On April 5, 1862 the Confederacy appeared to be finished.
Forts Henry and Donelson had fallen and a Confederate division had been routed at Mill Springs. The Rebels had lost Columbus, Clarksville, and Nashville. New Orleans and Memphis were under direct threat. Out west the invasion of New Mexico had failed and the Union had triumphed at Pea Ridge. Forts and ports along the seaboard were being captured or raided. In Virginia, George McClellan had at last started his great drive to capture Richmond. On the banks of the Tennessee River a complacent Union army rested and waited for reinforcements before beginning what some thought would be the final drive to end the rebellion.
On the morning of April 6 the Confederates attacked that complacent army near Shiloh Church. For two days the biggest battle yet waged by Americans was fought, a battle as large and savage as anything fought by Napoleon. In the end the Union triumphed, but at heavy cost. Ulysses S. Grant was for a time sidelined and Union generals became cautious for months after. Most of all, Shiloh changed the Civil War. Combined with Robert E. Lee’s successful defense of Richmond, Shiloh killed the vain dream of a quick war with conservative ends. The American Civil War became a long contest of wills, ending in the destruction of slavery and economic ruin for the American South. Shiloh, the country’s first truly bloody battle, continues to fascinate and enthrall historians and gamers.
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