Not only did the abolitionist John
Brown, the “Meteor of the Civil War” as proffered by poet Walt
Whitman, live part of his life in the northeastern Ohio Village of
Hudson, but did another military leader of the Civil War actually
hail from Hudson - that being Andrew Hickenlooper, Captain of the
5th Independent Battery Ohio Light Artillery.
At the time of the war's outbreak,
Hickenlooper was working in Cincinnati, Ohio. The battery was
recruited in southwestern Ohio and organized by Hickenlooper at St.
Louis, Missouri in August, 1861. Over time, the battery was attached
to Brigadier General Prentiss’s 6th division which was part of then
Major General U.S. Grant's Union Army of the Tennessee at the Battle
of Shiloh, on April 6th &7th, 1862.
It was Hickenlooper's battery along
with another from Minnesota, that anchored the center of the Union
line at what became known as the “Hornet’s Nest”. Positioned on a
small knoll with good lines of site especially considering the
heavily wooded terrain of most of the battlefield, effective fire
from his battery arguably saved the line and perhaps the battle,
from an even worse disaster that befell the Union on the first of
two days of horrendous fighting.
There were many Ohio born soldiers
in General Grant’s army at the battle of Shiloh. Indeed, Grant was
joined late in the evening of the first day by Major General John
Carlos Buell’s “Union Army of the Ohio” which included numerous Ohio
infantry regiments. At Shiloh, Ohio Artillery batteries on the field
were Battery G, 1rst Ohio Light Artillery (OLA), 3rd OLA, 5th OLA,
8th OLA, 13th OLA and 14th OLA.
Hickenlooper’s 5th OLA battery
consisted of two smooth bore and four rifled 6 pound cannons. By the
time they took position on the Hornet’s Nest line by midday of the
first day of the battle, this was down to four guns, two of which
were placed slightly in front a nearby Iowa regiment.
As the confederates attempted to
capitalize on their stunning successes of the morning, their advance
by the afternoon on the sunken road that made the Hornet’s Nest
position so effective as a rallying point was in full swing.
Hickenlooper's battery was superbly positioned at a salient in the
line joining the divisions of Wallace and Hurlburt. Throughout the
assault on the Hornet's nest, multiple accounts, including his own,
describe the effectiveness of the 5th Ohio artillery in helping to
repulse the Confederate onrush. Hickenlooper wrote afterwards: "Soon
the shells gave warning, and the skirmish fire grew stronger and
deeper. Then came long triple lines of bristling steel whose
sternface bearers, protected and yet impeded by the heavy
undergrowth, came pressing on, until our cannon's loud acceptance of
their challenge and the infantry's crashing volleys caused the
assailants to hesitate, break in confusion and hastily retire".
Adroitly mixing shell, canister and double canister, Hickenlooper’s
battery laid down a debilitating fire on the advancing rebels
disrupting their valiant charges time after time on the Hornet's
Hickenlooper's 5th Ohio Battery
Gibson's Brigade at the Hornet's Nest
But by about 4:30 or 530 PM other
positions on the end of either flank of the Union line were giving
way and a general rout similar to that of the morning ensued.
Divisional commander Prentiss, wanting to at least save his
artillery from the chaotic scene, ordered Hickenlooper’s guns to the
rear. Controversially, Prentiss ended up surrendering the majority
of his remaining troops as the flanks had folded on either side. But
for Hickenlooper's Ohio artillery contribution to holding back the
butternut gray confederate tide, the Hornet’s Nest position might
have begun to collapse earlier depriving General Grant the time that
he needed to piece together a final defensive line at Dill Branch
creek to ultimately halt the Confederates prior to dusk.
In a famous nighttime exchange
between two other prominent Ohioans, then Brigadier General William
T. Sherman and Grant, Sherman mused "Well Grant, we've had the
devil's own day, haven't we?" Grant replied "Yes" puffing on his
glowing cigar in the darkness "Lick 'em tomorrow, though". With
Buell's fresh troops finally on hand that was exactly the result.
Before and after the war,
Hickenlooper was a noted Civil Engineer. After the war, returning to
Cincinnati, Hickenlooper was instrumental in the development and use
of modern street lighting. Later he served three years as Lieutenant
Governor of Ohio. A stone monument of a cannon with stacked
ammunition on the Shiloh Battlefield marks and memorializes the
position held by Hickenlooper's 5th Ohio Light Artillery on the
Hornet's Nest line.
Lastly, if the Hickenlooper name
sounds familiar to you for other reasons, it might be that you
visited Denver, Colorado and enjoyed a beer at the Wynkoop Brewing
Company, a brew pub co-founded in the late 1980's by Hickenlooper's
great-grandson, John W. Hickenlooper. Or, perhaps you recognize it
from an interest in government as John W. Hickenlooper was then also
later elected Mayor of Denver in 2003 and Governor of Colorado in
2010. He is now serving a second gubernatorial term.
Shiloh: Bloody April, 1974; W. Wiley Sword; reprinted 1983
Morningside House, Inc., Dayton, Ohio
Shiloh - In Hell Before Night, 1977; University of Tennessee
Press, Knoxville, TN.
Shiloh - Voices of the Civil War, 1996; Editors of the Time Life
Books; Alexandria, Virginia
Shiloh - A Battlefield Guide, 2006; Mark Grimsley and Steven E.
Woodworth; Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska
Shiloh and Corinth - Sentinels of Stone, 2007; Timothy T.
Isbell; University Press of Mississippi