Intending to drive a wedge into the Confederacy, General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee pushed into Tennessee on the Tennessee River, landing at Pittsburg Landing and camping near a country church known as Shiloh, or "place of peace." The Confederate Army of the Mississippi under General Albert Sydney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack on April 6, hoping to destroy the Union army before reinforcements arrived. General William T. Sherman's division caught the brunt of the Confederate attack. He tirelessly rallied his men, many of whom were green. Although forced to fall back, their fierce fighting and the provident arrival of reinforcements enabled the Union to throw back the Confederates the following day. Sherman's courage and leadership in the bloodiest battle to date on American soil cemented his reputation as one of the Union's most capable officers. The following is an excerpt from a letter to his wife.
Camp Shiloh April 11 1862
Well we have had a big battle where they shot real bullets and I am safe, except a buckshot wound in the hand and a bruised shoulder from a spent ball--The first horse I rode was one I captured from the Enemy soon after I got here, a beautiful sorrel race mare that was as fleet as a deer, and very easy in her movements to which I had become much attached--She was first wounded and then shot dead under me. This occurred Sunday when the firing on both sides was terrific, and I had no time to save saddle, holsters or valise. I took the horse of my aid McCoy till it was shot, when I took my doctor's horse and that was shot--My camp was in advance of all others and we caught the first thunder, and they captured all our tents and two horses of mine hitched to the trees near my tent were killed, so I am completely unhorsed--The first man killed in the Battle was my orderly close by my side, a young, handsome, faithful soldier who carried his Carbine ever ready to defend me. His name was Holliday, and the Shot that killed him was meant for me ...
My troops were very raw and Some Regiments broke at the first fire. Others behaved better, and I managed to keep enough all the time to form a Command and was the first to get back to our front Line. The Battle on Sunday was very severe. They drove back our left flank on the River, but I held the Right flank out about a mile & a half, giving room for Reinforcements to come in from Crump's Landing to our North, and for Buell's army to land--Beauregard, Bragg, Johnston, Breckenridge, and all their Big men were here, with their best soldiers ...
You ask for money--I have none, and now am without horse saddle bridle, bed, or anything--The Rebels, Breckinridge had my Camp and cleaned me out. You must learn to live without money, as that is going to be a scarce commodity--plant a garden & raise your own vegetables.
Home Letters of General Sherman, ed. M. A. DeWolfe Howe. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1909.
Captain George W. Dawson of the 1st Missouri Infantry wrote to his wife about how his men pushed the Union soldiers back to the Tennessee River on the first day of fighting at Shiloh. …