All the killed and wounded from these battles combined fail to even come close to the casualties which occurred at Shiloh. The "place of peace," as the Hebrew for Shiloh translates, would soon become one of the bloodiest battlefields of the Civil War. But on the sunny afternoon of April 5, 1862, the banks of the Tennessee River were alive with the sights and sounds of spring. The wildlife was abundant and the flowers were in full bloom. During the next 48 hours, the beautiful Tennessee Valley would host some of the most hellish scenes known to man. Both Federal soldiers and Rebels who would go into the Battle of Shiloh anxious to "see the Elephant," as they commonly referred to combat, would never be so eager to fight again. The leader of the Army of Tennessee, Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, would later write that, "Shiloh was the severest battle fought at the West during the war" (Grant, 355-356).
During the previous winter, Confederate General Albert Sydney Johnston had given up much ground to the Union Forces, retreating his disheartened Rebels halfway across the South to Corinth, Mississippi. General Henry Wager Halleck, commander of the Union forces in the West, gave orders to General Ulysses S. Grant to assemble his forces of about 35,000 men at Pittsburg Landing, about 35 miles northeast of Corinth. He was to await the arrival of General Don Carlos Buell, commander of the Army of Ohio, from Nashville. With their combined forces, they would advance in a joint offensive to seize the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, the Confederates" only supply route linked to the Mississippi Valley and the East Coast cities. With his back to the Tennessee River and confidence that the war would soon be over, Grant waited for Buell without any precautions against an attack by the Rebels. Meanwhile, on April 3, Johnston and his army of about 45,000 headed out of Corinth and towards Pittsburg Landing to launch a surprise attack on Grant's men.