Battle Of Shilo Essay

1770 words - 8 pages

The beginning of the Civil War was just under a year old and the Battle of Shiloh would prove that this was not going to be a short conflict. Both sides would take heavy casualties and show signs of victory, but ultimately the Union Army would gain the advantage. General Ulysses S. Grant, who would eventually accept the surrender of the Confederacy three years later, would be the North's leader in this great battle. The Confederate leader would be General Albert S. Johnston. The South was outnumbered in overall strength, but critical mistakes and bad decisions throughout the battle would make the difference. Though the South managed to catch the Union by surprise they failed to capitalize ...view middle of the document...

General Beauregard appointed Generals Polk, Breckenridge, Hardee and Bragg as corps commanders. The Union was massing troops at Pittsburgh Landing and General Johnston knew that a quick strike before Grant could organize was necessary.General Grant was moving his forces to the vicinity of Pittsburgh Landing in order to prepare for future offensive operations. Grant made a critical mistake by under estimating the Confederates. He assumed that the Confederates were still in shock from the losses at Fort Donelson and failed to prepare any type of defenses. The Union would be caught entirely by surprise, but the South would not capitalize on their success. Union soldiers were caught half-dressed, some would die preparing their breakfast, and others would not get out of their blankets. "We were more than surprised," one Illinois officer would later admit.The Confederate plan issued the night of April 2, 1862 called for movement to begin at 6 a.m. on April 3. The complexity of the plan would prove to be a disaster. A preliminary plan arrived to Generals Polk and Hardee early on the morning of the 3rd. General Johnston ordered movement to begin at dawn on the 3rd with the attack to commence 24 hours later. Apparently dates were not used on the quickly drafted order, but instead identified tomorrow as the move out date. General Hardee refused to move his troops without written orders. Finally on the 4th around noon, orders arrived and movement commenced. Beauregard realized that they were behind schedule and postponed the attack till the 5th. The plan also called for a mass movement of about 40,000 Confederates along just two roads. Once within four miles of the Union lines they would maneuver into battle formation. This was to be nearly a three-mile front with General Polk's unit on the left, recently arrived Bragg would attack in the middle and Hardee would be on the right flank. The South's reserve for now would consist of Breckenridge's Corps.The Confederate movement began with indications that the attack was doomed from the onset. The delay of written orders and clarity of execution delayed and confused not only soldiers, but the generals as well. Attempts to move this great force was nearly impossible along just two avenues of approach. The weather and the road conditions did not help matters. After heated discussions and finger pointing between generals, Johnston decided that the attack had to be delayed again. A meeting resulted in the inevitable decision, Johnston postpone the attack another 24 hours. General Johnston had to personally locate a lost division of Bragg's Corps.Throughout the night, Union soldiers under General Sherman attempted to warn him that an attack was close. Sherman would have none of that; he assured Grant that the Confederates would not attack. At dawn the morning of April 6th, the Confederate Army attacked and quickly gained the advantage. Johnston immediately mounted his horse and moved forward. "Tonight we will water...

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