By Brad Clark, Correspondent
Have you ever wondered how it would feel to go back in history? A local group is preparing to do just that. They will soon dial the clock back as they travel to the 150th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Shiloh. The reenactment will take place in southern Tennessee, about 120 miles east of Memphis.
The Shiloh event will mark the first appearance of a new 10-pound Parrott Rifle (a big canon to most of us) built by Bruce Clark, Joe Crookham and Bill Shoup. They belong to Battery C, 3rd Iowa Light Artillery Regiment, a unit that has appeared in a number of Civil War reenactments.
I recently watched Battery C train. These are serious history buffs who enjoy “hands on” history. Several have attended an artillery school to gain a thorough knowledge of artillery procedures and safety. Battery C drilled on a cold rainy March weekend, practicing and practicing in order to get it right. The drill followed the same commands and procedures used during the Civil War. They fired real gunpowder so the Parrott Rifle generated a loud explosion. The only thing missing — there was no projectile.
So, let me introduce the group making the trip then I will tell you more about Shiloh: Bruce and Cathy Clark of Centerville; Bill, Ruth and Doug Shoup of Allerton; Ron and Diane Deal of Moravia; Don and Tammy Johnson of Albia; Joe Crookham of Oskaloosa; Chris and Mylinda Donald of Altoona (Chris was originally from Promise City); and Joe Durian of Oskaloosa. Your reporter/photographers are Brad Clark of West Des Moines and Seth Clark of Cedar Rapids.
• Shiloh 1862
The Battle of Shiloh gained national attention in April of 1862. It was the first large scale battle in the western theater of the Civil War. A year earlier, when the war started, the general expectation was the war would end quickly and both sides assumed they would prevail. The Battle of Shiloh ended those illusions.
In the months leading up to the battle, Union forces pushed south through western Tennessee. Their goal was the capture of Confederate rail lines in southern Tennessee and northern Mississippi. These rail lines linked Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans with the eastern states of the Confederacy. The trains carried much needed food for the large Confederate armies in Virginia.
Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were two of the key leaders of the Union effort to smash Confederate forces in the area. Northern troops streamed toward Shiloh via rail and many steamed their way up the Tennessee River aboard paddle wheeler boats. As Southern forces marched up from Corinth, Miss. they were on a collision course with Union forces gathered in southern Tennessee.
When the battle started on April 6 more than 110,000 soldiers from the Union and Confederate armies were pitted against one another. Thousands of Iowans were a part of the massive carnage and among them was a company of Appanoose County soldiers assigned to the 7th Iowa Infantry Regiment. The 7th was part of Tuttle’s Brigade, one of the top brigades in General Grant’s army. Tuttle’s Brigade ended up in the middle of the line at the Hornet’s Nest and in the middle of the most savage fighting on the field. Their position took as many as 12 separate Confederate charges and a barrage of artillery fire. Many Iowans spilled their blood that day and those who survived the Hornet’s Nest never forgot the terror.
• Shiloh 2012
The modern Shiloh event will run from March 29 to April 1 and provide a full living history experience in addition to the battle reenactments. Several camping areas are planned for those who want to experience life in a Civil War period camp. There will be a camp for military only, a family garrison camp that allows a mix of soldiers and civilians, and a civilian camp. Campers will maintain an 1860’s environment. They will wear the clothes of the period and cook food around the camp fire camp just like it was 1862. The tents, cots, blankets, pots, pans, shoes, belts, shirts, dresses, pants — you name it — will be true to the period. And, for the record, there will be no microwaves, TVs or hairdryers.
By now some may be wondering… “What about the shopping?” I have heard that Shiloh will be a shopper’s delight! A large contingent of sutlers will be just a short walk from the camps. They will be selling clothes, boots, shoes and gear authentic for the period. They will also carry books, music and DVDs focusing on the Civil War period. And there will be an abundance of food tents to serve the hungry crowds.
I will close for now. There will be more to come. Your reporters will cover Battery C at the event and provide stories and photos of this unique experience.