On Shiloh's Battle Ground Shiloh Canons

Transcribed and edited in 2011 by Jack D. Elliott, Jr.
- from a printed copy in the Ripley Advertiser, newspaper, Ripley, Mississippi, 26 August 1897 -



This is a letter by Sallie Murry Falkner (1850-1906) of Oxford , Mississippi, and formerly of Ripley, Mississippi, to her father, Dr. John Y. Murry, Sr. (1829-1915) of Ripley, describing her August 1897 visit to the Shiloh National Military Park with her husband, John W. T. Falkner (1848-1922). Established on December 27, 1894, the Shiloh National Military Park was still in its formative stage when the Falkners visited. They also visited the Shiloh National Cemetery which lies within the boundaries of the military park. The cemetery is older than the park though, having been established in 1866, immediately after the war.  In 1897, the park and the cemetery was under different administrations.

At the time of their visit the Falkners were apparently staying at Red Sulphur Springs from whence they drove by carriage to the park. Red Sulphur Springs was a resort on the west bank of the Tennessee River a short distance north of the Mississippi-Tennessee state line and a few miles southeast of Shiloh Military Park.

I have provided annotations to elucidate the letter.  In this I have been greatly assisted by Stacy Allen, Chief Park Ranger at Shiloh National Military Park and long time Shiloh historian. About the letter he comments: “Sallie's is an interesting account of an early Shiloh visit, when only inscribed boards nailed to trees by the [park] commission marked the historic sites on the battlefield. She observes the cannons and cannon balls being stockpiled near the cemetery, of which we have photographic documentation” (email, Allen to Elliott, December 14, 2011)

As published in the Ripley Advertiser, the letter occupied portions of three columns on a single page. Unfortunately the bottom lines of the first two columns were clipped off leaving two small gaps which are indicated at the appropriate places in the text below.


Dr. John Murray
(photo taken in front of his home in Ripley, MS)
Dr. John Young Murry, Sr.
1829-1915

The transcript:
On Shiloh's Battle Ground

(This letter was written by Mrs. J.W.T. Falkner to her father, Dr. Murry, and was not intended for publication—therefore the better. We feel quite sure that our ex-confederate soldier subscribers, especially will very much enjoy it and we publish with great pleasure.--Ed.)
Additional information about certain items are included at the end and are notated by { }
.

Red Sulphur Sprg's Aug. 16, '97

MY DEAR FATHER:--
As we have decided to spend another week here I think I'd better write and let you folks know. I weighed 124 lbs. The day I came and have just weighed again and find I've gained 8 lbs.--good, solid pounds.

Oh! Papa we went to Shiloh yesterday and Johnnie and I both said several times “I wish Papa could go over this ground with us.” When we got up yesterday morning it was cloudy and threatening and we all felt a little gloomy at the prospect. But Johnnie and Gen. Taylor asserted positively that it would not rain, so at 8 o'clock we started. We had two conveyances full.

Gen. and Mrs. Taylor and Johnnie and I had a comfortable carriage with such a pretty pair of bays and as Johnnie drove I felt safe and enjoyed the ride ever so much. The other vehicle was a three seated hack full of young folk—except Mrs. Jude Rhone, of Grenada, and three on a seat. The roads were fine and the prettiest country I ever passed through. The cotton fields stretched out as far as eye could reach (no fences, for nine miles) in full bloom of white and red—and the corn fields also were grand.

In the bottoms of Chambers' Creek and the famous Lick Creek, you could see the high water mark away up among the branches of tall trees—and high among the branches would be arms full of cotton stalks. It must have been a scene of desolation last spring when the Tennessee was on her very worst behavior—but now the smiling fields and smooth flowing river looks as innocent as if such a thing as overflow was unknown.

We crossed Lick creek and then Johnnie and Gen. Taylor began to grow excited and intensely interested. We bore to the right and passed sign boards, one after another showing where each command of “Yanks” had camped. If one was off the road, Johnnie would run out and read for us, and when we came to the tree where Gen. Johnson [sic, General Albert Sidney Johnston] was mortally wounded we got out, and all stood silently a moment and read over and over, and then we started out to hunt the place where the sign board said he died--“about 50 yards south of the tree, in the ravine.” It was unmarked and we could not tell exactly where. Mr. Shaw, the Superintendent in charge of the National Cemetery1  was with Gen. Harris when he located the exact spot. {2} The place that history tells of and excurtionists [sic] have been shown as the place where Gen. Johnson was shot all these years, is some distance from the real spot.

It seems Gen. Harris could never be persuaded to revisit the battle ground until last year. A great crowd started with him from Pittsburg [Landing], {3}  at last he stopped, and said “you all go back, you bother me”--so he and Mr. Shaw made a detour and began at the first of the attack and went slowly over the ground. When Gen. Harris came to this tree, a large oak (and it should be enclosed) he stopped and said “here is the spot, and down that ravine he was carried and died.” In the tree there is a big ball buried that the relic hunters have not been able to get out. Our young folks had left us to go to the landing where a boat was starting with a crowd of excurtionists from St. Louis and we joined them at the cemetery. We passed more and more sign boards showing where different commands had camped (Yanks) Regiments of Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa and headquarters of different Generals. I remember the names [Col. David] Stuart [Maj. Gen. John A.] McClerm [sic, McClernand] and [Brig. Gen. W.H.L.] Wallace [Brig. Gen. Stephen A.] Harlbutt  and others.

Then we passed the “Peach orchard,” the “bloody pond”--then the road to the “hornets nest.” All along we were stopping and going over the ground; Johnnie & Gen. Taylor just as eagerly discussing the different moves as if they were going to battle. I was excited and wrought up over it all—as they.

[missing lines at the bottom of the first column]

[Before the beginning of the battle General Johnston announced: “Tonight we water] our horses in the Tennessee”--and of [Brig. Gen. James R.] Chalmer's brave charge—[then Col. Nathan B.] Forrest's  matchless courage and [Maj. Gen. Thomas C.] Hindman's {4} bravery and effective work; and how many slain there were and where they lay closely crowded in shallow graves.

We passed great pyramids of cannon balls and shells and hundreds of cannons waiting for the completion of the park to be placed in position. When we drove up to the cemetery, I thought I would see a lovely well kept burying ground where the Federal and Confederate soldiers lie peacefully sleeping, waiting for the resurrection morn together. Mr. Kirby and Mr. Pryde, who with Mr. Thompson are surveying and laying off the park. {5}  had both been over to Red Sulphur, and knew we were coming, so they met us with extra cordiality and seemed very anxious that we should enjoy ourselves. It is a perfectly lovely place, beautiful flowers are blooming everywhere handsome hot house plants—fine grape vines well pruned with white grapes on them—I saw no purple.

When they started through the cemetery gates, I said I wanted to see the Confederate graves first and when they told me only Federals were buried there, I took my seat under the trees and told the rest to go on. Pa, I was so hurt I just couldn't help but cry. The old superintendent came out to say something nice to me and I said: “Are you a Southern man or a Northern?” He brushed his hand up and down a box brush near him and said: “Oh! It does not matter now all those things are passed now.” Johnnie said no wonder the man was embarrassed when I fired into him so. I told him it did not look as if those times were done away with and the North and South at peace when the Yankees lay in beautiful cemeteries under marble slabs and we were taxed to help pay him and others keep the graves green and flowers blooming while our brave boys lay out there in the ravines unmarked and places unknown. I tell you I don't know what else I said. Johnnie came up and the old man was especially nice to him and me too and kept his eye on me while he talked. He took our pictures and told me to push my bonnet back. Johnnie said he wanted a picture of that fire-eating, unreconstructed Southern woman.

Afterwards I said I smelled something like pine apples and the old gentleman said they were apples. He went down in the cellar and brought us each one the prettiest, the most fragrant yellow apples I ever saw. I ate a half one and did not throw it up last night for a wonder.

Well, after registering our names, looking at the maps of the park, Mr. Kirby and Mr. Thompson so kindly explained, seeing the relics picked up and preserved--(there is a gun found last year in the bottom of a branch, buried in the mud 34 years, that I did wish I wished)--we left for Shiloh church.

I did go to the speakers stand in the cemetery to see the river. As I stood there I looked at the beautiful stream and the grassy slopes covered with the white marble slabs, and read the tablets around the center, with the beautiful verses telling of brave deeds and gallant soldiers that lie on “fame's eternal camping ground.” I thought of the bivouac of our Southern dead and I turned and went away from there as hot and hurt a woman as you could have found in 1862 when the strife was at its height. If I had had the sense to know that the United States would not care for the rebels they had whipped—but no one had told me. Johnnie says “Why our boys lie just as peacefully and the Lord knows where they are, Sallie, what on earth are you crying for?”

Well, we drove on to the church, not the same but on the same place; then down to the spring,{6} and Pa, we crossed the Purdy road twice. We ate dinner and Johnnie bought me a glass of sweet milk just out of the spring-house. It was delicious. The old man who lives just above, brought down a bucket of butter milk for the crowd. Said his wife was expecting company and could not spare any more sweet milk.

After dinner Johnnie and Gen. Taylor went out reconnoitering where our men had fought and been.  Johnnie found a grape shot where Hindman's brigade captured Waterhouse Battery [commanded by Capt. Allen C. Waterhouse, and under Brig. Gen. W.T. Sherman's 5th Division of the Army of the Tennessee, USA]. I have

[missing lines at the bottom of the second column]

awhile I made them all come go with me to the Confederate graves, in a field just below where Waterhouse Battery was stationed. We had our pictures take here. Mr. Rowsey {7} said some years ago, an old steamboat captain who had been a Confederate soldier and fought at Shiloh, came all the way from the West to see the place again. He gathered some flowers in the yard and when he came to the graves he stood a long time silent, then walked around the long, wide grave and reverently laid the flowers down and said low, “Old comrades, I aint never forgot ye.”

The old folks had a little organ and I sang “Just before the battle, mother,” “Tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,” “Dixie” and “Annie Lyle” and lots of war songs. Johnnie went to the spring that saw blood—old Shiloh spring. He said it is changed and nearly dry.

We had a very pleasant drive back and reached here just at twilight well pleased with out trip.
Your devoted daughter,
SALLIE

P.S. I forgot to say that Mr. Shaw, the superintendent of cemetery, is a Southern born man, fought in Yankee army. He had a sabre cut across his face, done by Forrest's men at that very fight. If I had known it I would have said “goody.”

 


{Notes}

1. John W. Shaw, Superintendent, 17 Oct 1896-21 May 1905.

2. Isham G. Harris (10 Feb 1818-8 July 1897), governor of Tennessee (1857-1862) and later US Senator (1877-1897), was aide-de-camp to General Johnston and was with him when he was wounded and died. In April 1896, in a visit surrounded by much fanfare, Harris returned to Shiloh to identify what he recalled to be the places where Johnston was wounded and where he died. Harris died the month before the Falkners's visit to Shiloh. Interestingly, Harris had resided in Ripley, the home town of JWT and Sallie Falkner, prior to the war.

In regard to Harris's visit to Shiloh and the role of National Cemetery Superintendent John W. Shaw, Stacy Allen comments: “Shaw was by all accounts present the day of Harris' visit, but it was Maj. David W. Reed, the secretary-historian of the Shiloh National Military Park Battlefield Commission who actually rode onto the field with Senator Harris. [Sallie] is correct that Harris was extremely upset that a large gathering was present for his visit, which was made for the purpose of assisting the park commission in the relocation/confirmation of General Johnston's death site. As superintendent of the National Cemetery, which was administratively separate from the park at that time, Shaw would not of had any business escorting the Senator onto the field, while Battlefield Commission historian Reed did.

“I have no doubt Shaw recounted the Harris story and she misunderstood his involvement. It appears highly probable, based on Sallie's letter, that Shaw was one of the members of the party that followed after Reed and Harris at a respectful distance, while the two battle survivors conducted their survey. We know after Harris relocated the site and narrated the events surrounding Johnston's death on April 6th to Reed, the major asked the Senator if he would take time to tell his account to the party following. Harris agreed and Reed called the party to come forward to hear the Senator tell the tale again... This is the story Shaw appears to have related to Sallie, and if he was with the party, it would have seemed he was with Harris when the site was relocated.” (email, Allen to Elliott, December 14, 2011)

3. Pittsburg Landing, a small river town on the Tennessee River, was the landing place of the Union forces in 1862. The name, “Battle of Pittsburg Landing” is the northern name for the Battle of Shiloh. The National Cemetery was established at Pittsburg Landing in 1866 and the site became the administrative center of the Shiloh National Military Park.

4. Thomas C. Hindman, Jr. commanded the 1st and 3rd Brigades of the 3rd Corps, Army of the Mississippi, CSA. The Hindman name was certainly familiar to Sallie Falkner. The Hindman family resided in Ripley during the 1840s and 1850s before moving to Arkansas. On May 8, 1849, TC Hindman's brother, Robert Holt Hindman, was killed in a fight with Sally's father-in-law, WC Falkner.

5. Civil engineer Atwell Thompson began work at Shiloh on 1 May 1895 and was assisted in part by MA Kirby as a transit man and WM Pride as a rodman.

6. This apparently alludes to Shiloh Spring, which is referred to by that specific name later in the letter. According to Stacy Allen, Shiloh Spring is “located immediately south of the [Shiloh Methodist] church...with its outlet located at the base of the slope of ridge the church resides on. This spring, which exits and flows south, is located north of the double bridges on the Corinth road, which traverse the confluence of the the east and middle branches of Shiloh Creek. Shiloh Spring is visible from the road, running parallel to it.” (email message, Allen to Elliott, December 6, 2011.) Shiloh Spring should not be confused with the nearby Rea Spring.

7. Regarding the cemetery and the Rowseys, Stacy Allen comments: “The 'Mr. Rowsey' she mentions is W. A. Rowsey, who owned battlefield acreage and sold 89.65 acres of his land to the Commission, on December 1, 1897, for inclusion in the park. Rowsey and his wife owned what was a major portion of what had been the John C. Rea homestead. The mass Confederate grave site she describes, is in the central portion of the original Rea field (now located on the south end of the field, which has been encroached upon by trees since 1941) was located on Rowsey's land. The Rowsey's were paid $1,200 for their farm acreage and its improvements.” (email, Allen to Elliott, December 14, 1011)


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Photo of cannons from the Ruggles's Battery line taken by Joe N. McCoy, Sr. at Shiloh National Military Park.
Photo of Dr. John Murry taken in front of his home in Ripley, MS and provided by Tippah County historian Tommy Covington.