After Shiloh the South would never smile again. Known originally as theBattle of Pittsburg Landing, The Battle of Shiloh was the bloodiest battlefought in North America up to that time. Pittsburg Landing was an area fromwhere the Yankees planned to attack the Confederates who had moved fromFort Donelson to Corinth, Mississippi. The North was commanded byGeneral Ulysses S. Grant and the South by General Albert Sydney Johnston. The Union army was taken by surprise the first day when the ConfederateArmy unexpectedly attacked, but after Union reinforcements arrived thefighting virtually ended in a tie.
Lasting for two days, April 6 and 7 of 1862,casualties for both sides exceeded 20,000. The Battle of Shiloh was amessage to both the North and South that the Civil War was for real. GeneralGrant was anxious to maintain the momentum of his victory at Fort Donelson. His army had moved up to a port on the Tennessee River called PittsburgLanding in preparation for an attack on Corinth, Mississippi, where theConfederate troops were located. General Halleck, Western U.
S. Armycommander, had ordered Grant to stay put and wait for reinforcements. Grant had given command of the Pittsburg Landing encampment to GeneralWilliam T. Sherman while he waited at his camp in Savannah, Tennessee. (1)At Corinth, Confederate Generals Albert Sydney Johnston and P.
G. T. Beauregard worked feverishly to ready the 40,000 plus troops there for anattack on the Union Army at Pittsburg Landing before U. S. Army GeneralBuell and reinforcements could arrive from Nashville. The officers appointedas corps commanders for the South were Major General John Breckinridge,Major General William J.
Hardee, Major General Braxton Bragg, and MajorGeneral Leonidas Polk. The South headed for Pittsburg Landing on April 4,1862 but because of several delays the attack was postponed until April 6. The Battle of Shiloh began early the morning of April 6. Johnstons men burstout of the woods so early that Union soldiers came out of their tents to fight. The Confederate army drove the Yankees back eight miles that day. Onearea that was especially troublesome for the South was nicknamed theHornets Nest and was commanded by Union General Prentiss.
The areawas a sunken road that Federal troops rallied behind and mowed down waveafter wave of Rebel attackers until General Prentiss finally surrendered. TheHornets Nest got its name from Southern soldiers who reported that thesound of bullets and mini-balls flying through the air sounded like hornets. Prentiss fought, as he states, until “half-past five P. M.
, when finding thatfurther resistance must result in the slaughter of every man in the command, I(2) had to yeild the fight. The enemy succeeded in capturing myself and twothousand two hundred rank and file, many of them being wounded” (TheRebellion Record, 1865 p 258). Prentiss was captured along with 2200Union troops. In an interview with General Beauregard after being captured,General Prentiss stated concerning the Union Army at Pittsburg “I am afraidthat all of our men will be taken” (New Orleans, Times-Picayune, 1862). When a bystander asked him about General Buell he stated “Buell is notcoming here, and if any forces are on the way they must be very small. Iknow nothing of them” (New Orleans, Times-Picayune, 1862).
Both sideshad suffered devastating losses and injuries. That evening soldiers from botharmies wash their wounds in a small lake. The pond took on a red tint fromthe troops blood loss. From then on, it was known as Bloody Pond.
TheSouth suffered a terrible loss at 2:30 in the afternoon of April 6, 1862. General Albert Sydney Johnston bled to death from a bullet wound to his leg. Beauregard sent a telegram to Jefferson Davis stating “Loss on both sidesheavy including our Commander in Chief, General A. S. Johnston (3) who fellgallantly leading his troops into the thickest of the fight” (The Papers ofJefferson Davis, 1995, p 131). In a letter written to General Earl Van Dornfrom Jefferson Davis, the president stated “The report that General A.
S. Johnston was killed sadly depresses me. Victory however great cannot cheerme in the face of such a loss. God grant it may not be true and he yet lives tosustain the cause for which he was willing to die” (The Papers of JeffersonDavis, 1995, p 135).
Jefferson Davis held Albert Sydney Johnston is suchhigh esteem that he was known to say he “would have gladly turned thepresidency over to him if he had had the power” and that he was “the onlyman he could lean on with entire confidence” (The Papers of Jefferson Davis,1995, p 132). Since the succession of the South and the beginning of theWar Between the States, both side were expecting one battle to decide thewar. Reports to newspapers from Shiloh suggested the enormity andimportance of the fight. “The great battle to which the whole nation has solong been looking forward, begun this morning and has resulted in a completevictory” (New Orleans, Times-Picayune, 1862).
This report was accurate asfar as the first days fight was concerned. General P. G. T. Beauregard wroteto C. F.
S. (4) President Jefferson Davis in agreement with the theTimes-Picayune reporting that “We this morning attacked the enemy in strongposition in front of Pittsburg & after a Severe battle of ten hours, thanks be tothe Almighty, gained a complete victory driving the enemy from everyposition” (The Papers of Jefferson Davis, 1995, p 131). Both points of viewshow an overwhelming victory for the South during the first days battle. Thesecond day at Shiloh was a different story. “As anticipated from intelligencereceived at a late hour Sunday night, the enemy received strongreinforcements in the morning and about 7 oclock renewed fighting” (NewOrleans, Times-Picayune, 1862).
The Confederates held their own untilreinforcements from General Buell reached Grant on the afternoon of April 7. “It was now, however, only about one oclockand Buells fresh mennumbering 30,000 in all were still coming in. Gen. Beauregard knew therewas a limit to human enduranceand after proper consideration, thought itwise to retire” (New Orleans, Times-Picayune, 1862).
The ConfederateArmy retreated to Corinth. The Union Army didnt follow them and was gladto see them go. (5) After the Battle of Shiloh both sides reported that the warwould be long and drawn out. When asked, after he was captured, if hethought Shiloh would lead to peace, General Prentiss stated “Never, till theUnion is restored. If we do not whip you with the men we have, we will bringmore (New Orleans, Times-Picayune, 1862). Though the price of battle atPittsburg Landing was high for both sides, it was only the beginning of thedestructiveness that lay ahead.
Bibliography WORKS CITED Primary Sources Crist, Lynda Lasswell 1995. The Papersof Jefferson Davis. Louisiana State University Press. Volume VIII.
Moore,Frank 1865. The Rebellion Record. Arno Press. Volume XXII. H.
P. SpecialCorrespondant, “The Battle of Shiloh. ” April 11, 1862. New Orleans TheTimes-Picayune. Volume XXVI Number 65.
Secondary SourcesMcDonough, J. L. 1934. Shiloh-In Hell Before Night.
3d ed. TennesseePress / Knoxville Mitchell, Joseph B. 1955. Decisive Battles of the CivilWar.
42-55. Putnam Press Nevin, David 1983. The Road to Shiloh.Time-Life