"I would fight them if they were a million."
— Battle of Shiloh —
After the February 1862 Union victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, Gen. Don Carlos Buell's army occupied Nashville while Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army penetrated to Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. Buell and Grant planned to attack the rail center of Corinth, Mississippi, but on April 6, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston struck first. The Battle of Shiloh was near Confederate victory the first day, although Johnston was killed. On the second day, Grant's counterattack succeeded, and the Confederates retreated to Corinth. Shiloh was the war's bloodiest battle to date, with almost 24,000 killed, wounded, or missing.
This is the site of Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston's last bivouac. By the afternoon of April 5, 1862, his army's muddy, rain-delayed march from Corinth to attack Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army at Pittsburgh Landing had taken far longer than anticipated. Some of Johnston's subordinates feared the element of surprise had been lost. Gathering near the intersection with the Bark Road, half a mile west of here, Gens. Leonidas Polk, Braxton Bragg, and John C. Breckenridge listened as Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard voiced concerns about proceeding with the attack. Johnston pondered their advice, then reaffirmed, "Gentlemen, we shall attack at daylight tomorrow." Moving away, he continued, "I would fight them if they were a million."
Johnston then came here for the evening, and his subordinates joined him to discuss the impending attack. The council concluded about 10 P.M.
with Johnston confident of victory. He spread his blankets under a large tree for some sleep. The rain had ended, and the night was clear and cold.
Before dawn, Johnston roused his staff. Beauregard arrived, and the discussion of the previous night continued. Suddenly, they heard the sharp rattle of musketry. "The battle has opened, gentlemen," Johnston said, "It is too late to change our dispositions." Turning to mount, he proclaimed: "Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee River." Trailed by his staff, Johnston rode toward the breaking dawn, and the sound of battle, with just hours to live.