A Trip to Shiloh Battlefield

One of my contributions to our summer “bucket list” was to make the trip to the Shiloh Battlefield.  A few months ago, I started reading A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara about the Battle of Shiloh and realized that it is only 2 hours from us.  (Still haven’t finished the book though.)  And since we might not live in this area of the country again, I decided I wanted to go there before we leave.  For a week or two our weather was unseasonably cool – meaning not 100 degrees! – and we had a free weekend, so I decided we should make a little trip last Saturday.

In the Battle of Shiloh the Confederate Army (the Army of the Mississippi) under General Johnston attacked the Union Army (the Army of the Tennessee) under General Ulysses Grant, with fighting starting near Shiloh Church.  The Confederates almost surprised the Union and made great gains the first day.  However, the Union Army of the Ohio under General Buell arrived and the Union was able to overwhelm the Confederates on the second day.  It is one of the bloodiest battles on American soil with over 26,000 casualties.

Shiloh Church (rebuilt)

This is the first Civil War battlefield that I have been to so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I was impressed.  I knew that I might not be able to read and look around and absorb as much as I wanted to with the kids (and Pat) in tow but it was very easy to figure out the layout of the battlefield and figure out where the different armies were at what times.

I guess Casey was mid-sneeze here
Around the park, states have erected monuments to those who served in various regiments or to commemorate all of the soldiers from the state.  The type of monument that Jack and Casey are posing on above marks the location of headquarters for various brigades or divisions.

There was a Junior Ranger Program for the kids and they had to fill out 8 different activities from their booklets.  Some of them they could do themselves, but by the end Pat and I felt like we were doing homework.  There is a driving tour of the park with different stops and we had to stop at various ones to answer different questions.  I think I was the only one hopping out of the car by the end.

The monument above is the Confederate Monument and was one of the first stops in our driving tour.  It is full of symbolism and was really very interesting.  Thanks to the Junior Ranger Questions for making us stop and learn more about it.  There is a woman in the center who represents Defeated Victory and she is surrendering the laurel wreath to Death and Night (on her right and left.)  There is an infantryman holding a flag as a symbol of defiance to the Union Army and a calvaryman spreading his hands in frustration because they were unable to penetrate the dense woods during battle.  Underneath the women in the center is General Johnston (who died during the 1st day of battle).  The profiles of the soldiers on one side are happy as the Confederates were winning after the 1st day of battle.  Their heads are bowed and defeated looking after the second day when the Union army of General Buell reached the area and along with General Grant pushed the Confederates back and they eventually left for Corinth, MS.

Confederate cannons lined up firing into the “Hornets Nest”
Also on Saturday, there was a special cannon firing demonstration.  There were re-enactors and a park rangers talked through all the steps of firing a cannon and what everyone’s job was in between the 3 firings of the cannon.  The kids both seemed to enjoy watching how it all worked and I learned how it all worked too.

After our walking and driving tour of the park, we headed to Pickwick State Park to check it out.  Pat had heard that we could rent a pontoon boat and we make a half hearted attempt to find the rental area, but it was getting kind of late in the day.  Instead, we found a swimming area in Pickwick Lake and a playground that interested the kids so we went in that direction.  Jack didn’t want to swim – he said to me a few days ago that “I only swim in pools and oceans, not lakes and rivers.”  But Casey had a blast swimming around and I almost wished I had put my bathing suit on…it was nice and warm.  The people watching was very entertaining as well.

A couple hours later and we were back home, filled with new Civil War knowledge and a couple ticks we picked up along the way.  Now that I’ve seen the battlefield, I’m going to finally finish up the book!