We have an extraordinary chance to build on past successes at the Shiloh battlefield in Tennessee and the South Mountain battlefield in Maryland.
Thanks to landowner donations and matching grants, we can save a total of 73 key acres at two 1862 Civil War battlefields — land worth $709,500 — for just $103,000. The battlefields at Shiloh and South Mountain represent different theaters of the war, but they share the distinction of having played an important part in shaping the history of our great nation.
The Trust and other preservationists have already saved many acres of land at both of these battlefields, but development is a real and present threat that could compromise all the land we and others have worked so hard to protect.
After the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston sought to surprise the Union army under General Ulysses S. Grant near the Shiloh Meeting House on the morning of April 6, 1862.
As gunfire erupted with the Confederate advance, Johnston told his subordinates, “The battle has opened, gentlemen.” Mounting his thoroughbred, Fire-Eater, he announced to his staff, “Tonight, we will water our horses in the Tennessee River.”
Johnston would not live to see sunset that day, bleeding to death at 2:30 pm on the battlefield after being shot in the leg. Still, his men made great advances against the Union line and by day’s end many of the generals around Grant counseled retreat. Echoing words spoken by Johnston the previous day, Grant declared, “Retreat? No! I propose to attack at daylight, and whip them.”
During the rainy night that followed, Federal reinforcements arrived, and Union gunboats relentlessly lobbed shells into the Confederate lines. When dawn broke on April 7, it was the Union army’s turn to push the Southern soldiers back on their heels.
At the end of those two April days, nearly 24,000 casualties — killed, wounded, missing, or captured — made Shiloh the bloodiest battle in all American history up to that point in time. No one had ever experienced anything like it until September of that same year, when the bloodiest single-day battle in all of American history would occur along the banks of Antietam Creek.
Three days before that fateful September 17th, Union General George B. McClellan was pursuing General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates through the passes at South Mountain.
Having found a copy of Lee’s campaign battle plans, Special Orders No. 191, several days previous, McClellan was roused to uncharacteristic aggression. Vowing, “if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home,” he pursued the scattered Confederate divisions to the three main passes through the South Mountain range, at Crampton’s, Fox’s, and Turner’s Gaps.
The fight at Crampton’s Gap, where the 18 acres currently at risk are located, was the most important of the three. Union General William Franklin was given the assignment of taking the gap. Displaying some of his boss’ former lethargic tendencies, Franklin took at least three hours deploying his 12,000-man force to attempt to dislodge a few hundred Confederate defenders. One southerner quipped that Franklin’s preparations resembled a “lion making exceedingly careful preparations to spring on a plucky little mouse.”
Eventually the lion prevailed, and the Federals gained control of all three passes. Yet the stubborn resistance on the part of the Confederates bought Lee precious time to begin the process of reuniting his army, setting the stage for the Battle of Antietam three days later.
Please consider making your most generous gift today to help us raise the $103,000 and preserve this precious American history forever.