April 3, 2012
A Shiloh Confederate … you may not know
DC Civil War Heritage Examiner
The 150th anniversary of America’s bloodiest battle—up to that time—is being commemorated at Shiloh National Military Park all this week. In addition to two huge re-enactments outside the park, the National Park Service is hosting not only ranger-led battlefield hikes, interpretative programs, and car caravan tours, but the film premier of Shiloh-Fiery Trial and a free concert at the Shiloh Visitor Center by acclaimed Civil War composer and musician Bobby Horton on the evening of April 6.
Yet perhaps the commemoration’s most poignant moment will be the Grand Illumination at dusk on April 7, when 23,746 luminaries are placed throughout the park to remind all visitors of the devastating human loss suffered by America, North and South.
Many students of the war know Shiloh is where the South lost one of its most highly regarded generals, Albert Sidney Johnston. And where composer Will S. Hays, a correspondent with the Louisville Democrat, was inspired to compose “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh,” which turned Johnny Clem into a household name and spurred Samuel J. Muscroft to write a play under the same name in 1870, which contemporary accounts say was second in popularity only to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
Yet one of the truly forgotten participants, indeed a Confederate who became a casualty himself, authored the following passage, vividly describing the shock of his going into battle for the first time:
I tried hard to see some living thing to shoot at, but it appeared absurd to be blazing away at shadows. But, still advancing, firing as we moved, I, at last, saw a row of little globes of pearly smoke streaked with crimson, breaking-out, with sportive quickness, from a long line of bluey figures in front; and, simultaneously, there broke upon our ears an appalling crash of sound, the series of fusillades following one another with startling suddenness, which suggested to my somewhat moidered sense a mountain upheaved, with huge rocks tumbling and thundering down a slope, and the echoes rumbling and receding through space. Again and again, these loud and quick explosions were repeated, seemingly with increased violence, until they rose to the highest pitch of fury, and in unbroken continuity. All the world seemed involved in one tremendous ruin!
This private in the “Dixie Grays,” Company E, 6th Arkansas Regiment, would be captured the next day. Fearful of the prisoner of war camps, he signed on as a galvanized Yankee when he got to Harper’s Ferry in June, his tour in infantry blue lasting just 18 days when the Union army discharged him after he came down with a severe case of dysentery. Subsequent service on several merchant ships ultimately led to his enlistment in the United States Navy where he was assigned to the USS Minnesota as a record keeper. And when the war ended, he probably was the only individual who could claim to have served in the Confederate Army, Union Army, and Union Navy.
Yet the world would not know of Private Henry Morton Stanley from the bloody fields of western Tennessee’s Pittsburg Landing… but instead from a quest he made into the depths of the African “dark continent” six years after Appomattox. His expedition which required some 200 porters, battled tsetse flies, malaria, and sleeping sickness through 700 miles of tropical jungle over six months before arriving in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania. Then, as he described events that tenth day November, 1871,
All around me was the immense crowd, hushed and expectant, and wondering how the scene would develop itself. Under all these circumstances I could do not more than exercise some restraint and reserve, so I walked up to him, and, doffing my helmet, bowed and said in an inquiring tone,—
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
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