Lieut. Col. Robert A. Fulton
Fifty-third Ohio Infantry
Col. Appler's 53rd Ohio is another of the regiments with a report that sheds light on the battle as it effected the 48th. This regiment was guarding the left flank of the division at the beginning of the battle. General Sherman saw the crucial importance of their position and personally ordered Colonel Appler to "hold at all hazards" saying he would support him. Instead of obeying Sherman's command Appler issued the bizarre command "Fall back and save yourselves." just as his regiment had successfully repulsed an assault. His mishandling of the regiment led to its scattering and the departure of a number of other regiments in disorder exposing the flank of the Division including Buckland's brigade and the 48th and forcing the first withdrawal of the 48th from the position that it had held all morning. To be fair to Col. Appler it must be said that Sherman had treated Appler in a shabby fashion for several days before the battle in front of his men which may have contributed to loss of morale in the regiment and Appler's coming unglued at a critical moment during the battle. It was apparently only shortly after the moment his orderly was shot that Sherman fully realized that he was facing a full scale attack and not just a harassing raid. Of course comments critical of Sherman are not likely in official reports that would pass on to him. It must also be said that there were other officers such as the 46th Ohio's Col. Worthington who had equally unpleasant dealings with Sherman and still behaved with valor during the battle and were recognized by Sherman for their bravery. Most of the 53rd's Companies held together and attached themselves to other regiments. Companies A & F attached themselves to the 48th for much of the first day.
KY., TENN., N. MISS., N. ALA., AND SW. VA.
PITTSBURG LANDING, OR SHILOH, TENN.
OR: Chap XXII pp. 264-266.
Report of Lieut. Col. Robert A. Fulton, Fifty-third Ohio Infantry.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTY-THIRD OHIO VOLUNTEERS,
Camp, Shiloh, April 9, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my regiment in the engagements of the 6th, 7th, and 8th:
Shortly after daylight on the morning of the 6th the regiment was formed on the color line under order and direction of Colonel Appler. After remaining here for a time they were moved to the left of our camp, forming line of battle perpendicular to the first line. Soon after Colonel Appler ordered the regiment to face about and wheel to the right and take position in rear of the camp, which maneuver was executed under fire of the rebel skirmishers. The new line of battle was formed just in rear of our camp, in the edge of the woods. A section of Waterhouse's battery took position in the woods to our right. General Sherman, and staff rode up to the open held in front of the left wing, and were fired upon by the rebel skirmishers, now advancing through the thicket in front of our camp, killing an orderly.
General Sherman, riding back, ordered Colonel Appler to hold his position; he would support him. A battery opened upon us. The section of artillery on our right, after firing two shots, limbered up and went to the rear.
A line of rebel infantry advanced to within 50 yards and were fired into by the left wing and recoiled. Advancing again, they were met by a fire from the regiment, under which they again fell back. At this time Colonel Appler gave the command, "Fall back and save yourselves." Hearing this order, the regiment fell back in disorder, passing around the ranks of the Illinois Forty-ninth.
Here in connection with the company officers and the adjutant, I succeeded in rallying the regiment, and was about to station them at the crossing of the creek, above the Big Springs, to repel the force who were tuning the flank of the Fifty seventh Ohio, when Colonel Appler, by direction, he says, of a staff officer of General McClernand, moved the regiment by the left flank up the ravine and afterward by the right flank, taking position on the hill to the left of Shiloh Chapel, and near the front of General Sherman's headquarters.
The regiment remained in this position for some time exposed to a galling fire, which could not be returned without endangering the regiment in front, who were hotly engaged. Colonel Appler here abandoned the regiment, giving again the order, "Fall back and save your selves." Companies A and F, under command of Capts. W. S. Jones and J. R. Percy, with Adjutant Dawes, remained in the front, and soon after became hotly engaged, in connection with the Seventeenth Illinois. This regiment retreating, these two companies fell back after them, making as much resistance as possible. They afterwards joined the Forty-eighth Ohio, and with them aided in repelling the final assault made Sunday evening, and joined me again at night.
When the remaining eight companies of the regiment fell back I became separated from them. When I again joined them they were formed with a portion of the Seventy-seventh Ohio, under command of Maj. B. D. Fearing.
I immediately assumed command. Shortly afterwards, at the request of Captain Bouton, First Illinois Artillery, moved to a point near the siege-gun battery where he took position, with my regiment as support. Shortly; after, at about 3:30 p. m., Captain Hammond, assistant adjutant-general to General Sherman, rode up and ordered Captain Bouton's battery into position on the front and right. He called upon us to go out and support the battery. I immediately formed my men and marched out, several fragments of regiments near by refusing to go.
Marching out, probably half a mile, the battery halted, and I formed on their left. Captain Bouton opened fire and was answered by a sharp fire of shot and shell from the rebel batteries, followed by canister, which killed a number of his horses and rendered his position untenable.
A detail from my regiment, under Sergt. M. F. Bosworth, assisted in drawing off his guns. Remained here during the night, and in the morning were ordered to advance, the Eighty-first Ohio on our left and the Forty-fifth Illinois on our right.
Moved out with skirmishers well to the front for nearly a mile, when our skirmishers, under command of Lieut. B A. Starkey and Lieut. J. W. Fulton, encountered the rebel vedettes, driving them steadily until we reached the edge of the field known as McClernand's drill ground. Here a rebel battery opened upon us, doing but little damage, however, as our men were protected by the conformation of the ground. This battery was soon partially silenced by our artillery, and we were ordered to fix bayonets and charge. My men advanced in good style across the field. Nearing the battery, it was discovered to be entirely abandoned.
The line was halted, and skirmishers sent out in front reported a large rebel force rapidly advancing immediately in our front. They opened a sharp fire upon us, which was returned with good effect. Shells from a battery of our own upon our right and rear commenced bursting over our heads. The rebels, repossessing the battery from which we had once driven them, opened upon us again. The Eighty-first Ohio, upon my left, fell back across the open held. The staff officer who had taken upon himself the direction of the line rode up and twice ordered my regiment to retreat. The second time they fell back in considerable disorder, having to pass the line of fire of our own and the rebel batteries. While engaged in rallying my regiment, upon the other side of the held, General McClernand rode up and ordered me to post them as sharpshooters. Remained in this position until the advance of General Buell's troops across the field to the left closed the day in our favor, when I marched my regiment to the left, through the drill ground of our division, to Shiloh Chapel, where I was shortly afterward joined by the remainder of the brigade.
On the morning of the 8th we were ordered with the rest of the brigade to pursue the retreating army. About 5 miles out a cavalry charge was made upon the Seventy-seventh Ohio, deployed in the advance, resulting in the rout of that regiment and a battalion of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, their immediate support. We were ordered by Colonel Hildebrand to their support, and advanced at a double quick, with fixed bayonets, driving the rebel cavalry before us, killing and wounding a number of them and forcing them to relinquish most of the prisoners taken.
Halting here, details were made from my regiment to destroy the rebel camp near at hand, to carry off the wounded, bury the dead, and collect the arms. This being accomplished, we returned to our old camp near Shiloh Chapel. The list of casualties during the 6th and 7th is as follows: Killed, 9; wounded, 44; missing, 0.*
Seven men were slightly wounded on the 8th.
R. A.. FULTON,
Lieut. S. S. MCNAUGHTON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
*But see revised statement, p. 104.