Battle of Shiloh

Image above: Illustration of the woods on fire at the Battle of Shiloh, Day 1, April 6. From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, May 17, 1862. Right: Currier and Ives 1862 print of General Grant leading a charge in the 2nd day of the Battle of Shiloh. Both images courtesy Library of Congress.

Battle of Shiloh

Civil War Battle of Shiloh, Pittsburg Landing

When noted Civil War author, Jeff Shaara, was listing his favorite and most pristine Civil War sites in the USA during a talk one summer night in Gettysburg a few years ago, near the top of his list was the marvelous Tennessee location known by two names in Civil War circles, Shiloh and Pittsburg Landing. Although, to be honest, most folks think of Shiloh first today, whether that's because the name has been used in other settings or the lore around the battle seems better suited to that moniker, but in either case, the two day Battle of Shiloh became a rallying cry for all of the soldiers who fought so valiantly there on both sides of the Yankee and Rebel dividing line.

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Shiloh National Battlefield

Shiloh Battlefield Then

Shiloh may not be the most famous battle of the War of Rebellion, nor its most highly visited site, even if touted among its best, but for two days in April of 1862, it was the location in the western theatre of the war that sought to define the action in the second year of the war while other battles in the east, those of the Peninsula campaign and McClellan's attempt take Richmond, and later, the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, reigned attention from a public worried about the fall of the capital, Washington, D.C.

For those in the western section of the war, Ulysses S. Grant, still under the command of General Halleck, had seen victory at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson and was ordered to move down the Tennessee River toward the Confederate forces that had retreated to Cornith, Mississippi. Corinth is now part of Shiloh National Military Park. When the forty-two thousand men of Grant had reached Pittsburg Landing, he was met by forty thousand Confederate troops under the command of Johnston and Beaureguard. On April 6, the Confederate forces inflicted heavy losses on Grant's troops, although Grant managed to hold his position. When Buell reinforced Grant the next day, the Confederate Army moved back to Corinth, thirty miles south. With Halleck in command, the Union forces would eventually force Beauregard to leave Corinth by the end of May, giving the Union Army dominion over the Mississippi River from the north to Memphis. Losses during the Battle of Shiloh reached 23,746, with almost equal amounts for both Union and Confederate. Whether due to heavy losses sustained at Shiloh, or as part of the continuing struggle, the Confederacy would begin to draft soldiers for the first time on April 16, 1862.

Pittsburg Landing - The small town along the Tennessee River is still small today, and is known as Shiloh to many folks outside the region now due to the battle. The name Shiloh however refers to the name of a church on the battlefied, and not a specific location or stream, as many battles were known to southern forces. As you can imagine, when the armies of both the Union and Confederacy inundated the town for those two day in April 1862, it overwhelmed it. There were 109,784 soldiers involved in the battle. It was the largest battle in the Mississippi Valley campaign.

Image above: Shiloh Church on the National Battlefield. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Cannons on the field. Courtesy National Park Service.

Shiloh National Battlefield

Shiloh Battlefield Now

Shiloh National Military Park and Corinth - Today the Battle of Shiloh is commemorated on the National Military Park of the same name, established in 1894, with the recent addition of the Interpretive Center at Corinth, Mississippi to the parks confines and orientation. The new visitor center there is the stepping off points for the history of the Civil War in that area. Its an exciting time in Corinth as the National Park Service is involved in a full campaign to interpret and expand the Corinth unit with additional lands and interpretation.

Battle Anniversay Weekend - Each year, surrounding the anniversary dates of the battle, April 6 and 7, Shiloh National Military Park holds a special event with Civil War reenactors, living history displays, and special walks and talks about the battle and civilian life around Shiloh in 1862.

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Pittsburg Landing

Shiloh Battlefield

Things You Should Not Miss

1. Take the park auto tour. There are fourteen park tour sites, starting at the Shiloh Visitor Center. It can be followed along by an 86 minutes audio that can be purchased at the bookstore.

2. Whether you're at the Shiloh Visitor Center or the Corinth Visitor Center, take in the films, particularly the new film at Shiloh called Shiloh - Fiery Trail. Realistic potrayals of the men in battle and orientation to the site in this 2012 film.

Photo above: Pittsburg Landing at the Shiloh Battlefield. Courtesy National Park Service.

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