Shiloh: In Hell Before Night essay

The American Civil War, fought between the North and the South, is perhaps the longest and bloodiest war within the United States of America. McDonough (1977) has written twelve chapters providing an account of the events in the Civil War as well as an explanation of why these events occurred. He also traced the political and economic dynamics of the nation during this period and expounded on why the Civil War was fought. McDonough focused on the Battle of Shiloh, which is also known as the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing, in April 1862.

The battle occurred in southwestern Tennessee between the armies of Gen. Ulysses Grant of the Union Army versus Gen. Albert Sidney and Gen. Beauregard of the Confederate Army. In this battle, the Union Army was almost defeated. When the Confederate Army attacked Grant’s army, the intention was to drive them to Owl Creek and prevent him from reaching the Army of Gen. Buell in Ohio. General Grant, however, was driven towards Pittsburgh Landing. Gen. Prentiss and Gen. Wallace was at the Hornet’s Nest defending it against Confederates..

When Gen. Johnston pressed the attack on the Hornet’s Nest, he found its defenses difficult to break. The defenders fought well and managed to kill Gen. Johnston. However, because of the presence of around fifty cannons, and the lack of effective coordination in the Hornet’s Nest, the Confederates managed to route the Union Army after seven hours of fighting. These seven hours, however, have been enough for Gen. Grant to gather his soldiers and make preparations for counter-attack.

The death of Johnston had been costly to the Confederates and Beauregard took over the Army and pressed on the attack on the Hornet’s Nest. However, he did not show the same prowess as Johnston did. With the reinforcement of Gen. Buell, the Union Army prevailed against the Confederates and drove them back. The Battle of Shiloh has been the bloodiest American War up to its occurrence. McDonough’s narrative of the war focused on the first day of fighting. The maps and the pictures also helped in perceiving what was happening during that time.

Although the Union Army won this Battle, McDonough argues that Grant and Sherman have been negligent and gave a chance to the Confederates to surprise them. When the attacks started, however, they responded and fought decisively and tactically. Had the Confederates crushed the Union Army, the Civil War could have ended another way. McDonough also criticized the Confederates for their lack of organization and their inability to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by their attack at Shiloh.

The author even argues that the Army who won this battle is the one who made the least tactical and organizational mistakes. The author cited these mistakes and analyzed their consequences. The skills of Gen. Johnston, particularly, in leading and commanding his men came under scrutiny. McDonough argued that the General did not have much prowess in leadership and did a poor job at Shiloh. McDonough’s account of the Battle of Shiloh is informative and can be read as easily as a novel. He made use of the official Civil War records as well as the diaries and personal journals of those who were involved in the Battle.

It did not matter whether they were privates or generals, the author made use of their accounts to get a more complete view of what happened in the Battle of Shiloh. The accounts he gathered presented different aspects and situations of the battle such as the marching of the Confederates to Shiloh and to the blood and gore spattered all around. McDonough’s use of newspaper articles as well as the diary and journal entries of soldiers in the war presented an accurate account of this important battle during the Civil War.