Sunday, April 8, 2012

Shiloh, April 8, 1862

Today was a day for the weary and wounded to get busy clearing the battlefield of the carnage that had accumulated from what was the bloodiest battle on American soil at that time.  There were more casualties at Shiloh than in the War of 1812 and War with Mexico combined.  The tragedy was only deepened by the fact that all of the combatants were American.  On this warm spring day, there were approximately 3,500 soldiers to be buried in mass graves, separated only by their colors.*  The carcasses of hundreds of equine casualties also had to be removed.

Of the 250 men reporting for duty on April 5th, The Seventeenth suffered the loss of one officer and 17 enlisted men killed, two officers and 67 enlisted men wounded and one enlisted man missing.  The losses of the Twenty-fifth included seven enlisted men killed, three officers and 24 enlisted men wounded.

Tragic as they were, casualties in the two Kentucky regiments were less than in some others. Contributing to this was the placement of their campsite at Cloud Field.  The regiments that had fought their first battle only a month before at Donelson  or earlier at Bull Run were considered veteran combat troops at Shiloh and generally bivouacked near the landing.  The unbaptised regiments were placed further to the south and thus were the first to experience the rebel charge and hear the blood-curdling Rebel Yell.  Being surprised and frightened, they fell back in disorder and suffered the higher casualty rates. 

In the next century, the State of Kentucky would pay tribute to all of her sons who fought in this horrible bloodbath by erecting one monument near the campsite of the Seventeenth.  They were not the only state to supply both sides with their young men, but their singular monument is unique among the hundreds at Shiloh National Battlefield.

Kentucky monument on the old ferry road near the Cloud Field camp site of the 17th Regiment Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. 
Photo by the author- all rights reserved

* In 1866, the mass graves of the Federal soldiers were excavated, the bodies exhumed and identified where possible and the remains re-interred in the newly designated Shiloh National Cemetery.  The burial trenches of Confederate soldiers remain untouched, but appropriately memorialized by The United Daughters of the Confederacy.


  1. So I guess the North wins.....but they took a beating.


    1. It was a 15-round heavyweight fight with a split decision.