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|Photo of Battle of Shiloh & Battlefield
|Union Siege Guns on Grant's Last Line, National Park Service
The Battle of Shiloh produced (officially) 23,746 casualties out of 109,784 soldiers engaged. The first large scale
battle of the war, Shiloh's horrific casualty list took the North and South by surprise.
By mid-February 1862, United States forces had won decisive victories in the
West at Mill Springs, Kentucky, and Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. These successes opened the way for invasion up the Tennessee River
to sever Confederate rail communications along the important Memphis & Charleston and Mobile & Ohio railroads. Forced
to abandon Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, supreme Confederate commander in the West, moved to
protect his rail communications by concentrating his scattered forces around the small town of Corinth in northeast Mississippi—strategic
crossroads of the Memphis & Charleston and the Mobile & Ohio.
In March, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, commanding U.S. forces in the West,
advanced armies under Maj. Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Don Carlos Buell southward to sever the Southern railroads. Grant ascended
the Tennessee River by steamboat, disembarking his Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing, 22 miles northeast of Corinth.
There he established a base of operations on a plateau west of the river, with his forward camps posted two miles inland around
a log church called Shiloh Meeting House. Halleck had specifically instructed Grant not to engage the Confederates until he
had been reinforced by Buell's Army of the Ohio, then marching overland from Nashville. Once combined, the two armies would
advance on Corinth and permanently break western Confederate railroad communications.
General Johnston, aware of Federal designs on Corinth, planned to smash Grant's
army at Pittsburg Landing before Buell arrived. He placed his troops in motion on April 3, but heavy rain and difficulties
encountered by marching large columns of men, artillery, and heavy wagons over muddy roads, delayed the attack. By nightfall,
April 5, his Army of the Mississippi, nearly 44,000 men present for duty, was finally deployed for battle four miles southwest
of Pittsburg Landing.
At daybreak, Sunday, April 6, the Confederates stormed out of the woods and
assailed the forward Federal camps around Shiloh Church. Grant and his nearly 40,000 men present for duty were equally surprised
by the onslaught. The Federals soon rallied, however, and bitter fighting consumed “Shiloh Hill.” Throughout the
morning, Confederate brigades slowly gained ground, forcing Grant's troops to give way, grudgingly, to fight a succession
of defensive stands at Shiloh Church, the Peach Orchard, Water Oaks Pond, and within an impenetrable oak thicket battle survivors
named the Hornets' Nest.
Despite having achieved surprise, Johnston's troops soon became as disorganized
as the Federals. The Southern attack lost coordination as corps, divisions, and brigades became entangled. Then, at mid-afternoon,
as he supervised an assault on the Union left, Johnston was struck in the right leg by a stray bullet and bled to death, leaving
Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in command of the Confederate army. Grant's battered divisions retired to a strong position extending
west from Pittsburg Landing where massed artillery and rugged ravines protected their front and flanks. Fighting ended at
Overnight, reinforcements from Buell's army reached Pittsburg Landing. Beauregard,
unaware Buell had arrived, planned to finish the destruction of Grant the next day. At dawn, April 7, however, it was Grant
who attacked. Throughout the day, the combined Union armies, numbering over 54,500 men, hammered Beauregard's depleted ranks,
now mustering barely 34,000 troops. Despite mounting desperate counterattacks, the exhausted Confederates could not stem the
increasingly stronger Federal tide. Forced back to Shiloh Church, Beauregard skillfully withdrew his outnumbered command and
returned to Corinth. The battered Federals did not press the pursuit. The battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg Landing, was over.
It had cost both sides a combined total of 23,746 men killed, wounded, or missing—more casualties than America had suffered
in all previous wars—and ultimate control of Corinth’s railroad junction remained in doubt.
Halleck, recognizing Corinth’s military value, considered its capture
more important than the destruction of Confederate armies. Reinforced by another army under Gen. John Pope, he cautiously
advanced southward from Tennessee and, by late May, entrenched his three armies within cannon range of Confederate fortifications
defending the strategic crossroads. Despite being reinforced by Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s Trans-Mississippi Army, Beauregard
withdrew south to Tupelo, abandoning the most viable line of east-west rail communications in the western Confederacy.
Federal efforts to recover the Mississippi Valley stalled in the late summer
of 1862, and Confederate leaders launched counteroffensives in every theater. Armies led by Gens. Braxton Bragg and Edmund
Kirby Smith invaded Kentucky, while troops under Van Dorn boldly attacked the heavily fortified Union garrison at Corinth,
“linchpin” of Federal control in northern Mississippi. In one of the more bitterly contested battles of the war,
Van Dorn was decisively repulsed, following two days of carnage (October 3-4) that claimed nearly 7,000 more Confederate and
Although overshadowed by the failure of Robert E. Lee's Confederate invasion
in Maryland, Van Dorn's defeat, coupled with Bragg's retreat from Kentucky after the battle of Perryville (October 8), caused
discouragement in Richmond and relief in Washington. More significantly, Van Dorn's defeat at Corinth—the last Confederate
offensive in Mississippi—seriously weakened the only mobile Southern army defending the Mississippi Valley. This permitted
Ulysses S. Grant to launch a relentless nine-month campaign to capture “the fortress city” of Vicksburg and recover
the Mississippi River.
Source: Shiloh National Military Park
Reading: Shiloh: The Battle
That Changed the Civil War (Simon & Schuster).
From Publishers Weekly: The bloodbath at Shiloh, Tenn.
(April 6-7, 1862), brought an end to any remaining innocence in the Civil War. The combined 23,000 casualties that the two
armies inflicted on each other in two days shocked North and South alike. Ulysses S. Grant kept his head and managed, with
reinforcements, to win a hard-fought victory. Continued below…
general Albert Sidney Johnston was wounded and bled to death, leaving P.G.T. Beauregard to disengage and retreat with a dispirited
gray-clad army. Daniel (Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee) has crafted a superbly researched volume that will appeal to
both the beginning Civil War reader as well as those already familiar with the course of fighting in the wooded terrain bordering
the Tennessee River.
His impressive research includes the judicious use of contemporary newspapers and extensive collections of unpublished letters
and diaries. He offers a lengthy discussion of the overall strategic situation that preceded the battle, a survey of the generals
and their armies and, within the notes, sharp analyses of the many controversies that Shiloh
has spawned, including assessments of previous scholarship on the battle. This first new book on Shiloh
in a generation concludes with a cogent chapter on the consequences of those two fatal days of conflict.
Reading: Shiloh--In Hell before Night. Description: James McDonough has written a good, readable and concise history of
a battle that the author characterizes as one of the most important of the Civil War, and writes an interesting history of
this decisive 1862 confrontation in the West. He blends first person and newspaper accounts to give the book a good balance
between the general's view and the soldier's view of the battle. Continued below…
enlightening is his description of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander who was killed on the first day
of the battle. McDonough makes a pretty convincing argument that Johnston fell far short of the image that many give him
in contemporary and historical writings. He is usually portrayed as an experienced and decisive commander of men. This book
shows that Johnston was a man of modest war and command experience,
and that he rose to prominence shortly before the Civil War. His actions (or inaction) prior to the meeting at Shiloh -- offering
to let his subordinate Beauregard take command for example -- reveal a man who had difficulty managing the responsibility
fostered on him by his command. The author does a good job of presenting several other historical questions and problems like
Johnston's reputation vs. reality that really add a lot of
interest to the pages.
Reading: Seeing the Elephant: RAW RECRUITS AT THE BATTLE OF SHILOH. Description: One of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War, the
two-day engagement near Shiloh, Tennessee,
in April 1862 left more than 23,000 casualties. Fighting alongside seasoned veterans were more than 160 newly recruited regiments
and other soldiers who had yet to encounter serious action. In the phrase of the time, these men came to Shiloh
to "see the elephant". Continued below…
the letters, diaries, and other reminiscences of these raw recruits on both sides of the conflict, "Seeing the Elephant" gives
a vivid and valuable primary account of the terrible struggle. From the wide range of voices included in this volume emerges
a nuanced picture of the psychology and motivations of the novice soldiers and the ways in which their attitudes toward the
war were affected by their experiences at Shiloh.
Reading: Shiloh: A Novel, by Shelby Foote. Review: In the novel Shiloh, historian and Civil War expert Shelby
Foote delivers a spare, unflinching account of the battle of Shiloh, which was fought over
the course of two days in April 1862. By mirroring the troops' movements through the woods of Tennessee with the activity of each soldier's mind, Foote offers the reader a broad perspective
of the battle and a detailed view of the issues behind it. Continued below…
becomes tangible as Foote interweaves the observations of Union and Confederate officers, simple foot soldiers, brave men, and cowards and describes
the roar of the muskets and the haze of the gun smoke. The author's vivid storytelling creates a rich chronicle of a pivotal
battle in American history.
Reading: Shiloh and the Western Campaign
of 1862. Review: The bloody and decisive two-day
battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) changed the entire course of the American Civil War. The
stunning Northern victory thrust Union commander Ulysses S. Grant into the national spotlight, claimed the life of Confederate
commander Albert S. Johnston, and forever buried the notion that the Civil War would be a short conflict. The conflagration
at Shiloh had its roots in the strong Union advance during the winter of 1861-1862 that resulted in the capture of Forts Henry
and Donelson in Tennessee. Continued below…
collapsed General Albert S. Johnston advanced line in Kentucky and forced him to withdraw all the way to northern Mississippi. Anxious to attack the enemy, Johnston began
concentrating Southern forces at Corinth, a major railroad center just below the Tennessee border. His bold plan called for his Army of the Mississippi to march north and destroy General Grant's Army of the Tennessee
before it could link up with another Union army on the way to join him. On the morning of April 6, Johnston
boasted to his subordinates, "Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee!"
They nearly did so. Johnston's sweeping attack hit the unsuspecting Federal camps at Pittsburg
Landing and routed the enemy from position after position as they fell back toward the Tennessee River.
Johnston's sudden death in the Peach Orchard, however, coupled
with stubborn Federal resistance, widespread confusion, and Grant's dogged determination to hold the field, saved the Union
army from destruction. The arrival of General Don C. Buell's reinforcements that night turned the tide of battle. The next
day, Grant seized the initiative and attacked the Confederates, driving them from the field. Shiloh
was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, with nearly 24,000 men killed, wounded, and missing. Edward Cunningham,
a young Ph.D. candidate studying under the legendary T. Harry Williams at Louisiana
State University, researched and wrote Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 in 1966. Although it remained unpublished, many Shiloh
experts and park rangers consider it to be the best overall examination of the battle ever written. Indeed, Shiloh
historiography is just now catching up with Cunningham, who was decades ahead of modern scholarship. Western Civil War historians
Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith have resurrected Cunningham's beautifully written and deeply researched manuscript from
its undeserved obscurity. Fully edited and richly annotated with updated citations and observations, original maps, and a
complete order of battle and table of losses, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 will
be welcomed by everyone who enjoys battle history at its finest. Edward Cunningham, Ph.D., studied under T. Harry Williams
at Louisiana State
University. He was the author of The Port Hudson Campaign: 1862-1863
(LSU, 1963). Dr. Cunningham died in 1997. Gary D. Joiner, Ph.D. is the author of One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The
Red River Campaign of 1864, winner of the 2004 Albert Castel Award and the 2005 A. M. Pate, Jr., Award, and Through the Howling
Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West. He lives in Shreveport,
Louisiana. About the Author: Timothy B. Smith, Ph.D., is author of Champion Hill:
Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (winner of the 2004 Mississippi
Institute of Arts and Letters Non-fiction Award), The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield, and This Great
Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park. A former ranger at Shiloh,
Tim teaches history at the University of Tennessee.
Recommended Reading: The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged (Hardcover). Description: How can an essential "cornerstone of
Shiloh historiography" remain unavailable to the general public for so long? That's what
I kept thinking as I was reading this reprint of the 1913 edition of David W. Reed's “The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations
Engaged.” Reed, a veteran of the Battle of Shiloh and the first historian of the Shiloh National Military
Park, was tabbed to write the official history of the battle, and this
book was the result. Reed wrote a short, concise history of the fighting and included quite a bit of other valuable information
in the pages that followed. The large and impressive maps that accompanied the original text are here converted into digital
format and included in a CD located within a flap at the back of the book. Author and former Shiloh Park Ranger Timothy Smith
is responsible for bringing this important reference work back from obscurity. His introduction to the book also places it
in the proper historical framework. Continued below…
Reed's history of the campaign and battle covers only seventeen pages and is meant to be a brief history of the subject.
The detail is revealed in the rest of the book. And what detail there is! Reed's order of battle for Shiloh goes down to the regimental
and battery level. He includes the names of the leaders of each organization where known, including whether or not these men
were killed, wounded, captured, or suffered some other fate. In a touch not often seen in modern studies, the author also
states the original regiment of brigade commanders. In another nice piece of detail following the order of battle, staff officers
for each brigade and higher organization are listed. The book's main point and where it truly shines is in the section entitled
"Detailed Movements of Organizations". Reed follows each unit in their movements during the battle. Reading this section along
with referring to the computerized maps gives one a solid foundation for future study of Shiloh.
Forty-five pages cover the brigades of all three armies present at Shiloh.
Wargamers and buffs will love the "Abstract of Field Returns". This section lists Present for Duty, engaged, and casualties
for each regiment and battery in an easy to read table format. Grant's entire Army of the Tennessee has Present for Duty strengths. Buell's Army of the Ohio is also counted well. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi
is counted less accurately, usually only going down to brigade level and many times relying only on engaged strengths. That
said, buy this book if you are looking for a good reference work for help with your order of battle.
In what I believe is an unprecedented move in Civil War literature, the University
of Tennessee Press made the somewhat unusual decision to include Reed's
detailed maps of the campaign and battle in a CD which is included in a plastic sleeve inside the back cover of the book.
The cost of reproducing the large maps and including them as foldouts or in a pocket in the book must have been prohibitive,
necessitating this interesting use of a CD. The maps were simple to view and came in a PDF format. All you'll need is Adobe
Acrobat Reader, a free program, to view these. It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit. Maps are an
integral part of military history, and this solution is far better than deciding to include poor maps or no maps at all. The
Read Me file that came with the CD relays the following information:
The maps contained on this CD are scans of the original oversized maps printed in the 1913 edition of D. W. Reed's
The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged. The original maps, which were in a very large format and folded out of
the pages of this edition, are of varying sizes, up to 23 inches by 25 inches. They were originally created in 1901 by the
Shiloh National Military Park under the direction of its historian,
David W. Reed. They are the most accurate Shiloh battle maps in existence.
The maps on the CD are saved as PDF (Portable Document Format) files and can be read on any operating system (Windows,
Macintosh, Linux) by utilizing Adobe Acrobat Reader. Visit http://www.adobe.com to download Acrobat Reader if you do not have
it installed on your system.
Map 1. The Field of Operations from Which the Armies Were Concentrated at Shiloh,
March and April 1862
Map 2. The Territory between Corinth, Miss., and Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn., Showing Positions and Route of the Confederate
Army in Its Advance to Shiloh, April 3, 4, 5, & 6, 1862
Map 3. Positions on the First Day, April 6, 1862
Map 4. Positions on the Second Day, April 7, 1862
Complete captions appear on the maps.
Timothy Smith has done students of the Civil War an enormous favor by republishing this important early work on Shiloh. Relied on for generations by Park Rangers and other serious students of the battle, The Battle
of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged has been resurrected for a new generation of Civil War readers. This classic reference
work is an essential book for those interested in the Battle of Shiloh. Civil War buffs, wargamers, and those interested in
tactical minutiae will also find Reed's work to be a very good buy. Highly recommended.