On 9-11 3,000 people were killed and it changed our world and the way we live our lives.

150 years ago in a two-day battle at Shiloh there were 23,000 casualties.   My generation focuses its abhorence of violence on Vietnam, John’s on 9-11.  I am often reminded on this section of our trip how the bloodletting and horror of our own Civil War make our modern focal points pale in comparison.

The people at Grand Harbor Marina were kind enough to lend us a courtesy car for the trip up to Shiloh Battlefield.  The introductory material, museum and self-guided battlefield tour were first-rate having just been redone for the 150th anniversary of the battle.  Factual without being dry, moving without being maudlin.

John and I both found our attention concentrated on an area called the Hornet’s Nest, because the bullets were flying so fast they sounded like a nest of angry hornets.  There were many areas of the battlefield where strategy and timing and sheer luck were important.  At the Hornet’s Nest, it was just cannon-on-cannon, musket-on-musket, man-on-man.  No drones.

Grant had been surprised at Shiloh Church the first day of the battle by an equivalent Confederate force led by Albert Sydney Johnson.  After a period of chaos, the Union center formed up in a wooded area behind a field and sunken roadway.  The Union soldiers from Minnesota and Iowa held the center for eight hours against constant attack from thousands of Confederate troops and Riggins Battery of 62 cannon.  Then they were finally surrounded and 2,000 captured.

In the meantime, Union reinforcements had arrived and the next day came out of the Hornet’s Nest and across the field.  By the end of the day, the Conferates had been pushed back across the field into a small pond after thousands of casualties of their own. They didn’t have the energy to even move themselves out of the water.  An aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard, who’d taken over the battle after Johnson was killed,  said, “These men are like a wet  sugar cube — they still hold their shape, but in a few more seconds they will crumble”.  Beauregard pulled them back and the battle ended.

Fought in 1862, this was one of the first major battles of the Civil War.  Grant, a tough character,  thought that the unprecedented level of casualties, death and horror would bring the war to an end since he could not conceive that the leadership of either side could let it happen again.   He was wrong.

Shiloh Methodist Church

The Hornets Nest — so peaceful on a beautiful fall day.

Riggins Battery — 9 cannon left of 62

The small pond where it finally ended after two days of fighting.

Wonderful monument to Union and Confederate dead at Shiloh. Tennessee could have gone either way so “brother on brother” really happened.