Sunday, June 3, 2007

Union counterattack at noon on April 6

Around noon on April 6 the combined forces of Sherman and McClernand’s divisions made a counter attack near Woolf Field. They were successful in driving off the enemy and capturing a battery. The Confederates soon recaptured the battery but the guns would not be used at Shiloh again. The attack slowed the Confederate advance on this front and bought Sherman/McClernand’s force some time.

Although Sherman and McClernand’s divisions fought together, quite well, Sherman seems to get most of the credit for the fighting on this front. This probably had a lot to do with their overall reputations at the end of the war. Sherman and McClernand did not have to attack. They could have used the lull before this counter attack to form a new defensive line or strengthen the line they were on.

When Sherman and McClernand attacked the Confederates were weakened enough that the Union attack was able to push them back. If the Confederates were in a condition to be pushed away they probably could not have made a successful attack if Sherman and McClernand had stayed put.

This is a critical decision, in some respects it looks like a foolhardy decision. How did Sherman and McClernand know that an attack would be successful at that moment? Although they were relatively new to command (this was not the first battle for either commander but was their first battle on this scale) they did a fine job all day. Picking the right moment for a counter attack was just another sign of how good, or lucky, they were. Luckily for the Union right the attack succeeded in pushing the Confederates back and buying them some time.

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