Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Shiloh, part 2

I learned that the reason so many people with roots in the south or midwest have an ancestor who fought at Shiloh, is that there were just so many soldiers there: 110,000.

It was one of the earliest of the larger battles (April 1862), and one of the bloodiest. In just two days there were almost 24,000 casualties (more than in all previous American wars combined).1,2

Shiloh is said to be the best preserved battlefield of the Civil War3,4.

This is where the shooting started, in Fraley Field. A Union patrol encountered advancing Confederate pickets. The whole attack was a surprise, but this engagement gave the unfortified Union camps at least a little warning.

That marker in the middle of the far field looks far away, until you think about someone standing over there shooting at you, at which point it seems a lot closer.

Replica of the Shiloh meeting house. Sherman's division was here at the beginning of the battle, and the original church was used as different headquarters on different days. (The Confederates won the first day, but the Union was reinforced overnight and won the second day.)

The peach orchard was in bloom during the battle. Petals cut by flying bullets reminded observers of falling snow. In the end there were no petals left on the trees. (These newly replanted peach trees apparently had somewhat of a deer problem.)

One end of the sunken road. (Not really so sunken anymore after 145 years.) It leads to the Hornets' Nest, a thicket where the fighting was particularly fierce.

This was called "The Bloody Pond" after so many wounded men and horses gathered there, that the water became red with their blood.


1My great-great-grandfather was among them. His records are incomplete, but his wound was severe enough that he was discharged from the army less than a month after Shiloh.

2That's more than our casualties of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War all put together. And Shiloh was only the worst battle up to that point. It got even worse later on.

3Shelby Foote said that. (I am obliged to make a joke about this being a Foote note.)

4Lots of people here still call it the War Between the States. A few people call it the War of Northern Aggression. If they are not kidding, those are usually the kind of people you want to watch out for.


Mark said...

We should visit Shilh some time. It's fairly close to us. This site is interesing:

I didn't realize how bad Chicamauga was. That's just a long bike ride from where we live.

Considering the unbelievable bloodshed and the legacy of what some people call our Southern heritage, I find it a little hard to joke about the Civil War any more.

Rurality said...

Hi Mark, I was just looking at that site this morning! Shiloh is the only CW battlefield we've ever been to, but this was the 2nd time we'd been there. It's such a peaceful place that it's hard to imagine what happened there.

I want to visit Chickamauga too in the future. It's not far from my mother's family place. I am finding it interesting to learn about the battles and all the "coulda woulda shoulda" that seems to apply to each one.

We listened to the audiobook "Shiloh" by Shelby Foote recently and I think that's what made Hubby want to go again.

lime said...

i just visited gettysburg for the first time this summer. i'd love to see shiloh.

Karmyn R said...

I have a great-great something Uncle named Travis who fought at Shiloh. That's a place I'd like to tour.

I visited Gettysburg about 5 years ago and the history of it all was amazing.

Ava said...

Wow! What a great tribute you have here with the pictures and the stories. Thank you for sharing them. I really enjoyed them.

Wren said...

I grew up in the middle of Civil War battlefields. It's an eerie legacy in many ways. The annual candlelight illumination at Antietam is powerful, no matter which side of the war was your family's.

On a less somber note, I am totally jealous I didn't think of "Foote note"

Floridacracker said...

It makes the reconciliation and mending all the more amazing.
Alot of countries never rejoin after civil wars.

Love the fawn.

edifice rex said...

Allen and I visited Shiloh a few years ago kinda on a whim as we were on a long road trip. It is the only Civil War site (besides Ft. Morgan) that I have ever been to also. It was very moving. Kind of sobering to see also all the individual graves of the Northern soldiers and the Southerners were all just dumped in big mass graves.

Tamar Orvell said...

War stinks. A recent visit to the Andersonville, GA, National Historic site opened my eyes to lots of reasons to study war, chief among them: to cease engaging in it. The capstone of my visit: the National Prisoner of War Museum. We planned on visiting 1-2 hours yet stayed until closing time. We simply couldn't get enough exposure to the powerful images, recorded testimonies, artifacts, resources, and exhibits that fired our imaginations and broke the dams on our tear ducts.

More info at

Rurality said...

Thanks for all the comments. I misspoke when I said that Shiloh was the only CW battlefield we'd been to... I forgot about Ft Morgan and Blakely down in south Alabama. They are nothing like Shiloh though.

Lime, I'd love to see Gettysburg some day too.

Karmyn, if you know the unit, you can track his travels all over the battlefield. You can even see all the markers online at .

Thanks Ava. More to come! Y'all are going to be sick of Shiloh before it's all over. :)

Wren, history is so much more interesting to me when I can visit the actual place and imagine the way things happened. I'd love to visit Antietam too.

FC, you are so right.

Annie, yeah I am planning to do a post on that too. I don't know why that is so disconcerting to me, but it is.

Tamar, that's yet another place I'd like to see. Also the Union POW camp (Douglas), where another one of my ancestors was. (I think Andersonville was a lot worse though.)

MrsBurns said...

Chickamauga is close to us as well. It is a very peaceful place now, but my mom's mom's family lived close by when it happened (Sept '63) and it was awful. A killing frost followed the battle within a couple of days but did not do much to dampen the smell. The cold weather killed a lot of those wounded who did not get moved inside to the house hospitals. So very sad.

And before anyone gets any ideas, we were poor white trash with no slaves. Some would say we are still PWT. They might be right. But don't say it to my face.....

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