Union forces. 6 Apnl am. Union fortes. 6 Apnl pm Union forces. 6-7 Apnl (through the night). Union counterattack. 7 Apnl am/pm. Confederate forces. 6 Apnl am. Confederate attack. 6 Apnl am/pm. Confederate forces. 6 April pm. Union line at close of battle Confederate line. 6-7 Apnl

Union gunboats

The largely unseasoned Confederate Army of the Mississippi left Corinth on 3 April. Muddy roads and the inhospitable terrain, however, stalled the advance for two days, forcing Beauregard to conclude that the element of surprise had been lost. Nonsense, Johnston remarked on the evening of 5 April, T would fight them if they were a million.' The same evening Buell had made it to Savannah, a few miles downriver from Pittsburg Landing. The countryside around Pittsburg Landing was cut by ravines, blanketed by heavy underbrush and blossoming peach trees, and crossed by a maze of small creeks and old wagon trails that bisected one another. The only distinguishing landmark was a small Methodist church that stood near the main road to Corinth. The church was known as Shiloh, which in Hebrew means 'Place of Peace.'

It was early on Palm Sunday, 6 April, when a Union patrol ventured out toward the woods and detected a wave of

Confederates, who fired an enormous volley, opening the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. To the Federals' surprise, the Confederates hail struck at dawn. Major-General William L Sherman, who had insisted that the enemy-was no closer than Corinth, commanded the Federals near the church and was forced to form a line to hold off the Confederate wave. The Confederates thrust forward throughout the early morning hours, pushing the panic-stricken soldiers back toward the river. Although somewhat oddly formed and badly intermingled in its deployment, the Confederate offensive was nonetheless so successful that by noon thousands of the disorganized Federals had simply run for cover, some cowering beneath the river bluff, others swimming across the river for safety. Still, most of the Federal troops remained steadfast and throughout the morning both sides engaged in a horrific slaughter.

When Grant arrived on the grisly scene it was about 8.30 am. He pulled stragglers together to form a defensive line and left word at Savannah for Buell to get his troops across the river. In the meantime, Grant had to hold on. As the Confederates continued to push the Federals back, they ran into a stubborn resistance in the center. Brigadier-General Benjamin Prentiss's division was located in a densely wooded area with open fields on both sides and an old sunken wagon trail in its front that provided an entrenchment. Grant ordered Prentiss to hold his position at all costs - an order that he obeyed throughout the day. Because of the intensity of the fight in this location, soldiers later dubbed this portion of the battlefield the 'Hornet's Nest.'

All day long, Johnston's Confederates tried in vain to envelop and dislodge the Federals. Although the Federals were running low on ammunition, they still repulsed wave after wave of Confederate assaults. At one point Johnston himself led one of the

These riverboats provided much needed assistance for tne Union army at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Grant made his headquarters aboard the Tigress, the middle vessel of the three. It was aboard this steamer that Bueli and Grant met briefly to discuss the strategy that brought ultimate v.ctory on the second day of the battle i Review of Reviews Company)

charges and was mortally wounded. He hied to death while his personal physician was helping to care for captured wounded Federals. After several futile and suicidal bayonet charges, the Confederates positioned over 60 cannon in a semicircle to rain down several hundred shells on the Union stronghold. Practically surrounded. Prentiss reluctantly surrendered at 5.30 pm to save the 2,200 men left in his division. During the remaining hour of daylight. Grant struggled to reposition his artillery to hold off the anticipated final Confederate thrust. As darkness came, so did the rains, and the merciless fighting ended.

Now in command of the victorious Confederate forces, Beauregard concluded that the Federals would retreat during the night, so he did not position his scattered and disorganized forces to receive an offensive. Instead, he waited for Van Dorn to arrive from Arkansas. Buell was reportedly too far away to reinforce Grant. But the night rains and darkness favored the Union army. Although both sides were exhausted. Buell had, in fact, arrived and the four divisions that crossed the river numbered some 28,000 men, who were anxious to fight. Although it had been a rough day, Grant had been significantly reinforced and he would assume the offensive the following morning. As he walked the lines during the night, he came across a fatigued General Sherman, who had been in the thick of the fighting all day. Sherman suggested that it had been a horrific fight: Grant agreed, but remarked.'Whip 'em tomorrow, though.'

Early the following morning, the Federals stunned the unsuspecting Confederates with an overwhelming counteroffensive. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, the soldiers fought over the same terrain, scattered with wounded and dead soldiers and horses, and half-submerged artillery pieces sunken by the rain. Like the previous day. the combat was severe and bloody. From the river, Union gunboats lobbed scores of shells down on the

Southern combatants. When Beauregard realized that Van Dorn was not coming, and that his troops were nearly out of ammunition and completely exhausted, he ordered a withdrawal to Corinth, (¡rant decided not to pursue because his soldiers were just as exhausted and disorganized as the retreating troops.

Although the Union won the battle, both sides lost overwhelming numbers of casualties. Union casualties totaled over 1.1,000, while the Confederates lost over 10,000. Never before was the American populace confronted by such staggering news as the losses at Shiloh. Northerners came to believe that the human toll far exceeded the strategic gains in the west and that something must have gone seriously wrong. Although the Federals had extinguished Confederate hopes for reclaiming West Tennessee and stalled the Union penetration of significant cotton-producing regions in Mississippi and Alabama, Northern politicians were pressed for answers about the high casualty rate. As rumors passed through the Federal camps that the Confederates had surprised Grant, that he had been drinking, and that he had not even been on the field when the battle opened, Lincoln and Halleck were forced to defend the commander. At one point, frustrated about the failures and inactivity in the east, Lincoln supposedly defended Grant, arguing that although he might be the cause of the losses at Shiloh, 'I can't spare this man; he lights.'

The same day that Grant and Buell defeated Beauregard, General Pope captured Island No. 10, which opened the Mississippi River all the way to Memphis, Tennessee. In the following weeks, the Union Navy-steamed down the Mississippi toward Memphis, and Halleck came to Pittsburg Landing to direct the combined Federal armies of Grant and Buell against Corinth.

Confederate gunboats Burning at New Orleans on the approach of the Federal fleets (Public domain)

Confederate gunboats Burning at New Orleans on the approach of the Federal fleets (Public domain)

Perhaps even more stunning than the Union victory at Shiloh was Flag Officer David G. Farragut's capture of New Orleans. Louisiana, three weeks later. His wooden frigates and gunboats, carrying Brigadier-General Benjamin Butler's 15,000 soldiers, approached the forts protecting the mouth of the Mississippi River. After a week of bombarding the strongholds, Farragut's mortars failed to reduce the forts, so the determined sailor decided to run his flotilla by the forts. Before daybreak on 24 April, Farragut slipped his 17 vessels past the forts and moved upriver, though the Confederates managed to disable three smaller vessels. Less than a week later. Farragut's sailors and marines captured New Orleans without resistance as Brigadier-General Mansfield Lovell sent his forces away from the city. Simultaneously, General Butler forced the surrender of the river lorts and then sent his men to occupy New Orleans.

Not only had the Federals captured the Confederacy's largest city and leading port, but also the capture came on the heels of the defeat at Shiloh. Again the Confederates suffered the consequences of a lack of manpower to cover the vast western terrain. Confederate authorities believed that the main Union offensive was to come from upriver, so they ordered most of the soldiers and several gunboats north, leaving New Orleans vulnerable to attack.

The cumulative effect of these disasters was devastating to the Confederacy. The loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, the bloody-defeat at Shiloh, and the capture of two of the Confederacy's most prominent cities, Nashville and New Orleans, cast a dark shadow over the war effort. The loss of these strategic places and manpower, coupled with the fact that McCIellan had besieged Yorktown, Virginia, and was preparing to advance against Richmond with the largest force ever assembled on the North American continent, forced the Confederate government to consider desperate measures. On 16 April, the Confederate Congress approved the first National Conscription Act in the nation's history. Although some

Confederates bitterly opposed this Act. arguing that it was an infringement of their liberties, others argued that the Confederacy with its limited manpower must raise troops and that states' rights would have to succumb to the Confederate cause. All white males between 18 and 35 years of age would be subjected to three years' military service.

As the victory bells rang throughout the North in celebration of the accomplishments in the west. Southerners had no such expression. In fact, in stark contrast, church bells and plantation bells in the South were being melted down to be used in the war effort. At one point. Beauregard wrote to Father James Mullen of St Patrick's church in New Orleans that although our wives and children have been accustomed to the call, and would miss the tones of the "Church-going bells," ... there is no alternative we must make the sacrifice ..." As much as he wanted to spare the necessity of depriving the South's plantations and churches of their bells, he simply could not. The war was heating up and Beauregard needed every available resource to carry on his operations to restore the Confederacy in the west.

Union advances into Mississippi and Tennessee

After Shiloh and the capture of New Orleans, the pace of Union success slowed, but Federal armies were still on the move. By the end of May 1862, Llalleck's enormous army of over 100,000 troops had cautiously inched its way to Corinth, Mississippi, thinking that the Confederates had regrouped and would give battle. Beauregard, however, was in no position to fight Halleck and deceptively evacuated the small rail town during the night of 29 May, heading south to Tupelo, Mississippi, some 80 miles (130km) away. In one of the great ruses of the war, the entire operation was carried out so skillfully that Halleck and his commanders were oblivious.

When Halleck rode into Corinth on the afternoon of 30 May, he found an empty town. At one point he noticed a blue

This portrait of William T Sherman conveys the image of the Union general as described by a contemporary, who wrote that Sherman was 'the most American looking man I ever saw, tall and lank, not very erect, with hair like thatch.' (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

uniform stuffed with straw hanging by the neck from a scrubby tree limb. Nearby a pine board was nailed fast, and on it was written 'Halleck outwitted - what will old Abe say?' Nonetheless, Halleck claimed that the capture of Corinth the following day was as 'brilliant and important a victory as any recorded in history.' Lincoln was impressed.

The Union's capture of Corinth broke the Memphis and Charleston railroad and disabled the Confederates' east-west link. Memphis, Tennessee, was now vulnerable to Union gunboats on the river and foot soldiers from the east, who pushed their way toward the city. As thousands of people lined the river bluffs early on the morning of 6 June to witness what they believed would be the final river fight, Commodore Charles Davis steamed downriver and opened the fight. After two hours of furious gunboat warfare, the fighting ended at 7.30 am. The Federals had completely destroyed the Confederates and a few hours later the mayor surrendered the city. With Memphis in Union hands, the Federals could use it as a supply base as they moved downriver. The Mississippi was now open all the way to Vicksburg, Mississippi, considered

This portrait of William T Sherman conveys the image of the Union general as described by a contemporary, who wrote that Sherman was 'the most American looking man I ever saw, tall and lank, not very erect, with hair like thatch.' (Ann Ronan Picture Library)


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