top of page

"There is One Little Kentucky Regiment Still Fighting"- Correcting the Post-Shiloh News

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

The following account, written by an anonymous author, appeared in The Louisville Daily Journal on July 26, 1862.


Colonel John H. McHenry, 17th Kentucky Infantry

"To the Editors of the Louisville Journal:


Camp Near Athens, Alabama

July 8, 1862


"Having seen an article in your paper of 17th June last headed "Kentucky at Shiloh and at Washington," I have been constrained to ask of you a brief space in your columns as an act of justice to a much neglected regiment. In the article referred to, ample justice is done General Buell's army for the brave and daring part it took in the battle of Pittsburg Landing, or, more properly speaking, Shiloh; but in awarding praises where it was manifestly due, the claims of a truly brave Kentucky regiment to share of the glory seem to have been entirely ignored. I allude to the Seventeenth Kentucky Regiment, Col. John H. McHenry Jr, than whom no truer Kentuckian, nobler gentleman, or braver soldier wears a soldier's garb or wields a soldier's sword. I do not wish to detract from the merited praise and well earned honors of General Buell and his army. Far from it. I award to him and to his army all praise and honor. No army could have fought better or with more determined braver, and never did an army achieve greater success; but in justice to the Seventeenth Kentucky, which was transferred to General Buell's command immediately after the battle of Shiloh, I desire to place it before the public as an active participant iin that memorable contest. It will be remembered that the Seventeenth Kentucky was in Gen Grant's army at the battle of Shiloh, and in General Hurlbert's [Hurlbut] Division, and that it was also, in the battle of Fort Donelson, where it stood to arms for three days and nights without food or shelter in mid winter, and had its ranks so thinned in the last day's fight by killed and wounded and the ravages of disease brought on by exposure in that battle, and out of about eight hundred men but two hundred and seventy were able to bear arms at the battle of Pittsburg Landing, and out of that small number ninety were killed and wounded, the Colonel and Lieut. Colonel being among the number of wounded. It is proper to state here, however, that early in the afternoon of the first day's fight at Pittsburg Landing the Twenty-Fifth Kentucky Regiment was placed under the command of Colonel McHenry, and fought with them that evening and the next day, but the ninety killed and wounded were wholly of the Seventeenth Kentucky. Prior to this time Col. Shackelford had resigned and Lieut. Col. Bristow was not present. Major Wall, of the Twenty-Fifth, was present and did his whole duty.. The Seventeenth and Twenty-Fifth were the only two Kentucky regiments in Grant's army and the only two in the battle of Fort Donelson. Subsequent to the battle of Shiloh the Twenty-Fifth was consolidated with the Seventeenth, the ranks of both regiments being greatly reduced, and the parts of these two regiments now constitute the Seventeenth Kentucky. From the article alluded to I quote the following: "The battle of Pittsburg Landing was fought by Gen Grant and lost; the battle of Shiloh was fought by Gen Buell and won. The defeat of Pittsburg Landing was received alone by the courage and skill of a single officer of Grant's army, the victory at Shiloh was achieved by the courage and skill of Buell's whole army marked by conspicuous gallantry and conduct of superior officers.



"That Gen. Grant was hard pressed by superior numbers and had evidently the worst of the fight on Sunday no one will controvert, but that Gen. Buell's army arrived opportunely and saved the fortunes of the day on Monday, no one for a moment doubts; that the timely arrival of Gen. Buell's forces on the field was accomplished by the skill and untiring energy of the officers of that army by forced marches, through much suffering, hardship, and fatigue, all just men agree, and that they fought as skillfully and bravely at Shiloh as ever troops fought, is conceded on all hands, but is it just? Is it generous, to ignore the claims of all other troops except Gen. Buell's army, when the major part of Gen. Grant's army fought as hard, and as bravely, and as desperately on the second day as did Gen. Buell's? It is not my purpose to make a defence for Gen. Grant--I leave that for abler hands--my object is to do justice to a truly brave Kentucky regiment whose list of killed and wounded attests their zeal and bravery in their country's service. The Seventeenth Kentucky went into the fight Sunday morning, and fought bravely and desperately all day long against superior numbers, and when night closed the struggle they slept upon their arms, and at dawn of day they renewed the fight with a hearty good will, and fought as bravely on the second day as did any regiment engaged in the action. It was the last regiment to fall back on Sunday, and did so reluctantly, when it was ascertained that it remained almost alone on the field of battle to dispute the passage of Beauregard's army. So marked was its obstinacy in giving back, that it was remarked on the river bank, where those who had fled from other regiments had taken shelter, when asked by some of Buell's army if any forces were fighting the rebels: "Yes, there is one little Kentucky regiment still fighting." This little Kentucky regiment was the Seventeenth Kentucky regiment, Col. John H. McHenry, and bravely and desperately did they fight for the honor of Kentucky and the cause of the Union. It has seen much hard service, quite as much as any regiment in the service, and it is to be hoped that the hard earned laurels it has won will not be rudely snatched from it. Near one hundred of its brave men have yielded up their lives on their country's altar, and at least three hundred of them are now prostrated by disease, or suffering from wounds received in their country's service.



"When the army moved upon Corinth the 17th was placed in Gen. Nelson's division, and during most of the advance on Corinth they held an advanced position, and were skirmishing almost daily with the enemy's pickets. Its brave men worked on the trenches, bivouacked in the swamps, and at the time of the evacuation, were on the extreme advanced outpost, and first made the discovery that the enemy were fleeing, were the first in the enemy's fortifications, and the first to enter the town of Corinth. Nearly the whole of General Nelson's division were inside the enemy's works before any other command penetrated their lines, other reports to the contrary notwithstanding. The writer has said thus much that these brave men and their accomplished commander may receive their merited reward in the thanks of a grateful people without disparaging the claims of any other portion of the grand army. He was not connected with the 17th at either battle spoken of, and claims no share in the honors won by it. What he has said has been actuated by a sense of justice to a regiment whose merits it seemed to him had been wholly overlooked."


 

Derrick Lindow is an author, historian, teacher, and creator of the WTCW site. His first book, published by Savas Beatie, will be released in Spring 2023. Go HERE to read more posts by Derrick and HERE to visit his personal page. Follow Derrick on different social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter) to get more Western Theater and Kentucky Civil War Content.

221 views3 comments

3件のコメント


Gregory Schuller
Gregory Schuller
2021年11月20日

Excellent! I had a co-lateral ancestor with the 17th at Shiloh. His brother, my g-g- grandfather William Lee, was also at Shiloh, but with the Confederate 9th (formerly 5th) Kentucky Infantry of the Orphan Brigade. Family lore says they never met in battle, but apparently the 5th (?) swept through the abandoned camp of the 17th at Shiloh. I would also be interested in any articles you many run across concerning his regiment as well.

いいね!
Derrick Lindow
Derrick Lindow
2021年11月20日
返信先

That is a great family story! Where are your Lee ancestors from in Kentucky? I had two Lee’s in the 26th Kentucky (Daviess County) who were both killed at Shiloh on the second day. As for the 5th(9th), they most likely did go through that camp. They were posted for a short time near the Indian Mounds on the night of the 6th, and probably took the road that goes through the 17th’s camp. I’d love to find more on them, so I will definitely be searching!

いいね!

thechattanoogarebel
thechattanoogarebel
2021年11月06日

Superb read!!

いいね!
bottom of page