“Give it to ‘em boys, you’re cutting them all to hell!” The 14th Ohio Battery at Shiloh

The 14th Ohio Battery was recruited by Captain Jerome Bonaparte Burrows of Geneva, Ohio from the northeastern counties of Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull, mustering into service September 10, 1861 at Camp Cleveland. The battery trained in Cleveland for several months before heading south in January 1862. Originally destined for duty out west with the 2nd Ohio Cavalry, it reached St. Louis where General Halleck elected to keep the battery for operations in Tennessee. The battery arrived at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee on March 14, 1862 and went into camp.
First Lt. Homer H. Stull, 14th Ohio Battery
Photo from Find-A Grave courtesy of
Rick Lawrence

Homer H. Stull of Trumbull County, Ohio was appointed a First Lieutenant in the battery on September 10, 1861 and wrote a series of ten letters to his hometown newspaper The Western Reserve Chronicle describing the services of Burrows’ Battery. His brother John was a resident of Warren, Ohio and friend of the editor of the newspaper. The following account, written under the pen name “Bernum” and supplemented by accounts from other members of the battery, was published on page two of the April 30, 1862 issue of that newspaper. Lieutenant Stull died of bilious fever on the morning May 17, 1863 at Jackson, Tennessee. The newspaper was quickly apprised of his decease and lauded the lieutenant as “one of the truest and most faithful soldiers that drew a sword in defense of the Union cause. He was idolized by the men of the 14th Battery.” (Western Reserve Chronicle, May 20, 1863, pg. 3) The June 3, 1863 issue of the Western Reserve Chronicle contained a tribute from the members of the 14th Ohio Battery in which they praised Lieutenant Stull as a “warm-hearted, kind, and steadfast friend” and one of the brightest ornaments of the artillery service. He was buried at Hillside Cemetery in West Farmington, Trumbull Co., Ohio with a stone was erected in his memory by comrades of the 14th Ohio Battery. [Photo of Lieutenant Stull courtesy of Rick Lawrence and posted at Find-A-Grave
The 14th Ohio Battery was recruited from the northeastern corner of the state. 

The 14th Ohio Battery was attached to Brigadier General John A. McClernand’s division, but was not assigned to a specific brigade. The 95-man battery under the command of Captain Burrows (also known as Burrows’ Battery) possessed four 6-lb Wiard rifles and two 12-lb Wiard smoothbores and suffered casualties of 4 killed and 25 wounded along with 70 of the battery’s horses cut down. All six cannon were captured by the Confederates who overnight spiked the guns by knocking off the sights and cutting the wheels. The Wiard cannon were unusual artillery pieces in Federal service; the steel (puddle-wrought iron) tubes were cast at O’Donnell’s Foundry in New York City and placed upon a specially-designed carriage built by Norman Wiard. The rifles had a range of about 7,000 yards firing a 6-lb Hotchkiss shell.

A 6-lb Wiard rifle and caisson; only about 60 of these unusual but effective artillery pieces saw service during the Civil War, several Ohio batteries including the 14th Ohio being equipped with Wiards. Battery G of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery used these same type of pieces in action at Stones River.

Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee
April 11, 1862

About dusk on Friday a continuous roll of musketry, alternating with the thunderous boom of cannon, announced an attack upon our right wing. The long roll, the alarm cry of war, sounded through the camp giving intelligence that help was needed with the rapidity of a Highland watch fire. Throughout the two divisions thus summoned to the fray, the soldiers instantly fell into the line and were speedily on the double quick to the scene of action. Of our battery I need only say that although in the second line of encampments, it was one of the first in the field. Fully 15,000 men were soon on the spot but only to find that the enemy had been repulsed by Sherman’s division alone. I allude to this incident here to show lack of caution exhibited two days subsequently when the foe was permitted to approach within a mile of our lines before being engaged and would add that from the zeal and enthusiasm then displayed by the men of the 14th Ohio Battery, I had not a doubt of their valor when the time for its exhibition should come. In 36 hours that time arrived and nobly did these gallant spirits fulfill the hopes their zeal excited.
Sunday morning before breakfast, the action commenced on our right wing but the success of Friday evening’s skirmish made our men underrate the valor and strength of the Rebels and it was not until borne down by vastly superior numbers, that the long roll was again sounded. Then there was “mustering in hot haste” and soon all went pouring forward in the “impetuous tide of war.” Our battery having taken their position in McClernand’s Division the day previous, we were in the front line of camps and at the first summons formed in good order while fragments of shell were whizzing through the trees above their heads. In a few minutes we were speeding at a gallop to the scene of strife, first taking a position within hundreds of rods of our quarters at the edge of a wood. The third section, embracing two pieces under the command of Lieutenant [Walter B.] King (acting in the absence of Lieutenant [William H.] Smith) was ordered forward and took position at a crossing of two roads to protect them and subject the enemy to a raking fire on their approach. [This would be the intersection of the Hamburg-Purdy road running east to west and the Corinth Road running north to south.] From here the line of fire could be distinctly seen and wounded men were constantly filing by on their way to camp, while those unable to help themselves were being carried past by their comrades on muskets and rude litters.

The location of Burrows' Battery at 10 A.M. on April 6, 1862 was near the intersection of the Corinth Road and Hamburg-Purdy Road. The map above from the American Battlefield Trust is inaccurate in that the battery was in front of Marsh's Brigade with the 11th Illinois to their right and the 11th Iowa to their left.  Lieutenant Stull complained that "the treachery of the Rebels aided by the color of their clothing enabled them to advance and deliver a telling fire before we were certain of their identity." The battery was overrun by the 16th Alabama and 27th Tennessee of General S.A.M. Wood's brigade around 11 a.m.
Soon the remaining pieces were ordered up and the whole battery commanded to move to the line of fire and then took position in the woods to our left. Our captain is said to have replied to this order “That is not my place. I cannot hold my guns there half an hour. My boys will be all cut to pieces.” There was not time for parley, however, and we immediately took the place assigned us, a most unfortunate position where we could not even see the enemy at a distance of 50 rods who, true to their treasonable instincts, advanced under the American colors. The 12th Iowa and 14th Illinois, our supporting infantry, took position in our rear to the right and left respectively so that from the first we bore the brunt of the fire. [Ohio at Shiloh states that the 14th Ohio Battery was supported on its right by the 11th Illinois of Colonel C. Carroll Marsh’s brigade of McClernand’s division. Stull was correct that he was supported on the left by an Iowa regiment but had the number wrong- the 12th Iowa was part of Colonel James M. Tuttle’s brigade of General W.H.L. Wallace’s division and fought in the Hornet’s Nest located quite a distance to the east. The 11th Iowa from Colonel Abraham Hare’s brigade was detached from the brigade and lay on the battery’s left. The 14th Illinois was part of Colonel James C. Veatch’s brigade of General Stephen Hurlbut’s division and covered the retreat of the battery at 11 A.M. Maps that I consulted are not in agreement as to all of this so I’d offer this as my interpretation. The regimental identifications in Stull’s letter could also be mixed up due to a simple newspaper compositor’s error.]

The retreat of a Federal battery at Shiloh is a close approximation of how things appeared when the 14th Ohio Battery was overrun. Private Charles Austin remembered that "we were ordered to limber to the rear, but the Rebels were not over 60 yards off and before we could get our gun limbered, five of our six horses were killed and the sixth wounded. The order came to leave our gun and when we fired the load we had it at the devils."

The treachery of the Rebels aided by the color of their clothing, which was the exact hue of the dead leaves covering the ground, enabled them to advance and deliver a telling fire before we were certain of their identity.

General John A. McClernand
The Illinois regiment [48th Illinois] on our left who, from their position, could see the effects of our fire better than ourselves by reason of the dense smoke would cry out by way of encouragement “Give it to ‘em boys, you’re cutting them all to hell!” The Rebel forces swept nearer and nearer till some of our men heard one of them say distinctly “By God, here’s a battery that has no infantry that we can take as well as not,” and suiting the action to the word, they bore down upon our unprotected right, by a flank movement, to contend against which would have been certain destruction. We made a precipitate retreat to the quarters we had left scarce an hour before, leaving four dead and five wounded upon the field and one-fourth of the command disabled by wounds, nearly 20 of whom we got off with us besides securing six caissons and two limbers. [The battery was captured by the troops of 16th Alabama and 27th Tennessee regiments of General Sterling A.M. Wood’s brigade of Hardee’s Corps. General Wood commented in his report that the battery was taken only “with great loss on our side.” Among the casualties was Colonel Christopher Harris “Kit” Williams of the 27th Tennessee was struck in the chest by a bullet and killed while charging Burrow’s battery. General McClernand in his official report noted that “the underbrush and trees bear abundant and impressive evidence of the sanguinary character of this engagement.”]
Captain Jerome B. Burrows
         14th Ohio Battery
Of the wounded I will briefly mention that Captain Jerome Burrows was shot by a musket ball near the right elbow while standing between Lieutenant King and Ellsworth on the right flank. [Private George Ellsworth, a relative of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, had been assigned to the battery just a week before from the ranks of the 28th Iowa Infantry.] It was a severe wound and it was feared for a time that he might lose his arm. John S. Hunter, James S. Reed, Lucius C. Waters, and William C. Hall were left on the field and that night lodged in Rebel hands who, to their honor be it said, treated them tenderly and kindly. [Reed would die of his wounds May 26, 1862 and Hall would die of his wounds May 8, 1862 at St. Louis, Missouri. Lucius Waters was discharged at the end of April 1862 due to the severity of his wounds.] They heard the Rebels swear terribly about the execution of our battery which they proceeded to spike and dismount at once in which condition we found it but, thanks to our artificers Thomas Douglas, Wilson S. Hamilton, and Philo Maltby, our steel dogs can now bite as well as bark. With less than 70 men left of the 95 who went into that fatal field we eagerly await the command to again let slip those dogs of war.
Of the battle I only pause to say that on Sunday, many regiments went into the field without orders or a head. Sunday evening saw our forces badly beaten, having been driven almost helplessly two miles to the river, leaving almost every camp with vast stores in Rebel possession for nearly 24 hours and themselves penned into a few hundred acres all that night like so many sheep for the slaughter. Had the shelling commenced by the enemy been kept up two hours we would have been completely at their mercy. Nothing but a single battery of siege guns on our left wing with the aid of a gunboat and the coming on of night prevented a disgraceful surrender or total annihilation.
Thousands of panic-stricken Federal troops crowded the bluffs at Pittsburg Landing, a sight that greeted the eyes of reinforcements from Buell's army that arrived the evening of April 6th. General Grant met with Buell briefly at the Landing, and once their conference concluded, the stragglers caught Buell's eye. "I saw him berating them and trying to shame them into rejoining their regiments," Grant wrote. "He even threatened them with shells from the gunboats nearby, but it was all to no effect."

General Grant is reported to have held a white flag furled about its staff for two hours ready to display it had the Rebel shelling continued. How true this rumor is I know not and trust it is an idle tale. That thousands hoped so I am confident and that a panic great, pervading, and ignominious prevailed, I was an eyewitness to it, and saw fully 5,000 seeking shelter behind the river bluffs or on the boats from which they were only kept back by bayonets presented at a charge on every gangway plank. Others attempted to swim the river and many are reported to have lost their worthless lives in the attempt. Buell’s reinforcements poured in that evening and the next day. Real generalship was now displayed. The Rebel lines were driven back till 3 P.M. and they lost all the ground they had won and fell back in utter confusion. The valor of Ohio troops alone saved the day and turned the tide of battle.
Lieutenant Stull passed along the camp rumor that General Grant contemplated surrender during the darkest depths of the battle right before sunset on April 6, 1862. Grant's memoir states that, on the contrary, as the fighting ended on the 6th, he was absolutely confident of victory. "Victory was assured when [Lew] Wallace arrived, even if there had been no other support," he wrote. Grant, hobbling about on crutches with a swollen ankle sustained a few days prior from a fall from his horse, made his headquarters under a tree at the Landing but couldn't sleep due to the heavy rain and deafening crash of gunfire from the two gunboats firing nearby. He moved to a nearby log cabin that had been converted to a makeshift field hospital. "All night wounded men were being brought in, their wounds dressed, a leg or arm amputated as the case might require, and everything being done to save life or alleviate suffering. The sight was more unendurable than encountering the enemy's fire, so I returned to my tree in the rain."
14th Ohio Battery Monument at Shiloh

    Private Richard V. Taylor of Leroy, Ohio was badly wounded through both arms and was discharged for wounds at the end of April 1862. He passed through Cleveland in mid-April and relayed the following to the reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Taylor says that he was on his way to a spring for the purpose of getting some water when he heard the report of musketry and artillery and he remarked to his comrades that they would have fighting enough to do this day.” [There was a creek located just west of the Corinth Road in the vicinity of McClernand’s camp.]

    ‘A few moments after we heard a hissing sound overhead and looking up saw an old shell coming through the air. It hit on the side of a tree above our heads but didn’t burst. From the tree it glanced off and hit one of our horses wounding him. He broke away and ran. The report of firearms now came nearer and we received ordered to harness up and get ready for action. We did so and took a position in a clump of woods. We soon saw the enemy coming over the hill and firing on as they came. We had six or eight men killed and Captain Burrows was wounded above the right elbow, the ball coming our below. He was conveyed on board one of the vessels near. All the horses on the caissons were killed.’

    “Taylor said the battery was placed in such a condition from the loss of men and horses that it was temporarily broken up- the men volunteering in other batteries during the battle. It is impossible to view the bullet-riddled garments of these volunteers without having a vivid perception of the hotness of the fire poured in upon our troops on that fatal Sunday morning.” The reporter stated that Taylor’s wounds hadn’t been dressed in three days “and they were consequently in bad condition, as the odor emitted from them plainly testified.” (“War Items from the Battlefield, Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 18, 1862, pg. 3)

The desperate fighting for possession of the 14th Ohio Battery came at great cost to the Confederates. 

    Private Elmer Bacon moved to Streator, Illinois after the war and provided the following account to the chroniclers of the Soldiers’ and Patriots’ Biographical Album which was published by the Union Veteran Publishing Co. in 1892- this is a tremendous and relatively untapped source for battle accounts which can be found here

    “Early on April 6, Mr. Bacon’s battery bravely responded to the bugle’s call, was placed in position, and had their guns leveled when they descried a body of men approaching, but orders were given not to fire as it was supposed they were Union troops. Corporal George Tracy of Mr. Bacon’s detachment was on the ground and concluded it was the enemy, whereupon the order was given to fire. This battery was one of the first that opened fire on the enemy in that sanguinary battle. The battery fired rapidly until enveloped in a cloud of smoke, completely obscuring both the enemy and the battery. Mr. Bacon, in attempting to load his gun, found himself without ammunition and none forthcoming. The gunner hastily ran back to discover the cause of the delay and not returning, Mr. Bacon himself started for the same purpose and soon discovered the cause. Their captain and 28 men had been either killed or wounded and upwards of 70 horses disabled. Their guns were captured but none of the men except the wounded fell into the hands of the enemy. Mr. Bacon escaped with one of the limbers and the men operating at the guns and a portion of the team, and did no further service in that battle as their guns and outfit had been captured. On the following Monday, they recovered their guns but they were spiked. The battery remained on the battlefield for some days where it was refitted and about 50 men from the 13th Ohio Battery assigned to duty with it and so remained during the war.” [The 13th Ohio Battery was disbanded due to poor battlefield performance on April 6th.]

General Sterling A.M. Wood, C.S.A.
Troops from his brigade captured the
14th Ohio Battery at Shiloh.

    Corporal Edgar C. Miller wrote the following which appeared in the May 8, 1862 issue of the Cleveland Morning Leader: “Early on Sunday morning, April 6th we began to hear firing in the distance, and it soon became evident from the unceasing roar of musketry that our forces were being driven. At 8 o’clock the firing became much heavier, and our battery was ordered into action. In a few minutes we were on our way to the battlefield, little thinking how disastrous the day would prove to us. We were first drawn up on the edge of an open field, but were soon moved about twenty rods further south, so as to command two roads. In a few minutes we were again moved so as to command a ravine, some fifteen rods to the west. In ten minutes we were again ordered to change our position, and this time, were placed as it were “in the jaws of hell.”

    Two regiments were ordered to support our battery on our right and left respectively. The battery was stationed on a ridge, ranging across a ravine, and to the right of us about twelve rods, was another ridge. We had no sooner got into position that the order was given to load. The rebels were seen in the bushes bearing the American flag. We were deceived only for a moment, and gave them a salute with shell from our guns. The balls now began whistling about us like hail, but our guns were served with rapidity and accuracy, doing fearful damage to the enemy. We kept them at bay in front, but a large force came up sheltered by the ridge on our right, and the infantry fell back, leaving us entirely unsupported. Our battery was flanked, and exposed to a raking fire, but we still stood by our guns, and the gun of our detachment cut down the rebel flag, killing the color bearer. Captain Burrows had been shot through the arm and borne off the field, a large portion of the men killed and wounded, and the order was given, “Limber to the rear.” The horses were brought round, but in less time than I can write it, many of them were shot down, and our battery was lost. We got off the field, what was left of us, God only knows how. I never expect to face so great danger again if I should be in a hundred battles.”

A precise cohesive account of the fighting at Shiloh has been a particularly troublesome nut to crack for Civil War historians ever since the battle itself. The vast majority of the soldiers of both armies were relative novices in the art of war; a large portion of Grant's army had never heard a shot fired in anger and many had been armed only weeks before. The situation was not far different in the Confederate army. Shiloh to me is an endlessly fascinating battle to study in part due to the elusive nature of arriving at what happened.

    Private Charles E. Austin provided the following account to the Ashtabula Sentinel, which was reprinted in the Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph: “Our guns are all gone. We were ordered to take such a position and hold it, and we did so as long as we could, and would have done so until this time, if our support had not run. The regiments on our right and left supporting us, did not fire two hundred shots from both regiments; but as soon as the enemy were in musket range, they ran like dogs, and we stood at our guns receiving the whole fire of the enemy, who tried to silence our guns. We were ordered to limber to the rear, the rebels were not over sixty yards off, and before we could get our gun limbered, five of our six horses were killed and the sixth wounded. The order came to leave our gun, when we fired the load we had it at the devils. At that time I was hit on the head and knocked down. Daniel Simms started to put down another load, but Sergeant Frederick B. Pierce made him leave. Our boys behaved like veterans; not a man left until he was ordered. Number Six gun fired the last shot, and the Rebels were not over thirty yards off when we left. Our guns are retaken [the next day], but were dismounted and spiked, and the wheels knocked to pieces.” (Ashtabula Weekly Telegraph, April 26, 1862, pg. 3)]

This depiction of Captain Andrew Hickenlooper's 5th Ohio Battery at Shiloh gives some indication of the confusion and chaos of Civil War battlefields. 
For more reading on the service of the 14th Ohio Battery, please check out William Griffings’ superb letter collection of Captain Jerome Burrows which is here.


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