Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Battle of Shiloh

After spending Monday morning in Corinth, we drove north to Shiloh.  Based on the Civil War sites we've seen so far, Shiloh National Battlefield is on a whole different level.  The Park Service has gone to an incredible level to mark out exactly who (down to the division) was fighting where on what day, in what direction and against who.  For us, it was a little bit of informational overload.  I could see how someone who is really in to the Civil War, especially battlefield tactics could spend a few days on this site, particularly if you wanted to walk yourself step by step through the two days of action that occurred here.

Shiloh was fought over two days, April 6th and 7th of 1862.  This battle was of critical importance to the Union.  First, on a bigger scale, the war was not going well for the Union.  They were losing to General Lee in the east and were suffering other big loses in the west.  Secondly, Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman were in the process of establishing themselves as the guys to drive the Union to victory, failure here may have had broad reaching impact on their leadership of the Union armies in the west and their eventual rise to ultimate leadership of the entire Union forces.  Finally, the Union had a bigger plan in the west, namely driving south to Corinth to take control of the Confederate army's railway capability.  The Union had to have this win.

Day 1 was highly successful for the the Confederates. They had gotten a jump on Grant's forces when the Union inadvertently engaged with them.  The Union was supposed to wait for the arrival of General Don Carlos Buell and his men before attacking.  Instead the Union was engaged with less than their potential force.  By the end of day 1 Southern general Albert Johnston had driven the Union back in to the Tennessee River. 

Late in the day they captured Union General Benjamin Prentiss and his remaining men in an area known as the Hornet's Nest.  This area is large depression in the landscape where Confederate general Ruggles was able to concentrate a large number of guns and blast Prentiss and his men in to submission:

These pictures below show the line that the Union backed up to at the end of day 1.  You can see just how much work has gone in to replicating battle positions in this park:

For the Confederates, the successes of day 1 came at a large cost.  General Johnston had been hit by a bullet behind his knee.  The impact severed an artery and he bled to death.  The Confederates had just lost the man deemed by many to be their strongest general and their man responsible for the entire western part of the war. 

To make things worse, his replacement, General Beauregard preempted the start of day 2's fighting to send a telegram to Confederate President Jefferson Davis alerting him of the South's "Complete Victory".  Meanwhile, Union Generals Buell and Wallace's men had arrived.  The Union was able to use their new found man power to their advantage, routing the Confederates out of Shiloh and back to Corinth.  Apparently Beauregard was unaware of the first rule of software releases - never send out a proclamation of project success until at least a week or two after the go-live date.

What just a day earlier was so promising for the South, quickly became a giant loss in their efforts on the western front.

Here are a few more photos from Shiloh:

This is the Confederate monument:

This is a reproduction of the church that stood in Shiloh at the time of the battle.  Same spot and same design, just a newer building:

Finally, this is Bloody Pond.  A spot where Confederate and Union soldiers alike bathed wounds and got water during the battle:

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