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Ron

Sunken Road/Hornets Nest

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May I please offer a clarification concerning the sunken road and the Hornets Nest? The sunken road runs from the Main Corinth road from near where the Duncan farm cabins use to be, in a southeast direction. The road crossed the Eastern Corinth road, passed the location of the present Manse George Cabin and continued to the River road, ending above where Sarah Bell's peach orchard was during the battle. The road is about 1,230 yards or 3/4 of a mile. The road can be divided into three sectors, the center, right and left facing from the union side. The right side is about 350 yards in length and faces the Joseph Duncan farm fields. The center is about 430 yards in length and is in the woods above the Daniel Davis wheat field and a small portion of the Sarah Bell cotton field. The left portion of the sunken road is about 440 yards in length, and faces the fields and orchards of the Sarah Bell farm.

The Hornets Nest is located only in the center portion of the road. It begins just east of the Eastern Corinth road and continues east for about 350 yards short of the Manse George Cabin and above the Daniel Davis wheatfield. This is where the fighting occurred that we all understand as the heavy fighting in the Hornets Nest. Here the trees and heavy undergrowth concealed the union positions where the union soldiers were laying down while the rebels were advancing with their full bodies exposed to the defenders fire. The smoke from the muskets hung in the underbrush again concealing the union men more then the rebels who were still erect. It was a combination of the union defenders laying down and the rebels being erect while the undergrowth favored the defenders moreso then the attackers, perhaps is a good explaination of the value of this position. No rebel attack got close to the union positions in the center portion of the sunken road.

On both the right and left sides of the sunken road, open fields faced both the attackers and the defenders. The fighting here was of a differant nature. Artillery fire was much more effective here compared to no artillery fire given the rebels in the center portion. The defense of the Duncan Farm fields by the division commanded by General W H L Wallace was more effective then that of General Hurlbut's Division on the union left side of the sunken road. Here they faced the Sarah Bell fields and at 2 PM, Genral Johnston's attack pushed Hurlbut's Division back off the sunken road position. The heavy pressure came from the frontal attack of Statham's Brigade and three other brigades flanking Hurlbut's line.

Wallace;s line held longer because a lack of any frontal assault on his line and the flanking movement of the rebels came later, after 4 to 4:30 PM. Then Wallace's right flank collapsed and the rebels gained the Stacy field, much above the union retreat routes.

A main point I is that the Hornets nest was only in the center of this line for about 400 yards while the sunken road ran for about 1,230 yards. The fighting in these areas are often mixed up and of a different nature.

Concerning the question "Was the sunken road really sunken"? Yes, I believe that the road did have a depression but mainly in the center portion only. The road had less of depression in the right side of the road and road had only a minor depression on the left side. It is the portion above the Sarah Bell fields that I remember from my two visits to Shiloh that it was hard to see the depression. By then, it was 140 years since the battle and the depression may have washed away from the rains of some many years because of the lack of foilage to protect the ground from erosion.

Well, there are my thoughts,

Ron

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Thanks, Ron. I believe that David Reed and/or Atwell Thompson create some of the confusion here. On their "First Day" map, the words "Hornets Nest" are spread out along the Sunken Road so that the word "Hornets" is in the wooded area (the actual Hornets Nest area as you describe), but the word "Nest" runs along the edge of Duncan Field. It also doesn't help that the Hornets Nest stop on the driving tour is at the Duncan Field end of the Sunken Road.

John

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John,

I didn't know the driving tour sign is out of position. I believe your are right that the placement of the sign may create a wrong idea as to the Hornets Nest location. That has to be corrected. The sign and the stop can be moved, the best place may be on the Eastern Corinth Road.

Ron

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Gentlemen, Tour stop #3 is labeled "Duncan Field" on the map and #10, on the Eastern Corinth Road, is the "Hornets' Nest." The larger problem is that it fails to mention that the 16th WI was there during the 10:30 AM attack.

Jim

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Ron,

I think that you may be right in your accessment that the Hornet's Nest was only a portion of the Sunken Road, that being the part more or less in the center. That would seem to be the case based on location of the original position markers. As for what portion of the Sunken Road was actually 'sunken', it is probable that, at this late time, we will never know the exact extent of the sunken part of the road. I have seen old field roads that would have a sunken section, then a section of same or more length with little or no depression. These sunken areas would alternate with those of little or no depression for the entire length of the road. Therefore, if this same situation occured along the Sunken Road in 1862, then some soldiers might mention a sunken road while a soldier just 200 ft down the road would have no sunken area to mention.

There is a good example of this where King's Confederate division camped for the 150th Shiloh re-enactment (just northwest of the Johnston bivouac site). There is a section of sunken road 200 to 250 ft long with the deepest part being maybe 24" deep. At the south and north ends of this sunken section, the old road disappears completely.

Grandpa

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Well... Jim. That's fascinating. I was looking at an old driving tour map (but not VERY old, maybe from last year). They've changed the driving tour, too. The old driving tour didn't go through the Hornets Nest section of Eastern Corinth Road. It turned right onto Hamburg-Purdy Road swung by the field hospital site and back left to the Johnston death site, Manse George cabin and Bloody Pond. The new one gives a much more comprehensive view of the battle. However, this year's Hornets Nest hike did start at the Duncan Field tour stop.

On the 16th Wisconsin, I'd appreciate a little education some time. I tried to follow your grandfather via the battlefield markers on a map, but couldn't get a clear enough picture in my mind. Surely there's a 16th Wisconsin regimental history of some sort online. Right?

Grandpa, I think you've got a good point there on the road. That's the way logging roads and trails are on my property--and they change from time to time based on how heavily they're used, how much rain we get and when we get it.

John

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John, there is some online material on the 16th, but the info they have is skimpy. One, Wentworth Dow's diary: http://www.gwdow.net...ntworth_dow.htm gives a small, one paragraph write up on April 6, 1862. I've seen the actually regimental report for the month of April, 1862. It states that the regiment participated in Battle of Shiloh. That's it. Info is out there, but it is sorely lacking in depth and is hard to find. I've decided to fill in the void with made up heroic stuff, until someone proves me wrong.

Jim

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Hello Grandpa,

Yes, what you say makes good sense. We will never know the exact shape of that road because of the ever changing conditions over 150 years and remember, it was only a dirt road subject to weather and use factors. I did want to mention that what cover was provided by the sunken road was enhanced by the concealment of the thick underbrush. All this while the attacking rebels were standing erect and much more visable. They did not deserve the scorn they got from General Bragg.

Ron

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