Among Terrill’s Gunners at Shiloh

     At the Battle of Shiloh, Captain William Terrill and his Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery distinguished themselves by their hard fighting on April 7th, 1862. Equipped with two 10-pdr Parrott rifles and four 12-pdr Napoleons, the battery disembarked from a steamboat at 8 o’clock that morning and immediately went into action supporting General William Nelson’s division. “This battery was a host in itself. Its fire was terrific. It was handled superbly. Wherever Captain Terrill turned his battery silence followed on the part of the enemy,” Nelson noted in his report. As the battle progressed, Terrill’s battery advanced with the Federal line and took heavy casualties while firing 242 rounds at the enemy. One man was killed, 15 wounded, and the battery lost 19 horses, the losses being so heavy that at one point into the afternoon, Captain Terrill was serving a gun himself alongside two of his men, one of those two being a young Cleveland, Ohio native named John Carroll.

In the fall of 1861, John Carroll was working as a typographer in the office of the Cleveland Morning Leader and chose to enlist in Battery H of the 5th U.S. Light Artillery under Captain Terrill. “We knew he was as brave as a lion and would fight every time the chance was given,” the editors later wrote and were pleased to share a note from Sergeant Thomas Clark of the battery who reported that Carroll “behaved with great gallantry on Monday April 7th and was noticed especially in Captain Terrill’s report of the action. Such men are wanted as they will stick to the case.” Private Carroll’s letter written to his brother back in Cleveland saw publication in the Morning Leader’s April 17, 1862 edition.


Captain William R. Terrill, Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery

Dear brother,

          I am glad to inform you that I escaped the great battle of Monday the 6th. We arrived on the battlefield about 8 o’clock in the morning of the 7th. We went into it as fast as the horses could gallop. We formed and took our positions right off. We could see the Rebels in line not very far from us. We fired at them deadly volleys of shell as fast as we could. They couldn’t stand their ground under such hot firing as we gave them, so they broke and ran in all directions to escape our fire.

When they gave away, we were ordered to advance after them and take another position. We did so and commenced a hot and steady fire again, but we didn’t stay long here for there soon came as reinforcements a fresh lot of infantry to take the place of the other. We saw them in time and poured canister in among them which mowed them down briskly, they likewise pouring deadly volleys at us. They came on and seemed determined to take our battery at all hazards. They came double quick towards us, yelling and hollering as they came. Our captain seeing no chance, ordered a retreat which we did at a gallop going  back to our old position.

At this time, we were in front, our infantry at our back with bullets falling like hail all around us. Two of the boys on my piece dropped, one shot in the back and the other in the side. The one shot in the back got up and ran; the other remained badly wounded. The infantry behind us went to meet the advancing enemy when there commenced a most destructive fire, men dropping of both sides rapidly. They seemed to be getting the best of us at this time.

But we didn’t fall back as we were determined to stand to the last. We poured in canister among them with terrible effect causing them to fall back step by step until they came into thick brush and trees. Then they commenced bushwhacking at us. Bragg’s Rebel battery came to their support and commenced a hot fire of shell at our pieces. We took our fire off the infantry and commenced on Bragg’s artillery. Heavy and hot firing was kept up between us. Their shots went mostly over our heads, cutting trees and limbs down all around us. Our shots have done good work for after about half an hour’s steady and deadly fire at them, we forced them to fall back faster than they came. They never came before us again nor did we see them afterwards during the rest of the day’s fight. That is the battery that played such a destruction with and was such a terror to our soldiers on Sunday. They couldn’t stand the fire of Battery H, 5th Artillery!

We were for seven hot hours pouring in shell, solid shot, and canister among them every shot telling. They captured one of our caissons during the day, but we got it back about an hour afterwards. This hotly contested battle ended about 6 o’clock when the Rebels retreated, our cavalry after them. There were 18 of boys wounded and one killed his name was James Carroll. I got a bullet through my blouse, jacket, and shirt just touching the skin on my back. Mike McGrath, Jim Scanlan, and Daniel Gleason are all safe as they were not touched by a bullet. We had 14 of our horses killed and wounded. All our officers are safe. Our Captain William Terrill is a brave man. There were four of the boys on my piece shot off, leaving only three men to man the gun but we did it.

 John Carroll


The battery utilized two 10-pdr Parrott rifles at Shiloh. 

Report of Captain William H. Terrill, Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery

Battleground of Pittsburg Landing, April 8, 1862.


I have the honor to make the following report:

On Sunday, April 6, by a forced march, General McCook’s division, to which my battery was attached, reached Savannah, Tenn., at 8 o’clock p. m. We waited in a drenching rain until 3 o’clock on Monday morning, April 7, for a steamer to take us to Pittsburg Landing. The battery was embarked by daylight, and immediately after reaching Pittsburg Landing was disembarked and hurried into action. By Lieutenant Hoblitzell, General McCook’s aide-de-camp, the battery was conducted to the ground occupied by General Nelson’s division, which at that time was sorely pressed by the enemy. The battery fought until about 4 o’clock p. m., when the fire of the enemy was silenced. General Nelson then moved his division forward, and we encamped on the ground the enemy had occupied the night before.

In the early part of the action the right section of my battery was assigned a position near the right of the division and was of great service in silencing one of the enemy’s, which was playing on the left and center of the division. After the firing on the left became very severe the section was moved, by permission of General Nelson, to the support of the remainder of the battery, and was of great assistance in repelling the advance of the enemy. This section was commanded by First Lieutenant Francis L. Guenther, who behaved with that coolness and bravery which he displayed on a former occasion in western Virginia, and I especially commend him to the favorable consideration of the highest authorities. Sergeants Davis, Egan, and Maubeck, and Corporals Ervin and Lynch, are especially commendable, though the conduct of all the men attached to the section gave much satisfaction to their chief.

Soon after the commencement of the action I advanced the left and center sections, commanded respectively by First Lieutenant J. H. Smyser and Second Lieutenant Israel Ludlow, along the line of skirmishers, where the fire was most galling. I was compelled to this to gain the crest of the ridge to fire upon the enemy’s batteries, which were playing upon our skirmishers. After silencing their fire, they seemed to be reenforced with fresh troops, and with vociferous cheers charged along the whole line. The infantry with us gave way before the storm of musket balls, canister shot, and shell, which was truly awful. Lieutenant Ludlow’s section was immediately sent to the rear to protect the retreat of Lieutenant Smyser’s, which was well done. One of Lieutenant Ludlow’s caissons was left here, all the horses having been killed or wounded, but we recovered it later in the day. I served one of Lieutenant Smyser’s pieces (the fifth, a Napoleon) and he the other. We fixed prolonges and fired retiring. The enemy charged us, but were staggered by our discharges of canister, whilst Lieutenants Guenther and Ludlow, on our left, poured spherical case-shot into them. We checked their advance three times, retiring as they charged upon us.

The battery utilized four brass Napoleons at Shiloh. 

From the vigor of their fire, their cheering, and the impetuosity of their advance I judged they were reinforced each time. For a time, Lieutenant Smyser and Corporal Roberson served the fifth piece (a Napoleon) alone. Sergeant Metcalf, chief of the sixth piece, behaved with great gallantry and devotion. Though wounded in the head by a musket-ball, he gallantly stood by his captain till wounded in the leg and compelled to crawl off. Corporal Brodie and Private John T. Carroll served at this piece until we silenced the enemy’s fire. A sergeant of infantry, seeing us sorely pressed, brought up ammunition at my request. He served but a few moments when he was shot down. I do not know his name nor the regiment to which he belonged and was not able to find his body after the battle. Private John Marshall, of Company E, 24th Ohio Volunteers, having expended his cartridges, threw down his musket and served as a cannoneer during the remainder of the action. He was of great service.

After checking the advance of the enemy, we shelled the woods where they were, and at 3.30 p. m. all was quiet in front of General Nelson’s division, when he ordered a change to the position last occupied by the enemy. The 6th regiment Ohio Volunteers were then reserved as a support to my battery. The skirmishers thrown to our front discovered that the enemy had abandoned that position. Seeing General McCook sorely pressed and a battery in the woods about half a mile to our right playing upon his division, I opened fire upon the battery with two Napoleon guns. In an instant that battery and one to its rear, and nearer us, opened. Having but few cannoneers, I called upon Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Anderson for a detail of men from his regiment to man the guns. The men soon came forward, and the Napoleons began to tell. Lieutenant Smyser’s piece was disabled by a shot tearing off the center axle-strap when the next recoil of the piece tore off the other two.

The contents of a shot of canister underscores the devastating impact this type of ordnance had on personnel. 

Lieutenant Guenther, in the meantime, with his section had advanced with General Nelson’s skirmishers, and he took these batteries in reverse. They were soon silenced, and I enfiladed the enemy’s line with shells and spherical case-shot. My center section was posted so as to prevent our left flank being turned. Our fire must have told fearfully, for very soon General McCook’s whole line rapidly advanced and drove the enemy before them, and the day was ours. After ascertaining that the enemy had retreated, Captain James Fry, chief of staff, ordered me out on the road leading to Corinth, to camp for the night with General Nelson’s division. We remained all night in the camp occupied by the enemy the previous night, and the next morning at daylight returned to the battleground.

I have already spoken of Lieutenant Guenther’s gallant conduct, but I cannot close my report without doing justice to my other gallant officers. Assistant Surgeon Dallas Bache, U.S. Army, who has been with my battery, and the chief medical officer of the artillery of the Second Division, was on the field of battle, attending the wounded, not only of the artillery, but of all arms, friends, and foes. Words can hardly express my appreciation of his services and great devotion to duty. For five long, weary months in camp, during the most trying weather, he has been unremitting in his devotion to the sick, and yesterday his conduct on the battlefield crowned it all.

First Lieutenant Jacob H. Smyser, 5th Artillery, behaved with great gallantry, and fought his piece with desperation amid the hail of missiles of every description. With but one man left at his piece he brought it safely off. Second Lieutenant Israel Ludlow, 5th Artillery, behaved with great gallantry, and for so young a man acquitted himself with great credit. I commend him and Lieutenant Smyser to the favorable consideration of my superiors. Second Lieutenant B. F. Rittenhouse, 5th Artillery, had been left on the road to Savannah with our baggage train, and did not participate in the action. I regret his absence, inasmuch as it deprives me of the pleasure of adding his name to those of his gallant brother subalterns.

The 6th Regiment Ohio Volunteers, when selected to support my battery, came forward with alacrity. They stood by me to the last, and when the fire of two of the enemy’s batteries was concentrated upon us, the shot and shell falling around us, not a man moved. Their gallant commander, Lieutenant Colonel Anderson, proved himself a true soldier, and had the enemy charged us again, my Napoleons would have been protected by a support in which I have the utmost confidence.

 I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

William B. Terrill


Letter from Private John Carroll, Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery, Cleveland Morning Leader (Ohio), April 17, 1862, pg. 3

“Bully for Johnny,” Cleveland Morning Leader (Ohio), May 22, 1862, pg. 3

Report of Captain William H. Terrill, Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery, O.R., Volume 10, Part 1, pgs. 321-323


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