Learn Tennessee’s Civil War History at Shiloh
A 151st anniversary may not have the same ring as a 150th anniversary, but there’s still much activity surrounding Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial.
Commemorating Shiloh’s 151st battle anniversary, Shiloh National Military Park and surrounding venues will host several events daily, April 4-7. All events are free, including:
Thurs., April 4, 5:30-7 p.m.: Dr. Jeff Gentsch, a faculty member at the University of West Alabama and a Shiloh volunteer, will present “From Farmlands to Ravines: the Geography of Shiloh Hill” in the Shiloh Auditorium. (Dr.Gentsch wrote his dissertation on the role of geography at Shiloh, and is known to draw crowds when he details how the topography of the area influenced military strategy and outcomes of battle.)
Fri., April 5: At 8 a.m., Dr. Gentsch will lead an all-day, 12-mile hike illuminating artillery use at Shiloh. The hike departs from the old Ed Shaw store on Highway 22.
Fri., April 5: 11 a.m. to noon, an interpretive General Beauregard will visit Savannah’s Tennessee River Museum (10 miles northeast of the military park) to discuss the involvement of Creole individuals in the war before, during and after Shiloh. The talk is free with museum admission – while you’re there, check out permanent exhibits on the Tennessee River as an invasion route (displaying ironclad artifacts and the most complete Shiloh artillery projectile collection in existence) and “War and Remembrance” – a look at the establishment of Shiloh National Military Park.
Sat., April 6: A 20-minute ranger program, “The POWs of Shiloh,” incorporates eyewitness accounts as it contemplates the fate of Union captives who surrendered in Shiloh’s infamous Hornet’s Nest. Following the program, a 25-minute film on American POWs throughout history will be shown. (6-7 p.m. in the Shiloh Visitor Center Auditorium.)
Sat., April 6-Sun. April 7: Join the caravan to tour the Shiloh battlefield. The three-hour tours will depart from the Shiloh Visitor Center at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. both days. Note that the caravan tours are abbreviated (the standard self-guided driving tour covers 20 stops), but rangers accompanying the caravans provide a deeper understanding of the most significant stops.
Advanced registration for some events is required. Call the Shiloh Visitor Center at 731-689-5696 for additional details and registration information.
More on the war in West Tennessee
About an hour northwest of Shiloh in Jackson, the Carnegie Center for the Arts* is unveiling its own permanent Civil War exhibit trained on the strategic important of West Tennessee to both the Union and the Confederacy. The exhibit, then, presents information on Shiloh, but also on Forts Henry and Donelson, where the Confederacy’s fatal chain of events began. (Fort Henry’s capture on Feb. 6, 1862 marked the Union’s first key victory in the Western theater. Eight days later, a gunboat duel rocked the Tennessee River. The Confederates came out on top. But the Union began receiving reinforcements – and the Confederacy began acting indecisive. By Feb. 16, the Confederacy was asking Grant for terms. This is the part where Grant demands unconditional surrender and gets it – followed by a promotion to major general and victories at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga…)
Today, Fort Henry sits, flooded, at the bottom of Kentucky Lake, but you can visit Fort Donelson National Battlefield (about two hours northeast of Jackson in Dover). My fellow blogger, Vernon Summerlin, recently blogged about it – read his piece not only to learn about what you can see and do at the battlefield site, but about the fascinating friendship between Grant and Confederate General Simon Buckner, who surrendered to him there.
*Wondering what happened to the Discovery Museum of West Tennessee? It has a new name – the Carnegie Center for the Arts – to reflect that it’s grown to become more than a children’s museum. It’s still located in downtown Jackson, but with new exhibits – and more in the works.
Sesquicentennial Signature Event
Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial covers a series of events that launched in 2010 and will continue through 2015. The signature event for 2013 is scheduled for Oct. 9-12 in Chattanooga – a mix of lectures, historic demonstrations, exhibits, workshops, book signings and musical performances on the theme of “Occupation and Liberation.” Registration is required for some events – visit this page or call 615-532-7520 for more information.
And for the most comprehensive study of Tennessee during the Civil War, including a timeline and road trip-ready trails (supported by maps and lists of key sites), bookmark this resource.
Which Tennessee Civil War site intrigues you most?