1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shiloh, Battle of

SHILOH, BATTLE OF. This, the second great battle in the American Civil War, also called the battle of Pittsburg Landing, was fought on the 6th-7th of April 1862 between the Union forces under Grant and Buell and the Confederates under A. S. Johnston and Beauregard. In view of operations against Corinth, Mississippi, Grant’s army had ascended the Tennessee to Pittsburg Landing and there disembarked, while the co-operating army under Buell moved across country from Nashville to join it. The Confederates concentrated above 40,000 men at Corinth and advanced on Pittsburg Landing with a view to beating Grant before Buell’s arrival, but their concentration had left them only a narrow margin of time, and the advance was further delayed by the wretched condition of the roads. Beauregard advised Johnston to give up the enterprise, but on account of the bad effect a retreat would have on his raw troops Johnston resolved to continue his advance. Grant meantime had disposed his divisions in camps around the Landing rather with a view to their comfort than in accordance with any tactical scheme. No entrenchments were made; Halleck, the Union commanding general in the West, was equally over-confident, and allowed Buell to march in leisurely fashion. Even so, more by chance than intentionally, Buell’s leading division was opposite the Landing, awaiting only a ferry, on the evening before the battle; Grant, however, declined to allow it to cross, as he thought that there would be no fighting for some days. At 6 A.M. on the 6th of April, near Shiloh Church (2 m. from Pittsburg Landing), the Confederate army deployed in line of battle, and advancing directly on the Landing, surprised and broke up a brigade of the most advanced Union division (Prentiss’s) which had been sent forward from camp to reconnoitre. The various Union divisions hurriedly prepared to defend themselves, but they were dispersed in several camps which were out of sight of one another, and thus the Confederate army lapped round the flanks of each local defence as it encountered it. The two advanced divisions were swiftly driven in on the others, who were given a little time to prepare themselves by the fact that in the woods the Confederate leaders were unable to control or manoeuvre their excited troops. But the rear Union divisions, though ready, were not connected, and each in turn was isolated and forced back, fighting hard, towards the Landing. The remnant of Prentiss’s division was cut off and forced to surrender. Another division had its commander, W. H. L. Wallace, killed. But on the other side the disorder became greater and greater, many regiments were used up, and Johnston himself killed in vainly attacking on a point of Wallace’s line called the Hornet’s Nest. The day passed in confused and savage scuffles between the raw enthusiasts of either side, but by 5.30 P.M. Grant had formed a last (and now a connected) line of defence with Buell’s leading division (Nelson’s) and all of his own infantry that he could rally. This line was hardly 600 yds. from the Landing, but it was in a naturally strong position, and Beauregard suspended the attack at sunset. There was a last fruitless assault, delivered by some of the Confederate brigades on the right that had not received Beauregard’s order against Nelson’s intact troops, who were supported by the fire of the gunboats on the Tennessee. During the 'night Grant’s detached division (Lew Wallace’s) and Buell’s army came up, totalling 25,000 fresh troops, and at 5 a.m. on the 7th Grant took the offensive. Beauregard thereupon decided to extricate his sorely-tried troops from the misadventure, and retired fighting on Corinth. About Shiloh Church, a strong rearguard under Bragg repulsed the attacks of Grant and Buell for six hours before withdrawing, and all that Grant and Buell achieved was the reoccupation of the abandoned camps. It was a Confederate failure, but not a Union victory, and, each side being weakened by about 10,000 men, neither made any movements for the next three weeks.