The Battle of Shiloh

After his performance at Fort Donelson, Grant was given more important responsibilities. In March 1862, he was ordered to take forty-five thousand troops and track down a Confederate army commanded by General Albert S. Johnston (1803-1862). Grant pursued Johnston all the way to the northern Mississippi town of Corinth, where Johnston received reinforcements that increased the size of his army to about forty-four thousand troops. Grant, meanwhile, stopped his advance outside of Corinth, near a small country church called Shiloh. He set up camp and waited for reinforcements of his own to arrive.

As Grant waited for his reinforcements, however, he established only basic defenses around the camp because he figured that Johnston's exhausted army would not dare to attack him. On April 6, though, Johnston launched a deadly surprise attack on the Union camp just as Grant's soldiers were waking up for breakfast. The Confederate offensive smashed the unprepared Federal troops, and for a time it appeared that the Union Army would be forced to call a full retreat. But Grant furiously rallied his men, and the troops held their ground until nightfall, when he finally received his reinforcements.

Armed with these new troops, Grant ordered a full-scale Union attack the following morning. All day long, Grant delivered terrible punishment to the outnumbered rebel army. The Confederate troops finally had to retreat back to Corinth in order to avoid total defeat. Grant did not give chase, though, because he knew that his own army was exhausted.

The Battle of Shiloh shocked people all across the country because it produced casualty figures that were far higher than had been seen before. When people in the North and South heard that more than twenty-three thousand Union and Confederate soldiers were classified as killed, wounded, or missing at Shiloh, they realized that they had been fooling themselves with their dreams of easy and bloodless victory.

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