The Today, April 6 is the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh the largest engagement of American forces at that time since the founding of the Republic. The total casualties of over 23,000 staggered both sides and reinforced the determination of continuing the War till victory.
The Shiloh National Military Park has over 4,000 beautiful acres of preserved fields and forests that present the opportunity to see the area as did the combatants in 1862. The Little Big Horn presents a large area of terrain that has the appearance of what was there in 1876 but it pales in comparison to Shiloh.
Shiloh has been considered the turning point of the War by many historians and military strategists. In fact General Grant in his memories wrote: "The battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg landing, has been perhaps less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more persistently misunderstood, than any other engagement between National and Confederate troops during the entire rebellion."
The story of Shiloh is a study of American and her citizens, good, bad or indifferent. If Grant had been defeated he and Sherman may have been either placed in backwater posts as Pope was in Minnesota or cashiered as was Fitz John Porter. Could the Confederacy had won if Albert Sidney Johnston had not been killed? Probably not as the Rebels were too scattered and disorganized without sufficient supplies and means to distribute. Regards Dave
It is indeed interesting to speculate as to what might have been different had A.S. Johnston not been killed at Shiloh, but I suspect not much. Jefferson Davis had said that he considered Johnston to be the best General the South had, but that was based upon slim foundation and may have had more to do with the fact that he and Johnston were personal friends, a factor that seems to have played a heavy role in Davis’ opinion, good or bad, of generals. Furthermore, although he had assumed temporary field command for the battle of Shiloh, Johnston was really the commander of the entire Western Department of the Confederacy, which encompassed a great amount of territory and numerous subordinate commands, and was what he would have likely focused on after the battle, just as did his replacement Joe Johnston. In that respect his abilities as an administrator rather than a field commander would have played a bigger role, and whether he would have been better at that than Joe is anyone’s guess. One possible difference is that, if not for the vacuum in departmental command created by ASJ’s death, Beauregard may not have effectively gone AWOL, incurring Davis’ wrath and causing his replacement as commander of The Army of Mississippi/Tennessee by Bragg. The difference that would have made is again anyone’s guess, but I can't help but feel that it would have been a positive for the South.
As far as the Battle of Shiloh itself is concerned, I believe that the battle was essentially already lost before Johnston was killed, indeed before it even began. That is because, contrary to Johnston’s plan to drive the Federals away from the river and their source of supply and reinforcement, Beauregard was able to implement his plan instead, which resulted in the Federals being driven back upon their resources, allowing them to consolidate and reform. That was already well in motion prior to Johnston’s death, and, had he lived, there was probably not a lot that he could have changed at that point. However, he had taken a heavy personal hand in the battle up to that point, seemingly being everywhere directing and inspiring troops, and it is possible that the confusion that was to overtake the Confederates may have been mitigated if he had still been directing things.
jodak I believe you are correct in regards to the relationship of Jefferson Davis and his generals. The one he disliked the most was far and away the best commander available that being Joe Johnston. The appointment of Braxton Bragg was the most grievous sin committed by Davis upon the Army of Tennessee. Davis was a controlling person who could not let others operate independently with the sole exception of Robert E. Lee.
A little known fact about Shiloh is the Confederate maps were incorrect as to the alignment and positioning of the Federal troops. The mistaken belief the Union army faced west instead of south lead to misdirection of attacks and positioning of reserves. Quite a mistake made by the home team but Western Tennessee around the Tennessee river was pro union and many locals scouted for Grant and Buell's army. Sandy soil covered in trees, creeks and ravines precluded the use of slaves and the locals were sharecroppers making a poor living off the land. Regards Dave
If anyone is interested in reading how the road infrastructure of a National Military Park is planned, developed and maintained, I have listed below the 1998 report that covers Shiloh National Park. The report is extremely interesting and very informative. I am sure there are other similar reports for different parks in the Library of Congress or National Archieves Regards Dave
The culmination of the campaign and battle of Second Manassas. With all due consideration to Chancellorsville, I think this was the finest hour of the Army of Northern Virginia and the closest that the Confederacy was to ever come to winning the war. Although a great victory, the Confederates lost the opportunity of totally destroying the Union army when the Jackson wing of the army, after fighting tenaciously on the defense for two days, failed to support the assault launched by the Longstreet wing on the final day, as per Lee's orders. This occurred on the same day that the south achieved one of the most overwhelming victories of the war at the Battle of Richmond, KY, where of 6,500 Union troops involved some 5,400 (83%) were casualties. Had the Confederacy achieved similar results at Manassas, close on the heels of the Union's humiliating withdrawal from the Peninsula, there is a strong likelihood that the Union would have relented and let the south go its own way.