Assignment 4

I have decided to examine the experiences of Col James M. Tuttle of the Second Iowa Infantry, Commanding Second Divison of the First Brigade in the Battle of Shiloh. His brigade consisted of the Second, Seventh, Twelfth, and Fourteenth Iowa Infantry. In his report, Tuttle mentions being to left of Wallace’s division and in the General Buell’s map of the Battle of Shiloh, this is confirmed. W. H. L. Wallace is marked as the letter “I” on the map key and McArthur who is the General in the U.S. Army and commanding the Second Divison as well as mentioned in Tuttle’s report and signed at the bottom, is letter “O”. On this map, in the lower right hand corner, “O” is indeed next to “I”. From Tuttles’s report, the rebels appeared of to the right, but he held his ground six hours until the ranks started to fall and Wallace gave orders to fall back, which happened quickly. Wallace was mortally wounded in the battle and Tuttle took control, absorbing several regiments.

On the map in McPherson’s book for day one, I again see W.H. L. Wallace which Tuttle seems to have been positioned next to, but he is not listed specifically, nor is McArthur. Again, Tuttle is not listed for Day 2, but according to his account, he initially went to the spot he had fought in on Day 2, but when he appears some of his regiments were deployed to General Nelson’s position which is on the map Day 2 slightly north of where Tuttle claims to have been. Some of his regiments also seem to have gone even further north to where General Crittenden was located. Tuttle does not give any topographical points on the map to give me an idea of where he is located except that there was a fence to his left. Other than that, I am able to track his location based on who he says he was near, so his account is really based off of other people’s accounts of where they were. There is a fence on all three of the maps I have looked at thus far, but it appears to be a long one and based off of that alone, Tuttle could have been anywhere on the map.

At 4:06 in the animated map, Wallace’s division is visible, but the map is showing the confederate movement here so it is flipped, making me assume that Tuttle claims to have been standing to the right of Wallace from this perspective. Wallace’s division is again shown moving to reinforce the union line. I’m assuming Tuttle would have been a part of this, but he does not mention all of the delays they had in getting there, so perhaps not. What’s interesting about the map of the “Hornet’s nest” is that W.H.L. Wallace is inside of it and the animated map recognizes that Wallace dies here, which Tuttle mentions in his report, but as Wallace “passing through the cross-fire” not as they were surrounded and 2000 men were captured. It makes me wonder if Tuttle was a part of that, or if he was somewhere else and heard about it later, but I have to believe he was there because he was under Wallace’s direction. Perhaps he just downplayed the situation.

To further complicate things, the Library of Congress map does not list any names in positions or the fence that Tuttle cites. This combined with his lack of topographical points makes it impossible to give anything more structured than a generalization of Tuttle’s location without more information from other maps.

I was able to find McArthur who appears to be Tuttle’s superior officer. I was able to guess Tuttle’s location based on his account of his relationship to W. H. L. Wallace and McArthur and a fence that was to his left; however, as previously mentioned, when these two markers are not present on a map, it is nearly impossible to track Tuttle because he does not mention any terrain or even which direction he moved. The only directions he gives are that the enemy at one point came from the right, at one point he fell back, at one point there were enemies in the woods beyond General Nelson’s position and at one point he sent some of the regiments he was in control of to meet other Generals and I was able to find from other maps that they moved north. Basically, Tuttle gives a lot of the “official business information” in his account like he assumes the person reading it is not looking at a map or familiar with the territory, but he does not give any distinctions as to where exactly he was. I think the secondary maps, with the exception of General Buell’s map where the most helpful in my understanding because they actually labeled where people were, not just the terrain. The first thing I think of when asked what would be more helpful to my understanding is a more thorough account from Tuttle, but in reality I recognize that historians have the facts that they have. I think what would be more helpful to my understanding that is possible to obtain is more accounts from people who would have been surrounding Tuttle to see if they make comments on the terrain and also where Tuttle would have been standing. I think the best place to start would to be look for accounts from Tuttle’s superiors to see where he was supposed to be and if he actually appeared there. Then, I think it would be beneficial to take those accounts and visit the actual site of the battle to see if those landmarks listed are still standing. I think that the biggest challenge historians face when reading primary accounts in the case of reports like Tuttle’s is it sounds like this piece of writing was intended to be a report that went to his superiors. In particular, this appears to be the report where he notifies higher ups that his direct superior was killed in action and he has taken over his role. As a result, he seems to have toned down the “hornets nest” in which Wallace died in order to make his “accomplishment” more about himself and less about a death. At the same time, I recognize that the term “hornets nest” was probably later applied by histories, but I’m sure the title was given for a reason and that Tuttle downplays the event in his report. Basically, I think that primary accounts are individuals understanding of what happened, they do not account for every experience and they also may be intended for a certain audience and all of these factors lead to skewing of events which is a challenge to historians. I am surprised that a military man did not have a more exacting account for events and where he was, but I recognize that his account makes it difficult for historians to reconstruct the Battle of Shiloh.

One Reply to “Assignment 4”

  1. I’d agree with your assessment, that certain commanders’ reports might have been written with the intent to be self aggrandizing. However, when writing to a superior officer and eager to keep your command it seems only natural to downplay the severity of events. While it makes things harder, it’s not really unique in that case. Primary sources are often biased, they are not intended to be otherwise in most cases.

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