Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 13th Ohio Battery at Shiloh

(Capt.Myers' 13th Ohio Battery at Shiloh)

They say history is written by the victorious, that may be true but it also exposes the facts with indifference. I am going to examine the role the 13th Ohio battery played in the battle of Shiloh and what part Charles Milton Adams may have played there. I say may, as it is possible to only piece facts together with some conjecture.

There are few Civil War battles that were subject to as much finger pointing, back biting, and Monday morning quarterbacking as was the Battle of Shiloh. The battle had 25,000 casualties in less than two days with over 3400 dead and 16,000 wounded. It was a battle in which eight out of ten soldiers from both sides had never seen battle.

General Grant would receive the lions share of the criticism over his failure to put up adequate defensive works and heed the warnings of numerous commanders that the enemy was massing in force. After the battle Grant would lose his command of the Army of Tennessee to General George H Thomas. General Halleck made the decision after the appalling losses at Shiloh.

After the battle both sides claimed victory, but history would side with the Union. The Confederate Army would never occupy the western theater in strength again. General Halleck's failure to follow up and pursue the Confederate Army in a timely fashion to Corinth greatly diminished the costly victory at Shiloh.

For a first hand account of the battle, Ambrose Bierce or Henry Morton Stanley both offer terrific descriptions.

So what really happened to the 13th Ohio battery? If you search for a historical account all you find is this:

13th Independent Battery Light Artillery

Battery never fully organized. One Section mustered in February 15, 1862. Attached to 4th Division, Army of the Tennessee. At Shiloh, Tenn., April 6-7, 1862. Lost guns and organization discontinued April 20, 1862, the men being transferred to 7th, 10th and 14th Ohio Batteries. (A typical Union Battery consisted of six guns in three sections each commanded by a lieutenant, the 13th Ohio was a single section under Captain Myers.)

That really does not tell us very much.

On the Morning of April 6th, 1862 the battery was ordered to take a position to the right of Ross and Mann's Batteries on the extreme edge of Sarah Bell's Cotton Field at the edge of the timbers MAP . According to several accounts around 9 a.m. in the opening salvos of Confederate artillery they took a direct hit killing a soldier and a horse, or killing all the horses. At that point Captain John B. Myers and officers abandoned the guns and subsequently took all there men with them. By 9:30a.m. the Confederates had pushed back the Union lines a half a mile MAP. By early afternoon the Union lines were pushed back over a mile and thousands of soldiers were retreating toward the Tennessee River.

In the letter dated May 5th 1862, Charles Milton Adams writes "I don't know as I have informed you of exactly of our condition. The 13th Ohio battery is disbanded through the rascality of General Hurlburt, to whose division we were attached, the officers are sent home, and the men divided among the 7th, 10th, and 14th Ohio batteries." The rascality that he refers to is the scathing after action report from General Hurlbut. In that report Hurlbut writes "That officers and men were ignorant of duty and of drill I have no doubt. The responsibility of that rests elsewhere. The paper hereto appended, marked A, shows some of the reasons of this ignorance. During the two days of the battle Captain Myers was not heard from, and was probably skulking beneath the bank of the Landing. Hurlbut further accuses the officers and men of cowardice. "

Contrary to this report was an eyewitness account that states the following:
"the 13th Ohio, which participated in the battle of Pittsburgh Landing,(Shiloh) was unfortunate in taking a position where the horses were shot down, and battery was captured. Members of the battery were transferred to other batteries and the 13th was disbanded. Among those transferred was CHARLES M ADAMS of Jerome Twp, who was transferred to the 10th Battery. I saw him on the battlefield the day after the battle, and he was very much depressed. As tears came to his eyes he informed me that he was a gunner in the 13th and was mourning the loss of the gun and the unfortunate condition of his command" The Union Army Vol.6 also offers a somewhat contradictory account to that of General Hurlbut's

From the History of the 10th Ohio Battery:
"The 10th Ohio received 20 plus men from the 13th Ohio Battery at this station. The officers of the 13th Ohio had been discharged because, in attempting to obey orders, they had lost their guns. The men were distributed between several Ohio Batteries, and were brave and faithful soldiers. Unfortunately the Battery (10th Ohio) arrived too late to take part in the battle of Shiloh fought there on April 6 and April 7, 1862."

From My Days and Nights on the Battlefield by Charles Carleton Coffin

"Prentiss sent a second messenger, asking for immediate aid. Hurlburt in person led his other [Pg 189]two brigades, Williams’s and Lauman’s. He had Mann’s Ohio battery, commanded by Lieutenant Brotzman, Ross’s battery, from Michigan, and Meyer’s Thirteenth Ohio battery. He marched out on the Ridge road, and met Prentiss’s troops, disorganized and broken, with doleful stories of the loss of everything. Prentiss and other officers were attempting to rally them.

Hurlburt formed in line of battle on the border of an old cotton-field on the Hamburg road. There were some sheds, and a log-hut with a great chimney built of mud and sticks, along the road. In front of the hut was a peach-orchard. Mann’s battery was placed near the northeast corner of the field. Williams’s brigade was placed on one side of the field, and Lauman’s on the other, which made the line nearly a right angle. Ross’s battery was posted on the right, and Meyer’s on the left. This disposition of his force enabled Hurlburt to concentrate his fire upon the field and into the peach-orchard.

You see the position,—the long line of men in blue, in the edge of the woods, sheltered in part by the giant oaks. You see the log-huts, the mud chimney, the peach-trees in front, all aflame with pink blossoms. The field is as smooth as a house floor. Here and there are handfuls of cotton, the leavings of last year’s crop. It is perhaps forty or fifty rods across the field to the forest [Pg 190]upon the other side. Hurlburt and his officers are riding along the lines, cheering the men and giving directions. The fugitives from Prentiss are hastening towards the Landing. But a line of guards has been thrown out, and the men are rallying behind Hurlburt. The men standing in line along that field know that they are to fight a terrible battle. At first there is a little wavering, but they gain confidence, load their guns, and wait for the enemy." Later Prentiss and 2200 Union soldiers would be surrounded and captured. The rest of Coffin's account mirrors Hurlbut report. Also 10 men went to the guns to man them after Myers had left.

From 3rd Iowa's Warren Olney's Shiloh, as seen by a private soldier:

"As we gazed at the enemy so coolly standing there, an Ohio battery of artillery came galloping up in our rear, and what followed I don't believe was equalled by anything of the kind during the war. As the artillery came up we moved off by the right flank a few steps, to let it come in between us and the Illinois regiment next on our left. Where we were standing was in open, low-limbed oak timber. The line of Southern infantry was in tolerably plain view through the openings in the woods, and were still standing quietly. Of course, we all turned our heads away from them to look at the finely equipped battery, as it came galloping from the rear to our left flank, its officers shouting directions to the riders where to stop their guns. It was the work of but an instant to bring every gun into position. Like a flash the gunners leaped from their seats and unlimbered the cannon. The fine six-horse teams began turning round with the caissons, charges were being rammed home, and the guns pointed toward the dense ranks of the enemy, when, from right in front, a dense puff of smoke, a tearing of shot and shell through the trees, a roar from half a dozen cannon, hitherto unseen, and our brave battery was knocked into smithereens. Great limbs of trees, torn off by cannon shot, came down on horse and rider, crushing them to earth. Shot and shell struck cannon, upsetting them; caissons exploded them. Not a shot was fired from our side.

But how those astounded artillery men—those of them who could run at all—did scamper out of there. Like Mark Twain's dog, they may be running yet. At least, it is certain that no attempt was ever made to reorganize that battery—it was literally wiped out then and there."

This obviously generates more questions then it answers. In General Hurlbut's report he may have used the 13th's early demise as a scapegoat and neglects to mention that his entire division is forced to retreat two miles that day. Captain Myers does not show up to Hurlbut's headquarters until Tuesday morning, two days after the battle. Myers offers no explanation of his conduct and refuses a court martial and is dismissed with his officers on the spot. Charles Adams is seen on the battlefield the next morning, not with the thousands of soldiers who fled to the banks of the Tennessee River.If the horses were in fact killed, to man the guns while they are being overrun may have been heroic, but suicidal as they could not be moved to a fallback position. The men of the 13th Ohio were raw recruits barely out of boot camp, the scenario of their officers abandoning their gun does not exactly build morale and inspire confidence. Captain Myers Obituary does not mention his service to the Union.

Would I like to have read an account of how my Great-Great-Grandfather picked up the standard and lead a rally cry to victory? Absolutely. That did not happen. What did happen is a farmer from Ohio volunteered to serve his country under very harsh and violent circumstance. He was transferred to the 10th Ohio Battery and served nine more months until he received a surgeons discharge. He re-enlisted in August of 1864 and served until the end of the war.

For an interesting account from another Ohio Volunteer read Tom Worthington's Civil War by James D Brewer see more in the comment section.

I will continue to research this account and update it as necessary........


  1. Another listing:

    (Three Years)

    Thirteenth Independent Battery Light Artillery. - Capt.,
    John B. Myers; First Lieuts., John R. Brown, Ezra Bennett; Sec-
    ond Lieuts., Edmund B. Lowe, Levi M. Willits. This battery was mustered into service about Feb. 16, 1862. It was engaged at the battle of Shiloh, in which the captain of the battery re-
    ports 1 man killed, but the rolls on file in the office of the adjutant-general of Ohio, and in the office of the adjutant-general, U. S. army, fail to show that any member of this bat-
    tery was killed. On April 20, 1862, the members of this battery were consolidated with the 7th, 10th and 14th independent batteries.

    Source: The Union Army, vol. 2

  2. In James D Brewer's Tom Worthington's Civil War we find a man (Worthington) so consumed with the events on April 6th at Shiloh he literally spent his life and fortune in pursuit of the truth as he knew it. His hatred for Sherman and latter Grant ended up in his Court Marshall and loss of commission. A fascinating look at the volunteers from Ohio and a bombastic obsessed man whose life was forever altered that spring day.

  3. The Obituary you have for John B Myers is the Wrong guy. John Blymier Myers was born March 1st 1830 in Somerset, Pennsylvania and Died at 1912 Marvine Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 23rd 1905. His wife is Elizabeth Gardner Armstrong. She died at 1940 W. Page Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 26th 1912. I have her widow's pension file from the Civil War and his Death Certificate.

  4. One thing that is never mentioned is that the 13th Ohio Battery lost 5 guns on the field not 6. the battery was not fully on line when Sgt. David S Price was killed by a cannonball, then a caisson exploded and the 6th gun was turned around and taken back. This information came from many pension files of veterans of the 13th. i have over 100 of their pensions. Also the official roster is incomplete, there was at least 140 men in the battery that I can account for so far.

  5. Capt. Myers attempted several times to be recommisioned, but the damage done by Lt. Gov. Benjamin Stanton permanently blackballed him. Lt. Levi Willitts was recommisioned and served as Captain in Co. D 56th Ohio Infantry. 1st Lt John R Brown died April 30th 1862 of Typhoid Fever. Lt. Edmund B Lowe was never recommisioned. Ezra Bennet was the only officer of the 13th to not be discharged diectly. he was listed on Special Field Order #17 with the rest of the officers. But he was sick and at the hospital during the battle. He was transferred to the 14th Ohio Battery as a Lt. but he did not last long, and was put in front of a medical board and they put him out of the service on September 20th 1862.

  6. One thing that I find strange about the 13th is that I cannot find anyone that was the Color Bearer, the man or men who carried the Flags. I have figured out many of the job positions and sections the men served in but none claim to have carried the flag. I also have not found a picture or description of either the National Colors or the Battery Guidon. Most of the artillery units had a name or motto on their flag, I have not seen this mentioned either. In Infantry units this was a position of high honor.

  7. Jim,
    Thank you for your comments and help. In the footnotes of the obituary, it states that he served in the 13th Ohio and he was discharged after Shiloh. I will research this more.

  8. Billy,
    Also the John B Myers listed in the obit is from Crawford County, Ohio. The 13th Battery was made up of Logan, Union, Hardin, Champaign & Shelby counties. John Myers owned a store in Bellefontaine, and also the Lt. Gov. Benjamin Stanton who critizied the Union Generals was an attorney in Bellefontaine. John served in artillery in Richland county before moving to Bellefontaine. All of the officers in the 13th Battery were from Logan County. John's brother William Carey Myers also served in the 13th battery. and was later transferred to the 14th Battery and eventually became Captain of that battery. I bet that didn't set well with John.

  9. This is a letter to the Ohio Adjutant General.

    September 28, 1861
    William Laurence, et. al., Bellefontaine, Logan County, Ohio. To General Mitchel, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. Letter signed by five individuals; and stating that John B. Myers of Bellefontaine wanted to raise an artillery company and for Mitchle to procure him the proper order or authority from the War Department, that they recommended this be done believing that Myers was a man of good morals and character, that Myers was an active, energetic man of sufficient business qualifications and capacity to accomplish the object he proposed and to render efficient service, that a few years before, Myers had belonged to an artillery company in Richland County, that Myers had been in business in Bellefontaine for several years in a foundry stove and tin store, etc., and that they considered Myers' fidelity, patriotism, and devotion to the Union cause to be unquestionable.
    1 p. [Series 147-10: 181]

  10. John B Myers is also listed in the 1890 Veteran's Census, residence is Philadelphia, PA.

  11. Thank you Jim,
    Keep the info coming, I plan on researching what the 174th did in 1865 as well. I also read that Myers was German and that Hurlbut had an issue with that.