Shiloh meant a place of peace. The battle of Shiloh was a battle that occurred in Shiloh, Hardin County, Tennessee. It took place in April 6 to 7 1862, where at the end there were 23 746 casualties of which there were 13 047 union soldiers.
The Confederate forces launched a surprise attack on Ulysses S. Grant but later he was able to prevail. The Union army under Major General Ulysses S. Grant was encamped and had moved deep into Tennessee through the Tennessee River. The army was still considered victorious because of tactical reasons. The Union allowed further push to Mississippi after starving off surprise attack in southern territory. The Confederates achieved a considerable success after launching a surprising attack at the Union army on the first day, but they were later defeated on the second day. Before the anticipated arrival of backups of the Grants’ army of Tennessee, on the first day the Confederates struck the Unions with the intention of defeating and driving them away to the west into the swamps of Owl Creek. (Wakefield, 1999)
Grants men, however, as opposed to the swamps in the west, fell back in the direction of Pittsburg Landing to the northeast. The Union reinforcements turned the tide in the morning after arriving the previous evening. Confederates hopes of blocking the Union from advancing to the Northern Mississippi ended, when they were forced to retreat from the ever-bloodiest battle in the US history, after the launching of the Unions army counter attack.
The Unions’ leader, Major General Grant, realized that it was not destined to happen in ending the war, as he had predicted for the great battle. He learnt that simplicity was a crucial thing in the preparation and planning for the war, though, in the battlefield the changing of orders and conditions were part of the plan for better targets, where opportunities arise. This helped the Unions on the second day of the battle.
The battle was subject to the ability of the two armies to plot, because they were able to place the each other in a disadvantageous position, where they fought the battle heading to the swamps and rivers. This was achieved through the application of the flexible combat power for both troops. Both troops were able to exercise their unity of command. The Union army was being inspired by their leader, General Sherman, who encouraged them to resist the assaults of the Confederates. On the other side, General Johnston of the Confederates was a leader, who appeared everywhere in the battle line to rally and lead the troops.
The army of the Confederates had an attainable objective. The death of Confederates’ leader, Johnston, would not have meant their defeat. After his death, General Robert E. Lee was forced to defend the Confederates even if it meant destroying the Confederates. Their main objective was the proper terrain that even Lee was forced to stand and fight Grant for the terrains defense. The forces were able to organize their massive troops, in the aim of concentrating their combat power. This helped in attacking their enemies’ off guard, with the aim of forcing them to surrender. This mostly applied to the Confederates, who caught the union army off guard on the first day, because the unions were not prepared for a surprise attack.
The Union army under Grant’s leading was entailing 48 894 men, who were grouped in six divisions. The army was spread out in a bivouac style, where many were based in a small log of the church called Shiloh. The Confederates’ army was including almost 55 000 men, who were based at a distance, which was about 20 miles southwest of Union armies, around Corinth and Mississippi.
Before the start of the battle, the Confederate army, who had little combat experience, was poorly equipped with the required weapons like pistols, muskets, short guns, flintlocks, pikes and hunting riffles. Their plan was to attack quickly and faster the unprepared union troops. Johnston’s’ plan was for the assaults to strike the Unions with a forceful strike, and separate them from the rivers of Tennessee. In the process of the attack, the Confederates units entangled as they advanced, and this made it difficult to control them as a team. As the Union army tried to rally, the attacks drove to the camps and this was the confederates’ hopes to meet with success. (Rich, 1911)
The battle attacks started early in the morning on the 6th of April 1862. The Confederates were deployed at around 6.00am for the battle along the Corinth road. The army had been patrolling in preparation for the battle 2 miles away from the Unions camp the entire night. This caught the Union army by surprise, because they had not been set for early warnings. The assault of dawn and approach of Confederates enabled to get them by surprise, which was a skilful and correct tactic for a total refined strategy. The surprise assault of the Confederates was ferocious, despite their little experience and other shortcomings that resulted in some of numerous Union soldiers of new Grants’ army, who were inexperienced, to flee away for safety to the Tennessee River. Beauregard sent the army of Major General Leonidas Pork and Brigadier General John C. Breckinridge forward, since he had been instructed to remain in the rear. When the battle began, Grant was downstream at savanna TN. He arrived at the battlefield at around 8.30am.
At around 9.00am, Grant started recalling the division of Wallace and attempted to hasten the lead division of the army of Buell. By this time, the division of Prentiss and Wallace occupied a strong defensive position in a thicket of oak, which was nicknamed the Hornets’ Nest. During this period, Sherman, who was one of the Unions’ leaders, became an element of extremely importance, though, in preparation for the battle, he was reluctant and negligent. He showed up everywhere along his lines in the battle. This inspired his raw recruits to fight back the initial assaults, despite the both sides staggering losses. He sustained two minor wounds, and three horses were shot out from under him. He worked tirelessly and mounted a defense that was strong, by rallying his men, though he had been forced back. The battle became a turning point for his life, according to the historians, where it helped him to become one of the premier generals of the North.
During this period, the Union troops lost their grounds slowly and went back to a position behind Shiloh church. Grant formed a strong position with the collapse of the Nest, extending north, up the river and west from the river with McClernand in the center, Sherman on the right and the remnants of Stephen Hurbut’s and Wallace on the left. Beauregard’s men were fought back by naval gunfire and heavy fire support, due to their little support in the process of attacking the new Union line. Many of the Confederates threw away their flintlock and muskets as they advanced, and grabbed the rifles that were being dropped by the Union troops, who were fleeing. The Union army held a position and established it, which was nicknamed the Hornet’s Nest in the sunken road, a field along the road. This place fell after holding for 7 hours, when 50 of the Confederates’ guns were brought.
Johnston, who was an influential leader of the Confederates’ army, was wounded on the first day at around 2.30pm when he was shot in his left leg. This happened when he was leading an attack on the Unions left, against the Peach Orchard through the widow Bells’ cotton field. His boot was filling with blood and he bled to death from a severed popliteal artery. He died within an hour of the bleeding. This affected his forces and their belief in victory. Beauregard rose to command after Johnston’s death. His colleague, Colonel David Stuarts, having achieved on the Union left a breakthrough along the river, paused to reform his men, and in the process moved them to fight at the Hornet’s Nest after failing to exploit the gap. (Sword, 1982)
At the Pittsburgh Landing defense, the defense line of the Union included naval guns from the river and a ring of cannons, which were over 50 in number. A final charge of the two brigades of Confederates lead by Brigadier General Withers was repulsed, even after attempting to break through the line. Beauregard, who was a Confederate leader of the army, with the setting of the sun, called off a second attempt after 6.00pm. The Confederates had pushed Grant and his army east to a defensible position on the river; hence their plan failed, because they did not force Grant west into the swamps.
In the evening of 6th April, the first day of the American history’s’ bloodiest battle came to a dispiriting end. The night was filled with cries of dying and wounded men throughout the Union and Confederate camps. The exhausted Union soldiers, after the first day of the battle, bedded down in the Confederates abandoned camps. Grant, who was sheltering under a tree from the rains, and smoking his cigar encountered with Sherman. He was planning the next days attacks as he reviewed on his losses. Confederates’ leader, Beauregard, sent a telegram announcing a complete victory to President Davis.
The following day, the Confederates had 20 000 men and Union armies had 45 000 men. The Union army, in a massive dawn counter attack, started moving forward towards the Confederate army. Fighting was very intense in a thicket near the Hamburg-Purdy road. Sherman, the union leader, described the fighting as the severest musketry fire he had ever heard, in his battle report. As Beauregard worked on stabilizing his lines, the troops of Pushing South, Grant and Buell were driving the Confederates. He delayed in forming the entire Confederates army, due to the hampering, caused by the intermingling of units in the previous day. Hornet’s Nest was retaken by Buell’s men by late morning, but Breckinridge’s men counter attacked them strongly. Grant, grinding on, by noon was able to retake his old camps. This forced Beauregard to protect access to the roads that lead back to Corinth, by launching a series of attacks.
Beauregard then realized that he had lost the battle by 2.00pm, and started ordering his troops to retreat to the south. The men of Breckinridge then moved into a covering position, while the army of Confederates got massed near the church of Shiloh, to protect their withdrawal. Most of Beauregard’s men by 5.00pm had departed the battlefield. Confederates began a withdrawal back to Corinth in an orderly way, after their leader Beauregard realized that he was low on food and ammunition, and he had lost the initiative. He also had 10 000 of his men missing, wounded and killed. The withdrawal of the Confederates was the end of the battle, since the union soldiers, under the lead of Grant, did not pursue them any longer, due to their exhaustion. Although the Confederates were just as exhausted certainly, the Union leader Grant cited the exhaustion of his troops.
This was the bloodiest battle ever known to date, where 1,754 men from the Union army were killed 8,408 wounded and 2,885 were captured or went missing. For the Confederates army, 1,728 were killed, 8,012 wounded, and 959 went missing or got captured.
In Northern public opinion, Grants reputation suffered in the immediate aftermath of the battle despite the Unions’ victory. This was criticized based on his performance during the battle on the first day. Many stories spread reporting that the lack of defensive preparedness of his troop, was due to his state of being drunk, resulting in many of the Unions’ men being bayoneted in their tents. He was also initially vilified for being caught off guard, while Sherman and Buell were viewed as the saviors.
President Abraham Lincoln was pressured to remove Grant, but in his reply, he said that he can not spare Grant because he fights.