The Battle of Shiloh was one of bloodiest battles of the Civil War. In fact, it was one of the bloodiest battles fought on Tennessee soil. The battle was actually fought in Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee. The battle was named after a church in the area where the wounded and dead were taken. Before the Battle of Shiloh was fought, a lot of important things happened which made the battle very important.
The Confederates had just sustained very hard losses at Forts Henry and Donelson. After these losses, General Joseph Johnston was placed in charge of the remaining forces. General Johnston set his headquarters in Jackson, Tennessee, and started forming the Army of Mississippi. When General Grant started landing at Shiloh, General Albert Johnston left Nashville to take command of the newly formed Army of Mississippi, which totaled 40,000 men.
The Union, who had come off some major victories, was not aware of the Army of Mississippi. General Grant was moving into Tennessee with 45,000 men and was going to get 25,000 more from General Buell who was coming from Columbia. They were delayed because of bad weather. In the gray light of dawn, April 6, 1862, a small Federal reconnaissance discovered Johnston's army deployed for battle astride the Corinth road just a mile beyond the forward Federal camps.
Meanwhile at the Union camp at Shiloh, the Federal troops spent a day drilling and merry-making. Hundreds went for a swim in Owl Creek and others rested. There was also a good deal of diarrhea which the boys labeled the "Tennessee quick step". Storming forward, the Confederates found the Federal position unfortified. Johnston had achieved almost total surprise. Once the attack started, there was mass confusion on both sides. Most of the boys had never been in battle before, and did not know their orders and it was described as "a murderous fist fight." The Rebels rolled over one Union position after another.
By mid-morning the Confederates seemed within easy reach of victory overrunning one front-line Union division and capturing its camp. However, stiff resistance on the Federal right entangled Johnston's brigades in a savage fight around Shiloh Church. Throughout the day, Johnston's army hammered the Federals which gave ground but did not break. Casualties upon this brutal killing ground was immense. Meanwhile, Johnston's flanking attack stalled in front of Sarah Bell's peach orchard, and the dense oak thicket labeled the "hornet's nest" by the Confederates because of the constant bullets that kept flying through the air.
The Union troops finally established a line at an area known as the "Sunken Road". Confederate forces launched eleven attacks against the position, but the line would not break. Finally the southern troops brought 62 artillery pieces to bear on the Hornets Nest, many at point blank range. After holding the position for six hours, the Union forces surrendered. Under protection of the cannons the Rebel troops were able to move in and take the sunken road. They had fought well holding the Confederates for six hours. For years to come Union veterans were proud to say, "I fought with Prentiss at the Hornet's Nest."
Fighting also occurred near the Hornets Nest. General Johnston personally led the final Confederate assault. He emerged with clothes torn from grazing bullets. He was moved to a nearby tree where it was discovered that he had been shot in the back of the leg. He refused medical attention and bled to death even though a tourniquet would have saved his life.
Caught off guard by the Confederates they pushed back the union. Even though the union outnumbered them, the element of surprise took toll. The Confederates broke through the union lines and won the first day of battle. That night General Buell arrived with a fleet of boats firing. Buell's army landed. With fresh troops and the Confederates tired the union reclaimed the land they lost. This time the element of surprise was not there. Since General Johnston had died, the Confederates had lost all sense of order and was unaware of the arrival of Buell's army. The Confederates were no match for the Union's superiority, leadership and numbers.
The Union troops established another line covering Pittsburgh Landing, anchored with artillery and augmented by Buell's men who began to arrive and take up positions. Fighting continued until after dark, but the Federals held. By the next morning, the combined Union troops were successful. Union troops stiffened and began forcing the Confederates back. The Union ended up winning the second day and the over all battle.
At this point, Beauregard realized that he could not win and having suffered too many casualties, he retired from the field and headed back to Corinth. On the 8th, Grant sent Brig. General William T. Sherman with two brigades, and Brig. General Thomas J. Wood, with his division, in pursuit of Beauregard. General Johnston's massive and rapid concentration at Corinth and surprise attack on Grant at Pittsburg Landing, had presented the Confederacy with an opportunity to reverse the course of the war.
The aftermath, however, left the invading Union forces still poised to carry out the capture of the Corinth rail junction. Shiloh's awesome toll of 23,746 men killed, wounded, or missing brought a shocking realization to both sides that the war would not end quickly. The winning of this battle was important to both sides. The Confederates needed to win because of the losses at Donelson and Henry. They also needed to win so they could take back the land they lost in Tennessee. The Union needed to win so they could march on into the Deep South.
Since the Union won, the Deep South was opened and they could go on and win the war. This battle paved the road for Sherman's march to Savannah, which led to the ending of the war.