With the Intrepidity of Veterans: The 6th Arkansas at Shiloh

    At the Battle of Shiloh, the 6th Arkansas Infantry was part of Brigadier General Thomas C. Hindman's First Brigade of General William J. Hardee's Third Corps. The regiment became engaged mid-morning against John McClernand's division north of the Hamburg-Purdy road, attacking Colonel Abraham Hare's brigade. The intensity of combat and the confusion of it all was a shock to the troops involved, including Captain John Reardon of Co. A who wrote the following letter to the Arkansas True Democrat back in Little Rock. "There was so much confusion during the fight that I cannot give you a description of it but can give some interesting details perhaps," he wrote. It was the first real fight for the 6th Arkansas, and a tough one as the regiment sustained 144 casualties in the first day's fighting. "This was the first charge of the 6th Arkansas and Hindman told us if we did no other fighting we had immortalized ourselves," he stated.

Battle of Shiloh

Camp of 6th Regt., near Corinth, Mississippi

April 10, 1862

          I returned the day before yesterday a very much wearied and broken down soldier from the battlefield of Shiloh, very happy I assure you to get back with only a wound through the shoulder of my overcoat which I wore during the fight of the first day. There was so much confusion during the fight that I cannot give you a description of it but can give some interesting details perhaps.

          On Thursday morning the 3rd, we were ordered to cook five days’ rations and be ready for a march towards the enemy. As we had received these orders so often before (resulting in nothing), I thought it was only another one of our ordinary raids, but on our march easily discovered the difference by the number of troops who joined us. In the afternoon of the second day’s march [April 4, 1862], our brigade was thrown into line of battle to receive an attack of the enemy who were known to be encamped about four miles off. Cleburne’s brigade with John Trigg’s battery were sent to advance and received an attack. Trigg’s battery in ambush fired a full volley into about 2,000 troops, after which they (the enemy) retired. I presume it was a large reconnoitering party.

“Beauregard amused the young men of our company very much by the caution he gave them: ‘shoo at de feet.’ I did not suppose he was so much of a Frenchman.”

We remained in line of battle all night and sleep on tried to sleep on our arms in the rain. The next day we marched to within a mile and a half of the enemy and at once drew up in line of battle expecting another attack. During the morning, the arrival of troops springing up in every direction like the forces of Roderick Dhu [a medieval Scottish outlaw] astonished everyone; I counted not less than 15 regiments pass us that I never had seen or heard of before. Soon after, Generals Beauregard, Johnston, Bragg, and Hardee at different times with their staff officers passed along the line and then I knew there was to be no more child’s play, but that an important battle was expected. Beauregard amused the young men of our company very much by the caution he gave them: ‘shoo at de feet.’ I did not suppose he was so much of a Frenchman.

General Pierre G.T. Beauregard
"Shoo at de feet"

We remained in line of battle all day in a favorable position to receive the enemy, from whom it appears we expected an attack but in vain. About dark and before the most of us had eaten supper, our regiment was ordered at once on picket guard within about three-quarters of a mile of the enemy. We remained wide awake all night and as it was very cold, I do not think I ever suffered more.

At the dawn of day, a fight between our pickets and their commenced and it may be said to have been the commencement of the battle for from that time it never ceased. Without any breakfast, we were ordered into line at once, only waiting for the other regiments of our brigade (the 2nd and 7th Arkansas, 3rd Confederate, Swett’s Battery, and some cavalry) to join us. We advanced at the double quick through an open field towards the Yankee camps, made the first attack along the line, the length of which I as afterwards informed was about five miles with General Polk commanding the reserve.

In this first attack, I lost one killed and three wounded before we could fire a gun, and the attack was one of the most gallant things on record. Before reaching the camp, we were halted until our battery silenced the enemy’s cannon, and then at the order from General [Thomas C.] Hindman to charge the enemy with our bayonets, we rushed pell mell after them amidst a shower of bullets. The cowardly scoundrels, seeing us coming, ran out of their camps like so many wild turkeys, and in the same way were run out from among their tents by our troops wherever they were encountered and by noon we had entire possession of an encampment that by account of some of the prisoners is said to have contained 110,000 men.

This was the first charge of the 6th Arkansas and Hindman told us if we did no other fighting we had immortalized ourselves, but we continued the fight until the enemy was entirely driven from the field, forced on board of their gunboats, and scattered in every direction. I do not know how many prisoners were taken, but we have heard about 3,000, among them General Prentiss, and any number of colonels, captains, etc. We took possession of all their property, which was immense, estimated by some at a million dollars. It was one of the most brilliant victories on record, and all my men behaved most nobly. Zimmerman and Jim Lawson acted as lieutenants, Gus Hudson taking the place of Bastable as guide. They behaved well and fought gallantly, not the least flinching that I could see on the part of either the officers or men, but the whole 6th went through charge after charge, often exposed to the most galling fire, with the intrepidity of veterans.

Our troops slept in the Yankee camps, feasted on Yankee luxuries which were abundant. The number engaged on our side was said to be 35,000, that of the enemy from accounts of their prisoners about 75,000 [actually about 40,000]. Having been up all the night before and nothing to eat during the day, our regiment was withdrawn early from the field through pure exhaustion, entirely worn out by fatigue and want of rest. It rained again nearly all night and having moved away from the Yankee tents we slept but little.

The 6th Arkansas carried old U.S. issue
flintlocks at Shiloh

Early the next morning we were ordered into line to attack the enemy again, who had received large reinforcements during the night. So we went out again, got into two or three engagements in which the enemy was overwhelming, and then General Beauregard stating he preferred to retire than with a victory to have his army cut to pieces by overwhelming numbers, we withdrew from the field about noon. The Federals withdrew at the same time and made it somewhat a drawn battle. The next day there was some skirmishing with them by our cavalry, but today we here they have all left the ground.

My seriously wounded, five in number, will all perhaps be sent to Little Rock. I solicit for them the attention of the ladies of Little Rock and those particularly in charge of the management of the hospitals. I wish you would mention this request so as to ensure them the best attention that can be offered to the wounded. Benjamin Field will attend them to Little Rock as surgeon and nurse.

I have seen no estimate of the number of killed and wounded even of our regiment but think our loss in proportion must have been much larger than that of the enemy. The fight on our side was considered a desperate one, for we never failed to the run the Yankees whenever there was a charge made upon them. We had 33 members of the company start for the field of battle [Reardon names them all in the original] while 28 remained in camp sick.

[Colonel Alexander T. Hawthorn led the 6th Arkansas at Shiloh until he was badly shocked by the concussion of a cannon ball. Major Feaster J. Cameron, himself slightly wounded in the right side by a Minie ball, reported on April 11th that the regimental losses for the 6th Arkansas at Shiloh totaled 18 killed, 124 wounded, and two missing, for a total of 144. Cameron’s report indicated that Co. A lost John Streak killed, and ten men wounded.]



Letter from Captain John E. Reardon, Arkansas True Democrat (Arkansas), April 24, 1862, pg. 2


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