At daybreak on April 6th, a two day battle surrounding Shiloh Church broke out, a battle that was among the fiercest and most deadly of the Civil War. Over 23,000 soldiers from both the Union and Confederate sides lost their lives on the grounds of what is now the third oldest battlefield in the National Park System. Today, visitors can walk in the footsteps of the past and relive history as they take a self guided tour through various key locations of the battle. From the “Hornet’s Nest” where some of the fiercest fighting of the battle took place to Fraley Field, the wild flower laden meadow where the fighting of the battle officially began.
The boys and I made a short day trip out to see Shiloh National Military Park as the second stop of our #90DayRoadTrip today, but you could easily spend several days exploring the information and trails located here. There is no campground within the park itself, but there are several nearby options for camping including some state parks. We chose to stay at Chickasaw State Park about an hour away, since our next stop is in Arkansas.
Begin your visit to Shiloh National Military Park with an educational film that shows in the visitor center’s auditorium every hour on the hour. This 45 minute film will walk you through the history of the Battle of Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing.
After the video, you can wander the exhibits at the visitor center and look at the many artifacts on display. Children can also pick up a junior ranger’s booklet to complete.
Right next to the visitor center is the National Cemetery where over 3,000 men and their families are laid to rest. Walking through the cemetery is a sobering journey, but as you come to the end, you can view Pittsburg Landing and see where the Union boats first came ashore.
Shiloh National Military Park is a large park, and the significant markers on the map are rather far apart. If you had several days to explore the park, it would be nice to go by foot and walk from stop to stop, but we were short on time, so we did a self-guided driving tour.
We visited some of the most notable locations of the Battle of Shiloh, including the original log Shiloh Church that gave this epic battle its name, the Confederate Monument, which sits at the place where the Confederate army rounded up over 2,100 union soldiers who were captured at a surrender in the Hornet’s Nest and Fraley Field where the fighting first started. Nothing about this beautiful and unassuming land gives any indication that a once bloody battle laden with death and destruction was fought here.
Some parts of the video can be hard for younger children to watch, and they may truly understand the significance of some of the locations you might visit on your self-guided tour of the park, but a visit to Shiloh National Military Park is a wonderful opportunity for families with children of all ages. I have always believed it is incredibly important to bring history alive for our children and give them a chance to really experience it for themselves. It is only then that we can make sure that they grasp the importance of never repeating it.
There is no entrance fee to Shiloh National Military Park. Entrance into the grounds, visitor’s center and National Cemetery are all free of charge. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to the Shiloh National Military Park website.