The Battle of Shiloh was fought 06-07 April 1862 and was the first truly massive battle in the Western Theater and up to that point the largest of the war. Its ferocity must have shocked the civilian population on both sides who even though the war was almost a year old probably still assumed somehow that massive bloodshed could have been avoided.
Instead, the stakes of the war and how strongly the individual soldier believed in their view of it shone through. Entire units would fight nearly to the last man rather than retreat. Men who were exhausted from the worst day of their lives yesterday, would show up today and do it all over again. It wouldn’t be for the last time.
Two weeks later the Union Army remained encamped on their victorious battlefield at Shiloh. Private Lucius Barber, then 22, was in Company D of the 15th Illinois Volunteer Infantry:
I was agreeably surprised one morning when I awoke to find Uncle Washington in my tent. My friends had sent him down to see if anything was needed. Although his services were not required, his company was very acceptable. He stayed a couple of weeks with us and then returned home. The roads were in an awful condition at the time and it was impossible for the army to move…
You’re in the bloodiest war in American history (though nobody knew that yet) and your Uncle shows up just to check on you. Note a few things from this short passage:
– A walk (or he could have rode) from Illinois to Shiloh and a multi-week stay is not a minor amount of time, one wonders what, if any, employment Uncle Washington had
– Note that his friends, undoubtedly shocked by what they had read of the battle, sent Barber’s Uncle to check on him
– His friends were still at home, not yet enlisted in the Army, over the years this would have changed as the war turned into mass mobilization for both sides
– The roads were impossible for movement by armies, but apparently not by one Uncle checking in on his family
In wouldn’t be the last the war would hear from Private Barber.