The Battle of Shiloh: Bloody Civil War Clash Shocks America
We know the Civil War was a deadly conflict that killed 620,000 American soldiers and wounded over 400,000 more, but few expected such carnage when the war began. The opening attack, the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, was a bit of a lark and grand adventure, with thousands of townspeople lining the shore of Charleston Harbor to party and watch the cannonading. Lincoln responded by asking for 75,000 volunteers to serve for 90 days—surely this little Southern rebellion would be over by then! Ninety days later, the first major battle of the war, the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) on July 21, 1861, made the public realize this conflict might last a little longer than they initially thought, but few imagined how many lives would be destroyed. It was the Battle of Shiloh that shocked America into realizing the full horror of the Civil War.
Article continues after this newspaper image from the April 10, 1862, issue of the New York Herald-Tribune (NY)
This fiercely fought two-day engagement on April 6-7, 1862, was a desperate gambit by the Confederacy to stem their losses in the Western Theater of the war and regain Tennessee. When the smoke finally cleared the battleground was strewn with almost 20,000 dead and wounded men. This was a shocking, jarring loss of human life, unprecedented in American history. Combined with the thousands of captured soldiers, the 23,746 total casualties were more than the battles of the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War combined.
Nothing that had yet happened in the Civil War prepared the Northern and Southern public for the overwhelming losses at the Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. In fact, the total battle casualties for all of the war’s major engagements up to that point—First Battle of Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, Fort Donelson and Pea Ridge combined—amounted to 12,000. In just two days, Shiloh nearly doubled that, and the public’s sorrow and grieving would continue unabated for three more long years.
The South was growing desperate in the spring of 1862. While it was holding its own in Virginia, the Western Theater had become a string of disasters. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston had planned a western line of defense with two armies in Kentucky, at Columbus and Bowling Green, and two forts on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to anchor the middle. However, a young, relatively unknown Union general named Ulysses S. Grant won the first two major Federal victories of the war when he seized Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in February. With their middle blown wide open the Confederates abandoned Kentucky and most of Tennessee, pulling back all the way to the vital railroad junction of Corinth, Mississippi. With no opposition, the Union army of Don Carlos Buell occupied Nashville, Tennessee, on Feb. 23.
At Corinth, Johnston and the other leading Confederate general, P.G.T. Beauregard (the hero of the Battle of Fort Sumter and the First Battle of Bull Run) hastily pulled together all the Southern troops in the area to form the Army of the Mississippi. They assembled a force of about 55,000 troops, slightly larger than the army they knew Grant had moved up the Tennessee River to a place called Pittsburg Landing, 22 miles northeast of Corinth. There Grant was waiting for the arrival of another 35,000 men from Buell’s Army of the Ohio, who were marching the 122 miles from Nashville to Grant’s position. Once combined, the huge Union army planned to smash the Confederates at Corinth and take control of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, the backbone of the Confederacy’s ability to move men and supplies throughout the South.
The North was aware the Confederate Army of the Mississippi was being assembled. This report was printed by the Wooster Republican (Wooster, Ohio) on April 3, 1862:
Rebels Concentrating at Memphis for a Desperate Struggle
Rolla, Mo., April 1.
Letters from our army in the southwest say information had been received there, that the rebels under Price and Van Dorn are moving towards Memphis in response to a call from Beauregard for help, and all the rebel forces in the West are ordered to concentrate in Western Tennessee for a great and desperate struggle.
The South tried to put the best face on the fact a Northern army was now invading the Mississippi Valley. This report was printed by the Daily True Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana) in its April 3, 1862, issue:
It is reported that Gen. Beauregard does not look upon the advance of the enemy into our territory as a misfortune. The further he moves the weaker he grows and the stronger we become. It will be for us to select the place and time of battle.
The Northern press, of course, took a far different view of the situation. This article was printed by the New York Tribune (New York, New York) on April 3, 1862:
The War in the West
The fact that the Confederates are drawing their troops from all quarters to the north part of Mississippi and Alabama, where they intend to fall in overwhelming force upon the Union advance under Gens. Grant and Buell, is now palpable. Whether Beauregard is or is not their best leader, he has a prestige acquired at Fort Sumter and at Bull Run, and he is doubtless directing the efforts at concentration now in active progress. Bragg had already brought up his force from Pensacola, abandoning the siege of Fort Pickens; Van Dorn and Sterling Price are hurrying forward from Western Arkansas, aided by steamboats on the Arkansas and White Rivers, now at their highest stage; and even Virginia is being stripped of Rebel soldiers to swell the Grand Army of the West. The intent evidently is to fall upon our Tennessee army with an immense force suddenly gathered from all quarters—for which the Rebel command of the railroads of that region give them great facilities—and repeat the lessons of Wilson’s Creek and Lexington. But Gen. Halleck of course has his eye on these operations…If he [Confederate President Jefferson Davis] does not catch us napping on the Tennessee—and we trust he will not—the back of the rebellion must soon be broken.
Everyone knew a big fight for control of the Mississippi Valley was coming. This article was printed by the Memphis Avalanche and reprinted by the Daily True Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana) on April 5, 1862:
The Great Struggle for the Supremacy of the Mississippi Valley
Referring to the approaching great battle at or near Corinth, the Memphis Avalanche thus hopefully remarks:
An engagement is expected at or near Corinth, or on or near the Tennessee river, within a few days at most. We have every confidence in the result of this approaching battle. We repose every confidence in the skill and tact of our commanding generals, especially of Polk, Beauregard, Bragg and Johnston, and the men they command are anxious to encounter the foe. A braver and better army never fought a battle on this continent.
We do not write for effect, but to give a candid expression of our views in the premises. We have able and skillful generals; we have brave and invincible soldiers. We may safely calculate on a signal victory in the coming battle, which promises to be the battle of this war. We expect lasting honors both for our commanders and our soldiers.
…We have great confidence in our power and our will to prevent the capture of our city. Let us be hopeful, resolute and firm. He cannot be whipped who will not be.
On April 2 the Confederates learned that Buell was coming to reinforce Grant, and realized they had only one chance to survive: rush to Pittsburg Landing and wipe out Grant with a surprise attack before Buell reached him. The plan was to move about 45,000 men on April 3 and attack at dawn on April 4. Had they managed this schedule, they probably would have succeeded. However, disorganization, the logistical nightmare of moving so many men, animals, ordinance and pieces of equipment all at once, and heavy rains that turned the roads into quagmires of mud, slowed the advance. The Confederate army was not in position until the evening of April 5. They would attack at dawn the next morning.
When the Southern troops marched out of Corinth to move into position against the Union army, their leaders read to each regiment an address General Johnston had written to inspire them, as reported by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) on April 5, 1862:
Later from the Army of the Mississippi.
The Army Moving.
Gen. A. S. Johnston’s Address to the Army.
The Eve of Battle.
Corinth, April 4.—A thousand private citizens, from all parts of the Confederacy, have flocked to our standard.
A battle may not come off until the day after tomorrow.
The following is an address just issued by our General:
Headquarters, Army of the Mississippi, Corinth, Miss., April 3, 1862.—Soldiers of the Army of the Mississippi! I have put you in motion, to offer battle to the invaders of your country. With resolution and disciplined valor, becoming men fighting as you are for all that is worth living or dying for, you can but march to decisive victory over the agrarian mercenaries who have been sent to despoil you of your liberties, your prosperity and your honor.
Remember the precious stake that is involved in this contest; remember the dependence of your mothers, your wives, your sisters, and your children, is upon the result.
Remember the fair, broad, abounding land, the happy homes and the ties that would be dissolved and desolated by your defeat.
The eyes and hopes of eight millions of people rest upon you. You are expected to show yourselves worthy of your race and your lineage; worthy of the women of the South, whose noble devotion in this war has never been exceeded, at any time.
With such incentives to brave deeds, and in the trust that God is with us, your Generals will lead you confidently to the combat, fully assured of ultimate and glorious success.
(Signed) A. S. Johnston, Gen. Com’g.
Amazingly, though they were camped only two miles away, the Union army had no idea on April 5 that the enemy was nearly upon them. His army was in such an unprepared state that Grant was severely censured after the battle and removed from field command. He was so certain he had the enemy demoralized that he never dreamed they would go on the offensive. He prepared no trenches or earthworks to defend his position, and picket lines were poorly established and maintained. Before retiring the night of April 5 Grant confidently telegraphed his commander Major General Henry Halleck “I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack being made upon us.” How wrong he was!
At dawn on April 6, 1862, the Confederates attacked. Much of the frenzied fighting occurred near a small, one-room Methodist church named “Shiloh”—ironically, Hebrew for “place of peace,” that gave the battle its name. The Union troops, completely caught off-guard, at first retreated before rallying to mount a defense, although thousands of them panicked and fled all the way back to the Tennessee River a few miles away. Eventually most of the troops withdrew to Pittsburg Landing and frantically tried to establish a defensive line. They desperately needed time to get ready for the assault they knew was coming—time bought for them, at a steep price, by the brave men under the command of General Benjamin M. Prentiss, along with some divisions under the command of General W.H.L. Wallace.
About 4,500 of these resolute men made a stand along a sunken road and refused to yield. Rather than bypassing them to go after the bulk of the retreating Union army, coming back later to mop up Prentiss and his men, the Confederates instead focused their fury on dislodging the stubborn foe in front of them. Wave after wave of rushing Southern troops, howling their Rebel yell, charged the Federal position. For over six hours they kept coming, twelve separate, maniacal charges all smashed back by the Northern muskets and cannons. Almost 18,000 Southern troops attacked this stronghold known as the “Hornet’s Nest,” but never in a coordinated manner and never more than a few thousand at a time. Here is where the Confederates made their key mistake; their obsession with wiping out the Hornet’s Nest cost them the battle.
Finally about 4:00 in the afternoon the Confederates massed 62 cannons in front of the Hornet’s Nest and blasted the defenders point-blank with a withering fire for over 30 minutes, followed by more infantry charges that finally succeeded. Around 5:30 Prentiss and his 2,200 survivors surrendered. Their remarkable resistance and sacrifice gave the rest of Grant’s army the time it needed to fortify its position. Unknown to the Confederates, the first of Buell’s army was crossing the Tennessee River to help strengthen Grant’s new defensive line.
As the sun was setting the exhausted, starving Confederate soldiers stopped fighting to roam the captured Northern camps seeking rest and food. They had won the day; their only sorrow was the loss of General Johnston, killed while leading a charge in a peach orchard around 2:30 in the afternoon. Overall, they were jubilant, convinced they had won a great victory and only needed to mop up the shattered remnants of Grant’s whipped army in the morning, well ahead of the arrival of Buell’s army. That night a confident General Beauregard telegrammed his superiors that he had won “a complete victory.”
News of this “complete” victory electrified the Southern press. This article was printed by the Daily Columbus Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia) on April 8, 1862:
Telegraphic Dispatches Reported for the Daily Enquirer.
Progress and Events of the War.
Battle of Shiloh!
To S. Cooper, Adjutant General:
We this morning attacked the enemy in a strong position in front of Pittsburg, and after a severe battle of 10 hours, thanks be to the Almighty! gained a complete victory, driving the enemy from every position. The loss on both sides heavy, including the loss of our Commander-in-Chief, Gen. A. S. Johnston, who fell gallantly leading his troops into the thickest of the fight.
G. T. Beauregard,
Richmond, April 7th.
The above official dispatch received this morning. –Operator.
More of the Great Victory!
Mobile, April 7th.—From the Advertiser & Register’s special dispatches:
Corinth, 6th, afternoon.
The battle continues fierce and furious, the enemy stubbornly resisting their fate, while the Southerners continue to press upon them with resistless determination, slowly but surely forcing them back. Our loss is heavy. Our men are in good spirits, and thoroughly warmed up to the work in hand. All fight well, but the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana troops display splendid gallantry. The 21st Alabama covered themselves with glory. This regiment captured two batteries. The First Louisiana regiment (regulars) took a battery.
Gen. Bushrod Johnson (of the Donelson prisoners, who subsequently escaped) is wounded.
Night.—Enemy in full retreat; Confederates in hot pursuit. I write from enemy’s camp and on Federal paper.
A large number of Federal prisoners have already been taken, and we expect to capture the greater part of the Federal army. We are driving them back on the river, and shall kill or capture the entire army.
The battle is still raging with terrible fury. We have captured Gen. Prentiss and a large number of officers.
Gen. A. Sidney Johnston fell at half past 2 o’clock. His leg was torn by a shell, and a minnie ball struck him in the body. He died gallantly, steadily leading our victorious troops—died at the head of his army in victory.
Gen. Beauregard now commands the army. He says it is a second Manassas fight.
Gen. Buell did not arrive in time to take part in the action. Gen. Grant is in command of the Federal forces.
Memphis, April 7th.—(Corinth, 6th.)—A great battle commenced at daylight this morning. The Yankees were driven back two miles. Our victorious columns are still advancing. The 1st Louisiana has taken a Federal battery. Several others were captured. Gen. Gladden lost an arm. Col. Williams, of Memphis, was killed. Gen. Prentiss was captured; he says they had 35,000 men in the field. They had 18 batteries engaged, mostly captured.
Gen. Buell had a portion of his force at Duck river. We have the enemy’s camp, all their ammunition, stores, etc.
The battle was very severe. Loss heavy on both sides. Fighting still going on, Gen. Polk is in the advance, fighting. Generals Prentiss, Grant, Sherman, McClernand, Wallace and Smith, commanded the Federals. General Smith was sick.
Two thousand prisoners have been taken and sent to our rear.
It is reported here that our forces are fighting Buell today. Gen. Clark, Col. Brown of Miss., and Col. Richards of Mo., were wounded. The Federals have been driven to the river and are attempting to cross on their transports.
Many prisoners are still being brought in.
Richmond, 7th.—The House adopted resolutions offered by Wilcock, of Texas, that Congress learned with feeling of deep joy and gratitude the good news of a glorious victory to our arms in Tennessee; that the death of Gen. Johnston cannot but temper our exultation with a shade of sadness at the loss of so able, skillful and gallant an officer; that in respect to the memory of Gen. Johnston, Congress adjourn until tomorrow. Several eulogies were offered, which the Senate deeming premature, did not concur in. It has been raining here since morning.
This Southern paper could not resist thumbing its nose at the North; this article was printed by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on April 12, 1862:
Fun and Earnest
It is fun to read the Northern news we publish today—the brags of the Federal army in Tennessee—how that the Confederates—an undisciplined and disorderly crowd—disaffected and deserting—would not dare to make a stand against Grant’s army—how that the latter, flushed with victory, no longer considered the possibility of defeat—no longer said if we occupy such a place, but when we occupy it—how, in short, nothing else was left the Lincolnites but to extinguish the smouldering embers of the rebellion and put to flight the last mutinous and disheartened assemblages of insurrectionists.
Can anybody imagine the tremendous character of the revulsion which came over the North when they got the news from Tennessee? An earthquake in Wall street would not unsettle them more. What, two to one in the field—the Confederates half-armed—the Federals with such superior arms that one Yank was equal to four Confederates! What living Lincolnite could doubt the triumphant success of the North. Look at it once more. The Confederates, a hastily collected mob of raw and undisciplined levies not exceeding in all seventy thousand—the Federals a vast army, reinforced with every train—disciplined men—with more endurance—intelligence—activity—any one of them equal to four of the Confederate men—powerfully supported with all the conveniences and appliances of war—130,000 against sixty or seventy thousand—what man in his senses could doubt that the Yanks would walk over the course and drive the poor Confederates into the Gulf. There could be no doubt and there was no doubt. All Wall street was stooping to listen to the last dying groan of rebellion, the very moment that it caught the wails of their defeated and flying legions. We tell you there was a sensation in Wall street about that time. This is the fun of the matter.
The earnest is coming, and will come in the shape of about 200,000 Federal reinforcements to the army in Tennessee. What has happened there will infuriate the Lincolnites to the point of madness, and they will pour their legions into the West with a rapidity we little dream of. The bulk of McClellan’s army will be sent there, and if Gen. J. E. Johnston is wide awake (and we think he will be), it will not be long before he will have a chance to strike. But now is the pinch of the struggle. O, that Congress, instead of wasting its time on contested seats and listening to twaddle, would pass the conscription bill or defeat it. Let them do one thing or the other. Action! Action!! We must now look for the most desperate struggles from the Lincolnites. Now is the pinch of the war. Now hurry troops to the rescue. Be ready in June to take the offensive, and carry the devastations of war upon Northern soil. That is the way to bring the war to a close; but let no man be surprised if our brave boys in Tennessee are yet overwhelmed by superior numbers. Beauregard may think he can fight three to one—but it is safest not to prosecute that business for any great length of time!
Southern relief at hearing news of a great victory, one they so desperately needed, is evident in this article, printed by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) on April 8, 1862:
The Victory in Tennessee
After the darkness, morning comes. The night of our disasters has passed, and the sun of victory has begun to dawn on the armies of freedom. Its glories fast illumine the battlefield of Tennessee, but they will henceforth suffer no eclipse. Clouds may possibly dim their lustre for a transient moment, as the celestial orb sometimes suffers a momentary eclipse, but its march is upward, henceforth, until the effulgence fills the whole land, and discloses to all eyes Southern independence, unconquered and unconquerable.
It is with inexpressible joy that we announce through our numerous dispatches from the seat of war, the repulse and dispersion of the Federal army of invasion in Tennessee. The details are wanting, but the victory of Southern arms is complete, and, we may venture to say, decisive. The grand expedition is broken up, if not entirely destroyed. The whole elaborate plan of the western campaign, to which all things else were subsidiary, is baffled, and the gigantic preparations with which it was sent forward, to close the war by a mighty stroke at once, are lost to the enemy. All that he has won through the last two months of exulting advances, is lost, and more than lost; for with the failure of the easy success which he promised himself, comes the terrible reaction in his own interior affairs—the reactionary exhaustion from the spasmodic efforts put forward as the assurance of escape from interminable war and insupportable taxation.
This is the least of the advantages which the victory of Shiloh, as Gen. Beauregard has entitled the triumph in Tennessee, promises to the arms and the cause of the Confederates. It is a rebound from depression, which declares indomitable courage and irrepressible energy. To their enemies it is a collapse of unnatural effort, which cannot be repeated. It is a day to be remembered with Saratoga and Yorktown, and it has added lustre to names which will be immortal in history, as the heroes who stemmed the tide of adverse fortune at its height, and bore the banners of Freedom on to victory.
The Southern celebration was premature, however. Buell’s men kept arriving overnight, and by the morning of April 7 Grant, despite the first day’s losses, had over 45,000 men—half of them fresh—ready to attack. With casualties and stragglers, the Confederate army was reduced to about 20,000 troops. Expecting to wake up and finish off their vanquished enemy, the Southerners were shocked when Grant launched a surprise attack at dawn—now it was their turn to be caught off-guard. Eventually the Southerners rallied and fought valiantly all day, but by mid-afternoon it was apparent the Union army would prevail, and at 3:30 p.m. the Confederates begin an orderly withdrawal back to Corinth. Content at having recaptured the camps they lost the day before, the equally exhausted Federal troops chased their retreating enemy briefly then let them go.
The fighting during the battle’s second day was reported by the Wisconsin Daily Patriot (Madison, Wisconsin) on April 9, 1862:
Second Day’s Battle
Gen. Buell having arrived the following morning.
In the morning the ball was opened at day light simultaneously by Gen Nelson’s division on the left, and Maj. Gen. Wallace’s division on the right. Gen. Nelson’s forces opened a most galling fire and advanced rapidly. As they fell back the fire soon became general along the whole line and began to tell with terrible effect on the enemy.
Generals McClernand, Sherman and Hurlbut’s men, though terribly jaded from the previous day’s fighting, still maintained their honors won at Donelson, but the resistance of the rebels at all points was terrible, and worthy of a better cause, but they were not enough for our undaunted bravery, and the dreadful desolation produced by our artillery, which was sweeping them away like chaff before the wind, but knowing that a defeat here would be a death blow to their hopes, and that their all depended upon this great struggle, their Generals still urged them on in the face of destruction, hoping by flanking us on the right to turn the tide of battle.
Their success was again for a time cheering, as they began to gain ground on us, appearing to have been reinforced, but our left, under Gen. Nelson, was driving them with wonderful rapidity, and by 11 o’clock Gen. Buell’s forces had succeeded in flanking them, and capturing their batteries of artillery. They however rallied on the left and recrossed and the right forced themselves forward in another desperate effort, but reinforcements from Gen. Wood and Gen. Thomas were coming.
Regiment after regiment were sent to Gen. Buell, who had again commenced to drive them.
About 3 p.m., Gen. Grant rode to the left, where the fresh regiments had been ordered, and finding the rebels wavering, sent a portion of his bodyguard to the head of each [of] five regiments, and then ordered a charge across the field, himself heading them, brandishing his sword and waving them on to the crowning victory, while cannon balls were falling like hail around him. The men followed with a shout, that sounded above the roar and din of artillery, and the rebels fled in dismay as from a destroying avalanche, and never made another stand.
Gen. Buell followed the retreating rebels, driving them in splendid style, and by half past 5 o’clock the whole rebel army was in full retreat to Corinth, with our cavalry in hot pursuit, with what further result is not known, not having returned up to this hour. We have taken a large amount of prisoners. We lost a number of our forces prisoners yesterday, among whom is Gen. Prentiss. The number of our force taken has not been ascertained yet. It is reported at several hundred. Gen. Prentiss is also reported wounded.
Among the killed on the rebel side was their General-in-Chief, Albert Sidney Johnston, who was struck by a cannonball on the afternoon of Sunday. Of this there is no doubt, as the report is corroborated by several rebel officers taken today. It is further reported that Gen. Beauregard had his arm shot off this afternoon. Gens. Bragg, Breckinridge, and Jackson were commanding portions of the rebel forces.
Our loss in officers is very heavy…There has never been a parallel to the gallantry and bearing of our officers, from the commanding General to the lowest officer.
Gen. Grant and his staff were in the field riding along the lines in the thickest of the enemy’s fire during the entire two days of battle, and all slept on the ground Sunday night, during a heavy rain. On several occasions he got in range of the enemy’s guns, and was discovered and fired upon.
Lieut. Col. McPherson [had] his horse shot from under him alongside of Gen. Grant. Capt. Carson was between Gen. Grant and your correspondent when a cannonball took off his head and killed and wounded several others.
Gen. Sherman had 2 horses killed under him and Gen. McClernand shared like dangers; also Gen. Hurlbut, each of whom received bullet holes through their clothes.
Gen. Buell remained with his troops during the whole day, who, with Gens. Crittenden and Nelson, rode continually along the lines encouraging their men.
Gen. Buell’s advance will probably return from Corinth by tomorrow evening.
I will send full accounts by letter as soon as practicable.
The complete reversal on the battle’s second day was of course discouraging to the Southern press, though this account took pains to claim the retreat was part of General Beauregard’s “contemplated plan.” It was printed by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on April 10, 1862:
Richmond, April 9th.—Official dispatches from Corinth say the Federals are largely reinforced at Pittsburg. Beauregard has carried out his contemplated plan in falling back to Corinth. He regrets he is unable to carry off all the munitions and stores captured.
Other Southern papers also refused to concede defeat. This article was printed by the Memphis Appeal and reprinted by the Daily True Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana) on April 11, 1862:
Our Victories in Tennessee
The Courage and Determination of Our Troops
Commenting upon the success that has crowned the Confederate arms on the corpse-heaped plain of Shiloh, the Memphis Appeal pays this tribute to the courage and determination of the Southern troops:
For two days have the brave soldiers of the South stood the utmost efforts the finest troops the North could make against them. Men well drilled, armed with the most perfect weapons modern skill can produce, and in possession of those numerous advantages which the expenditure of unstinted millions and free access to the workshops of Europe impart, were driven before them in ignominious flight. Breast to breast our gallant boys stood before the confident foe; but unawed by their swelling cohorts, their proud array, their pompous panoply, they charged them with a weapon no art can produce, no money buy—the chivalrous attribute of Southern courage. With sparkling eye, cheek unblenched, eager step, and unfailing soul, they marched on the opposing ranks—they baffled their mightiest efforts, they subdued their loftiest rage, they drove back their serried files, and taught the vaunting legions that brave hearts and iron wills, stung by a sense of wrong, and fired with the ardor of patriotism, cannot be conquered. In the pages of history the hard-won field of Shiloh will have a name among the great battlegrounds of the world.
A far different perspective is provided by this article, printed by the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on April 14, 1862:
It is now one year since Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had a jubilation at Montgomery over the fall of Sumter. The rebel secretary of war then and there predicted great things. The Confederate government, we were told, would occupy Washington before the end of the summer solstice, Confederate flags would be fluttering in Philadelphia, and the new government would be recognized by the leading powers of Europe. None of these things have come to pass, and a review of the twelve months’ history is not calculated to inspire rebel prophets. Many battles have been fought, in many of which the enemy has had the advantage of superior numbers and position, fighting behind his entrenchments. And what a record, viewed in the light of the vain boasting of the leaders! From Hatteras to Pittsburg, an almost unbroken series of surrenders of forts and fields. The rebels have shown little fighting worthy of Americans until their late short-lived on Sunday of last week at Corinth [Shiloh]. There they had concentrated their best material, the flower of the Southern army, and led by their two best generals. By dint of a surprise, with 60,000 against 38,000 men they were tantalized with high hopes for a time, only to render the repulse more humiliating. And where now can they look for a field on which to retrieve their misfortunes? Echo answers, where? Each day but adds gloominess to the rebel prospects. We have reports today that one of their main lines of communication by rail has been cut off. There is, also, the startling rumor—from a rebel source—that Beauregard himself is dead. This needs further confirmation; but that the rebellion itself is writhing in its last gasp, nobody can doubt.
Despite Southern bravado, the Confederacy suffered a severe setback at the Battle of Shiloh. If they had only started the battle two days earlier as they originally intended, or if their great leader General Johnston had not been killed on the first day, or if Buell’s troops had been delayed in their march to reinforce Grant, the Confederacy might well have gained the “complete victory” Beauregard thought they had won after the first day. It was not to be, however. The Battle of Shiloh was the Confederacy’s best shot at changing their fortunes in the Western Theater of the war. They did not succeed.
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