On May 9th, 1862, the 15th Tennessee under infamous General Albert Sydney Johnson arrived in Corinth, Mississippi, along with the entire Confederate force totaling 40,335 men. (Gleeson p.42-43) From Mississippi Gen. Johnson planned an attack on the Union force in Tennessee by sneaking his men northward. On April 6th, 1862, the Southern Illinois Company were part of a successful surprise attack on Grant’s union force at Shiloh. Company G of the 15th Tennessee were on the extreme left flank of Johnson’s army, near the Shiloh Church. Across from them was Gen. Sherman’s prestige brigade made up of the 1st Illinois Light Artillery Regiment, along with the 17th, 72nd, and 48th Ohio infantry.
Unfortunately for the Southern Illinois Company by mid-morning the Union troops were already in place, as the Confederates had moved too slow to take advantage of their initial ambush. As the attack on the Union lines started Gen. Albert Sydney Johnson noted, “In the position taken by the left wing the Fifteenth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers occupied the ground in front, and the Second Regiment Tennessee Volunteers was posted in the rear of Polk’s battery. The Fifteenth than advanced some 200 yards under heavy fire.” (Gleeson p.49) For twelve minutes the 15th Tennessee attacked Sherman’s position taking an incredible amount of punishment. In fact, the fighting was so deadly that both Col. Tyler, and Marshall Polk were shot down in the fighting, leaving Marion’s own Thorndike Brooks in charge of the Confederate regiment at Shiloh. It is during this moment at Shiloh that the 15th Tennessee, specifically Company G, achieved their wartime glory.
Brooks was ordered to retreat, yet attempted to save Polk’s cannons. Under extremely heavy fire Brooks managed to keep the regiment organized while retreating, saving 4 out of the 6 cannons. (Gleeson p.53) It was here that secessionist Frank Metcalf from Carbondale, showed his bravery by retrieving the colors after the flag bearer was shot dead. At the end of the battle boys from Southern Illinois had achieved a small victory, but at a great cost. Eight men from Southern Illinois were killed in the fighting, and 20 out of 37 men from Company G were lost from injury, desertion, capture, or death. As a whole the Confederacy lost 10,694 men, the Union 13,047. The 15th Tennessee lost 189, and were put in reserves for the rest of the fighting.
After the battle, Thorndike Brooks was promoted to Lt. Colonel and placed in charge of the entire 15th Tennessee, making him, “the only Illinois resident to ever command a Confederate regiment.” (Gleeson p.56) Hibert Cunningham became the new Company captain. As for the other Southern Illinois residents, Henry C. Hopper, the man who had initially called for Little Egypt secession, took a sick leave and never returned. Harvey Hays’s time in the Confederate army was also short lived as he was too drunk to fight at Shiloh, and after a series of fist fights was paid to leave the Confederate army. By the end of 1862 only 5 men of the original 34 from Little Egypt to depart for the Confederacy reenlisted. (Gleeson p.50-59)