1st Minnesota Light Artillery at Shiloh and Corinth

1st Minnesota Light Artillery at Shiloh

Historical Monograph prepared by Jeffrey S. Williams

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

Click here to read the historical monograph of the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery in the Atlanta campaign.

Click here to read excerpts from the Company Clerk’s Morning Report of the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery at Shiloh transcribed from the originals.

Excerpt from Narrative of the First Battery of Light Artillery

By Lieutenant Henry S. Hurter

Surviving members of the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery years after the war. (Photo courtesy of MN Historical Society - www.mnhs.org)

The First Battery, Minnesota Light Artillery, was organized at Fort Snelling, Minn., in the fall of 1861, and mustered in the United States service by Capt. A. D. Nelson, United States Army, Nov. 21, 1861. Shortly after it was sent to St. Louis, Mo., taking quarters first at Benton Barracks, whence it was transferred, early in January, 1862, to the arsenal, where it received its armament, consisting of two twelve-pounder howitzers and four brass rifled guns. After obtaining the necessary outfit of horses, it was put on board of the transport Himalaya, and proceeding down the Mississippi to Cairo, and thence up the Ohio and the Tennessee rivers, was landed at Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn., in the latter part of February, 1862, and assigned to Buckland’s brigade of Sherman’s division, lying some one hundred yards east of Shiloh Church. The time intervening between its arrival at this point and the memorable Sunday, April 6, 1862, was used in drilling its men and horses. April 1st, one section – two twelve-pound howitzers – formed part of the expedition under General William T. Sherman to Chickasaw and Eastport to dislodge the enemy from recently erected batteries, but which were found abandoned.


            The evening of April 4th, orders were received transferring us to Prentiss’ division, about two miles to the left. On Saturday we moved camp, and struck our tents in full sight of Prentiss’ headquarters and alongside the Fifth (Hickenlooper’s) Ohio Battery. Being bent on putting camp in as good shape as possible for Sunday inspection, we were out and at it bright and early. It must have been soon after five o’clock in the morning when we heard the first firing in what we then supposed was the front, but little attention was paid to it, everyone supposing that the pickets were firing off their guns on being relieved.

About seven o’clock we noticed a commotion at the headquarters; the general and his staff mounting and riding off in the direction whence the firing came. The Eighteenth Wisconsin, which arrived the day before, fresh from Madison, Wis., and were camped a little to the left and front of us, left their camp and marched in the same direction, while we had orders to be ready to move at a moment’s warning. For about ten or fifteen minutes all was hurry and bustle in camp, then we stood ready waiting for the order. Without rations, without baggage of any kind, leaving our knapsacks packed in our tents, under charge of the quartermaster sergeant and the wagonmaster (who, by the way, had six baggage wagons under him), we finally left the camp under orders to proceed to the front, following the four guns of the Fifth Ohio. We had not proceeded over three-quarters of a mile when the latter was pulled out to the left of the road and commenced to get into battery. We formed on the right of the road, but before we had unlimbered, the rebels, whom we saw skulking through the woods, opened on us, and one man (Stinson) fell shot through the neck, while three others (Lammers, Davis and Blood) were wounded. The two first named subsequently died of their wounds, although it is the writer’s opinion that either of the two, with proper care, would have recovered Our captain soon perceived that the rebels had discovered two batteries firing on them with not a solitary infantryman to cover them, and determined on taking them in, gave the order to limber to the rear, and owing to his sound judgment shown in the manner in which we had formed into battery, we retired without leaving any of our guns, although the left piece of the centre section had become disabled, the trail breaking in two at the elevation screw. Capt. Munch’s horse received a bullet in his head and fell, and in attempting to remove the saddle the captain himself received a ball in his thigh, disabling him for further service on that field. When our battery, retreating, passed our camp, the writer made a flying visit to it. While directing a couple of sick comrades, who were still in the tents unaware of the condition of things, what direction to take, the rebel bullets commended to fly about, indicating that they were closing up pretty fast. When I rejoined the battery it had just taken a new position on a small elevation with an open field to our left, and was awaiting the enemy.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery flag

The writer’s gun, the remaining one of the centre section, under Lieut. Fisher, was soon placed in position within a few yards of an open field, on the other side of which a large log house and barricades built by the rebels were taken for our aim. We were firing percussion shells at them. The guns had become dirty, the water in the sponge bucket had been spilled and no other water could be obtained. The consequence was that one of the shells, the lining of which had been loosened in some way, stuck about half-way down the piece. We were in a dilemma what to do. Ramming was of no use, but even dangerous to ourselves. We did not dare to fire it, for fear of exploding the piece and injuring some of the men surrounding us. Finally it was decided to go back to the landing, where we would find the gun with the broken trail, dismount the piece, and mount it on our carriage.

When we arrived on the edge of the hill forming the landing we found it covered with soldiers, who had taken refuge there from the rebel shot and bullets, who had given up all hope and turned a deaf ear to entreaties of officers, asking them, for God’s sake, to rise and go out to assist their brethren, who, within a mile of them, tried to stem the onslaught of the victorious foe. This crowd was so panic-stricken, so discouraged and disheartened, that nothing but a miracle seemed to be able to revive them. The most blood-curdling stories of Southern cruelty, murder and vengeance passed around, and had the Tennessee River not formed such an effectual barrier to their retreat many of them would never have stopped until they reached their Northern homes. Fortunately the steamboats lying at the landing had been ordered to move out into the stream, otherwise no power on earth could have prevented those desperate fellows from crowding onto them, overloading and sinking them. It took us more than an hour to reach our broken gun, down at the foot of the landing, as we had to use all kinds of means to move the men out of our road. When at last we had a serviceable gun again, and wanted to return to our position with the last of the battery, all trace of the same had been lost, and we were compelled to remain where we stood.

It was about 5 o’clock P.M. when, to our great joy, the other four guns made their appearance, but in what plight! They had been with Gen. Prentiss and W.H.L. Wallace in that hotly contested fight at the so-called “hornets’ nest.” It was the First Minnesota Battery, one section under Lieut. Pfaender, the other under Lieut. Peebles, which, together with a Missouri battery, stood there for hours, repelling charge after charge, and receiving, after all, but little praise for their action. Why? Gen. Wallace, the man who had supported our guns with his regiments, who had stood almost among them, watching the execution of their shots, laid down his life upon the altar of his country a few minutes after he had given Lieut. Pfaender orders to try and get his guns out, seeing that it would be useless to hold on longer. Gen. Prentiss, who had scarcely any knowledge of the existence of such an organization as the First Minnesota Battery, whose division had been about the first surprised by the unexpected attack that morning, and who, after almost superhuman efforts, had at last to surrender to the victorious enemy, had no time to observe much of the doings of a few guns, and hence it is that no reports of the battle have ever mentioned the battery. One thing is sure, and I defy anyone to deny the truth, that had the forces under the two above mentioned leaders not stood up so heroically and valiantly to their task, nothing would have prevented Beauregard and his hosts from the execution of his threat to drive us into the Tennessee.

[At the request of the commission, Lieutenant Colonel William Pfaender, who as first lieutenant had command of the batter after Captain Munch was disabled, has made a statement of his recollections of the battle, which is here inserted:]

“Early Sunday, April 6th, the camp was put in order, and the officers and men arranged their tents to be ready for inspection, little dreaming that the stray shots which were heard in front indicated more than the firing of the reliefs coming from picket duty. But soon the firing became more lively, and noting a sudden motion in the camp of the Fifth Ohio Battery, which was not very far off, its meaning was soon explained by an orderly dashing up and bringing the verbal order to move to the front immediately. In a very short time the battery was ready and quickly advanced in the direction which had been taken by the Fifth Ohio Battery, meeting numbers of men running to the rear; but the battery moved briskly on and shortly reached a position in a somewhat open timber patch where the Fifth Ohio Battery had formed, but without firing a shot, on our arrival had just commenced retreating. Being hard pressed by the rebels, some of their pieces were left behind, and as we formed the rebels had already taken possession of them and were trying to turn them upon us; but before they would do so our firing commenced and drove them back. A heavy skirmish line of the enemy was at this moment within a hundred yards of the battery. In forming for action one of the drivers of the first (right) section of the battery had been killed and several men wounded, but our rapid firing soon cleared our immediate front and checked the further advance of the enemy, as our formation happened to be in the shape of the convex of a light crescent, and our fire, therefore, covered a wider range than in regular formation. Up to the time of our coming into action no artillery firing had been heard, and it is a fact, which will not be disputed, that the First Minnesota Battery fired the first guns on that memorable day. The rebels finding that it was absolutely necessary to dislodge or capture the battery before they could advance, took shelter from our canister behind trees, and tried hard to pick off officers and gunners, and succeeded in wounding Captain Munch and several men, and killing and wounding a number of horses. The battery having had no support whatever, and being left entirely alone, the captain, just before being wounded, gave the order to retreat, and while he was brought to the rear the movement was carried out in good order, beginning from the left; and as the last piece on the right turned to follow, the head driver, stunned by a glancing bullet, got in between two trees with his span, causing a delay which nearly resulted in the capture of the gun, as a rebel column had turned to the right to flank the battery, and the detachment slipped out just in front of the head of their column without a man or horse being hurt. About a mile back of the first position the battery again formed in charge of Lieutenant Pfaender, who had assumed command, but being still without any support, under the personal direction of General Prentiss, fell back a quarter of a mile further and behind the new line which had in the meantime been formed by General Hurlbut.

“Shortly after the battery had commenced firing in the first position the trail of one of the six-pounders of the second section broke, and being rendered entirely unserviceable, was ordered to the rear. The remaining piece of the second section was also rendered unserviceable, one of the percussion balls getting stuck when rammed about half down; and when the battery arrived within Hurlbut’s lines this piece was also ordered to Pittsburgh Landing, with instructions to mount one complete gun out of the two disabled ones, and to rejoin the battery if possible. At the same time the remaining four guns were again fully equipped, the vacancies filled and horses replaced from the second section, and in a short time the battery was ready for further service.


“Trying now to find some superior officer to whom to report the battery ready for action, Lieutenant Pfaender, riding out a short distance, fortunately noticed General Prentiss rallying some remnants of his division, and was by him, in person, ordered to advance to a position which was then being formed by Generals Prentiss and W.H.L. Wallace, and which proved to be the noted ‘hornets’ nest’ against which the rebels time and again hurled their most determined attacks without being able to break it. It must have been about eleven o’clock when the battery took this new position on an elevated piece of ground, from which an open field on the other side of a ravine in front could be commanded, and whenever a charge was attempted across that field the artillery fire raked the enemy down fearfully. Some of General Prentiss’ infantry were in the ravine in front of the battery. Welker’s Missouri battery was engaged on our immediate left.  ‘Between two fields, a quarter mile apart, on a slight ridge of land covered by good sized oaks, and in places patches of dense brush, lies this historical spot that was made rich by the blood of many hundred human beings.’ The space occupied by the ‘hornets’ nest’ was not very large, and could, from the position which I occupied, and on horseback, be at times surveyed tolerably well. I have always been of the opinion that Welker’s six and our four pieces were the only artillery there. Twice rebel batteries were placed in the timber at the further edge of the field to dislodge us, but before they were able to get the range of our position our guns had silenced them. For hours they vainly tried to break our line, and the left section of the battery, under Lieutenant Peebles, having been ordered further to the left, had to repel several determined charges and was badly cut up, but inflicted terrible losses on the enemy by mowing them down with canister at close range.

“Toward five o’clock there was a short lull in the fighting, but soon the firing was renewed, and noticing that the bullets were coming from our left rear, General Wallace, who was at that time giving directions to the lieutenant commanding, hastened toward the left and within a few minutes returned and gave the command to retreat, as he ascertained that the position had finally been flanked and General Prentiss with part of his forces taken prisoners. Immediately after we had commenced to withdraw, the adjutant of General Wallace passed us with the report that the general had just been mortally wounded or killed. Reaching the ravine running across the Corinth road, we noticed the enemy in large numbers flocking down the sides of it to cross over to the road and to cut off our retreat, and on ascending to the top of the elevation, to prevent our being captured, quickly the guns were once more brought into position, from which we poured our canister amongst them as fast as possible, thus giving them the last and parting artillery fire of the afternoon, then retreating at slow trot toward the river, and being the last body of Union soldiers reaching the bluffs at the landing before the rebels closed in on the road. The battery keeping together in the mass of remnants of regiments, teams and stragglers assembled on such a limited area, soon the detachments sent to remount their piece were found at the landing, and as Colonel Webster, General Grant’s chief of artillery had commenced to form his line of defense, consisting of siege guns and all the available artillery, the battery was reported to him with five pieces complete, and was directed to take a position on the left of the bluff and commanding the ravine which runs in from the Tennessee River. The Twelfth Missouri Regiment was detailed as our support and consisted of about one hundred men under command of a captain, and it was not very long before the firing commenced, which was kept up for about half an hour. The ground was fairly shaking from the continuous firing, and it would have been impossible for any army to undertake to penetrate that line of fire and iron, and in all probability, at the cessation of the firing, the rebels had withdrawn to a safe distance from the landing. Tired out and hungry, we laid down without any camp equipage of any kind, as our camp was in possession of the enemy, and when about midnight a heavy shower poured down, all sought shelter under the guns and caissons covered with tarpaulins, but received a good soaking. On the morning of the 7th, when the hostilities were to be renewed with the aid of the reinforcements from Buell’s army, the lieutenant commanding reported to General Grant in person, who was just coming up the road from the landing with his staff, and was by him directed to remain at the position pointed out until he would send orders, which, however, did not come, and so we remained in the reserve during the second day’s fight. As Prentiss’ division was nearly broken up by his disaster, no account of the part taken by the battery was given in the reports of the several commanders, and therefore we may be pardoned for referring to the statement of General Prentiss, made in his lecture on “Shiloh” at White Bear Lake in 1888, when he said that the First Minnesota Battery had never received the credit it deserved for its gallantry; that it was mainly due to the excellent work done by them, and particularly by the left section under Lieutenant Peebles, that the ‘hornets’ nest’ with its comparatively small force of men held out so long against the overwhelming numbers of the rebels. The casualties of the day were, Privates Stinson, Taxdahl and Tilson killed; Corporals Davis and Lammers died of wounds; Captain Munch, Lieutenant Peebles, Sergeants Clayton and Conner, severely, and several more lightly wounded. Both Captain Munch and Lieutenant Pfaender’s horses were killed from under them, and sixteen horses of the battery killed.”

The fight at the “hornets’ nest” was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The third section of our battery, however, bore the brunt of the battle then and there. Its commander, Lieut. Peebles, was severely wounded; also the two sergeants, Clayton and Conner; Privates Taxdahl and Tilson had been killed, besides a number of the horses had been shot dead or disabled. The same evening we took our position on the hill overlooking the slough through which the enemy was expected to make his last charge. We had five guns in position a short distance to the left of where Col. Webster had formed an immense battery of some thirty or more guns, among them some siege guns. To our left was another battery that had arrived but a day or two before the battle, and had not been assigned yet to any command. At the mouth of the slough stood the two gunboats – Tyler and Lexington – and when the enemy finally made the attempt he found the reception too hot, and gave it up.

Thus ended the first day at Shiloh. Tired, hungry, and somewhat gloomy, we laid our weary bones down to rest that night, and we got more than rest – we received a drenching that no one ever forgot. The writer had found a comfortable sleeping apartment under one of the tarpaulin covered caissons, and when he awoke in the morning found the water running between his chest and knees, having been obliged to sit in that position in order to give room to another comrade on the opposite side of the bedroom. The battery did not participate on the second day of the battle.


            And now followed the grand strategic advance of the great strategist, Halleck, on the whipped enemy’s supposed stronghold – Corinth. From about the middle of April to the 1st of June was consumed by the army in passing a distance of about twenty-six miles. But we got there and remained there with little to do but drill and camp routine, varied occasionally with a scare about a large force of rebels coming. Sergt. Clayton had returned to the battery and was promoted to second lieutenant. Lieutenants Peebles and fisher were absent from the command, the former on account of his wounds, the latter on sick leave; and when in August, the news of the Sioux outbreak reached our camp, Lieut. Pfaender obtained permission from Gen. Grant to go home, in company with six of the married men from New Ulm, to look after their families. All returned to the battery in due time except L. Naegele and Lieut. Pfaender, who was promoted to lieutenant colonel Second Minnesota Cavalry, stationed at Fort Ridgley. When Rosecrans fought the battle of Iuka, Miss., we were ordered out, came within easy distance, but not in sight of the fight, and returned to Corinth. Gladness filled the hearts of the men when Capt. Munch rejoined the battery just in time to put it in good shape again.


            On October 1st the two howitzers under Lieut. Clayton were ordered to report to Col. Oliver, Fifteenth Michigan Volunteers, commanding a small brigade. They went out on the Chewalla road, feeling for the reported advancing rebels under Price and Van Dorn. At the Alexander house, about three miles from Corinth, this brigade was attacked by overwhelming numbers of graycoats, and, in spite of their heroic resistance, compelled to fall back upon the main works of Corinth. The section lost one of the howitzers on the retreat, but left it in a condition that made it useless to the enemy, and recovered it a few days after. The evening of October 3d found our forces concentrated in and around the hamlet of Corinth. Early on the next morning the rebel hordes came out of the sheltering woods, where they had passed the night, intending to take us in out of the wet, but found the morsel bigger than anticipated, and before sunset rushed back to the same woods to get out of the reach of harm. The battle of Corinth was won, and the next morning found our army in full pursuit.1 We went to Grand Junction, Tenn., thence to Holly springs, Abbeyville and Oxford, Miss., having occasionally the chance to send our greetings to the rebs in the form of shrapnels and shells, but never came into close range. From Oxford we retraced our steps, reaching Holy Springs on December 24th. The next day, Christmas, 1862, Capt. Munch handed in his resignation, had it accepted, and in company with his brother Paul, whose resignation as second lieutenant had been accepted some time previous, started for Minnesota via Memphis, Tenn. Lieut. Clayton had been commissioned as captain, Joseph Allen and the writer as second lieutenants.

1 Official reports published in volume 17, part 1, “Rebellion Record,” mention the battery at Corinth as follows: Captain Andrew Hickenlooper, Fifth Ohio Battery, chief of artillery, Sixth Division, in his report dated Oct. 13, 1862, says: “About 3 P.M., October 2d, the First Minnesota Battery was ordered to accompany Colonel Oliver (Second Brigade) to dispute the enemy’s advance from Chewalla; proceeded up the Chewalla road as far as Alexander’s house, when we sent one section – two twelve-pound howitzers – forward under charge of Sergeant (Acting Lieutenant) Clayton, and ordered Lieutenant Cook, with the remaining section, to return to his former position at Battery F. Lieutenant Clayton’s section proceeded with Colonel Oliver’s brigade to Chewalla, encamping about one mile this side of the town. About ten o’clock the following morning, the enemy moving forward through Chewalla in force, they fell back about two and a half miles and took position. No opportunity for the artillery to take advantage occurring, they again fell back and took position on a hill in rear of Alexander’s house, where they remained during the night. Early the next morning, the enemy pressing us, we opened upon them, and the fight became general. * * * The section of the Third Ohio previously under command of Lieutenant Mitchell was placed under charge of Captain Munch of the First Minnesota Battery (who, being wounded at Shiloh and absent from the muster of August 18th, was not on duty), who cheerfully and anxiously volunteered his service and placed his command in position in Battery F. Observing the enemy passing a cut over the hill on the Chewalla road near the railroad, ordered Lieutenant Clayton forward to a position in front and opened upon them with shell. They brought a battery forward and placed it in position on a hill on the Chewalla road west of railroad and opened with shell. I then opened upon them from Fort F (Captain Munch’s section) and silenced it in about eight rounds, the division having previously changed front to the north. * * * I would respectfully and particularly call attention to Action Lieutenant Clayton of  First Minnesota Battery. He has not yet received his commission.” Brigadier General John McArthur, commanding Sixth Division, Army of the Tennessee, in his report dated Oct. 15, 1862, says: “I would also mention Captain Hickenlooper, Fifth Ohio Battery, chief of artillery of this division, for his very able management and direction of his batteries, conspicuous among them were the Tenth Ohio, Captain H. B. White, and one section First Minnesota, under Sergeant Clayton, who ought to be promoted.” Colonel John M. Oliver, Fifteenth Michigan infantry, commanding Second Brigade of Sixth Division, in his report dated Oct. 13, 1862, says: “The section of First Minnesota Battery, under command of Second Lieutenant Clayton, was well served, and did great apparent execution. The manner in which he handled his pieces elicited the commendation of all who saw him.”

[Source: Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, Volume 1. [amazon_link id=”0873515196″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]pp. 640-646]

Letter from Lieutenant Pfaender to Governor Alexander Ramsey

Dear Sir: The people of our state are probably anxious to learn the fate of the Minnesota volunteers who fought at the late battle of Pittsburg, Tenn; and as the First Minnesota Battery was the only representative of our state in the terrible fight, I deem it my duty to send you a short account of the proceedings on the memorable 6th of April.

At our arrival here on the 18th of March, we were attached to the Fourth Brigade of General Sherman’s Division but a very few days before the battle alluded to all the artillery and cavalry forces were attached as independent commands to the six divisions of General Grants army. Under this new arrangement we were attached to General Prentiss division, and on Saturday the 5th moved to our new camp, immediately on the right of General Prentiss headquarters. The organization of our division was not complete yet. Several new Wisconsin regiments had just arrived from Milwaukee and took their camps a little to the ____ and in front of our camp. Still our line was the advance of the left wing, and although it was generally believed after the skirmish on Friday, the 4th of April, that considerable rebel forces were close to our line. No precautionary measures seem to have been taken, for outposts were only about a mile beyond our camp.

Sunday morning came, bright as a Minnesota summer morning; the boys were all busy to get the camp in as good order as possible when, at about half past seven o’clock, we suddenly received orders to get ready immediately and to move to the front of our camp. Up to this time we had no idea of the terrible work before us, and all thought that probably a reconnoitering expedition was intended. In a very short time we were ready and started out, following the Fifth Ohio Battery, whose camp joins ours. Now, we heard a few shots and hurried on as fast as possibly; but scarcely had we reached the camp in front when a lively musket fire was opened on our infantry. Immediately after leaving the first row of tents, we formed battery under most galling fire from the rebel skirmishes, and almost simultaneously with the Fifth Ohio Battery, opened dire artillery fire of the day.

At our arrival at the scene of action, our infantry were already retreating in every direction, and very soon, instead of being covered by our infantry, we were left behind alone covering the retreat of our running protectors. The Fifth Ohio Battery had lost some horses and now fell back, leaving several pieces in the hands of the enemy. One of our men and two horses were killed before we commenced firing; another and third one, all belonging to my section, were wounded in quick succession. Now Captain Munch’s horse was shot in the head and immediately afterwards the captain himself was severely wounded in the leg. My horse was wounded in both fore legs. Several others horses had received severe injuries and our position became extremely critical. The enemy had already outflanked us, and only a retreat could save the battery from being taken; consequently, we left our position and under a perfect storm of bullets, reformed close to our camp, where in connection with the remaining forces of the Fifth Ohio Battery, we again opened with spherical case and canister, and continued firing until all of our infantry had again given way and enemy was pressing in upon us on all sides.

Our division now fell behind the line coming to support, under General Hurlbut, and after a short rest  General Prentiss formed the remainder of the division again on the left centre of our line. Two of our rifled pieces had by this time been rendered unserviceable and were ordered to the rear. The remaining four pieces took their position under the direct orders of General Prentiss. The terrible work was now progressing rapidly. The rebel made the fierce attacks successively on the centre, the right and left wings ever trying to find the weakest point and always shifting their forces from one another. At the point where I was stationed, on the right of one Cavender’s Missouri Batteries the enemy made several ineffective efforts to break our centre with his artillery, which we silenced three times, and kept his infantry in respectful distance.

Lieutenant Peebles maintained his position on our left nobly, and at a charge of the Louisiana regiment, completely mowed them down with canister. The enemy however also took good aim, two of our Cannoneers were here killed and Lieutenant Peebles severely wounded in the jaw, Sergeants Clayton and Connor severally wounded and a number of horses killed.

The attack of the enemy now became desperate along the whole line; our left wing gave way the rebels were also gaining on our right and while we kept them continually in check in the centre, the bullets already commenced to come in at our rear, showing that our left wing was thrown entirely and that we would shortly be cut off. At this moment Brigadier General Wallace ordered us to retreat and we commenced to move off in good order. Passing down through a narrow valley we saw rebels advancing in large numbers upon our right wing, and coming up a hill which commanded their line, we commenced throwing canister at them, but were soon obliged to fall back and amid a terrible crossfire which treatment to kill every man and horse, which we all here miraculously escaped unhurt.

Arriving at the bluffs of the Pittsburg Landing, I tried to get the whole battery in the best possible condition again and succeeded, by dismounting and changing pieces to get five pieces in good shape at least able to open fire again. Our batteries now took their posts in order to repulse the expected attack of the last position; we located our five pieces, together with Marllgrafs Eighth Ohio Battery on a hill commanding a large ravine and subjecting the enemy to a cross fire of eleven pieces in case of an attack. General Buell’s forces had by this time arrived on the opposite side of the river and commenced crossing over. This caused a great rejoicing and inspired the men for the coming struggle. The rebels knew that this last attack would decide the day, and at about six o’clock in the evening opened fire on us again. I had just come over to the centre to ascertain the position of our forces, in order to render our fire more effectively. When the enemies shells commenced flying over our heads in the direction of the river and a few moments afterwards the pieces of the First Minnesota Battery joined in such a cannonade as has never been witnessed on this continent. It was really majestic, and no army would have been able to take that position. General Beauregard had found out by this time that he could not water his horse in the Tennessee river that evening and fell back to our camps just after dark. A heavy rain storm had drenched us thoroughly during Sunday night yet the Minnesota Battery was ready for another trial and being without an immediate commander (as General Prentiss had been taken prisoner) I reported to General Grant who learning our position ordered me to keep the same until further orders and as Monday’s fight was mostly done by General Buell’s forces who had been crossing all night and steadily poured in, we remained there until we were removed to our old camp again.

Our boys have behaved nobly and I am satisfied they have shown themselves worthy of their state and people. I add, Minnesota was the first to volunteer its men for service. In  most critical moments of that bloody day they exhibited an astonishing coolness and bravery. Even  with their numbers diminished they served their guns like old soldiers, and while many batteries lost part or all of their pieces, we have satisfaction that we have brought out every piece that was brought into the conflict.

As the attack was so unexpected our baggage teams had been lost, almost everything in our possession for the whole camp was thoroughly plundered on Sunday night. The newspapers will have so much to say about the battle of Pittsburg that it is unnecessary for me to add much more. I will only state in regard to the killed and wounded that from what I have seen, the number killed and wounded on both sides cannot be less than 10000.

Yours most respectfully, W. Pfaender

First Lieutenant, Commanding. First Minnesota Battery

[Transcribed from the original at the Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minn.]

The following link describes the monuments at the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh.



Killed in Action/Died of Wounds

Pvt. Colby Stinson, 23

Pvt. Richard O. Tilson, 19

Pvt. Ole I. Taxdahl, 34

Pvt. C.S. Davis, 29, Died April 27, 1862 of wounds received at Shiloh

Pvt. George C. Lammers, 23, Died May 21, 1862 of wounds received at Shiloh


Capt. Emil Munch, 30

1st Lt. Ferdinand E. Peebles, 29, Wounded at Shiloh, resigned Aug. 18, 1862

Sgt. William Z. Clayton, 27, Wounded at Shiloh, returned to ranks. Promoted to 1st Lt. Aug. 26, 62

Pvt. Jesse Conner, 34, Promoted Sergeant, Wounded at Shiloh

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Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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