A Commemoration of The Battle Of Shiloh

 In this blog we commemorate the Civil War Battle of Shiloh, fought April 6-7, 1862, in southwest Tennessee. Shiloh was the largest battle on the North American continent up to its time and resulted in nearly 24,000 injuries and 3500 deaths. The site of the battle is now the Shiloh National Military Park which is managed by the National Park Service.

Our guide to Shiloh is "Shiloh National Military Park" (2012), a short photographic history of how the Battle of Shiloh has been remembered through the establishment and administration of the Shiloh National Military Park. The book thus also serves as an act of commemoration in its own right. Brian McCutcheon and Timothy Smith, both former rangers at Shiloh, wrote the book which also features a foreword by Woody Harrell, who served as the Superintendent at Shiloh for many years. McCutcheon has served as ranger, historian, and superintendent at other national parks, while Smith has become a respected authority on the Battle of Shiloh and on the Park itself, with several books to his credit. This particular book is part of the Images of America series which celebrates the history of American cities and towns in brief pictorial histories.
Images of America: Shiloh National Military Park
The first day of the Battle of Shiloh pitted the Union Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses Grant against the Confederate Army of the Mississippi under Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard. The Union army was camped at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River when the Confederates made a surprise attack in the vicinity of the Shiloh Church some three miles away.  On April 6, 1862, the Confederate Army pushed the Union Army back. That night, the Union Army was reinforced by the Army of the Ohio under Don Carlos Buell.  On April 7, the combined Union armies pushed back the Confederates to Corinth, Mississippi about 20 miles south.
Shiloh Methodist Church
The Shiloh Church from which the battle derived its name was destroyed shortly after the battle. This postwar painting shows how the small Methodist Church likely looked at the time.

The Shiloh Battlefield is in a remote, rural area and is difficult to access even today.  Visitors coming to Shiloh from any distance demonstrate a commitment by the effort required to get to the park.  Unlike many other Civil War sites, Shiloh has been preserved in essentially the same condition as it was at the time of the battle.
Pittsburg Landing
One of the few contemporary photos of the former battlefield, this image shows Union steamboats tied up at Pittsburg Landing immediately after the battle.

Initial efforts to commemorate the Battle of Shiloh began in 1866 with the establishment of a National Military Cemetery at Pittsburg Landing.  Union troops who had died in the fighting were initially buried on the battlefield.  They were later reinterred in the new cemetery.
Shiloh National Cemetery 
This image shows the Pittsburg Landing National Cemetery at Shiloh on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River.
In the 1890s, veterans from both sides met at Shiloh to remember the battle and to reconcile. They also took the lead in lobbying Congress to establish a park at Shiloh, as had been done with other major Civil War battlefields. Congress established the Shiloh Park by legislation in 1894 signed by President Grover Cleveland. The veterans administered the park, purchased the land and built roads, wrote the history of the battle, and provided for the placement of monuments.  There are many beautiful commemorative monuments at Shiloh.
Confederate Monument, Shiloh National Park 
The Confederate Memorial, built in 1917 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, commemorates the Confederacy’s valiant but unsuccessful effort at Shiloh. It is probably the most famous of Shiloh’s monuments.
Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston led his troops from the front and was killed on April 6. He remains the highest-ranking American officer killed in battle.  The exact spot of his death remains a dispute, however.
Albert Sidney Johnston Memorial
The memorial to Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh.
Each of the states which sent units to Shiloh built commemorative monuments.  The State of Illinois had more troops engaged in the battle than any other state.  In 1904, Illinois dedicated an imposing monument to all its participants in the battle.
Illinois State Monument

The Illinois State Monument, designed by Richard Bock, is located at the site of some of the most intense fighting at Shiloh.

State of Wisconsin Monument 
The State of Wisconsin dedicated its monument at Shiloh on April 7, 1906 in a ceremony which included representatives from both North and South.

The dedication of the Wisconsin State monument
The State of Wisconsin’s Shiloh monument showing a symbol of victory.  The Savannah, Tennessee Military Band performed at the dedication ceremony.
Shiloh National Park faced a crisis in 1909 when a cyclone decimated much of the park facilities along the River, with the even more unfortunate result of lost lives. The commitment to the Park, however, was such that it was quickly rebuilt and fortified. In 1933, administration of the park passed from the military to the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior. This transfer signified a change in the purpose of the park from serving veterans to serving and educating the broader American public about the battle and its importance in U.S. history.  In 2000, the National Park Service added a new unit to the Shiloh Park located in Corinth, Mississippi.  The capture of Corinth and its railroads had been the goal of the Union armies engaged at Shiloh. 
Siege of Corinth Monument
The interpretive center at Corinth.  The Union Army ultimately would besiege and capture Corinth.

A visit to the Shiloh National Military Park is a moving experience for people of all ages.  The following image shows three young people enjoying and learning about the park. 
The guides of our visit to Shiloh, McCutcheon and Smith, write:  “The voices of 1862 are long gone, and thus it is vital that parents and grandparents of today carry the torch to future generations, such as the three shown here, encouraging them to explore their nation’s history, experience their historic sites, and learn of their heritage and the importance and blessings of being an American.”
Every year on April 6-7 the National Park Service commemorates the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh with programs including battlefield walks and lectures so that the battle and the reasons for fighting the Civil War are not forgotten. Though you may not be able to attend the anniversary program at the battlefield, you can still commemorate Shiloh in your own way. We hope this post can serve as a good starting point for remembering Shiloh.

Robin Friedman

To learn more about Shiloh National Military Park and its monuments, visit arcadiapublishing.com