Battle of Shiloh (April 6th-7th, 1862)

In the first weeks and months of the Civil War, most people thought the war would not last long and would be settled fairly quickly with little blood-shed - Shiloh was an early warning that the war would be long and bloody.Shiloh was the first big, bloody battle in the Western theatre of the Civil War. It happened almost a year after the war started at Fort Sumter and after Grant moved his army South after taking Fort Donelson. Confederate General, Albert Sydney Johnston decided to move his army from Corinth, MS about 12 miles north into Tennessee and surprise General Grant's army with an attack before he was reinforced by General Buell. Grant was camped at a place called Pittsburg Landing. He wanted to smash Grant's army before Buell got there and gave the Union way more soldiers than he had. Both the Southern and Northern soldiers had not been in many battles and were not really prepared for the fight. Because of that and bad weather it took the South longer to march to Shiloh than they hoped. Still, on the morning of April 6, some say the Confederates surprised Grant's forces with an early morning attack. I don't think the Union might have been surprised by the size of the Confederate army that attacked, but I think they knew th Confederates were there as they took prisoners before the battle and had skirmishes. Maybe the Union generals did not think the Confederates would attack them with that many men or they did not dig in or have trenches to protect themselves, but every fight study shows that the Union faced the South in advance of their camps in every fight at Shiloh. Some people call it the "Pearl Harbor of the Civil War" but that is a myth.

Confederate soldiers pushed Union soldiers back toward the Tennessee River, to what ultimately were very strong positions. By mid-morning it looked like the Rebels were in storng positions, but Union soldiers around Shiloh Church and along a sunken road in a place called the Hornet's Nest put up a good fight and held the Confederates back.  The Hornet's Nest got its name because all the bullets flying through the trees and bushes sounded like hornets buzzing.  Grant told these men to "hold the sunken road at all costs" and they did. After a time, Confederates moved 62 cannon to fire on the Union soliders in the Hornet's Nest and General Johnston personally led the attack to push them out, but it was costly.  Johnston was shot in the leg and bleed to death while the Union soldier ran or surrendered near the Peach Orchard on the Union left. That slowed the Confederates and the first day ended with them on the verge of a major win. When General P.G.T. Beuregard took over after Johnston's death there was a delay in command that kept the South from pushing forward more forcefully. 
That night a heavy thundestorm storm moved in and Union gun boats bombarded the Confederate lines from the river. That was scary, but some men said it was better than hearing the cries and scream of men left dying on the battlefield. Also that night General Buell arrived with almost 20,000 fresh troops to support what was left of Grants 49,000 troops, thus greatly outnumbering the Confederates. At sunrise the Union attacked back with full force and power, quickly driving the Confederates back. Beauregard knew he was beaten and ordered a full retreat back to Corinth leaving 12,000 men as a rear guard. While Grant's soldiers killed or wounded nearly 3,000 of the rear guard they were not able to break them and totally destroy the Southern army.
About 13,000 Union troops were dead or missing, while the Confederates lost more than 10,000. Because of the heavy losses for the South, the Confederate railroads in Corinth were now in danger.