Was Shiloh The Day The War Was Won?

Ole Miss

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Interesting theory. However I believe the Confederacy was on the road to defeat from April 12,1861 when Fort Sumner was attacked. The original 7 states were soon followed by 4 others to form the Confederate States of America. Southern Honor and Steel soon fell to the Northern Honor, Steel, Manpower, Industry, Infrastructure and Logistics. This of course is merely my opinion.

If we are discussing however, which particular battle, event or political action signaled the death knell of the Confederacy then I honestly believe that would be the Union's victory at Shiloh in April of 1862.

Losing the Battle of Shiloh caused the South

1) To lose the city of Corinth where the Memphis-Charleston and Mobile-Ohio railroads crossed severing any rail connection between the Western and Eastern theaters.

2) An opportunity to have adversely impacted Grant's and possible Sherman's military career.

3) To lose control of the Mississippi River Valley and Northern Mississippi, opening the way for the loss of Memphis, New Orleans and Vicksburg and control of the Mississippi River along with its many tributaries.

4) Permitted Federal forces to attempt take control of the Black Belt/Prairie running along the Mississippi/Alabama area, a rich soil producing large and prosperous crops. General Nathan Bedford Forrest fought various Union commanders for the rest of the War who sought to remove this asset of the Confederates.

The ACW was the results of politics, with the new states being admitted all "Free States" which would lead to loss of political power to 11 of the "Slave States". Thus we go full circle as slavery being the cause of the political struggle. Which comes first? Chicken or the egg?
Regards
David
 

Stone in the wall

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With all that listed above and the loss of General A S Johnston, I'd say your right. The Army of Mississippi and those following it would never have another commander of Johnston's class. He's tactics and raids confused Sherman and are a great part of why he became paranoid and mentally unstable.
 

Pat Answer

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Of course, with hindsight, arguments could be made for any number of “points” along the timeline. Personally, I accept Donald Stoker’s conclusion in The Grand Design (2010, p. 51) that going into Kentucky first was the big Confederate strategic error. Taking up the excellent position at Columbus in this way was short-sighted at best - and proved irrelevant anyway once Ft Donelson and Nashville fell. But I can see how Shiloh in particular ‘sets the seal’ on all this, as laid out in the OP. There will be no strategic recovery in the West and, at least where the rivers and railways ran, no keeping the Federals out of any place they set their sights on.

I also agree with @Stone in the wall about A Johnston’s death. It is speculation as to what he would have been able to do had he lived, but it should be noted that he had the confidence of both Davis and the army, as Lee would back East (and as opposed to Bragg who only had the former or Beauregard and J Johnston who only had the latter). This would have been an important factor even though the strategic problems would remain.

I believe Shelby Foote* said the South never smiled after Shiloh…

[Edit: Actually that was George Washington Cable.]
 
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jackt62

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Declaring Shiloh, or any other specific event, as the day the war was won, would be an almost impossible proposition to prove or disprove. At best we can say that Shiloh as a Confederate victory, would have halted, at least temporarily, the relentless Union movement to control the important riverine and railroad "highways'' to the southern heartland. Shiloh was a last ditch effort by Johnston and the western Confederacy to turn the tide of what had been a series of successful Union efforts, and corresponding southern disappointments. But even if the south were victorious at Shiloh, the strides already made by Grant and Halleck, and the advent of Buell's army would have made it difficult for the south to build on a Shiloh victory for very long.
 

bayouace

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From the Soutbern perspective the war was over Political Power and Wealth, with slavery the common thread. Many in the South felt the war was unwinnable, yet fought to try to preserve their 200 year way of life. These men of wealth felt their only chance was to make the cost of war unpalatable to Northerners, and certainly a victory at Shiloh would have been a big initial success in that strategy. Ole Miss is spot on in his analysis.
 

redbob

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From the Soutbern perspective the war was over Political Power and Wealth, with slavery the common thread. Many in the South felt the war was unwinnable, yet fought to try to preserve their 200 year way of life. These men of wealth felt their only chance was to make the cost of war unpalatable to Northerners, and certainly a victory at Shiloh would have been a big initial success in that strategy. Ole Miss is spot on in his analysis.
He usually is and I have found from painful experience not to go head to head against him.
 

19thGeorgia

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2) An opportunity to have adversely impacted Grant's and possible Sherman's military career.
It did for a while...

"Was Shiloh The Day The War Was Won?"

Don't think so. The Federal army was smashed on day one and driven to the Tennessee River. Only thing that saved them was Buell's reinforcements and the gunboats. The Confederates captured enough supplies to equip another army.
 

damYankee

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It did for a while...

"Was Shiloh The Day The War Was Won?"

Don't think so. The Federal army was smashed on day one and driven to the Tennessee River. Only thing that saved them was Buell's reinforcements and the gunboats. The Confederates captured enough supplies to equip another army.
Were Bell's reinforcements members of the Union army? If you answer yes, then the Union army won the battle.
Now, if Buell had just been out on a walk with a few thousand of his closest friends and stumbled into the foray then you have a point.
 

James N.

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... 2) An opportunity to have adversely impacted Grant's and possible Sherman's military career.
The battle provided PLENTY of opportunities to adversely impact the careers of both and it was largely luck that prevented their disgrace and removal. Grant could easily have made his friend Sherman the scapegoat for most of the gaffes made by Federal forces prior to the battle - I can certainly imagine any of the other Federal commanders at the time - McClellan, Halleck, Pope, Burnside, etc., etc. - eagerly grasping the opportunity to save their own skins by throwing Uncle Billy under the bus! In fact it's a wonder that Halleck didn't take the same opportunity to remove Grant instead of just kicking him upstairs into the do-nothing and dead-end position of Second-In-Command during the subsequent advance on Corinth.
 

Ole Miss

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If Grant had lost Shiloh, he may well have been sent West like Pope or shelved like McDowell. Grant won Shiloh and was demoted! What would happen if he lost?

Halleck dumped Grant but fortunately Lincoln was wise enough to bring him back. Who would have replaced him that could have organized and attack Vicksburg in his place? Would not have been Sherman as he would have been tarred and feathered like Grant.

So if Shiloh saved Grant’s career then it may lay claim to the title The Battle that Won the War
Regards
David
 

jackt62

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The Federal army was smashed on day one and driven to the Tennessee River. Only thing that saved them was Buell's reinforcements and the gunboats.
There might be some argument about that. While the federal army was indeed dealt a heavy blow with a surprise Confederate assault on April 6, by the end of the day the situation was not as dire for the Union as it might have seemed. By nightfall on day 1, Wallace's "lost" division and Nelson's division of Buell's army were at or close to beefing up the Union line, which Grant was in the process of stabilizing by the river. Beauregard, meanwhile, believing that the federal army was finished, let the southern attack fizzle out, a perhaps understandable position given the exhaustion of his troops, and the steadfast Union defense at the Hornet's Nest, which not only delayed the southern onslaught, but probably waylaid southern plans for a decisive movement against the Union left flank.
 

jackt62

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if Shiloh saved Grant’s career then it may lay claim to the title The Battle that Won the War
Interesting idea. Halleck was actually Grant's superior at the time, and given his previous animosity with Grant, it would not be unexpected that Halleck would attempt to sideline Grant. But would Halleck have also gotten a share of the blame for a northern loss at Shiloh and would that have further altered the command structure in the west? Aside from that, we do know that the horrific casualties on both sides caused the public, and political/military commands to acknowledge that the war would not be over that quickly.
 

Ole Miss

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@jackt62 you make a valid point that a loss at Shiloh would have tainted Halleck's reputation but I believe he was enough of a politician to slide away unscathed. Remember it took Halleck a full month to move from Pittsburg Landing and begin the siege of Corinth. I can not fathom him marching across Mississippi to encircle Vicksburg. Can you?

I have often attempted to determine who Lincoln might have placed in Grant's place as commander of the Army of Tennessee.

Possible Candidates
1) Don Carlos Buell had experience commanding the Army of the Ohio; however he was more a quartermaster than army commander as evidenced by his removal from command in October of 1862.

2) William T. Sherman was soundly defeated by a small Confederate cavalry force at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. This defeat coupled with his close association with Grant would probably hampered his chances at command.

3) William Rosecrans had initial success in West Virginia and moved to the Western Theater in May and participated in battles at Iuka and Corinth. He provided uninspired leadership and was not admired or liked by his troops. I suspect that he would not have been able to perform as well as Grant in his Vicksburg campaign.

4) John McClernand sounds like a fantasy pick but wait. He was a politician with a tremendous ego as proven by this little excerpt:
Reports of Maj. Gen. John A. McGlernand, U. S. Army, Commanding
First Division.
Headquarters First Division,
Camp near Pittsburg, Tenn., April 14,1862.

"We have just passed through a terrible battle, lasting two days. My division, as usual, has borne or shared in bearing the brunt. I have lost in killed and wounded about every third man of my command. Within a radius of 200 yards of my headquarters some 150 dead bodies..."^

This Official Report was sent to the President of the United States and not to Grant. He had political connections and well might have been placed in command. If McClernand had taken over Vicksburg would have been in Confederate control many months after July of 1864.

These are just a few potential replacements for Grant and I look forward to other's comments and ideas.
Regards
David

^ Official Records of the Rebellion
Series 1, Volume X, Part 1
Page 113
 

David Moore

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@jackt62 you make a valid point that a loss at Shiloh would have tainted Halleck's reputation but I believe he was enough of a politician to slide away unscathed. Remember it took Halleck a full month to move from Pittsburg Landing and begin the siege of Corinth. I can not fathom him marching across Mississippi to encircle Vicksburg. Can you?

I have often attempted to determine who Lincoln might have placed in Grant's place as commander of the Army of Tennessee.

Possible Candidates
1) Don Carlos Buell had experience commanding the Army of the Ohio; however he was more a quartermaster than army commander as evidenced by his removal from command in October of 1862.

2) William T. Sherman was soundly defeated by a small Confederate cavalry force at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. This defeat coupled with his close association with Grant would probably hampered his chances at command.

3) William Rosecrans had initial success in West Virginia and moved to the Western Theater in May and participated in battles at Iuka and Corinth. He provided uninspired leadership and was not admired or liked by his troops. I suspect that he would not have been able to perform as well as Grant in his Vicksburg campaign.

4) John McClernand sounds like a fantasy pick but wait. He was a politician with a tremendous ego as proven by this little excerpt:
Reports of Maj. Gen. John A. McGlernand, U. S. Army, Commanding
First Division.
Headquarters First Division,
Camp near Pittsburg, Tenn., April 14,1862.

"We have just passed through a terrible battle, lasting two days. My division, as usual, has borne or shared in bearing the brunt. I have lost in killed and wounded about every third man of my command. Within a radius of 200 yards of my headquarters some 150 dead bodies..."^

This Official Report was sent to the President of the United States and not to Grant. He had political connections and well might have been placed in command. If McClernand had taken over Vicksburg would have been in Confederate control many months after July of 1864.

These are just a few potential replacements for Grant and I look forward to other's comments and ideas.
Regards
David

^ Official Records of the Rebellion
Series 1, Volume X, Part 1
Page 113
Could you provide some documentation ( from the time period of course) that Rosecrans was not liked or admired by his troops? I can and have provided documentation that he was esteemed by them especially after Grant was a no show at two battles in NE Mississippi in 1862.
I know some on this site don’t agree with my opinions but I always try to provide documentation -the closer in time to the event the better- for what I post.
CWT is an interesting and useful site but all opinions tend to be deemed equal here. That is not a good thing for a history site. The reality is that most Grant critics have long since left this site to pursue more important things. However at the very least people who post about historical events that can be documented should make an effort to back their opinions. I have been studying Iuka in depth for the last few years and I will have plenty of anti-Grant comments from his troops to use in any work I publish.
Historical truth can be hard to pinpoint but it is more than saying “I suspect.”
 
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Ole Miss

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@David Moore you are correct and I made an error as highlited below. I appreciate you pointing out mymistake. As to sources regarding various superiors who did not admire or cared for him are many since the 3 names that come to mind were Rosecran's superiors; Stanton, Grant and Halleck.

3) William Rosecrans had initial success in West Virginia and moved to the Western Theater in May and participated in battles at Iuka and Corinth. He provided uninspired leadership and was not admired or liked by his troops (superiors). I suspect that he would not have been able to perform as well as Grant in his Vicksburg campaign.

As to using the term "suspect" on this board what term would you prefer? I am not a historian and never have claimed such but I am a amatuer who is deeply interested in American History. I express my opinions and provide documentation and sources for statements that I make. However using "suspect" clearly shows I am not certain about a statement

Respectively submitted
Reagrds
David
 

wausaubob

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The Confederates after withdrawing from the Shiloh battlefield still had plenty of time to increase the cost of the war, and gain forced mediation from the British. They could have achieved an armistice and temporary independence. However the 19th century Republicans would have plenty of incidents to fight another war, when the US was better prepared.
When Grant's army won the battle of Champion's Hill, without engaging General Sherman's two trailing divisions, the war took a severe turn against the Confederacy. Grant blocked the Confederate left. That left the US cavalry and Sherman's divisions a clear shot at crossing the Big Black river and reaching the Yazoo River in sufficient force to impose immediate evacuation.
From that point on, Vicksburg was going to fall. And from then on the Confederacy was not a viable long term entity.
The crisis in Mississippi provoked General Lee into a gruesome 3 day battle far from Richmond. That's an indication of how serious the loss of Vicksburg and Port Hudson was going to be.
Similarly General Johnston was trying to organize a relief force, when instead he might have been reinforcing Bragg's army in Tennessee.
 
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