Burying The Dead at Shiloh

A Johnston
     The outbreak of the American Civil War for the first few months of 1861 had given forewarning of a long drawn out conflict. The casualty lists exceeded even then, what the nation hadn't seen through out the last eighty-five years. The toll of Bull Run, Wilson Creek, Belmont, and Pea Ridge had been an eye opening experience. By the end of March 1862, it became apparently that the worse had not yet come.

     The army lying along the banks of the Tennessee was in full swing training their new enlistees who still had vision of glorious conquest and returning home national heroes.

     The Confederacy's second ranking general officer, Albert Sydney Johnston was determined to turn their fantasies around by thwarting their efforts on a move to capture the town of Corinth, Mississippi, a vital railroad hub just twenty miles away. Although nasty weather conditions would delay the attacking rebels for two days, Johnston's army would define the reality of war. Sydney himself would be mortally wounded during this engagement posthumously conferring command of the army to General Beauregard. By nightfall, April 7th, it became perfectly clear the death angel was fully charged. Twenty three thousand Americans lie on the field, killed and wounded.
     General Pierre G. Beauregard had taken his army back to Corinth in retreat, and immediately opened up correspondence with Major General Ulysses S. Grant on the subject of proper interment of the dead. Certain members of family and friends of soldiers employed in the Confederate Army of Mississippi had wished to collect the remains and the Confederate Commander wished to send a mounted party with them for such a purpose.

     The weather in the past five days had gone from wet to warm. Under these circumstances burial parties had immediately been tasked with that responsibility. The Union Commander wrote back that he could not allow such a party into his lines for such a purpose. The stench itself had been awful causing many a weak stomach for it, and ridding the field of them quickly became order of the day.
     The rebel dead had been collected and buried in common mass graves in selected areas on the field of battle, laying them in one upon the other. These men would remain in such graves for eternity. The burial trenches designated for the federal dead would later be re-interred at an established National Cemetery for them along the banks of the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing.

     It was common practice to bury the dead during the war in such fashion. Upon most battlefields however, the burial trenches are at unknown locales, though the armies would inter close to where the dead fell. At Shiloh, the Confederate trenches are well marked, a lasting memorial to America on the cost of freedom.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2001

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a new feature writer on the writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at