Brigadier and Ann Wallace By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
January 4, 2013
Shiloh has always held its’ place as one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles. One of the key points defended viciously by the north was called The Hornets’ Nest. On April 6, 1862 concentrated artillery and hand to hand fighting killed several hundred rapidly as troops from Iowa, Illinois and Ohio held off repeated attacks by troops from Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Union troops finally surrendered, but too late in the day for the Confederates to exploit the advantage and reinforcements that arrived overnight helped retake the ground that had been lost the previous day. One of the Union commanders at the Hornets’ Nest was William H. Wallace, a lawyer from Ottawa, Illinois. He had distinguished himself at the Donnellson battle seven weeks before Shiloh, and was promoted to brigadier general, and as such commanded one of the five divisions at Shiloh. After hours of fighting, he ordered his men to withdraw, but Wallace was shot in the eye as his staff were driven off, forced to leave him. Kindly Confederates covered him with a blanket against the overnight rain, and surprisingly, he was still alive in the morning. Coincidently Ann Wallace, his wife, had arrived to visit her husband. When she got word that her husband had been critically wounded and left for dead in enemy territory on the Shiloh battlefield, she wrote “the blow was too heavy to cause pain, suffering comes hours afterward”. She’d arrived expecting to surprise him, and instead spent a night fighting despair by tending the wounded. The next day she got another shock. Federal troops recovering lost ground found her husband wrapped in a blanket, weak but still alive. His staff rushed him aboard a steamboat where she joined him. She was able to take great comfort in the fact that he recognized her voice, and clasped her hand. She rejoiced that he knew her. He was taken to General Grant’s headquarters, and Ann kept vigil at his bedside. Despite his strong pulse, his wound proved untreatable and became infected. He died on April 10, “like a fire going out”. The general was buried at home in Illinois. Ann Wallace arranged for a photograph to be taken honoring him and was placed at the door of his home, his portrait in uniform, his horse, and the flag for which he died in the battle of Shiloh.
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