PLUNK GENEALOGY -- see "Family" label on this blog and/or write Mike at

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bonnie & Clyde II -- Bloody Shiloh

After managing to stay out of the small-town pokey (see Bonnie & Clyde below), the getaway, middle-Tennessee weekend was peaceful and entertaining.
The lake and grounds at Pickwick Dam were well worth the trip. The dam was dramatic, and the water level was really high. The attention-getter of the weekend, however, was Shiloh National Military Park – better known as Bloody Shiloh.

A historian wrote: “No soldier who took part in the two day’s engagement at Shiloh ever spoiled for a fight again,” recalled one Union veteran. “We wanted a square, stand-up fight [and] got all we wanted of it.”

The two days at Shiloh became the bloodiest battle in US history to that time.

The battle was fought on April 6 and 7, 1862. At the end of the first day, Southern troops had killed or captured thousands of Union soldiers and acquired substantial quantities of Yankee supplies. So confident of an impending victory were the Rebs that on the night of the 6th, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard sent a telegram to Confederate President Jeff Davis declaring “A Complete Victory!” Events changed that night and subsequently changed not only the course of the Shiloh battle, but perhaps the outcome of the war.

Southern Gen. Sidney Johnston received a serious injury in the day’s fight and bled to death later in the afternoon. There are many who believe that his command staff was thrown into confusion due to his loss and delayed pursuing the confrontation until morning. Those experts believe that, had Johnston lived, he would have continued the fight and that the South would have prevailed at Shiloh. Had there been a decisive Southern win at that point in the war . . . well, the end result might have been quite different.

Additionally, unknown to Beauregard, thousands of troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell were arriving under the cloak of darkness to reinforce Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s army. Grant’s combined armies now totaled 45,000. On the other side of the field, having lost more than 8,000 men to death or injury on the 6th and experiencing some desertions in the tumultuous night that followed, the Southern troop count was down to nearly 20,000.

The night of the 6th was threaded with the rising and falling, never-ending screams and moans of the dying soldiers of both armies strewn across the fields between the two encampments. Union gunboats on the Tennessee River lighted the skies and assaulted the ears as they bombarded the battlefields until dawn. As if the scene needed more drama, a thunderstorm raged throughout the night signaling the upheaval which would come with the new day.

At first light, confident Beauregard launched an attack not knowing that he was vastly outnumbered.

The horrendous battle raged all day. As Mike and I gazed at the peaceful pool of water a little more than 100 years later, it was hard to imagine the scene on the day it was named Bloody Pond. Wounded in both blue and gray uniforms painfully crawled to the pool to get relief for their parched throats and to cool their fevers. So many came to the water and so many died there that the pool was stained crimson with their heroes’ blood.

It was a tragic day for both sides of the battle lines. Lives were lost. Men were maimed. Grant’s army won the day.

Photos above: Mike at the Tennessee River; me at Bloody Pond

No comments: