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American Civil War

Battle of Shiloh

History >> Civil War

The Battle of Shiloh was fought between the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War. It was fought over two days from April 6 to April 7 in 1862. It took place in southwestern Tennessee and it was the first major battle to take place in the western theater of war.

Painting of the Battle of Shiloh
Battle of Shiloh by Thure de Thulstru
Who were the leaders?

The Union army was led by Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Don Carlos Buell. The Confederate army was led by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard.

Leading up to the Battle

Prior to the Battle of Shiloh, General Grant had captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. These victories secured Kentucky for the Union and forced the Confederate army under General Johnston to retreat from western Tennessee.

General Grant decided to set up camp at Pittsburg Landing on the banks of the Tennessee River where he waited for reinforcements from General Buell and spent time training his new soldiers.

The Confederates Plan an Attack

Confederate General Albert Johnston knew that Grant was waiting for General Buell and his reinforcements to arrive. He decided to surprise attack Grant before the two Union armies could join together. He was afraid that once the armies joined together, they would be too big and strong for his much smaller army.

The Battle Begins

On the morning of April 6, 1862, the Confederate army attacked the Union army at Pittsburg Landing. Many of the soldiers from both sides were new recruits and the Union lines quickly broke. The initial attack of the Confederates was very successful.

The Hornet's Nest

Some of the Union lines managed to hold, however. One famous line that held was in a sunken road that became known as the Hornet's Nest. Here a few Union soldiers held back the Confederates while reinforcements from General Buell's army began to arrive. It took a day of fierce fighting, but by the evening of April 6th, the Union soldiers had reestablished lines of defense. The Confederates had won the day, but not the battle.

General Johnston is Killed

Despite the great success of the Confederate army on the first day of the battle, they did suffer one great loss in that General Albert Johnston was killed on the battlefield. He was shot in the leg and didn't realize how seriously he had been injured until he had lost too much blood and it was too late.

The Battle Continues

The second day of the battle General P.G.T. Beauregard took command of the Confederate troops. He did not realize at first that Union reinforcements had arrived from Buell's army. The Confederates continued to attack and fight until Beauregard realized that they were hopelessly outnumbered and ordered his soldiers to retreat.


The Union army had around 66,000 soldiers versus the Confederates 45,000. By the end of the two days of fighting the Union had suffered 13,000 casualties including 1,700 dead. The Confederates had suffered 10,000 casualties and 1,700 dead.

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History >> Civil War

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