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The Battle of Shiloh


150 years ago today, on April 6, 1862, the Civil War battle of Shiloh took place. The commander of Confederate forces in the western theatre, General Albert Sidney Johnston, felt compelled to withdraw from Kentucky, following the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson in February of 1862.

Johnston installed troops at Corinth, Mississippi. This was a major transportation center. Major General Ulysses S. Grant was surprised by the Confederate retreat, but welcomed the event. His Army of the Tennessee needed time to prepare for an offensive along the Tennessee River. Grant’s army camped at Pittsburg Landing, drilling new recruits while waiting for reinforcements from Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio.

Johnston planned to attack Grant at Pittsburg Landing to prevent the Federal armies to unite. He’d planned to strike on April 4, but weather and other concerns postponed the attack until April 6. The Federal army was taken by surprise. A few bands of Union troops brought up a battle line along a sunken road known as the “Hornets Nest”.

Rebels pounded the Union troops and surrounded them. A Federal line was established in defense of Pittsburg Landing later the same day. The Union troops held until after dark. Although the Confederates drove the Yankees back, Johnston was mortally wounded earlier in the day and command of the Confederate forces was transferred to P.G.T. Beauregard. Johnston was the highest ranking general of either side killed in battle.

Federal forces outnumbered Beauregard’s army, but the Confederate general was unaware of this. On the 7th, he launched a thrust that was initially successful, but Federal resistance strengthened, when additional troops arrived from Buell’s army, providing Grant with reinforcements. The Confederates were forced to fall back. Once Beauregard realized he was outnumbered, he ordered a retreat to Corinth.

Grant sent troops on the 8th in pursuit of Beauregard. The Confederate troops fought at Fallen Timbers under Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest. Due to Rebel resistance, Federal troops were compelled to return to Pittsburg Landing.

Grant’s victory at Shiloh enhanced his reputation as a successful commander in the field. The Confederate troops fell back until later that summer, when they launched an offensive in Kentucky.

Before the start of the battle, Henry Morton Stanley wrote: “Day broke with every promise of a fine day. Next to me, on my right, was a boy of seventeen, Henry Parker…while we stood-at-ease, he drew my attention to some violets at his feet, and said, ‘It would be a good idea to put a few into my cap. Perhaps the Yanks won’t shoot me if they see me wearing such flowers, for they are a sign of peace.”

Stanley’s regiment drew Union fire, but continued to advance toward the Federal lines firing and loading in the process. As they came upon another Union camp, they met rifle and cannon fire.

As the battle raged on, Stanley records: “…a boy’s voice cried out, ‘Oh, stop, please stop a bit, I have been hurt, and can’t move!’ I turned to look and saw Henry Parker, standing on one leg, and dolefully regarding his smashed foot.”

Stanley continued on with the advance, and finally writes of his capture: “Half a dozen enemy were covering me at the same instant, and I dropped my weapon, incontinently. Two men sprang at my collar, and marched me, unresisting, into the ranks of the terrible Yankees. I was a prisoner!”

Read the entire account at his site.

For more on the battle of Shiloh


  1. I love the flower comment. How sad so many lives were thrown into battle and so many lives lost.

  2. Yes, I can just picture this young, fresh faced boy. So sad that he got his foot smashed in the end.

  3. I have been working on my father’s family book and reading about the Johnson/Johnston involvement in the Civil War. Don’t think this Johnston was a relative, though. Such a horrific time in our history with so many lives needlessly lost. Very good post, Susan, as you always have.

  4. Hi, Caroline! So many were lost in this war. I’m sure many Americans have Civil War ancestors on both sides who either perished or lived to survive. I know I had at least one ancestor in the Union army and my husband also had an ancestor on the Union side, but other relatives of his fought in the Confederate army.

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