The Battle of Shiloh
Today and tomorrow mark the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Shiloh—also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. A major battle in the Western Theater, Shiloh took place in southwestern Tennessee and pit Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee and Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio against Confederate Generals Albert Sidney Johnston’s and P.G.T. Beauregard’s Army of the Mississippi.
After the falls of Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate General Johnson fell back to Corinth, Mississippi to stage another offensive against Major General Grant. Surprised by the Confederate retrenchment, Grant and approximately 40,000 Union soldiers mounted a counter-offensive along the Tennessee River, near Pittsburg Landing. Grant received orders to wait for Buell’s Army of the Ohio before launching the attack so he drilled his army in the interim.
On the morning of April 6th, Johnston led the Confederates assault. The Rebels surprised and routed many of the raw Yankee troops. However, by the afternoon, the federal troops established a battle line at the “Hornets Nest”—a sunken road. While repeated attacks by the southerners failed to take the Hornets Nest, Confederate artillery turned the tide, resulting in the capture, death, or injury of many northerners. The Union troops established another line covering Pittsburg Landing, anchored with artillery and augmented by Buell’s men who had finally begun to arrive. Fighting continued late into the night but the Union line held. As Johnston had been mortally wounded earlier in the day, General P.G.T. Beauregard assumed command of the Rebel force.
By the next day, the combined Union force numbered 40,000, while Beauregard’s army numbered less than 30,000. Beauregard, unaware of Buell’s arrival, launched a counterattack in response to a two-mile advance by William Nelson’s division. At first Beauregard was successful but the Yankee troops began repelling the Rebels. Beauregard ordered another counterattack, which stopped the Union advance but his southern troops could not break their lines. Eventually, Beauregard realized that he could not win so he retired from the field in the direction of Corinth.
The two-day battle resulted in a Union victory and continued Grant’s successes in the West. While Brigadier General William T. Sherman and Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood did pursue Beauregard, resulting in a skirmish against Confederate Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops at Fallen Timbers, the Confederates continued to fall back until mid-August. Notably, with a total of 23,746 casualties, Shiloh was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War at that point in time.