Shiloh, almost six square miles in Tennessee that once housed families and farms, a peach orchard, a couple of ponds, smiles and laughter, over 70 buildings of one sort or another.. One hundred and fifty years ago, the Blue and the Gray clashed in a bloody battle, over 111,000 men met in this small space; over 7,000 died, more than 30,000 others were wounded. One of the first battles of the bloodiest war in the history of America in the War Between the States, took place in April 1862 at Shiloh.
It has become known as The Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, over 10,000 battles raged across the country – as far west as New Mexico, but concentrated in along the borders states between the Union and Confederate states. There are many monuments to both throughout the country, this was our first all out tour of a military battlefield. The Shiloh National Military Park is well put together, the museum holds artifacts from the time period, the movie is well worth every minute, but the battlefield is what will impress you most.
Each space is filled with markers that relate the troop movements, relate the battles won and lost, the sheer number of participants. There is a nine mile loop that takes you through the various spaces to give you an idea of what it must have been like, but we were there with probably 100 other people, not 100,000. I can’t even imagine the crush of people, all carrying weapons, the damages were staggering to both the North and the South.
This is definitely a place the Junior Ranger program came in handy, I learned so much more by answering the questions in the book than I would have had I just toured the grounds. And, as an added bonus, because we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I have an opportunity to earn my Junior Civil War Historian Badge, you can bet that I’m going to get that bad boy.
As a follow up to our tour of Shiloh, Brices Crossing and Tupelo, I read The Widow of the South, by Robert Hicks. Set in Franklin, Tennessee toward the end of the war, it describes in incredible detail the lives of some of the combatants and the families living in the area. Highly recommend, a very moving story based on a true one. There are thousands of books on the Civil War, I used to ask my dad every time he was reading another one if the ending changed, he always just smiled and went back to reading.