Friday, April 06, 2012

My ancestors at Shiloh

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg Landing, as it was known in the North. Two of my ancestors, James Robert Melton Wylder, my great-great grandfather (pictured), and his father-in-law, John H. Reddish, (add another 'great" there), were officers in the 61st Illinois Regiment. Leander Stillwell, in his classic work The Story of a Common Soldier, includes vignettes about both of them. Reddish had fought in the Black Hawk War, which explains his comments.

Not everyone can say his ancestor was jumping up and down "like a hen on a hot griddle, as Stillwell describes Lieutenenant Wylder:

"Stillwell! shoot! shoot! Why don’t you shoot?" I looked around and saw that this command was being given by Bob Wylder, our second lieutenant, who was in his place, just a few steps to the rear. He was a young man, about twenty-five years old, and was fairly wild with excitement, jumping up and down "like a hen on a hot griddle." "Why, lieutenant," said I, "I can’t see anything to shoot at." "Shoot, shoot, anyhow!" "All right," I responded, "if you say shoot. shoot it is;" and bringing my gun to my shoulder, I aimed low in the direction of the enemy, and blazed away through the smoke. I have always doubted if this, my first shot. did any execution --- but there’s no telling. However, the lieutenant was clearly right Our adversaries were in our front, in easy range, and it was our duty to aim low, fire in their general direction, and let fate do the rest.

And here's Stillwell's account of Captain Reddish:

When we "went in" on the above mentioned position old Capt. Reddish took his place in the ranks, and fought like a common soldier. He had picked up the musket of some dead or wounded man, and filled his pockets with cartridges and gun caps, and so was well provided with ammunition. He unbuckled his sword from the belt, and laid it in the scabbard at his feet, and proceeded to give his undivided attention to the enemy. I can now see the old man in my mind’s eye, as he stood in ranks, loading and firing, his blue-gray eyes flashing, and his face lighted up with the flame of battle. Col. Fry happened to be near us at one time, and I heard old Capt. John yell at him: "Injun fightin,’ Colonel! Jest like Injun fightin’!" When we finally retired, the Captain shouldered his musket and trotted off with the rest of us, oblivious of his "cheese-knife," as he called it, left it lying on the ground, and never saw it again.

Stillwell's book is in the public domain, and is available through Project Gutenberg.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Very interesting. I had some ancestors in the Civil War too but I don't know that anything was ever written about them.