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Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
- Feb 23, 2013
- East Texas
The mass graves of Confederate soldiers killed at Shiloh and interred right after the battle in burial trenches of varying size have their own peculiar fascination and brooding sadness. There are five such marked, and during my recent visit to the battlefield I managed to locate and photograph four of them. They are all marked by metal signs like the one above, placed when Shiloh National Military Park was first created at the turn of the Twentieth Century.
The first we visited, shown in the photos above and the two below, is accessible by a short trail leading from the NPS parking lot at Rhea Field for Rhea Springs which feed Shiloh Branch.
Below, another view of the first trench containing an unknown number of dead. This trench is located immediately south of Rhea Field at the edge of the woods from which Confederate attacks were launched on Sherman's camps the morning of April 6, 1862.
This second one pictured above and in two photos below is in the woods near Sherman's Headquarters and Shiloh Church and can be reached by another trail from Rhea Field/Rhea Springs near the new Mississippi State Monument. The trail crosses Shiloh Branch on a little bridge and proceeds up a fairly steep grade into the woods here.
The Rea Springs Burial Trench above is noticeably smaller than the first one pictured.
Smaller even is this third one, the only one on an "official" NPS Tour Stop, No. 11 at the intersection of the historic Pittsburg-Savannah Road and Jones Field Road. This is only a short distance in front of the Pittsburg Landing Road that served as Grant's Last Line on April 6 from which he counterattacked on the following morning. There is a small pull over; the trench can easily be seen from the park road.
This fourth Burial Trench seen here is a fairly large one - according to reports as many as 700 Confederate soldiers, both officers and enlisted men, were stacked like cordwood, layer atop layer, in the largest of these. This one is easily accessible via a short loop drive just off the historic Corinth Road near Tour Stop 13 at its intersection with the Hamburg-Purdy Road and Water Oaks Pond. (The fifth identified and marked trench is located in the woods nearby just a little north of this; the locations of all five of them are shown on the NPS park brochure.)
As can be seen in the photo below, originally the Federal dead were also interred in burial trenches; the difference was that they were often buried by members of their own units in trenches containing only members of specific units and therefore much more likely to be identified. These graves were opened and the remains transferred to the National Cemetery in the years immediately following the war, but rumor has it that some were missed and remain to be discovered.