I thought this Veteran’s Day that I would talk about an uncle of mine who was a soldier for the Union Army during the Civil War and died in 1862 at the age of 22, having had no chance to leave much of a legacy.
Clayton Webb Shaw’s short life consisted of: being born, which happened on the 8th of May, 1840 in Clermont County, Ohio, (he was the oldest son of John Shaw and Idea Webb); growing up; volunteering in 1861 in the 5th Ohio Cavalry O.V.C., Company M (as a musician); dying.
Reports of his death are a bit confusing.
The regiment that he joined was organized at Camp Dick Corwin, at the end of 1861, and the men who signed up were in for a three-year stint. The regiment was composed mostly of men from Hamilton and Clermont counties in Ohio.
On February 26, 1862, the 5th received orders to report to Brig.-Gen. W. T. Sherman in Paducah, Kentucky. So off they went.
On the night of March 15 the regiment dropped down to Pittsburg landing and the next evening an expedition, consisting of six squadrons of the regiment, was ordered in the direction of Corinth and when 5 miles from the landing, in front of Shiloh chapel, was suddenly fired upon by a considerable body of the enemy. A charge was immediately made, in which several prisoners were taken.
On April 4 the second battalion of the regiment had a sharp skirmish with Confederate cavalry, infantry and artillery at Crump’s landing, in which the battalion had 2 wounded, but brought in 14 prisoners.
At the battle of Shiloh the regiment was constantly under fire. Gen. Grant giving direct orders to it and assigning it various difficult and dangerous duties and positions in the field. The behavior of officers and men throughout their virgin battle was highly commended by both Gens. Grant and Sherman. The regiment advanced with the army in the slow “siege” of Corinth, and had its share of picket duty and other exposure.1
Here is a list of their battles, skirmishes, etc.:
March from Danville to Savannah, Tennessee, March 10-11, 1862.
Expedition to Mobile & Ohio Railroad to destroy bridges March 14-15.
Beach Creek Bridge, Tennessee, March 13.
Near Eastport, Mississippi, March 14.
Burnsville March 14-15.
Reach Pittsburg Landing March 15.
Skirmish Pittsburg Landing March 16.
Reconnoissance toward Corinth March 16.
Black Jack Forest March 16 (Detachment).
Near Shiloh Church March 24 (1st and 2nd Battalions).
Expedition to Chickasaw, Alabama, and Eastport, Mississippi, April 1.
Near Monterey, Tennessee, April 3.
Crump’s Landing April 4 (Detachment).
Battle of Shiloh April 6-7.
Corinth Road April 8.
Beech Creek Bridge April 13 (3rd Battalion).
Affair with Cavalry April 14.
Advance on and siege of Corinth, Mississippi, April 29-May 30.
So right away Clayton’s company was pretty much thrown into the blender. Okay, so far we can see Clayton’s company’s activities up to and beyond Shiloh. And then Clayton dies. This is where things get a bit confusing. According to the ‘Graves Registration Card’ found at ancestry.com, Clayton died at Shiloh, Tennessee, KIA on May 22, 1862.
But…the Battle of Shiloh occurred April 6-7. The Union Army was advancing to, and sieging at Corinth, Mississippi from April 29-May 30. So how did he die at Shiloh? Maybe he was in a picket type situation, or they were reconnoitering in the area and there was a skirmish he died in.
Here is the story as told by his brother James:
James F. Shaw ….son of John and Ida (Webb) Shaw…Five children were born to this union:…Clayton, enlisted at the beginning of the Civil war in the Fifth Ohio Cavalry and died at Pittsburg Landing soon after the battle…2
So according to his brother, Clayton died at Pittsburg Landing, which is also what the Battle of Shiloh is called, shortly after the battle. (You can see the landing on the map above.)
But then we get to his headstone, the one that was applied for that honors his service:
He volunteered in Co. M 5th
O.V.C. October 3, 1861
Was in the battle at
Sent home sick, arrived
May 9, died on 22, 1862
Aged 22 years 19 days3
His headstone states that he died at home due to illness. However, it doesn’t specifically state what kind of illness. Was he recovering from wounds received in battle? Did he catch one of the prevalent diseases that killed many his fellow soldiers? Regardless of what illness killed him, it looks like he was not actually killed in action, but died at home surrounded by his family–I guess if you have to go, it’s not as bad as dying in a muddy, bloody field of battle.
In the end, despite the confusion on the details of his final days, Private Clayton Webb Shaw died in service to his country. So I thank him, and am only sorry that he is one of many young men whose life was cut so brutally short by war.
Here is a slide show of three of the only decent images I could find online regarding Shiloh, or the 5th Ohio, (the company is unknown in that image though). Found these at the National Archives.
- From—5th Ohio Cavalry Soldier Roster – Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Volume 11, by Ohio Roster Commission (Joseph B. Foraker, Governor, James S. Robinson, Sec’y of State and H. A. Axline, Adjutant-General), 1886.