Battle of Shiloh : The Death of Major Edwards

Battle of Shiloh : The Death of Major Edwards

US Civil War
Shiloh Campaign (in 1862)

It was in the damp early morning hours of Monday April 7, 1862, at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee that Captain Oscar O. Miller of the 19th Ohio stood under a tree trying to keep out of the rain. Standing beside him was Major Timothy Dwight Edwards, Miller’s best friend in the army. The two men discussed “the chances and probabilities of the succeeding day. Both agreed that victory must be ours as the enemy had attacked us on Sunday though we might one or both be laid low as part of the price,” Miller remembered.

The following morning, the 19th Ohio marched on to the battlefield and came under a heavy fire from Rebel batteries. From his place in the ranks, Captain Miller was horrified to see Major Edwards struck by a 6-lb cannon ball as he rode along on his horse behind the regiment, killing him instantly. “You can scarcely imagine how I felt when I knew he was really dead,” Miller stated. “But I had a heavy responsibility resting on my shoulders yet and I had no time to think of my loss. The battle was terrific.”

Lead balls embedded in a section of tree branch from the battlefield at Shiloh, Tennessee. Title: Lead Balls Embedded in Section of Tree Branch from Shiloh Battlefield

A few days later, Miller buried his friend beneath the soil of Tennessee. “I buried him with sad feelings I assure you, I feel alone, though not alone for God is with me and the Savior’s presence can supply all the yearnings of my heart, though I miss my chum, my associate, and sympathizer in everything. I trust he is now where now eternal light reigns for I believe Tim was a Christian and am thankful for the evidence I have it.”

          During the battle, Miller’s 19th Ohio was part of General Jeremiah T. Boyle’s 11th Brigade consisting of the 19th Ohio, 59th Ohio, 9th Kentucky, and 19th Kentucky. Captain Miller wrote the following letter to his father Reuben in Warren, Ohio. A few days after the Battle of Shiloh; it first saw publication in the April 23, 1862, edition of the Western Reserve Chronicle.

Chickasaw Bluffs, Tennessee

April 10 & 12, 1862

Dear friends,

          I sent a line to you today but perhaps I will have time to write at more length now though conveniences are few and poor. We have had no tents since Saturday night and no blankets for two nights though there was heavy rain both nights and the next one.

Eight of the ten companies of the 19th Ohio carried the Belgian-made .58 caliber Pondir rifle during the Battle of Shiloh. The flank companies of the regiment carried the well-regarded Enfield rifle musket.

          We left our camp near Spring Hill, [Tennessee] a week ago Sunday at 3 p.m. and marched every day till the next Sunday morning found us but nine miles from Savannah, Tennessee, we were to march six miles and halt, but soon after we started, we heard cannonading in the distance which kept up all day. Soon we received orders to halt, draw three day’s rations and move to the river. The teams to be left within two miles of Savannah. It was just dark as we passed through town and went on board the boat; at about 9 p.m. we shoved off and at 11 arrived at Pittsburg Landing twelve miles above Savannah.

          We had gloomy accounts of the success of our troops that day. They had been beaten back and cut up badly everybody said. General Nelson’s and General

General Thomas L. Crittenden

Crittenden’s divisions both crossed and lay on their arms all the rest of the night, McCook’s division crossed next morning early.  There was a hard rain for an hour about 2 or 3 o’clock during which time Major Edwards and I stood together and talked in an undertone of the chances and probabilities of the succeeding day. Both agreed that victory must be ours as the enemy had attacked us on Sunday though we might one or both be laid low as part of the price, but that if our work was not done, we should not be killed.

Before dawn had fairly opened, firing was commenced by the Rebels, and we were aroused and marched out. General Nelson’s division engaged the enemy’s right, Crittenden’s the center, and General McCook’s the left. The lines were extended some seven miles and most of the ground was thick woods and undergrowth of bush. We were drawn up in line of battle several times and changed positions when about 8 or 9 o’clock, our skirmishers drew the fire of the enemy’s cannon toward us.

The first shell burst directly over my head, but I was not hurt nor any of my men. They came thick and fast but were over our heads at first, finally they came closer, and we laid down. In about 15 minutes after the firing toward us commenced, the Major fell dead by a six-pound cannon ball. You can scarcely imagine how I felt when I knew he was really dead. But I had a heavy responsibility resting on my shoulders yet. And I had no time to think of my loss.

Battle of Shiloh : The Death of Major Edwards

The battle was terrific. We were supporting a battery [Battery G of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery under Captain Joseph Bartlett] and changed our position three or four times but were not ordered to fire till some time after when we did there was a steady roar from the 19th Ohio. I have eight wounded men, none killed. Two of Captain Henry H. Stratton’s men were killed and some wounded. In the afternoon we were ordered to the support of General Nelson’s left wing and were under his command when the battle closed and encamped with the 41st Ohio for the night.

Wednesday morning we were ordered back to General Crittenden’s division. After the firing ceased Monday, I was ordered to take my company to our part of the battle ground and care for the bodies of the dead and wounded of our regiment. There was but one of our men left on the field; I found Dr. Harxthal there and went with him to our hospital station where the Major’s body lay. I intended to send it home and went down to the landing to get a coffin made. My company was to go to the place where we left our knapsacks in the morning and stay one night and join the regiment in the morning or wait for orders.

Ruggles’ Battery at Shiloh National Military Park

I took “Dick” early Tuesday morning and rode down to the river to see about a coffin, but it was not done. Then I went out to our hospital again and finally concluded that the nature of the Major’s wound was such that unless I could go with the body to Louisville and get a metallic case, it would not do to attempt to send it as the transportation means were so limited.

I buried him with sad feelings I assure you, I feel alone, though not alone for God is with me and the Savior’s presence can supply all the yearnings of my heart. Though I miss my chum, my associate, and sympathizer in everything. I trust he is now where now eternal light reigns for I believe Tim was a Christian and am thankful for the evidence I have it. It took me several hours to find the regiment as the battle grounds were extensive and our lines that morning were ten miles in length. At last I found it and was ordered to report my company. And also to procure wagons and bring the regiment’s knapsacks and all the stragglers from the regiment.

General Hurlbut’s headquarters are near the Major’s grave, and I had talked with him in the forenoon. I went to him and asked for three wagons to transport our knapsacks which were promptly given me. General Hurlbut is a Western general and a gentleman. In due time, we were safely with the regiment and within a few rods of the 41st Ohio. I saw Captain Emerson Opdycke and talked with him some time.

The New York Herald was one of the first major newspapers to report on the Battle of Shiloh.

Next morning before daylight we were called into line by some false alarm and stood there in the rain an hour. The 19th Ohio then reported to General Boyle, and we have laid still since yesterday with the exception of one false alarm day before yesterday. Yesterday evening one whole brigade was ordered to the outpost of our lines as pickets. Two companies of each regiment being sent half a mile in advance as pickets, the rest being a reserve.

We first sent out the flank companies which were afterwards relieved by the next flank which was Co. I for one. It was very disagreeable, being rainy and cold. We spread blankets on sticks and barks against logs and so made considerably protection to our bodies. Today at 11 we returned to camp. We had a few tents come and have made bark houses; have two mess pans and borrowed one camp kettle top make coffee in and so live in style. I bunk and live with the boys as do all the officers.

We hope to get our wagons across tomorrow and with a day or two of fine weather can fix up a new camp in the woods, though I hope we don’t stay long here as the dead horses will soon become offensive. They are being buried as fast as possible. 

Truly and affectionately,

Oscar O. Miller, Captain commanding, Co. I, 19th O.V.I.

Captain Oscar O. Miller, Co. I, 19th O.V.I.
Killed near Jonesboro, Georgia on September 2, 1864

Major Edwards died at the age of 24; he is buried at Shiloh but has a cenotaph to his memory erected at Oak Hill Cemetery in Youngstown, Ohio. Captain Miller would be killed in action September 2, 1864 near Jonesboro, Georgia while serving with the 19th Ohio. He was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Warren, Ohio.

US Civil War
Issue of 1962, designed by Noel Sickles

Written by Dan Masters

Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles

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Bullets for the Union

Why Did The Confederates Have Grey Uniforms?

The Death of Major Edwards at Shiloh

Sources for Battle of Shiloh : The Death of Major Edwards

Letter from Captain Oscar O. Miller, Co. I, 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Western Reserve Chronicle (Ohio), April 23, 1862, pg. 2

Battle of Shiloh : The Death of Major Edwards

Eric Foner on the Civil War : Pulitzer Prize Winning Columbia History Professor : Battle of Shiloh : The Death of Major Edwards

Battle of Shiloh : The Death of Major Edwards