On April 6, 1862, the Army of Mississippi, led by General Albert Sidney Johnston launched an attack on the Army of Tennessee, led by U.S. Grant as it was camped near Shiloh Church in southwest Tennessee. The two days of fighting were some of the bloodiest of the War Between the States. One casualty was the romantic notion that this war would be quick, easy, and glorious for the men who fought it.
Today the battleground is a park with stately monuments and signs describing the who, what, when, where, and how of the fighting. The roar of the cannons, the rattle of musket fire, the dying crying for their mothers or the wounded calling for a drink of water are silent… almost eerily silent.
The hush that hangs over the green fields and forests like a weight has a reverence to it that rivals the sanctuary of any church. The hallowed remembrance of warriors, of courage, and of sacrifice floats in the breeze. It is a holy place.
One of the men who witnessed the battle called war hell. And so it is, but it is wisdom slow in dawning in the hearts of men until it is spread before them in its full horror. That brave men march through this living hell is a testimony both to the courageous spirit and lingering stupidity of the human race.
Walking the fields where so many men died to stand beside their graves makes the heart cry “never again.” But it is no sooner said than the injustice and inhumanity humans force upon one another raises its ugly banner, spreading it even upon the doors, and the bugle calls us back.
But causes and the spoils of war are for the men far above the field of battle. On the ground amid the blood, shattered bodies, and death are mere mortals trying to keep their fellows and themselves alive just a little longer. When they fail, as they so often do, they lie in graves for other men to stand beside or they live forever with the memory of those lost.
If they are lucky, we thank them. They would rather that we learn to live in such a manner that war need never come again. At Shiloh, there is a beautiful cemetery with white stones commemorating the victors. There is also a mass grave outlined by a small concrete rectangle a few inches tall and decorated with cannonballs set back far from the road where their opponents sleep. If these men could speak, they would tell you the only ground they won is that which covers them.
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.