Battle Of Shiloh

BATTLE OF SHILOHAs a result of the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander in the area, was forced to fall back, giving up Kentucky and much of West and Middle Tennessee. He chose Corinth, Mississippi, a major transportation center, as the staging area for an offensive against Maj. Gen.

Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee before the Army of the Ohio, under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, could join it. The Confederate retrenchment was a surprise, although a pleasant one, to the Union forces, and it took Grant, with about 40,000 men, some time to mount a southern offensive, along the Tennessee River, toward Pittsburg Landing. Grant received orders to await Buell’s Army of the Ohio at Pittsburg Landing.

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Grant did not choose to fortify his position; rather, he set about drilling his men, many of which were raw recruits. Johnston originally planned to attack Grant on April 4, but delays postponed it until the 6th. Attacking the Union troops on the morning of the 6th, the Confederates surprised them.

Some Federals made determined stands and by afternoon, they had established a battle line at the sunken road, known as the “Hornets Nest.” Repeated Rebel attacks failed to carry the Hornets Nest, but massed artillery helped to turn the tide as Confederates surrounded the Union troops and captured, killed, or wounded most. Johnston had been mortally wounded earlier and his second in command, Gen. P.

G.T. Beauregard, took over.

The Union troops established another line covering Pittsburg Landing, anchored with artillery and augmented by Buell’s men who began to arrive and take up positions. Fighting continued until after dark, but the Federals held. By the next morning, the combined Federal forces numbered about 40,000, outnumbering Beauregard’s army of less than 30,000.

Beauregard was unaware of the arrival of Buell’s army and launched a counterattack in response to a two-mile advance by William Nelson’s division of Buell’s army at 6:00 am, which was, at first, successful. Union troops stiffened and began forcing the Confederates back. Beauregard ordered a counterattack, which stopped the Union advance but did not break its battle line.

At this point, Beauregard realized that he could not win and, having suffered too many casualties, he retired from the field and headed back to Corinth. On the 8th, Grant sent Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, with two brigades, and Brig. Gen.

Thomas J. Wood, with his division, in pursuit of Beauregard. They ran into the Rebel rearguard, commanded by Col.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, at Fallen Timbers. Forrest’s aggressive tactics, although eventually contained, influenced the Union troops to return to Pittsburg Landing. Grant’s mastery of the Confederate forces continued; he had beaten them once again. The Confederates continued to fall back until launching their mid-August offensive.

Battle Of Shiloh

The Battle of ShilohAfter taking Fort Donelson, Ulysses Grant had wanted to move on theConfederate base in Corinth, Mississippi, where Albert Sidney Johnston, the Confederatecommander in the West, was known to be assembling troops. Grant was ordered to delayhis advance until Union General Don Carlos Buell, who had been operating in EastTennessee, could join him.Early on April 6, 1862, Johnston’s army, which had come up to the federal linesundetected, struck Grant’s army, which was encamped at Pittsburg Landing on theTennessee River. The Battle of Shiloh followed.

Grant’s Federal army was not fully prepared for the thousands of screaming rebelswho burst out of the woods near Shiloh church on that early Sunday morning of April 6.They first hit the two green divisions of William Tecumseh Sherman and of Benjamin M.Prentiss. Sherman performed this day with coolness and courage. He was everywherealong his lines at Shiloh, shoring up his raw troops and inspiring them to hurl back theinitial assaults, which caused staggering losses on both sides. Sherman himself waswounded slightly and had three horses shot under him. On his left Prentiss’s men alsostood fast at first, while up from the rear came reinforcements form the other threedivisions, two of which had fought at Donelson.Waiting for Buell’s arrival at army headquarters nine miles downriver, Grant heardthe firing as he sat down to breakfast.

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Commandeering a dispatch boat, he steamed up toPittsburg Landing and arrived on the battlefield about 9:00. The fighting by this time hadreached a level unprecedented in the war. Johnston and Gen.

Pierre Gustave T.Beauregard committed all six of their divisions early in the day. All of Grant’s soldiers inthe vicinity also double-timed to the front, which stretched six miles between theTennessee River on the Union left and Owl Creek on the right. Grant sent a courier tosummon Lew Wallace’s division to the battlefield. But Wallace took the wrong road andhad to countermarch, arriving too late to participate in the battle on April 6. Grant’s fivedivisions had to do all the fighting that first day at Shiloh.

Johnston went personally to the front on the Confederate right to rally exhaustedtroops by his presence. There in midafternoon he was hit in the leg by a bullet that severedan artery and caused him to bleed to death. The South would anguish the loss of Johnstonwho was one of its ablest commanders.Beauregard took command and tried to keep up the momentum of the attack. Bythis time Confederates had driven back the Union right and left two miles from theirstarting point. In the center, though, Prentiss with the remaining fragments of his divisionand parts of two others had formed a hard knot of resistance along a country road that therebels called the hornet’s nest. Grant had ordered Prentiss to maintain that position at allhazards. Southern commanders launched a dozen separate assaults against it.

Although18,000 Confederates closed in on Prentiss’s 4,500 men, the uncoordinated nature of rebelattacks enabled the Yanks to repel each of them. The southerners finally pounded thehornet’s nest with sixty-two field guns and surrounded it with infantry. Prentisssurrendered his 2,200survivors at 5:30, an hour before sunset. Their tough andcourageous stand had bought time for Grant to post the remainder of his army along thePittsburg Landing ridge.

Lew Wallace’s lost division was arriving and Buell’s lead brigade was crossing theriver as Beauregard decided he would not authorize a final assault in the gatheringtwilight. He sensed that his own army was disorganized and fought out.On April 7 Buell and Grant put 25,000 fresh troops into action alongside 15,000battered survivors who had fought the first day.

The number of Beauregard’s effectivetroops, due to casualties and straggling, now stood at about 25,000. Grant never waveredin his determination to counterattack.Across the lines Beauregard had sent a victory telegram to Richmond: After asevere battle of ten hours, thanks be to the Almighty, we gained a complete victory,driving the enemy from every position. If Beauregard had been aware of Grant’sreinforcements he would not have been so confident.The Second day at Shiloh began with a surprise attack, but now the Yankees weredoing the attacking. All along the line Buell’s Army of the Ohio and Grant’s Army ofWestern Tennessee swept forward, encountering little resistance at first from thedisorganized rebels. In mid-morning the confederate line stiffened, and for hours the battleraged as hotly as on the previous day.

By midafternoon the advancing Union troops had pressed the Confederates backto the point of their original attack. Not only did the Yanks have fresh troops and moremen, but also the southerners’ morale had suffered a blow when they realized they had notwon a victory after all. At about 2:30 Beauregard issued the order to retreat. The Uniontroops were too fought out and shot up for effective pursuit over muddy roads. Both theblue and the gray had had enough fighting.

Coming at the end of a year of war, Shiloh was the first battle on a scale thatbecame commonplace during the next three years. The killed and wounded at Shiloh werenearly double the battle casualties at Manassas, Wilson’s Creek, Fort Donelson, and PeaRidge combined. Gone was any romantic innocence of war. Sherman described piles ofdead soldiers’ mangled bodieswithout heads and legs. The scenes on this field wouldhave cured anybody of war.

Although victorious, Grant was accused of lackingelementary caution by some and found himself somewhat vilified in the North over theamount of Federal casualties in this battle.History Essays


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