A Tale of Two Howards, Part 2: Howard Affleck (Part B)

We have had a most terrible battle here. It began on Sunday April 6th and is I believe not yet finished… Ours is a great victory yet it has cost us the lives of thousands of our brave boys…[1]

-Howard Affleck to his mother, April 10, 1862

On the morning of April 6, 1862, the Confederate armies of Johnston and Beauregard launched a surprise attack on Grant’s Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing. Grant and Sherman (in command of the Fifth Division) should have seen the attack coming, but—for a variety of reasons better described elsewhere—they did not.[2]

When the attack came, the Confederates advanced in a northeastern direction with the majority of their reinforcements amassing on their own left and center, thus pressing on the Union right.[3]

The Union force farthest to the right was Sherman’s Fifth Division, particularly McDowell’s Brigade (of which the 46th Ohio was a part). The 6th Iowa infantry regiment was farthest right, being about 900 yards southeast of Owl Creek and the bridge on the Purdy Road. Just left of the 6th Iowa was the 46th Ohio. The rest of Grant’s army was further to the left, towards the river.[4]

Shiloh Battle Apr6am-2.png

Map by Hal Jespersen, http://www.posix.com/CW, via “Battle of Shiloh,” Wikipedia, accessed 10 Jan. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Shiloh .

Most of Sherman’s Division had never been under enemy fire before, nor had they even been given guns until just a few weeks previous. And yet, most unfortunately, these green regiments were on the front lines when the battle began.[5] On the bright side, the right three brigades of Sherman’s Division held the advantageous position of being on higher ground and across a tributary from the advancing Confederate army. However, the Rebels finally overran the top of this ridge around 10 a.m.[6]

Until that time, a portion of McDowell’s Brigade (though it is unclear which portion) “had been virtually unengaged with the enemy thus far.”[7] However, starting from about 10:00 a.m. until early in the afternoon, McDowell’s Brigade—including the 46th Ohio and by extension, Howard Affleck—were engaged in the battle.[8]

Despite his inexperience in battle, Howard was credited as having “fought with all the coolness and obstinacy of a veteran.”[9] The following anecdote of his service at Shiloh was also reported:

When one of his fellow-soldiers who stood by his side received a ball in the head, he cried out, “Affleck, I am killed, help me!” Affleck coolly replied, “I have no time—today I have a contract for the preservation of the Union.”[10]

It is highly questionable whether that particular interchange ever actually happened; however, it certainly did make for a good, romantic snippet of war patriotism in the newspaper.

McDonough asserts that (presumably all of) McDowell’s Brigade began its retreat to the landing about 12:30, after McDowell was seriously injured after a fall from his horse. However, according to Brewer’s detailed timeline, the 46th regiment had remained engaged in battle until at least 2:00 p.m. (Brewer’s account is almost certainly the more accurate and more precise for my needs here, since it draws from the diary of the 46th regiment’s commander, Colonel Thomas Worthington.)[11]

In any event, by Sunday afternoon, Howard Affleck, the 46th Ohio, and the rest of McDowell’s Brigade had retreated to the banks of the Tennessee River, which was apparently the point where retreating, fleeing, straggling, sick and injured Union troops seemed to be convening (to the dismay of Grant to attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to rally them back into battle). This choice of safe haven does make sense, though: the river bank was rather far behind the Union front line; it was lower than the battle ground and had the protection of a bluff; and it had the additional protection of the Union gunboats on the river.[12]

Howard Affleck was among the wounded lying on the river bank. His most serious injury was an ounce ball in his left knee, a wound which he received sometime on Sunday afternoon and which caused him great suffering as he “crippled along slowly 2½ miles to Pittsburg Landing” during the retreat. In addition to the knee injury, Howard also had a wound in his neck and five bullet holes in his clothes.[13]

Indeed, Howard was quite incapacitated by the time he lay on the riverbank Sunday afternoon, and if it had not been for the honor and bravery of a good friend, he might have died right there that day. (Then again, in light of what would happen in the next few weeks, one could argue that it might have been more humane to have let that happen.)

According to Howard’s aunt Sarah Forrer, who heard it from Howard’s sister Harriet, who probably heard it from Howard himself, the following transpired on the river bank that day:

…well after reaching the river, [Howard] with other wounded were lying helplessly on the bank, when the enemy began firing directly upon them, The shells were bursting amongst them, when a young man, a very intimate friend of his, took hold of him and dragged him down under the bluff. He could not help himself any longer, He told his Mother he had never understood what the “Horrors of war” meant—till then. This young friend nursed him faithfully till he himself was taken ill of the fever, He died a week ago, in the Hospital at Cincinnati, — His mother went to him two days before he died, They did not tell Howard, His Father feared it might affect him badly, and when He asked after “Allender?” they told him he was better…[14]

The brave young man was Nicholas Allender, a corporal a few years older than Howard. The two men had served together in the 15th Ohio, Company B, and were both serving in the 46th Ohio, Company H, at the time. Allender died at the hospital in Cincinnati on May 2, 1862.[15]

(I have not been able to find any other information on Allender. I suspect he may be one of the fellow “Bridgeporters” – others from Howard’s hometown of Bridgeport, Ohio – a friend he knew from home before the army, but I cannot tease any answers out of either Ancestry or the Internet. I did find that some Allenders lived in Belmont County, Ohio, including a Nicholas Allender as head of household in 1830, but no incontrovertible evidence of the younger Nicholas, who would have been born in the mid-to-late 1830s. Another reason I think it seems logical to guess that Allender was also from Bridgeport is that Howard’s parents knew of his fate, and unless he had relatives in the area, how would news of an otherwise “random” corporal’s death on the opposite side of the state have reached Howard’s parents?)

The Confederates called off the battle on Sunday evening (although it resumed the next day). That night, it poured down rain, and many thousand wounded soldiers spent the night lying out in the weather, some on the riverbank (as Howard did), others still out on the battlefield.[16]

Robert Murray, a surgeon and Medical Director of the Army of the Ohio, arrived on the scene the next day and wrote thus of the situation:

…I arrived when the second day’s fight (April 7) was half over, and found some five or six thousand wounded to be provided for, with, literally, no accommodations, or comforts, not even the necessaries of life, no bedding, no cooking utensils, or table furniture, not even cups, spoons, or plate, or knives and forks, no vegetables, nor even fresh beef… It was incessantly raining, and the mud was very deep; it was impossible to obtain tents enough to shelter the wounded, or straw for them to lie upon. The battle was raging a mile and a half in front… The…men procured to act as police for the hospital depots, and as nurses, cooks, and attendants, were from the panic-stricken mob who had sought safety on the banks of the river, and, these men, it was impossible to keep at work…[17]

The Union was much more successful on the second day of the battle, Monday, April 7, by which time Buell’s Army of the Ohio had arrived with reinforcements. Ultimately, the Confederate armies retreated, and Union victory was declared.

Although the brutal fight at Shiloh had ended, the battle had really only just begun for Howard Affleck…

[1] Howard Affleck to Mary Affleck, 10 Apr. 1862, Howard G. Affleck Civil War Diary and Mary Affleck Letter Book (Mss. A64-275), Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society (Buffalo, New York).

[2] James L. McDonough, Shiloh: In Hell Before Night (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977), 54-58, 84, 91-92; James D. Brewer, Tom Worthington’s Civil War: Shiloh, Sherman, and the Search for Vindication (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2001), 64; T. J. Lindsey, Ohio at Shiloh (Cincinnati: C. J. Krehbiel & Co., 1903), 19.

[3] McDonough, Shiloh, 104-107.

[4] Brewer, Tom Worthington’s Civil War, 76-78, 87; Lindsey, Ohio at Shiloh, 18.

[5] McDonough, Shiloh, 91.

[6] McDonough, Shiloh, 116, 120.

[7] McDonough, Shiloh, 120.

[8] McDonough, Shiloh, 120-122; Larry J. Daniel, Shiloh: The Battle that Changed the Civil War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), 165, 172-173, 188-189; Brewer, Tom Worthington’s Civil War, 96-103.

[9] Obituary of Howard G. Affleck, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio), 36:6.

[10] Obituary of Howard G. Affleck, FPW, 36:6.

[11] McDonough, Shiloh, 122; Brewer, Tom Worthington’s Civil War, 98-104.

[12] McDonough, Shiloh, 123, 155, 170-171; Brewer, Tom Worthington’s Civil War, 104; Obituary of Howard G. Affleck, FPW, 36:6.

[13] Howard Affleck to Mary Affleck, 10 Apr. 1862, BECHS: Mss. A64-275; Obituary of Howard G. Affleck, FPW, 36:6; Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 18 May 1862, FPW, 1:8.

[14] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 15 May 1862, FPW, 4:2.

[15] American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IV (Akron: Werner Co., 1887), 378.

[16] McDonough, Shiloh, 184; Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 18 May 1862, FPW, 1:8.

[17] James B. Jones, Jr., ed., Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook (Nashville: Tennessee Historical Commission, 2005), April 1862, http://www.artcirclelibrary.info/Reference/civilwar/1862-04.pdf: 44.

4 responses to “A Tale of Two Howards, Part 2: Howard Affleck (Part B)

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Howards: Howard Affleck, Part 3 | Glancing Backwards

  2. Pingback: A Tale of Two Howards, Part 6 – Howard Forrer (Part A) | Glancing Backwards

  3. Pingback: A Tale of Two Howards, Part 12 – Edward Affleck | Glancing Backwards

  4. Pingback: A Tale of Two Howards, Part 13 – Howard Forrer (Part E) – Final Installment | Glancing Backwards

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