Which side first coined the term "the Hornets' Nest" in regards to the Battle of Shiloh?


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redbob

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#2
The term "Hornet's Nest" may very have been coined by Confederates as they described the sound of bullets flying through the air as sounding like angry hornets. Also, the "Hornet's Nest" and the "Sunken Road" actually apply to the same area and in actuality the road was not very sunken at all. It was more of a slightly worn trail and much of the notoriety of the area came from Union General Benjamin Prentiss who used his defense of the area to bolster his reputation. Ole Miss who is the moderator of the Shiloh Forum and his cohorts may be able to expound more on the subject.
 
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lelliott19

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#3
Unfortunately, "Chronicling America" is down for maintenance right now, [edit to add: no relevant results at Chronicling America from 1862 -1880] So I decided to search Georgia newspapers. Search was for "hornets nest" on same page with word "Shiloh." No relevant results prior to 1880. Only these three relevant results between 1880 and 1890, although the Soldiers' Graves one was reprinted in numerous papers.

1558981916841.png

The Bainbridge Democrat. (Bainbridge, Ga.), July 29, 1886, page 1.

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The Herald and Advertiser. (Newnan, Ga.), April 25, 1890, page 8

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Athens Weekly Banner. (Athens, Ga.), April 29, 1890, page 8.
 
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#4
The term "Hornet's Nest" may very have been coined by Confederates as they described the sound of bullets flying through the air as sounding like angry hornets. Also, the "Hornet's Nest" and the "Sunken Road" actually apply to the same area and in actuality the road was not very sunken at all. It was more of a slightly worn trail and much of the notoriety of the area came from Union General Benjamin Prentiss who used his defense of the area to bolster his reputation. Ole Miss who is the moderator of the Shiloh Forum and his cohorts may be able to expound more on the subject.
Thank you.
 
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#5
Unfortunately, "Chronicling America" is down for maintenance right now, [edit to add: no relevant results at Chronicling America from 1862 -1870] So I decided to search Georgia newspapers. Search was for "hornets nest" on same page with word "Shiloh." No relevant results prior to 1880. Only these three relevant results between 1880 and 1890, although the Soldiers' Graves one was reprinted in numerous papers.

View attachment 309416
The Bainbridge Democrat. (Bainbridge, Ga.), July 29, 1886, page 1.

View attachment 309418
The Herald and Advertiser. (Newnan, Ga.), April 25, 1890, page 8

View attachment 309413
Athens Weekly Banner. (Athens, Ga.), April 29, 1890, page 8.
Great work, thanks!
 

Ole Miss

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#6
I don't know if I can be of much assistance in providing the definitive answer to the origins of the term "Hornet's Nest" as requested. I have found the following information that may be helpful.

In 1887 General James M Tuttle, commander of the 2nd Iowa at Shiloh, spoke during the first meeting of the Hornets' Nest Brigade. Tuttle was a brigade commander under WHL Wallace at the Shiloh, and more or less assumed command after Wallace was shot, and barely escaped capture himself.

Tuttle said: (the) name of "Hornet's Nest" was given to our position by the rebels themselves, and the identification was made complete by some rebel officers in the fall of 1884, while making a survey for the picture* at Chicago. These soldiers had been in some of the charges made against our lines, and their decision in the matter is not disputed."

The origins of the term "Hornet's Nest" is somewhat nebulous so I believe Tuttle to be accurate.

*The term picture I believe in the above quote refers to Shiloh Cycloram created by French artist Theophile Poilpot and 12 assistants which was on canvas, 50 feet high and nearly 400 feet long, and painted 20 years after the Civil War

I believe our own Park Ranger @TomP may be far more knowledgeable about the origins of the term "Hornet's Nest" at Shiloh.
Regards
David
 

Ole Miss

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#9
@Dona, there are so many myths, half truths and fabrications about the battle of Shiloh that the origin of "Hornet's Nest" fits right in. If you search the Official Records you will discover that no one wrote about a "Sunken Road" running along the Northern Edge of Duncan Field yet even to this day people discuss and write about the role this imagined land feature had in the success of the Federal forces holding the center of their line till late in the day.
Regards
David
 

redbob

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#10
Another of the "sacred" areas of Shiloh which is the "Bloody Pond" may also prove to be a myth as it wasn't mentioned in any contemporary accounts until much later. There may not have been a pond there at all, much less of it being bloody. Johnny Clem, the supposed "Drummer Boy of Shiloh" was a member of a unit (the 22nd Michigan) that wasn't formed until after the battle.:thumbsdown:
 
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TomP

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#12
The name "Hornet's Nest" appears to owe its origins to the 13th Louisiana Infantry, who said the bullets sounded like swarms of angry hornets. T.C. Robertson used the term in a letter to his mother on April 9, 1862.

The "Hornet's Nest Brigade," made up of veterans of regiments which had fought in the Union center, had its first reunion in 1887. The president was Benjamin M. Prentiss and the historian was David W. Reed of the 12th Iowa. Reed had been wounded in the thigh on April 6th and had lain on the field through the night. He was appointed secretary and historian of the park commission in 1895. He later became chairman of the commission, essentially, the first superintendent of Shiloh National Military Park. Reed wrote the first definitive history of the battle, one which placed great emphasis on the Hornet's Nest.
 
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#13
I think one can make a compelling argument that David Wilson Reed, one of the first (the first?) superintendent at Shiloh, greatly enhanced the sunken road/Hornet's nest idea. He was a veteran of the 12th Iowa (which fought in the sunken road/"Hornet's Nest" area). His presentation of the battlefield persists to this day in the tour route, etc. Since his regiment fought in the sunken road/Hornet's nest, he made that area of the battlefield a focal point of the tour. This, in turn, has influenced the historical view of the battle.
 

TomP

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#15
I think one can make a compelling argument that David Wilson Reed, one of the first (the first?) superintendent at Shiloh, greatly enhanced the sunken road/Hornet's nest idea. He was a veteran of the 12th Iowa (which fought in the sunken road/"Hornet's Nest" area). His presentation of the battlefield persists to this day in the tour route, etc. Since his regiment fought in the sunken road/Hornet's nest, he made that area of the battlefield a focal point of the tour. This, in turn, has influenced the historical view of the battle.
This is on the mark. It was Reed who nailed up over a hundred wooden signs on the battlefield to mark significant locations. He fought in the Hornet's Nest and it gained the most attention. Why he nailed up those Sunken Road signs I will never know. He knew it was never sunken. Personally, I think it was a practical joke on his part that got out of hand. Two other battlefields have significant sunken roads (Antietam and Fredericksburg) as do another of smaller fields. He gave one to Shiloh.

The name "Hornet's Nest" was used in December of 1862 by Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn minutes before his attack on Holly Springs, MS. As the Texas Brigade was about to charge through the Union camps to the courthouse square, he warned Col. John Summerfield not to get into a "Hornet's Nest."
 



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