Letter by Milton Howard to his Brother Isaac Howard
Located on Page 67 of the "History of Greene County, by Beers, 1884
Vicinity of Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh), April 26, 1862
Dear Brother (Isaac Howard)-After some considerable delay I proceed to answer your long and interesting letter. But first I must apologize for sending this letter without paying the postage. The fact is postage stamps are not now to be had in this wooden country, only as we receive them from our friends in the country we've left behind. No doubt, before this you have heard of the battle of Pittsburg Landing, and have had better and more detailed accounts of it than I can possibly give. I do not intend to give an account of the whole fight, only such parts of it as came under my own immediate observation. When the fight commenced on Sunday, the division to which we belonged was at Crump's Landing, four miles below here. I was on picket guard at the time, and could plainly hear the roar of the musketry and the heavier booming of the artillery. About 9 o'clock Major-General Wallace, who is in command of this division, received orders to move forward his forces immediately. We started at 10 o'clock, but by some mistake we got on the wrong road, and had to retrace our steps for some distance, consequently it was almost dark when we reached the vicinity of the scene of action. We immediately formed in order of battle, and in this way proceeded through a low, swampy piece of ground, heavily timbered, but no enemy did we find here. Soon we reached the line of encampments of our forces; by that time the firing from both sides had ceased, except from the gunboat; this, at intervals of about 15 minutes, would send a 61 pound shell plump into the ranks of the rebels, causing great havoc. That night we remained in line, and slept upon the cold, damp ground. Many of the men were without blankets, having left them at Crump's Landing. For myself before leaving Paducah I provided a good rubber blanket, which I found to be a very necessary thing. To add to our disagreeable situation, about midnight it commenced raining and rained from that until morning. In the morning as soon as it was light, the battle commenced by the opening of our battery on the enemy's left wing. During the night the enemy lay on one hill, while about 80 rods from them, on another, with a ravine intervening, lay ourselves. The battery soon silenced one of their guns, and then we charged across the ravine and up the opposite hill, and forced them to quit their position. The 8th MO. was in the advance. The enemy then took up another position to the right and rear of their first position, in a swampy place of ground, heavily timbered. Here they made a long and most desperate stand. Backward and forward the tide of battle surged, first one side giving way and then the other. One side would give way perhaps 50 feet, and then we in turn would drive the rebels back 50 yards, until finally they were driven from the field and entirely routed. Once some of their cavalry, called the Texan Rangers, made a charge upon one of our batteries, intending no doubt to capture it; but in this they were foiled. We lay in a little low hollow and in front of the battery, hid from the enemy, while the battery fired over us. On they came, yelling like so many savages, and no doubt thinking they were going to have things all their own way. But we soon changed their tune by emptying some 18 or 20 of their saddles, and sending the rest back in confusion and disorder. The enemy were driven from the field at about 4 o'clock P.M. Up to that time, from early light in the morning, there had been one constant and steady roar of artillery and musketry. At times it was almost deafening. As we followed the retreating rebels through the camps of the different regiments which had been forced to quit them on Sunday, we wondered why they had not destroyed more of their property than they had done. But the prisoners told us next day that Beauregard had ordered them not to destroy one of the tents, for said he 'they are all ours, and we shall need them all'. True enough they were theirs on Sunday, but on Monday they were ours again, and it is my opinion that had it not been for the cowardice of some of the troops on Sunday, the rebels would not have had the privilege of ransacking our tents. The regiments that ran were mostly Ohio regiments, and belonged to Sherman's division.
The night after the battle and several succeeding ones, we slept in the open air with no covering over us but our blankets and the canopy of heaven. Since then we have received our tents again, and have moved about a half mile further out in the advance. Our general is determined that we shall not be surprised as they were on Sunday, so every morning at 4 o'clock we have to form in line of battle, and so remain till after midnight.