"Crank" Worthington's Boys at Shiloh

Colonel Thomas Worthington of the 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was an interesting character. Son of a governor and senator from Ohio, he graduated from West Point in 1827 but upon the death of his father, he left the service to manage some business interests he had inherited. He served briefly in the Mexican War and was appointed colonel of the 46th Ohio when it mustered into service. The 46th Ohio was sent to Paducah, Kentucky where it was assigned to General William Tecumseh Sherman's new Fifth Division; the regiment was assigned to a brigade with the 6th Indiana battery, and the 6th Iowa and 40th Illinois regiments  placed under the command of Colonel John A. McDowell of the 6th Iowa. Sherman selected McDowell, the younger brother of Irvin McDowell of Bull Run fame, over Worthington which set the stage for a year of bickering between the two men. 

Sherman related in his memoirs that Worthington was "a strange character" who, due to his age (Worthington was 55 at Shiloh) "claimed to know more of war than all of us [Grant, Halleck, and Sherman] put together. In ascending the [Tennessee] River, he did not keep his place in the column but pushed on and reached Savannah a day before the rest of my division. When I reached that place, I found that Worthington had landed his regiment and was flying about giving orders as though he were commander-in-chief. I made him get back on his boat, and gave him to understand that he must thereafter keep his place." Sherman's rebuke stung but didn't change Worthington's behavior; he remained "full of notions and never weary of arguments" as the Adena Mansion site notes. Ohio at Shiloh notes that had the term been coined at the time of Shiloh, Sherman no doubt would have referred to Worthington as a "crank." 
Colonel Thomas Worthington, 46th Ohio Infantry(1807-1884)
"Crank" Worthington argued that the Federal army should have entrenched while encamped at Pittsburg Landing and subsequent events proved him to be correct. Worthington allowed portions of his private journal to be used by Lieutenant Governor Benjamin Stanton of Ohio as Stanton endeavored to have Grant and Sherman court-martialed for negligence at Shiloh. When that effort ended in failure, Worthington wrote pamphlets trying to make the charges stick. 

With that introduction, I present two accounts from two soldiers in Co. F of the 46th Ohio that give their experience at the Battle of Shiloh. Both letters were written to the Lancaster Gazette, from which Companies C and F of the 46th Ohio were raised; interestingly, Lancaster, Ohio was also General Sherman's hometown. Colonel Worthington spent the rest of his life trying in vain to pin the surprise at Shiloh on Sherman's mismanagement, and whatever criticisms he indulged in are altogether absent from these two accounts. 

Letter from Captain Henry H. Giesy, Co. F, 46th Ohio Infantry
Weekly Lancaster Gazette, April 24, 1862, pg. 1

Camp Shiloh, Pittsburg, Tennessee
April 9, 1862
          Editor Lancaster Gazette:
          We were in General Sherman’s division composed of four brigades which was posted on the extreme right, fronting towards Corinth to the south. The 46th Ohio was in the center of the First Brigade commanded by Colonel John McDowell of the 6th Iowa, he being the brother of General McDowell. Colonel Hicks’ 40th Illinois was the left regiment and on its left was an Indiana battery of six guns. The attack commenced at half past 7 a.m. on the left of General Sherman’s division. At 8 o’clock, the attack became general all along the line with the exception of the First Brigade which remained inactive until 9 a.m. We were then commanded to face about and move north of the Pittsburg & Purdy road about 150 yards. We had reached our second position when we were ordered to march by the left flank and take a position 300 yards northeast and fronting on the Purdy road. In these two moves there were five guns of the battery lost, not having followed the movement. At this time, we were getting in the rear of the enemy, they having broken the line of Sherman’s division and taken a direction to their right, having left behind them parts of Mauger’s and other regiments of the center of our division.
Captain Henry Hensel Giesy, Co. F, 46th OVI
Killed in aciton May 28, 1864 at Dallas, Ga.

          In our third position, the undergrowth was so thick that any force in front could scarcely be seen at 80 yards which rendered our position by no means comfortable, apprehending as we had cause to, an attack in the rear. We remained about half an hour when we moved forward, guiding by the left to the edge of the woods, and in front of quite a large field. Here in our fourth position we evidently were in the rear of the enemy’s left flank. The order was then given to move again by the left flank around this field to the opposite side, when the order was given to march by the right flank (in line of battle) bearing to the left. When moving this direction about 300 yards the order was given to change front forward on the first company, which brought us directly in front of the enemy.

          Here the men were ordered to lie down, and the engagement began. Finding that we were in too great a force for us, we were ordered to retire about 50 yards. We moved by the left flank about 200 yards, and again engaged the enemy with great energy and effect for one hour and a half. When outnumbering us, they moved one regiment to the right and turned our left and one to the left and turned to our right, and it was seen by General Sherman that unless we moved from this position we would be call cut to pieces. Just as the order came to retreat, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Walcott, having received a wound in the arm, dismounted and gave his horse to Colonel Worthington (as his had been shot in the first fire) in order to execute the command. We moved off, but it was at the expense of the lives of many brave boys.

In consequence of the overpowering numbers, we were obliged to fall back to the river where a new line was formed, supporting a 64-pound gun and howitzer, which line was supported on the left by the gunboats and as the enemy came up with full confidence in their ability to drive us into the Tennessee River that night. The guns in front and the boats on the left let loose such a shower of shell upon them, that they halted in perfect astonishment at being greeted with such a warm reception. Just then the signal upon the opposite side of the river plainly showed that the advance of Buell’s forces was at hand. And oh, what a shout of joy went up as the first regiment landed at half past 6 p.m. and moved up on the hill to the support of the soldiers who had been worn out by the hard day’s work. This timely aid soon told the enemy that their expected victory was gone, and night coming on, the work of death ceased.
46th O.V.V.I. national colors with battle honors through 1865. The first honor
for Shiloh would have been at the upper left hand corner of this photo.
(Ohio History Connection)

During the whole night, the troops were coming across the river and every half hour the gunboats would send a messenger of death into the camp of the enemy in the shape of a shell to let them know that the deadly strife was not yet ended. At 6 a.m. of the 7th, our line, which had been reinforced by Generals Buell and Wallace, moved forward and began the attack. And such a continuous roar of musketry and artillery was never known in history. The enemy fought bravely, and being well-disciplined, they were able to fiercely contest every inch of ground they had gained the previous day. And after fighting on both sides for eight hours with a desperation unequalled in the annals of history. At 2 p.m., the enemy’s line was broken and made a precipitated flight, when the artillery reserve and the cavalry was ordered forwarded to complete the rout.

Thus, ended the most hotly contested battle that was ever known upon our continent. And those who were at Fort Donelson say that that fight though great indeed, was nothing in comparison to this. And is not without reason. They knew that this battle would of necessity have to be theirs, or their wicked idea of secession would vanish like the mist of the morning. And to understand how demoralized their army was by this defeat, is only to ride along the line of their retreat and see the guns, knapsacks, haversacks, blankets, coats, and everything to lighten their loads in order to hasten their flight from our cavalry and the field which proved so disastrous.

Before closing, I must state one fact in reference to the death of Sergeant Benjamin F. Hassin. He was wounded in the calf of the left leg. When found it was evident he had taken off his boot and bandaged the wound and upon examination a bayonet wound was found in his right side which was conclusive proof in my mind that poor Ben was brutally murdered by some heartless Rebel. This was strange, for as a general thing they were very kind to our wounded. Ben was brave and fought to the last. My whole company was brave and fought with unusual courage in this, their first engagement.
46th Ohio national colors, rifle, sword, and drum
(Ohio History Connection)

Letter from Private Edward Myers, Co. F, 46th Ohio Infantry
Weekly Lancaster Gazette, April 24, 1862, pg. 1
This letter was written to his brother Jacob Myers

Camp Shiloh, Tennessee
April 9, 1862
          Dear Brother,
          I will tell you something of the fight. I was slightly hurt and sent to Savannah, but I am well now and in camp again. Corporal Eli Swartz, Sergeant Benjamin F. Hassen, and two others of our company that we know of, are dead. Eli and Ben were killed on the first day. Eli was shot through the head and Ben was wounded through the leg- he bound the wound up himself and after that the enemy came and when we found him we discovered they had run a bayonet through him in two places. They took his revolver from him. He appeared to have died in the greatest of agony. He looked very natural. Eli Swartz looked very natural this morning. I made two boxes, one for Eli and one for Hassen. They were neatly buried. I made a good box for Eli and had his name cut on a board and nailed it on the box so that he can be taken home. He has a headboard with his name cut on it and below his name, “My life for my country.” Eli was a good soldier. Hassen was buried in the same way. I buttoned his clothes on him and laid a board under his head to make him look more natural. Sergeant John Rowles [Co. C] was shot through the head. I saw him after he was dead. David Taylor also is dead; he had both legs broken and shot through the body. The last words that anyone heard Hassen say was when he lay behind a tree, he said be careful, it is me that you are shooting at. Christian Zook was wounded in arm, but not to hurt any; he is going about in good spirits.
Ohio History Connection

          Our regiment was one of the first in battle. They came on us on Sunday morning and drove us out of our camp and destroyed everything. We lost all our clothing, blankets, etc. While we were in the fight, I tell you the bullets fell thick and fast. I never heard such a racket in my life as there was around my feet. When they fired on us, I was taking fair aim at one when a ball came and hit me in the body which knocked the breath out of me. I think it was a poisoned bullet, for it made a very bad sore and sicker I never was. I am over it now and I feel very well. Lem Groves got a good watch from a secesh, a hunting case galvanized watch. The secesh advanced on us in the morning with blue coats and a Union flag; this was when they done the most damage to us. One hundred and twenty were wounded and 36 killed from our regiment. It was an awful sight to see the piles of dead men. Five men were found in one place that had been killed by one cannon ball, they were secesh.

          On Sunday we had to fight to three to one and they drove us within half a mile of the river. Buell came just in time to save us. When I come I will tell you some things that happened in the fight. There were a great many wounded. It was an awful sight, some with legs, some with arms, and some with half their head shot off. Groaning could be heard for some distance. The secesh drove us from our camps so that our sutler lost everything he had. I saw Mathias Dilger and Milton Hunter; they looked as natural as ever. They were in the fight one day. I had a good long talk with the boys. You may know that we were glad to see one another.

46th Ohio Monument at Shiloh.
The regiment brought 701 officers and men into action and lost 37 killed, 185 wounded, and 24 missing for a total casualties of 246, 35% of the regiment. 


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