Shiloh, in Hebrew means, Place of Peace, the small area around a tiny church at Shiloh yielded to this point in the history of the United States one of the most costly and tragic battles ever. The name was ironic, in that the dead at Shiloh amounted to more Americans dead in every war and battle in U.S. history combined to that point.
Grant’s army, loosely assembled and not strategically positioned, was assaulted by surprise on April 6, 1862 by General Johnston’s forces. The following hours were filled with desperate fighting, and the battle field was soon strewn with dead bodies from both sides. By mid-morning, the Confederates seemed within easy reach of victory, overrunning one frontline Union division and capturing its camp.
However, stiff resistance on the Federal right entangled Johnston’s brigades in a savage fight around Shiloh Church. Throughout the day, Johnston’s army hammered the Federal right, which gave ground but did not break. Johnston’s flanking attack stalled in front of Sarah Bell’s peach orchard and the dense oak thicket labeled the “hornet’s nest” by the Confederates.
Grant’s army was forced to the brink of failure when night set in. Overnight, General Buell arrived with reinforcements. The next day began with the same desperate fighting that had been seen the previous, but the refreshed and reinforced union troops rallied, and broke confederate line after line. The confederates soon fell back, but the Union troops were too battered to follow pursuit.
The dead at Shiloh amounted to over 3,482, with more than 20,000 casualties. Of the 63,000 northern troops 1,754 were killed and more than 13,000 were injured. On the confederate side, of 40,000, 1,728 were killed, and 11,000 were injured.
This ended the most tragic battle to this point in the war, and temporarily ended Grant’s career.