If you have one day for this trip, spend it exploring the pristine Shiloh National Military Park, site of the first great bloodletting of the Civil War. On April 6-7, 1862, the Federal Armies of the Ohio and the Tennessee fought desperately against a Confederate onslaught initially led by General Albert S. Johnston. On April 6th, Johnston fell wounded and command of his Army of the Mississippi devolved to General P. G. T. Beauregard. Confident that he had bested his opponent on April 6th, Beauregard rested on his laurels, and was ill-prepared for the Union counteroffensive that roared to life the next morning. By the end of April 7th, 23,746 Union and Confederate casualties lay across the peaceful landscape, making it the bloodiest American battle to that date. Shiloh changed the perception of how costly this war would be and gave birth to the notion that Ulysses S. Grant was butcher.
Before you go:
Shiloh National Military Park
Time: 4-6 hours (7-8 if you love to hike)
The Battle of Shiloh, was a horrific struggle fought in the tangled woods and small farm fields of southwestern Tennessee on April 6-7, 1862. It pitted Confederate Generals Albert S. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard against Union General Ulysses S. Grant.
What to do:
Start at the National Park Service Visitor Center.
- The park does not charge an entrance fee.
- Find out what Ranger Programs are scheduled.
- Check out what special events they may have.
- See the exhibits and watch the introductory film if you have time.
Tour the battlefield. You have several options:
- Follow the NPS Auto Tour Route and get out and explore each stop.
- Purchase a touring CD from the bookstore.
- Use the Civil War Trust's free Shiloh Battle App on your smart phone.
- Hike the battlefield.
- Fraley Field – The battle began here, at 4:55 A.M., when a Union patrol from Colonel Everett Peaboy's brigade discovered, and engaged with, the lead elements of Johnston's army.
- Shiloh Church – The circa 2001 replica stands on the site of the wartime church. On the morning of April 6th, fighting raged around the church–which later served as a field hospital.
- The Hornet's Nest– Union forces fought tenaciously to hold back waves of Confederate attacks. By mid-afternoon relentless Confederate assaults finally dislodged the Federals, but it cost Albert S. Johnston his life.
- Pittsburg Landing – It was in this vicinity that Grant received the bulk of his reinforcements via riverboats and turned the tide of battle for the Federals.
- The National Cemetery – 3,584 Union soldiers from the battle and actions along the Tennessee River are buried here.
If you have time:
Insider tip: For a local meal, try the Hagy's Catfish Hotel.