Without a second passing after the question is asked: What is my favorite battlefield park or site to visit and photograph, my answer is Shiloh, in southwestern Tennessee along the Mississippi border? It’s a battlefield that just still feels like 1862 wedged between two creeks and flanked by the Tennessee River that oddly flows north. When I was a kid some 50 years ago now, I got hooked on the Civil War mainly through the writings of Bruce Catton. His way of weaving words and stories was perfect for this kid eager to read about a fascinating war.
“On paper,” Mr. Catton writes in superb This Hallowed Ground, “Shiloh was a draw; actually it was one of the decisive battles of the war. It was a battle the Confederacy simply had to win. For it had been a blow struck to restore a disastrously lost balance, a desperate attempt to re-establish the Confederate frontier in the Kentucky-Ohio Valley. It had failed, and the fact that it had come close to being a dazzling victory did not offset the failure….”
Shiloh National Military Park is located 11 miles south of Savannah, Tennessee, the county seat of Hardin County, which was founded in 1819 and named after a Revolutionary War veteran, Colonel Joseph Hardin. In 1860, census records tallied only 11,200 residents in the county mostly of whom were farmers who eked out a living farming land that was shallow and humus poor hardly ideal for sustaining huge farms or plantation-based agriculture. In the 2010, the census counted just over 26,000 residents and neighbors next to a national treasure – Shiloh.