"May God save us from any more such days" Lieutenant Adams of the 57th Ohio Describes Shiloh

In honor of tomorrow marking the 158th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, I take pleasure in presenting the following account written by Second Lieutenant John Adams of Co. G, 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He wrote this reminiscence many years after the war and it was published in the Findlay Daily Jeffersonian

Second Lieutenant John Adams, Co. G, 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
(Robert Van Dorn Collection)

On the morning of April 6th, I was ordered out on picket with my company, I had the honor of commanding my company at that great battle.  The boys had seen fit to put Lieutenants straps on my shoulders in February.  We went about one mile in front of our regiment.  Had not been there long when I saw a large field in our front, a large army of soldiers marching in column across the field.  I had no idea they were rebels.  They carried the old Stars and Stripes, and I supposed they were Buell’s men.  I watched them until they made the flank movement and marched four deep right on to where we were.  They then threw out their skirmishers, halting a short time until they had advanced quite a distance.  Then, great God!  I commenced to realize they were the enemy!  They unfolded the Stars and Bars and came forward, all of which I watched, as if spell bound, until their skirmishers commenced to fire on us, then I realized it and knew the worst had come.  I drew my boys together, retreated a short distance, deployed and opened fire; but the enemy paid no heed to us.  They were after Prentiss. 
Colonel William Mungen, 57th Ohio Infantry
Mungen was sick in his tent when the battle commenced and command 
was exercised by Lieutenant Colonel Americus V. Rice. 
Photo courtesy of Rob Tong
We fell directly back, they bore to our left, and we fired, fell back, loaded and fired again.  I then rallied my men in a ravine and awaited the result.  We had not long to wait, for on they came, in a solid mass, and with a whoop, bearing to our left and down on Prentiss. Oh, wasn’t it grand!  We allowed them to come nearly opposite to us to our left, when I gave the words, “Ready, aim, fire!” and my God, what a sight!  The Johnnies fell like hail, our balls making deadly havoc in their ranks.  That volley staggered them and they fell back, giving us time to reload and drop further down the ravine.  When they came up again, where their dead and dying lay, we were not there but only a little further down.  When near enough we gave them one more deadly volley, and it was effectual. 

Right here I want to say we buried over one hundred rebels killed by my company.  They fired into us, but by this time we were making good our retreat around the ravine and blackberry bushes.  My loss was fearful, but nothing compared to theirs.  I got around by losing four or five men, joined my regiment and waded in.  One charge after another was made, the rebels sending us back, then we sending them back for several times; but finally they dislodged us and sent us flying back.  Hard was the fighting on that day.  It was disastrous to us and while our good people were praying and hearing the word of God here at home, we were in a deadly strife.  Many a brave man fell that day; many a mother was made childless; many a wife made a widow; and many were the orphans made on that beautiful Sabbath.  May God save us from any more such days.
Map showing the location of the 57th Ohio to the southeast of Shiloh Church at the opening of the Battle of Shiloh April 6, 1862.
Map by Hal Jespersen, featured in Sherman's Praetorian Guard
We fought until our ammunition ran out, and then fell to the rear.  We had not been back long until an infantry captain rode up on a horse, and commanded us in a cowardly way, to go to the front, insinuating that we were cowards.  He no more said the words than I commanded the boys to ready, aim.  Then I stepped to the front and addressed him as follows; “You cowardly bastard, I am, ashamed of you, who should be with the brave boys who have up to this time confided in you; and at the moment when you should stand by them doing your duty as a soldier, you have deserted them.  You, fight! No; no coward fights. I had thought I would let your cowardly blood out; but no, I will let you live.  It may be that you have a dear wife or child who loves you or the prayers of an old mother may save you. Go! Send us a brave man, and we will follow even unto death,” and he went.

He had not long gone until a Major rode up-a brave Major-you don’t always find brave Majors, he was an exception, and said to me, “Lieutenant, how many men have you?” I answered, “thirty-two.” He then inquired; “Won’t you help us keep the rebels back?  We have a large force of men in yonder open field, and want more, and especially officers, officers are scarce.” I told him we would gladly join him if we had ammunition.  He replied, “Follow me, and I will lead you to where you want,” and we followed.  Found an ammunition wagon full, standing all alone, no mule or drivers there.  Mules and drivers don’t like powder as a general thing.  They sometimes run.

Well, we loaded ourselves down with ammunition and started for the front with the full determination of staying until we drove the enemy off, or perished on the field.  We found one grand division and occupied the margin of the woods, lying flat on our faces.  The rebels charged us several times, but we held them back they losing heavily every time.  We let them come up as close to us as a hundred feet, then poured a volley into their ranks with a tremendous effect.  We continued this work until they finally concluded to let us alone.

We lay there all night and witnessed the havoc of our gun boats, heard the groans of the wounded and dying, for every shell from our boats tore into their ranks, and drove them back from the river.  So boys, in that way we put in the first days fight at Shiloh.

To learn more about the service of the 57th Ohio, click here to purchase a copy of our new book about the regiment. 

57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry National Colors


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