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 Post subject: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 9:11 pm 
I am reading a few books on Shiloh at the moment.

Such an odd battle. Just chaos.

Did Johnston/Beauregard lose the battle or did Grant/Buell win the battle?

I am more inclined to feel that the Confederate leaders LOST the battle more than the Union leaders WON the battle. On the other hand you have to give credit to Grant and Buell for not retreating on April 6 or giving up the battle on the 7th. But the Confederate leaders did such a poor job coordinating their attacks that they likely caused their own defeat by their actions. Grant and Sherman were damn lucky they weren't destroyed at Shiloh because it was likely it would have cost them both their commands. Both were confident the Confederates were no where near Pittsburg Landing when the sun came up on April 6. Sherman even ridiculed and threatened officers who tried to tell him otherwise. Prentiss, Hurlbut, McClernand, and both Wallace's were little better throughout the battle. The real heroes seemed to be the junior officers, staff officers, and the privates on both sides who really did much of the work in an epic slugging match.

Just an odd battle. This just seems to be a purely hang your head down, grit your teeth, and walk through the hail of bullets fight.


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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 7:41 am 
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I have always viewed Shiloh as a battle of amateurs. The Union was luckier because Confederate errors saved them from the consequences of their errors. Overall the South made more errors than the Union. For both sides the commanders were handling large formations of troops very poorly. The South ended up a day late and dollar short.

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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 9:32 am 
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I think you have to consider that this was the first major battle for the vast majority of the participants. I have read that one of the most significant mistakes the Confederates made was in spreading their corps across the width of the battlefield instead of assigning each corps a sector, making command and control nearly impossible.

The Union mistakes included failure to fortify their position and an appalling lack of security in the form of patrols and outposts.

I think it was the first and only time that the commanding general of a major army led from the front, with predictable results.

In the end, I believe luck decided the battle. Had Van Dorn arrived instead of Buell, the results would have been different. While there were a lot of men who ran, I have always been impressed that so many of the men experiencing their baptism of fire did their duty.

The book "Shiloh" by Larry Daniel is a good one, and I think there are others.

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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 10:45 am 
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Shelby Foote does a very credible job of communicating what the limited vision and information may have felt like to participants on the ground during those two days in April. His 1952 novel Shiloh is a classic for all the right reasons. This is an excellent read for any who have not had the pleasure; also a very fine novel for the critically minded.

Will Henry's Journey to Shiloh has got to be one of the most moving stories about what the campaign experience may have been like for the very young boys who participated. (The 1968 film version, which includes a young Harrison Ford, hardly does justice to the novel.) Will Henry (Henry Wilson Allen) is one of the most entertaining authors of the American West you are likely to find.

The characters in both novels find the idea of a Civil War to be pretty exciting when viewed from a distance. Up close, not so much. At the end of the day, the winners are hard to spot.

As always, I'm a thankin' y'all for the interesting commentary.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 6:09 pm 
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I also have read about Shiloh. It is unfortunate that the second day is usually treated as a brief postcript to the battle of the first day. Grant and Buell weren't exactly Marlborough and Eugene, but they managed to drive the enemy from the field. I'd like to be able to read more about day two at Shiloh.

Grant is often criticized for being surprised and not entrenching. It seems to me the level of surprise was less than many believe. This may be due to the fact that instead of digging, the Union rookies had been drilling prior to the battle.

The Confederate command disfunction in the Army of Tennessee got its true birth at Shiloh. It seems odd to me that in the HPS game, Confederate command ranges are twice that of the Union.

Movie about this battle: Can't beat How the West Was Won, with the Duke as Sherman and Harry Morgan as Grant!!!...LoL

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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 5:02 pm 
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I recently saw the Battlefield Detectives (Shiloh) and they explained in great detail the Rebel loss on diet, Union rifle ammunition effectiveness, terrain, Union gunboats artillery kills and firing all night, and weather.

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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2013 8:49 am 
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As to the original question "Who won" it was the Union hands down. It was not just a tactical victory but a Strategic Victory of unprecedented scope. It sealed the fate of the West with the loss of the State of Tennessee, largest and most industrialized of the Western states. It open all of the Gulf Cost states to attacks and raids from the north. And, it made the eventual loss of Vicksburg a sure thing.

The main causes of that defeat were on the Southern side:

As I said before they were a day late and a dollar short. Short of taking the landing there was no way they could win once the attack was delayed until the day before Buell arrived. After Buell arrived the South was so badly out numbered it wasn't even a fight. Which is why so little is written on it.

For some reason A. Johnston didn't exercise the strong leadership such a disorganized army needed. Various reasons are given but the net effect was the Army moved slowly and with considerable disorganization.

And for some reason Johnston let Beauregard plan the attack. And Beauregard came up with an attack plan that was unmanageable for such a green army. It probably wouldn't have worked with a veteran army.

And, so the sad history of the Army of Tennessee started, it's men performed miracles and it's leaders threw them away.

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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2013 10:48 pm 
The sad history of the Army of Tennessee began before this even - at Fort Donelson - or maybe even in the Cumberland Gap. The Army of Tennessee was just one giant mess from start to finish. No dominant personality was ever able to take charge like Lee or Grant did with their armies. No way would either of them allowed Bragg, Polk, or Hardee to ever get away with what they did in the officer's corps. You look at all the bitter fighting amongst the AoT officers such as Cheatham, Stewart, Brown, Bate, Liddell, DH Hill, Hood, Bragg, Polk, Cleburne, Walker, ect. ect. ect. to Longstreet, McLaws, Buckner, Johnson, Pillow ect. ect. ect. to Beauregard, Ruggles, and Breckinridge and it's a wonder they ever found time at all to actually fight the war!

One does sort of wonder if even Lee, in 1861 or 1862, would have been able to achieve anything substantial with such a group of men. Maybe in 1863 or 1864, with his legendary reputation in place, he could have.


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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:49 am 
I have always thought that the most brilliant assault of the Civil War was Longstreet's assault at Chickamauga; instead of forming his Corps into one long line, he formed it into column of brigades and punched through the Federal line, spreading out on either side to roll up the Union flanks...much as cavalry was supposed to have done, and Panzers did, in WWII. That one assault turned a losing battle into a decisive win.

I bring this up because the terrain was similar to Shiloh. If Beauregard/Johnson had done something similar, they would have been on the Tennessee River before the Union could have reacted, prevented Bragg's army from reinforcing Grant and destroyed Grant's force...

So, my opinion would be Beauregard/Johnson lost Shiloh. They did not succeed in their objectives, and Grant did...not because Grant was any better, but because Beauregard/Johnson were worse...


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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:39 pm 
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It's only fair to point out that Longstreet's Chickamauga (Day Two) assault came against a point in the Union line that had recently been vacated by mistake. Not hard to penetrate that; doesn't take a lot of brilliance.

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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:00 pm 
Longstreet's men did get lucky at Chickamauga when they struck the line vacated by Wood's Division. Had Wood's men been in place we can only wonder what the result would have been. Everywhere else on the entire line the Federals were repulsing the frontal attacks by Bragg with relative ease. If Bragg would have reinforced his right flank division under Breckinridge he could have potentially cut-off the entire Union Army from Chattanooga and won a spectacular victory. Instead the breakthrough came on the southern part of the battlefield and threw the Union soldiers northward right toward where their line of retreat was anyways.

Ah... Bragg... do we ever have anything positive to say about him?


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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:07 pm 
True, Longstreet's attack was successful because he was attacking empty air, but the point was his focused attack had the depth to overwhelm Wood's brigade anyway....Wood was gone because of confusion in the Federal command structure, and it is doubtful if Rosecrans would have been able to stop Longstreet anyway...IMO, of course.

As for Bragg, I know many of you know this story, but for everyone else....Ulysses S. Grant recalled in his memoirs a story about Confederate General Bragg that seemed to suggest an essential need for proper procedure that bordered on mental instability. Once Bragg had been both a company commander as well as company quartermaster (the officer in charge of approving the disbursement of provisions). As company commander he made a request upon the company quartermaster--himself--for something he wanted. As quartermaster he denied the request and gave an official reason for doing so in writing. As company commander he argued back that he was justly entitled to what he requested. As quartermaster he stubbornly continued to persist in denying himself what he needed. Bragg requested the intervention of the post commander (perhaps to diffuse the impasse before it came to blows). His commander was incredulous and he declared, "My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself."


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 Post subject: Re: Who Won at Shiloh?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:49 am 
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Bragg was one of those people who should have never been given a combat command. He got to where he was by accident. He never earned a promotion just some how happened to be in the right spot at the right time to get one. He probably would have made a good staff officer which he finally became when Davis brought him to Richmond. Writing memos for Davis was probably up to his level of competence. Unfortunately, he did much to seal the fate of the Confederacy in the West before leaving.

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