Friday, April 6, 2012

Remembering bloody Shiloh

Today is the sesquicentennial of the start of the 2-day Battle of Shiloh. Our public library was kind enough to order for me Winston Groom’s new book, Shiloh 1862, and I actually picked it up this morning. I really enjoyed his previous book on the Battle of Franklin (Shrouds of Glory), and I am just as excited about the new one.

In April 1862, the War Between the States had been going on for nearly a year. Many Americans still believed that it “would be over by Christmas.” But the dreadful Battle of Shiloh was about to change all that. While earlier battles in the East had been costly, nothing that had happened before could have prepared AmericansNortherners or Southern-ersfor the appalling loss of lives at Shiloh. More than 100,000 soldiers fought on Sunday and Monday, April 6-7, 1862.

The struggle took place in the 12 square miles that comprised Pittsburg Landing, a small stretch of waterfront on the west bank of the Tennessee River. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army of 40,000 was waiting here for Gen. Don Carlos Buell and his 35,000, reinforcements, in preparation for an attack on the Confederate position at Corinth, Mississippi. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, with his army of 44,000, was determined to hit Grant's forces before they could be reenforced. According to the National Park Service, when the battle was over, nearly 23,746 Americans were dead, wounded, or missing. There were more casualties at Shiloh than from all previous American wars combined.

Pittsburg Landing today
My great grandfather, Nathan Oakes, one of the thousands of new recruits assembling in Corinth, Mississippi, 20 miles south of the battlefield, did not participate due to the fact that his regiment, the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, was not yet equipped nor armed. The regiment did, however, receive Union prisoners, about 2,200 from Gen. Prentiss's division, that were captured in the fight at the famed "Hornet's Nest."

View from the "Hornet's Nest"
along the "Sunken Road"

Near the "Hornet's Nest" Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston was killed on the first day. His death would create a serious setback for the Southern army, changing the course of the present battle and perhaps the rest of the war. While leading an attack at the "Peach Orchard," Johnston was shot in the left leg. Not believing the wound to be serious, he dismissed his surgeon to care for wounded Union soldiers, and continued leading the Rebel attack. But within the hour, he bled to death.


To view my blog about Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes and the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, please visit:

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