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Why Shiloh Matters

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Found this article in the New York Times (April 6th, 2012), while looking for something else. Winston Groom gives his reasons why Shiloh matters. Have a read, and see if you agree; or if there are other aspects of the battle -- its leaders -- its location -- its proper place in history, that you would include.


[For me, it is the stand at the Hornet's Nest, in spite of current trends to downplay that aspect. Because it does not matter if it took place along 'the Sunken Road,' or 'Duncan Lane,' the fact that 'surprised' infantrymen from Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin advanced towards the sound of the guns, and established their post; that over two thousand soldiers followed orders, held their ground, and were captured while 'doing their job' ...and set an example for others to follow, in future battles. Such is the stuff of legends.]






 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/why-shiloh-matters/?_r=1   (NYT article by Winston Groom)

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How might the Civil War have been different without Grant's and Sherman's leadership?  Therein lies a great deal of "why Shiloh matters".  Had Johnston's army prevailed, Grant and Sherman, even if they had survived the battle and escaped capture, would surely be minor footnotes in the history of the war.

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Thanks to YEKCIM and Pumpkinslinger for their contributions...


For a further explanation: before I commenced this more detailed study, three years ago, my awareness of the Battle of Shiloh was limited to the following:

  • Existence of a 'Hornet's Nest'
  • Presence of a 'sunken road'
  • There may have been something took place at a 'crossroad'
  • The engagement occurred someplace in the 'Deep South' (possibly in Mississippi, because Tennessee did not seem far enough South)
  • U.S. Grant was there;
  • Wallace was there (although I did not know there were two of them; I only knew about the one who got lost)
  • Was unaware Sherman, or Beauregard, or Albert Sidney Johnston were there;
  • It was big, and it was bloody. But because it seemed like it took place in the 'middle of nowhere,' possibly against hordes of guerrilla forces, there did not seem to be an overarching rationale: how did it fit into a larger narrative? It did not seem to lead to Vicksburg, or the Fall of New Orleans; or Antietam; or Gettysburg. Bad as it was, bloody and big as it was, it appeared to be a stand-alone event;
  • Forts Henry and Donelson (everyone knows their names, and little else) did not seem connected to Shiloh.

I, for one, have come a long way in three years. I have a better understanding of the elements and aspects involved; better appreciation for the scale, and heroics played out on a number of levels; greater realization of the significance of the contest, and how it ended the career of one leader, and rejuvenated the career of another. And, along the way, I've come to recognize the many ways Shiloh was interconnected with other events; and how it almost-by-accident tied into the greater strategy.


I'm still learning; still researching. But now, I am also trying to think of ways to encourage others to study this battle.


I now know why the Battle of Shiloh matters to me. Why is Shiloh important to you?




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Time for a more in-depth study of the battle.  There is much more to the Battle of Shiloh but it is hidden by the battlefield confusion much like what occurred in April 1862.  The battlefield movements illustrate the planned attacks and unplanned attacks.  The movements of many of the cavalry units is little to completely unknown.  The field artillery movements also are little understood and/or reported.  There is much to learn here. 


An area of Shiloh study that I find very interesting is the care and treatment of the wounded (both sides), location of hospitals and field treatment camps.  A far too-much ignored topic is what happened to the civilians who lived in the area of the battle.  How many were killed or injured during the battle?  What happened to their homes, farms, houses and did their livestock survive?


Much to study


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