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Battle of Shilo

In: Historical Events

Submitted By bowmanjl
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May 2, 2009
Battle of Shiloh is among the significant ones that occurred during the Civil War, but even despite this fact it is relatively poorly studied. It was one of the first massive field battles fought in the Western Campaign and largely predetermined the progress of the further actions. When discussing this battle, several important features have to be named: • Soldiers on both sides were rather inexperienced • Commanders of Federate and Confederate armies made a number of serious mistakes • The entire battle was very poorly controlled on both sides and virtually turned into a massacre • Commanders of the separate brigades had real influence over the battle, and not the commanders of the Armies Due to the features stated above, this battle is rather hard to analyze from the tactical point of view, as little tactic decisions were actually present. The battle just progressed “as it is”, which led to relatively unpredicted results and numerous losses.
Importance of the battle In February 1862 the Confederates experienced two serious losses: at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. Under these conditions the further progress of the Union forces towards the Tennessee River was inevitable. General Grant, the commander of the Union armies was ordered to meet with the army of Ohio and start moving in the southern direction. United armies of Tennessee and Ohio would reach 75000, which would significantly outnumber the Confederate forces in the area[1]. It was clear to the Southern generals that the two armies should not be allowed to join. If Grant had enough time to unite the two armies, nothing could be done to stop the progress of the Union in the Western Campaign.
The progress of the battle On April 6th, 1862 general Albert Sidney Johnston ordered the Confederate troops attack the Union camp and drive the enemy’s forces into the Tennessee River. Grant’s soldiers, unprepared for battle and not expecting any action, were forced to retreat. The battle was fought mostly in the woods and swampy areas surrounding the Tennessee River. The catastrophe would have been indeed devastating for Grant, if not for the soldiers on the left flank, who managed to arrange solid defense on the muddy road near the place called “Hornet’s Nest”. This squad, lead by Prentiss had to surrender further on, but actually saved the day. Confederate assault was halted till night and no further progress was made. On the evening of April 6 the battle seemed to be entirely lost for the Union. However, during night Buell’s army of Ohio reached the battle sight, together with reinforcements of the Wallace’s brigade. On the morning of April 7th the Confederate forces were counterattacked by the now-overwhelming Union troops and were forced to retreat.
Reasons for the Union victory Despite the unlucky start of the battle, the Union forces under Grant’s command managed to win the battle. Historians identify several reasons for that happening[2]: 1. Grant’s army had significant reserves and was reinforced 2. Union soldiers were better equipped and trained 3. The enemy failed to use the effect of surprise it initially had 4. The forces managed to retreat relatively in order and regroup during night
Lessons learned The battle of Shiloh allows us draw several important lessons that remain urgent now. It is always important to be aware of the potential enemy assault and remain very cautious. Good coordination and control at the battlefield is extremely important, because otherwise combat turns into massacre. And finally, just having fresh reserves may win the entire battle.

Works Cited
Leidner, G. “Battle of Shiloh; Affected by an insubordinate officer”. The Washington Times, May 3, 1997. Accessed May 2, 2009 at: %20by%20an%20Insubordinate%20Officer
“Battle of Shiloh: Shattering Myths” – website. Accessed May 2, 2009 at:

[1] Leidner, G. “Battle of Shiloh; Affected by an insubordinate officer”

[2] “Battle of Shiloh: Shattering Myths” –

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