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Shiloh Hikes After Action Reports

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As most of you know I attended the Shiloh Anniversary Hikes sponsored by the National Park Service. These hikes are held on the anniversary of the battle and are timed as closely as possible to occur as the events were occuring during the battle.

On the first day the hikes began at 0515 in Prenitss's camp and retraced the route of the federal reconnoitering party. They ended 14 hours later at 7PM by following Grant's last line and retracing the CSA attacks across Dill Branch Ravine. The hikes began the second day at a more respectable 0800 and ended about 1630. Each hike was about 1.5 hours long with about 30 minutes between hikes. These hikes averaged about two miles in length over moderate to difficult terrain so taking all of ten of the hikes was not for the faint at heart. I must give our esteemed moderator credit. He took all ten and held up well.. I skipped the early morning skirmish but was in the second wave and held out to the end.

The hikes of the first day covered the following topics

1) Fraley Field: The Battle Begins

2) The 53rd Ohio Sees the Elephant

3) Albert Sidney Johnston's Last Day

4) Disaster at the Crossroads; Attack and Counterattack

5) A Desperate Last Stand; Hornet's Nest and Peach Orchard

6) Grant's Last Line of Defense Saves the Day

The hikes on the second day were titled:

1) Buell's Counterattack

2) The Federal Army of the Tennessee Counterattacks

3) The Orphan Brigade at Shiloh

4) The Tragic Battle of Shiloh Ends

As many of you know I took these hikes last year as well. During the 2006 hikes I noticed a reinterpritation of the battle beginning to surface. Specifically, it was beginning to question the importance of the Hornet's Nest fighting. This year, many of the traditional views of the battle were turned on their head. Specifically, the fighting at the Hornet's Nest is no longer considered to be crucial to the outcome of the battle. In fact, it's rank of importance is a very distant third behind the fighting at the Crossroads and in the Peach Orchard Section. The latter two are now considered to be the most crucial parts of the battle.

Another point was the importance of Ruggle's Battery. New studies has determined that this battery could not have been more than 52 guns. Further, these guns did not fire at the same time for more than a few minutes. The interpretation now is that Ruggles Battery added to the noise, smoke and choas but done little real damage and was not a significant factor in the collapse of the Hornet's Nest line. This line was doomed by the time Ruggles Battery was formed by the retreat of McClernand and Hulbert on Prenitss's right and left respectively. The Hornet's Nest line would have collapsed regardless if Ruggles had shown up or not.

Mr Lew Wallace's actions on his march the the battlefield on the first day has largely been vindicated. He was not lost and other than the countermarch issue he probably could not have got the the battlefield much faster than he did..

He did not fair so well on the second day of the fighting. The hikes showed that on three seperate occasions on the second day he was on the flank of the confederate army and in a position to destroy them or put them in a position of being destroyed by others. But, he did not act. All in all he was not heavily engaged on the second day and the low casualty figures of his command was used to substatiate that..

That's the story, the hikes were very informative and gave me a cahnce to visit parts of the field that is rarely visited and learn about what happened there. It also allowed me to to get a bit of new prespective on the battle . If anyone has any thoughts or questions please email me or post to the board..

Your Obedient Servant

Dan Graff

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Good overview, Dan. I'm doing the narrative thing - bad habit of mine I guess - but your post sums everything up quite well. We had a good time in spite of the cold, the sore muscles, the branches whapping us in the face, the sore muscles, trying desperately to keep up with Charles and Bjorn, the leaf dust, the sore muscles, the head-scratching trying to figure out what direction we were facing. Oh, and the sore muscles.

As Dan says, one of the things the rangers really hit on during the weekend was the importance of the fighting on the west side of the field, around the Crossroads. It is apparent that this area is gaining in importance, while at the same time the importance of the Hornets' Nest is being seriously questioned. We'll have to talk about this more, as it's a very interesting subject.

Hey Dan, by the way - have you found Steve's itinarary yet?


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