Battle of Shiloh

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Battle of Shiloh
Part of: Civil War
Battle of Shiloh, painting by Thure de Thulstrup
Battle of Shiloh , painting by Thure de Thulstrup
date April 6-7, 1862
place Hardin County , Tennessee
output Union victory
Parties to the conflict

United States 34United States United States

States of America Confederate 1861-4Confederate States of America Confederate States of America

Troop strength
13,047 1,754
8,408 wounded 2,885
captured / missing
10,699 1,728
8012 wounded
959 captured / missing

The Battle of Shiloh took place on April 6 and 7, 1862 in the US state of Tennessee , about 22 miles northeast of the small town of Corinth in the US state of Mississippi during the American Civil War . It is also called the Battle of Pittsburg Landing . The Union lost 13,047 soldiers, the Confederation only 10,699 men, but lost the battle. Among the total of 3,482 killed was General Albert S. Johnston , who had commanded the Confederate units; the rest was divided between the wounded, prisoners or missing.


After the forts Henry and Donelson were taken by Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew H. Foote , Henry Wager Halleck was appointed commander in chief of the Union forces west of the Appalachians. Halleck ordered Grant, who had meanwhile been promoted to major general, to march with his troops to Pittsburg Landing on Tennessee , where Don Carlos Buell's Ohio Army was to unite with Grant's Tennessee Army . Halleck then wanted to lead this army of 75,000 men south in order to take Corinth. After the Confederate Army of the West under Earl Van Dorn was defeated in the Battle of Pea Ridge in early March 1862 , General Johnston Van Dorn and his 15,000 men had ordered to Corinth. However, Van Dorn's army did not arrive in time to participate in the Battle of Shiloh. Johnston himself had to evacuate Nashville, Tennessee on February 23rd. Buell's Ohio Army then invaded the city. When Columbus, Kentucky fell, much of Kentucky and Tennessee had come under Union control. Johnston needed a win now. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard put together an army that consisted of the two wings of Johnston's army and 15,000 men from New Orleans , Louisiana and Mobile , Alabama under the leadership of Braxton Bragg . These 42,000 men were supposed to defend Corinth. Corinth was an important railway junction. Beauregard not only wanted to defend Corinth, he intended to go on the offensive and drive the Northerners from Tennessee. Before Grant and Buell's armies could unite, Beauregard wanted to attack Grant. To do this, he drew up a plan to bring the Mississippi Army into combat position on April 4th, and then lead a surprise attack against Grant's unsuspecting Tennessee Army. It consisted of the four corps of Majors General Leonidas Polk , Braxton Bragg, WJ Hardee and Brigadier General JC Breckinridge . However, since Beauregard had only inexperienced troops and staff officers, and pouring rain turned the streets into morass, it took until the evening of April 5th to get the soldiers into position. Because of these delays, Beauregard believed that she had lost the element of surprise and wanted to break off the planned attack. Since the Confederate Army was meanwhile ready to attack, Johnston was able to convince him to carry out the attack. Grant, who believed that Johnston's army was completely demoralized, did not believe in a Confederate attack, so five of his divisions camped in the open field without any precautionary measures and neglected reconnaissance. Only the division under Lew Wallace , who guarded supplies five miles away, did he recommend special vigilance. William T. Sherman , who commanded one of Grant's divisions, also believed the Confederates would not attack.

The battle

The first day of the battle

Battle of Shiloh - the first day

On the morning of April 6th, the Confederate troops (Hardees and Braggs Corps) stormed out of the woods and met the two surprised divisions of Sherman and Prentiss near Shiloh Church , who were still sitting at breakfast or enjoying various leisure activities. Sherman got his men to hold up the Confederate onslaught, leaving himself twice lightly wounded. When reinforcements from the Union division of McClernand arrived, the soldiers of Prentiss' division were able to hold out for the time being. While Union forces were attacked, their commander, Ulysses S. Grant, was nine miles away at his headquarters. Startled by the intense musket fire, he let himself be taken to Pittsburg Landing on a dispatch boat. The fighting grew in intensity now after Beauregard and Johnston threw all their troops into battle. When Grant reached the battlefield around nine in the morning, he immediately sent for Lew Wallace's division, but they got lost and did not take part in the battle of April 6th. As soon as hastily brought up troops of the Tennessee Army reached the front, they were used to support the 6 mile long, in several places swaying front line. Shocked by being in a hard and chaotic battle with practically no warning, many of the inexperienced Union soldiers ran away. They fled to the embankment at Pittsburg Landing and holed up there. Thousands of Confederate troops also fled in horror, resulting in utter confusion. The commanders on both sides tried to organize their troops and stop the refugees. Grant had artillery and some of the fled soldiers set up a reception area west of Pittsburg Landing. Albert Sidney Johnston was shot and mortally wounded around 2:30 p.m. Beauregard then took command of the Confederate. In the meantime the Union troops had evaded two miles. The remnants of Prentiss' division, along with a battery of light artillery and parts from three other divisions, were holed up in a ravine known as "the Hornet's Nest". Grant ordered Prentiss to hold the position at all costs and Prentiss did his best. The Confederates attacked this position again and again (a total of twelve times), but the 4,500 soldiers under Prentiss were able to repel the attacks again and again. Eventually, the Confederates brought 62 artillery pieces within core range of the position and opened fire. At 5:30 p.m. Prentiss had to surrender with 2,200 survivors. By now Grant had the rest of his army posted at Pittsburg Landing and Lew Wallace's division had arrived. Buell's advance units crossed the river.

Believing that his army was too exhausted to attack again, Beauregard left the fight for the rest of the day. Two thousand soldiers on both sides were dead and thousands wounded. Many of the wounded died in the pouring rain that night. The commanders on both sides were confident that they would beat the enemy the next day. Beauregard, who, on the basis of a hoax, assumed that Buell's army would march into Alabama, sent a telegram to Richmond saying it would be a complete victory. While Beauregard slept in Sherman's captured tent, Grant spent the night with his soldiers in the field.

The second day of the battle

The second day of the battle

April 7th began again with a morning attack, this time by the Union. Grant and Buell's armies advanced on a broad front at 5:20 a.m. and encountered little opposition from the enemy. During the morning the fighting intensified. The advancing Union soldiers pushed the Confederate troops back further and further, finally to the starting point of the battle. Beauregard, realizing that a victory was out of the question, gave the order to evade around 3 p.m. The exhausted Union units did not pursue and stayed in their recaptured camp.


Shiloh was the most costly battle of the American Civil War to date. After a year of war it became clear that the south had to be conquered in order to end the war and the rebellion. Grant was heavily criticized for the high losses suffered, and Halleck even relieved him of his command. When asked to discharge Grant from the army, Abraham Lincoln replied : "I cannot do without this man - he fights!"; Halleck was appointed Commander in Chief of the Army and Grant was appointed Commander in Chief of the Ohio / Missouri Military Area.

Beauregard insisted that Shiloh was a great victory for the south. Eventually, however, the Confederates realized that Shiloh had suffered a devastating defeat, and public opinion turned against Beauregard, who had refused to launch a final, possibly decisive, assault on the evening of April 6th. At the same time, Grant, who was rumored to have been drunk at Shiloh's (citing his previous alcohol addiction), had risen in favor with the Northern public after his patron Elihu Washburne praised him in a speech to the House of Representatives. When the combined Union armies of Grant, Buell and Popes under Halleck's command finally advanced on Corinth, evacuated by Beauregard, who set up his new headquarters in Tupelo , Mississippi and celebrated the evacuation as a strategic victory, President Jefferson Davis had enough of these “victories “Beauregards. He dropped him and Braxton Bragg took command of Beauregard's army.

The Battle of Shiloh was described by chroniclers as "bloody, filthy, and tangled" as much of the site was thick, swampy forest. "After Shiloh the south stopped smiling!" So another chronicler. "I was even more scared than I was with Shiloh" became a household word among battle veterans to indicate how gruesome a battle was. Grant later wrote in his memoir that "it was possible to walk all over the battlefield without touching the ground, so the battlefield was covered with corpses".


  • James L. McDonough: Shiloh: In Hell Before Night . Knoxville, TN 1977.
  • Larry J. Daniel: Shiloh: The Battle that Changed the Civil War , Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 1997 ISBN 0-684-83857-5 . (Paperback)
  • Edward Cunningham: Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 . Edited by GD Joiner & TB Smith. New York, NY 2007.
  • Lt. Col. Joseph B. Mitchell, Decisive Battles of the Civil War , New York 1955, ISBN 0-449-30031-5 , pp. 35-44.

Web links

Commons : Battle of Shiloh  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Cunningham, pp. 422-424.
  2. ^ Cunningham, p. 422.

Coordinates: 35 ° 9 ′ 5.8 ″  N , 88 ° 19 ′ 20.3 ″  W.