By George Arnold
I recently had occasion to travel to Memphis, Tennessee, to visit family and decided to leave a day early and drive 120 miles beyond Memphis and take in the Shiloh battlefield as a side trip.
I’d been to Shiloh before, but it was many years ago. I wanted to refresh my memory of the geography of the place and spend a leisurely day driving and walking the battlefield.
The Battle of Shiloh was a key engagement in the second year of the American Civil War. It occurred on April 6-7, 1862, when Confederate forces led by General Albert Sydney Johnston surprised the Federal Army of the Tennessee under the command of General U.S. Grant. Grant’s army was encamped near Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, with the army’s camps extending from the landing south about two miles to include a log church named the Shiloh (place of peace) Meeting House.
Although surprised by Johnston’s attack, elements of the Union army put up a stiff resistance. Then, driven back almost to the landing itself by nightfall, Grant was reinforced through the night with the timely arrival of General Don Carlos Buell’s Union Army of the Ohio. On the following day, fresh Union troops counter-attacked the disorganized Confederates — Johnston had been killed on the first day — and drove them from the field. What had begun as a potentially overwhelming Confederate victory had turned into a clear defeat for the Rebels.
The battlefield is located in south Tennessee, on the western bank of the Tennessee River, about 20 miles north of Corinth, Mississippi, a major rail hub of the Confederacy and the original objective of Grant’s and Buell’s armies. The battlefield is “out in the country” and the nearest town of any size is Savannah, Tennessee, on the opposite side of the river, about 10 miles from Shiloh itself.
Above is the sign at the main entrance to the park.