The Battle of Shiloh, also
known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the Western
Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern
Tennessee. Confederate forces under Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T.
Beauregard launched a surprise attack against the Union army of Ulysses S.
Grant and came close to defeating his invasion of Tennessee. Fierce Union
resistance and the arrival of reinforcements from Don Carlos Buell on April 7
turned the tide and the Confederates were forced to retreat from the bloodiest
battle in United States history up to that time.
Prelude to battle
After the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862, Confederate
General Albert Sidney Johnston withdrew his forces into west Tennessee,
northern Mississippi, and Alabama to reorganize. In early March, Union Major
General Henry W. Halleck, commander of the Western Theater, responded by
ordering Major General Ulysses S. Grant to advance his Army of West Tennessee
on an invasion up the Tennessee River.
Grant occupied Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, awaiting the arrival of Major
General Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio from Nashville. His orders from
Halleck were to link up with Buell and advance south in a joint offensive to
seize the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, a vital supply line between the
Mississippi Valley, Memphis, and Richmond. Grant developed a reputation
during the war for being more concerned with his own plans than with those of
the enemy. His encampment at Pittsburg Landing displayed his most consequential
lack of such concern - his army was spread out in bivouac style, many around
the Shiloh Church, spending time waiting for Buell with drills, without
entrenchments or other awareness of defensive measures.
Johnston named his scattered forces the Army of the Mississippi. He
concentrated almost 55,000 men around Corinth, Mississippi, about 20 miles
southwest of Grant's position. On April 3, Johnston departed from Corinth
with about 44,000 men, hoping to surprise Grant before Buell arrived to join
forces. The plan was to attack Grant's left and separate the Union army from
its gunboat support (and avenue of retreat) on the Tennessee River, driving
it west into the swamps of Snake and Owl Creeks, where it could be destroyed.
Johnston's attack on Grant was originally planned for April 4, but the
advance was delayed 48 hours. As a result, his second in command, General
P.G.T. Beauregard, feared that the element of surprise had been lost and
recommended withdrawing to Corinth. But Johnston refused to consider retreat.
Battle, April 6
At 6:00 a.m. on April 6, 1862, Johnston's army was deployed for battle,
straddling the Corinth Road. In fact, the army had spent the entire night
bivouacking undetected in order of battle just two miles away from the Union camps.
His approach and dawn assault achieved almost total strategic and tactical
surprise. The Union army had virtually no patrols in place for early warning.
Grant telegraphed to Halleck on the night of the 5th, "I have scarcely
the faintest idea of an attack (general one) being made upon us, but will be
prepared should such a thing take place." Unfortunately for Grant, his
preparedness was greatly overstated. Major General William T. Sherman,
Grant's senior commander in the encampment, refused to believe that the
Confederates were anywhere nearby; he discounted any possibility of an attack
from the south, expecting that Johnston would eventually attack from the
direction of Purdy, Tennessee, to the west. Sherman should have known
something was up. Early that morning Major General Benjamin Prentiss had sent
forward part of the 25th Missouri Infantry on a reconnaissance, and they
became engaged with Confederate outposts at 5:15 a.m. The spirited fight that
ensued did help a little to get Union troops better positioned, but the
command of the Union army was figuratively asleep that morning.
Faulty planning on Johnston's part reduced the effectiveness of the attack.
There were insufficient forces on the Confederate right to roll up the Union
from that direction as planned. The corps of William J. Hardee and Braxton
Bragg began the assault with their divisions in one long line. As these units
advanced, they became intermingled and difficult to control. Corps commanders
attacked in line without reserves. Beauregard, serving in the rear as second
in command, ordered the corps of Leonidas Polk and John C. Breckenridge
forward on the left and right of the line, diluting their effectiveness. The
attack turned into a simple, but massive, frontal assault, with insufficient
mass to break through.
The assault was nevertheless ferocious, and in its face, some of the many
inexperienced Union soldiers of Grant's new army fled for safety to the
Tennessee River. Others fought well, but were forced to withdraw under strong
pressure and attempted to form new defensive lines. Major General John A.
McClernand's division temporarily stabilized the position. Overall, however,
Johnston's forces made steady progress until noon, rolling up Union positions
one by one.
General Grant himself was downriver about ten miles on a gunboat at Savannah,
Tennessee, that morning. He heard the sound of artillery fire and raced to
the battlefield, arriving about 8:30 a.m. He worked frantically to bring up
reinforcements that were nearby: Brigadier General William "Bull"
Nelson's division from across the river at the Landing; Lew Wallace's
division from Savannah. These reserves did not arrive hastily however, due
(perhaps) to decisions Wallace made.
Wallace's group had been left as reserves at a place called Stoney Lonesome
to the rear of the Union line. Almost immediately after the appearance of the
Confederates, Grant sent orders for Wallace to move his unit up to support
Sherman, who was being hammered. Wallace later claimed there was ambiguity to
Grant's order and he took a route different from the one Grant intended.
Wallace arrived at the end of his march only to find that Sherman had been
forced back, and was no longer where Wallace thought he was. Moreover, the
battle line had moved so far that Wallace now found himself in the rear of the
advancing Southern troops.
A messenger arrived with word that Grant was wondering where Wallace was, and
why he had not arrived at Pittsburg Landing, where the Union was making its
stand. Wallace was confused. He felt sure he could viably launch an attack
from where he was and hit the Confederates in the rear. Nevertheless, he
decided to turn his troops around and march back to Stoney Lonesome. For some
reason, rather than realign his troops so that the rear guard would be in the
front, Wallace chose to march the troops in a circle so that the original
order was maintained, only facing in the other direction. Wallace marched
back to Stoney Lonesome and then to Pittsburg Landing, not arriving at
Grant's position until about 7 p.m., at a time when the fighting was
practically over. Grant was not pleased.
Buell's army was still too far away to affect the action that morning.
Elsewhere, starting at about 9:00 a.m., about 2,500 men of the Union division
commanded by Prentiss established and held a line, nicknamed the Hornet's
Nest, along and within a sunken road. The Confederates assaulted the position
for several hours rather than simply bypassing it; the latter course would
have been a more sound tactical and strategic decision. The Confederates
suffered heavy casualties during these assaults. The Union forces to the left
and right of the Nest were forced back under the weight of the continued
pressure and Prentiss' position became a salient in the line. Coordination
among units in the Nest was poor and units withdrew based solely on their
individual commanders' decisions. Regiments became disorganized and companies
disintegrated. However, it was not until the attackers assembled 62 cannons
to blast the line that they were able to surround the position and the
Hornet's Nest fell after holding for seven hours. A large part of Prentiss'
division was captured, but their sacrifice bought time for Grant to establish
a final defense line near Pittsburg Landing.
On the Union right flank, resistance was stiff and Johnston's forces bogged
down in a savage fight around Shiloh Church. Throughout the day, the
Confederates repeatedly assaulted the Union right, which gave ground but did
The Union survivors established a solid front around Pittsburg Landing,
including a ring of over 50 cannons, and repulsed the last Confederate charge
as dusk ended the first day of fighting. Naval guns from the river assisted
the defense. The Confederates' plan had failed; they had pushed Grant to the
river, but they had not forced him west into the swamps.
In another setback, Johnston was mortally wounded at about 2:30 p.m. while
personally leading attacks on the Union left. He had sent his personal
surgeon away to care for troops, and in the doctor's absence, he bled to
death from a leg wound that didn't seem serious at first. This was a
significant loss for the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis considered Albert
Sidney Johnston to be the most effective general they had. (This was two
months before Robert E. Lee emerged as the pre-eminent Confederate general.)
Beauregard assumed command.
The evening of April 6 was a dispiriting end to the first day of one of the
bloodiest battles in recorded history. In the Civil War, medics were not sent
into the field to collect and treat wounded soldiers. Hence, many soldiers
were abandoned to bleed to death, or in the case of Shiloh, be eaten alive by
scavenging animals as a thunderstorm went through Pittsburg Landing. The
desperate screams of soldiers could be heard in the Union and Confederate
camps throughout the night, an image whose bleakness foreshadowed the
exhausted soldiers at the World War I battle of Passchendaele, collapsing in
mud pits from illness and hyperfatigue. As the exhausted Confederate soldiers
bedded down in the abandoned Union camps, Sherman encountered Grant under a
tree, sheltering himself from the pouring rain, smoking one of his cigars,
considering his losses and planning for the next day. Sherman remarked,
"Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" Grant
looked up. "Yes," he replied, followed by a puff. "Yes. Lick
'em tomorrow, though."
Grant had reason to be optimistic, for Don Carlos Buell's army had arrived
that night, in time to turn the tide the next day.
On April 7, 1862, the combined Union armies numbered 55,000 men. Beauregard
had planned to continue the attack and drive Grant into the river, unaware
that he was now outnumbered. Union forces started attacking at dawn; Grant
and Buell launched their attacks separately and coordination occurred only
down at the division level. Confederate lines stabilized around 9:00 a.m. By
10:00, the Union attack was occurring in concert along the entire line. The
weight of the attack, which included the efforts of 25,000 fresh troops, was
too much for the Confederates to withstand.
Realizing that he had lost the initiative, and that he was low on ammunition
and food and with 15,000 of his men killed, wounded, or missing, Beauregard
knew he could go no further. He withdrew beyond Shiloh Church, using
Breckenridge as a covering force, and began marching back to Corinth. The
exhausted Union soldiers did not pursue much past their original encampments.
The battle was over.
On April 8, Grant sent Sherman south along the Corinth Road in pursuit of the
retreating Confederates. Meeting resistance from the cavalry screen under
Nathan Bedford Forrest, Sherman abandoned the pursuit.
In late April and May the Union advanced toward Corinth and captured it,
while an amphibious force on the Mississippi destroyed the Confederate River
Defense Fleet and captured Memphis. From these bases Grant pushed on down the
Mississippi to besiege Vicksburg. After the surrender of Vicksburg and the
fall of Port Hudson in the summer of 1863, the Confederacy was cut in half.
The two-day battle of Shiloh, the costliest in U.S. history up to that time,
resulted in the defeat of the Confederate army force and frustration of
Johnston's plans to prevent the joining of the two Union armies in Tennessee.
A total of 23,746 men were killed, wounded, captured, or missing, more than
the American casualties of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the
Mexican War combined. The dead included the irreplaceable Albert Sidney
Johnston; the highest ranking general on the Union's side killed was W.H.L.
Wallace. Both sides were shocked at the carnage. Little did they know that
three more years of such bloodshed remained in the war and that eight larger
and bloodier battles were yet to come. Grant learned a valuable lesson on
preparedness that (mostly) served him well for the rest of the war.
The word shiloh is a Hebrew word that
means "place of peace".
keel was laid on August 1, 1989, and she was christened on September 8, 1990.
USS SHILOH launched 14 Tomahawk cruise missiles to attack selected air
defense targets south of the 33rd parallel in Iraq on 3 September 1996, as
part of Operation Desert Strike. The attacks were designed to reduce risks to
the pilots enforcing the expanded no-fly zone announced by President Clinton
in response to an Iraqi attack against a Kurdish faction. The USS SHILOH was
part of the USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) Battle Group that moved into the
northern Arabian Gulf the previous week responding to escalating activity by
Iraqi ground forces.
USS SHILOH entered in July 1998 as part of the ABRAHAM LINCOLN Battle Group
the Arabian Gulf where it remained until late October to early November.
On 24 September 1999, USS SHILOH launched an Standard Missile Three (SM-3) in
the waters off the Hawaiian Islands off the Pacific Missile Range Facility
and as part of the AEGIS Leap Intercept (ALI) project. The purpose of the
test conducted in the waters off the Hawaiian Islands, was to collect
valuable information to correct problems and have a successful launch testing
of the first two stages of the missile. The SM-3 used to destroy aircraft,
was slated to incorporate a new duty; that of intercepting and destroying
intercontinental and theater ballistic missiles as part of the Navy Theater
Wide Program. Once placed in service, the SM-3 missile would complement the
armement of Aegis-class cruisers and ARLEIGH BURKE-class guided missile
destroyers, with the SM-3 carried aboard cruisers and destroyers in greater
numbers. During the test, the SM-3 flew a nominal trajectory through
second/third stage separation.
USS SHILOH successfully demonstrated the launch and flight sequence through
third stage separation as well as verified flight stability at extreme
altitude. Though the original plan had been to conduct all Flight Test Round
shots from USS SHILOH, the need for further testing conflicted with the
ship's operational schedule. Therefore, it was decided by the CNO to shift to
USS LAKE ERIE (CG 70) to conduct the next firings in the ALI testing program.
USS SHILOH took part in June 2000, in "Exercise Pacific Blitz" off
the west coast of Kauai, Hawaii, at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF)
located on Kauai. The exercise, held in conjunction with RIMPAC 2000,
followed two days of target tracking and joint services interoperability
testing. The exercise was a major step toward achieving joint service
interoperability for Theater Ballistic Missile Defense and battle force
management During the exercise, USS SHILOH tracked threat representative
targets with SPY-1 radar and communicated these tracks to other units via
JTIDS link. SHILOH, with the prototype Area Air Defense Commander (AADC)
system installed, was also used to display and record the missile events
throughout the exercise.
USS SHILOH deployed in August 2000 as part of the ABRAHAM LINCOLN Battle
Group for a scheduled six-month Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment.
During the deployment the Battle Group conducted operations in support of
Operation Southern Watch. SHILOH returned to San Diego in February 2001.
On July 20, 2002, SHILOH departed San Diego on her next deployment. Again
assigned to the ABRAHAM LINCOLN Battle Group, SHILOH operated in the Arabian
Gulf and was initially scheduled to return home on January 20, 2003, but the
Battle Group - while already underway home - was ordered to remain in the
Gulf area to be able to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom which started
After more than 9 months at sea, SHILOH and the Battle Group finally returned
home to the US in early May 2003.
In January 2005, she
participated in Operation Unified Assistance, rendering aid to those who
suffered from the 26 December 2004 tsunami off the coast of Aceh, Indonesia.
The Shiloh was one of the first American ships to arrive on scene.
On 22 June 2006, a Standard Missile Three (or SM-3) launched from Shiloh
intercepted a multi-stage ballistic missile launched from Barking Sands,
In August 2006, she arrived on station at Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka,
Japan, replacing the USS Chancellorsville, as part of a joint U.S.-Japanese
ballistic missile defense program.