We passed Shiloh National Military Park on our way to our vacation destination and decided to stop for a while on the way home. It was an impressive place, filled with huge monuments and steeped in blood and history. The numbers of dead at the Battle of Shiloh were greater than any other battles in the war to that point. Union casualties were 13,047, and the Confederacy lost 10,699. The South lost their army's commander, Albert Sidney Johnston, as well as Brigadier General Adley H. Gladden.
"I saw an open field, in our possession on the second day, over which the Confederates had made repeated charges the day before, so covered with dead that it would have been possible to walk across the clearing, in any direction, stepping on dead bodies, without a foot touching the ground." —Ulysses S. GrantAmbrose Bierce fought as an officer for the Union at Shiloh and wrote What I Saw at Shiloh, which includes this:
And this was, O so long ago! How they come back to me - dimly and brokenly, but with what a magic spell - those years of youth when I was soldiering! Again I hear the far warble of blown bugles. Again I see the tall, blue smoke of camp-fires ascending from the dim valleys of Wonderland. There steals upon my sense the ghost of an odor from pines that canopy the ambuscade. I feel upon my cheek the morning mist that shrouds the hostile camp unaware of its doom, and my blood stirs at the ringing rifle-shot of the solitary sentinel. Unfamiliar landscapes, glittering with sunshine or sullen with rain, come to me demanding recognition, pass, vanish and give place to others. Here in the night stretches a wide and blasted field studded with half-extinct fires burning redly with I know not what presage of evil. Again I shudder as I note its desolation and its awful silence. Where was it? To what monstrous inharmony of death was it the visible prelude?Henry Morton Stanley of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" fame fought for the Confederacy and was captured. He joined the Union army 2 months later.
Here are the gates to the cemetery proper and some sections of grave markers:
I looked for Confederate soldier graves but found none until I came across the mass graves in these trenches:
There are reportedly two Confederate dead interred in the actual main cemetery, but I didn't find them.
Wikipedia has this comparison of the armies:
On the eve of battle, Grant's and Johnston's armies were of comparable size, but the Confederates were poorly armed with antique weapons, including shotguns, hunting rifles, pistols, flintlock muskets, and even a few pikes; however, some regiments, such as the 6th and 7th Kentucky Infantry, had Enfield rifles. The troops approached the battle with very little combat experience; Braxton Bragg's men from Pensacola and Mobile were the best trained. Grant's army included 32 out of 62 infantry regiments who had combat experience at Fort Donelson. One half of his artillery batteries and most of his cavalry were also combat veteransThere are markers throughout the park explaining who was where and what happened when. It's hard to take in how horrible it must have been. Death is everywhere, even now.
|photo from Wikipedia|
There is a reconstruction of Shiloh Methodist Church, site of the battle and for which the battle was named:
A United Methodist Church congregation continues to be active here in the park:
The Tennessee Monument:
It's heart-breaking. It really requires more time than just half a day. I wish there'd been a restaurant across the road where we could have taken a break for lunch and then returned. Time is required to begin to take it all in. People are stupid, and war is hell, and I wish -oh, how I wish!- we would ever learn.
This is a 20 minute National Geographic video on the battle:
There is a 2-hour virtual tour of the battlefield from C-Span here.