The Civil War was barely a year old but a terrible battle was brewing at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) Tennessee
In the Union camp at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, Federal troops spent the day drilling and having fun. Hundreds of soldiers went swimming in Owl Creek, others suffered from of the “Tennessee quick step” – – diarrhea.
With Southern forces having just lost Forts Henry and Donelson, Ulysses Grant wired “I have scarcely the faintest idea of attack.” Little did he know that Southern troops had moved on his position during the night of April 5. The Army of the Mississippi, under General Albert Johnston, was poised to strike.
The next morning, April 6, 1862, a confident Johnston told his fellow officers “Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee.” When the Southerners hit the Federal camp, they achieved complete surprise, causing mass confusion. One Union colonel told his men “Fill your canteens, boys! Some of you will be in hell before night.”
The Rebels rolled over one Union position after another until the Federals formed a line in a sunken road. For six hours they held the road, through 11 attacks. Finally, the Rebel artillery lined up sixty-two cannons at point blank range. The Union troops were forced to surrender.
That night, the dead lay everywhere. Grant said you could walk in any direction and never touch the ground. A Confederate soldier wrote, “You can hear the screams of the injured. They screamed for water, God heard them for the heavens opened and the rain fell.”
The Federal survivors established a solid line at Pittsburg Landing, and waited til morning.