Surprise at Shiloh

Today marks the 149th anniversary of the opening day of the battle of Shiloh.  To my way of thinking, the memory of the battle (a process that started while bodies were still being buried) is an interesting one, because most of the issues, at least from the Union side, were already framed within days of the battle.

Contrary to myth, Henry W. Halleck had always planned to journey to Pittsburg Landing once Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio linked up with Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee.  Halleck looked for this large army to make its way south to Corinth to take that critical railroad junction.  His greatest fear was that Grant might get involved in some sort of battle or go off on his own prior to his arrival, and so he sought to restrain Grant from probing south.  After all, Grant had gone on to Fort Donelson on his own after the fall of Fort Henry, and we all know how that worked out.

Halleck’s orders inhibited Grant’s ability to see what might be going on south of his army.  Remember, he had just resumed command in the field after a rather nasty spat in which Halleck accused him of all manner of administrative shortcomings (and spread whispers about Grant’s drinking).  That said, contrary to the myth that Grant always learned from his mistakes, it seems he was rather overconfident and did not take into consideration that the Confederates might have plans of their own.  That was the same mistake he had made at Fort Donelson.

Grant’s other serious mistake was not, as some people would have it, failing to entrench.  It was, in fact, an understandable mistake: he entrusted William T. Sherman with maintaining perimeter security.  Sherman was still struggling with a reputation of crazy behavior, even mental imbalance, in the wake of having expressed concerns about Confederate intentions in various places and demanding more men in order to undertake observations.  Knowing that he had gained a reputation for overplaying his concerns, he decided to underplay them, dismissing signs of Confederate activity to the south that presaged an offensive movement.  Given that Grant himself was hesitant to press forward due to Halleck’s strictures, the result was that Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of Tennessee basically stumbled forward toward Shiloh Church without the movement being detected for what it was.

Certainly Grant and Sherman were surprised at Shiloh.  However, early reports of men being bayoneted in their tents and so on went too far, and in responding to those charges, both men twisted the story too much the other way.  One of the results of this was that the Grant-Sherman friendship, so often cited as a key to Union victory, began in part as something of a conspiracy of silence.  Sherman could not blame Grant for what happened, because Grant could have cited Sherman’s own reports against him; Grant did not blame Sherman for what happened, possibly in part because he was well aware of Sherman’s political connections, and, after all, ultimately Grant was responsible for the welfare of his command.  In turn, although Halleck upon his arrival chewed Grant out, he liked Sherman and realized that Grant had some ability.  Thus it was Halleck who defended Grant when Lincoln through Stanton inquired about whether Grant was responsible for the slaughter at Shiloh … evidence that demonstrates rather clearly that Lincoln could have spared that man and had questions about how well he fought, contrary to the later mythical exclamation attributed to him of “I can’t spare that man!  He fights!”

Finally, while much is said about the stubbornness with which Grant fought that day (and one can imagine other Union commanders collapsing upon encountering the chaos at the steamboat landing), it is well to remember that he did so anticipating the arrival of reinforcements that took longer in coming than he thought they would.  No one who had been to Shiloh, seen the terrain along Grant’s last line, and read the accounts seriously thinks that the spearhead of Buell’s army saved the day: they arrived as things wound down on April 6.  Still, that, too, is one of the myths of Shiloh, and we haven’t even addressed the Confederates or the debates over Lew Wallace, Benjamin Prentiss, and the Hornet’s Nest.

98 thoughts on “Surprise at Shiloh

  1. MarkD April 6, 2011 / 6:01 pm

    Great post as always. Backs up what I thought about Grant/Sherman at Shiloh based on the account in “Nothing But Victory.” One thing that struck me is that Grant never would have show such disrespect to an officer by contemptuously dismissing his report of enemy activity in his area as Sherman did, no matter how overconfident Grant might have been.

    But I’m confused a bit by your last paragraph. Would Grant have fought more or less stubbornly if he’d known the reinforcements wouldn’t arrive in time? Seems to me it wouldn’t have a bearing since it is pretty hard to imagine him contemplating anything like surrender. Maybe I misunderstand your point, but I don’t see how anything about the reinforcements would change the view one way or another on Grant’s stubbornness on the first day at Shiloh.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 6, 2011 / 6:11 pm

      I don’t know how Grant would have fought if he had known when the reinforcements would have arrived (you can’t simply make them vanish, but timing is important here). Nor do I think he would have contemplated surrender, given that he knew forces were due to arrive at some time. However, it’s clear that during April 6 he thought that both Buell and Wallace would arrive long before they did. I think it’s safe to say that made him more confident than he otherwise might have been, and he mentioned that he thought Wallace would be up at one time. Of course, Prentiss and he also had a disagreement over Prentiss’s mission at the Hornet’s Nest, at least in the war of words afterwards.

  2. MarkD April 6, 2011 / 6:16 pm

    Ok, I see what you mean now. Thanks.

  3. Ned Baldwin April 6, 2011 / 7:21 pm

    Grant wrote something the morning of the battle which I still can’t evaluate to my satisfaction. After hearing the sound of the attack, he wrote to Buell “I have been looking for this, but did not believe the attack could be made before Monday”. The implication is that he had figured out the Confederate movement for what it was, except that he thought it was a day behind.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 6, 2011 / 9:46 pm

      At that moment Grant had thought that if any place was vulnerable, it was Crump’s Landing with Lew Wallace (see Grant to WHL Wallace, April 4). He clearly did not anticipate what he was about to encounter. Note he sends his message before going forward from Savannah.

      That said, it’s rather difficult to reconcile that statement with what Grant had told Halleck the previous day about not expecting a general attack unless one assumes that he did not know the scale of the action underway when he wrote Buell, which I think is reasonable.

      • Carl Schenker April 9, 2011 / 10:00 am

        Brooks —
        (1) What do you make of Lew Wallace’s claim (published in 1906) that he had excellent intelligence about the impending attack on Pittsburg Landing and left a warning note for Grant at the army postoffice at PL; unclear from his memoirs whether his note was deposited there on Thursday, April 3 or Friday, April 4 [his memoirs say “Thursday, April 4]. Could that possibly be the explanation for Grant’s “I have been looking for this” remark?
        (2) For those who might be interested, I have a Shiloh-related article in the brand new North & South magazine (issue 12.6) about Shiloh fortifications. Among other things, it shows that a well-known Halleck telegram telling Grant to “wait till you are properly fortified” (OR) was the result of a communications glitch; Halleck’s handwritten message was “wait till you are properly reinforced [by Buell].”
        Carl Schenker

        • Brooks D. Simpson April 9, 2011 / 11:05 am

          Well, if Lew Wallace thought there would be an attack at Pittsburg Landing, and decided to leave a note for Grant at the army post office instead of contacting his commander directly by courier, he’d look like a fool; if he waited until 1906 to reveal that fact (after years of debate over his performance at Shiloh), he would look even worse. For a fellow who based his own case about his behavior on April 6 on Grant’s failure to commit precise orders to paper, Wallace does not come off well in his own account. Grant’s concern was whether Wallace was vulnerable; Wallace’s story seems curious at best.

          While miscommunications and mistranslations are always interesting, I’m not sure that a misrendering in the case of Halleck’s telegram would change much in terms of the narrative.

          • Ned Baldwin April 9, 2011 / 5:46 pm

            In ‘Grant’s Secret Service’, Feis discusses the intel that Wallace had about the Confederate movements prior to Shiloh. Wallace doesnt come out looking so good.

          • Ned Baldwin April 12, 2011 / 6:29 am

            Wallace, in his autobiography, claims to have handed the note about the approaching confederate army to an orderly named Simpson…. hmmmm. 😉

          • Carl Schenker April 12, 2011 / 7:42 am

            Ned —
            From Wallace’s Shiloh account, this would appear to be Thomas W. Simpson, Company I, 4th US Cavalry (not dragoons as stated in Wallace’s Memoirs).
            For me, this detail about Simpson serving as the courier somewhat bolsters Wallace’s account, as Simpson’s presence can be independetly confirmed, but of course Wallace could have reverse engineered this detail, by saying he involved someone whose name he could simply have plucked from his other records.
            Carl Schenker

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 12, 2011 / 10:20 am

            The question remains: why did it take so long to mention this?

          • Carl Schenker April 12, 2011 / 10:36 am

            One possible explanation for Wallace’s long silence: He put this into his memoirs for posthumous publication. He had spent a long time trying to justify his April 6 march/absence from battlefield. Assuming the truthfulness of his report about the intel, his story made him look bad by failing to take adequate steps to get the intel to Grant’s attn. He didn’t want criticism for another shortcoming during his lifetime (failing to alert Grant), but wanted to report this posthumously. He couldn’t criticize Grant on this exact topic because he had no proof that Grant had ever rcd the message; all there was in the story was more potential grief for Wallace.
            Carl Schenker

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 12, 2011 / 11:48 am

            What evidence we have about Grant and Wallace prior to April 6 has to do with Grant’s concern about Wallace’s vulnerability. Given where Wallace was deployed, it would have been interesting to see how he could have gathered intelligence about an attack at Pittsburgh Landing.

            (Note: I’m not questioning the intelligence-gathering mission: I’m curious as to why Wallace was operating as he was in gathering intelligence.)

          • Carl Schenker April 12, 2011 / 11:56 am

            Wallace claims in his autobiography to have sent two scouts down to Corinth. P. 450 & following.
            For what it is worth, Feis’s book on “Grant’s Secret Service” says that scout Horace Bell sent a 1901 letter to Wallace confirming the fact that he provided detailed info to Wallace about the Confederate plans. I am trying to track that letter down. Of course, that doesn’t prove that Wallace prepared a report for Grant, much less that Grant rcd the report. (Horace Bell later published at least two books but neither appears to address his Civil War experience.)
            Carl Schenker

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 12, 2011 / 12:27 pm

            It’s interesting to me that we know that Lew Wallace and Grant were in communication about threats to Wallace’s position in the days leading up to the battle, but that somehow information about an attack on Pittsburg Landing does not seem to have had any impact on Grant’s thinking (or it may be that Grant was unaware of these findings). It’s not that any of this was unknown to Daniel or Sword, both of whom offer reasons why the information was not given much credit … but I don’t see any evidence in those accounts that Grant saw the report.

          • Ned Baldwin April 12, 2011 / 12:11 pm

            I was just trying to lighten things up by pointing out that this incident might revolve around a fellow named Simpson.
            I think Wallace’s account is completely believable but like Simpson (the historian, not the orderly) I really wonder why he waited decades before mentioning it.

  4. Carl Schenker April 10, 2011 / 5:41 am

    (1) On Wallace, it seems to me that there are at least three relevant broad questions — did Wallace have good intel about the planned PL attack, did he write it up for Grant, and did Grant get the message. I agree that Wallace’s own tale makes him look bad, but perhaps that is reason to believe what amounts to a death-bed confession. I have not seen anything that persuades me that Grant rcd such a message from Wallace (which may suggest he never wrote it), but I believe that both Wiley Sword and Larry Daniel say that Grant did receive it in their respective Shiloh studies. They seem to have no evidence and don’t make much of it.
    (2) I see that I gave the wrong issue of North & South in my post ystdy — it is the just published issue 13.1 for my article “Who Failed to Fortify Pittsburg Landing?” I try to gather all the documents relevant to fortifications and think the effort does cast some new (or different) light on the respective roles of Halleck, Grant, CF Smith, WT Sherman, and JB McPherson on that topic.
    Carl Schenker

  5. MarkD April 12, 2011 / 12:00 pm

    I wish I knew more about the Wallace delay issue. Is there book(s) anyone could recommend to get up to speed? I know he denied requesting written orders, as some have said. I saw one account where veterans retraced his path and said that the terrain was largely responsible for the delay. I don’t know what to believe.

  6. Carl Schenker April 12, 2011 / 12:25 pm

    Mark —
    I believe there is a lot of material on the subject in the relevant volume of “Battles and Leaders.”
    Also, Steve Woodworth just published an essay in 2009 “Intolerably Slow” in “The Shiloh Campaign.”
    You can probably access this stuff via Google Books.
    Carl Schenker

    • MarkD April 12, 2011 / 4:56 pm

      Thanks Carl. I have access to a good interlibrary loan system so I just ordered up Woodworth’s book.

  7. Carl Schenker April 12, 2011 / 12:44 pm

    Brooks —
    Don’t know how to tag this on beneath your post timed 12:27 (since I see no reply button there).
    One difficulty in looking for a possible Grant response to the supposed Wallace info is that we don’t know whether Grant would have picked up Wallace’s message on Friday, April 4 or Saturday, April 5 (because Wallace erroneously refers to the message being given to the postmaster on “Thursday, April 4”).
    Assume, however, that the message was left on Friday, April 4 and picked up by Grant on Saturday, April 5. Grant apparently sent a note of unknown content to Sherman on that day, which triggered Sherman’s notorious response “I do not apprehend anything like an attack on our position.” This COULD reflect a response by Grant to Wallace’s note, focusing Sherman on whether WTS thought there would be an attack on PL. (The day before Grant had warned Sherman of the possibility of an attack on Crump’s Landing.)
    Also, after the battle, Grant wrote George Ihrie that he could not have been better prepared if the enemy had given three days warning. Maybe he did have three days warning?
    Carl Schenker

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 12, 2011 / 1:14 pm

      That is the story Wiley Sword gives. As for what Grant knew and when he knew it, nothing else points to him knowing of the enemy’s plan to attack Pittsburg Landing. Quite the contrary. What evidence do we have that Grant picked up the letter other than speculation/inference?

      After a while, the reply string runs out.

      • Carl Schenker April 12, 2011 / 3:11 pm

        I agree that there seems to be no direct evidence that Grant rcd the supposed Wallace letter. If he had, one wld think he might have sent it to Halleck along with (or instead of) Sherman’s letter.
        However, Grant’s letter to Ihrie also says “I could have brought on the battle either Friday or Saturday if I had chosen.” But he could only have chosen to bring on a big battle if he thought the enemy was there menacing PL. Perhaps the supposed info from Wallace contributed to that belief. (See also April 26 letter to Jesse Grant: “[I believed] that they were making a reconnoisance in force” — de didn’t tell Halleck that, either.)
        Carl Schenker

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 12, 2011 / 1:38 pm

      Let’s remember that Wallace was in direct communication with Grant’s HQ (see letter to Rawlins, April 4, about events at Purdy). So what Wallace wants us to believe is that he had news of a planned Confederate attack and decided to send it as he did? I don’t see this as the confession of a guilty conscience, because Wallace does a rather interesting job of rationalizing why he didn’t do anything more. Given that he says he was convinced that the report was true, he convicts himself of negligence, to put it kindly, in not immediately and directly contacting Grant, preferring to leave a message at a post office in the expectation that it would be picked up. If we believe Wallace and also assume that Grant picked up the letter, then Grant’s actions and comments on April 5 are difficult to reconcile with that fact, as there was more than one letter to Halleck on April 5, and in neither case is this report mentioned. Grant’s post-attack rationalizations I take as just that. His letter to Ihrie should not be taken as evidence that he had read Wallace’s letter, because that’s not what Grant was saying. He was in the business of minimizing surprise to counter charges of incompetence and negligence. There’s no evidence he even got the letter: there’s plenty of reason to wonder why Wallace said nothing at the time.

      • Carl Schenker April 12, 2011 / 3:25 pm

        It seems to me that it is useful to break the overall issue into three questions:
        (1) Did Wallace have intelligence of an impending attack on PL? There is reason to believe he did, due to the apparently corroborating letter from Horace Bell reported by Feis in “Grant’s Secret Service.”
        (2) Did Wallace write up the intelligence and send it off for Grant? I tend to believe Wallace probably did, just as he says in his autobiography, because I can’t see how he benefits from fibbing about this. The intelligence may not have been as good as he recalled 40 years later, but the story makes him look bad and forces him to say he wished he’d done more to get Grant’s attn. (I suppose it is at least possible that he got confused and thought he had sent info about PL when he really sent info about Purdy on April 4.)
        (3) Did Grant get info from Wallace abt an impending attack on PL? This is the most impt question for students of Grant, of course. Perhaps there should be an inference of regularity that the army postmaster would duly give the letter to Grant. But, as you say, why is there no direct evidence of receipt if there was receipt? So, I am inclined to say Grant probably never got the info, for some reason. (And one cannot exclude the possibility that Grant didn’t get the info because Wallace didn’t send it.)
        Carl Schenker

  8. William Feis April 14, 2011 / 10:57 am

    I’ve been reading with interest the ongoing discussion about the “Shiloh surprise” and the Lew Wallace-Grant fight over who knew what and when. One reader referenced a 1901 letter to Lew Wallace that I uncovered in my research on “Grant’s Secret Service.” The letter was written by Horace Bell, the scout Wallace credited with bringing him the news that Johnston was on the march from Corinth toward Pittsburg Landing. Bell wrote the letter in response to a speech Wallace gave in Los Angeles (Bell’s place of residence) a few years earlier in which he discussed his scout’s role in discovering and reporting that critical piece of information before the battle of Shiloh. In the letter, Bell recalled that he reported the news to Wallace about seven days before the battle (or roughly March 31), which does not track with Wallace’s account and also would have been unlikely given that Johnston did not start his march to PL until April 3. This date issue may be due to the passage of years and a dimming memory but, other than that discrepancy, Bell’s missive corroborates Wallace’s contention that he had information from Bell before Shiloh indicating that Johnston was headed toward PL.
    Most intriguing, is Bell’s final paragraph, which reads:

    “I did not hear your lecture, but was informed that you referred to this incident [Bell’s discovery of the CSA movement] and lauded the men who performed it [Bell mentions that two scouts, Carpenter and Sanders, were also with him]. I infer, general, that your object in alluding to this trifle was to show that you had full, reliable and correct information as to the force, movements, and position of the enemy, and if the battle of Shiloh was a surprise, it was not such to yourself.”

    Now, this I think shows that Wallace likely received the intelligence he claimed. But this leaves some issues unresolved. First, if he had this information and it was so important, why would he send it by courier with instructions that, if Grant could not be found, the message would be given to the post office for delivery the next day? Usually when that happened in the world of Civil War intelligence, it meant the commander sending the news did not think it very reliable and, thus, there was no need for rush delivery. And Wallace’s excuse that he didn’t want to anger his commander with alarmist reports is really lame. Moreover, as I contend in the book, I don’t think Wallace truly bought that Johnston was on the way, in much the same way that neither Grant nor Sherman seriously entertained that possibility.

    Second, if Grant had received Wallace’s report, I doubt it would have changed his mind or his actions.

    From what I have seen in the CW, the most crucial mistakes that lead to an intelligence failure are not made by those who collect the raw information in the field but more often by those who consume the intelligence–the commander who makes the decisions.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 14, 2011 / 11:44 am

      Thanks, Bill.
      It seems to me that Grant as of April 5 did not anticipate what happened on April 6. That doesn’t mean that he was unaware of enemy activity on his front, but he did not see that activity as a sign of a forthcoming major attack, and his later rationalizations are a rather lame overreaction to exaggerated accounts of what happened on the morning of April 6.
      Had Wallace offered his account years before, at a time when he was so active in so many other ways concerning Shiloh, I could make more sense of it. I’m not denying it happened: like you, however, I see what he did with the information is the best sign that he did not at the time attach much importance to it, or else he would be offering a commentary on his own (in)competence. His purpose in bringing it up after Grant’s death (after spending so much time arguing with Grant when Grant was alive) will remain a matter of speculation, although I don’t go with the idea that he felt guilty.

    • Carl Schenker April 14, 2011 / 11:46 am

      William —
      Very interesting post. Thank you for making it and thereby much advancing the discussion. I assume you looked for but were unable to find a copy of Wallace’s supposed letter to Grant. Wallace also claims to have issued relevant orders to his brigade commanders. Did you see any signs of that, perchance?
      Carl Schenker

    • Ned Baldwin April 14, 2011 / 7:42 pm

      Bell’s memory of when he gave Wallace news about Confederate movements gives a potentially different spin to the whole anecdote.

      Also, the beginning of the last sentence that you quote from Bell — “I infer, general, that your object in alluding to this trifle was to show” — seems to me to put a different spin on the sentence then I had previously assumed from just seeing the last part of the sentence quoted in your book.

  9. John Foskett April 15, 2011 / 3:28 pm

    This is a highly interesting discussion. One small aspect is the fact that in his autobiography, as Carl points out, Wallace says that he received the information from Bell on “Thursday the 4th”, even though “Thursday” was in fact April 3. Steve Woodworth in his own 2009 essay in the collection which he edited reconciles this by concluding Wallace meant “Thursday the 3rd” (due to a typo stated as “March 3” in Steve’s endnote). His theory is that Wallace would be likely to better remember a day than a date. Of course, one could reach the opposite conclusion because an officer in Wallace’s position was accustomed to dating everything. If you read Wallace’s account of what Bell transmitted (to the effect that Johnston’s army had left Corinth “early this morning”), that strongly suggests the 4th. If I recall correctly, Johnston had trouble getting the Army of Mississippi to start moving and it actually began departing Corinth during the aftenoon of the 3rd. This, of course, assumes that Wallace fauthfully stated what Bell said and that Bell’s report was accurate. Just another hurdle in deciphering exactly what took place here.

  10. William Feis April 15, 2011 / 8:30 pm

    I agree that Bell’s letter to Wallace in 1906 has some problems, especially his recollection of the timing of the information, though I think that is can be chalked up to the frailties of memory 44 years after the event. The letter itself is much longer than what I quoted and goes into detail about how Bell gathered the information on that scouting mission.

    His last sentence, which I quoted in an earlier post, I don’t believe puts a different “spin” on his story, as one reader noted. The overall tenor of the letter was as if Bell was saying: “I heard about your speech, general, and I wanted to let you know, speaking as the other key player in the story, that what you said was true.” Also, it seems to me that Bell’s use of the word “trifle” to describe his actions, especially given the elaborate description of the scouting mission he provided right before it in the letter, was merely an attempt at modesty and not intended in any way to minimize, belittle, or challenge Wallace’s rendition of events. Bell seems to be saying, in effect, “aw shucks, general, it was really nothin’ ” when in fact he truly knew it was important–hence the detailed description that in the main supports Wallace’s account.

    To my mind, the description Bell gave of that key scouting mission was clearly intended to support his former commander’s story and his assertion in the last paragraph that Wallace was informed and was thus not surprised by the events of April 6 is clearly a genuine sentiment on Bell’s part. Whether Wallace believed Bell’s report in 1862, however, is another question–and perhaps one of the most important. Now, that could just be my reading of all this, and I have been wrong (oh so many times!) before.
    But I believe pretty firmly that Wallace did indeed receive Bell’s report but that he placed little stock in it, thus leading to the other issues/questions/mysteries noted in posts above.

    Carl asked if I ever found the letter in question from Wallace to Grant. Sadly, I did not, but if I had I’m certain it would have only raised more questions and extended our fun!!

    Here’s a thought: I don’t have the Bell letter with me now, but I could get it and provide a full transcription of it in another post. Would that work? Maybe if some folks smarter than me take a look at it they might uncover some things I missed.

    • Ned Baldwin April 16, 2011 / 5:04 am

      My comment about the last sentence was because I feel “I infer, general, that your object in alluding to this trifle was to show” qualifies the rest of the sentence such that it appears to me that “if the battle of Shiloh was a surprise, it was not such to yourself” is not Bell’s declaration of fact but rather a description of what he infers Wallace was trying to show in his speech.

      What I find interesting about Bell claiming he reported to Wallace on March 31 is that we have supporting evidence that Wallace received intel on March 31 about rebel movements and evidence that he passed that information along to Grant.

    • Carl Schenker April 16, 2011 / 7:45 am

      Bill —
      (1) I certainly would like to see the text of the Bell letter, if you have a chance to post it.
      (2) Based on our discussion to date, I am now entertaining the following as a possible scenario:
      –It was Wallace’s subordinate McGinnis who first made a public report, before 1898, that Wallace’s scouts had given Wallace good intel about the impending attack on PL. (From the little I can glean on Google Books, McGinnis does not seem to reference the supposed report to Grant.)
      Wallace knew of McGinnis’s article [it is in his papers] and then begins to discuss this matter in public (the Los Angeles speech). This puts pressure on Wallace to explain why he did nothing to warn the forces at PL. He then possibly fabricates a report to Grant; the report is never received by Grant because it was never sent by Wallace.
      –More information about the true sequence of PL events and/or post-war publications could of course moot my possible scenario. Also, I don’t know enough about Wallace’s personality to determine whether it is fair to accuse him of fibbing about this. Earlier, I saw no benefit in fibbing by Wallace about this whole matter in his 1906 memoirs, but if it was McGinnis who first made info abt the intel public, then Wallace would have benefited by a fib that he had tried to forward the intel to Grant.
      (3) It is amazing to me how many issues arise concerning just this one small strand of the Shiloh story.
      Carl Schenker

  11. John Foskett April 16, 2011 / 8:58 am

    William: –
    It’s hard to argue with your conclusion about how Wallace viewed this information from Bell. His autobiography comes across as a lot of “backfilling”. For example, he claims that he notified all of his brigade commanders about it and required that reports be made to him “hourly” up until April 6. Nobody, however, seems to have found any contemporaneous written evidence of all of these steps. As you noted, he picked an unusually cavalier method for transmitting information which decades later he characterized as crucial and his rationale makes little sense. If he thought it was vital, and knew (as he did) that Grant was moving between PL and Savannah, why not utilize two couriers? In addition, boats seemed to be moving up and down the river constantly. And why wasn’t this information (again, so far as we know) transmitted to W.H.L. Wallace, with whom Wallace was otherwise in contact about “mutual aid”?

  12. William Feis April 16, 2011 / 10:57 am

    Where were you all when I was writing my dissertation and my book!! I am really enjoying this exchange and it is really fascinating how all this may–or may not–have transpired along the shore of the Tennessee River 149 years ago.

    Carl, I think your scenario is potentially spot on. I don’t know enough about Wallace’s character to know if he was a fibber or not, but I think, given the bile ginned up during his feud with Grant, it is not out of the realm of reason to think that Wallace may have covered his tracks a bit (especially after USG was dead and could not respond) and stretched the truth to protect himself from the “pick locks of biographers”. I think he received Bell’s report but essentially dismissed it. Years later, as you argue, he had to respond to new evidence that he indeed received that key information and, since this would be a bombshell of sorts, instead of admitting that he had it but didn’t believe it, he concocted a story–based on some grain of truth– that he received the info and then dutifully sent it to Grant and, well, the old man was the one who failed to act on it. Adding the piece about having the dispatch dropped off at the army post office might also serve to deflect blame from Wallace since he could then proclaim he sent the message but it was delayed or lost by the army mail system. Reminds me of my students who swear that they sent me an email with their paper attached but it somehow got “lost” in the “system” when their computer malfunctioned. They believe it excuses them from any liability, even though it is clear they never wrote the paper in the first place. They hope to get a pass due to someone else’s gaff. (Brooks, I know you likely know all about this, too) And Bell’s letter may have only deepened Wallace’s commitment to this alleged deception. The Shiloh “question” was that key moment in Wallace’s career that could make or break how he was remembered in the war, an unflattering image that Ben Hur would not even be able to overcome, and the general knew it.

    John, your questions are all very good ones and I think get at some issues that need exploration. I especially like that you find my conclusions hard to argue with!! However, while I was wrestling with the Shiloh surprise as I wrote the book, I found myself arguing with my conclusions a lot!!

    I will type in the letter early next week. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks for the great discussion!

    • Carl Schenker April 16, 2011 / 11:26 am

      Yes, it is fun to wrestle with one of these issues in a way allowing help and reactions from others with an interest.
      I have posted below (I think) some more info about the timing of various post-war items. They leave room for my fibbing scenario, but perhaps undercut it a bit as the possibility seems to exist that Wallace talked about the intel in public before McGinnis did.
      Also, as Brooks has pointed out, Wiley Sword has hypotheisized that Sherman’s notorious “I do not apprehend anything like an attack on our position” note could be a response to an inquiry of unknown content from Grant based on the Wallace intel. The timing works if Wallace left the intel on Friday, April 4; Grant received it on Saturday, April 5; and Grant then queried Sherman on April 5. The substance also works — Grant possibly receives intel about an attack on PL from Wallace, writes Sherman to ask about threats to PL, and gets a response “I do not apprehend anything like an attack on our position.” (I had worked out this scenario independently of Sword.)
      To me, the most impt thing about this whole topic is what Grant knew and when he knew it. I have become more open to the possibility of fabrication by Wallace (i.e., no letter ever sent), but still wonder about fecklessness by Grant and Sherman. Were they inert in the face of a warning from Wallace? I really am on the knife’s edge on the issue whether Grant rcd intel from Wallace or not.
      Carl Schenker

  13. Carl Schenker April 16, 2011 / 11:09 am

    A little more grist for the mill:
    (1) So far as I can determine, Wallace made no claim about having the intelligence or trying to forward it to Grant during Grant’s lifetime. I am reinforced in this conclusion by the fact that Manning Force makes no reference to this possibility in his 1885 book “Fort Henry to Corinth,” where he does emphasize Wallace’s report about Purdy of April 4.
    (2) I have found the McGinnis “Shiloh” item online. The volume bears an 1898 date, but I could find nothing showing when McGinnis prepared his article other than that it was after Grant died in 1885. That means he could have put the info about Wallace having the intel into circulation anytime between 1885 and 1898.
    (3) It appears that Wallace may have given his talk in Los Angeles (the one that sparked Bell’s 1901 letter) as early as 1894, but we don’t really know what he said about the intel in that talk (specifically, whether he raised the supposed report to Grant).
    Carl Schenker

  14. Carl Schenker April 17, 2011 / 5:44 am

    I was thinking this morning that, if the Wallace/Horace Bell tale is true, there probably would have been gossip about it in the army more or less at the time. So, as Brooks has asked, why does the Wallace story only come out in 1906.
    We have been creeping forward to earlier dates, and I append an 1887 link below. This is a journalist claiming acquaintance with many generals. He reports that Carptenter and Bell came in through the lines on Saturday [April 5] with a report that “the whole Confederate army was on advancing” and that Wallace sent the info to Grant. He does not say that the PL was the known target. My guess is that the journalist author had this info from the literary Wallace. In any event, it places a version of the Carpenter/Bell intel in the public record in 1887. This is soon after the earliest possible date for the McGinnis article (which Google Books suggests had little traction); it is also several years before the apparent 1894 date of Wallace’s Los Angeles speech.
    Carl Schenker

    • John Foskett April 17, 2011 / 9:18 am

      Carl –
      This gets “curiouser and curiouser”. Now we have an 1887 account which has Carpenter and the unnamed Bell reporting this information rather late on April 5, the former 2 hours earlier than the latter. His description of each and their methods is similar to that in Wallace’s autobiography (in which, in a footnote, Wallace raises and does not directly confirm or deny the assertion that Bell was a “double spy”). But the date is obviously different in a material way and Wallace has Carpenter arriving literally while Wallace is cross examinng Bell – not two hours apart and in reverse order . Wallace also claims that while he was in his tent composing the alleged message to Grant, he had to re-emerge in order to break up a fight between the two, the cause of which Wallace (for some inexplicable reason) claims he had no interest in determining. So there are reasons for doubting that Wallace supplied this information (unless he altered it later). McGinniss seems an unlikely source because this 1887 account goes far beyond what McGinniss wrote and uses “Saturday”, not “Thursday”.

      • Carl Schenker April 17, 2011 / 9:50 am

        John —
        (1) I agree that the 1887 account by Coffin is materially different than Lew Wallace’s 1906 account, most importantly in dating the arrival of the scouts to Saturday (instead of Thursday or Friday). If the scouts really came in on Saturday and Wallace wrote up the intel for Grant and left it for him at the postoffice, it is no wonder Grant never got the message because the battle commenced the next morning and presumably even the postmaster was preoccupied.
        (2) You express doubt that Wallace was Coffin’s source. You may be right, but I’m holding out for Wallace. The reason is the background Coffin gives about the scouts. It lines up very closely with what Wallace later wrote about them — Carpenter’s reliance on slave help and the unnamed Bell possibly being a double agent. It seems odd to me that Coffin would have these details about the scouts unless he got them from Wallace. Also, his informant told him that Wallace passed the info on to Grant, and Wallace was best positioned to add that info. I agree with you that McGinnis does not seem a likely source for Coffin. If not Wallace, do you have candidates?
        (3) FWIW, I also found that Coffin published an 1863 account of the battle of Shiloh, apparently having been there. He discusses lack of preparedness, but makes no reference to Wallace’s scouts. Thus, it would seem that the info about the scouts was not known to him from contemporary army gossip but somehome came to him in the 20 odd years before his 1887 book.
        Carl Schenker

        • John Foskett April 17, 2011 / 10:43 am

          You make some good points. If it was Wallace, I assume you agree that either Coffin got some material details very wrong (date, sequence of Carpenter and Bell arriving) or, instead, Wallace indulged in some of his demonstrated talent at writing fiction when he reworked those facts for his autobiography (tossing in the oxymoronic “Thursday the 4th” for good measure). The two versions are irreconcilable in some important particulars. Coffin was pretty precise.

          • Carl Schenker April 17, 2011 / 11:38 am

            John —
            Yes, assuming that Wallace was Coffin’s informant, Coffin either botched impt details or Wallace later changed his story. This issue certainly has layers and layers. (Maybe Wallace’s 1906 “Thursday, April 4” account was influenced by McGinnis’s earlier report that Wallace had the intel by Thursday.)
            Unfortunately, we seem to be learning more about the “memory” of these supposed events, instead of uncovering contemporaneous leads about the actual facts on the ground. Anyway, as we learn more about it, I keep trying to come back to the three separate issues in my own thinking:
            (1) Did Wallace have important intelligence from Carpenter and Bell? It seems to me very likely that he did. I am anxious to see the transcription of Horace Bell’s 1901 letter to Grant. The time of receipt becomes ever fuzzier, though. March 31? Thursday, April 3? Friday, April 4? Saturday, April 5?
            (2) Did Wallace write it up for Grant? I tend to think he did. It seems to me that a writeup is more likely if Wallace himself put this info in the public domain through Coffin in 1887. My “fibbing scenario” has appeal to me primarily if someone else put the intel info in the public domain, thereby creating a possible incentive for Wallace to fib about passing it on.
            (3) Did Grant get the info? I give some weight to the Sword/Schenker hypothesis about the note to Sherman being evidence that Grant had the Wallace intel. But I am still very troubled by Brooks Simpson’s point that one would expect more direct evidence of the Wallace intel in Grant’s writings of April 5 if he had indeed rcd Wallace’s supposed letter. Of course, it appears that we are missing at least one impt April 5 Grant document — the apparent note to Sherman. [On that score, the well-informed Albert Deane Richardson wrote in 1868 that Grant sent that note via McPherson, asking whether it was OK for Grant to stay in Savannah to meet Buell. The problem with Richardson’s assertion is that Grant apparently went to Pittsburg Landing on April 5.]
            So, everything remains rather mysterious, it seems to me.
            Carl Schenker

  15. Carl Schenker April 17, 2011 / 2:18 pm

    At the risk of becoming tedious, I have linked an 1868 bio of Grant by Dana and James H. Wilson. I don’t know how much cooperation Grant and/or his staff offered Dana and Wilson, but page 76 says that skirmishing plus information from “scouts” and prisoners had put Grant on his guard. Of course, this has no necessary connection to Wallace and his scouts and Wallace indulged the belief that Grant never rcd his supposed letter. Still, this could possibly indicate that Grant did acknowledge having input from scouts and those scouts could have been Wallaces. Anyway, FWIW, here is the link.
    Carl Schenker

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 17, 2011 / 2:33 pm

      Dana and Wilson offer the party line on this issue, as does Adam Badeau. The fact is that if Grant was on his guard, then he stands convicted of severe negligence and incompetence. Better (and more consistent with the evidence at the time) to assume that Grant was not expecting the April 6 attack, and that these post-battle efforts to minimize the question of surprise represent an overreaction to reports of soldiers being killed in their, tents, etc.

      • Tony Gunter April 17, 2011 / 8:05 pm

        I don’t think either way this changes the story one bit. Other officers claim to have received intel of an impending Confederate attack. McPherson and W.H.L. Wallace had their horses mounted the night before in anticipation of an attack according to McPherson. And the Unionist scout Chickasaw makes the same claim of delivering intel on Confederate movements directly to Sherman.

        We still are left with the basic problems at Shiloh:

        1) Halleck was more concerned with what Grant might do than what the Confederates might do, and his prime directive was to avoid a general engagement until Halleck himself arrived at Pittsburg Landing. Given the distance between the two armies (15 miles), this eliminated the possibility of reconnaisance in force. Or even, for that matter, an attack to disrupt the Confederate preparations for attack if the intel had been accepted as true.

        2) Sherman was not a savvy consumer of intel. McPherson and W.H.L. Wallace believed something was brewing, so we already know that scouts were arriving with information. We do not need the existence of additional reports to Lew Wallace to accept this notion. However, Sherman did not accept the intel as being believable.

        3) Grant had an unfounded faith in Sherman’s abilities to keep abrest of the operational situation at PL. Sherman emphatically denied the possibility of attack, and Grant believed him.

        • James F. Epperson April 18, 2011 / 5:07 am

          I believe Feis adds that there was a lot of “deserter intel,” painting a story of disruption, disorder, and demoralization at Corinth. This gave some credence to the notion that the enemy was not coming out.

        • Ned Baldwin April 18, 2011 / 10:03 am

          Grant claimed that he was “prepared should such a thing [attack] take place” (message to Halleck the night before battle) so whether intel he may or may not have received would have put him more on guard or not seems somewhat beside the point.

  16. Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 5:42 am

    Tony —
    Glad to see your post. I guess whether this Wallace-related inquiry has the potential to “change the story” depends on the purpose of one’s inquiry.
    If one wants to zero in specifically on the quality of Grant’s Shiloh generalship, then I think one does want to know (1) whether he rcd (supposedly) high quality intel from Wallace and (2) what, if anything, he did about it. Wallace’s supposed intel, if rcd and valuable, was a chance for Grant to push Sherman rather than just rely passively on Sherman. To me, it is an extra black mark against Grant if he rcd high quality intel from Wallace and slept on it. To me, that would “change the story.”
    This issue also brings into play the whole question of what Grant personally did on April 5 (stay in Savannah, stay at PL proper, or — according to Badeau but highly dubious in my opinion — visit Sherman at the front).
    The issue also comes up about how much Grant’s ankle injury of April 4 comes into play here. On April 4, he promised to visit Sherman at the front on April 5. Badeau says he did, but I very much doubt it. I think he visited the landing but stayed there and just sent a note to Sherman, and got the notorious “I do not apprendend any thing like an attack on our position” in response. Doesn’t it count against Grant if he rcd useful intel from Wallace but failed to prod Sherman hard enough about it?
    Carl Schenker

    • Tony Gunter April 18, 2011 / 7:43 am

      > Doesn’t it count against Grant if he rcd useful intel from Wallace
      > but failed to prod Sherman hard enough about it?

      I think it already counts against Grant that he placed his trust for operational awareness in Sherman. Other commanders were obviously concerned about a Confederate attack. As Brooks points out, Grant absorbed input from everyone in his command, whether they were aware of it or not. Is it possible that Sherman was replying to a query from Grant about the possibility of attack? Yes. Did the query necessarily arise from some doubtful intel allegedly delivered to Grant in the most unlikely of manners by Lew Wallace? No. The point is, Grant had doubts about Confederate intentions, but his commander at PL emphatically denied the possilibity of an attack and he wasn’t about to second guess his commander on the scene.

      As Grant began to move south past Vicksburg, Sherman hinted that Grant and McPherson were planning to strike out for the railroad to Vicksburg after capturing Grand Gulf and detatching McClernand to Banks. Sherman strongly protested, and wrote to his brother that this was the most foolish move of the entire war. Luckily, Grant had learned to take Sherman’s input with a grain of salt.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 8:29 am

      Lacking evidence that Grant received anything from Lew Wallace about an attack at Pittsburg Landing, we’re into speculation without evidence.

      There’s a lot of speculation as to what people think happened here and there, but, absent evidence, I’m not sure how far that gets us. The more we find out about Lew Wallace did know, did not know, did, and didn’t, the more it seems rather shaky ground upon which to change the narrative in place.

  17. Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 9:02 am

    But what is “the narrative in place”?
    (1) Shiloh student Steve Woodworth says “the note never reached Grant.” “Intolerably Slow,” p. 79.
    (2) Shiloh student Wiley Sword has an extended discussion of Wallace’s account, ending: “Although there is no positive record of it, the story of the Wallace dispatch does have some credibility [due to the unknown April 5 note to Sherman].” In other words, maybe the note reached Grant.
    (3) Shiloh student Larry Daniel says “While at PL on the 5th, Grant rcd a message from Lew Wallace. [Proof??] Two of his civilian scouts had reported the the Rebel army was on the move and that the target was PL. Even Wallace doubted the story. [Proof beyond means of delivery???] . . . Sherman assured Grant that . . . his division front was clear.” [Connected to Wallace intel?] Daniel, pp. 140-41.
    I would grade Sword as the best of these discussions because he does the best job of conveying uncertainty to readers. As a reader, that is what I want to see — an account that puts this issue into context, not one that conveys undue certainty on the issue.
    Carl Schenker

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 9:08 am

      The narrative in place really doesn’t depend on this discussion. It is that Grant relied upon Sherman’s assessment of the situation, and Sherman was wrong. That statement holds regardless of which option you take.

      • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 9:18 am

        May I ask whether anything about this Wallace-intel scenario would change the narrative in place for you?
        For example, what if Grant rcd Wallace’s letter, the intelligence was excellent, and Wallace expressly gave credence to it by talking up his scouts. Then Grant writes his missing April 5 note to Sherman and fails (repeat, fails) to give Sherman Wallace’s input and simply asks abstractly “how are things on your front?”
        I know that is all hypothetical, but for me that would downgrade Grant as a general because it would make it more unreasonable for him simply to rely on Sherman’s perhaps imperfect assessment of the situation.
        Carl Schenker

        • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 9:27 am

          The story would still be that Grant relied on Sherman, and Sherman was wrong, and that is if all those ifs line up in place, which doesn’t seem likely.

          Besides, we’re really losing the fact that the proper focus belongs on Wallace, both at the time and in his recollections afterwards. If anything, this whole exchange makes me question Wallace even more.

  18. Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 9:43 am

    (1) Thanks very much for your reply.
    (2) With respect, I disagree that Wallace is necessarily the proper focus here. It seems to me that it all depends on the actual facts (quality of intel, quality of Wallace write up, receipt by Grant). — Grant is the figure more impt to history. If he got good intelligence from Wallace on Saturday, April 5, and did nothing with it, that reflects badly on him. — Wallace is the minor figure here. If his own story is true, it reflects badly on him for not being more proactive in getting the intel to Grant (but he can be forgiven that if Grant actually got the supposed writeup). If Wallace’s story is false (no write up for Grant), that reflects even worse on Wallace and Grant is entirely off the hook on this score.
    Carl Schenker

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 10:05 am

      The problem is that Grant doesn’t know whether it’s good intelligence when he gets it. So he contacts Sherman, who reassures him about matters, and Grant’s satisfied. No one’s said “he did nothing with it.” So now you are going beyond your own string of “ifs” to construct yet another assumption based upon a speculation, and that speculation seems besides the point, because we know that as of April 5 Grant was told by Sherman that everything was fine.

      Wallace simply failed Grant here, both at the time and later. If Wallace is in possession of important information, why does he transmit it in such a poor way? If you’re Grant, what are you more likely to heed: a message from Wallace delivered directly to you by an aide, or something you may (or may not) pick up at the landing when a postmaster hands it to you?

      No wonder Wallace did not want to call attention to this while Grant was alive.

      Grant’s handing of matters at the time and in his post-battle spin’s bad enough. But we who sit at our monitors with the wonderful insight afforded by hindsight tend to judge far too harshly. Generals on both sides were learning on the job. Where was Grant just one year before all this? Working the front counter at his father’s general store in Galena.

      Grant took Sherman’s word on these matters: that we know. So if Grant gets Wallace’s message, he asks Sherman for an assessment. If he doesn’t get Wallace’s message, he still asks Sherman for an assessment. In either case, he privileges Sherman over Wallace. So the result’s the same, and people have already questioned Grant’s reliance of Sherman, a reliance which I think understandable because as of April 5 Grant does not know the demons dancing about inside Sherman’s head. Given what we know to be Wallace’s carelessness, why privilege Wallace over Sherman? Given what we see on April 6, would you trust Wallace more than Sherman, even taking into account Sherman’s shortcomings?

      • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 10:57 am

        I am a great admirer of both Grant and Sherman — I’m just trying to get my mind around the Wallace account and its treatment in the literature and highly value the interaction here as part of that process.
        (1) “As of April 5, Grant does not know the demons dancing about inside Sherman’s head.” Grant should have. Sherman’s prior difficulties were known to the whole nation, and Sherman says in his memoirs that the whole army looked askance at him at this time before Shiloh. If anything Shiloh banished some of his demons. One suspects that Sherman took a shine to Sherman as a fellow West Point man and chose to devalue McClernand and Wallace despite their greater experience in the field before Sherman proved that was the route to go.
        (2) “Given what we know to be Wallace’s carelessness . . .” But wasn’t it Wallace who sent out scouts to Corinth and reportedly got good intel out of it? We apparently have Horace Bell’s corroboration on that account. That wasn’t carelessness; that was better performance than Grant and Sherman were giving. My take is that Grant should not have privileged his West Point colleague (Sherman) or his Fort Donelson colleague (Wallace) — he should have tried to weigh the info that came before him on its merits. He could have summoned the scouts. There is a lot he could have done rather than just privilege Sherman’s assessment.
        (3) You suggest above that I went beyond my own “string of if’s” with the phrase Grant “did nothing with [the intel].” Fair enough. What I was thinking about was my hypothetical that Grant got Wallace’s intel and wrote a note to Sherman that did not disclose it, so that Sherman had no reason to reassesss/dig deeper, etc. In that event, Grant would have responded to the intel at some level, but in a way that created every chance of a rote “all’s clear” response from Sherman. In other words, I would pretty much equate a Wallace-inspired note to Sherman that failed to disclose Wallace’s intel as “doing nothing” with the intel.
        (4) I certainly agree with you that Grant and Sherman were just learning to be generals. One contemporary wrote that the Grant and Sherman of later years would have cashiered the Grant and Sherman of Shiloh days.
        Thanks again,
        Carl Schenker

        • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 11:11 am

          Sherman’s difficulties were not known to the entire nation, unless the entire nation had an advance copy of Sherman’s Civil War. Oh, sure, we know he came under some press criticism and was reassigned, but, no, the entire nation did not know the concerns revealed in private correspondence. Grant never mentioned these matters in his correspondence.

          We know about how careless Wallace was with the information in his possession. If someone’s going to tell me that sending a warning about an impending attack at Pittsburg Landing to the postmaster is an example of Wallace’s skill as a commander and his astute assessment of the importance of that information, they are free to do so.

          You simply have shown no evidence on whether Grant got the information, so offering criticisms of Grant based upon the assumption that he got it (especially given that this discussion has revealed just how muddled this whole story is) seems to me to go beyond the evidence and into ill-supported speculation. You think he should have valued Wallace over Sherman. Why, given what Grant knew of the two men at the time? Your assessment seems to me to be rooted in hindsight, and a hindsight shaped in large part by a particular interpretation of the Wallace tale, one that depends on every “if” falling into place. The same notion of a frail tale characterizes your point three.

          • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 11:29 am

            (1) You’re right that the nation did not know Sherman considered suicide. But it was widely reported that Sherman had suffered a failure of nerve in his departmental command, cracked up, etc. I’d be quite surprised if Grant knew nothing about these matters.
            (2) I have criticized Wallace’s handling of the intel, not said it showed skill. But the collecting of the intelligence (confirmed by Bell) did show diligence.
            (3) I agree that I have shown no evidence of receipt by Grant. That is the question I would dearly love to answer (but unlike Larry Daniel I hold the question open). I have also said that I attribute importance to your point about Grant’s April 5 correspondence suggesting he had no such intel.
            (4) I do not say value Wallace over Sherman. I say, if Grant rcd the intel, try to assess the intel. Wallace deserved credit for getting it — try to find out if it’s true. Wallace was battle tested and experienceed in the field. Probe Sherman hard. Sherman was fresh in the field.
            (5) I don’t know what happened here and don’t pretend that I do. I would like to know — what was the intel, when did Wallace get it, how did he write it up, did Grant get it, when, what did Grant then do. Maybe the key difference between us is that I am willing to believe that Wallace’s account MAY be true; I derive the impression that you dismiss it entirely and perhaps you are right to do so. I dunno.
            Carl Schenker

          • Ned Baldwin April 18, 2011 / 11:49 am

            Sherman was not “fresh in the field” having been operating along the Tennessee river for several weeks (as well as having fought at Bull Run and commanded a department in Kentucky).

          • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 12:26 pm

            You (and Brooks below) are correct that Sherman had fought at Bull Run.
            The thought I was trying to communicate with “fresh in the field” is that Sherman was freshly returned to the field (mid-March) from his personal crisis, coming from two rear-echelon posts (Benton Barracks and logistics as Grant’s successor in command of the District at Cairo) and was new to Grant’s command, whereas Wallace had been with Grant at Donelson.
            Carl Schenker

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 12:08 pm

            I don’t see where I’ve dismissed Wallace’s account. I have asked questions of it, and one of my criticisms of Wallace is based on accepting what he says at face value.

            There are three exercises here. One is determining what happened. As you can see, no one’s quite sure given the evidence before us. The second is determining the significance of this tale. To me, that boils down to what did Grant know, when did he know it, and how would one reasonably assume how he dealt with this information (if indeed he ever received it in timely fashion). My reasoning, which I’ve laid out for all to see, is that even if Wallace is telling the exact truth in 1906, Grant would have acted as he did for understandable reasons. Whether this makes Grant look good or bad or whatever is simply immaterial. I think Grant was negligent before Shiloh, and I think Sherman was, too, and Wallace’s story taken at face value doesn’t change that. The third approach is looking at how the story evolved, which is something of a case study in memory.

            A closer examination of the evidence raises all sorts of questions, but for me they are about Wallace. Battle-tested? Not nearly so much as you would have it, I venture, and of course Sherman was at First Manassas, so he’d been under fire, too. Indeed, making a case for Wallace as experienced simply calls into more serious question his handling of the information that came to him and how he transmitted it to Grant, especially as he was a bit more direct when it came to his directness when it involved the situation around Purdy.

            Grant doubtless knew that Sherman had been kicked around a bit, but then again, so had he. Whether he was fully aware of Sherman’s mental state and how that affected how he processed information is another matter entirely. Had he so known about Sherman’s issues, that would render Grant negligent indeed to trust him as he did.

          • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 1:05 pm

            Thanks for this reply. Just in the spirit of being collegial and interactive, I wanted to respond to your opening sentence: “I don’t see where I’ve dismissed Wallace’s account.”
            I certainly didn’t and don’t want to mischaracterize your views in any way and apologize for writing too loosely. Rightly or wrongly, I had derived the impression from some of your earlier posts that you do not believe Wallace’s belated claim to have written the intel up for Grant. I may be wrong on even that narrower point; in any event, I would better have stated that narrower point as my impression.
            Carl Schenker

      • Ned Baldwin April 18, 2011 / 10:58 am

        Here’s another speculative path:
        – scouts tells Wallace his story April 4 (as per Wallace’s book)
        – Wallace writes it down and gives it to Simpson
        – Simpson rides it to Pittsburg Landing, according to Wallace not getting there until 2am
        – Grant receives message next day along with other intel (deserters, captured cavalry from Sherman’s front, etc)

        – Assuming Wallace writes that Bell said Confederates “wont make the distance before tomorrow in the night” in those words
        – Then based on when Grant is reading message, “tomorrow in the night” would be Sunday night
        – Thus, Wallace’s report would indicate Sunday is safe

        • John Foskett April 18, 2011 / 11:12 am

          Ned –
          That certainly seems to be a plausible reading of what Wallace could have written. Of course, Grant still disregarded it if in fact it reached Grant and if in fact Wallace expressed a belief that it was reliable. The more I look at this the more I think that Bill has identified the core problem. I see nothing beyond Wallace’s unreliable autobiography account to suggest that Wallace gave this report credence. There is, for example, absolutely nothing supporting his claim (published in 1906) tht he took any steps consistent with reliance on this information. One small item – the legendary Whitelaw Reid spent the night of April 5 in Wallace’s tent, according to Wallace’s book. Reid, of course, wrote the account of the battle which was published by his Cincinnati editors a few days later and which was highly critical of Grant and the element of surprise. Yet he said nothing of any alarm in Wallace’s camp about a pending Rebel assault on PL. I find that somewhat revealing as to the state of alleged anxiety Wallace had the night before the battle. Brooks also asks a salient question – and the answer is that I likely would not have trusted Wallace even if the information was specific and conveyed Wallace’s belief that it was accurate. I cannot get there, however, because I don’t think Wallace bought it himself.

          • Ned Baldwin April 18, 2011 / 11:38 am

            John, you write “Of course, Grant still disregarded it if in fact it reached Grant”. Do we know that? If, speculatively, the note implied that the Confederate army won’t be up until Sunday night, then maybe Grant regarded it too much.

            I think Brooks was correct to write that with regard to this question of intel received by Wallace, the proper focus belongs on Wallace. The accounts of when he received what and what he did with it are convoluted. There is confusion of when the scouts came in — since Thursday, April 4 is not an actual date in 1862 and Professor Feis has said that Bell claimed he reported in on March 31 — and there is no certainty of what he might have written or what became of the message.

            I have been part of discussions that have gone many rounds over what might have been in the order Grant sent to Wallace the day of the battle and how small changes in wording could justify Wallace taking one road over another. Without knowing what Wallace actually wrote to Grant, can we really criticize Grant for how he responded, supposing he even got it?

          • John Foskett April 18, 2011 / 12:25 pm

            Ned –
            I think it’s clear that he disregarded it (assuming all of the hypothetical facts about its delivery and what it said). Let’s assume the intel was that Johnston would be up Sunday evening. When do you start taking measures to defend against the attack (keeping in mind that this was not an airline time table which, as we know, is itself unreliable)?. There was nothing in place Sunday morning – not even orders to the five divisions at PL to start making preparations. There were no orders from Grant to send out patrols. Grant spent the night of the 5th at Savannah rather than at the locus of this imminent attack. He issued no response to Wallace to head towards PL in the morning (and even if the “which road” question was resolved, that in itself would occupy at least a few hours). I find it hard to believe that, if Grant had information of the type postulated, he would have gone leisurely about the task of reorganizing his alignment at PL and getting ready for a defense, as well as failing to telegraph Halleck about what he was doing (given Halleck’s strong admonitions to avoid a “general engagement”). Grant also would, IMHO, have communicated some urgency to Buel/Nelson. So, “if” the message got there and read as you suggest, I have little doubt that Grant effectively tossed it into the wastebasket.

          • Ned Baldwin April 18, 2011 / 1:14 pm


            I dont think its clear at all. You ask “When do you start taking measures to defend against the attack” — well we have Grant’s calm assurance to Halleck that he was prepared should an attack come. You say “There was nothing in place Sunday morning” — I see it differently. I think Cleburne saw it differently when he tried to attack Sherman. You say “There were no orders from Grant to send out patrols.” — plenty of patrols had come and gone, including one sent from Prentiss’s division the night of the 5th. Not sure what you see as the value of more, especially if he was trying to avoid a general engagement. If, as I speculated, Grant didnt think a Confederate army could close with this forces before Sunday night, then why not spend Saturday night at Savannah.

        • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 1:32 pm

          I want to be sure I’m following your basic scenario. I take it that you hypothesize
          (1) Wallace writing to Grant under date of Friday, April 4, stating the Confederates “wont make the distance [to Pittsburg Landing] before tomorrow in the night.” Tomorrow in the night would be Saturday night-Sunday morning from Wallace’s April 4 perspective.
          (2) Grant receives the message on Saturday, April 5, and reads the April 4 message from an April 5 perspective so that tomorrow in the night means Sunday night-Monday morning?
          I confess I once read an email in a similarly inattentive way, but that involved a lunch appt, not a report that my unentrenched troops were about to be attacked. I hope that’s not the explanation for what really happened!
          Carl Schenker

          • John Foskett April 18, 2011 / 1:47 pm

            Ned –
            We’ll have to disagree about Grant’s alignment to receive an attack, or steps taken to receive one, by the morning of April 6. Without going into detail about where the five divisions were (omitting Wallace’s, which remained ensconced at Stoney Lonesome without orders to move anywhere, let alone down either the “River Road” or the Shunpike), the results speak for themselves. The Confederate attack,poorly implemented as it was, drove Grant’s five divisions back to PL or (in the case of Prentiss and part of another) capture. There was nothing in place, or even being put in place, on April 6 to meet an attack. It’s not the sort of thing that one cavalierly leaves to later in the day based on a scout’s estimate that the Rebel army would not arrive until that evening. I cannot see how one would posit that Grant took the information seriously in light of the numerous things he did not do. But that’s just my opinion. And to repeat, I think this is all hypothetical because I am convinced that, as Bill has argued, Wallace didn’t take the report seriously.

          • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 2:09 pm

            Another thing that Grant did not do was appoint a PL commander in case of attack in his absence, as Buell stresses in his Shiloh article.
            On March 31, if memory serves, Grant formally transferred his HQ to PL, while actually shuttling back and forth from PL, which took about 1 1/2 hours by boat (as I understand).
            This meant that, on paper, Grant was the commander at PL. Next in seniority was MG McClernand (in whom Grant apparently lacked confidence). Sherman was at most the “informal commander” at PL because he was only a BG and could not be set above McClernand.
            This was a perilous command set up, period, and even more so if attack was expected.
            Carl Schenker

          • Ned Baldwin April 18, 2011 / 2:16 pm

            If we are going to throw around a lot of speculation, I thought I would add another theory. You describe what I meant correctly.

          • Carl Schenker April 18, 2011 / 2:43 pm

            OK, thank you, sir. CRS

  19. William Feis April 19, 2011 / 9:29 pm

    Though it seems the discussion has moved far beyond the content of Bell’s 1901 letter, as promised, I am posting a transcript of the entire letter for your perusal. I’ll be interested to hear what you may have to say about it. The letter is located in the Lew Wallace Collection at the Indiana Historical Society. Here it is:

    November 29, 1901
    Gen. Lew Wallace
    Crawfordsville, Ind.

    Dear Sir:

    In your lecture delivered here, when you did us the honor of a visit, about three years ago, you made reference to an incident which in fact is as follows:

    About eight days before the battle of Shiloh I did myself the honor to report to you the advance of Johnstones Amry from Corynth to Monterey, stating correctly its approximate number.

    In the morning following, you ordered me to take such force of Cavalry as I wanted [to] verify my report beyond a doubt and report without delay.

    I took with me two men, crossed Snake Creek at Harts Mill, and by trails through the woods, reached the main road from Pittsburg landing to Corynth, at a point about three miles in the rear of the enemy’s position at Monterey, on the range of Mickey Hills, and were on his line of communication.

    We rode several miles on the Corynth road eliciting such information as we could get from numerous parties seen on the road, and then we scouted the enemys line from left to right. Having fully verified my former report, we started for your headquarters at Crumps Landing. We rode through Meeks lane to the Purdy Shiloh road feeling greatly elated at our pleasant success. We were yet inside the enemy’s line of pickets, but did not know it.

    We rode toward Shiloh until we reached Beck’s farm, and my two comrades rode through the gate to the house to obtain water. I remained at the gate. The house was on a hill, at the foot of which toward Shiloh was a very shaded grove. Peering into the grove I discovered a confederate picket, and ourselves in the rear of it. The boys were dismounted and lazily lounging in the shade.

    Signaling my two comrades I dashed into that picket and such a scatterment as the boys made was really funny. Sanders and Carpenter were with me on time.

    Three troopers held together and took a cow trail around Beck’s field in the direction of Crump’s Landing. I followed with my two chums at my heels. In about half a mile they turned to the left into a long lane and this headed their horses toward Purdy.

    Then I knew I had them. I was riding General Fred Knefflers [actually Capt. Fred Kneffler] big iron grey horse, and he flew like an arrow, and in three seconds I had the hindermost, whom I disarmed and turned over, and before the end of the lane was reached we had them all. I had the best horse, and thus had the advantage over all in the race. The prisoners were presented to you at sunset of the same day.

    I did not hear your lecture, but was informed that you referred to this incident and lauded the men who performed it. I infer, general, that your object in alluding to this trifle [underlined in original] was to show that you had full, reliable and correct information as to the force, movements and position of the enemy, and if the battle of Shiloh was a surprise, it was not such to yourself.

    Now general, if my statement of this little bit of warlike history is correct, please stamp the truth of it by your indorsement then return this to me, and greatly oblige

    Yours in very high esteem and remembrance,

    Horace Bell

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 9:34 pm

      Thanks, Bill. This casts a different light on the matter, because the nature of the information contained in this letter would not have been all that different than the intelligence available from other sources, at least as I see it. What, if anything, am I missing?

      • James F. Epperson April 20, 2011 / 4:26 am

        It would have been more definite information that a large force was present, but if Grant was entrusting Sherman with security of the camp at PL, I am not sure a contrary report from Wallace would have done much.

      • Carl Schenker April 20, 2011 / 5:16 am

        Bill/Brooks —
        Thank you, Bill, for posting this.
        My preliminary reaction is akin to Brooks’s. This account does not seem to agree very well with the either the 1887 Coffin account about Carpenter and the unnamed Bell, nor with the 1906 Wallace account about them. But I need to look at this letter more closely and think about its place in the puzzle some more.
        I still remain baffled what Lew Wallace gets out of recounting a story in which (by hypothesis) he (1) tells a false story about having perfect intelligence concerning the impending PL attack, (2) claims that he sought to pass it on to Grant, but (3) admits that he used unreliable methods and that Grant possibly/probably never got the info. The net effect is that his own story about the intel indicts him even more strongly than his slowness in getting to the field on April 6. Very mysterious. Even if one hypothesizes that he wanted some form of revenge on the deceased Grant, this story makes him look worse than Grant because he can’t confirm that the supposedly great intel ever reached Grant’s hands.
        Carl Schenker
        P.S. Bill, if I can find it again online, I will send you some info I noticed last night on the third spy (Sanders).

  20. Ned Baldwin April 20, 2011 / 6:47 am

    Professor Feis,

    Thank you. Interesting stuff. According to the Official Records, Sanders was picked up by Confederates cavalry on March 31 while on the Shunpike. I think there was also some confederate units sent to Monterey from Corinth at the time.

  21. Carl Schenker April 20, 2011 / 8:54 am

    Just as a thought experiment, on the Sword/Schenker hypothesis that Grant may have queried Sherman about the Wallace intel on April 5.
    Assume (1) that Wallace actually received Bell’s two scout reports on April 4/5, reporting the advance of “Johnstones Army from Corynth to Monterey,” (2) Wallace writes this info up for Grant after the preliminary report on April 4, (3) Grant gets the info on April 5, and queries Sherman in the apparently lost note of April 5: “Wallace says that Johnston has moved his whole army to Corinth and beyond.”
    Sherman responds (per PUSG): “Your note is just read –I have no doubt that nothing will occur today more than some picket firing. The enemy is saucy, but got the worst of it yesterday, and will not press our pickets far–I will not be drawn out far [to Monterey?] unless with certainty of advantage, and I do not apprehend anything like an attack on our position.”
    Carl Schenker

  22. Carl Schenker April 20, 2011 / 9:27 am

    Sanders issue:
    The big issue about the Bell letter (for me anyway) is whether it falsifies Wallace’s account of impt intel because of any its particulars, especially the approx March 29-30 dates for the two scouting reports and Bell’s claim to have been in the company of Sanders. Ned Baldwin (and Bill Feis in his book) report that Sanders was detained by the confederates on March 31.
    However, I do not believe that the OR 10-2-374-375 is talking about “our” Sanders. The OR refers to “W. C. Sanders,” said to be an Adamsville man. Our Sanders apparently was Thomas A. Sanders, a Union soldier. See link below. Thus, I do not think our Sanders was the man detained. At first, I thought the Sanders issue might yield fruit in untangling this overall issue. Now I think it is a red herring and that our Sanders was at liberty at all relevant times. Any reactions?

  23. Carl Schenker April 20, 2011 / 9:57 am

    More on Sanders issue:
    To avoid confusion and possible protest, I thought I should expand upon the Sanders issue.
    (1) Wallace’s autobiography identifies “Sanders” as an enlisted man.
    (2) The congressional material I linked earlier identifies one Thomas A. Sanders, enlisted man, as a spy for Lew Wallace.
    (3) I now see that Bill Feis’s book specifically identifies the third spy as WC Sanders, local civilian, and also reports that WC Sanders was detained by the confederates on March 31. That WC Sanders was hanging around Purdy and Admasville, where our Sanders was supposed to be spying.
    (4) I suppose it is possible that these are one and the same person and that the confederates simply did not have his true name. If that is the case, then the Sanders detention on March 31 may mean that the two scouting sorties mentioned in Bell’s letter really did occur on March 29 and 30 before Sanders was detained. On the other hand, our Sanders may never have been detained or may have been released early enough to participate in scouts on April 3-4-5 (assuming that Bell just had the dates wrong).
    Carl Schenker

  24. Carl Schenker April 20, 2011 / 4:27 pm

    (1) I would like to record my bottom-line reaction to the Horace Bell letter, in the hope of soliciting possible reactions from others. My desire is still to try to appraise Wallace’s 1906 account (a) that he rcd important intelligence from Bell and Carpenter, (b) that he wrote it up for Grant and sent it to PL and into the hands of the army postmaster, and (c) that he couldn’t say whether Grant got it.
    (2) The Horace Bell letter really only bears on element (a) — that LW rcd important intelligence from Bell and Carpenter. My bottom line is that the essence of the Bell letter is broadly consistent with Wallace’s 1906 account (despite many discrepancies in details that one can identify).
    (3) The letter confirms that Bell and Carpenter were scouting toward Corinth for Wallace. The letter further states that several days before the battle (discrepancy in length), Bell and Carpenter reported to Wallace that Johnston’s “army” had moved from Corinth to Monterey, “stating correctly its approximate number.” “You had full, reliable and correct information as to the force, movements and positions of the enemy.”
    (4) Assuming we are talking about the main movement of the confederate army on April 3-4, this is impt intel. However, as described in the Bell letter, the intel is not as specific and alarming as characterized by Wallace’s memoirs. That fact tends to suggest that Wallace probably exaggerated the specificity and importance of the intel in his memoirs.
    (5) We really learn nothing from the Horace Bell letter about whether Wallace wrote the intel up for Grant, much less whether Grant ever rcd it.
    Carl Schenker

  25. John Foskett April 20, 2011 / 4:54 pm

    Bill –
    Thanks for the effort in getting the text of Bell’s letter and reproducing it here. After reading that and comparing it with Wallace’s 1906 version of events (and overcoming for the moment the not insignificant hurdle that Bell said “eight days” rather than “two/three days”) I see nothing but a list of new questions. The two versions simply do not add up in any number of important details. I’ve noticed the additional fact that Simson (spelled by Wallace “Simpson”) died in October, 1865 and was (conveniently?) long past being able to verify or deny Wallace’s 1906 account of the alleged night mission to Grant/the postmaster. Of course, if we had a copy of that message………..

  26. William Feis April 20, 2011 / 9:51 pm

    I think Carl is correct in that Wallace indeed received the information in question from Bell and Carpenter. Right after Bell departed Wallace’s tent, however, is the key moment in this whole affair. Wallace either believed the intel or placed little stock in it. That then dictated what happened next. Wallace said (long after the war) that he sent it on to Grant by a less than speedy means. But what Wallace did not say definitively in his account was whether he, himself, believed the intelligence. Furthermore, let’s assume Wallace indeed sent Grant the message. We don’t know what Wallace said in the note. Wallace could have relayed something like “General, I have information that indicates that Johnston is on the move and an attack is immanent, and I am ready to march to your aid by the right road (oops!).” This is what I think many assume he wrote–and certainly what Wallace wanted all to believe he said. But he never says exactly what he actually wrote. He could just as easily have written: “General, I have a report from two scouts indicating that the enemy is on the move from Corinth. I don’t place much stock in this report because no other information has arrived to corroborate it and I report it for what it is worth.” If Grant received this and then asked Sherman what he thought, Sherman’s response would have supported Wallace’s assessment and there’s a trifecta.

    John–you raise some excellent points about the timing of Bell’s mission. Here’s a thought. What if Bell’s recollection of the the timing of his report–seven to eight days prior to the battle (say March 31)–is accurate and it is Wallace’s rendition of the timing that is flawed? What if Bell reported to Wallace on March 31 that Johnston’s army was on the move, which it was not at that time, and Wallace rightly discounted it? Perhaps Wallace interrogated the three Confederate POWs brought in by Bell and they indicated that they were merely a reconnaissance force and that the rest of the CSA troops were still in Corinth, which they were. There was a lot of Confederate activity at Monterey in the days prior to the battle and perhaps Bell interpreted what he saw near Monterey as a general movement instead of a smaller reconnaissance. In any event, Bell’s report would have been inaccurate on March 31 and Wallace would have been on solid ground discounting it. After the war, when evidence emerged from other sources that Wallace had intelligence about Johnston’s approach, Wallace may have responded with his speech in the 1890s and his 1906 memoir that had Bell arriving eight days later, just prior to the battle, giving him a way to one up Grant and show the world that he had not blown it but had passed the information on, shifting the burden to Grant.

    Just throwing it out there . . .

    • Carl Schenker April 21, 2011 / 5:17 am

      Bill —
      (1) Nice post.
      (2) You highlight one aspect of this that I find interesting and somewhat puzzling — “evidence emerg[ing] from other sources that Wallace had intelligence about Johnston’s approach.” Wallace’s slow march was a heated controversy for years, from the time of the battle until Grant’s 1885 death and beyond. Yet none of us seem to have found any evidence that there was a separate Grant-Wallace controversy involving this intelligence and Wallace’s treatment of it. In other words, I see no evidence that anyone had accused Wallace of failing to sound an alarm when he should have. In the absract, he was worst situated to monitor the rebels in Corinth because of the geography.
      (3) I am aware of only three/four pieces of “evidence” that Wallace had good intel before the battle. (A) Coffin’s 1887 account (for which I belive Wallace was probably the source). Says the intel came in on Saturday. No evidence found yet on Google Books that anybody has ever picked up on that. (B) McGinnis’s war talk about Shiloh (written after 1885 and not published until 1898), which says the intel came in by Thursday. No evidence on Google Books that anyone except Steve Woodworth ever picked up on that. (C) Wallace’s Los Angeles talk (1894-1898?) in which he apparently talked about some aspects of this matter. (D) Horace Bell’s 1901 letter, with information that perhaps no one except Bill Feis ever picked up on.
      (4) These prior reports did not seem to have caused any grief for Wallace, no charges that we can find of sitting on impt intelligence. However, Wallace was probably aware of the Coffin account, would surely have been aware of the McGinnis account, and was the addressee of Bell’s letter. Perhaps he felt he therefore should address the intel matter in his memoirs. I agree with you that it is possible he then fibbed about writing up a report for Grant. But, I also think the imtel was impt enough so that he may in fact in real time have believed he should write up a report. Perhaps he did so but it was not as focused on PL and imminent attack as he says in his memoirs.
      (5) Why was this impt intel? Grant, CF Smith, and Sherman all reportedly believed the Confederates would await attack in fortified Corinth. April 3-4 intel that the whole confederate army was at Monterey therefore marked an important change in the facts on the ground. Do we know whether Grant/Sherman had that intel independently?
      Carl Schenker
      P.S. Going to be out of pocket next week and likely more or less silent..

      • Carl Schenker April 21, 2011 / 5:55 am

        (1) Brooks has pointed out that Grant’s April 5 writings reflect no knowledge of Wallace’s supposed intel.
        (2) I just noticed something interesting (to me at least). Assume that Wallace wrote Grant a note reflective of the Horace Bell letter we have seen — the gist of it would be “The whole rebel army has moved up from Corinth to Monterey.” As I say, I think this was impt intel if it was developed on April 3-4, when it was true.
        (3) One of Grant’s docs dated April 5 reports to Halleck: “The Main force of the enemy is at Corinth.” I believe this document was actually written in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 6, because it also says that Nelson’s division arrd “yesterday.”
        (4) This (enemy at Corinth report) certainly tends to support Brooks’s notion that Grant had not rcd the supposed intel from Wallace or, if he had received it, did not credit the assertion that the whole rebel army had advanced to Monterey. However, soon after the battle he did say that he had believed the enemy was engaged in a recon in force.
        Carl Schenker

  27. Carl Schenker April 21, 2011 / 11:58 am

    New discovery
    Here is a link to a letter Lew Wallace repotedly wrote to James Grant Wilson in 1896 or thereabouts, published in 1906. No details, but an assertion that it was on the evening of Thursday, April 3 [yes, the correct 3] that Wallace first became convinced that a great battle was close at hand.
    Carl Schenker

  28. Carl Schenker April 21, 2011 / 12:40 pm

    I am sorry to proliferate postings. Should have included this info in the prior one.
    (1) Wallace claims in the letter to JGW to have become convinced on the evening of Thursday, April 3, that a great battle was close at hand.
    (2) On April 4, as we know, Wallace wrote to John Rawlins about the situation at Purdy: “The news of the reinforcement of the rebel troops at Purdy is CONFIRMED.”
    (3) It occurs to me that the quoted phrase could be reflective of the two scouts recounted in Bell’s letter — scout 1 develops info abt Purdy and scout 2 “confirms” it.
    (4) Possibly, then, the April 4 letter to Rawlins is one and the same as the “missing” letter to Grant. That, of course would falsify the claims of both Bell and Wallace as to the nature of the intel being about movement of the whole rebel army. But it would mean that there was a letter to Grant (ie, his aide Rawlins) and that the letter got through.
    Just throwing it out there . . . .
    Carl Schenker

  29. John Foskett April 22, 2011 / 10:47 am

    Bill –

    That’s an interesting hypothesis (i.e., that Bell had the date correct). In his autobiography Wallace refers to an undated report from Bell which in context can only be late March. Moreover, that was a mission which (if I recall correctly) Wallace has both Bell and Carpenter involved in (unlike their separate alleged April 3/4 missions – in which Wallace has Bell riding south and joining up with rebel troops, Carpenter hiding for a lengthy period of time at “Mrs. ‘s” farm and overhearing rebel cavalrymen). According to Wallace, Bell’s March report was about Johnston “massing troops” in Corinth and trains running “night and day”. Those could well be the types of information which Wallace could plausibly decide was of interest but not urgent. He may well have left out of his book other information which Bell refers to in his letter because of this. The serious discrepancies between Wallace and Bell as to Wallace’s “Thursday the 4th” account are irreconcilable if Bell indeed had the date wrong. Bell and Carpenter on two different missions; Carpenter showing up while Wallace was interrogating Bell; Bell being sent on a mission the next morning with Carpenter to “confirm” the information. I am pretty close to convinced that Wallace’s 1906 version is fiction but have no good theories on why. And that includes the story about Simson and the “message” which apparently nobody else has ever asserted or seen.

  30. robert basin August 11, 2015 / 10:10 am

    Maybe a bit off topic. I was told that in your article. ‘Who Failed to Fortify Pittsburg Landing’ in the May 2011 North & South magazine, it was stated that Halleck’s order to Grant:

    From the O.R. Serial 11 Page 49 Chapter 22.

    SAINT LOUIS, March 20, 1862.

    Major-General GRANT,

    Savannah, Tenn.:

    Your telegrams of yesterday just received. I do not fully understand you. By all means keep your forces together until you connect with General Buell, who is now at Columbia, and will move on Waynesborough with three divisions. Don’t let the enemy draw you into an engagement now. Wait till you are properly fortified and receive orders.

    H. W. HALLECK,


    was perhaps incorrectly transcribed. I was wondering if or where did you see or hear of this, as the only place I see this possibility is in your article. I am doing a bit of research and this order is somewhat important for it.

    Thanks so much

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 11, 2015 / 11:14 am

      It’s not my article; unfortunately, Carl passed away several years ago.

      • Ira Berkowitz August 11, 2015 / 1:31 pm

        By his obit sounded like a remarkable fellow.

        • John Foskett August 12, 2015 / 7:20 am

          That he was.

  31. robert basin August 11, 2015 / 2:54 pm

    Sorry. Guess I’ll keep looking.

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