[pg. 7] WILLIAM BEST HESSELTINE *** The death at Madison, Wisconsin, December 8, 1963, of Professor William Best Hesseltine means a loss to the historical profession of a devoted friend, a stimulating teacher, and a distinguished scholar. Born at Brucetown, Virginia, February 21, 1902, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Washington and Lee University (1922) and his Master’s degree from the University of Virginia (1925). He taught at University Military School in Alabama (1922-23) and at Scarritt-Morrisville College (1923-24). His doctoral studies were pursued at the Ohio State University, where he served as assistant in history (1926-28) and where he took his degree under the direction of Professor Arthur C. Cole (1926). His dissertation was later published as Civil War Prisons, a Study in War Psychology (Columbus, Ohio, 1920). He served as professor at the University of Chattanooga (1928-32). He then joined the history department of the University of Wisconsin, where he became the first occupant of the Vilas Research Chair of History in 1961. He was a professor at the United States Army University in England (1945); lectured for the United States Department of State in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala (1947); gave the Fleming Lectures at the pg. 8] Louisiana State University (1949); and lectured at German universities (1955) and in South Asia (1959). He was a consultant for various scholarly reference works and received honorary degrees from Washington and Lee University and from Knox College. He had served as a member of the Board of Editors of the Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1941-44). He was president of the Southern Historical Association in 1960. He was the author of: A History of the South, 1607-1936 (New York, 1936) later revised (with David L. Smiley) and published as The South in American History (1960); Ulysses S. Grant: Politician (New York, 1935); The Rise and Fall of Third Parties (Washington, 1948); Lincoln and the War Governors (New York, 1948); Confederate Leaders in the New South (Baton Rouge, 1950); Pioneer’s Mission: The Story of Lyman Copeland Draper (Madison, 1945); The Blue and Gray on the Nile, with Hazel C. Wolf (Chicago, 1961). He also edited several other volumes.
His scholarly reviews were often incisive and challenging. His seminars were noted for the exacting standards which he imposed. His loyal concern for his students became legendary throughout the profession. His scholarship was in keeping with the best academic traditions. As a person he was a genial friend, an enemy of sham, and a leader of intelligence and dedication. The Ulysses S. Grant Association deeply mourns his loss as a member of its editorial board.
Ohio State University.
GRANT AT SHILOH *** In the first year of publication of the Confederate Veteran, the widow of William S. Hillyer, impressed [pg. 9] by the tone of reconciliation in the magazine, contributed a letter written by her husband four days after the battle of Shiloh. Hillyer was a Kentuckian who took up the practice of law in Indiana. After serving one term in the Indiana legislature, he moved to St. Louis and devoted himself to law. His offices were close to those of Grant and Boggs, real-estate agents. After the unprofitable years at Hardscrabble, Grant had gone into business with a cousin of his wife, Harry Boggs, only to discover that there was insufficient business to support two families. In the course of learning this, he found much time on his hands, which he passed agreeably in Hillyer’s law office. In August, 1861 Brigadier General Grant appointed Hillyer to serve as aid-de-camp. Hillyer accompanied Grant through his campaigns until his resignation on May 15, 1863.
On the morning of April 6, 1662, Hillyer arrived at Grant’s headquarters in the Cherry Mansion at Savannah, Tennessee at the awkward hour of 4:30 in the morning. His arrival awakened John A. Rawlins, Grant’s adjutant, who remained up to talk with Hillyer. Perhaps they awakened Grant, usually a late steeper, for they were all at an early breakfast when they heard the sound of firing from Pittsburg Landing some miles away. Grant was separated from his army because he was expecting to confer with General Don Carlos Buell, bringing his army to join Grant’s in a drive into Mississippi.
Hillyer’s letter is here reprinted as it appeared in the Confederate Veteran in October, 1893. The omissions occurred in the original printing. We are indebted to Ray D. Smith of Chicago for a valuable analytical index to Grant in the Confederate Veteran which led to this letter. It is dated [pg. 10] “Pittsburg, April 11 1862. On the Battlefield.”
The excitement of the great battle is in a manner subsiding, and my thoughts are constantly reverting to the place where my heart and home are. As I stated to you before, I arrived at Savannah early Sunday morning–about half past four o’clock. While we were at breakfast, about seven o’clock, a gentleman reported that heavy cannonading was heard in the direction of Pittsburg, which is about nine miles from Savannah. The General and staff hurried down to our dispatch boat, the “Tigress.” and started up the river. When about half way we met a boat coming down and received from her a dispatch stating that the enemy had attacked our center and right at daylight, driven our center back and a heavy fight was raging.
We arrived at Pittsburg about half past eight o’clock got on our horses and galloped out to the battle-field. Arrived there we found the enemy had attacked and were engaging our right and center in overwhelming force and our troops were falling back. We met hundreds of cowardly renegades fleeing to the river and reporting their regiments cut to pieces. We tried in vain to rally and return them to the front. We rode on to the center, ordering all the reinforcements we could command, and soon I found myself in the midst of a shower of cannon and musket balls. Cool and undismayed as ever, the General issued his orders and sent his aides flying over the field. While executing an order a cannon ball passed within two feet of my horse’s head, and a cavalry captain near by called out to me, “Did it hit you, Captain?”
Soon after there was a lull in the center, and the heaviest firing was on our right. We galloped over there and rode along the line when the battle was raging fiercely. At this time our forces had been driven back about a mile and the enemy had taken a large portion of our division (General Prentiss’) prisoners. Suddenly there was a lull on the right as welt as the center, and most of us thought that the enemy were worsted and retiring. “Not so,” General Grant said. “I don’t like this quiet. I fear the enemy are concentrating on our left” (where we were weakest). “Captain Hillyer, ride over and order a company of cavalry to make a reconnoisance on the left.” “Yes, sir; where shall I find you on my return?” said I. “Wherever you hear the heaviest firing.,” was the consoling reply. And, when I had executed the order, the only guide I had back to the General was the heaviest musketry and cannonading. In the meantime he had ordered reinforcements to the left, and his apprehensions were well founded. But a few minutes had elapsed when the enemy attacked us with desperate courage on our left. One continuous roar of artillery, varied only by the [pg. 11] unceasing rattle of musketry, was heard, and Death, with fifty thousand mowers, stalked over the field. Oh! it was an awful day. From then till dark apprehension of defeat, knowledge of the terrible slaughter and shadows of the direful consequences of defeat filled our hearts with sorrowful foreboding, but General Grant was still as calm and confident as ever. “We’ll whip them yet” was his reply to the announcement that our troops were falling back, and his confidence inspired all his command.
Gen. Lew Wallace’s division, which was at Crump’s Landing, on the river, between Pittsburg and Savannah, a force ten thousand strong, were ordered to move Up to Pittsburg about eleven o’clock. They were but four miles distant, and should have been there by noon. Every moment we expected to hear from them, but by some unpardonable delay they came not. We assured the left that Wallace should soon be up to reinforce them, and, thus encouraged. our forces stood their ground against desperate odds. But the field was being strewn with our killed and wounded, and the battle raged hotter and hotter.
About two o’clock General Buell arrived. One of his divisions (General Nelson’s) was marching and would soon arrive opposite Pittsburg, where boats waited to carry them over. In answer to General Grant’s inquiry as to his other forces, Buell informed him that General. Crittenden’s command had been halted two miles from Savannah to await further orders. General Grant immediately ordered me to proceed to Savannah with sufficient boats and order Crittenden to move immediately to the river with his men and embark for Pittsburg, leaving his transportation and baggage behind.
I got to Savannah about half past three, rode out to Crittenden’s camp and gave the order, which he received with the utmost enthusiasm for there he was, within hearing of the battle, and without permission to advance. I asked him where was McCook’s division. He said just behind him, and Wood’s just behind McCook’s. What should I do? I had no order’s except for Crittenden, but we needed all the reinforcements we could get. I quickly determined to assume the responsibility. I sat down and wrote an order in General Grant’s name and dispatched a courier, ordering General McCook to leave his transportation and move his available force immediately to the river to General Wood, and followed it with an order to General Thomas, who was a few miles behind Wood. I returned to Savannah; there, I remembered, we had three regiments. I thought they were not needed there. I again assumed responsibility and ordered two of the regiments to embark for Pittsburg. I made all the arrangements for transportation and returned to report to General Grant. By this time it [pg. 12] was night. I found the General and the rest of his staff stretched on the ground, without a tent or any protection, and the rain pouring down!
I reported to the General what I had done; he said I had done exactly right. In consequence of my assumption of responsibility we had, in addition to Crittenden’s and Nelson’s commands, the whole of McCook’s and a part of Wood’s division, together with two regiments from Savannah, in the fight the next day, and we needed them all!
Sunday evening the enemy had pushed our lines back until their batteries almost commanded our transports; a little further and they would have made it impossible to land our reinforcements. But, fortunately, they got within range of our two gunboats, which were lying anchored in the river, and which opened upon them with a perfect shower of shells. Night never was more welcome to any poor mortals than that night to our little army at Pittsburg. I say “little army” because our force at Pittsburg at this time did not exceed forty thousand men…. Wallace’s division had not arrived, nor any of Buell’s command. Notwithstanding this disparity, we labored under another serious disadvantage; the enemy, being the attacking party, could concentrate their whole force at any point, while we were compelled to maintain our lines on the right, left and center, not knowing what moment the enemy might shift their position under cover of the woods.
Before morning we had received twenty-five thousand reinforcements, and before Monday’s battle was over ten thousand more.
Sunday night General Grant ordered that at the break of day our forces should advance on the right, left and center, attacking the enemy all around the lines wherever he could be found.
The first dawn of morning lighted our men onward toward the foe. In a few moments our whole line was engaged, and the battle raged with even more severity than on Sunday. The enemy were moving forward with the confidence inspired by their partial success on the preceding day; our’s with the confidence inspired by the knowledge that we had been reinforced. I have not time to describe this day’s action. It was the most terrible conflict I have ever witnessed. Our line of battle engaged at one time could not have been less than five or six miles, and wherever the battle raged hottest General Grant could be seen with his staff. At one time the rebels evidently distinguished him as a commanding general, for they opened a battery which filled the air around us with bursting shells and solid shot, and, as we advanced along the line, they followed us for a quarter of a mile. [pg. 13] Fortunely, the range was a little too high, and the ricochet passed beyond us. One ball, passed under the General’s horse. I rode over the battle-field after the battle. Our men were busy burying the dead. The scene was horrible. Hundreds and hundreds of dead bodies strewed the ground. For miles and miles, wherever we rode, we found dead bodies scattered through the woods in every direction.
Oh! there will be many desolate homes and comfortless hearts as the details of this battle are known through the country. Many a mourning Rachel will find little consolation in the victory which finally crowned our arms. But future ages will, look with admiration on the desperate valor of our troops and bless the memory of the dead who felt at Pittsburg fighting for the maintenance of our good government. You and I cannot be too grateful to the kind Providence who has preserved your husband and our children’s father through these two terrible days.
I have seen enough of war. God grant that it may be speedily terminated. I cannot retire now till we have driven the enemy from Corinth. When that is done I think I wilt leave it to others to finish up this rebellion, which I look upon as already mortally wounded…..
Kiss my little darlings for papa. Tell them that papa’s thoughts often went after them, even during the excitement of the battle-field, and nothing but a sense of duty reconciled him to the risking of his life.
Good bye. God bless you.
W. S. Hillyer.
GRANT BIBLIOGRAPHY *** Since it will be necessary to go through all printed material dealing with Grant in order to prepare an edition of his collected writings, the Grant Association has recently begun to collect bibliographical descriptions of the literature which will lead eventually to a comprehensive annotated Grant bibliography. John Y. Simon is working on this project with Harold S. Kipp, a bibliographer for the Ohio State University Libraries and [pg. 14] John F. Kendall of Oakland, California, who has an extensive private collection of printed Grant material. The compilers expect to gather comprehensively, including descriptions of items in journals, magazines, newspapers. etc. How much can be included in a printed bibliography remains to be decided, but at least the information can be made available in a master file. In addition to providing a useful guide for researchers, the Grant bibliography will provide raw material for an understanding of the development of the conventional Grant image against the background of shifting patterns of historical interpretation. Readers of this Newsletter in a position to assist with the bibliography are hereby exhorted to do so.
NEWS NOTES *** The Grant cottage at Long Branch, New Jersey was recently demolished despite efforts to preserve the historic structure where President Grant spent his summers with Philadelphia friends. Edgar Dinkelspiel, President of the Long Branch Historical Society, attempted unsuccessfully to have the federal government preserve the building as a national shrine. Now he is raising money to mark the site. *** Bookseller John C. Daub of Pittsburgh headed a recent catalogue with a notation that the law of supply and demand had increased his price for the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant. His new price for a set of the original edition “good average used, not too bad, not pristine either,” is $9.95. *** The University of California at Los Angeles has announced the acquisition of the papers of Admiral Daniel Ammen. Son of the editor of the Georgetown, Ohio Castigator, Ammen was a boyhood friend of Ulysses Grant, and their friendship was revived during the Civil War.