After the defeats
at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson,
General Albert Sidney Johnston resolved to prevent further
encroachment by Union forces. Johnston’s strategy was to attack Union
forces assembled at Pittsburg Landing before they were
troops under Maj. General D.C. Buell. “Tonight, we shall water our
horses in the Tennessee”, Johnston proclaimed as he ordered the
The Battle of Shiloh was fought among blossoming trees, along
little-used country roads and trails by soldiers who had little or no
experience. Neither side was well prepared and units became
disoriented and lines crumpled due to the ferocity of the fighting and
April 6th, 1862 The First Day
Union Commanders Maj. Gen. U.S. Grant and Brig. Gen William T.
Sherman were surprised by the Confederate attack which
dawn in Fraley field. The fighting that followed would stretch along a
three mile front and climax later in the day at the ‘Hornet’s Nest’ which Grant ordered maintained at all cost. General Johnston was
wounded in a charge against the Union stronghold. Finally a volley of
Confederate cannon fire shattered the Union line and over 2,200
Federal troops were forced to surrender.
That night, General Grant, upon crutches with a severe ankle
injury, gave up his headquarters to the wounded and spent the night
under a tree while the rain fell in torrents upon the dead and dying
soldiers. Union gunboats kept up a thunderous cannonade much of the
night. It had been a terrible day for both sides but the Union’s
position seemed hopeless. Despite this bleak outlook, Grant remained
hopeful. Buell had arrived.
April 7th, 1862 The Second Day
Grant’s army, which had grown in number overnight, was now
Buell on the left and Wallace on the right and numbered
over 50,000. General P.G.T. Beauregard was now in command of
Confederate forces numbering about 30,000. After Confederate attacks
and Union counterattacks Beauregard realized he was outnumbered and
retreated south toward Corinth, MS.
Union forces pursued the retreating Confederate army and engaged
them at Fallen Timbers. There, Confederate Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest
commanded the retreating army’s rear guard. Forrest was critically
wounded during the engagement and the two armies finally disengaged.
The carnage and inconceivable losses were unprecedented and the
two-day confrontation appalled the nation. Shiloh was the bloodiest
affair the young nation had yet witnessed and resulted in over 3,400
dead and 16,000 wounded.
Shiloh is a Hebrew name which means Place of Peace.