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It was the Old West that first called to me. Specifically, the Colorado Rockies, mountain men, ghost towns, and old abandoned silver mines.
Most summers when I was a kid, my dad would take me on camping trips far up into the Rockies, and maybe that speaks to the why. Something about being there and seeing it, firsthand. In person. We'd go places that most tourists wouldn't see, including, I'm sure, more than a few places that we weren't supposed to go. You'd have to have known my dad.
And we'd learn about the history. It was just part of the deal. You'd travel somewhere, take it all in, and learn about what once was, back in the long-ago time, and why it mattered. Sometimes you learned that maybe it didn't matter very much to the rest of the world. But it mattered somewhere. And it came to matter to you. Just because.
I loved those trips. I loved those mountains, those silent ghost towns, those lonely, forgotten mines. Those stories. Something about it all made me feel as if I belonged there. It was part of me in a way I'm not sure I could ever describe, or explain.
When I was about nine, my sister married a Tennessee man and moved to Chattanooga. So along with our camping trips out west, we also began taking trips back east. And I saw a different kind of history firsthand, in person. I looked down on Chattanooga from Point Park atop Lookout Mountain. Visited Chickamauga. Gazed upon Missionary Ridge. Learned the stories. Read the history.
And I heard the Civil War calling to me.
On the way back home to Oklahoma one time, we passed a sign along I-40 for someplace called Shiloh National Military Park. We'd never been there before, and Dad asked me if I'd like to go see it. He knew of course that I was getting interested in the war, and here was another war-related park.
It was fifty miles out of the way, and maybe a lot of parents would have understandably passed. But, well, as I said, you'd have to have known my dad. He was a natural-born student. And a natural-born teacher.
I have no idea what my problem was, but for whatever reason when he asked that question I just shrugged my shoulders, and said something about how I didn't really care. (It's funny how you remember certain things, and not others.)
Maybe it was a loyalty thing. I was becoming attached to Chattanooga by that point, and all the history that went with it, and to visit some other war-related park almost seemed, well, wrong. Kind of like cheating or something.
Or maybe I was just tired and cranky, and wanted to get home. You'd have to have known me as a kid.
Whatever the case, Dad made the decision for us. “I think we'll go see it,” he said, and hit the turn-signal as the exit came up.
And that's how, decades later, this web site that you're on right now came to be. Because my teacher/student dad took us fifty miles off the beaten-path to a place I didn't want to see, and that would come to have a profound impact on my life starting that same day.
I didn't know much about Shiloh at that point, beyond what I'd learned in a general way from my limited Civil War reading. The main thing I knew was that it was a legendary battle from American history. What started to dawn on me on that long drive was that it also wasn't someplace that you just happened across. Clearly, if you wanted to go see Shiloh, you had to decide to go see it. Like a ghost town, or an old abandoned silver mine. This appealed to me.
I've always been drawn to places that are kind of out-of-the-way. Probably because most people won't go see them. To me, that makes them unique. Shiloh is a place like that, and I first began to realize it on that long drive through the Tennessee countryside with my dad.
The other thing I remember from that first visit is simply the experience of being there. Not the details really, but just the experience. The cannons, the markers, the monuments, the old wooden fences. I'd seen them at Lookout Mountain, and Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. I knew what they represented. But I didn't know about these cannons and markers and monuments and fences. I did not yet know the story of this incredibly transfixing park that felt so timeless.
It was familiar ground that I'd never before seen.
We always made a point to stop at Shiloh after that, going to or coming from Chattanooga. It remained off the beaten-path, but it was never out of the way.
Late May of 1979 was the first time I visited the park on my own. Dad had passed away less than six months earlier, and I was heading out on my first trip alone after graduating high school. My first stop was Shiloh, at the end of an all-day drive in my 1974 Ford Mustang II. (A quart of oil every 100 miles kept it happy.) I got to the park a little before dark, and immediately drove to my favorite spot – Duncan Field.
I still remember how hauntingly quiet it was that evening. I'd experienced that before – it's hard not to at Shiloh - but never alone. And never quite like this. I think it was probably then that I first dimly began to understand something that you simply have to experience to understand: That the battlefield parks actually speak to us.
They don't use words. But they do indeed speak.
Two things happened on a visit in 1983 that forever changed the way I viewed the battle of Shiloh, the war in general, and in some ways, even life. Those two things were a book, and a talk.
The book was called, Shiloh: Bloody April, by historian Wiley Sword. As I later found out, it was the first full-scale book on the battle in around 60 years at the time of its release in the 1970's. Sword's book truly opened my eyes for the first time to the wider battle of Shiloh outside the Hornet's Nest. A process that continues to this day, and in some ways has come full-circle. He also introduced me to an obscure Union officer named Everett Peabody, and his long-overlooked role in helping to save Grant's army.
The talk took place in Duncan Field, by a ranger who was about to give a demonstration on how to load and fire a Civil War musket. Before he did that however, he said he was going to give a little talk on what it was like to experience the battle of Shiloh.
I doubt I will ever forget how I felt at that moment, before he gave his talk. Or how I felt a few minutes later, after he finished. Before he started, I stood there smugly thinking to myself, at 22 years of age, that I could probably not only give as good a talk on Shiloh as he could, but probably do better. By the time he finished, I had already started to seriously question if I knew anything at all about Shiloh, the war, or much of anything else.
Without going into a lot of detail, I'll just say that he spent the next ten or twelve minutes painting a word-picture of the battle that I will never forget. I remember that talk and the impact it had on me as if it was yesterday. He put you there, in the middle of the battle, in a way that no one else had ever before done. He took the story and brought it alive. Gave it names and faces. Made it human. He waved away the decades and compelled you to look, and time quite simply stopped.
For the first time, the reality of what Shiloh – and by extension, war itself - was actually like hit me with full force. It left me speechless, and feeling about an inch tall.
It was the closest I think I've ever come to simply quitting the Civil War altogether. I'd spent over ten years reading about it and wandering across some of its most famous places, from Shiloh to Chickamauga to Gettysburg. I thought I knew about it. Only to learn, in ten minutes' time, that I didn't know the first damn thing about it at all.
That feeling has never left me from that day to this. Not completely. When I visit Shiloh anymore, or any other battlefield park, there's a sense of something that's just beyond reach of my understanding. It doesn't stop me from trying to grasp it. But somehow, I'm aware that really and truly doing so is probably never going to happen.
I'd like to say that I've come to terms with that, and in some ways I think I have. But not completely.
There have been many more Shiloh moments since that memorable visit, each of which adds to and builds on what has come before. The reenactment in 1987, the first time I had ever attended such an event, and that left a lasting impression. The unusual fellow I met out in the park in the fall of 2000, looking to make a movie about the battle. The “footsteps” I heard approaching my tent late one night, in the campground just south of the park. Only to find upon going outside (when I finally got up the courage) that there was no one there. The picture I took in 2008 that finally helped me put words to something about the park that I'd felt for years but could never describe. The anniversary hikes. The April snow in 2007. The Epic Treks with Tim. The dinners at Hagy's. The sunrises and sunsets. The beautiful Tennessee River. The wind in the trees. The deafening, haunting, silence.
In a very real sense, I've learned a great deal about life from that park, that battle, and the people that I've met along the way as a result. Some of those people have been gone since long before I was born. Others are still very much with us, and perhaps not always aware of the impact they've had, and continue to have.
Sometimes people will thank me for this board, and while I do sincerely appreciate this, it also tends to catch me a little off guard. That might sound odd perhaps, but there it is. Maybe because to me, there's more to it. This site began in 2007, but it has a history that goes much farther back than that, and involves a great many more people than me. People that perhaps you've never met, and some of whom not even I have met. But they're part of this site and what it has accomplished, all the same.
Simply put, if you've ever gotten anything useful at all from this web site, you can thank my dad. You can thank Wiley Sword. You can thank a ranger in Duncan Field who's name I'm ashamed to say I did not learn.
You can thank people who died before we were born. You can thank people who's opinions you may not agree with. You can thank rangers who take time out of their day to explain things we try hard to understand. You can thank authors who spent time trying to make sense out of senseless insanity, and revealing the best and the worst of what it truly means to be human.
Most of all though, the one who needs to say thank you is me. To all of you who are members here, and who have made this board what it is. In a sense, we're all on a journey, unique to each one of us, yet common to all of us. We can perhaps mark its beginning, but its end is not yet in sight.
I have some truly wonderful memories that revolve around Shiloh, and some sad memories as well. It's a reflection of life in that way, and that campaign, that battle, that park, this web site, and all of you – all of us – are a part of that.
Thank you for all of it. The good parts, the bad parts, the happy and sad parts. The learning, the striving, the arguing. The sharing. And the understanding.
It matters that you're here and part of this journey. Never forget that. And never forget those who made the journey possible, and meaningful, to begin with.
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I'll try to reconstruct my 15 days at Shiloh, March 28 - April 11. Due to my oldtimersdisease, some of the events and dates are already running together. Feel free to correct me at any time, which may provoke an argument. Also, additions that have slipped the old memory tapes are welcome.
As usual, the drive down to Shiloh is always faster than the trip home. I made it in little over 9 1/2 hrs, and had the car unpacked at 4pm. What to do? Drive to Shiloh! Arriving at the old Shaw's Restaurant, I discovered it was the registration site for the Blue & Gray Alliance (B&G A). Out front a stand was selling some great looking T shirts. As I was looking at them, a lady walked up to me and said "Some one inside wishes to speak to you." Looking in the picture window and who do I see? (Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture.)
Somehow Mona is always the first person I run into Shiloh. At that point I know I'm there and life is good. We talked about a couple of the locals I wished to meet and where I could find them. After lightening the wallet with a few raffle tickets and 2 T's, I drove to Shiloh Park for a hello. I was so tired at dark, I didn't wait for the rangers to ask me to leave.
Thurs. I did a recon of the Army of Tenn (AOT) reenactment site. The 2 gents at the first check point were very friendly, but didn't know if nonparticipants could enter the site. They were just there to let those who were registered in or direct others to the sign in area near visitor parking. There I was told I could park in visitor parking and walk around, but the distance was too much for just a recon. Next stop was to check in with Mona at Shaw's. She gave me the cell phone number Grandpa had left for me. I drove to Johnston's bivouac site
and called. When he arrived on his gator, he drove right past me. I guess he was expecting a big dumb ugly Yank. Instead he got a medium sized damn-good-looking one. I can see where it would throw him off! Richard explained the layout of the city of B&G A reenactors that had grown up off of Hy 22. He said to get there early Sat. and park in the south end of the visitor parking, as it would be the closest to the entry point. He told me where Perry Neal's outfit was, but again it was too much of a walk. I was saving up for the real action Sat. Richard also recommended driving around Pratt Rd and seeing the city that was sprouting up. The line of cars was long, but that allowed plenty of time for viewing. I parked in the lot near Sutler Row and talked to some of the reenactors. On to the Park. Had to do my usual hello to the 16th at their campsite. Figured it was a good time to have the sandwich and beverage of choice I brought. As I was sitting there in the car, a deer came out of the woods and started eating grass about 20 feet from me. My moving around was of no concern at all. After eating we both moved on. Place of peace indeed. It was obvious the park was busier than usual, humming in preparation of the 150th. Lots of new faces in Ranger suits. Whoever hires and assigns the intelligent, young, beautiful women to run the front desks at Shiloh and Corinth has my Kudos and everlasting desire that you remain in your position. I noticed the eagle cam monitor was having some problems, and this was the last time I saw it operating. Evidently foliage was growing around the cam and Ranger Marcus was too chicken to climb up and clean it off (or they didn't wish to disturb the nesting eagles, I forget which). After drooling on a couple of dozen books in the book store, I did a small drive around the park before heading out. That was the first time I saw this sign out by the Stuart Mon.
This pic was taken the last day I was at the Park. I believe that the first time I saw the sign, the SOLD part wasn't there. I remember thinking "Next time I check my email I bet I have one from Jim Lighthizer from the Civil War Trust. Sure enough:
When I saw the sold stamp, I figured the CWT had done an option to buy. Sure hope so. My check will go out with the bimonthly bills.
This time I knew I wouldn't get kicked out after dark by the rangers. As I was was heading out to what I call the Raith exit, I came upon a large herd of deer in Review Field. I counted 17, but that count is suspect as they were entering and leaving the woods constantly as I counted them. I do love the wildlife of Shiloh NMP.
Friday was a good day for going easy. Wondered around the Shiloh area for a while, stopping off at Grandpa's fire for a while, where I met C.D. Back on the park for a while. Towards evening, those who were allowed to camp on the park had started their fires and the smoke was doing one of those low hanging things that is so beautiful:
Swinging down to the 16th 's camp to say goodnight, I decide to do something I've wanted to do for a while: follow Gladdens Road south. The first part was great with the hanging smoke
but then it got real dark and started to look like a storm. The road gets pretty bad and I would suggest that anyone trying it for the first time do it in the daytime. Little less spooky. Could of swore I heard dueling banjos at one point.
After getting back to the main road an intense rain storm kicked up. One of my first thoughts after slowing down to a crawl was that it could be worse. I could be out in a tent with the numerous others in the surrounding area (I learned the next day, some even got to experience hail while in a tent!). The next thought was that maybe the pounding rain would remove some of this clinging clay they call mud down here off of my car. How can something that is so slick and slippery to walk on is so hard to wash off? I'll bet it would make excellent bricks. The stuff doesn't just stick to your legs when your walking, but actually jumps up on you as you pass nearby! Gave up on the grill and did a burger on the stove. I love roughing it.
Up early and heading to the B&G A reenactment. Pulling up to the visitors parking, I was fifth in line. They started letting us into the field at about 8:30 AM, but no one was directing where to park, so people were heading willy nilly all over the place. As I got out of my car, I heard one of the guys out by the road holler "We need some organization here!" It wouldn't be the last time I heard that this day.
Sutlers' Row was great. I wandered down the center, visiting tents on each side. It was getting hot early, and by the end of the row, I was looking for some shade. Found some in the edge of a large tent. This is where I had the good fortune to talk with Gen. Sherman:
While we were talking, someone said to him "Good morning General Grant." He explained who he was. After they walked away, I explained to him that a lot of people thought anyone with a cigar was Grant. After some chow, I went for another walk. I then discovered that Sutlers' Row also went down the two outside streets. No way i was going up and down those. I, like a lot of others kept asking where and when the reenactment was. I found that the only ones who knew anything were the reenactors. Heading out to the field, I came upon a really long line of people. I figured that if it was the line to get in, I wasn't going in. Turned out to be for tickets, which I had bought the day before. I followed the crowd till it opened into a field. The right side was already packed with people, so I figured I'd go around to the left. 2/3 of the way across the field, I ran into a fellow who said someone was going up and down on that side kicking spectators out. Sure wish that someone had informed me before I walked all this way across! Turning around, I saw that people were filling up along this edge, so I joined them. Got the tripod, camera and chair all set up. Sat down to take a well deserved break, when a woman came along telling everyone the action was going to be up and over the hill. Not the first, nor the last time I observed a lack of coordination for the public. Packing up, I traveled the mud path over the hill and found it packed all along it. I finally found a place to set up my tripod, figuring at least the camera could see over the crowd. A few yards away a gentleman had parked a SUV and trailer. He said I should jump into the trailer and set up my tripod. He said he was a volunteer who had hauled some stuff out here. Love that southern hospitality! This got me out of the mud and above the crowd so I could see. It did force me to abandon use of the folding chair, which a tired young lady used for most of the program. Bet Dad had to carry her out when it was over. The show was great:
6,800+ participants! 125+ cannons. Without a doubt the largest reenactment I have ever seen. Very impressive. The only fault I could find with the show was that the Rebs started out in front of us and went to the other side of the field to attack the Yanks. The action was pretty far away and was actually easier to watch in the view plate of the camera, due to using the close up function. On the way out, I got into a conversation with a couple from England. They were from the Liverpool area, but had never met John Lennon. He said something about the boot of the car and then we had a discussion on how poor his people are with the English language. By the time I got back to my car, I was beat. Good thing I had a barley pop in the cooler, which seemed to revive me. I then stopped by Grandpa's and enjoyed a relaxing time in the old folding chair (which I forgot and just saved from Grandpa loading up and taking home the next day. He did say he wondered why he had brought his chair, but not the cover) before heading back to the cabin, the grill, a sirloin, a baked potato and a beer. What Irishman/Cornishman wouldn't be happy at that point?!?!
Sun. morning found me going early again. As I pulled up to the ticket collectors at the AOT reenactment, I heard two of them discussing whether to let cars go up the hill anymore as it was getting to be a mud hole about 1/2 way up. I asked them if they wanted me to try it to see if I could make it. They said OK, but don't get stuck! Being from WI, we use mud holes to practice for snow drifts. I hit the mud hole at about 35 MPH and danced right through it. Unfortunately, a guy about a 100 yards behind me tried it too, and he didn't use any speed. You can't pick your way through a mud hole, dainty like. He got stuck right in the middle. At that point they started sending cars around a different way. Just as I got out of the parking area, I found a tent with info on times and locations of the activities. Walking out to where the action was, I found a large field with a the crowd starting to line up behind a rope. A few dozen yards behind the crowd was a rise. I went up there and found it to be a great place to set up. It looked like the Union cannon was going to be to my right. The Rebs looked to be forming across the field. I still hadn't found where the Union Inf. was forming, when I heard a ruckus behind. The Yanks had formed way to the rear and were going to met the Rebs along to my left. They pushed them back until all of the action was right in front of us:
Another enjoyable afternoon of Civil War fun. I also ran into the English couple again. Their opinion was that the AOT event was the better of the two as it was more spectator friendly, where the B&G a was more geared towards the reenactors. I suppose I should compare the two events, as there did seem to be some competition between the two. The B&G A was the largest, most impressive battle reenactment I have ever seen. Having that much action and noise sure takes you part way to what happened 150 years ago. Everything about it was big, including the Sutlers. From the point of view of the reenactors, it must have been great. It did leave a little to be desired from the paying customers. The organization was poor. Crowd control lacked. Just getting info was hard. The AOT was smaller, but well organized. The action was just as intense and sometimes seemed to raise as much as a ruckus. The AOT was also easier on the pocket book. $10 to get in vs $15 at the B&G A. Parking at the AOT was free vs $5 at the other. Thus the AOT was 1/2 the price of the B&G A. I also heard, but don't know if it is a fact, that the B&G A event was a for profit operation, while the AOT's profits all went to good causes, including the drive for a MS monument.
Heading to the park for a while, I was again struck by how it seemed to have a buzz that I had never noticed on any previous visit. That night at the cabin as I tried to stay awake to at least down my minimum daily requirement of barley pops, I got to wondering if Shiloh wore me out so much that my sleep quota seemed to be increasing or the mellowness of the area and the local people relaxed me so much, I was sleeping more. Probably a combination of the two.
Monday morning found me heading to Corinth to meet up with Steve and Jeani Cantrell. We had planned to meet up at one of the reenactments, but that didn't happen. We met up at the Interpretative Center. Steve wanted to go out to Davis Bridge. I had planned to hang out in the center's library, so I was wearing sandals. Bad plan. It wasn't long we were loaded in Steve's car and heading northwest out of the city. Now, this is the part of the Battle of Corinth where the 16thWI started out the fight. As usual, they were out a ways:
So far, so good.
Ah, we made it. The building is a private home:
Although the trail to the bridge looks wide and inviting, it's deceiving. We quickly started running into mud holes, which required some dainty walking to get around (remember the sandals?). Jeani started expressing the opinion that this might not be too great of an idea, as the further down towards the river we went, the mud holes became more frequent and larger. Then we came across some monuments to the side, so I decided to take a pic. I believe I've expressed my limited abilities in picture taking. At first I didn't notice that there was something extra in the pic. After I snapped a few, I thought "What the Hell is he up to?"
At this point he proclaimed his innocence, but never would explain his actions. I just chalked it to a Coast Guard retiree's inability to deal with being on land!?!?
Right after this, we came upon the Godmother of all trail mud holes. By maneuvering around a large tree, we made it past. At this point Jeani was heading off up hill hollering something about all Vets being crazy. Too bad she gave up, as we were almost there:
You can see where the bridge had been. At this point I was thinking how these gents sure liked having their battles in inconvenient places. Time to head back up hill. Back at the car and we decided to continue on the loop shown on the NPS map. At this point let me state that it is unwise to use this map for general navigation. It wasn't long before we were on a road which we thought might be heading in the wrong direction. When the asphalt changed and a MS Cty sign showed up, we turned around. We finally decided we were on what the map showed as a little spur that ended at the TN/MS line. Wrong. It kept going. After a few more false turns and more snickering from the back seat, we got our bearings back. By the time we got back to the Center, it was closed. Back to the cabin and the grill.
Tues. was a real laid back day. Went to Pickwick Park in hopes of seeing some of the cool CW stuff that was being brought in, but unless you were there when it was, they weren't displaying any photos or copies. That was understandable, as they were real busy with what they were doing. I then went into the park and checked it out. Beautiful park. If you get a chance to spend an afternoon there, do so. You won't regret it. Back to the cabin for a late lunch and then to Shiloh. I decided to go up the back way, entering near Stuart's Mon. Although it wasn't busy there, it still seemed to have that buzz to it. It was almost like the Park's excitement was building along with the rest of us. I was probably just transferring my feelings to it, but ...................
Wed. morning was a good time to run a few loads through the laundry in an attempt to leave behind some of the clay I had picked. Sure did enjoy the cabin. Drinking coffee and doing laundry. Sure beat my usual run to the laundry mat when I travel. I skipped lunch with the intention of an early steak supper on the grill. Then it was back to Pickwick for the premier of the Shiloh movie "Fiery Trial". Met up with a few people I knew at the reception, including seeing Perry Neal for the first time this trip. The best part was talking to those who are in the new movie. The gentleman who played Col. Peabody looked just like him, except bigger! He is 6' 6". I believe Peabody was 6' 2", which was huge in those days. The highlight was talking to a young man who answered my query as to whether he was in the movie with "I have a little part." It turned out that he played John Cockerill. While we were talking he mentioned that he was joining the Army in June. I tried to talk him into the USAF, but as he had already raised his hand, I gave up and wished well in the service with the admonishment to keep his head down. Let the officers stick their heads up over the trench to see what was happening. I also was lucky enough to shake Woody's hand and said to him "My Grandfather fought at Shiloh and I consider that Park his. Thank you for all the great things you've done for it." He had a pretty big smile on his face as he "Your welcome"ed me. People do like compliments, especially on their life's work and love. I can still smoooze with the best of em! Entering the movie area, I wandered into the VIP area to say howdy to Mona. I then went back to the riff-raff section to look for a chair. Steve & Jeani didn't seem to mind when I sat next to them. Turning to my right, I started laughing with the gent sitting there. He was from MN and we had met 1/2 a dozen times at the Park and talked a few times. I won't go into my thoughts on the movie. It speaks for itself. Nothing I can say would do it justice. I will say I got a thrill out of seeing Dr. Mona's name in the credits. I did purchase it. The evening was capped off with a great conversation with Mike. Sorry to keep you out so late buddy. I slept in late for you the next morning.
Thurs. morning at the park and the buzz was now a hum and building. Some of the activities were starting and I flitted around the edges. Stopping at the stop sign on Peabody Rd. at the 16thWI Camp tablet, I noticed a car parked art the Gladden Mon. It looked suspicious enough to check out. Sure enough. A cream colored PT Cruiser with OK plates. I parked for a while, got out and walked around. Finally deciding that the owner of the vehicle may be one of those nuts who doesn't come out of the woods until the dimming twilight forces him to (been there, done that), I decide to go back to check out the Park's Hum. After a while hunger pangs hit. As I was near the eagles' nest, I stopped there. I got a sandwich, soda and apple out of the cooler and settled into the seat to eagle watch as I chowed down. I had one bite of the apple and was unwrapping the sandwich when I saw a PT Cruiser heading north past the nest. Putting things aside as fast as I could, I fired and buckled up and the chase was on. Now my normal speed in Shiloh is about 10MPH, sometimes 15. I'm sure I went a little faster than that. I had enough glimpses of the car to know that I'd get a visual at the Landing Rd. I was hoping he would head to the Visitor Center, but no, he was headed out of the park. I then proceed to get his attention with my headlights as I calmly drove up behind him. After our Howdys, he made some crack about wondering who the crazy guy chasing him was. So was my introduction to Perry. Well met, my good man. This is when I first heard of Perry's desire to put a tribute to Col. Peabody by his Mon. Now, a few weeks before I headed south, I was at Menard's and they had a sale on folding lawn chairs. Some were of a USA flag pattern, so I snatched one up. I figured I could use it on my version of the hikes. When I asked Perry if he minded if I sat at his table with the Peabody info, he said no, provided, of course, that he get permission from Stacy Allen to put it out. My plans for the AM of the 150th were coming together (as I had no plan before this, that was rather remarkable!). I let Perry go and wandered back into the park. Somewhere during this period I tried my darndiss to rent the house on the road into the Raith Mon. entrance. I was told it was rented by a Ranger and civilians weren't allowed to to rent it, which I don't think is fair. Early to bed. Tomorrow would definitely come early.
Friday April 6th, 2012. Set the alarm for 4 AM. Awoke at 3:50. In the past I've enjoyed taking in the gathering of the Fraley (Interesting, spell check doesn't like Fraley but gives Farley as an option.) Field hike as it forms at the Peabody Mon., and then heading over to the important place in the battle at 6 AM., just outside of the park at the Gladden Mon. where my Grandfather got his baptism of fire. Usually as I pull up to the Peabody Mon., most of the hikers would be milling about, waiting for the start of the hike. This time, no one was there, just a Law Enforcement Ranger with his spot lights lighting up where the cars usually park. I got out to ask him where everyone was. He smiled and said it was taking a little longer to get 70 cars organized! The parade that came down Reconnoitering Rd. was awesome. I do believe there were more cars this year than hikers last year. At least it sure seemed that way. At this point I started thinking the 150th had at chance at success! Perry set up his tribute to Col. Peabody on a card table to the right front of the Mon. I set my folding US Flag chair next to it and got comfortable. I then watched a very large mob head off to the southwest. I do remembering wondering what sort of search and rescue the Park had set up. Sunrise at Shiloh is something everyone should be given the chance to experience at least once in their life. It doesn't take much imagination at all to be transported by it. Taking in the battle's beginning from the Brigade viewpoint instead of the 16th's was interesting and I'm glad I did it. I also know I never want to start out and view it from a Divisional viewpoint. Watching that mob come up that road at me made me, although I admire and respect him, glad that I was not Peabody! Soon a small group gathered around Perry and his table to talk. Soon, a gent up by the road asked if we would move the table so he could take a picture of Peabody's Mon. A couple of guys grabbed the table and I grabbed my chair, but he said to leave the chair. He then asked if I'd stand by the chair. He then came down for some closer pictures. That's when I found out he was with the NY Times. I also later found the picture in the online version of the paper. The Mon. and the chair sure look great. Things quickly broke up as everyone had their direction to head to. About this time, the 16th would have been driven back to inside the park, so I headed over to the Gladden Mon. and parked.
After having my morning apple, I started to wonder where the Johnston hike was. Soon they came streaming around the corner from Peabody Rd. The leader stopped south of Gladden's Mon. and waited for the group. And waited. It just kept streaming around the corner. As the last of it came up, I saw Steve coming down the road. I asked why they hadn't come through the woods like normal. He said they were told the hikes were trying to eliminate as much of the woods part as they could. I figured this probably cut down on the need for search and rescue. They headed off into Spain Field and I headed to the 16th's Camp.
They held off the Rebs here until that "Hero", Prentiss, rode up and hollered to take to the trees and retreat. He then turned north and fled. The 16th fought a rear guard action heading north. One account stated that Col. Allen handled the Regiment with great affect, ordering eight different flanking movements to meet the oncoming Rebels. I then headed to the intersection of the Eastern Corinth Rd. and the Hamburg - Purdy Rd. At this point, I figure about 10AM, they fell back upon Hurlbut's line. From there it was back to what some called "The Hill." Others "The Big Hill." This is where the Eastern Corinth Rd. crosses the Sunken Rd. As I was getting out of the car, I noticed a large truck parked near Munch's 1st MN Mon. Out in Duncan field a camera crew was filming. I asked the roadies by the truck what was going on. They said BYU's TV station had a program called American Rider. It was a history teacher who was touring America on a Harley telling the American Story. The filming was ending so I crossed the road to the Nest. It was getting about time for the first attack. Just then I noticed a gent in gray walking back and forth in the thicket where the Rebs would have come from. His name was Jeff. I asked if he was following Gibson's Brig. He said no, Stephen's.
I thought OH NO. Which regiment, I asked. 9th TN he answered. I asked him if he had a relative in the 9th. He said his Great Grandfather. I told him there was a good chance my Grandfather had shot at his GGrandfather. He answered that meant his ancestor had probably shot at mine. We agreed that sure was for the best that their aimed had been off that day. As we were talking, a few people had gathered around and found it interesting our meeting. One gent asked if we would be interested in being interviewed by the American Rider host. Turns out the gent was the director. Jeff and I agreed it sounded like fun. Jeff did such a great take on why most of us nuts were at Shiloh that I mainly just agreed with him. The host did seem to enjoy the WI connection with Harley and his show. If I don't end up on the cutting room floor, like my picture at Peabody's Mon. did, it's suppose to air in Sept. on BYU TV. Seems if your school is rich enough, your station gets to go national. After the 10:30 attack by Stephen's Brigade, the 16th was out of ammo and were replaced by the 14th Iowa.
I'll bet there was more than one man happy to get away from Prentiss. The 16th fell back to the resupply area, about where the MI Mon. is.
They remaind there for about 4 hours. I had a leisurely lunch and and went to the Visitors Center. The Post Office had set up a place outside of the bookstore and was validating items. I got two, one for me and one for my Great Grandnephew Bailey. until an aide from Hurlbut asked if they would relieve the 44th IN, which was low on ammo. On to the Bloody Pond area.
The 16th was now part of the Union left that was eventually pushed back, allowing for the surrounding of the Hornets Nest. I have no idea where the 16th spent the rain soaked night of the 6th. Stacy Allen said the most obvious place would have been with Hurlbut's men. I asked if it wouldn't make as much sense that the 16th would have gone to the heights above Dill Branch, as that is where Munch's 1st MN Battery had set up.
They had started out together in the beginning, were together in the Hornets Nest,
and were the last functional outfits from the 6th Division still on the field. Stacy said it was just as probable, so I've designated that the camp ground for the 6th.
Heading up there around 4 PM is perfect. It's still quiet up there and I can drink a toast to the men of the 16th, those who made it through their first encounter with the elephant and those who had fallen. And they had escaped being captured with Prentiss. I walked up to the fence along the river
and discovered that the fence in the above picture had been removed. I don't care much for heights and have seen how a flooding river can undercut steep banks, so I didn't venture much past the fence line. A little later a Harley pulled up and the rider walked up to where I was. Big guy, Friendly. Brave. He was edging out trying to look straight down when I gave him my theory on cliff banks being undercut in floods. He did decide the view wasn't that great and came back to where I was standing. I later found out from Mona that the fence had been removed for the movie. I would suggest replacing it. I wandered back to the Visitors area for a while and then headed for Richard's, hoping he would have his campfire going. I was in luck. It seems that I had just missed the Reb I meet in the Hornest Nest, Jeff. He had just left. Darn. We sat around the fire and watched the full moon rise. Fortunately, I only had two brews with me, as I was dozing off before the second was finished. It had been a long, full and absolutely wonderful day for this old dude. Back to the cabin in the woods.
Things were moving a lot slower for me Sat. morning. Stopped at Richard's on the way to the Park. He was loading up and hoped to be on the road for home by noon. Again I had just missed the Reb Jeff. On to the Park. Most people don't seem as interested in the second day of the battle and I know why. The 16th WI was in reserve all day and had very little participation in the action. I find it good day to skirt around this action. If I see a group forming up, I'll stop and listen to the lecture at that point. This Sat. I spent a lot of time watching the Rangers & volunteers putting out the candle bags.
I stopped and talked to a few. One Ranger said that the Park was divided into section and each section leader was allowed to decide how to arrange the candles, with an eye to having a battle theme tie-in with that area. Seeing the wave after wave of lights being put out sometimes drew a response us old macho dudes ain't suppose to partake in, but it was OK, as I was alone. I myself would have put a lot more at the intersection of The Eastern Corinth Rd. and Peabody Rd. As I was driving along I saw a familiar figure in gray walking in the same direction I was driving in. The Reb Jeff! He had just received a call from home and had to get home. He was hoping to get back to his car and get to the last marker for Stephen's Brig. and the 9th TN to get a picture before heading home. I drove him to the marker and then to his car. I do like the way these things tend to come full circle. As it was getting near noon and I planned to attend the Hagy's luncheon of the SDG at 1PM, I figured on a quick drive by the Visitors Center. Wrong. After about 1/2 an hour, I got as far as the turn off to the landing and asked the Ranger who was directing traffic for permission to turn around. There was an understanding smile on his face as he granted it. On to lunch, as I'd skipped breakfast in anticipation of it. I have never been to Shiloh without going to Hagy's at least once. I'm not sure if it's a law, but it should be. Meeting everyone sure was great. Could use a few more Yank's as I seemed to be drawing most of the Reb fire, as usual. Speaking of, I sure did missed not being yelled at by Sonny. Hope he is well so I can argue with him in the fall. Food was as good as ever. I was a little suspicious when, near the end, they started talking about how the Park was going to hold the Anniversary next year on April 13 & 14. They agreed to have the 2nd annual SDG luncheon on Sat. April 13th. I myself will just wait for the NPS web site to put out their dates before I make my plans. These Rebels can be tricky. Lunch over and it was time to head for Shiloh Church so CD could organize his volunteers that were to light the candles in the area. Soon after arriving, Richard pulled up in his pickup and loaded trailer. When I asked why he hadn't left, he claimed that the sun was in his eyes, as he had to drive west. HMMMMM. They were passing out long handled lighters for the job and one was presented to me. I explained I could get the first one going but probably wouldn't be able to straighten up enough to get to the second one. It was agreed to let me spectate. I'm good at that. I figured I'd try documenting it with a few photos.
I call this one "The best end of an Unreconstructed Rebel heading south."
Then I came across this group
And my first thought was: I've heard of three southerners on a light bulb, but a candle????
As Perry was walking at me, I'm thinking: No way they need a fourth. Perry handed me his lighter and asked if I could make it work. It was a few seconds before I figured which button was the safety switch and lit it. Perry had turned to one of his compatriots and asked if they had a working lighter. I asked him why not use the one I had going. He smiled and said: "This candle is for the boys of the 16th WI." I felt that was inappropriate as the candles were for casualties. He agreed and changed it to the fallen of the 16th. I gladly lit it and did appreciate the gesture from Perry. Almost made me feel bad about the three southerners on a candle crack. About this time the volunteers going north lighting candles meet those coming south. Looking south, CD and the rest had disappeared. That was the last we saw them that day. They were suppose to go most of the way down to Seay Field, but ended up going back up 1/2 towards Peabody's Mon. before they found lit candles before them. As we were goofing off waiting for dark, I started joking around with some young people, including a couple who lived in Memphis. They had immigrated from Malaysia about three years ago. Richard walked up, put his arm around me and stated to the assemblage: "Y'all are here for the Anniversary. Jim and I are here for the Reunion!" Another HMMMM. Dark was coming on. My car is one of those where you cannot shut off the headlights. Perry Neal offered his passenger seat, which I gladly accepted. Easier to view as a passenger than as a driver and Perry Neal is a great guy to have a mellow conversation with. The first thing I discovered when looking at the pictures I tried taking was that as bad as I am at taking pictures standing still, I'm even worse in a moving car. The ones that aren't just a blur aren't that great either. As we started at the Church, we were at the 1/2 way point and there weren't many cars yet. We went slowly, at our own pace. Then we got to the end, which was the 1/2 way point for us, and had to exit at the Raith Mon. exit, go right and back to the main entrance. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
The stop and go drive was about an hour. A few cars would pull out of line, turn around and head out. A pickup truck right in front of us sat in line the whole hour and then as we were to go right into the Park, pulled out, turned around and headed out. Strange. The second half (for us, first half for everyone else) was a lot slower, which was fine. We went at the same speed as the whole line. I asked a Ranger at the entrance how long the drive was. About 10 miles. I then asked if the whole 10 miles was filled with cars. He said it wasn't quite yet, but soon would be. This thing must have looked great from the air. As we were stopping more, the pictures were a little better, but not much.
It was probably a good thing they sent us backwards on Dill Branch Rd. Going uphill on that steep section instead of down probably prevented some fender benders. By the time we got back to Shiloh Church, Perry Neal was tired and headed home. I got out at my car, but the night was just too beautiful to go anywhere. Then I realized the full moon would make a perfect backdrop against the candles and the Church. Just then I saw Perry's PT Cruiser going by. I tried to flag him down. What this scene needed was someone who could capture it, but he just kept going. I did my best.
While I was taking one of these, a car stopped and a young lady jumped out to take a picture of the candle crosses. I told her it was better up where I was as she could also get the moon in it. She came up and snapped a few, smiled at me and said thanks. I said the pictures were compliments of the boys of the 16th WI and to please remember them when she looked at that photo. As they were driving away, her husband waved at me and hollered a thank you. By then the traffic was really thinning out and I figured I could make one trip around with my headlights without bothering too many others. As I was going to pull out of the lot, a car with headlights on came along. so I figured I'd follow way behind him in hopes he would understand. Didn't go far before he pulled over and waited for me to pass, then followed way behind me. That was fine. The car in front of me was so far ahead, I figured it wouldn't bother him too bad. I did the route one more time and was really struck by how many candles had been run over. By the time I went around and got back to the Raith exit, I was tired and ready to head out. The Illumination was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Kudos to all who worked on it and donated materials.
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