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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Shiloh, Battle of

Definition:

Date(s): April 6–7, 1862
Location: Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee (Google Map)
Other name(s): Pittsburg Landing
Campaign: Federal Penetration up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers (February-June 1862)
Outcome: Union victory

Summary

The Battle of Shiloh was the bloodiest in U.S. history up to that time, with more than 20,000 soldiers killed or wounded in 48 hours.

During spring 1862, Union forces had moved far up the Tennessee River in an attempt to invade the South. On April 6, as they camped on the west bank at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, Confederate forces launched a surprise attack. Fierce fighting continued throughout the day. By nightfall Confederates held the advantage. Union reinforcements arrived overnight, and on the second day they drove the Confederates from the field. Both sides claimed victory, but the Confederates retreated all the way to Corinth, Mississippi, 22 miles south. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wrote afterwards that the main part of the battlefield was "so covered with dead that it would have been possible to walk across the clearing, in any direction, stepping on dead bodies, without a foot touching the ground." More Americans were killed or wounded in the two days fighting at Shiloh than in all the previous wars of the United States, combined.

Wisconsin’s Role

The 14th, 16th, and 18th Wisconsin Infantry regiments fought at the Battle of Shiloh.

The 16th Wisconsin Infantry was the first to discover the sneak attack. Lieutenant Colonel Cassius Fairchild was wounded at the outset. Colonel Benjamin Allen of Pepin, Wisconsin, had two horses shot from under him. Over the course of the battle 265 soldiers from the 16th were killed.

The 18th Wisconsin Infantry had been out of camp only a week when the battle began. It lost 24 men, including Colonel James Alban who was fatally wounded by a bullet through the lungs. The 14th Wisconsin Infantry arrived the next morning with the reinforcements and took part in the second day's fighting. One lieutenant, who came through the battle unscathed, counted 12 bullet holes through his uniform.

Learn more

Read about the regiments’ contributions on pages 482-492 in William D. Love’s “Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion” (Chicago, 1866).

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View original documents

[Source: Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields (Washington, 1993); Estabrook, C. Records and Sketches of Military Organizations (Madison, 1914); Love, W. Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Madison, 1866). ]
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