Gobbled by Forrest at Fallen Timbers

    For Captain Andrew Wilson McCormick of the 77th Ohio, the pursuit of the Confederate army the day after the battle of Shiloh proved more dangerous than the battle itself. “I was in the great fight from Sunday morning through Monday afternoon without getting injured,” he relayed to his wife in a letter written from the Tishomingo Hotel in Corinth on April 12, 1862. “On Tuesday April 8th, the 77th Ohio was attacked by the Texas Rangers and another battalion when I got a revolver shot from a ranger which broke my arm just below the shoulder. It was dressed at General Hardee’s headquarters by Dr. Rumbaugh, a Union surgeon. Generals Breckinridge, Ruggles, and Hardee have all been to see me. I am doing well and am very well treated. The Southern ladies are like good Samaritans and treated me like sisters would.” Captain McCormick, the former editor of the Marietta Republican, would spend six months in captivity.

          On the morning of April 8, 1862, General U.S. Grant ordered General William T. Sherman and Thomas J. Wood to lead their commands south in pursuit of the retreating Confederate army under General P.G.T. Beauregard. A few miles out from the Union camps, the leading elements of the column including a skirmish line from the 77th Ohio stumbled across a Confederate field hospital guarded by about 350 cavalrymen under the command of Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest’s task was clear: to protect the camp and delay the Federal pursuit to buy time for the Confederate forces to proceed uninhibited to their camps at Corinth, Mississippi. The short battle which resulted became known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers.  

Upon his exchange in October 1862, Captain McCormick returned home to Marietta. The following account of Fallen Timbers is derived from a lecture that he gave on Monday evening, November 17, 1862 at the Washington County Courthouse in Marietta. The good captain shortly thereafter went back to the front and had the misfortune of being captured a second time. This time it was at Mark’s Mills, Arkansas on April 26, 1864, roughly two years after he was captured at Fallen Timbers.

 

Colonel Jesse Hildebrand of the 77th Ohio led a brigade at Shiloh but was haunted by the losses of his regiment at Fallen Timbers: the regiment lost roughly 50 casualties in the short engagement including a large number killed in action. The events of the day continued to torment him on his deathbed a year later. "The disaster of April 8th, 1862 was one of the most painful events of Col. Hildebrand's life. He spoke of it repeatedly while lying upon his bed of death. This anniversary occurred during the period of his prostration in sickness, and he referred feelingly and with warmth the sanguinary scenes of that day," remembered Lieutenant Colonel Wills De Hass of the 77th Ohio.

On Tuesday morning the 8th, General Sherman ordered out the Third Brigade composed of the 53rd, 57th, and 77th Ohio regiments commanded by Colonel Jesse Hildebrand. We were accompanied by a battalion of the 4th Illinois Cavalry with orders to follow the retreating Rebel army. About five miles from Shiloh Church, scouts reported a Rebel force nearby. The brigade was halted and the 77th Ohio, now numbering about 200 men, was ordered to be sent forward in line of battle. They advanced until the skirmishers were within short range of a brigade of Confederate cavalry: the Texas Rangers, Colonel Wirt Adams’ Mississippi regiment, and Colonel Forrest’s Kentucky [ 3rd Tennessee] regiment.[1]

The 77th was halted and the skirmishers were ordered to fire and fall back on the regiment. The moment this order was obeyed, the Rebel cavalry made a furious charge upon the little band and cut the regiment to pieces before the brigade could come to its relief. Firing their carbines and shotguns as they came, the Rebels dashed up to within a few yards of our infantry and with revolvers drawn poured upon them a most galling fire. In the meantime, the 77th Ohio had emptied their muskets and were defenseless. [The 77th was armed with large caliber (.69-.71) Model 1842 Austrian muskets.] 

Captain McCormick had his revolver raised and just on the point of firing to the front his right arm was broken by a revolver shot from one of the Texas Rangers who charged upon the flanks. Being thus disabled and at once surrounded by half a dozen mounted Rebels with revolvers drawn, he was compelled to surrender. After taking his sword and revolver, they drove him to the rear with revolvers pointed at his head and repeated threats of death unless he increased his pace to double quick. This he refused to do and was only relieved of this kind of treatment when a Rebel lieutenant hearing the oaths and threats of his soldiers send them away and took charge of the prisoners himself.

 


 “Formed in line of battle, the Confederates boldly stood their ground as about two battalions of cavalry and a regiment of infantry were thrown forward to assail them. The infantry advanced handsomely at a charge with their bayonets presented. There was some confusion, however, in the federal ranks crossed a small stream and Forrest resolved to charge the Federals with his force. His bugler sounded the charge and forward dashed the Confederates from their covert behind the crest of the ridge and were almost upon the enemy before the nature of the movement was perceived. At 20 paces, the Confederates gave a volley with their shotguns, a formidable weapon at short distance and rushed in with pistols and sabers. So sudden was the onset that the Federal cavalry broke in disorder and fled back through the woods, running over their own infantry in the panic, creating a scene of singular confusion and tumult for some moments. Many of the infantry were thus knocked down. Before the infantry could recover from the condition into which the flight of the cavalry had thrown them, Forrest was upon them with a swift play of the saber and revolver and they broke as well as the cavalry. The slaughter was considerable; men were merciless on such occasions. The loss inflicted was heavy, while 70 were captured.” ~Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, 1868

 

After marching two miles through the mud, Captain McCormick was taken to General Breckinridge’s headquarters where he was questioned as to the number of troops we had in the first day’s fight, our loss, the time of Buell’s arrival, etc. General Breckinridge inquired how many men Grant and Buell together had. “That is a question you have no right to ask, and you cannot expect me to answer,” he replied. He said he would have suffered death before he would have given information calculated to injure the Union cause. The General also wanted to know if there was a general advance upon them. The captain replied that he thought they would see our army soon enough. Had this Rebel general known there was only a skeleton brigade of Union troops nearby, he probably would have ordered his division over the hill and captured the whole party of them while they were burying the dead. Instead of this, Breckinridge’s force was drawn up in line of battle to await the advance of our army.

The captain was then sent to the hospital at General Hardee’s headquarters where his wound was dressed by a Union surgeon, Dr. Rumbaugh of the 25th Missouri. Dr. Lawrence, General’s Hardee’s medical director, also treated him with marked kindness. He was taken from there to Corinth where he remained a month.

 

Sources:

Letter from Captain Andrew W. McCormick, Co. G, 77th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Marietta Republican (Ohio), May 8, 1862, pg. 3

Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Wills De Hass, Marietta Republican (Ohio), May 14, 1863, pg. 3

“Address of Captain McCormick,” Marietta Republican (Ohio), November 19, 1862, pg. 4

Jordan, Thomas and J.P. Pryor. The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest and of Forrest’s Cavalry. New Orleans, Memphis, and New York: Blelock & Company, 1868, pgs. 146-47

 



[1] Forrest’s 3rd Tennessee Cavalry was a battalion of eight companies with men from Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. Co. A was from Brandenburg, Kentucky, Co. B was from southern Alabama, Co. C was from Memphis, Tennessee, Co. D was from Texas, Co. E was from Gadsden, Alabama, Co. F was from Huntsville, Alabama, Co. G was from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and Co. H was from Marshall Co., Alabama.


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