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The battle of Shiloh.

One hundred and fifty years have passed since the fury at Shiloh. The battle, one of the most significant in the four-year-long War for Southern Independence, began on the 6th day of April, 1862, and ended 38 hours later without a victor.


The first day of the rout was won by the South and only stopped by darkness. On the second day, with 20,000 fresh troops who had arrived during the night, the North regained the ground lost the day before. Again, shooting only stopped when the day clouded into night. There was no third day. After two 12-hour-days of carnage, the battle--the sixth bloodiest for the Confederacy and the tenth for the Union--ended abruptly without a truce. The Rebels moved in as orderly a fashion as possible, 20 miles south into and around Corinth. The Federal Army made no effort to pursue. The battle, so devastating in numbers and so shockingly brutal, evokes images of fear and death even to this day.

The fated battlefield was centered around a primitively constructed house of worship known as Shiloh Church and consisted of a line of engagement that extended--like the 1815 Battle of Waterloo--for three full miles. The encounter, the first of its enormity in the Deep South, pitted 40,000 Southern defenders against the same number of Federal invaders as the conflict entered its second year. The assault first came from one side and then the other. It was immense, dreadful and utterly terrifying. Britain's Sir Winston Churchill once described war as being "beyond all words; horrible." This Anglo-English word, derived from the Latin horribilie, means, "to tremble." For those who fought at Shiloh, the nightmarish scene of fear must surely have loomed into view upon any remembrance of those two terrible days in "April of '62."

The horror of the clash has, perhaps, been best described by historian Charles P. Roland in his biography entitled Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics [1964]: "Never before had Americans waged such attack; never before had they manned such defense. Long a place of peace and worship, Shiloh was now a place of carnage. The ground was littered with the dead and dying and with the sundry debris of war; everywhere were broken guns and caissons, abandoned wagons, ambulances, ammunition, baggage, and fallen or riderless mounts. Rebel yells, shouted orders, cries of fear or anger, screams of the wounded, and neighing and trampling of horses all mingled with the clash of arms and bursting of shells in one great incessant din. Trees splintered and snapped before cannon balls, or were cut through with swarms of musket balls. A pall of gun smoke lay over the field." The scene, more mournful than can be expressed with mere words, involved men of every class, from the lowest private to the highest ranking officer."

The Confederacy's second in command; General Albert Sidney Johnston, a native of Mason County, Kentucky, was killed in action during the afternoon of the first day. At a site dubbed the "Hornet's Nest," Johnston received a.58 caliber Minie ball wound to the back of his right leg just below the knee, tearing an artery. Within a matter of only a few minutes, the 59-year-old leader was dead. In total, the South had 22 generals (or men who would become generals) wounded and two generals killed. Brigadier General Adley H. Gladden of South Carolina, was the other general officer who died after having been struck by a cannon shot. Possibly the best known Confederate officer to be wounded was Brigadier General John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky, who had recently served as vice-president of the United States under President James Buchanan (18574861). He was struck twice by spent shells.

Although not an officer, Private William H. Stanley of the Dixie Grays, a unit of the 6th Arkansas deployed near the center of the attack, was cut off during the confusion and was captured the second day. Biographer Tim Jeal, in his book entitled Stanley, records that Stanley was "taken to St. Louis, and then by railroad car to Camp Douglas on the outskirts of Chicago, and confined along with hundreds of others in a huge cattle shed." Nine years later, the former Welsh orphan, after having changed his name to Henry Morton Stanley, gained worldwide recognition as Africa's greatest explorer, uttering the words "Dr. Livingston, I presume?" after finding the famous English missionary Dr. David Livingston in the wilds of present-day Tanzania.

The Union Army fared little better. Brigadier General W.H.L. Wallace of Urbana, Ohio, was mortally wounded during the first day of action. A total of 16 other generals received wounds of various degrees. The most recognizable of these was Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman, who suffered a severe buckshot wound to his right hand in addition to having three horses shot from under him. The actual number of men killed and injured on both sides isn't really known. The figures at best are conservative estimates and vary depending on the source. In historian William H. Price's Civil War Handbook (1961), he lists the number of Union causalities (killed, wounded, and missing) at 13,573, and the Confederate losses at 10,699.




In the aftermath, a plea was made for doctors and pastors to come to the northeast corner of the state as soon as possible. Shiloh's bloodletting more than exhausted the medical and burial resources of the surrounding towns. Nearly every community within 200 miles of Corinth was impacted as hundreds of wounded were hurried to dozens of locations, draining resources. Even the Castalian Springs Hotel, located in Holmes County, 190 miles to the southwest, overflowed with the injured and dying. Those who perished were laid to rest in the Wesley Chapel Methodist Cemetery near Durant.

Of the many physicians who assisted; a surgeon from Steen's Creek (now Florence) in Rankin County, Dr. Holden Garthur Evans, came and stayed six months. In his journal, now housed at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, he made no mention of this catastrophe. His journal entries stopped the day he left home and picked up again the day he returned. It is believed that he never talked publicly about this dreadful ordeal.

Unfortunately, for the South, the battle at Shiloh was not the end, only the beginning. Over the next 36 months, the numerically stronger Federal army would continue to aggressively press forward--bringing the noise, the smell, and the fear, destruction and death of war into every section of the state and, indeed, into all the southland. Throughout this period, many Yankees forged an ignominious reputation, wreaking mayhem as they pillaged, burned, ravaged, and desecrated their way across the Eagle State (as Mississippi was known at that time), affecting practically every town and crossroads with the swiftness of a plague. It is no wonder that Louisiana's Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, George Washington Cable [1844-1925], who fought throughout the war as a private in the Confederate Army, gained immortality with his quote: "The South never smiled again after Shiloh."

Grave markers of men from Ohio at Shiloh National Military Park; men who likely served under Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman. Welsh-born James Rowland jumped ship in New Orleans, and in 1861, enlisted as William H. Stanley. In 1871, he changed his name to Henry Morton Stanley gaining fame for finding Dr. David Livingston in the wilds of Africa.
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Title Annotation:looking back
Author:Cooper, Forrest Lamar
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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