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Following the victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, Grant’s Army of Tennessee pushed southward along the Tennessee River toward the Confederate army of Albert Sydney Johnston. Johnston had pulled back to Corinth, Mississippi, an important railway center.
By early April, Grant’s force of 40,000 men had reached the community of Pittsburg Landing in southern Tennessee. Halleck had issued orders instructing Grant to fortify his position; Grant ignored the order, believing that a Confederate attack was not imminent.
On April 6, the Union forces were surprised by Johnston’s attack, which occurred near Shiloh Church, a meetinghouse outside of Pittsburg Landing. The first day’s action went heavily in favor of the Confederates, pushing Grant’s forces back nearly a mile. During the course of the fighting, Johnston was killed; he was replaced by P.G.T. Beauregard.
Before fighting resumed on April 7, Grant received reinforcements. Despite a skillful effort by Beauregard, the Union forces turned the tide and eventually forced the Confederates to retreat to Corinth.
Losses were extremely high on both sides, perhaps as high as 10,000 casualties for each army. Northern critics of Grant were appalled by the ongoing carnage and called upon the president to replace the general. Lincoln, however, was pleased to finally have an aggressive military leader.
The events at Shiloh also had an impact on Grant, who became convinced that the South could not be defeated without waging “total war.”
Beauregard’s forces remained in Corinth for only about a month, then abandoned that vital position.
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Shiloh by Shelby Foote.
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Shiloh, 1862 by Winston Groom.
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That Devil Forrest by John Allan Wyeth.
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Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War by Edwin C. Bearss.
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Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds.
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