5 Things You Didn't Know About the Battle of Shiloh

On this day in 1862, the Union Army led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant led the Union troops to success in the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. Here are five riveting facts you probably didn’t know about the Battle of Shiloh...


The Battle of Shiloh Was The Bloodies Battle in American History Up To That Point. Union casualties in the Battle of Shiloh were 13,047 (1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 missing) while the Confederate casualties were 10,699 (1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded, and 959 missing or captured). With 23,746 casualties, the Battle of Shiloh was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that time. Three more years of the Civil War would go on to see eight larger and bloodier battles. The Battle of Gettysburg would become the deadliest battle of the war with casualties between 46,000 and 51,000. 

Many Union Deaths Were Blamed on the Man Who Wrote Ben Hur. General Lewis Wallace was a Union general and future governor of the New Mexico Territory, among other things. He also wrote the historical adventure Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, an 1880 bestseller and influential Christian novel. General Ulysses Grant blamed many of the Union deaths during the Battle of Shiloh on Wallace, saying that his failure to follow orders and delays in bringing in reserves had nearly caused the Union to lose the battle. Later, Wallace explained his actions, causing Grant to change his mind, publicly admitting he had mistakenly blamed Wallace.


General Albert Johnson, Who Died At Shiloh, Was The Highest Ranking Officer Killed During The Civil War. General Albert Sidney Johnston had a long military career before the Civil War, having fought in the Texas War of Independence and the Mexican American War. The Confederate States President Jefferson Davis considered him to be the best Confederate officer before Robert E. Lee. Johnston was the officer with the highest rank from either the Confederates or the Union to be killed during the Civil War, and Jefferson Davis considered his death to be a turning point for the Confederate Army. 

The Sunken Road and Bloody Pond Might Not Have Really Existed. Two of the geographical locations most associated with the Battle of Shiloh might be more legend than anything else. "The Sunken Road" has become legendary as the site of the fiercest fighting at Shiloh. The story of the fighting on the sunken road rested on a myth of the road having been worn down below surrounding terrain, creating a natural trench for the Union soldiers, but there is no evidence of the road being worn away like this. Likewise, the so-called bloody pond may have been a myth. There is no evidence of the pond becoming blood-stained, and in fact, there is no evidence a pond even existed at that spot during the battle. Today, however, despite the debate over Civil War myth versus reality, the Bloody Pond and the Sunken Road remain immensely popular with visitors who flock to the battlefield near what was once Shiloh Church.

The Battle of Shiloh Was Key in Allowing the Union Forces to Press on Through Mississippi. Had the Confederate Army been successful at Shiloh, they would have blocked the Union from advancing into Mississippi. However, their defeat ended any hopes of keeping the Union Army from making it to Mississippi. The Union didn’t have an easy time making it to Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last Confederate controlled section of the Mississippi River, but once they did, the Union controlled the Mississippi River, cutting off the Confederacy from supplies coming in from the west.