College of Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)
Robert L. Glaze
Civil War, Ohio, Shiloh, Fifty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Civil War Honor, William Tecumseh Sherman, Military History
Williams, Jared Daniel, "Fog of War; Cloud of Memory: The Fifty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Shiloh's Story" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4093.
The Fifty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry was created on September 6, 1861. Men throughout the southern counties of Ohio flocked to Jackson, Ohio to join the new regiment. Poor leadership, supply issues, and inexperience immediately plagued the Fifty-Third Ohio. The Ohioans first experienced enemy fire on the morning of April 6, 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh. Throughout the war, the Fifty-Third Ohio fought at many battles including Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. More than any other conflict, the regiment’s first combat experience remained linked to its reputation and honor. During the opening fight at Shiloh, the regiment was ordered to retreat by its commanding officer, Colonel J.J. Appler. However, two companies remained on the line and order was restored to the majority of the regiment through the efforts of Ephraim C. Dawes, James Percy, Wells S. Jones, and others. Even though the regiment remained heavily engaged in the fight, and continued to engage the enemy the following day, it was publicly berated for cowardice by its division commander, General William Tecumseh Sherman. Union leadership’s desire to clear themselves from the accusation of surprise at Shiloh created scapegoats out of regiments like the Fifty-Third Ohio. Due in large part to the concepts of honor and manhood during the Civil War Era, the men of the regiment sought to clear their individual honor and collective reputation from the perceived stain of Shiloh. Newspapers and Union leadership initially derided the regiment for Shiloh. Even after the blame for the early withdraw was attached directly to Appler, the Fifty-Third Ohio was not entirely free from the accusations and innuendos of Shiloh. The regiment’s successful service later in the war was unjustly tainted by the lingering perceptions of its first combat experience at Shiloh. Unfortunately, the reputation of the Fifty-Third Ohio remained frozen in negativity due to the lack of major scholarly interpretations on Shiloh during the first half of the Twentieth Century.