A visit to Shiloh

 The National Military Cemetery at Shiloh battlefield.

The National Military Cemetery at Shiloh battlefield.

At Shiloh, the awesome violence of modern warfare first presented itself: Union and Confederate troops clashed April 2-3 on banks, fields and forest near the banks of the Tennessee River. In one battle, they took more casualties than America had suffered in all its previous wars: 23,746 killed, injured or missing.

On the first day, the Confederates surprised the Union forces, pushing them back toward the river in a near-rout. Confederate generals went to sleep thinking the next day would be nothing but a clean-up operation. Gen. U.S. Grant had other ideas. His forces, strengthened by overnight reinforcements, counter-attacked at dawn. The fighting raged for hours; the blood flowed by the gallon. The Confederates retreated to defend the rail junction at Corinth, MS. There were other battles in the Western war, but none as deadly and decisive as Shiloh.

At one point, we took a wrong turn on our battlefield tour and came upon a reminder that, for some, the war continues: