Becoming the Quietest Man in the Regiment: A Louisianan Remembers Shiloh

     It was while rallying his regiment that Lieutenant Thomas Godfrey Pegues of the 16th Louisiana learned the value of making oneself inconspicuous on the field of battle. He learned the lesson on the morning of April 7, 1862 at Shiloh.

“Lieutenant Sandidge of General Ruggles’ staff galloped up and seized the colors of the 16th Louisiana and led the charge,” he recalled. “It was a gallant act. General Patton Anderson, as brave a man as ever drew a blade, came riding down our line waving his hat and encouraging the men. Catching the inspiration, I thought I would do some of the encouraging act also; so, drawing my sword and waving it aloft, I thought ‘If it is a sin to covet honor, then I am the most offending soul alive.’ We had not moved far before a Minie ball took my cap from my head. Sheathing my sword, I dismounted, picked up my cap, viewed the damage it had sustained, remounted, and became the quietest man in the regiment.”

Pegues’ memoir of the Shiloh was originally read at a reunion of his original company, the Caddo Fencibles (Co. C of the 16th Louisiana Infantry), in August 1901 and was published in the November 1901 edition of Confederate Veteran.

 

This unidentified Louisiana infantryman sports a Louisiana state seal belt buckle while carrying a converted to percussion .69 caliber U.S. Model 1816/1822 smoothbore musket. The state sent 10 infantry regiments and the 5th Company of the Washington Light Artillery to Johnston's army, all of which participated in the fight at Shiloh. The 16th Louisiana was later consolidated with the 25th Louisiana and fought at Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, the Atlanta campaign, Franklin, and Nashville. 

 

It was a short time after the first battle of Manassas and we feared the war would be over before we could get into the fight. We reached New Orleans on August 17th [1861] and were mustered in Confederate service for the war. We were then sent to Camp Moore where we began to drill and perfect ourselves in military discipline. Our company was made the color company. While in this camp, the grounds had to be cleaned up, stumps removed, and the camp enlarged to make room for drilling purposes. This work was repugnant to some of the men who said, “we did not volunteer to do police duty but joined the army to fight.” After getting into active service, these same men were willing to do almost any kind of menial work to keep them out of a fight.

          We remained at Camp Moore until December when we were ordered to Chalmette a few miles below New Orleans. Here we were drilled constantly until the middle of February 1862 when we were sent to Corinth, Mississippi to reinforce General Albert Sidney Johnston’s army which had been seriously depleted by the surrender of Forts Donelson and Henry.

          A considerable army was soon collected at Corinth and speedily disciplined. The drum and fife were heard on every hand, regiment after regiment arrived and took their places in the trenches, and the tread of armed men and artillery dashing over the fields literally shook the earth. General Johnston’s idea being to attack Grant before he could concentrate his forces, he moved his army from Corinth on the evening of April 3, 1862. The march was slow on account of our immense wagon trains which were taken along. Besides, the roads were badly cut up and miry. We ought to have reached the field of Shiloh on the evening of April 4th and could if the road had been dry.

Our forces did not arrive on the field until the evening of the 5th and the men slept that night in line and on arms. As we had left our blankets a mile or more away, our only covering was leaves. We were quite close to the Yankees and I could distinctly hear their bands playing. One of their tunes was “Home Sweet Home” which usually produces the most pleasing emotions but, on this occasion, those melodious strains stirred my heart with feelings of bitterness towards those who were invading our homes to destroy them. I slept but little that night but thought of what the morrow might bring forth. How many of my comrades seemed to be peacefully sleeping near me who might soon sleep to know no waking?

Before daybreak, the army was astir. About 5 o’clock, the signal to battle was fired. The fight began early and the musketry grew into a continual roar. We moved forward with glowing enthusiasm and spirited impatience to close with the enemy. Soon we met our wounded returning to the rear, seeking the services of the surgeons. Then we began to march over dead Yankees who were scattered through the woods. At the first encampment we found the enemy had left their breakfast cooling upon the fires untasted. Here our regiment halted and a detail was made from each company to bring out quartermaster and commissary stores which were most abundant. Supplying ourselves with these necessaries, we moved forward and kept the enemy on the run.

Colonel Preston Pond, Jr.

They undertook to make a stand at the second encampment but we drove them pell-mell through it. The first bullets I heard that day sounded like bees flying overheard and I voluntarily looked up to see if I could discover them in their flight. Our brigade was on the extreme left and was composed of the 16th Louisiana, 18th Louisiana, the Crescent Regiment, the Orleans Guards Battalion, the 38th Tennessee, and Ketchum’s Battery. Colonel Preston Pond was in command of the brigade and Major Daniel Gober commanded the 16th Louisiana. I was acting as adjutant but Major Gober asked me to act as major. Under the first fire, Major Gober’s horse was wounded and I gave him mine. It was not long, however, before I captured another one which served me throughout the battle.

About noon, the battle abated until there was almost a cessation of hostilities which continued for several hours. We thought the day was ours, but soon we were ordered forward and a battery of the enemy situated upon a considerable hill began to fire upon us. Getting under the protection of the hill, we remained some time when one of General Beauregard’s aides rode up and ordered us to charge the battery. The brigade moved up the hill on the summit of which was another camp and where there were streets perpendicular to our lines of battle and through which we had to pass.

Here Major Gober displayed a coolness the like of which I never saw afterwards. As we neared the camp (the regiment was still in line of battle and under a heavy fire), he gave the command “By the right of companies to the front into column battalion, by the right flank, march!” This order was executed with as much precision as if we had been on drill. Each company filed up the streets and when the obstacles were passed, the command was given “By company into line, march!” We formed our battle line again and began firing at the enemy. This assault was unsuccessful, and we lost heavily.

Night coming on, we rested on our arms but a considerable rain fell which together with the constant firing from the gunboats prevented our sleeping. At dawn on the 7th, we were ordered to the right where, judging from the firing, a hard battle was being fought. On the way thither, we saw some of the results of the previous day’s fighting. Thousands of dead and wounded Yankees lay in our path for the space of a mile or more. The sight was a ghastly one, but it was cheerful in comparison with the live ones we saw a short while afterwards for I could see long lines of Buell’s men marching to reinforce Grant. Our shells would fall and explode among them, but the gaps were closed up and the march continued.

General Daniel Ruggles

About this time, Lieutenant Sandidge of General Ruggles’ staff galloped up and seized the colors of the 16th Louisiana and led the charge. It was a gallant act. General Patton Anderson, as brave a man as ever drew a blade, came riding down our line waving his hat and encouraging the men. Catching the inspiration, I thought I would so some of the encouraging act also; so, drawing my sword and waving it aloft, I thought ‘If it is a sin to covet honor, then I am the most offending soul alive.’ We had not moved far before a Minie ball took my cap from my head. Sheathing my sword, I dismounted, picked up my cap, viewed the damage it had sustained, remounted, and became the quietest man in the regiment.

 

Source:

“Caddo Fencibles of Louisiana,” Lieutenant Thomas G. Pegues, Co. C, 16th Louisiana Infantry, Confederate Veteran, November 1901, pgs. 498-499

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