National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Shiloh National Military Park

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Tennessee Monument, Shiloh Battlefield Unit A southern red salamander Owl Creek A Swainson's Warbler Lone surviving witness cabin preserved on Shiloh battlefield 150th anniversary celebration The Stream of American History

The purpose of this State of the Park report for Shiloh National Military Park is to assess the overall condition of the park's priority resources and values, to communicate complex park condition information to visitors and the American public in a clear and simple way, and to inform visitors and other stakeholders about stewardship actions being taken by park staff to maintain or improve the condition of priority park resources for future generations.

The State of the Park report uses a standardized approach to focus attention on the priority resources and values of the park based on the park's purpose and significance, as described in the park's Foundation Document or General Management Plan. The report:

  • Provides to visitors and the American public a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of a park's priority resources and values.
  • Summarizes and communicates complex scientific, scholarly, and park operations factual information and expert opinion using non-technical language and a visual format.
  • Highlights park stewardship activities and accomplishments to maintain or improve the state of the park.
  • Identifies key issues and challenges facing the park to inform park management planning.

The process of identifying priority park resources by park staff and partners, tracking their condition, organizing and synthesizing data and information, and communicating the results will be closely coordinated with the park planning process, including natural and cultural resource condition assessments and Resource Stewardship Strategy development. The term "priority resources" is used to identify the fundamental and other important resources and values for the park, based on a park's purpose and significance within the National Park System, as documented in the park's foundation document and other planning documents. This report summarizes and communicates the overall condition of priority park resources and values based on the available scientific and scholarly information and expert opinion, irrespective of the ability of the park superintendent or the National Park Service to influence it.

Shiloh National Military Park (SHIL) was established on December 27, 1894, to preserve the scene of the first major battle in the Western theater of the Civil War. The two-day battle, April 6 and 7, 1862, involved about 65,000 Union and 44,000 Confederate troops, and resulted in nearly 24,000 killed, wounded, and missing. This decisive Union victory enabled United States forces to advance on and seize control of the strategic Confederate railway junction at Corinth, Mississippi, on May 30, 1862, and later to advance on and seize control of Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863. On September 22, 2000, the Corinth Unit was made a part of Shiloh National Military Park.

Significance statements express why a park's resources and values are important enough to merit designation as a unit of the national park system. SHIL is significant because:

  1. The Battle of Shiloh was the most critical and violent event in the early Civil War campaign to control western Confederate railroads and the Mississippi River Valley. As a result of the carnage at Shiloh, southerners and northerners alike realized that the divided nation faced a long, desperate, and costly war.
  2. As the second oldest national military park, the existing commemorative landscape on the Shiloh battlefield reflects the contributions of both Union and Confederate Civil War veterans to mark the field of battle in a manner that honors the shared sacrifice and courage of all those present.
  3. The intersection of two major railroad crossings at Corinth allowed Confederate armies to mass their forces in northern Mississippi, while Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River served as both a vital supply line and base of operation for Union forces deep in Confederate territory. Control of these transportation routes allowed the Union to remain on the offensive in the western theater, and illustrates the importance of logistics during the Civil War.
  4. The Corinth Unit of Shiloh National Military Park preserves and protects the few surviving examples of early earthen fortifications that foreshadowed the complex trench warfare that would come to define the final desperate year of the Civil War.
  5. Following the September 1862 announcement of Lincoln's intent to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, the Union Army established the Corinth Contraband Camp, considered a model of its kind, where formerly enslaved people took their first steps from slavery to citizenship through cooperative farm programs, education, and military service.
  6. In October 1862, the attempt to drive Union forces from their fortified defenses at Corinth resulted in a Confederate defeat at the Battle of Corinth, the last major Confederate offensive in the state of Mississippi.

Fundamental and Other Important Resources and Values are those features, systems, processes, experiences, stories, scenes, sounds, smells, or other attributes determined to warrant primary consideration during planning and management processes because they are essential to achieving the purpose of the park and maintaining its significance. These include:

Shiloh Battlefield Landscape. Shiloh National Military Park incorporates numerous key features of the historic battlefield including the site of Shiloh Church; Fraley Field, where fighting commenced on April 6, 1862; the site of the Union camps; the Hornets' Nest; the Confederate Memorial commemorating capture of 2,100 Union troops in the Hornet's Nest; Duncan Field; the ravine where General Albert Sidney Johnston died; the site of Grant's last line; Bloody Pond; the site of the Union field hospital; Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River; Dill Branch Ravine, where Union gunboats bombarded Confederate forces in defense of Grant's last line; and Water Oaks Pond, where Confederate forces attempted to blunt the Union counterattack of April 7. This fundamental resource and value is also inclusive of battlefield viewsheds and other natural resource elements, such as vegetation that contributes to integrity of the historic battlefield landscape.

Corinth Landscape (Siege, Battle, and Occupation). Resources associated with the siege, battle, and occupation of Corinth are found throughout the Corinth landscape. Numerous Union and Confederate siege lines, earthworks, and fortified battery positions are protected and interpreted by the Corinth Unit. A small portion of the historic Corinth Contraband Camp is also part of the Corinth landscape and a vital link to the struggle for African American liberation during the Civil War. Other key landscape features on the Corinth Landscape include the railroad crossing and Corona Female College site.

Davis Bridge Site. Located 18 miles northwest of Corinth in the state of Tennessee, five acres of the Davis Bridge battlefield site are protected by Shiloh National Military Park. While retreating from Corinth, the Confederate Army of West Tennessee under Major General Earl Van Dorn engaged Union forces led by Major General Edward O. C. Ord. Fought on October 5, 1862, the battle of Davis Bridge allowed the Confederate Army of West Tennessee to escape destruction and successfully complete their retreat from Corinth. A small gravel parking lot, interpretive signage, and a hiking trail provide access and connect visitors to the historic events that unfolded on this landscape.

Place of Reflection and Serenity. The brutal history of the military engagement on the Shiloh Battlefield evokes a sense of solemnity for visitors to Shiloh National Military Park. The preserved battlefield landscape and viewsheds, and numerous monuments and memorials, provide opportunities for quiet reflection on the stories of the battle in a serene rural environment. The proximity of the Tennessee River and the accompanying natural sounds further support a deeply emotional, yet tranquil visitor experience.

Shiloh National Cemetery. The Battle of Shiloh was the largest engagement in the Mississippi Valley campaign during the Civil War and saw 23,746 casualties of both Union and Confederate forces. Shiloh National Cemetery was created to bury the Union dead from the Battle of Shiloh, as well as those who died from other operations along the Tennessee River from no less than 565 different localities. The cemetery holds 3,584 Civil War dead, of which 2,359 are unknown. Included among these war dead are at least three identified Confederate soldiers removed from various war graves to be interred with the national dead. The total interred at the cemetery now stands at nearly 4,000, including veterans from later American wars. It was officially closed in 1984, but still averages two or three burials a year, mostly widows of soldiers already interred.

Museum Collections. The museum collections at Shiloh National Military Park contain more than 430,000 objects related to the battlefield, including Civil War artillery, battle flags, and archival materials. They also contain archeological resources, many of which are related to the American Indian mound sites. Some of these artifacts are on display at the Shiloh Battlefield Visitor Center and the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, while a significant portion of the collection is stored at the NPS Southeast Archeological Center.

Commemorative Resources/Features. Shiloh is one of the oldest national military parks established by Congress. The main battlefield unit contains more than 150 commemorative markers and other commemorative features. Many of these markers are dedicated to headquarters locations of the Union Army of the Tennessee commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Ohio commanded by Major General Don Carlos Buell. A larger number of markers were dedicated on the ground where the various state units from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania fought.

Archeological Resources. The almost 4,000-acre Shiloh Battlefield unit encompasses the core of the Civil War's first major battle in the western theater. Shiloh has a potentially high concentration of archeological resources due to the extended Union encampment on "Shiloh Hill" in the spring of 1862. Besides numerous unmarked graves, the park contains five marked mass Confederate burial trenches. A series of archeological surveys have been conducted at the park since 1976, including surveys of the Shiloh battlefield site, the Battle of Corinth site, and the contraband camp near Corinth. The potential for relic hunting is an ongoing issue for park management.

Community Partnerships. The importance of partners and partnerships at Shiloh National Military Park continues to grow and is considered important to the park's success. Both Hardin County in Tennessee and Alcorn County in Mississippi are key partners vital to the preservation of the battlefield at Shiloh and the siege and battle of Corinth. Two friends groups, Friends of Shiloh National Military Park and Friends of the Siege and Battle of Corinth, actively support the park's mission, help raise awareness, and engage in numerous stewardship efforts with the park.

Shiloh Indian Mounds. Shiloh also contains the site of a prehistoric Indian mound village that is listed as a national historic landmark. About 1,100 years ago, this town of seven earthen mounds and dozens of houses enclosed by a wooden palisade occupied the high Tennessee River bluff at the eastern edge of the Shiloh plateau. This town was the center of a society that occupied a 20-mile-long stretch of the Tennessee River Valley. The inhabitants of this village moved out of this part of the Tennessee Valley sometime in the 13th century.

Civilian Conservation Corps / Works Progress Administration Infrastructure and Buildings. For eight years, from 1933 through 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) maintained a camp at Shiloh Battlefield and conducted numerous projects within the park. CCC workers improved roads and sidewalks, maintained the stone wall around the national cemetery, and developed extensive erosion controls for historic fields, streams, and drainage systems throughout the park. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) also left its mark on the park's landscape in the form of the current visitor center, park book store, and numerous other structures used for employee housing. This infrastructure and these buildings provide a tangible link to the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration in the development of Shiloh National Military Park.

Map of Shiloh National Military Park
Map of Shiloh National Military Park

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Last Updated: June 19, 2017 Contact Webmaster