The Noxubee Cavalry Takes a Battery at Shiloh
The Confederate army at Shiloh had just finished taking the Hornet’s Nest position in the early evening of April 6th 1862 when General Benjamin Cheatham ordered the 1st Mississippi Cavalry north along the Hamburg-Savannah road to pursue any Federals that might have escaped. Near Dill Branch ravine, the Mississippians spied a Federal battery limbered up trying to retreat to the Tennessee River, the 2nd Michigan Battery. Once the Federals saw the pursuing cavalry, they started to deploy.
“The question for us was what shall we do?” Captain Henry W. Foote of the 1st Mississippi remembered. “Charge the battery or retire? Colonel Lindsay was at the time engaged giving orders to another regiment or battalion of cavalry which had been placed under his command. Lieutenant Colonel John H. Miller was at the head of our column, the Noxubee Cavalry having the right and occupying the front. Not a moment was to be lost as a minute of inactivity might possibly have proven disastrous. The charge was made and the result was one of the finest, if not the finest, batteries on the field fell into our hands without loss on our part.” Captain Foote was quick to point out that the credit for the capture belonged to his regiment as “unless we tell it ourselves, the public will hardly know as these Tennessee papers rarely tell of the valorous deeds of Mississippians.”
Captain Foote’s account of the battle of Shiloh originally appeared in the April 16, 1862 edition of the Macon Beacon.
April 11, 1862
Saturday night we laid down in the woods about five miles from the enemy’s camp. Before the breaking of the day, we had made our cup of coffee, cooked our meat, and ate our breakfast. As soon as the light was sufficient, we moved towards the Yankee possessions. We had not gone far before it was passed along the line that “our pickets were engaged with the enemy in front.” Soon the firing of musketry was heard- first distinct, then gradually increasing to a hurried then a rapid fire. Presently a continued roar fell upon the ear in a mighty rushing sound- ‘twas evident the engagement was general.
My watch pointed to half past 7 o’clock. Colonel Andrew J. Lindsay, our commander (we have grown from a battalion to a regiment now) reported himself to General Albert S. Johnston who assigned us to the left of Major General Cheatham’s division where we properly belonged. The firing was heavy on all sides. General Cheatham occupied the center, holding his division as reserves or for reinforcements. Two well-directed batteries were playing upon this position and will telling effect upon the front line, also upon the reserve and upon our own line. Musket balls, grape, canister, and shells flew around us briskly. Under this fire, Lieutenant Dupree’s horse was killed under him while three other horses and two men were slightly wounded. This, perhaps the hottest engagement of the fight, lasted two hours. General Cheatham received a wound and had three horses shot. Here, too, the lamented Johnston received his fatal wound.
Chiefly the enemy gave back but in order, returning fire as they retired. We were summoned soon after this to move in pursuit of a retiring Federal line, moving to the right wing where General Prentiss surrendered his brigade. On arriving there, we saw the retreating foe but between us was the 2nd Michigan Battery in the act of moving. But upon seeing us, they made preparations to give is a raking fire. The question for us was what shall we do? Charge the battery or retire?
Colonel Lindsay was at the time engaged giving orders to another regiment or battalion of cavalry which had been placed under his command. Lieutenant Colonel John H. Miller was at the head of our column, the Noxubee Cavalry having the right and occupying the front. Not a moment was to be lost as a minute of inactivity might possibly have proven disastrous. The charge was made and the result was one of the finest, if not the finest, batteries on the field fell into our hands without loss on our part. The battery consists of six guns, all brass and rifled, and ranging from 6-to 18-pounders, all well mounted with caissons, 48 large and fine horses splendidly equipped and 65 soldiers including the officers. The Mississippi regiment of cavalry is entitled to the credit of this and the Noxubee Cavalry, being in front of the charge, I claim for it full share. But unless we tell it ourselves, the public will hardly know as these Tennessee papers rarely tell of the valorous deeds of Mississippians. [Battery B of the 1st Michigan Light Artillery under Captain William H. Ross was assigned to General Stephen Hurlbut’s division. It was equipped with two 6-lb smoothbores and four 10-pdr Parrot rifles. It was reported that the “battery was overwhelmed and captured” with reported casualties of 5 men wounded.]
|Camp marker of the 2nd Michigan Battery under Captain William H. Ross at Shiloh. Nearly the entire battery was captured on April 6th but upon exchange, the Michiganders went back into service in the western army.|
Having disposed of the battery by placing a military escort over it, we proceeded in our charge after the fleeing foe. Our delay gave them time after passing over the brow of the hill to arrange themselves in large force in ambuscade. By this time Colonel Lindsay rejoined us. We were ascending a steep hill; about 20 of us had already reached the summit before the ambush was discovered. The command halt was given and immediately several hundred Yankees sprang to their feet and fired upon us. Although within about 50 yards of us, not one of us was hurt. A retreat was properly ordered and we were lucky in escaping.
On the 7th we held our position by Beauregard until we were ordered to other work. In the afternoon, General Hardee sent orders that we should sustain a battery of ours that was firing with good effect upon the enemy’s column with which General Hardee was engaged. We immediately occupied the position but found we were exposed to the fire of a Northern battery. Our Colonel determined to charge upon it and, if possible, silence it. We were making arrangements for this when another messenger arrived commanding Colonel Lindsay to take his regiment to the rear of General Hardee’s forces and cover their retreat.
An active movement brought us quickly to the assigned position where we deployed as skirmishers, covering nearly the whole line. Being thus placed, the infantry fell back in order through our line. Here we took up their fire when a fierce passage ensued, a smart trial with our rifles and the Yankee sharpshooters. Three or four of my company were hit but not much hurt. Lieutenant Jones of the Bolivar Troop was badly wounded in the army and several others were wounded, two severely, while 15-20 horses were more or less injured. My own noble steed Harry was modestly touched with a Minie ball. Presently the enemy withdrew and formed a line of battle in the woods a long way off with their cavalry on the left and finally withdrew. We retired slowly and cautiously; a few sharpshooters followed at some distance and shot at us and we at them, and so the second day’s fighting ended.
We were often almost all the time where the balls flew thickest and heaviest. It seems almost miraculous that we were not more seriously and more numerously hurt. Nevertheless, it is so and we fell a conscious rectitude of having done our whole duty. I need scarcely add that all of my men engaged as became Mississippians, even from Noxubee. I think our loss in killed, wounded, and missing will not be short of 3,000-4,000 while the enemy’s will not be less than 12,000, and may reach 15,000-18,000.
I have sent an application for the prisoners captured with the battery and I hope to have the pleasure of bringing Captain Massey and his officers and men once more to the soil of Mississippi or upon some neighboring battlefield where they will, I know, most willingly aid in defending it. The weather is bad, roads horrible. You need not expect any forward movement from either party soon in my opinion.
Letter from Captain Henry W. Foote, Co. B, 1st Mississippi Cavalry, Macon Beacon (Mississippi), April 16, 1862, pg. 2