Capturing the Hornet's Nest with the Kid Glove Regiment at Shiloh

The Crescent Regiment of Louisiana, also known as the “Kid Glove” regiment as the men of its ranks numbered amongst the wealthiest families of New Orleans, was a 90-day regiment raised in March 1862 in response to General Beauregard’s appeal for emergency volunteers to take the field after the Federal victory at Fort Donelson threatened Confederate control of Tennessee. “At the beginning, we were dressed to kill and had an abundance of rations and servants galore,” remembered Private Yves LeMonnier of Co. B. “We returned home in rags, skinny and maimed, but happy and with an abundance of fight left in us.”[1]

         

This young and determined Confederate proudly poses with his musket and a sign proclaiming his allegiance to "Jeff Davis and the South!" (Library of Congress)



          Barely a month out of New Orleans, the Crescent Regiment took part in the Battle of Shiloh and was one of the regiments credited with the capture of the Hornet’s Nest on the first day of the battle. The following letter, written by an unknown soldier of the Sumter Rifles (Co. K), provides a witty and clearly written description of why the Crescents came home ragged, skinny, and maimed, and touches on capturing General Prentiss in the Hornet's Nest.

 

Headquarters, Crescent Regiment, Camp near Corinth, Mississippi

April 9, 1862[2]
          My dear aunt,

          The battle is over, and the victory is ours! In order to give you a full account I will commence at the beginning. On Thursday April 3rd, we received orders to cook five days rations and march against the enemy near the Tennessee River. Not having any rations to cook, it did not take us long to obey the first order. We each managed to obtain five crackers apiece, however, and taking our blankets, we formed in line and marched off. Camping that night in the woods without shelter, we set off the next morning in the midst of a terrific thunderstorm, the hailstones falling as large as birds’ eggs. The storm continued a great part of the day and again we bivouacked at night in the woods without other shelter than our blankets. During the night, it rained furiously and most of us, being too extremely fatigued to be cautious, slept in pools of water; notwithstanding, but few caught cold. Saturday night we passed in a beautiful spot of woodland so near the enemy’s camp that we could hear their drums.

         

Federal artillery at Shiloh



The next morning, the pickets commenced firing. As the firing became more and more heavy, our regiment was marched within a half a mile of the place where the battle was then raging, and we awaited orders to advance. About 12 o’clock, the order was given, and we hastened to the fray. The enemy’s dead and dying lay scattered around and while passing their first encampments, our men, being almost starved, rushed into the now-deserted tents and seized on all the provisions they could find, which they devoured ravenously.

 

          As we moved further on the cannon balls and bomb shells from the enemy’s gunboats whizzed over our heads and burst in the air or carried away the tops of the trees. Reaching the place assigned to us [Duncan Field], we were drawn up in line of battle and ordered to lie down to avoid the balls and shells which were now pouring into us from the artillery. But a few minutes elapsed when we were ordered to charge on the enemy who were protecting themselves behind a fence, some cotton bales, and a log house. We rushed forward and repulsed them while their balls whistled about our ears like hail. We then fell back into line. While stationed here kneeling with my musket ready for any emergency, a cannon ball struck the ground about 12 inches from my feet and another struck my bayonet, passing within a few inches of my head, carrying away part of the bayonet and bending the remainder nearly double, knocking me flat to the earth. With some difficulty I managed to unscrew the useless weapon and threw it away.


 

Flag of Co. A of the Crescent Regiment
(Acadians in Gray)

          Again, we advanced and fired into the Federal infantry, which was being pretty badly peppered by two other regiments. At length, they threw down their arms and surrendered. We took about 4,000 prisoners. [Another soldier of the Crescent Regiment described the capture of the Hornet’s Nest and General Benjamin Prentiss thus: “Colonel [Marshall J.] Smith received orders to attack an encampment about a half mile from the river. The regiment opened fire upon it from the woods across a ravine and meeting no response, filed around to another point and were about to charge, when the Federals threw down their arms and came forward waving caps and handkerchiefs in token of surrender. Here General Prentiss was captured. While our regiment was drawn up in front of the encampment, a number of soldier from another regiment [the 19th Tennessee] entered the place and seized him in a tent. They turned him over to their colonel and some of them got possession of the flag and threw it into a camp fire, destroying it partially. It was rescued, however, and will I understand by turned over to Colonel Smith. As the whole encampment constituted two or more regiment submitted to our attack, the surrender should have been made to him, but in consequence of the turn of affairs, measures for securing the prisoners were not promptly taken and many of them escaped. We were fired upon, too, by another of our regiments which came in our rear to attack the camp.”[3]

 

General Prentiss and other Federal veterans of Shiloh pose at the site where Prentiss surrendered at 5:30 p.m. April 6, 1862. General Prentiss is the bearded gentleman, third from right.
Left to right: Colonel (then Major) John Smith Cavender (Battery M, 1st Missouri Light Artillery), Captain (then Private) Alfred T. Andreas (Co. G, 12th Illinois Infantry), Colonel T. Tyle Dickey (4th Illinois Cavalry), General (then Colonel) James Madison Tuttle (2nd Iowa Infantry), Major (then lieutenant) George Mason (12th Illinois Infantry), General Benjamin M. Prentiss, Captain Doolittle, Colonel Cuthbert Laing (Battery B, 1st Michigan Light Artillery)



The enemy were now driven from their encampments and we had now only about 10,000 of the 40,000 to contend with. Our artillery and theirs again commenced, our regiment lying close on the brow of a hill, the shot and shell pouring over us and occasionally killing someone. The enemy was soon entirely routed and driven back to the boats. We passed that night in a Yankee encampment where we found and enjoyed all the comforts of a home and provisions in abundance.

 

Learning that the enemy had been heavily reinforced during the night, we knew another big battle would result on Monday; accordingly, our regiment marched to the support of the artillery who were already engaged in battle. Again, the shot and shell showered us in profusion, but we were becoming accustomed to deadly missiles and di not pay much attention to them. We kept advancing with the artillery until their ammunition gave out and they fell back. The enemy charged our lines furiously with their infantry and we met them half way and the Minie balls whistled about us by thousands. Just as I had my musket at a charge bayonet, a ball struck my right hand, wounding it sufficiently to prevent my using it for a day at least; another ball struck my left foot and I fell. However, I sprang up immediately on my knees and endeavored to cock my gun but was unable.


Crescent Regiment Monument



 

Still I kept my position in line until I saw the greater part of the regiment falling back. Thinking they were retreating, I kept my post but when I saw the Sumter Rifles also moving and was told the order was given to fall back and load, I accordingly went back as fast as I was able and got into a gutter which protected me somewhat. I was now between the two fires and the balls fell around me in every direction. The artillery, having received a fresh supply of ammunition, stood their ground and by our united efforts we repulsed the enemy.

 

After the retreat, one of our lieutenants noticed my wounded condition and helped me off the field, placing me in charge of a friend to take me to the hospital. We wandered about five miles without finding any and then taking the Monterey road we traveled about five miles more, reaching that place by night. I was pretty well used up as you may imagine. I had managed to get through those ten miles by leans on my friend’s arm and using as a cane a Yankee sword which I took the previous day. I had not shelter than night and it rained very hard.

 

The army was all night passing Monterey. I joined them in the morning and walked, or rather limped, to Corinth, a distance of 15 miles where I arrived at 3 o’clock in the afternoon completely worn out. My wounds are slight, and I am now getting on finely. I have spoken of the Crescent Regiment only because it is impossible for a soldiers in one to know how the others were conducted. After I left the field, the Crescent Regiment made two charges, in one of which captain [Charles C.] Campbell of our company was killed, being shot through the heart by a Minie ball. He was a fine man in every particular, a noble and brave soldier. Many a soldier shed tears when they heard of his death as there was not a finer officer in the whole regiment. Before leaving the camp for the battlefield, he was offered a furlough but refused to accept it, although he was sick. The fatigues of the march and Sunday’s fight almost prostrated him. Then, scarcely able to stand, on Monday he persisted in leading his men in their charge and he fell nobly at his post.

 

The regiment became greatly scattered, some fighting with other regiments, which I believe is always the case with men in great battles, yet the majority kept well together. We lost in our company two killed, two mortally wounded, eight wounded, and two who are missing, making in all 14 which is one-fifth of the company. [Regimental losses totaled 23 killed, 84 wounded, and 20 missing, totaling 127.] If I return home, I can give you many details of the battle which I am unable to do now on account of my injured hand, which, being not in good order, I can scarcely write at all.

 

Accept my best love and wishes, affectionately, your nephew,

W.D.H.



[1] “Memorial to the Louisianans at Shiloh,” Confederate Veteran, August 1914, pg. 342

[2] “The Battle of Shiloh,” New Orleans Daily Crescent (Louisiana), April 17, 1862, pg. 1

[3] “Army Correspondence,” New Orleans Daily Crescent (Louisiana), April 15, 1862, pg. 1. A piece of “fine gold lace” from this “half-burned Lincoln standard” was sent to the editors of the Daily Crescent by their correspondent.

Comments

Most Popular Posts

Arming the Buckeyes: Longarms of the Ohio Infantry Regiments

Dressing the Rebels: How to Dye Butternut Jeans Cloth

Bullets for the Union: Manufacturing Small Arms Ammunition During the Civil War

The Vaunted Enfield Rifle Musket

Straw Already Threshed: Sherman on Shiloh

Charging Battery Robinett: An Alabama Soldier Recalls the Vicious Fighting at Corinth

A Fight for Corn: Eight Medals of Honor Awarded at Nolensville

In front of Atlanta with the 68th Ohio

The Legend of Leatherbreeches: Hubert Dilger in the Atlanta Campaign

Federal Arms in the Stones River Campaign