Visit Civil War sites during the sesquicentennial

In 2011, the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, everyone is reminded that fighting began when Confederate forces attacked a US installation at Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861. War ended after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant and Union forces at the Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865.

Imagine Civil War troops behind the canons at the Battle of Shiloh. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tourism

Imagine Civil War troops behind the canons at the Battle of Shiloh. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tourism

 

However, whether hailing from the North or South, after seeing the movies at National Battlefield Parks such as Shiloh in Tennessee and Manassas in Virginia,  visitors better understand what caused neighbor to oppose neighbor.

Imagine how families felt on both sides when they learned their loved ones died in forests and on farmlands as familiar to them then, as Washington D.C. landmarks are to everyone, today. The American Civil War had 630,000 casualties.

You can do more than imagine what took place by planning a trip that follows a Civil War Trail marked by skirmishes and battles fought over river and rail access, important cities and small communities.

A Heritage Trail extends from South Carolina to Alabama.  A trail that determined Union and Confederate access north to south extends from Maryland to Tennessee.

Except of canons and plaques Civil War sites like Shiloh National Battlefield look like farms, parks and communities. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tourism

Except of canons and plaques Civil War sites like Shiloh National Battlefield look like farms, parks and communities. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tourism

 

But, if looking for one destination, seek out a National Battlefield Park.

There will be acres to explore, markers to find, an interpretive center and movie, In addition there are expert guided and self-guided tours.

To help plan your Civil War destination here is Part 1 on Western Tennessee and Shiloh. Part 2 is the Manassas area of Northern Virginia.

You know you are in a state heavily impacted by the war when you’re told that the US Congress designated the entire state of Tennessee as a Civil War National Heritage Area.

Tennessee is the only state to receive such designation, according to Program Development Director Lee Waddell Curtis at Tennessee’s Department of Tourist Development.

She hopes visitors understand that the designation means they can come across farm houses, churches and antebellum mansions that housed and fed soldiers, sent families to fight, and were in the middle or down the road from a battle just about everywhere in the state.

The Battle of Shiloh raged around Shiloh Church, a log structure that happened to be enroute to Corinth. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Battle of Shiloh raged around Shiloh Church, a log structure that happened to be enroute to Corinth. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

Curtis noted that a town or family did not always agree on the side to take.

“We were a state divided. It was hard for Tennessee. Brother was against brother,” she said.

She added, “Large communities, small towns, plantations, farms, each one has its own story.”

Where to start

Shiloh, about 110 miles east of Memphis Airport at the Tennessee River’s Pittsburg Landing, was a key battle on the Civil War’s Western Theater, according to Woody Harrell, Superintendent, Shiloh National Park and an ex-officio member of Tennessee’s Sesquicentennial Commission.

Shiloh and Tennessee’s Civil War sesquicentennial comes a year after Fort Sumter. The Battle of Shiloh was fought April 6-7, 1862.

Harrell pointed out that Shiloh was important because control by Union forces allowed them to continue on to Corinth just over the border into Mississippi.

To understand what was going on from both sides of the Civil War watch the movies at National Battlefield sites. This shot, courtesy of the National Park Service, is taken from a new movie that will air at Shiloh in 2012

To understand what was going on from both sides of the Civil War watch the movies at National Battlefield sites. This shot, courtesy of the National Park Service, is taken from a new movie that will air at Shiloh in 2012

 

Considered by some Civil War commanders as second only to Richmond in strategic importance, Corinth had a vital north-south, east-west railroad junction.

Speaking about Corinth, Confederate General P.T.G. Beauregard said, “If defeated here we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause.”

Harrell suggested visitors  start at Corinth about 22 miles south of Shiloh, where an interpretive center opened in 2004 as part of the Shiloh National Park.

Corinth is also a good place to tour antebellum homes.

From C0rinth go north on Tennessee Highway 22 to Shiloh National Battlefield Park on the Tennessee River.

There learn that the Battle of Shiloh is also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. And no, it is not named after a Pennsylvania town but for “Pitts” Tucker, a saloon owner. Shiloh is named for the Shiloh Church on the grounds.

A Shiloh National Park ranger stands on the western bank of the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing to explain its strategic location. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

A Shiloh National Park ranger stands on the western bank of the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing to explain its strategic location. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

When arriving at Shiloh, its vast landscape makes it easy to imagine thousands of Confederate and Union troops moving back and forth across its 4200 acres, taking, and retaking natural and farmed land forms.

Counting all the reinforcements, 44,000 Confederate troops and 65,000 Union troops fought here and suffered major casualties.

Today, visitors can see 600 cast iron plaques marking two days of battle. Rectangle plaques mark April 6 sites. Ovals mark April 7. They are color coded: red means Confederate position; blue for Major General Grant’s troops and yellow for Major General Don Carlos Buell’s troops. The park also has about 200 canons and 150 monuments.

What to do

Take the 12.7 mile auto tour of Shiloh with 20 stops that include the Bloody Pond, Peach Orchard and Hornet’s Nest.

Bloody Pond is a stop on Shiloh's auto tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Bloody Pond is a stop on Shiloh's auto tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Ask at the Corinth or Shiloh Interpretive Centers about auto and walking tours of Civil War Corinth.

They include Civil War fortifications, homes used by the generals and part of the battlefield at Corinth.

Shiloh was important to reach Corinth and Corinth had to be under Union control before Grant could turn to Vicksburg and control the Mississippi River.

“Lincoln had said that Vicksburg was key,” Harell said.

Another reason to go to Shiloh is its Native American mounds dating to 800 to 1200 AD.

“If Shiloh were not a big Civil War Battlefield it would still be a national Park because of the Indian Mounds,” Harell said. Artifacts from the mounds are at a museum in nearby Savannah, Tenn.

While at Shiloh, also look for its eagles. A pair has a nest next to the Tour ride.

Getting there

From the Memphis, Tenn. Area take US Highway 72 east to Corinth, Miss. From the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, take Highway 22 North to Shiloh Battlefield.

Where to stay

The grounds of the Pickwick Inn at Pickwick State Park and Dam on the Tennessee River make it a fine vacation spot and place to stay when visiting Shiloh and Corinth. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The grounds of the Pickwick Inn at Pickwick State Park and Dam on the Tennessee River make it a fine vacation spot and place to stay when visiting Shiloh and Corinth. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

Pickwick Inn at Pickwick Landing State Park, Park Road, Pickwick Dam, TN 38365, 800-250-8615. A former riverboat stop, the inn and park are a vacation spot southeast of Shiloh on the Tennessee River. The park has hiking trails, restaurant and a golf course.

Generals Quarters B&B 924 N. Fillmore St. Corinth, MS 38834,

Where to eat

Broken Spoke, a rambling dress up or dress down Pickwick restaurant with eclectic décor and good food. 7405 TN Highway 57, Counce, TN 38326 731-689-3800

Hagy’s Catfish Hotel outside the Military Park 1140 Hagy Lane, north of the entrance, on the Tennessee River. Shiloh, TN 38376 (Closed Monday except Memorial and Labor Days) 731-689-3327

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