Battle of Shiloh
(also known as Pittsburg Landing)
Location: Hardin County
(near Shiloh, TN)
Dates: April 6-7, 1862
Ulysses S. Grant, Major General
Albert Sidney Johnston, General
In February, 1862, Brigadier General
Ulysses S. Grant would start an
offensive against the Confederate Army of the Tennessee. On February
6, utilizing Admiral Foote's powerful river gun boats, Grant would receive
the the surrender of the troops garrisoned at Fort Henry, on the Tennessee
River. Moving across the finger of land, between the Tennessee and
Cumberland Rivers, Grant would receive the capitulation of the army
garrisoned at Fort Henry, on February 16. On the evening of February
15, Grant received a note from the Confederate commander, Brigadier General
Simon B Buckner, asking for terms of surrender. Grant wrote Buckner,
"No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.
I propose to move immediately upon your works." With this quick note,
Grant would be launched into celebrity. The north had been looking for
a general who could win, and they found him in Ulysses S. Grant. Grant
was promptly promoted to Major General Volunteers for his win at Fort Donelson.
The victories at Forts Henry and Donelson opened two of the most
important waterways, in the south, to Union gun boats - and foot soldiers.
The fall of Fort Henry opened the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson opened
the Cumberland River, to Nashville. Having a line several hundred
miles long, to defend, starting at Columbus, Kentucky in the west, going
through Bowling Green (Johnston's HQ) on to the Cumberland Gap, the fall of
these two forts was disastrous for Johnston. His line was severed and
untenable. Johnston would retreat, with his army, from Bowling Green,
to Corinth, MS. Once there, he would unite with
Polk's army, retreating from Columbus, KY and that of
Beauregard, already in Mississippi.
With the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers opened into the deep south.
U.S. Grant did not sit back on his heels. He had wired Major General
W. Halleck, headquartered in St. Louis, and asked permission to continue on
to Nashville, and to send Brigadier General
Charles F. Smith to Clarksville.
After not hearing anything from Halleck, Grant put his plans in motion.
Unfortunately, for Grant, a Confederate sympathizer intercepted his
dispatches. Halleck, continued to send repeated telegraphs to Grant,
wanting updates on his troop strengths. Grant was not there to reply.
After returning to his army, from meeting Major General
Don Carlos Buell, at
Nashville, Grant found he had been removed from command, and placed under
the command of Brigadier General C.F. Smith. He was told to wait at
Fort Donelson for further orders. Grant, at the insistence of Lincoln,
was restored to command, on March 13, soon after General Charles Smith was
injured while getting on a boat in Savannah, TN.
Grant immediately began transporting his army upstream, to Pittsburg
Landing, in preparation for an advance on
Sidney Johnston's Confederate Army at
Corinth, MS. His army consisted of the following divisions: First
Division commanded by Major General
John McClernand, Second Division
commanded by Brigadier General
W.H.L. Wallace, Third Division commanded by
Lew Wallace, Fourth Division commanded by Brigadier General
Stephen Hurlbut, Fifth Division commanded by Brigadier General
Sherman and the Sixth Division commanded by Brigadier General
Prentiss. All of these division, with the exception of Lew Wallace's
Third Division were deployed in the vicinity of Pittsburg Landing. McClernand's First Division, Sherman's Fifth Division and Prentiss' Sixth
Division were placed furthest from Pittsburg Landing, commanding the
approaches Johnston's Confederate Army would use - if they were to attack.
W.H.L. Wallace and Hurlbut's Divisions were closer to the landing. Lew
Wallace's Fourth Division was camped at Crumps Landing, downriver (north)
from Pittsburg Landing, along a line
Grant feared may be attacked if
Johnston moved on him.
Grant made headquarters downriver, at Savannah, TN, about eight miles
river miles from Pittsburg Landing. He was instructed by
Henry Halleck to
not bring on a general engagement until Major General
Don Carlos Buell's
Army of Ohio had arrived, from Nashville.
U.S. Grant's troops were camped at Pittsburg Landing, they drilled and
marched. Many troops were "green" and had not "seen the elephant" - a
term that meant they had not been battle hardened by direct action.
Meanwhile, at Corinth,
Albert Sidney Johnston was planning to go on the
P.G.T. Beauregard was pushing A.S. Johnston to move
on Grant's forces, before Buell's Army of the Ohio could combine with Grant.
Confederate scouts had located
D.C. Buell's troops and knew they were on the
move. However, there was some confusion about where his destination
was. A.S. Johnston's grappled with whether he should begin his
offensive immediately or wait for
Earl Van Dorn's Army of the West, to
arrive from Arkansas. In late March he determined to attack on April
3. His army was organized into four corps under the following
commanders: Major General
Leonidas "Bishop" Polk: First Army Corps; Major General
Braxton Bragg: Second Army Corps; Major General
William J. Hardee: Third
Army Corps and Brigadier General
John C. Breckinridge: Reserve Corps.
His battle plan was to turn
U.S. Grant's left flank, getting between him and the
Tennessee River and pushing Grant's army north, into Owl Creek. The
Confederate attack would be in "stacked" order, with Hardee's Corps going in
first, followed by Bragg, Polk and if necessary,. Breckinridge's Reserve
A.S. Johnston's Army was to have pushed out of Corinth on Thursday, April 3.
They would march the twenty-two miles on April 3 and be ready to attack
Grant's army a Friday, April 4. The army would primarily use two roads
to reach Pittsburg Landing: Ridge Road and Monterey Road. The army
would stop at Mickey's farmhouse which is located about 6 miles from the
landing. Due to a mix up on April 3,
Leonidas Polk's Corps were
blocking the other corps' access to Ridge Road. It took the better
part of the morning for the last of the troops to march from Corinth.
The inexperience of the commanders, in moving their Corps, made a Friday
attack on Grant impossible.
The armies were in position late Friday
afternoon, April 4, so Johnston set Saturday as the day he would attack.
Overnight, on Friday, heavy rains saturated the area. The troops
pushed from camp early on Saturday, but moving an army in these conditions
was slow. It would close to noon before any of the rebel troops
would reach the staging area for the attack on the Federals. It would
be late in the day, on Saturday, before
Sidney Johnston would have all of
his troops in the deployment area. Again, an attack was not possible
On the Union side, troops from
W.T. Sherman's Fifth Division and
Benjamin Prentiss's Sixth Division were hearing noises in the distance. Soldiers
on picket duty for both divisions would claim to hear, and see, Confederate
troop movements south, southwest of their camps. Sherman would
discount these reports, out of hand, as being nothing but rebel skirmishers,
in the woods. Even after troops under Colonel Buckland fought with
advanced rebel troops, Sherman was unconvinced. He would tell an Ohio
lieutenant, reporting to him on Saturday, "Tell Colonel Appler to take his
damned regiment to Ohio. There is no force of the enemy nearer than
Corinth." Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss was no less skeptical
and later in the day,
Grant would wire
D.C. Buell that the Confederate Army was
still in Corinth.
Missouri Colonel (U.S.) Everett Peabody was not so
skeptical. He believed there was reason to be concerned and had his
brigade adjutant order troops to sleep with their rifles, and cartridges, at
hand. Peabody detailed the 25th Missouri (Major James Powell) and the
12th Michigan (Colonel Francis Quinn) to early morning patrol. Just
after midnight, scouts from the 25th Missouri, while on patrol, identified
Confederate troops a couple miles from camp. Powell returned to report
this to Peabody, who decided to send Powell with a large enough detachment
to determine the rebel strength, and intentions. This detachment
included four Missouri companies and a small detachment from the 12th
Michigan. They started out at approximately 3:00 AM. Just as the
rays of the sun, were coming over the eastern horizon, the advanced troops
of Powell ran into a group of Alabama soldiers. They were advanced
cavalry scouts of the Confederate Army. The Union forces, under
Powell, hastily organized a line of battle and proceeded to move on the
retreating rebel horsemen. In just a short distance, they would run
into the advancing Confederate line, a battalion of Mississippi infantry.
The Battle of Shiloh had started. The Confederate army would continue
to move forward, for the next couple hours, overrunning the 5th and 6th
Around 7:15 AM,
U.S. Grant was sitting down for breakfast, when
he heard the distant rumble of cannon. He knew the battle had started
and dictated a quick message for
D.C. Buell, to send General
Nelson's division up the east bank of the Tennessee, directly opposite
Pittsburg Landing. There they would meet boats to ferry them across.
Hopping on his river boat, the Tigress, Grant steamed south, stopping at
Crump's Landing where he met Major General
Lew Wallace, instructing him to
proceed with haste to Pittsburg Landing. After meeting with Wallace,
Grant steamed up river (south) to Pittsburg Landing where he was able to
assess the situation. It was not good.
Hardee's CS Corps had
attacked Peabody's 6th Division regiment commanded by Major Powell, pushing
it back into the division's camp. This had caught the Union army by
surprise. Further west, Hardee's Corps pushed into
Division camps, catching his Corps in the middle of breakfast.
Patrick Cleburne, a rising star in the army of the south, would
lead many of the mixed rebel troops into the 5th Division's camps. US
John McClernand would send reinforcements to Sherman, in an
effort to contain the punishing rebel assault. Back along the central
portion of the Confederate line, General
Prentiss would confront Colonel
Peabody, "Colonel Peabody, I will hold you personally responsible for
bringing on this engagement." Peabody replied that he was responsible
for all of his official actions. Both Peabody, and Major Powell would
be killed, early in action that Sabbath morning in April 1862.
point, confusion ruled on both sides of the battle. The Union troops
had been forced out of their camps, during breakfast, many ill prepared for
battle. As the Confederates piled into the Union camps, they became
disorganized, plundering the tents and eating the still simmering
breakfasts. Slowly, General
A.S. Johnston would reorganize his battle
Hardee commanding the left,
Polk commanding the center and
Bragg's troops manning the right flank. General
Pierre G.T. Beauregard,
second in command to Johnston, pushed the left flank into action, slamming
Sherman around 11:00 AM. For the better part of
four hours, this western sector of the battlefield would be witness to some
of the most brutal fighting in the Civil War.
U.S. Grant's shattered right
would continue to be pushed by the rebels for the rest of the day.
other Confederate flank, Johnston ordered CS Brigadier General
Wither's division to move north along the Hamburg Road. With this
action, they pushed US. Colonel
David Stuart's brigade northeast, towards
Pittsburg Landing, an area that was supported by Brigadier General
Stephen Hurlbut's Fourth Division.
Around 10:30 AM,
W.H.L. Wallace's Second Division into
action. They had pushed down the Corinth Road to an area just north of
the "Crossroads" (junction of the Corinth Road and the Hamburg Purdy Road).
Before noon, the Confederates had established a solid line extending from
the Crossroads in the west, through a low ridge along the Eastern Corinth
Road and onto the area held by
W.H.L. Wallace near the
junction of the Hamburg Purdy Road and the Hamburg Road. There was a
peach field in this area so it would be forever known as the Peach Orchard.
The extreme right flank of the Confederate line passed through the Hamburg
Road and extended towards the Tennessee River.
Grant had stabilized his
lines, with the remnants of
Sherman's Fifth Division holding the right
flank, followed by portions of
McClernand's First Division. Next in
line would be
W.H.L. Wallace's Second Division,
Prentiss's battered Sixth
Hurlbut's Fourth Division. The area held by Wallace and
Prentiss, would become the scene of some of the most intense fighting at
Shiloh. Directly in front of Wallace and to the right of Prentiss, was
the Duncan field. Directly north of the field was an old farm road
that connected the Corinth Road to the Hamburg Road. Over many years
of use, the road had sunk slightly lower than the fields. This road,
like one at Petersburg, and Antietam, in the east, would forever be known as
the "Sunken Road." The area in front of the Sunken Road would be
dubbed the "Hornet's Nest," by the Confederates. Wallace had
James Tuttle's First Brigade and Colonel
Third Brigade to hold this vital section of the Union line. Sweeny's
brigade would suffer the highest casualty rate of the entire Union army at
By 2:00 PM, the Confederate troops commanded by Brigadier General
Daniel Ruggles started to cross the Duncan field, only to be pushed back in
disarray. This back and forth action continued for a period of time as
Ruggles continued to feed his troops in a brigade at a time.
In an effort
to make a coordinated attack on the right side of his lines,
Johnston was working near the front of his lines, on the right.
Sitting on his horse, he received a wound to his right leg. While his
staff officer asked him about the wound, Johnston did not fuss about it.
Governor Harris, from Tennessee, was with Sidney Johnston at the time, and
caught grabbed him as he reeled in his saddle. Asking the general if
he was wounded, Johnston replied quietly, "Yes, and I fear seriously."
Leading Johnston's horse a short distance off, into a small ravine, they
placed Johnston directly on the ground. They searched his body and
could not find a wound. He has been hit in a major artery on the back
of his right leg. Johnston had a field tourniquet in his pocket that
could have been used to save his life, had treatment been started earlier.
Albert Sidney Johnston would be the highest ranking Confederate officer
killed during the war. Couriers discreetly went to find
Beauregard, to let him know he now commanded the entire army.
By 4:00 PM,
very deliberate fighting was occurring in at the middle of the field, at the
Ruggles had positioned eleven field batteries to sweep
the entire opposing line, before sending his infantry in. Meanwhile,
both Union flanks were collapsing, leaving
W.H.L. Wallace and
Prentiss's divisions exposed to being attacked on both flanks. Wallace
would be hit in the head by a minie ball, and Prentiss would be captured.
Wallace was left on the field for dead, but ended up being found alive, the
next day. He would die several days later, with his wife at his
bedside, in Savannah, TN. Many Federal troops would be captured at the
Hornet's Nest but many would return to Pittsburg Landing and help protect
Grant's final defensive position, along the Pittsburg Road.
Grant would use
his chief engineer, Colonel
Joseph Webster to deploy his final defensive
line, along Pittsburg Road. Webster would deploy 50 large cannon, and
25,000 troops along this ridge. Troops would include a division of
D.C. Buell's Army of the Ohio, under the command of Brigadier General
"Bull" Nelson. Grant's line would extend from Pittsburg Landing, to
the Hamburg-Savannah Road, the route he expected his Fourth Division,
commanded by Major General
Lew Wallace, to arrive by. Lew Wallace had
been expected by mid-morning, but had taken his division down the wrong
road. Grant's aides, sent for him, caused him to turn around and
return the way he came, and come down the Hamburg-Savannah Road. This
took valuable time, and his troops would not arrive until 7:00 PM.
Ironically, if Wallace had continued on the first road, he would have hit
the Confederate army in the right flank, during the afternoon. This
may very well have changed the outcome of the first day's fighting.
day's final battle action, 6,000 rebel troops stormed up Dill Branch, to try
and overpower the Union left flank, getting between it and the Tennessee
(the original battle plan). These troops ran into the big guns
had deployed and
Nelson's division. They would be pushed back before
they reached the northern slope of the Dill Branch.
after dark, would pull back to the camps around Shiloh Church. Grant,
meanwhile, would continue to fortify his position and deploy the rest of
Buell's arriving Army of the Ohio.
Sherman, meeting Grant offered,
Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" Grant,
nonplused replied, "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though." This
was typical Grant. He operated best when under pressure.
Throughout the night, Grant had his river flotilla pound the Confederate
positions with large river guns. Most of the rebels slept little,
although the big guns did not cause a significant amount of casualties.
6:00 AM on Monday, April 7, Grant started his line in motion. His
troops were arrayed, from left to right:
Lew Wallace's Third Division,
Sherman's Fifth Division, and
Hurlbut's Fourth Division - all of the Army of
Tennessee. Next in line were the following Divisions, all of
Buell's Army of the Ohio: Brigadier General
Alexander McD. McCook's Second Division,
Thomas Crittenden's Fifth Division and
Division. The rebels were caught totally off guard by the well
organized advance of close to 30,000 Union troops. It took
until 10:00 AM to have his army fully deployed. The battle all along
the line rocked back and forth. By 12:00 PM they had been pushed out
of the ground, they had fought so hard for, the day before. Beauregard
continued to hope that
Earl Van Dorn would arrive with the Army of the West,
however that was not to be. By 1:00 PM, the Confederate commander had
determined he needed to withdraw his army to Corinth. During this
John Breckinridge would be in charge of the rear guard. The
battle of Shiloh was over.
Outcome: Union victory
Union: 13,047 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 10,699 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
With the northern populace heady over
U.S. Grant's victories at Forts
Henry and Donelson, news from Shiloh brought a feeling of gloom over the
country. More troops had been killed, in two days of fighting, at
Shiloh, than had been killed cumulatively in every battle fought in the U.S.
to that date. While the battle was a Union victory,. Grant would be
highly criticized by the northern press. There were rumors that he was
once again drinking and that the rebels had caught the Army of the Tennessee
unprepared. Congressional leaders would visit Abraham Lincoln demanding that
Grant be removed from command. Lincoln chose to stand loyally by Grant
stating, "I can't spare this man, he fights."
Grant was not
cashiered for his performance at Shiloh, he was effectively removed from
command. Shortly after the battle, Major General
Henry Halleck would
arrive at Shiloh to command the next offensive, on Corinth. Grant was
essentially placed second in command, a commander with no army.
combined armies of the Ohio, and Tennessee, would slowly push into northern
Mississippi, building fortifications, and then moving forward a short
distance, where they would construct new fortifications. This would
continue all the way to Corinth, where on May 30, the Union troops would
find the works, and the city, abandoned. Shortly after Corinth, on
Grant would be restored to full command.
Halleck would end up
being brought to Washington, D.C., as General-In-Chief of all Union Armies,
on July 23.
P.G.T. Beauregard's Army of the Mississippi would be pushed back,
from Corinth, south to Tupelo.
Grant's Army would next concentrate on
capturing Vicksburg. This would open the Mississippi to Union craft
and would essentially sever the Confederacy in two. It would, however,
take over a year for this to happen.