First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 

 


"CHEER, BOYS, CHEER!"

The Kentucky Brigade at Shiloh, 6-7 April 1862

 

compiled by Geoff Walden


Click here to view a larger version of the map below.

As Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston organized his forces in preparation for an attack on the Federals at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, he placed Gen. John C. Breckinridge in command of a Reserve Corps at Burnsville, Mississippi, at the end of March 1862. This "corps" was a division-size unit composed of the Kentucky Brigade, Bowen's, and Statham's Brigades. The senior Kentucky colonel, Robert P. Trabue of the 4th Kentucky Infantry, took command of the Kentucky Brigade, consisting of the 3rd, 4th, 5/9th, and 6th Kentucky regiments, 31st Alabama Infantry, 4th Alabama Battalion, Crews' Tennessee Battalion, Cobb's and Byrne's Batteries, and Morgan's Cavalry Squadron (attached). Here at Burnsville, on the eve of the battle of Shiloh, the Kentuckians received a supply of brand-new Enfield rifles that had been run through the blockade the previous fall, along with British accoutrements and ammunition. They would make good use of these in the coming battle.  (Click here to read interesting letters from a soldier of the 5th/9th Kentucky Infantry, on the campaign and battle of Shiloh.)

Breckinridge's Reserve Corps took the road from Burnsville on the morning of April 4 and moved slowly in the rear of the army, passing Mickey's House (a local landmark often mentioned in reports) to arrive within four miles of Pittsburg Landing on the night of April 5. On the morning of the 6th, they again formed the rear of the army, following Gen. Leonidas Polk's Corps in the attack column. Early in this movement, Gen. Breckinridge was ordered to take his two rear brigades to the right, leaving Col. Trabue to lead the Kentucky Brigade forward on his own.

Moving off the Pittsburg-Corinth Road and passing Shiloh Church to their right, the Orphans came to the edge of an old field, which had been the scene of earlier action. With cannon shot and bullets whistling over their heads, Col. Trabue halted the Brigade in a depression and rode forward to reconnoiter and to place Cobb's Battery. Here, in the modern Crescent Field on Shiloh National Military Park, occurred one of the most memorable scenes of the battle. John Hunt Morgan's cavalrymen were nearby, having already been in action guarding the army's left flank. As the Kentuckians met, both groups broke out in song, singing the Kentuckians' favorite battle anthem:

"Cheer, boys, cheer, we'll march away to battle;
Cheer, boys, cheer, for our sweethearts and our wives;
Cheer, boys, cheer, we'll nobly do our duty;
And give to Kentucky our hearts, our arms, our lives!"

 

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Comments to page authors:

Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at) live.com
Laura Cook
: lcook62 (at) hotmail.com

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