By Daniel Hubbard | August 10, 2009
I spend a lot of time contemplating what we can actually know about the lives of people from the past and how we can know. When trying to rebuild a person’s experiences, it is important to remember to wonder about the little places. Not just to wonder about them in the sense of realizing that they should be investigated but actually developing a sense of wonder.
Crump’s Landing isn’t a place that rings many bells with Americans. Change the name to nearby Pittsburg Landing and many more bells ring but still, I would think, a tiny minority would recognize the name. Change again to an alternative name for Pittsburg Landing, Shiloh, and another group will recognize the name and certainly suspect the reason that place came up.
In mid March of 1862 one of my ancestor’s units, the 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was briefly engaged in “operations about Crump’s Landing” according to the official history of the American Civil War. What story lies behind those four words? In mid March of 1862, two great armies were gathering, only semi known to each other- one in southern Tennessee and the other in northern Mississippi. Units were sent into the no man’s land between them to feel out the terrain, check on the enemy and conduct raids. In the early morning of March 13th the 68th Ohio, along with the rest of the 3rd division of the Army of the Tennessee were placed on transports and steamed upriver to Crump’s Landing in what was then empty territory between the armies. While the cavalry raced off to destroy a railroad trestle farther inland, the infantry moved out in a downpour to protect the cavalry’s movements. Fearful that somewhere nearby there was an enemy army, they were ordered to continuously change their lines and to keep extra fires lit to confuse any unfriendly eyes that might have been watching. After nervously waiting longer than expected for the cavalry’s return, the expedition was back on board its transports by evening.
Knowing that, I can at least try to feel the nervousness of those men who were well in front of their army, in unfamiliar, hostile territory, not knowing where the enemy might be or how many they might be but believing that they might be outnumbered and in serious need of getting away before disaster could strike. A much more interesting and informative tale than “operations about Crump’s Landing.”
Three weeks after this little raid, the armies, totaling 110,000 men, came together around Shiloh Church at Pittsburg Landing a few miles up the Tennessee River from Crump’s Landing. The Battle of Shiloh, the first great bloodbath of the American Civil War, claimed over 20,000 casualties in two days.