Shiloh – Fraley Field to Sarah Bell Field

The battle Shiloh in many ways was a battle that held so much hope for the Confederacy yet despite a solid plan it came apart and determined Union troops and commanders first held and then drove back the Rebels. In doing so casualties were significant for both sides. As with other battlefield visits I wanted to obtain a greater understanding of how the the battle developed and how the terrain impacted the battle between two green armies.

As with other Civil War Battlefields I started my tour at the visitor centre and armed with a park map I headed out. Unlike the tour map I’ve tried to start my article from early on the morning and progressively move towards Pittsburg Landing and Grant’s final defensive line. I will however split the record of my Shiloh visit over a couple of posts.

Let’s therefore start at Fraley Field where the Union skirmish line engaged the Confederates and from where the Confederates advanced.

In due course the Confederates would hit Sherman’s Division around Shiloh. The attack would come over Shiloh branch which today still is a significant obstacle.

Above, a portion of the east Shiloh Branch.

Above and below the Shiloh Church. The building is a reproduction based on drawings by a Union soldier in the area of the battle. The original was lost soon after the battle. Interestingly, the church was built after a split with a larger church group and the group that built the church was pro-slavery.

Duncan Field is of course a landmark at Shiloh. With Wallace deployed and Prentiss falling back Union forces held this wood line and what was to be known as the Sunken Road.

Above, the Union line formed along the wood edge and fence line with Duncan Field to the right. Below, a view from the Union lines across Duncan Field.

As the battle progressed and after several failed attacks Ruggles’ Battery was formed. Some 53 artillery pieces were deployed in April 1862. Today 35 Confederate guns extend along the southern edge of Duncan Field.

Another view from the Confederate lines across Duncan Field.

As famous as Duncan Field is the “Hornets Nest”. Below a section of the Hornets Nest.

Below, from the Rebel lines the area from which repeated Confederate attacks were launched from. Today four brigade markers mark the attacks into the Hornets Nest between 10.30am and 5pm over an area of less than 100 yards. Here, a marker notes the four attacks made by Gibson’s Brigade through the oak thickets.

Continuing east from the Hornets Nest we have another view of the Sunken Road. This section was near to the Peach Orchard.

Below, a view from the Peach Orchard from Union lines. Beyond is Sarah Bell’s farm and cotton fields. A number of young peach trees have recently been planted which in time will add further atmosphere. Today within the field are positioned several Union guns marking the various batteries. If you have time it’s well worth walking to each of these positions.

Now a view of Sarah Bells Field from the Confederate perspective. Behind me is where A.S Johnston was mortally wounded and beyond that in a ravine where he died. Again, take the time to explore these area and advance across these fields.

Well, having covered the battlefield from the opening actions through to the engagements along the Sunken Road to Sarah Bell Field and the Peach Orchard it seems an appropriate time to end this post. A very rewarding day…


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