It took two days and cost more than 23,000 lives. The Battle of Shiloh, fought in Hardin County, TN, from April 6th to the 7th in 1862, was the bloodiest battle to date during the Civil War. The Confederate Army launched a morning attack on the Union soldiers in Hardin County, TN; but, by the next day they were reeling.
Union soldiers, led by Major General Ulysses S. Grant, had gathered at Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River to train new recruits. They also were awaiting an influx of additional soldiers that were being sent from Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of Ohio. Early on the morning of the April 6th, General Albert Sidney Johnston of the Confederacy and his troops launched a surprise attack on Grant’s men and fierce fighting ensued. The Union army was able to fend of the attack by drawing a battle line along a sunken road called the “Hornet’s Nest.”
Although the Confederates eventually surrounded them, the Union soldiers were able to build a strong defensive line at Pittsburgh Landing thanks to the arrival of Buell’s men. While they were able to withstand the artillery attacks, General Johnston wasn’t so lucky. He suffered a fatal wound, leaving command of the Confederate Army in the hands of General P.G.T. Beauregard.
Emboldened by the injection of additional soldiers, Grant went on the offensive during the early morning hours of April 7th. His Union Army now sat at 40,000 which easily outnumbered the Confederate’s 30,000 men. Beauregard’s counterattack succeeded early on, but he and his army were eventually forced back to regroup. A second counterattack ended in a stalemate; and, after realizing he was outnumbered, Beauregard and his army had no choice but to retreat. The Union Army may have started on the defensive but they certainly didn’t end that way.
Commemorations for the battle’s anniversary include Shiloh’s Grand Illumination on April 7th at the National Military Park in Shiloh. Luminaries will be placed around the battlefield to represent the many lives lost during the battle. Reenactments will also take place at the park throughout the weekend.
If you want to learn more about Civil War history, check out a Civil War Sesquicentennial getaway. Activities include battlefield tours, reenactments, 1860s-themed events and meals and more. Also, make sure to follow our “Civil War Sesquicentennial” Pinterest board to learn more about the anniversary, its major battles and the B&Bs donating a portion of each booking to the Civil War Trust as part of “Reservations for Preservation!”