonel Worthington was regularly educated as a soldier, and had seen service in Mexico.

He quotes Colonel Geddes of the Eighth Iowa Volunteers as follows:

About 3 P. all communications with the river (landing) ceased, and it became evident to me that the enemy was turning the right and left flanks of our army.. About 2 P. the whole Union right, comprising the Forty-sixth Ohio, which had held that flank two hours or more, was driven back in disorder, and the Confederate flanking force cut the center off from the landing, as stated by Colonel Geddes, soon after General Johnston's fall.

General Beauregard reports as follows:

It was after 6 p M. when the enemy's last position was carried, and his force finally broke and sought refuge behind a commanding eminence covering Pittsburg Landing, not more than half a mile distant, and under the guns of the gunboats, which opened on our eager columns a fierce and annoying fire with shot and shell of the heaviest description. Darkness was close at hand. Officers and men were exhausted by a combat of over twelve hours, without food, and jaded by the march of the preceding day through mud and water; itwas, therefore, impossible to collect the rich and opportune spoils of war scatt'ed broadcast on the field left in our possession, and impracticable to make any effective dispositions for their removal to the rear.

I accordingly established my headquarters at the church of Shiloh, in the enemy's encampment, with Major-General Bragg, and directed our troops to sleep on their arms in such positions in advance and rear as corps commanders should determine, hoping, from news received by a special dispatch, that delays had been encountered by General Buell in his march from Columbia, and that his main forces, therefore, could not reach the field of battle in time to save General Grant's shattered fugitives from capture or destruction on the following day.

Such are the representations of those having the best means of information relative to the immediate causes of the failure to drive the enemy from his last foothold and gain possession of it. Some of the more remote causes of this failure may be noticed. The first was the death of General Johnston, which is thus described by his son:

General Johnston had passed through the ordeal (the charge upon the enemy) seemingly unhurt. His noble horse was shot in four places; his clothes were pierced by missiles; his boot-sole was cut and torn by a Minie' ball; but, if be him-self had received any severe wound, he did not know it. At this moment Governor Harris rode up from the right, elated with his own success, and with the vindication of his Tennesseans. After a few words, General Johnston sent him with an order to Colonel Statham, which, having delivered, he speedily returned. In the mean time knots and groups of Federal soldiers kept up an angry discharge of firearms as they retreated upon their supports, and their last line, now yielding, delivered volley after volley as they retreated. By the chance of war a Mime' ball from one of these did its fatal work. As General Johnston, on horseback, sat there, knowing that he had crushed in the arch which had so long resisted the pressure of his forces, and awaiting until they could coIled sufficiently to give the final stroke, he received a mortal wound. It came in the moment of victory and triumph from a flying foe. It smote him at the very instant when he felt the full conviction that the day was won.

His wound consisted in the cutting of the artery that runs down through the thigh and divides at the knee, and passes along the separate bones of the lower part of the leg. The wound was just above the division or branch of the artery. It was fatal only because the flow of blood was not stopped by a tourniquet. The narrative continues:

General Beauregard had told General Johnston that morning as he rode off, that if it should be necessary to communicate with him or for him to do anything, he would be found in his ambulance in bed. Governor Harris, knowing this, and how feeble General Beauregard's health was, went first to his headquarters-just in the rear of where the army had deployed into line the evening before. Beauregard and his staff were gone on horseback in the direction of Shiloh Church. He found them there. The Governor told General Beauregard that General Johnston had been killed. Beauregard expressed regret, and then remarked, "Everything else seems to be going on well on the right." Governor Harris assented. "Then," said Beauregard, "the battle may as well go on." The Governor replied that he certainly thought it ought. He offered his services to Beauregard, and they were courteously accepted. General Beauregard then remained where he was, waiting the issue of events.

Sidney Johnston fell in sight of victory; the hour he had waited for, the event he had planned for, had arrived. His fame was vindicated, but far dearer than this to his patriotic Spirit was it with his dying eyes to behold his country's flag, so lately drooping in disaster, triumphantly advancing. In his fall the great pillar of the Southern Confederacy was crushed, and beneath its fragments the best hope of the Southwest lay buried. A highly educated and richly endowed soldier, his varied experience embraced also civil affairs, and his intimate knowledge of the country and people of the Southwest so highly qualified him for that speciat command that it was not possible to fill the place made vacant by his death. Not for the first time did the fate of an army depend upon a single man, and the fortunes of a country bang, as in a balance, on the achievements of a single army. To take an example far from us, in time and place, when Turenne had, after months of successful manteuvring, finally forced his enemy into a position which gave assurance of victory, and had marshaled his forces for a decisive battle, he was, when making a preliminary reconnaissance, killed by a chance shot; then his successor instead of attacking, retreated, and all which the one had gained for France, the other lost.

To take another example, not quite so conclusive, it was epigrammatically said by Lieutenant Kingsbury, when writing of the battle of Buena Vista, that if the last shot, fired at the close of the second day's conflict, had killed General Taylor, the next morning's sun would have risen upon the strange spectacle of two armies in full retreat from each other, the field for which they had fought being in the possession of neither. What material consequences would have flowed from the supposed event-how the Mexican people would have been inspired by the retreat of our army, how far it would have brought out all their resources for war, and to what extent results might have been thereby affected-are speculative inquiries on a subject from which time and circumstance have taken the interest it once possessed.

The extracts which have been given sufficiently prove that, when General Johnston fell, the Confederate army was so fully victorious that, had the attack been vigorously pressed, General Grant and his army would before the setting of the sun have been fugitives or prisoners.

As our troops drew near to the river, the gunboats of the. enemy became ineffective, because to fire over the bank required such elevation of the guns that the shot and shell passed high over the heads of our men, falling far away in the rear.

General Polk described the troops in advance for that reason as quite safe from the fire of the gunboats, though it might seem terrible to those far in the rear, and expressed the surprise and regret he felt at the order to retire.

Grant's army being beaten, the next step of General Johnston's program should have followed-the defeat of Buell's and Mitchell's forces as they successively came up, and a return by our victorious army through Tennessee to Kentucky. The great embarrassment had been the want of good military weapons; these would have been largely supplied by the conquest hoped for, and, in the light of what had occurred, not unreasonably anticipated.

What great consequences would have ensued must be a matter of conjecture, but that the people of Kentucky and Missouri generously sympathized with the South was then commonly admitted. Our known want of preparation for war and numerical inferiority may well have caused many to doubt the wisdom of our effort for independence, and to these a signal success would have been the makeweight deciding their course.

I believe that again in the history of war the fate of an army depended on one man; more, that the fortunes of a country hung by the single thread of the life that was yielded on the field of Shiloh. So great was my confidence in his capacity for organization and administration that I felt, when he was assigned to the Department of the West, that the undeveloped power of that region would be made sufficient not only for its own safety, but to contribute support if need be to the more seriously threatened East.

There have been various suppositions as to the neglect of the wound which caused General Johnston's death. My own opinion, founded upon the statements of those who were near him, and upon my long acquaintance with him and close observation of him under trying circumstances, is that his iron nerve and extraordinary concentration of mind made him regardless of his wound, in tlie lixed purpose to dislodge the enemy from his last position, and while thus struggling to complete the victory within his grasp, lie unheedingly allowed his life blood to flow away.

It often happens that men do not poperly value their richest gifts until taken away. Those who had erroneously and unjustly censured Johnston, convided of their error by the grandeur of his revealed character, joined in the general lamentation over his loss, and malignity even was stlenced by the devoted manner of his death. My estimation of him was based on tong and intimate acquaintance; beginning in our youth, it had grown with our growth without check or variation, and, when he first arrived in Richmond, was expressed to some friends yet living, in the wish that I had the power, by resigning, to transfer to him the presidency of the Confederate States.


Did Furious Forrest Really Threaten Bragg’s Life After Chickamauga ?

A squabble at Shiloh may have been at the root of the animosity between Braxton Bragg and Nathan Bedford Forrest. After dark on Day 1 at Shiloh, Nathan Bedford Forrest was shunned trying to warn his superiors that Union reinforcements werre arriving at Piittsburg Landing. (Universal History Archive/UIG/Bridgeman Images)

Understandably, Forrest expressed his displeasure to Bragg. How and where exactly those objections played out has been the subject of controversy since. According to John Wyeth’s 1899 book Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Forrest burst into Bragg’s tent and blared, “I have stood your meanness as long as I intend to….You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any more orders to me, for I will not obey them, and I will hold you personally responsible for any further indignities you endeavor to inflict upon me….If you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.”

An altercation of that nature with a superior would have ended the career of just about any soldier or officer. Granted, the Wizard of the Saddle was no ordinary soldier, but it is nevertheless puzzling, if the story is indeed true, that Bragg meekly accepted Forrest’s diatribe without comment and never bothered to discipline him. Bragg’s solution was to transfer three of Forrest’s brigades into Wheeler’s Corps, but not Forrest himself.

In the century-plus since Wyeth’s book, the Forrest-Bragg imbroglio of September 1863 has essentially been accepted as gospel. But did the clash happen as reported? A closer look at The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and other postwar primary sources depicts a different picture of the two generals’ relationship—that they were not actually bitter enemies, but had legitimate respect for the other.

The source of the anecdote Wyeth revealed in Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest was James Cowan, a former surgeon in the Confederate Army and Forrest’s cousin. Cowan claimed to be the only eyewitness to the meeting between the generals that September day. [See full text of Cowan’s account, below]

Cowan’s “high standing,” Wyeth offered in his 1899 edition, “renders his statement absolutely reliable.” Only it wasn’t. Both Confederate generals had died years before Cowan shared the story with the biographer—Bragg in 1876, Forrest in 1877—but Wyeth, it seems, ignored conflicting evidence not only in the Official Records but also Forrest’s 1868 pseudo-autobiography, The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry. Wyeth even contradicted Cowan by writing: “The President of the Confederacy [Jefferson Davis] was on the scene when this quarrel occurred, and he took the part of Forrest.”

James Cowan, a cousin of Forrest’s and a Confederate surgeon, stood by his account until his death in 1909. (“Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1899.”

In 1902, James Mathes repeated Cowan’s tale in his book General Forrest, and expanded on the president’s role: “[C]oming upon the scene about the time of the disagreement [Davis] proved to be his stanch friend. He would not entertain the idea of a resignation, but wrote Forrest a gracious and encouraging letter, appointing a day for a meeting at Montgomery, Ala.”

Wyeth eventually decided that Cowan had either fabricated or exaggerated his account. In 1908, he published a revision of his book, adding a 12-page postscript containing “incidents” in Forrest’s life “not known to me” when he had penned the first version. In addition, Wyeth rewrote pages 264 through 267, omitting mention of Cowan’s account as well as the presence of Davis. Rather than admit a mistake or simply denounce the doctor, it appears Wyeth wanted the story forgotten.

Cowan, however, stood by his account until his death in 1909, and Forrest enthusiasts were quick to weigh in. Citing Wyeth, John Morton repeated Cowan’s account in his 1909 book The Artillery of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry, adding “Maj. M.H. Clift has told Captain Morton that he had heard of the incident at the time it took place” and queried Forrest about it after the war. “The General,” Morton wrote, “told him the facts were about as he had heard.”

When “the incident” was said to have occurred, Captain Moses Clift was serving on the staff of Colonel George Dibrell, one of Forrest’s brigade commanders. Morton seemed willing to stretch the truth about President Davis, who he wrote “was at headquarters when the quarrel occurred, and, without taking official action in the matter, wrote General Forrest a personal letter in his own hand, appointing a meeting at Montgomery.” Davis, though, was in Richmond when the meeting was said to have occurred.His visit to Bragg did not take place until October 9-14.

Wyeth’s 1908 revision went out of print in 1924, two years after his death. Harper & Brothers waited until 1959 to bring out a third edition titled That Devil Forrest: Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The publishers acknowledged making minor changes to the “original text of the book” however, they mingled pages 264 through 267 from the two earlier editions and resurrected Cowan’s story as the true version of the generals’ confrontation. The third edition, which was republished in 1989, remains in print. This, of course, has perpetuated Wyeth’s connection with Cowan’s story, though the corrections he inserted in the 1908 version still tend to get overlooked by historians.

Within two months of Braxton Bragg’s signature victory at Chickamauga, the general’s days as an army commander had run their course. (Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Except for Wyeth’s 1908 edition, Cowan’s story has appeared as fact in just about every biography of Forrest since 1899. But Judith Hallock questioned the doctor’s veracity in her 1991 book Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume II, concluding, “Whatever the sequence of events and however dramatic the meeting between Forrest and Bragg…Bragg proceeded to have Forrest transferred.”

Hallock, though, wondered if the altercation had occurred at all and confided as much to historian James Ogden, who agreed with her. Ogden shared their suspicions with David Powell, who published an investigation of the matter in Appendix 4 of his 2010 book Failure in the Saddle. “Unless additional credible contemporary accounts surface,” he maintained, “it is impossible to know with certainty whether this incident really took place.”

Reexamining the evidence in Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy (2016), Earl Hess opined that Cowan’s account was unlikely but stopped short of declaring it a complete fabrication.

For more than a century, the controversy has led historians to perhaps misread the Confederate high command in the Western Theater. A closer look is warranted.

In early June 1862, General P.G.T. Beauregard desperately needed a senior colonel to organize a brigade of cavalry at Chattanooga and promised Forrest a promotion if he would undertake the task. For the good of the cause, Colonel Forrest chose to move on from his regiment. A week later, when Bragg replaced Beauregard as commander of Department No. 2, he made no attempt to block Forrest’s promotion and in fact welcomed the new brigadier as commander of his cavalry.

Rather than join the army when first ordered in August, Forrest opted to continue raiding behind enemy lines while also trying to gather intelligence about enemy movements. Bragg had divided his army into two wings before Forrest reported in person in early September when Forrest arrived, Bragg reinforced his brigade and assigned it to the Right Wing. But on the night of September 20—exactly one year prior to the Confederates’ Chickamauga success—Forrest’s horse fell and rolled over onto him, dislocating the general’s right shoulder. Despite the pain, Forrest remained with his command, riding in a buggy.

This sufficed while his troopers remained near Bards

town, Ky., but when they resumed marching it became evident that Forrest would not be able to keep up with his men. Bragg, however, never forced Forrest to admit his limited capacity or insist he take medical leave. Instead, thinking Forrest might recover more quickly and be of more benefit by leading a recruiting effort in the region, Bragg placed him in charge of operations in Middle Tennessee—assigning him four companies. Forrest graciously accepted the assignment and, in fact, quickly raised another brigade.

Both sides occupied Chattanooga, Tenn., at various points in the war. It was a key transportation hub linking three Southern arsenals. (National Archives)

Later that fall, Bragg reorganized his army. Even though Forrest was senior brigadier, ahead of John Hunt Morgan, Bragg was convinced both were better at raiding than gathering intelligence or guarding the army. Conversely, Brig. Gen. Joseph Wheeler had recently demonstrated proficiency handling cavalry attached to the army. Bragg therefore secured an appointment to major general for Wheeler, but he left Forrest and Morgan as independent brigade commanders instead of having them serve directly under Wheeler. All the same, while Wheeler didn’t command their brigades, as chief of cavalry he, not Bragg, was responsible for supplying their arms and munitions.

After a raid through West Tennessee in December 1862 followed by a sabbatical, Forrest met with Bragg in Shelbyville, Tenn., on January 26, 1863. He learned that Wheeler had borrowed 800 of his troopers for a raid along the Cumberland River. Forrest hurried to join his troops, arriving in time to object to Wheeler’s February 3 attack on Dover, Tenn. Wheeler attacked anyway, and, after losing more than 200 men in that failed attack, Forrest swore that his days serving under Wheeler were over. He reportedly insisted the general inform Bragg “that I will be in my coffin before I will fight again under your command.”

Although Wheeler made no mention of the confrontation in his report of the expedition, Bragg must have become aware of it. After all, rather than sack Forrest for what was incontrovertibly insubordination, he instead showed considerable respect for his subordinate by having him and his brigade transferred to Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s command in West Tennessee. Even though Van Dorn and Forrest nearly drew swords on each other in April, they did work well together. When a cuckolded husband shot the notoriously licentious Van Dorn to death in Spring Hill, Tenn., on May 7, 1863, Bragg offered Forrest a promotion and command of Van Dorn’s Corps. Forrest declined, but Bragg nevertheless assigned him the command and lobbied for his promotion to major general.

When Bragg was instructed to send one of Van Dorn’s old divisions to the fighting outside Vicksburg, Miss., he elected to keep Forrest and his men with him in Tennessee. After Rosecrans’ Federals turned the Confederate army’s right flank near Tullahoma, Bragg was forced to abandon Middle Tennessee on July 3, 1863. He feared that Rosecrans was headed for Chattanooga and would cross the Tennessee River above the city. His decision to shift Forrest’s position to guard the army’s right flank—independent of Wheeler, who was guarding the left—is a telling sign of Bragg’s appreciation and respect for Forrest.

Logistical problems stalled Rosecrans’ advance, and briefly it appeared the Union threat to Chattanooga had been minimized. On August 9, Forrest wrote Adj. Gen. Samuel Cooper in Richmond to request an independent command of about 500 men, to be charged with disrupting traffic on the Mississippi River north of Vicksburg. Forrest believed he could also use such an opportunity to attract recruits from behind enemy lines.

In endorsing the request on August 14, Bragg noted: “I know no officer to whom I would sooner assign the duty proposed, than which none is more important, but it would deprive this army of one of its greatest elements of strength to remove General Forrest.”

Cooper, in Richmond, passed the letter on to Secretary of War James Seddon on August 26, but Cooper learned that Seddon had already received a copy from Jefferson Davis, who wanted Bragg’s opinion. How? Because Forrest had written the president directly on August 19 and enclosed a copy of his request, stating he believed it was “likely” Bragg would not forward it. Seddon submitted the original to Davis on August 28. “The indorsement [sic] of General Bragg,” he wrote, “indicated the propriety of a postponement. Subsequent events have served to render the proposition more objectionable. Whenever a change of circumstances will permit, the measure may be adopted.”

By that time, Rosecrans had reached the outskirts of Chattanooga, and on August 21 had begun shelling the city from across the river. The following day, Bragg learned that Burnside was advancing on Knoxville with the Army of the Ohio. Convinced still that Rosecrans would cross the Tennessee River upstream, Bragg knew he needed Forrest more than ever. On September 3, he even assigned the cavalryman a second division, which returned him to corps command.

Joseph Wheeler joined the Southern army early in the war and first served at a fort at Pensacola, Fla. His commander: Braxton Bragg. (Virginia Museum of History and Culture)

To Bragg’s dismay, Rosecrans outmaneuvered Wheeler—on the Confederate left—and crossed the river downstream. That forced Bragg to abandon Chattanooga and move south into Georgia, where a month later he rectified the situation by roundly defeating Rosecrans at Chickamauga. But again, with Rosecrans now besieged in Chattanooga, Bragg could not afford to ignore the threat from Burnside in Knoxville. On September 25, he sent Forrest with four brigades to engage Burnside’s vanguard near Cleveland, Tenn., just north of Chattanooga.

Before midnight that day, however, Bragg sent an order to Forrest “to turn over his command, except two Brigades, to Maj Gen Wheeler.” When that order reached Forrest is unknown, but Bragg’s adjutant, Colonel George L. Brent, noted on September 26: “A strong protest was recd this morning from Genl Forrest against the order turning over his command to Wheeler. It was full of Just complaints.”

By the time Bragg learned from Brent of those objections, Forrest’s troopers had already cleared the south bank of the Hiwassee River of Federals, and were in hot pursuit of Colonel Robert K. Byrd’s fleeing mounted infantry. Reinforced by Colonel Frank Wolford’s cavalry, the Yankees rallied near Athens to stem Forrest’s juggernaut for at least a few hours before scurrying on to Philadelphia, Tenn. Forrest resumed his pursuit on September 27, driving the Federals back closer to Knoxville.

Concerned primarily with cutting off supplies to Rosecrans, Bragg would have been content had Forrest simply halted any Federal advance at Cleveland. When Bragg learned the Federals had barely crossed the Hiwassee and Forrest was nearly in Knoxville, he became angry, suspecting the “Wizard” had gone off on an unnecessary raid. Bragg wanted Forrest’s troopers to team with Wheeler in disrupting Rosecrans’ supply line, and was confident he now had time to swap in infantry for Forrest’s cavalry to block Burnside.

As Bragg fumed, “The man…does not know anything of cooperation. He is nothing more than a good raider.”

When Forrest encountered Union infantry near Loudon on September 28, he realized the odds had shifted against him and turned back. Later that day, Brent wrote Forrest that Bragg desired he “without delay turn over the troops of your command previously ordered to…Wheeler.”

Where Forrest was when that order reached him is unclear, but he did notify Wheeler that he was en route and then suggested, “Would it not be well to have the fortifications at Charleston [Tenn.] repaired and artillery placed in position there in order to defend the crossing if necessary?” Forrest believed his troopers would be of better use opera-ting along the Hiwassee. Wheeler responded with a request for any spare ammunition for small arms and artillery, to which Forrest replied that he had none to spare. “Have ordered General [Henry B.] Davidson and General [Frank C.] Armstrong to you, and…[have] retained Dibrell’s and [John] Pegram’s brigades,” Forrest wrote. “They are all without rations…[and I] am satisfied that neither men nor horses are in condition for the expedition.”

The brigades assigned to Wheeler reached Athens that night and joined him the following evening. Wheeler was shocked by their appearance and reported after the raid that Forrest’s brigades “were mere skeletons, scarcely averaging 500 effective men each.” All “were badly armed [and] had but a small supply of ammunition.” Moreover, “their horses were in horrible condition…[and] the men were worn out, and without rations.”

Two mounted Federal brigades began pursuing Forrest from Loudon on the 28th but eventually called off the chase. Forrest then established his headquarters at Cleveland, prepared to defend the Hiwassee’s vulnerable fords.

Bragg, it must be noted, was angry with himself, too. Hurt by faulty intelligence, he had miscalculated the situation in issuing Forrest his original orders on September 25, and Forrest had compounded Bragg’s mistake by successfully driving back the enemy as he had. Now, the longer Forrest took to comply with Bragg’s orders, the greater the delay was to Rosecrans’ benefit.

Another significant glitch was the order Bragg mistakenly issued on the 29th assigning Wheeler “command of all the cavalry in the Army of Tennessee.” Wheeler, thinking he now had the authority to do so, issued a direct order to Dibrell, which quickly drew a protest from Forrest. It was a good sign for Forrest, however, when Bragg notified Wheeler on September 30 “that the brigade of Colonel Dibrell shall remain at Cleveland.” When Forrest met with Bragg in early October, according to a report, he received assurances that his entire corps would be returned following Wheeler’s raid on the Federal supply lines.

Forrest didn’t meet with Davis when the president visited the army October 9-14, but Davis and Bragg did discuss the cavalryman. On the 13th, Bragg sent Davis a letter approving Forrest’s transfer to West Tennessee, and Davis left an invitation for Forrest to meet with him in Montgomery, Ala. But matters intensified again on October 20, when, as Brent noted, “Genl Bragg has asked the President to relieve Maj Genl [Samuel Bolivar] Buckner and Brig Genl [William] Preston. Forrest is here and is much dissatisfied. Troubles are brewing in the command.”

The “troubles” concerned other generals, but Forrest had cause to be upset. Wheeler’s raid had ended 12 days earlier, yet the brigades sent to Wheeler from Forrest’s command had not returned. Then on the 17th, Forrest’s other two brigades were ordered “to press vigorously toward Knoxville as soon as possible.” (Forrest was not personally notified of this, likely because he had gone on leave.)

Receipt of Davis’ invitation and the OK for another leave seemed to have satisfied Forrest. While in Dalton, Ga., on October 22, he wrote his report on Chickamauga as well as his subsequent venture beyond the Hiwassee River.

On October 27, he met with Davis in Montgomery, and traveled with him to Atlanta the following day. On the 29th, the president gave Forrest his approved transfer to West Tennessee (along with a letter from Bragg requesting that Davis do so). The next day, Forrest met with Bragg to determine the troops that would accompany him on his new assignment. Despite reported claims to the contrary, Bragg informed Davis on October 31, “General Forrest’s requests are all granted, and he has started for his new field apparently well satisfied.”

With 271 effectives, Forrest headed to Okolona, Miss. Though no longer reporting to Bragg, on December 8 he wrote his former commander a collegial letter, which can be found in the Official Records. He concluded:

I am confident that I shall have in a short time 8,000 effective men in the field, besides some thousand belonging to infantry command, all of whom will be sent back at the earliest possible moment. I am not only willing, but desirous, general, of rendering the country all the service possible in the occupancy and defense of West Tennessee also to get out from here all the supplies I can for the subsistence of your army. If you can aid me in the services of a general officer or the procurement of arms I shall be thankful, and in turn use every exertion to send to you the absentees from your ranks and supplies, &c., for your troops.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

At the time, Forrest hadn’t learned of his promotion to major general, dated December 4, or that on the 6th Bragg had relinquished command of the Army of Tennessee.

Although it is a reach to say they were friends, the two certainly respected each other for putting the good of the Confederacy first. On October 30, 1863, Brent wrote: “Gen Forrest has been relieved & will go to North Miss & West Tenn. This change is I think injudicious. Coupled with the Existing discontent in the Cavalry it will tend materially to still further impair its usefulness. Forrest with many objections, is…the best Cavalry Commander in the Army.”

Away from Bragg, Forrest added to his already fearsome legacy by defeating a much larger Union force at Brice’s Crossroads, Miss., on June 10, 1864. (Panting by Rick Reeves)

Why did Bragg keep Wheeler instead of Forrest? For one, he realized his cavalry needed to be united under one commander. Wheeler outranked Forrest and was considered a better administrator and at least his equal at collecting intelligence. Bragg also recognized that Wheeler had subordinates capable of replacing him if needed. Though Forrest never doubted he was a superior leader and raider than Wheeler, he also believed he could render more effective service elsewhere. Davis and Bragg would concur.

Debunking the account of the Forrest–Bragg confrontation raises a new question, however: Why did Cowan, Mathes, Morton, and so many others since make Bragg the scapegoat? It is a question to which we may never have an answer.

Lawrence Lee Hewitt is co-editor of the Confederate Generals in the Western Theater and Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi collections, and is author of Port Hudson: Confederate Bastion on the Mississippi.

Cowan the Eyewitness?

The following passage, quoting Confederate surgeon James Cowan, appeared on pages 265-266 of John Wyeth’s 1899 first edition of Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

I observed as we rode along that the general was silent, which was unusual with him when we were alone. Knowing him so well, I was convinced that something that displeased him greatly had transpired. He wore an expression which I had seen before on some occasions when a storm was brewing. I had known nothing of the letter he had written General Bragg, and was in utter ignorance not only of what was passing in Forrest’s mind at this time, but of the object of his visit to the general-in-chief. As we passed the guard in front of General Bragg’s tent, I observed that General Forest did not acknowledge the salute of the sentry, which was so contrary to his custom that I could not help but notice it.

When we entered the tent where General Bragg was alone, this officer rose from his seat, spoke to Forrest, and, advancing, offered him his hand. Refusing to take the proffered hand, and standing stiff and erect before Bragg, Forrest said:

“I am not here to pass civilities or compliments with you, but on other business. You commenced your cowardly and contemptible persecution of me soon after the battle of Shiloh and you have kept it up ever since. You did it because I reported to Richmond facts, while you reported damned lies. You robbed me of my command in Kentucky, and gave it to one of your favorites—men that I armed and equipped from the enemies of our country. In a spirit of revenge and spite, because I would not fawn upon you as others did, you drove me into west Tennessee in the winter of 1862, with a second brigade I had organized, with improper arms and without sufficient ammunition, although I had made repeated applications for the same. You did it to ruin me and my career.

“When in spite of all this I returned with my command, well equipped by captures, you began again your work of spite and persecution, and have kept it up and now this second brigade, organized and equipped without thanks to you or the government, a brigade which has won a reputation for successful fighting second to none in the army, taking advantage of your position as the commanding general in order to further humiliate me, you have taken these brave men from me.

“I have stood your meanness as long as I intend to. You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws [sic] and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any more orders to me, for I will not obey them, and I will hold you personally responsible for any further indignities you endeavor to inflict upon me. You have threatened to arrest me for not obeying your orders promptly. I dare you to do it, and I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.”

The scene did not last longer than a few minutes, and when Forrest had finished he turned his back sharply upon Bragg and stalked out of the tent towards the horses. As they rode away Dr. Cowan remarked, “Well, you are in for it now!” Forrest replied instantly, “He’ll never say a word about it he’ll be the last man to mention it and, mark my word, he’ll take no action in the matter. I will ask to be relieved and transferred to a different field, and he will not oppose it.”


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Born October 6, 1842, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, he was the oldest son of Charles Lewis Davis and Jane (Simmons) Davis. The Davis family owned fifty-one enslaved people by 1860. As a boy Sam Davis was gifted his own enslaved person, named Coleman Davis. [3] He attended school in Smyrna, Tennessee, and was educated at the Western Military Institute—now Montgomery Bell Academy—from 1860–61. While there he came under the influence of headmaster and future Confederate General Bushrod Johnson.

He was recruited by Confederate scout forces early in the Civil War. He signed up as a private in the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment in 1861 and his regiment first fought in the Cheat Mountain then in the Shenandoah Valley then in the Shiloh and finally the Perryville. Davis suffered minor injuries at Shiloh, and suffered a more severe wound at Perryville. After recovering he took on very active service as a courier for Coleman's Scouts.

He was captured near Minor Hill, Tennessee, on November 20, 1863, having been detailed for special, hazardous duty within the Union lines of occupation around Nashville. At the time of his arrest by Union secret service agents, Davis had in his possession a miscellany of newspapers and intelligence sources, which included detailed drawings of Union fortifications at Nashville and other towns in Middle Tennessee.

Imprisoned in Pulaski, which at that time was a garrisoned Union town under command of General Grenville M. Dodge, Davis faced charges of espionage and steadfastly refused to reveal the names of his informants. After Davis was found guilty, General Dodge announced that he should be hanged on a hill described by a report from the Cincinnati Daily Commercial as "a pretty eminence, north east of Pulaski, and overlooking the town." When local citizens protested at so visual a display of a gruesome act, Dodge allegedly replied, "I want him hung where you all can see him."

According to the newspaper account, which is corroborated by several eyewitness accounts recorded between 1862 and the 1890s, Dodge offered Davis his life in exchange for information about his informants. The condemned man apparently refused all such offers. "Would you betray a friend?" Davis is reported to have said while seated on his coffin. "I had rather die a thousand deaths." Confederate lore had Davis saying upon climbing the scaffold that "the boys will have to fight the battles without me." [4]

Davis was hanged by Union forces in Pulaski, Tennessee, on November 27, 1863. As he was trundled along to the hanging site atop his own coffin, Union soldiers alongside the bumpy wagon road shouted out their entreaties for his cooperation, lest they have to watch the grim execution. Supposedly the officer in charge of the execution was discomfited by Davis' youth and calm demeanor and had trouble carrying out his orders. Davis is alleged to have said to him, "Officer, I did my duty. Now, you do yours." [5]

Accounts of Davis' death appeared in writings by Union soldiers, who witnessed the execution, and by a journalist from the Cincinnati Daily Commercial. Bearing his fate bravely, Davis apparently touched upon the sympathies of all observers, including his captors. The reporter recorded the scene thus:

All nature seemed to be in mourning, and many warm hearts, loyal and true, but more that were not, melted into sympathy. Four companies of the 111th Illinois and two companies of the 7th Iowa were drawn up, forming a hollow square with fixed bayonets, with the gallows in the center of it. Hundreds and thousands were the spectators the soldiery paraded about the guard the citizens, gazing with scowls from their dwellings. The Provost Marshal took off the prisoner's hat, for his hands were tied behind him, and then Chaplain Young, of the 81st Ohio, addressed a throne of mercy in behalf of his soul. And that prayer -- it was long and fervently prayed that if a reprieve was not to be given on earth, that a higher, better, lasting one might be given in Heaven, where wars come not. Then he implored God's blessing upon our whole country -- that sweet peace might soon return again -- that the time when war should no longer be waged might come even speedily and every breathing heart in that vast multitude said, 'Amen!'" [6]

After a white hood was tied over Davis' head, the trap door was sprung at 10:30 a.m. Union soldiers turned away as Davis writhed in death agony for three minutes. "He stood it like a man," one Union soldier noted in his diary the following day. "He never paled a bit but stood it like a hero." That night, the Daily Commercial reported, "evergreens were planted, and now sigh in the wild wintery winds o'er his grave, while flowers culled by fair hands, were strewn upon it." [4]

Davis wrote a letter to his mother before his execution, "Dear mother. O how painful it is to write you! I have got to die to-morrow --- to be hanged by the Federals. Mother, do not grieve for me. I must bid you good-bye forevermore. Mother, I do not fear to die. Give my love to all." There was a postscript for his father, too. "Father, you can send after my remains if you want to do so. They will be at Pulaski, Tenn. I will leave some things with the hotel keeper for you."

The execution gained some notoriety at the time, especially among soldiers of the Army of Tennessee. Writing in his memoir Co. Aytch, published in the early 1880s, Private Sam Watkins recalled that in 1864 his regiment had assembled to watch the hanging of two young Yankee spies, eager to see the condemned men suffer because "they had hung one of our regiment at Pulaski -- Sam Davis." [7]

Sam Davis' execution was not that unusual an event. Davis suffered a fate shared by many intelligence gatherers operating around Nashville. Most of the rural counties surrounding Nashville were only nominally under Union control, and this 'no-man's land' witnessed over three years of bloody internecine conflict and the steady dissolution of the institution of slavery. In this context, execution for espionage was not uncommon. The Provost Marshal records for Middle Tennessee offer evidence of scores of execution on espionage charges, with not all the victims receiving trials (as Davis did). Six months before Davis's execution, Union commanders publicly executed Joseph Smith in Carthage, a rural town east of Nashville. As was the case with Davis, some of these events generated newspaper coverage and featured in private letters. Most executions, however, went unrecorded apart from a perfunctory note in the Provost Marshal's records. Today, nearly all of these men are forgotten - except for Sam Davis. [8]

For nearly thirty years after the war, the story of Sam Davis's execution was not widely remembered. In 1866 Davis's father erected the first monument to his son, a twenty-five foot shaft of Italian marble, at the back of the family's plantation home outside Smyrna. The Sam Davis story became part of a broader social memory only in the mid-1890s and chiefly through the efforts of Sumner Archibald Cunningham, the founding editor of Confederate Veteran magazine. A native of Middle Tennessee, Cunningham had an undistinguished record of Confederate service, having deserted the Army of Tennessee after the Battle of Nashville in 1864. After the war he worked as a newspaperman before becoming the general agent for the Jefferson Davis Memorial Fund after the former Confederate president's death in 1889. He left this position shortly after launching the Nashville-based Confederate Veteran in January 1893.

Before he founded the Confederate Veteran, Cunningham had never heard of Sam Davis. When an early subscriber to the magazine submitted a school oration about Davis for publication, Cunningham rejected it, "feeling that there were so many equally worthy heroes it would hardly be fair to print this special eulogy." But at a Blue-Gray veterans reunion in April 1895, on the battlefield at Shiloh, Cunningham again heard about the story of Davis's execution - and this time from two federal veterans, witnesses to the execution, who claimed, as Cunningham phrased it, that "the Federal Army was in grief over it." These accounts struck a chord and convinced Cunningham of the merits of publicizing the story. The Union veterans' story of an ordinary soldier's heroic death, couched in the language of reconciliation, fit perfectly with the spirit of the times and the viewpoint of the Confederate Veteran. "I resolved to print the story," Cunningham recalled in 1899, "and [to] reprint it until that typical hero should have as full credit as the Veteran could give him." [8]

As Cunningham assumed stewardship of the Sam Davis story he transformed oral memories into a broad collective memory through a series of promotions. First, he solicited written versions of the federal eyewitness accounts of Davis's execution that he had heard at the Shiloh reunion and then published them in the Veteran. Next, Cunningham called for Tennesseans to come forward with "such data as may be recalled by all who know anything of the event." Sensing an opportunity to galvanize interest in his fledgling publication, Cunningham threw his energies into sponsorship of the Sam Davis story. In a series of editorials published in the summer of 1895, Cunningham packaged Davis's sacrifice in Christian terms, insisting that the story recalled "the sacrifice of the Galilean whose hands and feet were nailed to a cross." By summer's end, Cunningham launched a fundraising drive for a monument to Davis's memory to be erected on the Tennessee State Capitol grounds in Nashville.

Before being popularized by Cunningham, editor J. B. Killebrew in 1871 wrote a tribute to Davis entitled "Every Inch a Hero," that was widely printed. The article presented Davis as a scout carrying letters, rather than a spy, and because of this his execution was a miscarriage of justice]. [9] [10]

Since the late 1890s, Davis has towered above any other Tennessean in the pantheon of Confederate Civil War heroes. Today, representations of the life and death of Sam Davis mark the historical and geographical landscapes of the Middle Tennessee heartland. While the narrative of Davis is an ingrained part of regional recognition, Davis' story did not spread beyond Tennessee despite efforts after World War II to give the story a wider circulation. [11]

Monuments commemorating him stand at the scene of his execution and on the court square in Pulaski at his childhood home outside Smyrna, Tennessee and in the form of a life-size statue positioned prominently on the southeast corner of the state capitol grounds in Nashville.

An exhibition case of Sam Davis artifacts—including the overcoat worn at the time of his arrest and the boot in which papers were concealed—is on permanent display at the Tennessee State Museum. Over the years, archivists at the Tennessee State Library and Archives have procured and catalogued scores of documents: firsthand recollections, poems, commemorative speeches, at least four published biographies, and the papers of the Sam Davis Memorial Association.

In 1912 a Sam Davis memorial window was installed in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. [12]

In 1927, the State of Tennessee purchased the Davis family home as a memorial site. [13] Operated as a private nonprofit by the Sam Davis Memorial Association, the Sam Davis House outside Smyrna is open to tourists and school groups.

In 1928 the 175-foot-tall, 200-room Sam Davis Hotel opened in downtown Nashville. On February 16, 1985 it was demolished to make way for a new convention center. [14]

Illustrated Features Syndicate created a newspaper comic strip, "The Story of Sam Davis" in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The strip portrayed Davis, looking remarkably like Clark Gable, as an all–American hero caught up in a tragic era. [15]

In the 1950s the "Sam Davis Story" was turned into a theatrical production performed to packed houses in Nashville, and later became the basis of a radio drama broadcast to U.S. troops overseas under the title "Honor Bound". [15]

The Sons of Confederate Veterans posthumously awarded Davis their Confederate Medal of Honor, created in 1977. [16]

Davis was named "Historical Personality of the Year" in 1992 by the Tennessee Historical Commission. [15]

Sam Davis's youth and the manner of his death has meant that the statue in his memory within the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol has drawn little of the criticism and protest that in recent times has been targeted towards Confederate statues. In 1999, however, the Black Caucus of Tennessee state legislators erected a monument within fifteen feet of the Davis statue to the victims of the Middle Passage who died en route to slavery in the Americas. This drew protests from the Sons of Confederate Veterans who called the proximate placement of the monument to the Davis statue "a foolish little sophomoric prank." A spokesperson for the Black Caucus claimed no intent "to disrespect a Confederate soldier or have it overshadow him in any way" adding that the location for the monument to slavery's victims within the State Capitol grounds was determined by horticultural factors alone. [17]

In 1992 the Sam Davis Memorial Association, who manage the Sam Davis Home on behalf of the State of Tennessee, were inundated with complaints from Confederate supporters angered by the rumor that the battle flag of the Confederacy no longer flew at the Sam Davis Home. The Association responded that "the only trouble we have is trying to satisfy different demands over which Confederate flag should be flown on a regular basis. At the present time, in an attempt to please as many of our supporters as possible, the several Confederate flags are flown on a rotating basis but a Confederate flag is always flown." [18]

In the early 2000s historical archaeologists at Middle Tennessee State University criticised the "shrine mentality" and cited a lack of authenticity in the material culture and historical interpretation at the Sam Davis Home. The custodians of the home complained about policy changes that were inconsistent with the original purpose of the home - including the flying of the U.S. flag, which the Nashville chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy called "an insult, not only to Sam Davis and his Family, but to the entire Confederacy and its descendants." [15]

In recent years the Sam Davis Home has run educational programs focused on the material culture of the mid-nineteenth century, Civil War medicine, the music of enslaved people, and the lives of soldiers and civilians during the Civil War.

In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, Montgomery Bell Academy removed their statue of Sam Davis from the campus, citing Davis's association with the Confederacy and the perception that the statue supported racism. [19]


Contents

Braxton Bragg was born in Warrenton, North Carolina, [3] one of the six sons of Thomas and Margaret Crosland Bragg. One of his older brothers was future Confederate Attorney General Thomas Bragg. Bragg was also a cousin of Edward S. Bragg, who would become a Union general in the Civil War. [4] He was often ridiculed as a child because of rumors about his mother's prison sentence for allegedly murdering an African American freeman, and some of those rumors stated that he was born in prison. Grady McWhiney, the principal biographer of Bragg's early life and career, states that despite these rumors, the Bragg family was law-abiding. Although considered by his neighbors to be from the lower class, Thomas Bragg was a carpenter and contractor who became wealthy enough to send Braxton to the Warrenton Male Academy, one of the best schools in the state. He was descended from Captain Christopher Newport of Jamestown, Virginia and his son-in-law Thomas Bragg (1579–1665), who was born in England and settled in the Colony of Virginia. [5] In the thousands of letters that Bragg wrote during his lifetime, he spoke fondly of his father, but never mentioned his mother. [6]

When Bragg was only ten years old, his father decided on a military career for him and sought ways to obtain a nomination to the United States Military Academy. Eventually the oldest Bragg son, John, recently elected as a state legislator, obtained the support of U.S. Senator for North Carolina Willie P. Mangum. With Mangum as his sponsor, West Point admitted Braxton at the age of 16. His classmates included notable future Civil War Union generals Joseph Hooker and John Sedgwick, and future Confederate generals John C. Pemberton, Jubal Early, and William H. T. Walker. Bragg did well in academic pursuits because of his superior memory, rather than industrious study, and received fewer disciplinary demerits than most of his contemporaries. He graduated fifth of fifty cadets from the West Point Class of 1837 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery. [7]

Early career Edit

Bragg served in the Second Seminole War in Florida, initially as an assistant commissary officer and regimental adjutant, seeing no actual combat. He soon began to suffer from a series of illnesses that he blamed on the tropical climate. He sought a medical transfer and was briefly assigned to recruiting duty in Philadelphia, but in October 1840 he was ordered back to Florida. He became a company commander in the 3rd Artillery and commanded Fort Marion, near St. Augustine. In this assignment, he stayed relatively healthy, but tended toward overwork, laboring administratively to improve the living conditions of his men. He launched a series of argumentative letters with senior Army officials, including the adjutant general and Army paymaster, that established his reputation as "disputatious." [8]

Bragg had a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian and one who adhered to regulations literally. There is a famous, apocryphal story, included in Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs, about Bragg as a company commander at a frontier post where he also served as quartermaster. He submitted a requisition for supplies for his company, then as quartermaster declined to fill it. As company commander, he resubmitted the requisition, giving additional reasons for his requirements, but as the quartermaster he denied the request again. Realizing that he was at a personal impasse, he referred the matter to the post commandant, who exclaimed, "My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself!" It is alleged that some of his troops attempted to assassinate him on two occasions in August and September 1847, but he was not injured either time. In the more serious of the two incidents, one of his soldiers exploded a 12-pound artillery shell underneath his cot. Although the cot was destroyed, somehow Bragg himself emerged without a scratch. [9] Bragg had suspicions about the identity of the perpetrator, but had insufficient evidence to bring charges. Later, an Army deserter named Samuel R. Church claimed responsibility for the attack. [10]

The 3rd Artillery relocated to Fort Moultrie, Charleston, South Carolina, in 1843. Here, Bragg was stationed with three future Union Army generals that he came to consider close friends: George H. Thomas, John F. Reynolds (both of whom were lieutenants who reported to Bragg) and William T. Sherman. Bragg continued his controversial writing, this time a series of nine articles published 1844–45 in the Southern Literary Messenger. The series, "Notes on Our Army," published anonymously (as "A Subaltern"), included specific attacks on the policies of general in chief Winfield Scott, whom he called a "vain, petty, conniving man." There were also numerous attacks on Army administrative policies and officers. He included thoughtful recommendations on a proposed structure for the Army general staff, which were echoed in reorganizations that occurred in the early 20th century, but were ignored at the time. [11]

Grady McWhiney, Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat [12]

Bragg's articles came to the attention of Representative James G. Clinton, a New York Democrat and political opponent of Scott's. While Bragg was on leave in Washington, D.C., in March 1844, Clinton called him to testify before his House Committee on Public Expenditures. Scott ordered him not to testify, in defiance of the Congressional subpoena. Bragg was arrested and sent to Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he was court-martialed for disobedience to orders and disrespect toward his superior officers. Bragg conducted his own defense and attempted to turn the trial into a condemnation of Scott. He was found guilty, but an official reprimand from the Secretary of War and suspension at half pay for two months were relatively mild punishments, and Bragg was not deterred from future criticisms of his superiors. [13]

Mexican–American War Edit

On March 1, 1845, Bragg and his artillery company were ordered to join Gen. Zachary Taylor in the defense of Texas from Mexico. He won promotions for bravery and distinguished conduct in the Mexican–American War, including a brevet promotion to captain for the Battle of Fort Brown (May 1846), to major for the Battle of Monterrey (September 1846), and to lieutenant colonel for the Battle of Buena Vista (February 1847). Bragg was also promoted to captain within the regular army in June 1846. He became widely admired (professionally, not personally) in Taylor's army for the discipline and drill of his men and the newly tried tactics of light artillery that proved decisive in most of his engagements against the Mexican Army. But it was Buena Vista that brought him national fame. His timely placement of artillery into a gap in the line helped repulse a numerically superior Mexican attack. He fought in support of Col. Jefferson Davis and the Mississippi Rifles, which earned him the admiration of the future U.S. Secretary of War and president of the Confederacy. [14]

An anecdote circulated about Gen. Taylor commanding, "A little more of the grape, Capt. Bragg," which caused him to redouble his efforts and save the day. The stories are probably apocryphal and, according to the diary of Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Taylor's Chief of Staff (and recent son-in-law) Maj. William Bliss confirmed that "the stories of the General in connection with Bragg are all false. He never said, 'A little more grape, Captain Bragg,' nor did he say, 'Major Bliss and I will support you.'" [15] [16] Nevertheless, Bragg returned to the United States as a popular hero. A northwestern outpost, Fort Bragg, California, was named in his honor. The citizens of Warrenton presented him with a ceremonial sword. Congressman David Outlaw wrote about the honor: "Col. Bragg having, no thanks to them, won for himself a brilliant reputation, is now the object of the most fulsome adulation. Those who formerly sneered at the Braggs as plebeians, as unfit associates for them, they are glad to honor. With what scorn must Col. Bragg, in his secret heart regard them." Bragg traveled to New York, Washington, Mobile, and New Orleans, and in each place he was honored. [17]

On December 31, 1855, Bragg submitted his resignation from the Army, which became effective on January 3, 1856. He and his wife purchased a sugar plantation of 1,600 acres (6.5 km 2 ) 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Thibodaux, Louisiana. Never one to oppose slavery in concept—both his father and his wife were slaveowners—he used 105 enslaved Africans on his property. He continued to uphold his reputation as being a stern disciplinarian and an advocate of military efficiency. His methods resulted in almost immediate profitability, despite a large mortgage on the property. He became active in local politics and was elected to the Board of Public Works in 1860. Throughout the 1850s, Bragg had been disturbed by the accelerating sectional crisis. He opposed the concept of secession, believing that in a republic no majority could set aside a written constitution, but this belief would soon be tested. [18]

American Civil War Edit

Confederate President Jefferson Davis [20]

Before the start of the Civil War, Bragg was a colonel in the Louisiana Militia. On December 12, 1860, Governor Thomas O. Moore appointed him to the state military board, an organization charged with creating a 5,000-man army. He took the assignment, even though he had been opposed to secession. On January 11, 1861, Bragg led a group of 500 volunteers to Baton Rouge, where they persuaded the commander of the federal arsenal there to surrender. The state convention on secession also established a state army and Moore appointed Bragg its commander, with the rank of major general, on February 20, 1861. He commanded the forces around New Orleans until April 16, but his commission was transferred to be a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army on March 7, 1861. He commanded forces in Pensacola, Florida, Alabama, and the Department of West Florida and was promoted to major general on September 12, 1861. His tenure was successful and he trained his men to be some of the best disciplined troops in the Confederate Army, such as the 5th Georgia and the 6th Florida Regiments. [21] [22] [23] [24]

In December, President Davis asked Bragg to take command of the Trans-Mississippi Department, but Bragg declined. He was concerned for the prospects of victory west of the Mississippi River and about the poorly supplied and ill-disciplined troops there. He was also experiencing one of his periodic episodes of ill health that would plague him throughout the war. For years he had suffered from rheumatism, dyspepsia, nerves, and severe migraine headaches, ailments that undoubtedly contributed to his disagreeable personal style. The command went to Earl Van Dorn. Bragg proposed to Davis that he change his strategy of attempting to defend every square mile of Confederate territory, recommending that his troops were of less value on the Gulf Coast than they would be farther to the north, concentrated with other forces for an attack against the Union Army in Tennessee. Bragg transported about 10,000 men to Corinth, Mississippi, in February 1862 and was charged with improving the poor discipline of the Confederate troops already assembled under General Albert Sidney Johnston. [25]

Battle of Shiloh Edit

Bragg commanded a corps (and was also chief of staff) under Johnston at the Battle of Shiloh, April 6–7, 1862. In the initial surprise Confederate advance, Bragg's corps was ordered to attack in a line that was almost 3 miles (4.8 km) long, but he soon began directing activities of the units that found themselves around the center of the battlefield. His men became bogged down against a Union salient called the Hornet's Nest, which he attacked for hours with piecemeal frontal assaults. After Johnston was killed in the battle, General P. G. T. Beauregard assumed command, and appointed Bragg his second in command. Bragg was dismayed when Beauregard called off a late afternoon assault against the Union's final position, which was strongly defended, calling it their last opportunity for victory. On the second day of battle, the Union army counterattacked and the Confederates retreated back to Corinth. [26]

Bragg received public praise for his conduct in the battle and on April 12, 1862, Jefferson Davis appointed Bragg a full general, the sixth man to achieve that rank and one of only seven in the history of the Confederacy. [27] His date of rank was April 6, 1862, coinciding with the first day at Shiloh. After the Siege of Corinth, Beauregard departed on sick leave, leaving Bragg in temporary command of the army in Tupelo, Mississippi, but Beauregard failed to inform President Davis of his departure and spent two weeks absent without leave. Davis was looking for someone to replace Beauregard because of his perceived poor performance at Corinth, and the opportunity presented itself when Beauregard left without permission. Bragg was then appointed his successor as commander of the Western Department (known formally as Department Number Two), including the Army of Mississippi, on June 17, 1862. [28]

Battle of Perryville Edit

In August 1862, Confederate Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith decided to invade Kentucky from Eastern Tennessee, hoping that he could arouse supporters of the Confederate cause in the border state and draw the Union forces under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, beyond the Ohio River. Bragg considered various options, including an attempt to retake Corinth, or to advance against Buell's army through Middle Tennessee. He eventually heeded Kirby Smith's calls for reinforcement and decided to relocate his Army of Mississippi to join with him. He moved 30,000 infantrymen in a tortuous railroad journey from Tupelo through Mobile and Montgomery to Chattanooga, while his cavalry and artillery moved by road. Although Bragg was the senior general in the theater, President Davis had established Kirby Smith's Department of East Tennessee as an independent command, reporting directly to Richmond. This decision caused Bragg difficulty during the campaign. [29]

Smith and Bragg met in Chattanooga on July 31, 1862, and devised a plan for the campaign: Kirby Smith's Army of Kentucky would first march into Kentucky to dispose of the Union defenders of Cumberland Gap. (Bragg's army was too exhausted from its long journey to begin immediate offensive operations.) Smith would return to join Bragg, and their combined forces would attempt to maneuver into Buell's rear and force a battle to protect his supply lines. Once the armies were combined, Bragg's seniority would apply and Smith would be under his direct command. Assuming that Buell's army could be destroyed, Bragg and Smith would march farther north into Kentucky, a movement they assumed would be welcomed by the local populace. Any remaining Federal force would be defeated in a grand battle in Kentucky, establishing the Confederate frontier at the Ohio River. [30]

On August 9, Smith informed Bragg that he was breaking the agreement and intended to bypass Cumberland Gap, leaving a small holding force to neutralize the Union garrison, and to move north. Unable to command Smith to honor their plan, Bragg focused on a movement to Lexington instead of Nashville. He cautioned Smith that Buell could pursue and defeat his smaller army before Bragg's army could join up with them. [31]

Bragg departed from Chattanooga on August 27, just before Smith reached Lexington. On the way, he was distracted by the capture of a Union fort at Munfordville. He had to decide whether to continue toward a fight with Buell (over Louisville) or rejoin Smith, who had gained control of the center of the state by capturing Richmond and Lexington, and threatened to move on Cincinnati. Bragg chose to rejoin Smith. He left his army and met Smith in Frankfort, where they attended the inauguration of Confederate Governor Richard Hawes on October 4. The inauguration ceremony was disrupted by the sound of approaching Union cannon fire and the organizers canceled the inaugural ball scheduled for that evening. [32]

On October 8, the armies met unexpectedly at the Battle of Perryville they had skirmished the previous day as they were searching for water sources in the vicinity. Bragg ordered the wing of his army under Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk to attack what he thought was an isolated portion of Buell's command, but had difficulty motivating Polk to begin the fight until Bragg arrived in person. Eventually Polk attacked the corps of Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook on the Union army's left flank and forced it to fall back. By the end of the day, McCook had been driven back about a mile, but reinforcements had arrived to stabilize the line, and Bragg only then began to realize that his limited tactical victory in the bloody battle had been against less than half of Buell's army and the remainder was arriving quickly. [33]

Kirby Smith pleaded with Bragg to follow up on his success: "For God's sake, General, let us fight Buell here." Bragg replied, "I will do it, sir," but then displaying what one observer called "a perplexity and vacillation which had now become simply appalling to Smith, to Hardee, and to Polk," [34] he ordered his army to retreat through the Cumberland Gap to Knoxville. Bragg referred to his retreat as a withdrawal, the successful culmination of a giant raid. He had multiple reasons for withdrawing. Disheartening news had arrived from northern Mississippi that Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price had been defeated at Corinth, just as Robert E. Lee had failed in his Maryland Campaign. He saw that his army had not much to gain from a further, isolated victory, whereas a defeat might cost not only the bountiful food and supplies yet collected, but also his army. He wrote to his wife, "With the whole southwest thus in the enemy's possession, my crime would have been unpardonable had I kept my noble little army to be ice-bound in the northern clime, without tents or shoes, and obliged to forage daily for bread, etc." [35] He was quickly called to Richmond to explain to Jefferson Davis the charges brought by his officers about how he had conducted his campaign, demanding that he be replaced as head of the army. Although Davis decided to leave the general in command, Bragg's relationship with his subordinates would be severely damaged. Upon rejoining the army, he ordered a movement to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. [36]

Battle of Stones River Edit

Bragg renamed his force as the Army of Tennessee on November 20, 1862. Meanwhile, on October 24, Don Carlos Buell had been replaced as commander of the Union Army of the Ohio by Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, who immediately renamed it the Army of the Cumberland. In late December, Rosecrans advanced from Nashville against Bragg's position at Murfreesboro. Before Rosecrans could attack, Bragg launched a strong surprise attack against Rosecrans's right flank on December 31, 1862, the start of the Battle of Stones River. The Confederates succeeded in driving the Union army back to a small defensive position, but could not destroy it, nor could they break its supply line to Nashville, as Bragg intended. Despite this, Bragg considered the first day of battle to be a victory and assumed that Rosecrans would soon retreat. By January 2, 1863, however, the Union troops remained in place and the battle resumed as Bragg launched an unsuccessful attack by the troops of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge against the well-defended Union left flank. Recognizing his lack of progress, the severe winter weather, the arrival of supplies and reinforcements for Rosecrans, and heeding the recommendations of corps commanders Hardee and Polk, Bragg withdrew his army from the field to Tullahoma, Tennessee. [37]

James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era [38]

Bragg's generals were vocal in their dissatisfaction with his command during the Kentucky campaign and Stones River. He reacted to the rumors of criticism by circulating a letter to his corps and division commanders that asked them to confirm in writing that they had recommended withdrawing after the latter battle, stating that if he had misunderstood them and withdrawn mistakenly, he would willingly step down. Unfortunately, he wrote the letter at a time that a number of his most faithful supporters were on leave for illness or wounds. [39] Bragg's critics, including William J. Hardee, interpreted the letter as having an implied secondary question—had Bragg lost the confidence of his senior commanders? Leonidas Polk did not reply to the implied question, but he wrote directly to his friend, Jefferson Davis, recommending that Bragg be replaced. [40]

Davis responded to the complaints by dispatching Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to investigate the condition of the army. Davis assumed that Johnston, Bragg's superior, would find the situation wanting and take command of the army in the field, easing Bragg aside. However, Johnston arrived on the scene and found the men of the Army of Tennessee in relatively good condition. He told Bragg that he had "the best organized, armed, equipped, and disciplined army in the Confederacy." [41] Johnston explicitly refused any suggestion that he take command, concerned that people would think he had taken advantage of the situation for his own personal gain. When Davis ordered Johnston to send Bragg to Richmond, Johnston delayed because of Elise Bragg's illness when her health improved Johnston was unable to assume command because of lingering medical problems from his wound at the Battle of Seven Pines in 1862. [42]

Tullahoma Campaign Edit

As Bragg's army fortified Tullahoma, Rosecrans spent the next six months in Murfreesboro, resupplying and retraining his army to resume its advance. Rosecrans's initial movements on June 23, 1863 took Bragg by surprise. While keeping Polk's corps occupied with small actions in the center of the Confederate line, Rosecrans sent the majority of his army around Bragg's right flank. Bragg was slow to react and his subordinates were typically uncooperative: the mistrust among the general officers of the Army of Tennessee for the past months led to little direct communication about strategy, and neither Polk nor Hardee had a firm understanding of Bragg's plans. As the Union army outmaneuvered the Confederates, Bragg was forced to abandon Tullahoma and on July 4 retreated behind the Tennessee River. Tullahoma is recognized as a "brilliant" campaign for Rosecrans, achieving with minimal losses his goal of driving Bragg from Middle Tennessee. Judith Hallock wrote that Bragg was "outfoxed" and that his ill health may have been partially to blame for his performance, but her overall assessment was that he performed credibly during the retreat from Tullahoma, keeping his army intact under difficult circumstances. [43]

Although the Army of Tennessee had about 52,000 men at the end of July, the Confederate government merged the Department of East Tennessee, under Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, into Bragg's Department of Tennessee, which added 17,800 men to Bragg's army, but also extended his command responsibilities northward to the Knoxville area. This brought a third subordinate into Bragg's command who had little or no respect for him. [44] Buckner's attitude was colored by Bragg's unsuccessful invasion of Buckner's native Kentucky in 1862, as well as by the loss of his command through the merger. [45] A positive aspect for Bragg was Hardee's request to be transferred to Mississippi in July, but he was replaced by Lt. Gen. D.H. Hill, a general who had not gotten along with Robert E. Lee in Virginia. [46]

The Confederate War Department asked Bragg in early August if he could assume the offensive against Rosecrans if he were given reinforcements from Mississippi. He demurred, concerned about the daunting geographical obstacles and logistical challenges, preferring to wait for Rosecrans to solve those same problems and attack him. [47] An opposed crossing of the Tennessee River was not feasible, so Rosecrans devised a deception to distract Bragg above Chattanooga while the army crossed downstream. Bragg was rightfully concerned about a sizable Union force under Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside that was threatening Knoxville to the northeast, and Rosecrans reinforced this concern by feinting to his left and shelling the city of Chattanooga from the heights north of the river. The bulk of the Union army crossed the Tennessee southeast of Chattanooga by September 4 and Bragg realized that his position there was no longer tenable. He evacuated the city on September 8. [48]


Davis on Shiloh - History

"A Whole Church Serving A Whole God"

Devotion to Jesus has been a large part of the African-American experience. The black church has been and continues to be a powerful force in the African-American community. Thus it is no surprise that Shiloh, like many organizations, was founded when there were few safe places for Black people to worship in the Charlotte community.

Shiloh Baptist Church was organized on December 17, 1943 in the home of Mrs. McFadden on East Hill Street. Those in attendance included Dr. J. H. Moore (Minister of First Baptist Church), Reverend E. A. Steward (Minister of Salem Church), and Dr. D F. Moore (Minister of Antioch Baptist Church), along with five other members. These founders are now all deceased.

After the church was organized the congregation followed the bylaws of the Baptist doctrine and named th ​ e Reverend D. W. Gaither, who was part of the organization, as Shiloh’s first pastor. Under his leadership the church experienced rapid growth. In 1944, a house at 913 East Hill Street was purchased and renovated to accommodate the church membership. By 1949, membership grew to over 800 parishioners and the church was forced to build a larger sanctuary. In 1949, a two-story building was built on this property to replace the house. This remained the church’s home until 1966. In March 1953, Reverend Gaither resigned as pastor and Dr. J. Arthur White was named the new pastor.

In the early 1960’s it became necessary to change the church’s name to distinguish it from another church with the same name. Since this church was organized before we were, we changed our name. The church was renamed SHILOH INSTITUTIONAL BAPTIST CHURCH.

Under The leadership of Dr. White, Shiloh Institutional Baptist church continued to experience growth. The church had a dynamic Sunday School Department and was heavily involved in the Baptist Training Union. One outstanding accomplishment was hosting the National Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress held June 1966. This gathering gave new hope and determination to take our place among the churches of the nation and world.

Under the City of Charlotte’s Urban Renewal Project and the Redevelopment Commission, the church relocated to 200-208 South Bruns Avenue, which included a church, a separate educational building, and two houses. One of the houses was later used to start a church nursery and daycare.

On July 30, 1977, Dr. J. Arthur White retired after 25 years of dedicated service. The church named its third pastor Reverend Tommy G. Davis, a very modest yet highly educated man.

Under the Reverend Davis’ leadership, the church continued to make great strides. On July 2, 1978 Shiloh held a mortgage burning service for the Bruns Avenue location. The church’s membership continued to grow. Due to explosive growth, once again the church had to relocate to a larger sanctuary. In September 1983, the current edifice at 2400 Greenland Ave. was acquired. In October 1990, God called Reverend Tommie Davis home to be with his heavenly Father.

In January 1991, Reverend Clinton Ceasar, Sr. was named our fourth pastor. Under his leadership, membership increased along with improvements in our Christian education program and community involvement. Pastor Ceasar continued to teach and preach Christ centered messages until his departure in April 2006.

In August 2010, the church named its fifth Pastor, Rev. Dr. Charles Thompson, Jr. Under his leadership, the theme of “Loving God, Loving Others” has been adopted with a focus on spiritual maturity and holistic ministry to the congregation and community. Several ministries and small groups have been implemented to achieve this effort. From 2011 to 2012, the church partnered with the Hickory Grove Baptist Church to complete renovations on the upper wing. On May, 27, 2012, Shiloh held a mortgage burning for the Greenland Avenue location. Rev. Thompson continues to challenge the church in the need for excellence as workers, not just members, as family, not just congregation, as worship, not just church. By faith and grace, the church has a vision to be culturally-relevant and biblically sound.

While we count our blessings, we are reminded that the church will continue its journey towards completion of the Lord's Work. With Jesus, the future holds the same zeal and determination as in the past. God has brought us to this point in history. It is our hope that we will never be satisfied until EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, becomes servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


This abbreviated history was largely prepared in 2015. It was a project of the History and Archives Committee of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). At that time, the committee consisted of Janice P. Davies, Bernice Easley, Faye Jones, Roland Moore, Mark W. Olson, and Dee Simmons. Others have joined the committee since then. The information in this history is periodically updated or extended..

Sorrows and struggles, 1804–1854

S ome local records suggest that the first Baptist meeting house in Fredericksburg, Virginia, was established about 1804. The wooden building stood near what is now the Fredericksburg train station on Lafayette Boulevard. The congregation included white folks, enslaved and exploited Black folks, and a few individuals known locally as “free Negroes,” though their freedom was in no way equal to that of the whites.

Blacks who sought membership were examined first by certain Black brethren, then by a group of white deacons. Both groups had to be satisfied. Nearly all early churches in Fredericksburg had separate entrances for Blacks (often a side door), as well as separate seating areas (often a crudely furnished gallery), for blacks.

The original wooden building remained the main gathering place for Fredericksburg’s Baptists until 1815. At that time, some members withdrew and began worshiping in a building along the Rappahannock River at what is now the present location of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). This building, originally owned by the Bank of Virginia, had been badly damaged during the great Fredericksburg Fire of 1807, which destroyed about half of the buildings in town. The damaged shell had remained largely unused for a decade.

By 1818, some Baptists expressed interest in constructing a larger, more permanent building on the site, which perhaps encompassed the ruins of the earlier church. In April 1820, Horace Marshall and his wife, Elizabeth, sold the lot at what is now 801 Sophia Street to the trustees of “the New Baptist Meeting House” for $900. It is believed that a brick church building was erected on the site in the late 1830s or early 1840s. This building was known as “the Shiloh Baptist Meeting House.”

Even before the building was constructed, the congregation was thriving. According to one published report, by September 1831, the congregation had approximately 300 “members of color.” According to other reports, by the late 1830s or early 1840s, the congregation had more than eight hundred members, three-quarters of whom were “people of color.” Although these members constituted a majority of the membership, it is possible that most of those present at Sunday services were white, as the “colored” membership came from a wide area encompassing the City of Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Caroline counties. Enslaved individuals were not always allowed (or able) to attend services on a regular basis.

The original church building at what is now 801 Sophia Street had a balcony that wrapped around three sides of the sanctuary. On those Sundays when owners allowed their slaves to attend services, they entered the building through a separate side door that led directly to the gallery. Enslaved blacks sat in the side galleries, where they could presumably be better seen by their owners sitting on the main floor. “Free” Blacks sat in the end gallery.

This is an 1863 view of riverfront homes on the Rappahannock in Fredericksburg, just a few blocks from Shiloh. v

Sometime before 1844, Noah Davis, one of Shiloh’s enslaved members, was appointed as a deacon, but he longed to do more. He wanted to preach. This desire was in part due to his acquaintance with the Reverend Alexander Daniel, whom Davis considered “a bright and shining light among our people” and “the best preacher of color I ever heard.”

Davis shared his desire with the Reverend Armistead Walker, the enslaved leader of the African American portion of the early Shiloh congregation. Walker made Davis’s desires known to the “colored” members of the church, who supported his quest.

However, African Americans in Fredericksburg were not allowed to license any of their own for religious ministry. Because of this, Walker then took Davis’s request to “the white brethren,” who gave Davis a full hearing and granted him a license to preach.

Noah Davis, an African American “trailblazer,” was ordained to the ministry at Shiloh in the 1840s.

Davis later wrote and published a memoir entitled A Narrative of the Life of Reverend Noah Davis, a Colored Man, Written by Himself at the Age of Fifty-Four that recounted his experiences in Fredericksburg and elsewhere. He had already purchased the freedom of his wife and some of his children. Proceeds from the sale of his book helped him raise the money to purchase the freedom of his two enslaved children. In 2012, in recognition of Noah Davis’s achievements, the Library of Virginia recognized him as one of the “African American Trailblazers” in Virginia history.

By 1849, some of those meeting for worship at the Shiloh Baptist Meeting House expressed interest in constructing a new and larger Baptist church building in Fredericksburg. This building, to be located at the corner of Princess Anne and Amelia streets, would be exclusively for whites.

A committee was established to seek financial pledges to underwrite the cost of construction. The committee recommended that the building then standing at what is now 801 Sophia Street be “given” to the Black membership upon completion of the new building for whites, provided that the “colonials” — the term used in the church minutes for slave owners — made a pledge of $1,100 or more toward the cost of the new whites-only sanctuary. After the “colonials” fulfilled this pledge, the Black members would be “given” the building in which they had long worshiped.

Although it is now a private residence, this building at Charles and Frederick streets served during the 1850s as a privately run jail. It was owned at the time by Fredericksburg’s principal slave trader, a man named George Aler.

Dreams and hopes, 1854–1862

B eginning in 1854 while construction was underway — and in anticipation of the forthcoming division of the congregation — Black members of Shiloh began meeting separately on Sunday afternoons in the old building on the banks of the Rappahannock. This was the “holy ground” on which they had long worshiped. This was the “holy ground” on which they had sensed the liberating love of a God who confronts the Pharaohs of the world with a power that can shake loose all who are oppressed. For this reason, the largely African American congregation at 801 Sophia Street in Fredericksburg has long used 1854 as its starting date.

This auction block, located at the corner of William and Charles streets, near the entrance to what was once the Planters’ Hotel, was where many of Fredericksburg’s enslaved human beings were bought and sold.

The break between the white and black segments of Shiloh’s congregation became official in 1855. When the new building on Princess Anne and Amelia streets opened its doors in the spring of 1855, the approximately 250 white members of what had once been known as “Shiloh” officially “dismissed” from their membershipp all 625 or more of their “colored brethren” (male and female).

There was, however, some lingering financial tension. On March 26, 1856, the official board of the white congregation said it would support the establishment of a separate constitution for the “colored portion of the church” if the “colored” congregation would pay $500 “toward liquidation of the debt incurred in erecting the new church.”

How much of this was paid, and when, is not clear. In the minutes of the white congregation, the records show that they approved the transfer of the title of the 801 Sophia Street property to the “colored” congregation upon receipt of a note from that congregation stating they would pay $100 still due to the white congregation. It is known that a gift of $11.30 toward this cost was collected by the First African Church of Richmond and sent to Fredericksburg as a gift in support of their “sisters and brothers” on the Rappahannock.

This is an 1864 view of the new whites-only Baptist church on Princess Anne Street that had been built close to ten years earlier. Its steeple soared high in the air, perhaps reflecting the desire of some of its members regarding their own personal “supremacy” — socially, economically, and spiritually.

The white congregation at the new location gradually began referring to itself as “Fredericksburg Baptist Church” rather than as “Shiloh” and informally referred to the church at 801 Sophia Street as “the African Baptist Church.” However, it seems as if most Black Baptists in Fredericksburg continued to think of themselves as “Shiloh,” because this name had long been the church’s primary identity.

At this time, it was required by law that a white overseer be present whenever people of color held a church service. In 1857, George Rowe, a self-educated, white Fredericksburg resident, became the congregation’s legally required pastor/overseer. He charged $50 a month for his services, to be paid by the free and enslaved members of the congregation.

Prior to the Civil War, George Rowe, a man ardently opposed to the abolition of slavery, was appointed to serve as our legally mandated white pastor and overseer. He served for five years—until the arrival of Union troops near Fredericksburg.

In late November of 1857, the Reverend George Rowe baptized eighteen new members of his congregation in the undoubtedly chilly Rappahannock River. At that time, he reported to the local press that the congregation’s membership was in excess of 700 individuals.

Within five years, however, the outbreak of the Civil War had a monumental effect on the congregation. When Union troops arrived in the area in 1862, more than half of the congregation fled the degradation of slavery and racial discrimination that had prevailed in Fredericksburg to occupy free areas to the north. At some point in 1862, due to the destruction of the city caused by the Civil War and Rowe’s own failing health, regular Sunday services were discontinued. Rowe’s resignation as pastor/overseer took effect January 1, 1863, simultaneous with the formal declaration of Emancipation. He died three years later on January 18, 1866.

According to congregational records, during the period of time in which Rowe served as the official pastor/overseer, much of the actual preaching and spiritual direction was provided by the congregation’s own Black deacons. In fact, one of those deacons, the Reverend Armistead Walker, is described in early documents as “one of the first ordained colored ministers” in Virginia. According to a letter written on December 7, 1855, held in the archives of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg, Armistead Walker and George Rowe shared the pastoral duties at Shiloh.

Walker died on January 4, 1860. After his death, other African American deacons, including William J. Walker and George L. Dixon, continued to provide much of the preaching and spiritual leadership, while Rowe held the “official” position as pastor and overseer.

A fateful lightning, 1862–1865

I nitially, the Civil War had little effect on Shiloh, though rumors and stories — as well as fears and hopes — must have abounded. In July 1861, the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed the army’s emerging and previously informal “contraband policy.” This policy absolved “all army officers and soldiers from any moral, if not legal, obligation to return runaways.”

The resolution approved by the House of Representatives had been introduced by Illinois Republican Owen Lovejoy. The resolution declared that “in the judgment of this House, it is no part of the duty of the soldiers of the United States to capture and return fugitive slaves” (quoted in Kenneth J. Winkle, Lincoln’s Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, D. C. [New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013], 236).

Consistent with this resolution, President Abraham Lincoln issued a formal opinion in August 1861, stating that in rebellious regions — which would include Fredericksburg — any slaves crossing to Union lines were “thus liberated.”

President Abraham Lincoln’s strategic decision to offer “liberation” to enslaved individuals found behind Union Army lines had a major effect on many people in Shiloh’s pre-war congregation. Lincoln is shown meeting here in 1862 with a group of Union Army officers.

During the early years of the Civil War, slavery was still legal in the District of Columbia, but it was finally and effectively abolished in the District of Columbia by a bill signed by President Lincoln on April 16, 1862.

Two days later, on Good Friday 1862, Union troops moved into Falmouth, just across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. John M. Washington, an enslaved member of Shiloh Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, was working at the Shakespeare House Hotel on Caroline Street when news came of the advancing Union troops.

As the hotel’s customers along with many white residents of Fredericksburg fled from the city, often taking their slaves with them, Washington boldly decided to test President Abraham Lincoln’s new contraband policy by escaping into Union lines. He persuaded a few others to join him. Consequently, he became the one of the first enslaved individuals to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg during this phase of the war. Many others followed.

One of the first individuals in Fredericksburg to bravely cross the Rappahannock seeking freedom from enslavement was Shiloh’s own John Washington, shown here later in life. His bold crossing of the river was on Good Friday 1862.

In the end, according to an early Shiloh history, about 400 of the congregation’s members ultimately fled to Washington or other places behind Union lines. Thousands of other enslaved individuals also made their way to Fredericksburg, crossing the river to freedom.

One early account notes that it was “only natural for these fellow church members to plan for a place where they might once more gather in prayer and praise God for their deliverance from the ravages of war” and the deep degradation of their past enslavement. As a result, twenty-one of the many individuals who had come from Shiloh in Fredericksburg began meeting together to organize a new congregation in Washington. Among them was Edward Brooke, one of whose descendants later became a United States senator from Massachusetts, and William J. Walker, a native of Fredericksburg and a nephew of the Reverend Armistead Walker.

Prior to the Civil War, William Walker had served with his uncle as one of the African American preaching deacons at Shiloh. While in Washington, D.C., Walker was ordained as a minister and became the founding pastor of what became known as Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington according to an article in the Washington Post, by the time this church celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1888, it had 850 members.

William Walker, the nephew of our first pastor, the Reverend Armistead Walker, had been a preaching deacon at Shiloh in Fredericksburg prior to the Civil War. During the war, he fled to Washington, D.C., where he pastored two churches that were initially composed largely of refugees from Shiloh in Fredericksburg.

The Reverend William Walker also played an influential role in establishing several other Baptist churches in the District of Columbia, including Zion Baptist, Enon, and Mt. Jezereel. Even while serving as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington, he preached at these other congregations.

Washington’s Zion Baptist Church also has ties to Fredericksburg. It was founded in 1864 by nine former members of Shiloh who were living at the time in southwest D.C. They bought Simpson’s Feed Store and remodeled it as a building for church services and educational programs. The Reverend William J. Walker served as their first minister.

During much of the Civil War, back in Fredericksburg, services at Shiloh Baptist Church on the Rappahannock were largely nonexistent. Much of the membership had fled to Washington. Others had been taken out of the area by their enslavers. Given the large-scale destruction throughout the city and the frequent changes in the military situation, church life become anything but stable.

In this 1863 view, Shiloh Baptist Church is about a third of the way from the right edge of the photo. It’s the relatively large two-story building just above the sloping bank of the river.

Shiloh’s building incurred significant damage during the Civil War. Like many buildings in Fredericksburg, the church was used as an army barracks. The sanctuary, located on the second floor, served as one of many hospitals for the care and treatment of the wounded. The ground floor was used as a stable for military horses.

According to eyewitness accounts, the building suffered much destruction at the hand of troops that were under the command of Union generals Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, and Ulysses Grant. Windows and pews were removed or destroyed. All of the seats were pulled out of the gallery, as were the stairs leading to the balcony. The plaster ceiling was knocked apart, and certain support pillars at the back of the structure were knocked out, severely weakening one corner of the building. It would take the church years to recover from this wreckage.

Fredericksburg’s African Americans were often enlisted to bury the diseased and decomposing bodies of Civil War soldiers, as illustrated in this photo from the Library of Congress.

At some point during the war, George Dixon, another of the refugees from Shiloh in Fredericksburg, was released from service as a guide to Union General Irvin McDowell. Afterward, he sought ordination from Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington. Much like the Shiloh congregation in Fredericksburg, the congregation of Nineteenth Street Baptist had been “dismissed” from a previously racially diverse congregation that was becoming all white. This newly white congregation became known as First Baptist Church of Washington.

Down by the riverside, 1865–1878

A t some point, either shortly before the war was over or soon after, the newly ordained Reverend George Dixon made a commitment to return to Fredericksburg to provide critical leadership for the church that he had left behind. Some of Shiloh’s members had either chosen to remain in the area during the war or had been unable to leave. Others had joined the exodus to the District of Columbia but were now anxious to return.

This signature of the Reverend George L. Dixon was found on an old certificate, documenting a marriage at which he had officiated. Unfortunately, we have no photographs of him.

On December 24, 1866, Shiloh’s “Sabbath School” held its first post-war Christmas Eve program. It opened with a prayer by the Reverend Dixon, after which the assembled scholars sang “in a spirited manner” the Christmas hymn “Glory to God in the Highest.” The scholars, allowed to learn to read and write for the first time, read aloud in unison the second chapter of Matthew, after which they recited from memory the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed. This was followed by an “able address” by Dr. J. D. Harris, an African American physician who had come to Fredericksburg under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau and who served as superintendent of Shiloh’s school.

By 1869, Shiloh was “growing rapidly in numbers.” In April 1871, Dixon was said to have baptized twenty-seven persons in the river on a single day. In March 1877, ninety new converts were baptized in a single afternoon. Most baptisms were conducted at “the old baptizing place” in the Rappahannock River, just above the railroad bridge. On one occasion, the local press reported that “more than a thousand spectators of both colors” came to the church for one of Shiloh’s baptismal efforts. In addition to aiding in the growth of the church’s membership, Dixon also obtained a $400 grant from the Freedmen’s Bureau to undertake some renovations of Shiloh’s badly damaged building.

Simultaneously, Dixon was also leading the congregation’s African American members in political activity, including organizing Emancipation Day (New Year’s Day) marches through the streets of the city. According to a newspaper report, the march in 1870 included “several hundred colored persons” and concluded in the vicinity of Kenmore with speeches by Reverend Dixon and another colored man, Joseph Evars. A Shiloh-based benevolent society known as “the Good Samaritans” led the procession. In some other years, the procession ended at Shiloh, where the sanctuary was used for speeches. A brass band often provided music during the processions, and those that occurred after dark were torch-lit.

Dixon was active in the local Republican Party, sometimes serving on the committees that nominated candidates for the state legislature. In 1869, one of the individuals he helped nominate was a former Union Army officer, Captain Edwin McMahon. The candidate admitted to the local press that he would probably be seen by some people as a carpet bagger, and he said that within that “carpet bag” he carried his deepest sentiments, the sentiments on which he would stand or fall. In 1876, Dixon was one of seven African Americans who ran, unsuccessfully, for Fredericksburg’s City Council.

In 1878, Dixon resigned as pastor, confessing to the congregation that he had violated the seventh of the Ten Commandments. After approximately one year’s time, he was again accepted as a pastor, serving churches in Spotsylvania and Caroline counties while continuing to live in Fredericksburg. In time, his relationship with Shiloh was restored, and he served as guest speaker on special occasions. Although he died in 1907 in Philadelphia, where he had moved to live with a daughter, his body was returned to Fredericksburg and interred in the Shiloh Cemetery, located in the neighborhood that is now below Marye’s Heights, just two blocks below the current campus of the University of Mary Washington.

Toil and trouble, 1878–1887

I n the autumn of 1878, the Reverend Lemuel Walden assumed the pastorate and later helped establish the Shiloh Cemetery. A Shaw University graduate, Walden served Shiloh for three years. He served during a deeply discouraging time. Federal troops had been withdrawn from the South. Whites had taken control in Virginia and most other states, undermining earlier hopes for Black advancement, politically, socially, and economically.

Rev. Walden left Shiloh in 1881, before accepting a pastorate in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Reverend Lemuel Walden served as Shiloh’s pastor for three years, beginning in 1878. It was a time of growing repression for Black Virginians. V

Following Walden, the Reverend Willis Robinson arrived as pastor in 1881. He faced the task of rebuilding the confidence of the congregation while also restoring a building weakened by flooding and the continued effect of other damage that occurred during the war.

In 1882, land on what is now Monument Avenue in Fredericksburg was purchased from A. P. Rowe for use as the Shiloh Cemetery.

The Reverend Willis Robinson began pastoring at Shiloh in 1881. After a painful division of the congregation, he became pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site). A charismatic figure, he later served as pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Fredericksburg. Today, all three congregations that he pastored—Shiloh Old Site, Shiloh New Site, and Mt. Zion—maintain warm ties.

Through rallies and other innovative projects, Robinson raised $1,500 for repairs to the building. Because it wasn’t enough for the work that was required, the deacons of the church voted to postpone action until the full amount could be raised. However, this delay proved ill-advised. On June 11, 1886, following a meeting of the Grand Lodge of the Good Samaritans, a thunderous crash rocked the area as the rear wall of the building collapsed. This left the structure unrepairable, requiring demolition.

After the building’s collapse, the congregation met in the Fredericksburg Courthouse for nearly a year. During this time, deep divisions emerged within the congregation. At one point, Shiloh’s trustees purchased a lot at Princess Anne and Wolfe streets for $600. They planned to construct a new building for Shiloh on that site, which, at the time, contained a large brick building known as the Revere Shop. Some members wanted to move the congregation to that new location others insisted on rebuilding on the original location. The congregation was almost evenly divided.

The last business meeting of the combined congregation was at the courthouse in May 1887. The Reverend Robinson was not present. Frank Phillips, a leading member of the congregation, presided. There was much division over what to do. By late May 1887, some of Shiloh’s members began meeting on Sundays at the Revere Shop, with the Reverend Robinson in charge. Other Shiloh members, opposed to use of the new site, continued meeting at the courthouse with preaching provided on an interim basis by a Reverend Jones.

Thriving and striving, 1887–1910

L egal questions concerning title for the new property on Princess Anne Street arose in June 1887, resulting in an injunction prohibiting any new construction on the new site.

By late 1887, the Reverend James E. Brown, a native of Chesterfield, Virginia, assumed the pastorate of the congregation that remained at the courthouse, while Robinson continued as pastor of those who were meeting at the new site in the Revere Shop. Both groups considered themselves the “true” Shiloh Baptist Church and wanted to use the church’s name. On November 30, 1888, a local judge issued a final decree, ordering a compromise and division of assets, with each group using the name Shiloh Baptist Church with the addition of either “Old Site” or “New Site.” By May 1889, both groups had approved resolutions resolving all conflicts, and the division of assets was complete by July 1889. The congregation remaining at 801 Sophia Street would be known as Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site).

The Reverend James Brown served as our pastor during a key period. He lived on Sophia, less than a block down the street from Shiloh.

The Reverend James Brown oversaw the laying of a cornerstone for a new building on the old site on June 18, 1890. This festive ceremony included members of the Garfield Light Infantry and the Masonic Lodge #4 A. F. and A. M. The church was constructed by renowned local carpenter and builder C. G. Heflin of C. G. Heflin & Bro. Charles Granville Heflin was born in 1867 as the oldest child to Carter and Alice Heflin. His younger brother, Elmer G. “Peck” Heflin, went on to become one of the most prolific and well-known architects in turn-of-the-century Fredericksburg. Opening ceremonies in the new sanctuary were held on October 26, 1890.

A festive outdoor service of worship and thanksgiving was held in June 1890 to mark the laying of a cornerstone for construction of our current sanctuary.

Brown continued as pastor until 1905, during which time the church thrived. In 1891, just a year after the new building’s construction, the local press reported more than two hundred children in regular attendance at the Sunday school.

On August 28, 1905, the Reverend John Allen Brown, a Washingtonian, became the pastor. During his tenure, a central bell tower was added to the Sophia Street side of the new building. After five years of service, he left to go to St. John Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia.

This photo, probably taken between 1905 and 1910, shows what our relatively new building looked like after the later addition of a central bell tower. , a

Hopes and visions, 1910–1961

T he Reverend John C. Diamond became the pastor of Shiloh (Old Site) on November 18, 1910. Born July 22, 1877, he was a graduate of Hampton Institute and Howard University. During his time as pastor, the federal government paid for some of the damage caused by Union troops during the Civil War. In addition to serving as pastor, he was an architect and skilled builder. He used these skills to construct an addition on the back of the building. While construction was underway, human bones, identified as the remains of Union soldiers, were found on the river side of the building. In early July 1916, these were reinterred in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

In 1914, our sanctuary featured curved pews and a small choir loft. .

For a while, Reverend Diamond taught part-time at the Fredericksburg Normal & Industrial Institute (F.N.&I.I.). Also during his time as pastor, the church purchased some property on Amelia Street, where Reverend Diamond oversaw the building of a parsonage. The first stained-glass windows in the church were also installed under his leadership.

Shiloh Old Site’s beloved pastor, the Reverend John C. Diamond, along with his wife Theresa (as seen in this 1914 photo), often visited in members’ homes on Sunday afternoons.

After the United States entered World War I, a group of local citizens organized to raise money for the United War Work Fund. This was a combined effort of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the National Catholic War Council, the Jewish Welfare Board, the War Camp Community Service, the American Library Association, and the Salvation Army to promote “high standards of morality” among soldiers and sailors and to aid them in resisting “temptations” as they returned to civilian life. Reverend Diamond of Shiloh (Old Site) served as chairman of the city’s efforts. The local group collected $17,542.15, of which $1,226.25 came from the Black community.

Reverend Diamond served Shiloh until 1920. He returned frequently thereafter as a guest speaker.

After coming to Shiloh Old Site in 1922, the Reverend B.H. Hester showed himself to be full of energy, courage, and vision. He was a passionate pastor, educator, and social activist whose motto was “neutral on nothing.”

The next pastor, the Reverend B. H. Hester, was selected in 1921 and formally installed in 1922. He had received degrees from Biddle University in North Carolina in 1918 and from Virginia Union University in Richmond in 1921. You can read more about his remarkable life in a beautifully illustrated book, entitled Neutral on Nothing , written in 2019 by his granddaughter, the Hon. Pamela Bridgewater Awkard.

Reverend Hester was a gifted writer and educator and served for some years not only as the principal but also as a teacher and coach at the F.N.&I.I. It served for many years as the only educational institution in the area open to African Americans who wished to pursue a high school education. Reverend Hester began as Fredericksburg Normal & Industrial Institute’s principal in the fall of 1929.

By 1918 Fredericksburg paid the school $1,000 a year for each “colored” school-age citizen of the city who enrolled. This provided less than was needed for much-needed improvements. In addition, the school admitted students from Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Caroline counties. Their modest tuition and board covered only a portion of the costs. Additional funds for the institute, informally known as Mayfield High School, were raised in part by individuals and groups at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). Although most of the groups and organizations contributing to the school were Black, a few prominent white residents also made contributions. For example, in 1918, the school reported that artist Gari Melchers of Falmouth had contributed $10.

The school initially held classes in an old farmhouse that had once been known as Moorefield. To raise money for future construction, the school sold unneeded land acquired with the farmhouse. As they were developed, these new residential lots gradually became the neighborhood currently known as Mayfield. Thanks to the sale of lots and additional assistance provided by Shiloh (Old Site) and others, the Fredericksburg Normal & Industrial Institute was able to move into a new more academically oriented building on November 16, 1925.

The new building was used for its original purpose for only thirteen years. The city built a new elementary school for Black children on a lot near Gunnery Spring in 1935. Three years later, the city expanded the facility and asked secondary school students from F.N.&I.I. to move to that building. This allowed a single principal to oversee both the elementary and secondary education of African Americans. In time, the combined institution acquired the name Walker-Grant in recognition of Joseph Walker and Jason Grant, both of whom had been instrumental in the founding of F.N.&I.I.

During the 1941–1942 academic year, the faculty of Walker-Grant, the city’s Black high school, posed for a photo. The group included several members of Shiloh Old Site.

In 1923, Reverend Hester instituted a “Night School” at the church for adults who sought to increase their skills or overcome their illiteracy. This church-based educational effort continued for at least four years, with enrollment running as high as 300. Students ranged in age from sixteen to seventy-five. Said Reverend Hester about the school, which met every Monday, Thursday, and Friday evening during the school year, “You are never too old to attend.…Can you read the constitution? Do you wish to qualify to vote? If so, come out and join us. We have taught people to read and write in six months and can teach you to do the same.” The cost for those “who are able to pay” was $1 per month, but those without funds were welcome to attend without charge.

Education in many forms was a priority during the pastorate of the B.H. Hester. This is a portion of the Sunday school in early 1925.

In January 1925, Reverend Hester initiated a newsletter called The Shiloh Herald. Although it was published by Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site), it provided a wide range of local news to the black community: who was ill, who was recovering, who had died, who had married, who had been born, who had had out-of-town visitors, who had recently traveled north, and so forth.

The Shiloh Herald was also instrumental in providing a strong African American perspective on important justice issues, a voice that was otherwise not available in the local media. Its motto, published in every issue, was “For all things beneficial and uplifting against all things injurious and detrimental neutral on nothing.” Reverend Hester, who served as editor-in-chief, explained at one point that he believed a responsible press should work “to change conditions in America and make them what they should be.” Courage was required, he said, because a truthful and responsible press needed to “stand before demagogues and damn their treacherous flatterers without winking.”

Every week in the late 1920s, The Shiloh Herald delivered local news of interest to African Americans. The news it published was not often found in the local press. The Shiloh Herald also delivered strong, outspoken editorials on voting rights, lynchings, white arrogance, Supreme Court decisions, and more. .

Editorials in The Shiloh Herald regularly sought to embody this understanding. For example, a March 1927 issue addressed the action of the U.S. Supreme Court in invalidating a Texas law that had prohibited black Texans from voting in that state’s Democratic primary elections. In Texas at the time, these were the only elections that really mattered because African Americans, who had typically been the primary group in Texas voting Republican, had been effectively disenfranchised during general elections, thus assuring a final victory for whoever won the Democratic primary.

Editorials in The Shiloh Herald pulled no punches, as can be seen in these excerpts from an editorial addressing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case known as Nixon v. Herndon:

Any ignoramus could have easily seen that such a law was unconstitutional and any court in hades would have declared it so at first sight. The fact that such a law found its way to the Supreme Court shows that something is radically wrong in America…. The Negro has been satisfied too long with decisions in his favor, when the courts making them were not concerned with backing them up…. What the Negro needs is not more decisions, but sentiment in his favor. He needs a government that will treat all its citizens exactly and precisely alike

Another 1927 editorial pointed with shame toward what it called the tiny “den” at the city’s railway station that is “called a waiting room for colored people.” And why is it, the same editorial asked, that “whenever a crime or wicked deed has been committed in a community the Negroes are suspected and their homes are searched?”

In like manner, a strongly worded 1926 editorial, presumably by Reverend Hester, described those “who seek to keep others in ignorance and weakness” as “dangerous demagogues,” cutting at the very life of the nation. “The strength of a nation does not depend,” he wrote, “upon its standing armies or latent resources but upon the peace, prosperity, and satisfaction” of its “weakest citizens.”

Four months later, The Shiloh Herald strongly criticized a prominent white pastor from Richmond who had been “trying to pick a fuss with the Queen of Rumania [sic]…because a few Baptists in far-off Rumania are not allowed to worship as they please.” Such a concern was utterly misplaced, argued The Shiloh Herald, for the individual in question had expressed no concern whatsoever about the ongoing horror of U.S. lynch mobs:

We suggest to Dr. McDaniel that he can start a timely fight without going to Rumania. He can go to the office of Governor Byrd and inquire concerning the Wytheville lynching, why the investigation stopped so abruptly or he can go to the state of South Carolina and insult the governor there because of the recent lynching of three human beings, one a woman or he can go to the state of Texas and inform the governor that it is not right to allow a mob to burn three people at one time, especially not when one is a woman or he can go to the White House and start a fuss with the great silent man, Calvin Coolidge, by telling him to use his great influence to have the Dyer Anti-Lynch Law passed.

A team of “distributors” delivered the four-page weekly paper directly to African American homes in Fredericksburg. Distribution of The Shiloh Herald continued for at least three years, probably more.

Members of The Shiloh Herald staff gather for a photo on a chilly Sunday in February 1925.

During the first half of the twentieth century, many prominent African Americans spoke at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). Among them were Thomas Calhoun Walker, a Richmond lawyer who promoted education and land ownership among African Americans and served as a legal protector of many endangered African American youth the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., founder of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church W. E. B. Du Bois, an outspoken African American sociologist, historian, and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, widely known as an educator and civil rights activist and Nannie Burroughs, an African American educator, feminist, religious leader, and civil rights activist.

In 1923, under Reverend Hester’s leadership, money was collected for purchase of a Moller pipe organ for the church. Many individuals and groups in the congregation (especially Julia Sprow Ross Frazier) worked hard to raise money through bake sales, musical programs, and other efforts. The installation and dedication of the organ was celebrated during a series of music-filled weeknight services, May 18–22, 1925. During this time, although relationships were still strained with the city’s white Baptists, Shiloh (Old Site) enjoyed mutually supportive relationships with the city’s Presbyterian and Episcopal congregations. For example, the pastors of both the Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg and Trinity Episcopal Church attended one or more of the weeknight organ dedication services, offering public words of greeting and support.

In July 1925, with funds still needed to complete payment on the organ, a helping hand was extended by the Reverend R. V. Lancaster, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg, who invited Shiloh’s choir, joined by other local African Americans, to provide an outdoor, Sunday evening concert of spirituals on the steps of the Presbyterian Church. A crowd gathered, and at the conclusion of the singing, which was reported to have left the audience in tears, the Reverend Dudley Boogher, pastor of St. George’s Episcopal Church, provided a sermon, after which a free-will offering was collected, yielding $70.93 to be used toward the cost of Shiloh (Old Site)’s pipe organ. The organ remains in use to this day. Earlier that year, Reverend Lancaster of the Presbyterian Church had also been the featured speaker at the closing exercises for students enrolled in the night school at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site).

In March 1925, the Reverend Hester single-handedly brought about a major change in the text and headline style of a major Richmond, Virginia, newspaper, the News Leader. Writing on church letterhead in his official capacity as pastor, the Reverend Hester addressed the editor of the News Leader, objecting to that newspaper’s repeated use of “derogatory” and “un-Christian” language in describing people of color. He particularly objected to the use of such terms as “darkie” and “coon,” which the paper had commonly used until that point. After some consideration of the Reverend Hester’s position, the editor of the newspaper wrote him at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site), agreeing with his reasoning and announcing that from that time forward, those terms would no longer appear in the pages of the News Leader.

In response to a persuasively written letter from our pastor, a major Richmond newspaper agreed in 1925 to cease referring to Black residents of the state as “coons” and “darkies.”

In 1927, the Reverend Hester researched, wrote, and published a history of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site). On June 11, 1946, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University. He served the congregation and community until 1961, an illustrious forty years.

On the evening of Thursday, October 15, 1942, after several days of heavy rains, the Rappahannock River began to rise. On the following afternoon, it reached a record stage of 45 feet above normal. The entire lower floors of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) were inundated. Water rose to within 20 inches of the ceiling of the ground floor. Chairs, a piano, some small organs, hymn books, Bibles, and as many records and files as possible were moved to upper floors. Walls, woodwork, and floors on the lower level of the church were severely damaged. Some records were lost. No services were held at the church the following Sunday.

During the second quarter of the twentieth century, the building’s front side underwent an extensive renovation with the addition of a new façade. Records of the exact date were apparently lost in the aforementioned flood.

This 1954 photo illustrates changes that were made in our building’s facade after a 1942 flood. The bell that once hung in a central tower was moved to a tower on the right front side of the building, and the arch over the main entrance was flattened slightly.

Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) repeatedly used portions of its scarce assets to meet the needs of the larger community. For example, in January 1949, the church contributed $3,744 to the building fund of Mary Washington, the city’s only hospital, which still maintained a strict racial segregation of its patients. Members of the church hoped that the hospital’s practices would change once a new building was constructed.

Throughout Reverend Hester’s tenure as pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) played a strong role in working to see that as many local African Americans as possible were qualified to vote in local, state, and national elections. Through its night classes for adults, the church promoted greater literacy in an effort to overcome certain unjust obstacles to voting that had been imposed by the state. Despite the financial hardships involved, the church also actively promoted the paying of the capitation (“poll”) tax that was necessary to participate in elections in Virginia.

Each year, the city of Fredericksburg published a list of who was eligible to vote, based on who had paid the “capitation tax,” which had been designed to limit the electoral involvement of those with more limited financial resources, especially Blacks.

One of the key church and community leaders who emerged during Reverend Hester’s pastorate was Dr. Philip Y. Wyatt, Sr., a Charlottesville native, who opened a dental practice in Fredericksburg in 1933. Dr. Wyatt became Shiloh (Old Site)’s clerk, a presiding deacon, one of the church’s primary financial officers, a church school teacher, and when Reverend Hester’s health began to decline, he also often served as the church’s Sunday morning preacher. An outspoken advocate for racial justice, Dr. Wyatt during the 1940s became secretary of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). By 1953, he had been elected as president of the Fredericksburg chapter of the NAACP, a post he held through 1974. In 1953, he served as program chairman for the NAACP’s state conference, and by 1957, he had been elected as the organization’s Virginia president. He was reelected the following year, and remained in that position until 1960. He later served as co-chairman of the Fredericksburg Biracial Commission and as a member of the Virginia State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Dr. Philip Wyatt, a deacon at Shiloh Old Site, was one of many active leaders in state and local civil rights efforts. ,

Using his involvement in the church, the NAACP, and numerous other civic organizations, Dr. Wyatt was instrumental in pricking the conscience of the community so that the problems of minority inequities, inclusion, and opportunity were aired and addressed. While many cities in the nation were experiencing violence, destruction, and disruption, Fredericksburg remained relatively calm. It was Dr. Wyatt’s leadership, combined with skillful mediation and negotiations, that helped to maintain harmony and peace while historic changes were made.

As an officer of both Shiloh (Old Site) and the local NAACP, Dr. Wyatt frequently served as an informal advisor to members of the local African American community during various struggles in search of racial justice. One of the earliest of these encounters occurred in 1950. The only high school open at that time to African American students in Fredericksburg and southern Stafford County was the weakly funded Walker-Grant High School, located just off of Dixon Street in the city. In June 1950, the high school was preparing for its largest graduating class to date (27 individuals). It became clear that the school’s own facilities would be too small to host all of the students, friends, family members, teachers, and administrators who wanted to attend. On the advice of Dr. Wyatt, James Walker, the senior class president and a member of Shiloh (Old Site), approached the city. Mrs. R. C. Ellison, president of the Walker-Grant Parent Teachers Association and a member of Shiloh (Old Site), accompanied him. They asked for permission to hold the school’s commencement ceremonies at the city’s spacious Community Center, customarily used only by whites.

Initially, the city refused the request. Dr. Wyatt then advised James Walker on strategies for appealing the decision. Eventually, the city relented, agreeing that the Black high school could use the Community Center for its commencement but stipulating that no student, teacher, or family member could enter through the front doors. All people of color would be required to enter and exit through a small side door near the back of the building.

James Walker, the class president, reported this restriction to his class members and said that he would rather get his diploma on the sidewalk than be forced to enter the Community Center through the back door. Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) then stepped in and offered its facilities for the commencement. With Dr. Wyatt and Mrs. Ellison from Shiloh (Old Site) assisting with the planning and with the full backing of the Fredericksburg chapter of the NAACP, the Walker-Grant High School senior class then developed a plan to meet in caps and gowns on commencement day outside the front doors of the Community Center, holding large signs saying, “These doors closed to us” and “This entrance closed to us.”

With encouragement from leaders at Shiloh Old Site and the Fredericksburg Branch of the NAACP, the 1950 Walker-Grant High School graduating class made abundantly clear the racist discrimination that had too long been foisted on local Black citizens.

A crowd of at least three hundred gathered in support of the demonstration. After the graduating class sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often described as “the Negro national anthem,” and after a prayer, Dr. Wyatt presented two “dummy diplomas,” making a speech about how the class was “learning at the outset that life is filled with problems.” They then marched peacefully from there to Shiloh (Old Site), where the actual commencement ceremony was held. Although Shiloh (Old Site)’s sanctuary was smaller than ideal, it was a church that had supported and encouraged the class in its protest, and a number of Walker-Grant’s students and teachers were members of the congregation.

When the 1950 graduating class of Walker-Grant High School (pictured here) was required to use the back door to enter the city’s publicly owned community center for its graduation exercises, the group marched in its robes to Shiloh Old Site, where an alternative graduation ceremony was held. f

The intensity of feeling that the protest generated can be seen in a letter to the editor, published in The Free Lance-Star, by the Fredericksburg city attorney, C. O’Conor Goolrick. In his letter, attorney Goolrick called the protest a “childish demonstration” and suggested that “if the city is to be subjected to any more of these trumped-up racial protests, then, in my opinion, the best thing to do is to dispose of [the Community Center] by sale or lease to private owners.”

The next month, Fredericksburg’s NAACP responded to the situation by requesting use of the Community Center for a mass meeting to discuss educational inequalities in the city, voting rights, and an end to discrimination in transportation and other public facilities. A letter urging all local African Americans to attend the meeting was distributed at the city’s Black churches, including Shiloh (Old Site), on the last Sunday of July 1950. Three of the letter’s four signers were members of Shiloh (Old Site): Dr. Wyatt, Willa Mae Coleman, and Jerry Taylor. Shortly after the letter went out, the NAACP’s request to use the facility was denied, allegedly because the building “had been spoken for” by a white “Youth Canteen,” though an African American citizen whose home was across the street from the Community Center entered the building at the requested hour of the NAACP’s meeting and found the auditorium in darkness, with only three men “laughing and talking” in one of the side rooms. The denial of access served to strengthen the commitment of Dr. Wyatt and other leaders at Shiloh (Old Site) to work for faster change on local, state, and national levels.

Leaders of the Baptist Training Union gathered in 1954 for a group photo at Shiloh Old Site. Dr. Philip Wyatt is sitting in the front row, near the center.

The congregation at Shiloh (Old Site) tried to support efforts in other locations as well. For example, on Sunday, March 18, 1956, the congregation collected a special offering in support of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. The Fredericksburg chapter of the Virginia Voters League, in which Dr. Wyatt was heavily involved, regularly held its monthly meetings at Shiloh (Old Site). And in July 1961, the church hosted a mass meeting featuring the leader of protests against racial discrimination in Lynchburg, Virginia.

On behalf of Dr. Wyatt from Shiloh (Old Site) and twelve other named individuals, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sent a letter on December 3, 1958, to a large number of Black ministers in Virginia, urging them to rally their members to attend a nonviolent “Pilgrimage for Public Schools” to be held in Richmond on Emancipation Day (January 1), 1959. As a result of the letter, about eighteen hundred protesters marched two miles from the Richmond Mosque to the state capital.

In April 1960, Dr. Wyatt called a mass meeting in Fredericksburg, attended by about 350 of the area’s African Americans, to build support for “courageous members of our race who strive for true democracy in sit-in movements” to integrate some of the city’s whites-only lunch counters. At the meeting, Dr. Wyatt sharply criticized the Virginia General Assembly for “hurriedly passing anti-trespassing laws” and urged “100 percent support” by local African Americans for the new efforts.

Dr. Wyatt, Mamie Scott, and Gladys Poles Todd, all members of Shiloh (Old Site), trained about twenty local high school students for the sit-in effort, which began July 1, 1960, and continued throughout that month. Three downtown businesses were targeted: Woolworth’s, W. T. Grant’s, and Peoples Drug Store. Many of the participating high school students walked downtown from more distant neighborhoods, including Mayfield.

Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) served as the staging and planning area for each day’s activity. Groups of students sat in at each location, rotating to a new location after an hour, while others picketed on the sidewalk in front of the business. Those sitting-in at the counter would occupy every third seat, which theoretically left seats available for other customers, but any other customer would thus have to sit next to an African American, which they knew most would choose not to do. However, as soon as the students would arrive, staff at each of the lunch counters would put out signs saying, “This Section Closed,” and as soon as the students left, the signs would be removed. After a month of protests, Woolworth’s and W. T. Grant (not joined by Peoples) announced a change of policy. To test the change in policy, seven African Americans, led by Dr. Wyatt from Shiloh (Old Site), immediately went to the two stores on the afternoon of July 30—and were served.

That same summer, two young members of Shiloh (Old Site)—Kenneth Wyatt and Gaye Todd—called on the local manager of Pitts Theaters to seek the privilege of sitting in any seat rather than those less desirable seats that had previously been designated for African Americans. The manager informed them that as of that moment, there would no longer be special seats for either whites or Blacks.

After Reverend Hester’s death in 1972, his family remained active in the church. His granddaughter, Pamela Bridgewater-Awkard, served for many years in the U.S. State Department, including stints as U.S. ambassador or other official emissary in many nations, including Belgium, South Africa, the Bahamas, Benin, Ghana, and Jamaica.

Commitment and courage, 1962–2012

T he Reverend Lawrence A. Davies, a native of Houston, Texas, with degrees from Howard University School of Divinity and Wesley Theological Seminary, became the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) on March 4, 1962, and retired as pastor exactly fifty years later on March 4, 2012.

The Reverend Lawrence A. Davies served as Shiloh Old Site’s pastor for fifty years. He is shown here a few months after his arrival in 1962.

Six months after Reverend Davies began as Shiloh (Old Site)’s pastor, Roland Moore, a fourteen-year-old member of the congregation, became the first African American to be admitted to the city’s James Monroe High School. One of his aunts had been in the group from Walker-Grant High School that had been denied admission to the Community Center for that school’s commencement ceremonies. Although Moore’s enrollment at James Monroe had no coverage whatsoever in the local newspaper, it was widely known by some white parents and students. As a result, on his first day at the school in September 1962, he was greeted with a message scrawled in big black letters on the sidewalk: “Nigger go home.” During those early days when Moore felt utterly alone at the school and treated unjustly, he often sought and received advice and encouragement from Dr. Wyatt, Shiloh (Old Site)’s long-time spiritual and civil rights leader.

Although Fredericksburg’s schools were still functionally segregated and unequal, the city, in response to a federal court order, had quietly adopted a “free transfer” policy that technically allowed students the opportunity to attend the school of their choice, though the process of doing so was anything but easy. As a result, three other Black students joined Moore at James Monroe for the spring semester. Two of them—Von Nelson and Clarence Robinson—were also members of Shiloh (Old Site). Dorothy Nelson, Von Nelson’s mother and a long-time member of the church, had herself participated in the 1960 sit-ins to integrate Fredericksburg lunch counters. She knew the kind of insults and difficulties her son might face, but she wanted him to be among those breaking the color barrier at James Monroe High School. The hostility that he faced was so intense that Von Nelson begged repeatedly to be allowed to go back to the all-Black Walker-Grant High School. His mother refused. Integration was the future, she insisted.

In June 1963, fifteen months after Reverend Davies’ arrival and less than a year after Roland Moore became the first student of color at James Monroe High School, Fredericksburg’s City Council elected Clarence R. Todd, a member of Shiloh (Old Site), as the first African American member of the city’s school board. Gilbert Coleman, another member of Shiloh (Old Site), was named to the school board in July 1971.

Despite the addition of a single African American to the school board, not much progress was being made in desegregating the schools. Thus in May 1964, Dr. Wyatt sent a letter on behalf of the Fredericksburg NAACP to the school board, arguing that the board’s “free transfer” policy was not adequate. Dr. Wyatt called for a complete desegregation of students, faculty, custodians, and administrators “no later than the opening day of the 1964–1965 session.” He suggested that without compliance, litigation would be initiated.

Continued pressure, much of it from people at Shiloh (Old Site), eventually led to the much-needed integration of the schools, with a single school for each group of grades. The city, however, continued for a time to discriminate in the provision of certain services. For example, no bus service was offered, despite the fact that some school children—disproportionately Black school children—now lived as much as five miles from the school that they were to attend. In response, the Home Missions Committee at Shiloh (Old Site), under the leadership of Janice Davies, chartered a bus to provide daily transportation for school-age residents of certain neighborhoods, and the newly formed Mayfield Civic Association chartered a similar bus to provide school transportation for students in that part of the city. Eventually the city was shamed into providing bus service for all students.

Almost from the day she arrived, Janice Pryde Davies became a local social activist in her own right. She is pictured here in the early 1960s with her husband, the Rev. Lawrence A. Davies, and their three daughters, Lauren, Sharron, and Karen.

Marguerite Young, a member of Shiloh (Old Site) who had been born on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, began teaching in the city’s segregated schools in 1957. After the schools were integrated, she moved to James Monroe High School where she became assistant principal. Recognizing her administrative skills, the school board then made her principal of Maury School. She was the first African American to serve as principal in the city’s newly integrated educational institutions. She eventually became director of instruction for the city’s schools.

In 1963, Mamie Scott, a member of Shiloh (Old Site) who had been active in the NAACP and in planning for the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins, made some further waves in the city. She decided to try to integrate one of the city’s white churches. She applied for membership in Fredericksburg’s previously all-white Methodist church. When the newly installed pastor of that congregation decided to accept her application for membership, controversy developed. Mrs. Scott, however, wasn’t one to give in easily. She persisted, even when a significant number of that church’s members rebelled, splitting off to form what eventually became Fredericksburg’s Grace Memorial Church.

Soon after his arrival, Reverend Davies and other members of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) began working for a greater African American impact in local and state elections. Further impetus for the effort occurred in October 1963, when the Virginia Conference of the NAACP held its annual convention in Fredericksburg, with Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) serving as convention headquarters. Fredericksburg mayor C. M. Cowan was invited to address the gathering but refused. Some local African Americans felt snubbed by his refusal to make an appearance. Perhaps in response, that autumn’s voter registration drive, led by Dr. Wyatt, resulted in more than a 30 percent increase in the number of “colored citizens” who had paid the poll tax and would thus be eligible to vote in the next local and state elections. This was despite obstacles the city imposed on first-time registrants, who were required to pay both the current year’s poll tax as well as the tax for two prior years, plus a financial penalty for not having paid the prior year’s poll taxes when they were due.

In the midst of marches being led in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965 by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and just two days after President Lyndon Johnson spoke to a televised joint session of Congress to urge passage of the Voting Rights Act, a two-hour picketing demonstration by local white and Negro residents was held in front of the city courthouse. Dr. Wyatt of Shiloh (Old Site) explained to the local news media that the demonstration was in support of the marchers in Selma and the voting bill introduced by President Johnson, as well as a protest against Virginia’s continued use of a poll tax.

In the early 1960s, in an effort to build on the increased voting strength of African Americans in Fredericksburg, Reverend Davies and church deacon Weldon Bailey, a local mortician and resident of the city’s Mayfield neighborhood, organized a political action group known as Citizens United for Action. By 1965, through careful behind-the-scenes strategies and determined get-out-the-vote efforts, they were able to provide the needed margin of votes to influence the outcome of both a primary election to determine the Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates, as well as the outcome of the general House of Delegates election itself. These victories led to increased attention to African American perspectives in future campaigns and laid the groundwork for future victories.

One fruit of this early effort became evident in 1966 when Reverend Davies became the first African American elected to Fredericksburg’s City Council. He was elected as the city’s first Black mayor in 1976. Perhaps significantly, the 1966 city election was the first in which payment of a poll tax was not required for voting. He was reelected as mayor four times, retiring from that post in 1996 after having served for longer than anyone in the city’s history. As mayor, he was the driving force in establishing a low-cost public transportation system that would serve those who lacked any other way of getting around. The city’s central bus station was subsequently named in his honor.

Pastor Lawrence A. Davies exercised a portion of his Christian concern for others through visionary service as Fredericksburg’s longest-serving mayor. He is pictured here shortly after his first election to the post in 1976.

Early during his years at Shiloh (Old Site), Reverend Davies took an active interest in the mental health of the community, expressing a strong concern for those who were struggling with various kinds of limitations and disabilities. He served as a regional vice-president of the Virginia Association of Mental Health, served on the board of the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board, and in 1969 was awarded the Pratt Mental Health Citation for “the greatest service as a volunteer in the field of mental health in the past year.” In 1972, Reverend Davies founded the Fredericksburg Area Sickle Cell Association, which has continued to provide critical educational and support services for families dealing with sickle cell disease.

In 1968, at Reverend Davies’ urging, Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) partnered with the Human Relations Council in applying for federal loan guarantees that would allow construction of the city’s first subsidized-rent housing units to be known collectively as Hazel Hill Apartments. Federal approval of the project, intended to benefit the city’s low-income residents, many of whom were African American, was announced in early December 1969. It was only the second such effort in the state. Shiloh (Old Site) and the city’s Human Relations Council jointly created the Hazel Hill Apartment Corporation to build and manage the project. Reverend Davies and Dr. Wyatt served on the project’s board. Roland Gray, another member of Shiloh (Old Site), served as the corporation’s initial treasurer.

Hurricane Agnes brought major flooding to the Rappahannock River in 1972. Flood waters rose above the first-floor level of Shiloh’s building. Years of church records, some of which were stored in the basement, were damaged or lost. Under the leadership of the Reverend Davies, the whole first floor underwent extensive repair.

In late 1972, flood waters from the Rappahannock reached far beyond Shiloh Old Site, all the way to Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg, doing significant damage to the first floor of our building.

In 1976, the educational annex was constructed, adding classrooms and offices on two levels. An elevator and handicapped restrooms were added in the annex in April 1992. The church acquired some adjoining land, known as the Gillis property, in 1982. The house on that property was torn down in 2005.

In March 2003, the congregation had to vacate the 1890 sanctuary because the sanctuary roof was in need of major repairs. For four months, the congregation shared Sunday worship services with Friendship Baptist Church in Stafford but continued to use other parts of its Sophia Street building. The entire roof was rebuilt, and the ceiling of the sanctuary was elevated to provide better viewing angles from the balcony.

Reverend Davies worked closely with pastors of other downtown Fredericksburg churches, undertaking joint, ecumenical efforts of various kinds, becoming the first black president of the Fredericksburg Ministerial Association. Perhaps more significantly, he became one of the founding pastors of Micah Ecumenical Ministries, an outreach effort in which Shiloh (Old Site) continues to play an important role. Micah Ecumenical Ministries serves the most troubled and dispossessed local residents, including the chronically homeless.

Even after he retired as mayor, Davies continued to play a significant political role in the city, working behind the scenes for justice and righteousness, especially for the poor and the struggling, speaking out when needed on many issues of importance.

Reverend Davies became pastor emeritus in March 2012, having served Shiloh (Old Site) for a full third of the years since the Civil War..

Vision and enthusiasm, 2014–

T he Reverend Aaron L. Dobynes began serving as the church’s pastor on June 1, 2014. He came to Shiloh (Old Site) with twenty-five years of pastoral experience, a passion for African American history, and advanced degrees from several institutions of higher learning. A native of Alabama, he had most recently ministered in Shreveport, Louisiana. His selection elicited widespread enthusiasm in the congregation.

The Reverend Aaron L. Dobynes, Sr., began as Shiloh Old Site’s pastor in 2014 and has manifested a warm spirit and deep love for all people.

During Reverend Dobynes’ pastorate. women began serving as “deacons” and not just as “deaconesses.” And Reverend Dobynes also spoke out frequently, making clear that Shiloh Old Site would follow Christ in welcoming all people, regardless of their sexual expressions or gender identities. He has also been active in reaching out across religious divides, joining hands with Jewish and Muslim leaders in Fredericksburg’s broader faith community.

Welcome to a spiritually empowered haven of hope

Since 1854, we at Shiloh have tried to manifest the spirit of Christ, faithfully serving others as God’s liberating and transforming word. We’re located at 801 Sophia Street, on the river in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401.

Contact Us

Send us an email and our secretary will get back to you as soon as she can.

The Rev. Dr. Aaron L. Dobynes, Pastor

During the current virus crisis, our office is closed. No in-person meetings are being held. You can leave voice messages for our secretary by calling 540.373.8701. Or you can send her an email at [email protected].

Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site)

Since 1854, a spiritually empowered haven of hope, faithfully serving others as God’s liberating and transforming word, located at 801 Sophia Street, on the river in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401.


Contents

Polk was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Sarah Polk (née Hawkins) and Colonel William Polk, a Revolutionary War veteran and prosperous planter. He was of Scottish and Scots-Irish ancestry. Capitalizing on his position as chief surveyor of the central district of Tennessee, William was able to acquire about 100,000 acres (400 km 2 ) of land. [1] Polk briefly attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point. During his senior year, he joined the Episcopal Church and was baptized in the Academy Chapel by Chaplain Charles P. McIlvaine, who later became the Episcopal Bishop of Ohio. Polk had an impressive academic record, excelling in rhetoric and moral philosophy. He graduated eighth of 38 cadets on July 1, 1827, and was appointed a brevet second lieutenant in the artillery. [2]

Polk resigned his commission on December 1, 1827, so that he could enter the Virginia Theological Seminary. He became an assistant to Bishop Richard Channing Moore at Monumental Church in Richmond, Virginia. Moore agreed to ordain Polk as a deacon in April 1830 however, on a visit to Raleigh in March it was discovered that he had never been confirmed as an Episcopalian. To remedy the fact, before his ordination, he was hastily confirmed at St. John's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, NC. He was then ordained a deacon as planned and a priest the following year. [1] On May 6, 1830, Polk married Frances Ann Devereux, daughter of John Devereux and Frances Pollock her mother was the granddaughter of Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards. The Polks had eight children who survived to adulthood. [3] [4]

In 1832, Polk moved his family to the vast Polk Rattle and Snap tract in Maury County, Tennessee, and constructed a massive Greek Revival home called Ashwood Hall. Polk was the largest slaveholder in the county in 1840, with 111 slaves. (By 1850, census records state that Polk owned 215 slaves, but other estimates are as high as 400.) [3] With his four brothers in Maury County, he built a family chapel, St. John's Church, at Ashwood. [5] He also served as priest of St. Peter's Church in Columbia, Tennessee. He was appointed Missionary Bishop of the Southwest in September 1838 and was elected first Bishop of Louisiana in October 1841. [2] In 1848, he performed the marriage of his niece, Mary Bayard Devereux, to Major William John Clarke. [6]

Bishop Polk was the leading founder of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, which he envisioned as a national university for the South and a New World equivalent to Oxford and Cambridge, both in England. (In his August 1856 letter to Bishop Elliott, he expounded on the secessionist motives for his university. [7] ) Polk laid and consecrated the cornerstone for the first building on October 9, 1860. [2] Polk's foundational legacy at Sewanee is remembered always through his portrait Sword Over the Gown, painted by Eliphalet F. Andrews in 1900. After the original was vandalized in 1998, a copy by Connie Erickson was unveiled on June 1, 2003. [8] The title refers to the answer given by Bishop Polk "when asked in Richmond if he was putting off the gown of an Episcopal bishop to take up the sword of a Confederate general, to which he replied, 'No, Sir, I am buckling the sword over the gown,'" indicating that he saw it was his duty as a bishop to take up arms. [9]

Kentucky Edit

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Polk pulled the Louisiana Convention out of the Episcopal Church of the United States to form the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. Although he hoped that secession would result in a peaceful separation of the North and South, and suggested that he was reluctant to take up arms personally, he did not hesitate to write to his friend and former classmate at West Point, Jefferson Davis, [10] offering his services in the Confederate States Army. Polk was commissioned a major general on June 25, 1861, and ordered to command Department No. 2 (roughly, the area between the Mississippi River and the Tennessee River). [11] He committed one of the great blunders of the Civil War by dispatching troops to occupy Columbus, Kentucky, in September 1861 the critical border state of Kentucky had declared its neutrality between the Union and the Confederacy, but Polk's action was instrumental in prompting the Kentucky legislature to request Federal aid to resist his advance, ending the state's brief attempt at neutrality and effectively ceding it to Union control for the remainder of the war. [12]

During this period Polk argued about strategy with his subordinate, Pillow, and his superior, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of Confederate forces in the Western Theater. Resentful that his former West Point roommate was giving him orders, he submitted a letter of resignation to President Davis on November 6, but Davis rejected the request. [13] Polk's command saw its first combat on November 7, 1861, in the minor, inconclusive Battle of Belmont between Polk's subordinate, Brig. Gen. Gideon Johnson Pillow and Union Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Although not present on the battlefield himself, Polk was wounded nearby on November 11 when the largest cannon in his army, nicknamed "Lady Polk" in honor of his wife, exploded during demonstration firing. The explosion stunned Polk and blew his clothes off, requiring a convalescence of several weeks.

Army of Mississippi Edit

—Steven E. Woodworth, Jefferson Davis and His Generals [14]

In April 1862, Polk commanded the First Corps of Albert Sidney Johnston's Army of Mississippi at the Battle of Shiloh and continued in that role for much of the rest of the year under Beauregard, who had assumed command following the death of A. S. Johnston on the first day at Shiloh, and then under Gen. Braxton Bragg. At various times his command was considered a corps and at other times the "Right Wing" of the army. In the fall, during the invasion of Kentucky by Bragg and Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, Polk was in temporary command of the Army of Mississippi while Bragg visited Frankfort to preside over the inauguration of a Confederate governor for the state. Polk disregarded an order from Bragg to attack the flank of the pursuing Union Army near Frankfort. [15]

—Kenneth W. Noe, Perryville [16]

At the Battle of Perryville, Polk's right wing constituted the main attacking force against Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio, but Polk was reluctant to attack the small portion of Buell's army that faced him until Bragg arrived at the battlefield. One of the enduring legends of the Civil War is that Polk witnessed his subordinate, Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham, advancing his division. Cheatham allegedly shouted, "Give 'em hell, boys!" and Polk, retaining the sensibility of his role as an Episcopal bishop, seconded the cheer: "Give it to 'em boys give 'em what General Cheatham says!" [17]

Army of Tennessee Edit

After Perryville, Polk began a year-long campaign to get Bragg relieved of command, hoping to use his close relationship with President Davis to accomplish his goal. [18] Despite the failure of his Kentucky campaign, Bragg was retained in command, but this did nothing to reduce the enmity between Polk and Bragg. Polk was promoted to lieutenant general on October 11, 1862, with date of rank of October 10. He became the second most senior Confederate of that rank during the war, behind James Longstreet. [19] In November, the Army of Mississippi was renamed the Army of Tennessee and Polk commanded its First Corps until September 1863. [20]

Polk fought under Bragg at the Battle of Stones River in late 1862 and once again Bragg's subordinates politicked to remove their army commander after an unsuccessful battle (the battle was tactically inconclusive, but Bragg was unable to stop the advance of the Union Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans and Bragg withdrew his army to Tullahoma, Tennessee). Bragg was also unsuccessful in resisting Rosecrans's advance in the Tullahoma Campaign, which began to threaten the important city of Chattanooga. In the face of Rosecrans's expert maneuvering of his army, Polk counseled Bragg to retreat rather than stand and fight in their Tullahoma fortifications. [21]

Rosecrans eventually maneuvered Bragg out of Chattanooga and the Army of Tennessee withdrew into the mountains of northwestern Georgia with the Army of the Cumberland in hot pursuit. Bragg planned to attack and destroy at least one of Rosecrans's corps, advancing separately over mountainous roads. He was infuriated when Polk's division under Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman failed to attack an isolated Union corps at Davis's Cross Roads as ordered on September 11. Two days later, Polk disregarded orders from Bragg to attack another isolated corps, the second failed opportunity. At the Battle of Chickamauga, Polk was given command of the Right Wing and the responsibility for initiating the attack on the second day of battle (September 20). He failed to inform his subordinates of the plan and his wing was late in attacking, allowing the Union defenders time to complete their field fortifications. Bragg wrote after the war that if it were not for the loss of these hours, "our independence might have been won." [22]

Chickamauga was a great tactical victory for Bragg, but instead of pursuing and destroying the Union Army as it retreated, he laid siege to it in Chattanooga, concentrating his effort against the enemies inside his army instead of his enemies from the North. He demanded an explanation from Polk on the bishop's failure to attack in time on September 20 and Polk placed the blame entirely on one of his subordinates, Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill. Bragg wrote to President Davis, "Gen'l Polk by education and habit is unfit for executing the plans of others. He will convince himself his own are better and follow them without reflecting on the consequences." Bragg relieved Polk of his command and ordered him to Atlanta to await further orders. Although Polk protested the "arbitrary and unlawful order" to the Secretary of War and demanded a court of inquiry, he was not restored to his position and Davis once again retained Bragg in army command, despite the protestations of a number of his subordinate generals. [23]

Mississippi Edit

President Davis transferred his friend Polk to command the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana (December 23, 1863 – January 28, 1864) and then the Department of Alabama and East Mississippi (January 28 – May 4, 1864), giving him effective command of the state of Mississippi following the departure of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to replace Bragg in command of the Army of Tennessee. Polk unsuccessfully attempted to oppose Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's raid against Meridian, Mississippi, in February 1864. In May, he was ordered to take his forces and join with Johnston in resisting Sherman's advance in the Atlanta Campaign. He assumed command of the Third Corps of the Army of Tennessee on May 4. [24] His command remained commonly known as the "Army of Mississippi".

Atlanta Campaign and death Edit

Polk brought more than 20,000 men with him to Georgia. Because of his elevated rank, he became the army's second in command under Johnston. By using successive flanking maneuvers, Sherman forced Johnston to withdraw his army from strong defensive positions to protect the Confederate line of communication. This forced Johnston ever closer to the critically important city of Atlanta. [25]

On June 14, 1864, Polk was scouting enemy positions near Marietta, Georgia, with his staff when he was killed in action by a Federal 3-inch (76 mm) shell at Pine Mountain. [26] The artillery fire was initiated when Sherman spotted a cluster of Confederate generals — Polk, William J. Hardee, and Johnston, with their staffs — in an exposed area. He pointed them out to Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, commander of the IV Corps, and ordered him to fire upon them. Battery I of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, commanded by Capt. Hubert Dilger, obeyed the order within minutes. The first round from the battery came close and a second came even closer, causing the men to disperse. The third shell struck Polk's left arm, went through his chest, and exited hitting his right arm, then exploded against a tree it nearly cut Polk in two. [27]


Lasting Void: The Death of General Albert Sidney Johnston

Albert Sidney Johnston graduated eighth in the West Point Class of 1826. In addition to the Civil War, Johnston served in the 1832 Blackhawk War, the 1846-48 Mexican War, and the Utah Expedition of 1857-58.

Library of Congress Utah State Historical Society

The Western Confederate Army never recovered from Albert Sidney Johnston’s April 1862 death at Shiloh

G eneral, are you wounded,” Isham G. Harris frantically asked as Albert Sidney Johnston slumped in his saddle about midday April 6, 1862. At dawn, Johnston’s Army of the Mississippi had launched a surprise attack on the Union Army of the Tennessee near Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., but seemingly little had gone right since. The Confederates took about six hours to completely break through the initial line of Union camps, defended by less than half of Ulysses S. Grant’s army, before slamming into the bulk of the Federal force—comprising veterans who put up a stiff fight across the battlefield. As Johnston’s army tried to turn the Union left, the storied commander realized the attack had stalled and rode east to give the effort his personal attention. He succeeded in getting the assault moving again, but his aggressiveness would cost him his life. Shot in his right leg, his popliteal artery severed by a Minié ball, Johnston bled to death within an hour.

In response to Harris’ inquiry, Johnston could only mumble, “Yes, and I fear seriously,” before beginning to lose consciousness. Harris, the governor of Tennessee who was serving as Johnston’s aide, and another staff officer led the general’s horse down the hill and out of the line of fire in an attempt to save him. The two laid Johnston at the foot of a tree and began searching for a wound in his torso before discovering the gash on Johnston’s leg. Soon Johnston was unable even to swallow the whiskey administered to him, as it merely gurgled in his throat. At 2:30 p.m., he was gone, the highest-ranking American military officer ever killed in action in U.S. history.


Johnston meets with wary commanders the evening of April 5, 1862. Though some subordinates advised calling off the Shiloh attack, Johnston was resolute: “Gentlemen, we shall attack at daylight tomorrow.” (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Johnston had considered the Battle of Shiloh the moment at which he and his army must “conquer or perish.” The consequences of his death have been debated ever since, and, correctly, most of the debate has centered on its effects on the battle’s outcome. Had Johnston lived, many continue to argue today, Shiloh would have been a Confederate triumph. When he perished, the Confederate cause figuratively perished, too.

Leading that argument was Johnston’s son, William Preston Johnston, who maintained that his father would have continued strikes on Grant’s rattled army and would not have called off the attacks, as did his replacement, General P.G.T. Beauregard. William Johnston was adamant that, in doing so, Beauregard had thrown away his father’s victory and thus allowed Grant to grab the initiative overnight and win the battle on April 7.

Historian Charles P. Roland echoed that argument in his highly regarded biography, Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics. The majestic United Daughters of the Confederacy monument at the Shiloh National Military Park, which was placed near the famed Hornet’s Nest in 1917, also leans heavily on Lost Cause dogma that Johnston’s death, along with the loss of daylight that first day of the battle, were at the crux of the Confederates’ catastrophic defeat.

More recently, historians have split on whether Johnston’s death made any real difference in the battle’s outcome, some emphasizing that a “lull” in the battle occurred at the time of the general’s death and others arguing that because Johnston’s army had simply wasted far too much time as darkness approached on April 6, there was little hope it would be able to regain the edge.


Joseph E. Johnston (left) and P.G.T. Beauregard were among the five former U.S. Army officers named full generals in the Confederate Army the first year of the war. Johnston, a Virginia native, and Beauregard, a Louisianan, led the respective Southern armies during the stunning Confederate victory at First Manassas on July 21, 1861. (Heritage Auctions, Dallas National Archives)

While it is debatable how much of a difference Johnston’s death made on the field of Shiloh itself, it was actually in the future command of the Western Confederacy that Johnston’s absence would ultimately prove most significant. Since the war, there has been extensive debate over how great a commander Johnston would have become had he not been mortally wounded—perhaps even another Robert E. Lee, who conveniently had the luxury of learning from his initial stumbles during the war before he assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1862 and, as a result, established his place as one of this country’s greatest military leaders.

Such arguments are, of course, based in “what-if” thinking, but we do know for sure what happened in the Western Theater after Johnston was gone. Perhaps Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a Johnston admirer, said it best when he observed: “[W]hen Sidney Johnston fell, it was the turning-point of our fate for we had no other hand to take up his work in the West.”

D avis’ statement was bold but true—at least in part. Eastern Theater supporters might take umbrage that Johnston’s death sealed the Confederacy’s fate arguments on the respective importance of the war’s two principal theaters have raged for decades and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. There should be no dispute, however, that Davis was correct in his assertion that there was no other general capable of taking Johnston’s place.


The Tishomingo Hotel at the critical railroad junction of Corinth, Miss., was used as a hospital after the Battle of Shiloh. The fighting shown here occurred during the Second Battle of Corinth in October 1862. (Keith Rocco)

Who, though, could fill Johnston’s position in the West? First considered had to be the four remaining full generals in Confederate service at the time, one of whom was Beauregard, Johnston’s second in command. After defeat at Shiloh, the Army of the Mississippi pulled back to its base at the critical railroad town of Corinth, Miss., to await the Federal command’s next move. Facing the likelihood that the Federals would follow its victory by moving on Corinth, it seemed prudent to keep Beauregard in charge of the army, at least until operations around Corinth had been decided one way or the other.

Would Beauregard, who famously led the Confederate victories at Fort Sumter and First Manassas in 1861, be a permanent solution, however? Given the 44-year-old Louisianan’s failing health at the time and the stark differences he had with both Davis and many in Davis’ administration, the answer seemed no.

In the war’s first year, there were five full generals in the Confederate Army, and in the spring of 1862, two could easily be taken out of consideration for command of the Western Army. Although Samuel Cooper was the ranking Confederate general, at nearly 64 years of age he was not a true consideration for field command, likely never to leave his desk assignment at the War Department in Richmond. Because the Confederacy’s second-ranking general had been Albert Sidney Johnston, that left Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and Beauregard.

“Braxton Bragg,” writes historian Steven Woodworth, “was a fairly competent general, who, though a pre-war enemy of Davis, came to possess a moderate degree of [his] confidence.” “Enemies” is perhaps a little strong in describing the pair, who had served together in the antebellum Army, but Davis was clearly no fan of Bragg. (Library of Congress)

The fates of Lee and Joe Johnston were intertwined in the Eastern Theater. As events transpired around Corinth in April–May 1862, Johnston and Union Maj. Gen. George McClellan had locked horns on the Virginia Peninsula. When Johnston, commanding what became known as the Army of Northern Virginia, was seriously wounded by artillery shrapnel at Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) on May 31, Lee assumed command the next day, and in the Seven Days Campaign from June 25 to July 1, he notably chased McClellan away from Richmond, saving the Confederate capital.

Earlier in the war, Lee had been underwhelming while holding commands in western Virginia and South Carolina, and during the Peninsula Campaign he was serving as Davis’ adviser. Even before Johnston’s wounding, it was unlikely Davis would assign Lee, a devoted Virginian, to command of the Western Army.

That became a moot point on June 1. Johnston would need a long time to recover from his dreadful Seven Pines wound and was, in fact, still not yet at full strength when Davis finally handed him a command in the Western Theater in December 1862. The wound would continue to bother Johnston during the ensuing Vicksburg Campaign.

It is telling that Davis did not make Johnston an army commander, and Johnston was not allowed an opportunity to be Albert Sidney Johnston’s replacement until much later in the war. Even then, because of his differences with Davis, he would command the Western army for only two brief periods—mere months—during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign and at the end of the war when his presence had no tangible impact on Confederate fortunes.

F rom June 1, 1862, Robert E. Lee would not relinquish command of the Confederacy’s foremost army, making it one of the country’s finest fighting forces ever. Until the surrender at Appomattox in April 1865, Lee would leave Virginia only twice, on his two ill-fated invasions of the North in September 1862 and the summer of 1863.

With Albert Sidney Johnston dead, Joe Johnston incapacitated, Lee committed elsewhere, and Cooper relegated to desk duty, a reluctant Davis had to count on Beauregard to defend Corinth in the face of a Federal threat after the loss at Shiloh. Beauregard messaged Richmond that “if defeated here, we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause.” On May 30, however, the Louisianan evacuated Corinth without a fight.

Leonidas Polk, also an Episcopal bishop, was killed at Pine Mountain, Ga., on June 14, 1864. Appraisal of Polk’s abilities as a general varies, but his men did love him and he was fortunate to have the ear of a friendly Davis. (The Valentine Museum)

That decision was unquestionably the right one. Although the Federals had moved cautiously against the Corinth defenses and “siege” operations didn’t begin until May 27, the odds were clearly on their side. Having lost hundreds of soldiers to illness, Beauregard’s army was significantly outnumbered.

Nevertheless, losing Corinth in that manner only magnified Davis’ suspicions about Beauregard’s abilities. It did not help Beauregard’s case either when he opted to leave the army without authorization in order to tend to his weak health. On the authority of his surgeon, Beauregard traveled to a springs resort in Alabama, and when Davis learned of the commander’s whereabouts, he exploded in anger, immediately removing him from command. Beauregard would not tactically command another major army the rest of the war.

To find a suitable replacement for the vacancy, Davis now had to resort to the next tier of generals. That created more chaos. The crux of the problem was the needed elevation of one of many equals to the command of former colleagues. In the West, that category included Leonidas Polk, Braxton Bragg, William J. Hardee, and John Breckinridge, all Army of the Mississippi corps commanders at Shiloh. Undoubtedly, these generals inwardly believed they would do better than the others. Johnston and Beauregard had been full generals, and Polk, Bragg, Hardee, and Breckinridge accepted serving under both, choosing not to buck the army’s traditional chain of command and giving them the necessary respect.

The ranking corps commander, and hence the general of the army’s first numbered corps, was Polk. He outranked the next ranking corps commander at Shiloh, Bragg, by 2½ months. Making the situation even more tense, Bragg outranked the next corps commander in line, Hardee, by a mere 3½ weeks.

Breckinridge, the fourth commander, was still a brigadier general at Shiloh, and despite serving as secretary of war later in the war, he was never really considered as a replacement for Johnston. Because he was also a former U.S. vice president—James Buchanan’s second—he still had plenty of clout.

Davis could also have considered the top two generals in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn, but the prospects for both were basically the same. Price did not become a major general until March 1862, a month before Shiloh Van Dorn outranked Hardee, but was behind both Polk and Bragg in seniority. Significantly, and complicating the situation even more, both Van Dorn and Price had commanded armies in the Trans-Mississippi: Price at Wilson’s Creek, Mo., and Van Dorn at Pea Ridge, Ark.

Only Polk among the original Shiloh corps commanders had been an army commander earlier in the war. But the Army of the Mississippi was a much different animal now than those smaller Trans-Mississippi armies, which took Van Dorn and Price out of the picture.

By right of rank, the position as Johnston’s replacement should have gone to Polk. But he didn’t get the call. Neither did Hardee, who had served reputably in the antebellum U.S. Army and was the author of its famed Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics manual. It quickly became evident that the anointed one was Bragg, who actually had been promoted to full general immediately after Shiloh, although he remained under Beauregard’s command.


Albert Sidney Johnston’s other Shiloh corps commanders were William J. Hardee (right) and former U.S. Vice President John Breckinridge. Hardee, author of an Army rifle tactics manual, resigned as colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry in January 1861. (Alabama Department of Archives and History Library of Congress)

P olk and Hardee were both promoted to lieutenant general in October 1862—as were Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet back East—but, considering themselves Bragg’s equal, continued to balk at his promotion above them. That sharp reaction continued to fester throughout Bragg’s tenure as commander of what was now the Army of Tennessee over the next 18 or so months.

This period is often seen as one of the most critical eras of the Western Confederacy’s existence. Some argue that the war in the West was lost by Shiloh others argue it came with the fall of Atlanta in the charged geopolitical year of 1864. Still, one would be hard pressed to find a more critical period in the West than Bragg’s tenure from June 1862 to December 1863, which would encompass the Kentucky (Perryville), Stones River, Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga campaigns.

With the fate of the entire Confederacy arguably on the line, the new commander needed all the support he could get from his subordinates. The next 18 months, however, were a disaster for both Bragg and the Confederacy, largely because of the back-biting of Bragg’s former equals-turned-subordinates. Other anti-Bragg generals emerged—foremost James Longstreet, D.H. Hill, Simon Boliver Buckner, Frank Cheatham, and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Yet it would be difficult to find three more bitter Bragg enemies than Polk, Hardee, and Breckinridge.

Bragg would note that his efforts were “most distasteful to many of my senior generals, and they wince under the blows. Breckinridge, Polk & Hardee especially.” While none stooped to the dishonor of claiming publicly they would be a better choice than Bragg, each lapsed into acidic relations with the commander and by all historical accounts disobeyed, undermined, and conspired against him.

Initially, despite his political clout, Breckinridge was the one perhaps least concerning to Bragg. Nevertheless, rancor between the two began to develop as early as the Kentucky Campaign and remained a concern until both left the army after the fall of Chattanooga in November 1863. In fact, while defending himself and his beloved Kentuckians to the hilt, Breckinridge usually tried to diffuse the situation when he could and apparently never worked against Bragg. That said, his preference for defensive tactics were counter to his commander’s battle philosphies.

Outwardly, Hardee seemed the most agreeable of the trio toward Bragg, preferring to work clandestinely and on occasion conspiring with Polk and others to remove him. Like Breckinridge, Hardee’s troubles with Bragg began during the Kentucky Campaign. At one point, he wrote Polk: “I have been thinking seriously of the condition of affairs with this army….What shall we do? What is best to be done to save this army and its honor? I think we ought to counsel together.” And Bragg was certainly convinced Hardee wanted his spot, writing to a friend of his potential “retirement”: “I must say there is no man here to command an army. The one who aspires to it is a good drill master, but no more, except that he is gallant.”

Polk’s hostility toward Bragg could be traced back to Shiloh and had evolved into open antagonism by the time of the Kentucky Campaign, continuing to balloon from there. Until he left the army at Bragg’s insistence, Polk continually sought to undermine and conspire against the commander. Significantly, much of the conspiring came in letters about Bragg written directly to President Davis, who was Polk’s friend. Writing to a friend after he left the Army of Tennessee, Polk declared: “[T]he poor man who is the author of this trouble is I am informed as much to be pitied or more than the object of his ill-feeling. I certainly feel a lofty contempt for his puny effort to inflict injury upon a man who has dry nursed him for the whole period of his connection with him and has kept him from ruining the cause of the country by the sacrifice of its armies.”

On one occasion, Bragg provided a fairly accurate assessment of Polk, complaining to Davis: “Genl. Polk by education and habit is unfitted for executing the plans of others. He will convince himself his own are better and follow them without reflecting on the consequences.”

I n examining these fights with his subordinates, it can’t be ignored that the majority of the issues usually came about because of Bragg’s disparaging personality and not so much because of instigation by these commanders (not that that didn’t occur regularly, as discussed above). Certainly, most of the bitterest quarrels, especially with Breckinridge, resulted from Bragg’s pushing rather than by his subordinates’ conspiring.

Bragg did not help himself either by continually seeking the approval of his subordinates, even going so far to ask whether the army still had confidence in Bragg’s leadership. All three answered with a resounding no. Each plainly let Bragg and others know that they felt Bragg was not capable of commanding the army. Hardee, for example, wrote a blistering response: “I feel that frankness compels me to say that the general officers, whose judgment you have invoked, are unanimous in the opinion that a change in the command of this army is necessary. In this opinion I concur.”


Erected by the UDC in 1917, this prominent Shiloh memorial features “Lost Cause” themes that both Johnston’s death and nightfall led to the Rebels’ irreversible loss. In the center are figures of the South, Death, and Night, with a somber South handing Death a victory wreath. (Alamy Stock Photo)

Of course, such criticism filtered down to subordinate commanders, many of whom also quickly lined up against Bragg. Others certainly defended Bragg, but the polarization of the Army of Tennessee’s high command was a huge impediment to its efficiency, and the doleful record of the army throughout Bragg’s important tenure (in casualties, missed opportunities, and lost territory) was a firm byproduct.

There is no way to know if Albert Sidney Johnston, had he lived, would have performed better than Bragg facing similar campaign scenarios, or if any of the other full generals would have either. Yet the reality is that, for Davis, none was a good option. Davis truly believed, “we had no other hand to take up his work in the West.” Johnston’s loss thus left the Western Confederacy’s primary army in the hands of a general tasked with leading former command equals, and, as discussed above, the situation deteriorated quickly. And it only became worse after Bragg’s tenure, with Davis having to settle out of necessity for Joe Johnston (whom he considered an unacceptable option) and then John Bell Hood (a truly untried and unproven army commander, who quickly showed how untried and unproven he was).

By that time, events in the Confederate West had degenerated too far to make a difference in the Southern Army’s prospects for winning the war. The snowball effect of that started rolling that mild day in April 1862 when Albert Sidney Johnston, and perhaps the Confederacy itself, perished rather than conquered at Shiloh.


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Genetic diversity testing of Shiloh Shepherds is now in the preliminary results phase. During this phase, we continue to test more registered dogs to build genetic data necessary to provide breeders with an accurate assessment of genetic diversity in their breed. This report is based on testing of 86 Shiloh Shepherds from North America and Europe. Allele and DLA haplotype frequencies are updated based on the current population of dogs tested.

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Shiloh, Battle of

Shiloh, Battle of [Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee] (1862).The prelude to the Shiloh campaign occurred months earlier in the Civil War, in February 1862, when Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant captured Forts Henry and Donelson. The successful Union offensive along the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers resulted in the evacuation of Nashville and forced Confederates under Gen. Albert S. Johnston to cede much of middle and western Tennessee.

Grant massed his 40,000 troops at Pittsburg Landing, on the Tennessee River twenty‐two miles north of Corinth, Mississippi, a vital rail junction and Grant's next operational target. Union theater commander Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck ordered Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, who had occupied Nashville, to leave the capital with 35,000 troops and rendezvous with Grant's force of 40,000 near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.

The potential concentration of Grant and Buell alarmed Confederate Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, Johnston's second in command, who boldly took charge in the wake of the loss of two forts in February. Beauregard proceeded to issue appeals, collect and organize troops at Corinth, and wield influence over Johnston when the latter arrived. Problems abounded for the Confederate army. Most of the soldiers were inexperienced, some were poorly trained, and there was a general lack of familiarity between the various components. In spite of the difficulties, Beauregard recommended an offensive strike against Grant near Pittsburg Landing before Buell arrived. Johnston assented.

The movement commenced 3 April, but Beauregard's timetable was too ambitious for the green troops. The plan called for an attack the next day, but rain, rough terrain, and logistical difficulties prevented an attack on either the 4th or the 5th. Convinced that the element of surprise was gone, Beauregard urged Johnston to return to Corinth but Johnston demurred. Battered by critics for the past several months, Johnston was psychologically unwilling to abandon the offensive. As a result, a massive two�y battle opened early on 6 April near a Methodist meetinghouse called Shiloh Church.

Beauregard's overly intricate order of battle arranged the 44,000‐man army into four lines, commanded successively by William J. Hardee, Braxton Bragg, Leonidas Polk, and John C. Breckinridge. Hardee's men collided with Federal skirmishers before daylight, and the Confederates soon struck three Union divisions without fieldworks under Brig. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand. The Confederates achieved tactical surprise and steamrolled one Union position after another. Some Northern units fought tenaciously, while others fell back and reorganized many of the raw recruits fled, panic‐stricken. After three hours of hard fighting, the Confederates had forced the Union right back nearly a mile. Yet success came at an awful price, as casualties and confusion blunted the Southern momentum.

Prentiss rallied his Union troops along a sunken wagon road, and this spot in the Union center became a magnet for uncoordinated Confederate assaults. At least eleven separate efforts were made against what bloodied Confederates dubbed the “Hornets' Nest.” Preoccupation with the Hornets' Nest stalled the Confederate attack for hours. It also prevented the Southerners from massing an effort against Grant's left, closer to Pittsburg Landing. Although the Confederate battle plan called for the primary blow to be made here, the fighting had swirled predominately along Grant's right and center. Johnston rode near the front lines throughout the day, exhorting his men and sending units into the fray. By early afternoon he began probing for the Union left, in order to turn that flank. However, struck by a stray ball that severed an artery in his leg, Johnston died around 2:30 P.M ., and Beauregard assumed command. The Hornets' Nest finally gave way after the Southerners assembled sixty‐two guns and blasted the position. Surrounded, Prentiss and the last survivors surrendered around 5:30 P.M .

Despite the carnage on his right and center, Grant's hold on Pittsburg Landing was never seriously threatened. The Confederates never marshaled enough men for a knockout punch to drive the Federals away from the river. By the time dusk arrived, it was too late. Johnston's son later accused Beauregard of squandering a brilliant victory by calling off the action at sunset, but evidence suggests that this is untrue. The disorganized blows delivered against the Union left were easily repulsed, and by late afternoon a line of over fifty Federal cannon crowned the heights above Pittsburg Landing. By the end of the day, the assaulting Southerners faced insuperable problems. Hunger, fatigue, command disorder, and high losses helped check the Confederates.

Beauregard had received a telegram asserting that Buell was near Decatur, in northern Alabama. As a result, he evidently expected Grant to retreat across the river that night or remain in place for a renewed Confederate assault the next morning. Yet the vanguard of Buell's army began crossing the river in late afternoon on 6 April. The reinforcements from Buell and the belated arrival of one of his own divisions more than made up for Grant's losses. At dawn on 7 April, Grant assumed the offensive. Beau regard's troops resisted the onslaught but without reinforcements could do little more than launch isolated counter attacks. By midafternoon Beauregard realized the precariousness of his situation and began withdrawing to Corinth, Mississippi.

Both sides claimed Shiloh as a victory, but the Federals had a far stronger case. They retained possession of the battlefield, and in addition, the strategic situation in the west remained unaltered despite the bloodletting. The Confederates had not dealt a mortal blow to either Grant or Buell. Nor had they driven the invaders from Tennessee or reversed the Union's victories in the winter campaign. Instead, Memphis and the remainder of western Tennessee fell into Union hands after the Confederates evacuated Corinth in late May.

The lengthy casualty lists from Shiloh stunned both North and South. Union losses included 1,754 dead, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 missing, for a total of 13,047 casualties the corresponding Confederate figures were 1,723, 8,012, and 959, for a total of 10,694. Shiloh disabused both sides of the notion that the war would be short‐lived. Grant's failure to fortify, and his heavy losses, injured his reputation until the capture of Vicksburg in July 1863 redeemed him.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course Union Army Vicksburg, Siege of.]

Shelby Foote , The Civil War: A Narrative, 3 vols., (1958�), Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville .
Thomas Connelly , Army of the Heartland: The Army of Tennessee, 1861� , 1967.
Wiley Sword , Shiloh: Bloody April , 1974.
James Lee McDonough , Shiloh—In Hell Before Night , 1977.
Steven E. Woodworth , Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West , 1990.
Larry J. Daniel , Shiloh: The Battle that Changed the Civil War , 1997.


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