The Battle of Shiloh was an extraordinary event in the civil war timeline and would be a great deal as to when the war was fought at its hardest. The sources that have been researched and collected will help one better understand this battle and many other facts that have yet to be discovered. The Battle of Shiloh is not the most well known battle during the Civil war, but it gives the reader an idea on how gruesome the fighting was during this time. This battle is viewed as a turning point for the Union and the continuing losses for the Confederate army as they try to gain back territory. Officers of each side had separate plans, where the Union needed to take the Memphis and Charleston Railroads, and the Confederates just wanted to stop the Union troops from advancing further south(CWPT).
The Union was commanded by Ulysses S. Grant and Don Carlos Buell. Grants six divisions of troops were led by Major General John A. McClernand and Lew Wallace, Brigadier General W.H.L. Wallace, Stephen A. Hurlbut, William T. Sherman, and Benjamin M. Prentiss. The whole point into going to Shiloh was to meet up with the other commander Don Carlos Buell and his men, then going to overtake the Memphis and Charleston Railroads (CWPT).
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Buellï¿½s army was led by Brigadier General Alexander M. McCook, William "Bull" Nelson, Thomas L. Crittenden, and Thomas J. Wood. These men led over 17,000 troops toward Shiloh and had every intention to kill as many confederate troops as possible in order to take their objective.
The Confederates States of America was commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston and Pierre Gustave Toutant (P.G.T.) Beauregard. Johnston assembled and commanded the Army of Mississippi; their objective was to stop the north from pushing back the Confederates into Mississippi and gaining control over the Memphis and Charleston Railroads (EWTH).
Union troops that were with Grant camped around the north of Shiloh for about a month waiting for Buellï¿½s men to arrive to march southward, little did they know that a serious attack was about to unravel on Grants campsite. The Confederates had horrible weapons; some were just sharp wooden sticks not even capable of maneuverability, but many had rifles, shotguns and cannons at the ready. The troops for Johnstonï¿½s army were not battle hardened and gave way to warfare fatigue (Arnold 15-16).
Many of the Union troops were already at battle and had combat experience. They knew their ways around battlefields and how to take over a position. Most have already had training at Fort Donelson and were battle ready (EWTH).
Johnston was anxious to attack the Union forces, he was ready to go on April 4th, but Johnston was hesitant because he thought he had lost the element of surprise. On the morning of April 6, Johnston's force surprised Grant in an attack that slowly pushed the Union troops back from the high ground they occupied towards the Tennessee River. Fighting was fierce (EWTH). The Union forces were not ready; they had no guards to stand watch over the camp so they had no early warning. Johnston was successful on his surprise attack. The night before, Grant had telegraphed a message to Halleck (Higher ranking officer) that he suspected of a surprise attack but did not know from where (Lee McDonough 55).
The surprise attack was successful and pushed the Union forces back towards the Tennessee River (EWTH). As the Confederate forces advanced, Union Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss led and commanded the retreating Union forces to a sunken road, otherwise called the ï¿½Hornets Nestï¿½ (CWPT). The Confederates tried and tried to overtake this ï¿½Nestï¿½ but failed numerous times; until the Union surrendered. The Confederates killed, wounded, or captured Union troops that gave up (CWPT). The reasons the Union forces had to give up is to buy time for Buellï¿½s reinforcements to arrive, they ran out of ammunition supplies, and they suffered heavy casualties ("New York Times (1857-Current file)" 1-2).
One major casualty of the day was General Johnston; he was shot and killed while leading his Confederate troops towards the frontlines. This affected the moral support for the Confederates and gave the Union a big advantage (EWTH). This gave General P.G.T. Beauregard full command of the Confederates. With the constant fighting and shelling of each side, the Confederates thought they had won the battle, but are far from the truth. The Union fighters didnï¿½t give up hope as Buellï¿½s men had arrived on the scene (Arnold 62).
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On April 7, both sides had to take a break and to rest to fight again. Shiloh has been the battle that is by far the bloodiest battle America has seen (Arnold 35). The fresh Union troops started to assemble a line covering Pittsburg landing (CWPT). Grant ordered an attack against the already tired and exhausted Confederate troops, with the 22,500 Union troops, they were sure the Confederates would go back to their holes.
Fighting continued through the morning and both sides suffered even more numerous deaths. With muskets firing at one another, soldiers screaming in pain, the bodies were sure to pile up and they would litter the battlefield. General Ulysses S. Grant described what it was like on the battlefield, "it would have been possible to walk across the clearing in any direction stepping on dead bodies without a foot touching the ground." (EWTH).
Within a few hours of constant firing of muskets and cannons, Beauregard finally retires from the battlefield. He is overwhelmed with the attacks and cannot take anymore (CWPT). Beauregard had retreated to the Shiloh church, but only to be followed by Union troops and forced even further back. He had to take Corinth Road in order to retreat from the constant fire from the Union troops ("New York Times (1857-Current file)" 1-2). From the actions that Buell took for the past two days, it appeared that he had everything under control (Lee McDonough 68).
April 8th finished off the Confederate army and sent Beauregard into Mississippi, but one thing that delayed the Union victory was the lack of cavalry the Union troops needed to force off the Confederates (Arnold 75). Buell found out that one of his divisions had two battalions of cavalry and he used them to chase the Confederates into Corinth. Only to find out that the Confederates had set up a field hospital, along with camps, and 300 troops at the ready. The camp was covered with fallen trees and vegetation (CWPT).
Grant knew this was going to be a challenge for his men, but he just kept them in a battle stance and formation line. This would surly keep the Confederates scared. Grant ordered his men to fight in the wild, and to win at all costs (Lee McDonough 73-74). The Confederates were not hesitant to fight, but once the Union troops formed in a line of battle, the Confederates got scared off. Colonel Forrest was far from his men and moved closer to the Union troops, and of course the troops would take advantage of this and try to kill him. He was shot and stabbed, yet he lived and he took off running with the Confederates. This was another one of Grants victories against the Confederates (CWPT).
The battle of Shiloh will be the turning point in the Civil War, due to the unskillful tactics by the south and the masterminds of battles from the north. As the Confederacy tried to change tactics, the Union was one step ahead of them and came out on top (Arnold 80). Some of the strategies the Union commanders used were very ineffective, this hurt Grants reputation as a General. The Battle of Shiloh would go down in history as the Confederacyï¿½s underdog scheme, as they tried to bounce back from numerous defeats but failed in the process.
The total loss these two sides had were phenomenal, over 23,000 lives were lost when this battle took place (Arnold 84). The north and south both will continue to fight for their beliefs, and if that included killing young men, then so be it. The surprise attack that Johnston had planned worked out about half way but then quickly backfired. He didnï¿½t think about the counter-offense and was caught blind by Buellï¿½s infantrymen and cavalry. If he would have thought harder and planned just a little longer more and not be so anxious to attack, he could have lived to see the Confederacy win the battle.
I believe that Grant was the underdog in this great battle and if it werenï¿½t for Buell, Grants men would have surly died on that battlefield that day. The outcome was not in the favor of the Union; Grant had no clue as to what was going to happen on that April morning. Sure it was planned for Grant and Buell, but they thought they were attacking the Confederate forces not defending.
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Johnston would have been infamous if he had pulled off this great surprise attack, as he was out numbered buy the powerful forces under Grant. If only he had updated guns and better trained infantrymen, the battle could have been done in less than a day. I think that catching the Union troops off guard was the key to how long this battle lasted. Beauregard was not ready for this installment in his military career, but then again, no one thought Johnston was going to go out fighting.
After the battle had taken place and everyone had settled back, Confederacy forces claimed to have won the Battle of Shiloh. This was not the case and this only made matters worse when having to deal with Union forces (Arnold 82). Also Union Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss is claimed to be the person who warned of a surprise attack, but historians know that wasnï¿½t totally true. No records have shown that Prentiss sent any reconnaissance or even had a guard who stood look out (CWPT).
The ending of this battle is tragic and enlightening as well, the great idea of sneak attacks at dawn by the Confederates and the righteous timings of reinforcement by the Union, brought this story to my attention. Gathering this information brought me believe that this is a movie, a novel, but this was actual real life. Losing lives in a battle like this one bring only one thing to mind, that each side was fierce on fighting for what they believe in. No other battles before this have had this much bloodshed in less than a day, the planning done by Grant and Johnston was phenomenal. The steady mind of Johnston and the brave hearts that were under Grant is what brought this battle to what is todayï¿½s history. Working on this essay has been excellent in my learning process and I hope to be doing another one soon.