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Shiloh Battlefield Visitors Guide: A Review with Tips to Enhance Your Visit

By Jason Hillegas

Shiloh Battlefield is 5,000 acres of land located in Hardin County, Tennessee that has been protected and preserved to help tell the visitor about the battle of Shiloh. These 5,000 acres are a part of the larger National Military Park that also includes the nearby interpretive center in Corinth, Mississippi. This review will be of the battlefield only.


Once one makes a turn onto Pittsburg Landing, one can begin to get an idea of how large of a battlefield Shiloh is. A smattering of white based pyramids on either side of Pittsburg Landing Road denotes the location of the different headquarters of the Union Army’s brigades and divisions. As one approaches the visitor center, a line of artillery can be seen to the right of the road; small monuments to regiments from Ohio and Indiana, and finally the majestic monument to the State of Iowa on the left, give the visitor a sense of some of the things to be seen throughout the battlefield.

The visitor then pulls into the cul-de-sac that is the parking area. There are separate buildings for the bathrooms, the book store, and the visitor’s center. Tip: Start your journey to Shiloh by seeing the movie Shiloh:o Fiery Trail in the visitor’s center and then view the artifacts, dioramas, and reproductions that are on display in the museum. Grab a map (or two) on the way out and go to the side, where you will find four explanatory tablets. They denote who was where, when they were there, and which direction the unit faced. The tablets are color coded. Blue for Army of the Tennessee, Yellow for the Army of the Ohio, and red for the Army of Mississippi. The home plate looking tablets denote camp locations, the plate marking the location of the colors on the company street. After familiarizing yourself with the tablets, with map in hand, you are now ready to tour the battlefield.


If there is one glaring strike for Shiloh Battlefield, it is that there is no official tour of the battlefield. You can download the Shiloh Battle App and the tour to your mobile device, but do so before you arrive at the battlefield as cell service there is spotty at best, and if you do not have this tour available for offline use, you may end up not being able to get the tour on your device, depending on your location. The reception is best by the Visitor’s Center, but my Verizon was more like a half of a G as opposed to 5G service.


The map provided by the park shows the 22 stops along the driving tour. You will start the tour near the Iowa monument that was passed on the way in, and end back at Pittsburg Landing. I would highly recommend starting by walking through the cemetery to begin your tour, which can be accessed by a path near the bookstore that leads to the main entrance gate of the cemetery.


You may find yourself wanting to get out of your vehicle and walk around the area of the tour stops, which is a good thing. There is a tablet with a brief description of what is going on at that area, and the monuments are best seen up close. Please note that while most of the area around the tour stops are well maintained, there are a lot of bugs and wildlife that you may encounter on your trek, and you should be prepared. First and foremost, stick to the paths. Some are better maintained than others. The paths around the tour stops are the best maintained, however it is very likely that you will see a monument or a marker that is off of the main path. There may have been a path at one time, or it is not as well maintained, so be aware of the terrain. The less maintained the path, the less likely you will find the tree roots, ruts or in my one instance, a hiding wild turkey. A hiking stick is not mandatory, but may help you navigate some of these lesser maintained paths.


There are a few highlights to the tour that I would like to point out and they are as follows:


Tour Stop 2, Confederate Memorial. Make sure you walk around the monument as there is a dedication on the back. Before returning to your vehicle, find the path that is to the right of the monument if you are looking at its front. This path leads you to the location where Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss surrendered to the Confederates, which has a sign marking the location a couple of hundred feet into the path.



Tour Stop 4, Ruggles’ Battery. The largest gathering of artillery to that date in North America gathered here, and there is a wide variety of artillery pieces at this location. A walk of the area lends to an understanding of the Confederate position.




Tour Stop 5, Shiloh Church. Here is the location for the church for which the battle is named. There is a small reproduction of the meeting house adjacent to the current Shiloh Methodist Church, which is on the original location of the meeting house. Tip: Be aware that this church is in use and you may need to make adjustments if church is in session.



Tour Stop 10, The Hornet’s Nest. Some of my favorite monuments in the park can be found in this area, examples being Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Arkansas. There is a walking path that allows you to traverse the area of the Hornet’s Nest. Tip: Taking a walk into the Hornet's Nest gives the visitor an idea of what the Union Army was looking through during the battle.





Tour Stop 11, Confederate mass Grave. One of the five known mass burial sites of Confederate soldiers, this particular one is also the easiest to access as it is its own tour stop. The other four have markers letting you know that there is a burial site a short distance away, and can be accessed by a short hike. The non-tour stop site paths are less well maintained, so please be mindful of this when going down these paths.




Tour Stop 17, The Death of General Johnston. Here locates a mortuary marker denoting the death of the Confederate commander. Johnston died in a ravine south of the monument. There was a red bordered sign that more precisely noted the location of his death.



Tour Stop 19, The Bloody Pond. Take a moment to take in the area of the pond where both Union and Confederate soldiers stopped.


Tip: Please be aware that some stops have more available space for parking than others. Some stops have marked parking spots, others have pull offs along the side of the road. Make sure when you park along the side that there is enough room for traffic to pass.


Miscellaneous: Shiloh Battlefield is relatively secluded, unlike Gettysburg. Civilization is not that far off though, and if you are looking for a good local restaurant, I would highly recommend Hagy’s Catfish Hotel, which is about 5 minutes away by car. Good food and great service, and as a bonus for the visitor, a local non-chain restaurant.



In Conclusion:


The Good: Absolutely beautiful, sprawling battlefield, well maintained and marked. The landscape is dotted with monuments, markers, tablets, and artillery pieces placed to allow the visitor to gain a better understanding of the events of April 6th and 7th, 1862. There are a myriad of paths that cater to the adventurous wanderer. Ranger programs are regularly given.


The Bad: No official Driving Tour. Most of the road signs are at calf height and almost never at the intersections, making travel a bit challenging, especially if you are not following along the tour and trying to find a specific item. The less well maintained paths are good at concealing obstructions and wildlife.


The Ugly: Nothing. This park has some negative marks, but nothing that should or would deter anyone from visiting the park.


Time to complete tour: The tour can be completed in a day, although I would recommend if possible to provide for multiple days. Multiple days allow for attendance at the Ranger Programs, as well as allow for an unrushed driving tour.


Tip: Be aware of: Bugs. Take precautions for ticks and other unpleasant bugs that bite, and wear pants and hiking boots, or there is a high likelihood of having to do a bug removal afterwards. Be aware of the wildlife. I accidentally scared a deer, and a wild turkey scared me. If you travel off the beaten path, you will probably cross paths with the local wildlife. Exercise caution and maintain distance at all times. Finally, be aware of the lack of cellular reception in most areas.


Shiloh is in a perfect position for those that enjoy making a complete trip about the Civil War. Corinth is approximately a half hour away. Fort Donelson is approximately 2 hours away to the north. Stones River Battlefield and Franklin are both about 2 ½ hours away to the east.


Shiloh Battlefield is a must visit battlefield for all levels of Civil War interest. Whether you are a scholar or an enthusiast, Shiloh will have something for you.


Suggested reading and materials:

Books: Shiloh: Conquer or Parish by Timothy B. Smith, the most complete book on the battle, covers both days of fighting extensively. Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh by Gregory A. Mertz. is the most useful tool for the driving tour. I utilized the audio book version as my driving tour narration, and found it to be very useful in helping find most of what I wanted. A brief review follows this one below.


Other items: Trailhead Graphics Map of the Battle of Shiloh. This map is an absolutely essential map for those that want to explore anything in particular, or everything. The map is tearing and water resistant, and contains the location of everything...monuments, markers, trails, etc. on the battlefield. The map notes which trails are better maintained to help you decide if you want to explore that area.


Final Battlefield Grade: A


The Best Tour Guide Available for the Battle of Shiloh an Audio Book Review


Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh April 6-7, 1862 (AADAWT) is the best driving tour audio book for the Battle of Shiloh. The audio book version is 4 ½ hours long and is read by Bob Neufeld. Mr. Neufeld has a clear voice and speaks in a measured tone that is pleasing to listen to. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book while taking my most recent tour of the Shiloh Battlefield.


AADAWT has enough information contained within its pages to entertain all levels of interest in the battle. Within these pages is information that will give the casual visitor a good understanding of the events of the battle, and allows for the more seasoned visitor details that are worth further investigation.


AADAWT offers items of interest that are not on the official park tour, and it is easy to follow along. The book is clear when there is an item that is not a part of the official tour, and while it does not follow the events of the battle chronologically, it is well noted why there is a diversion.


While this book may not be the most complete book on the Battle of Shiloh, I cannot recommend this audio book enough as a tool to help the visitor in their trip to the Shiloh Battlefield. Attack at Daylight and Whip Them perfectly fills the void where there is a lack of official driving tour.


Audio Book Grade: A


Materials referenced:

NPS Park Brochure

Attack at Daylight and Whip Them, The Battle of Shiloh April 6-7, 1862 by Gregory A. Mertz, Published by Savas Beatie

Photos courtesy of Jason Hillegas, Copyright Jason Hillegas Photography



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4 Comments


Derrick Lindow
Derrick Lindow
Aug 05, 2021

Shiloh has spoiled me. When I visit other NPS battlefields, I have to remember that they aren’t marked like Shiloh.

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Very nice post Jay. I’ve been a Ranger at the park for 22 years. I do have a few comments. The park encourages all visitors to begin their visit at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center. The information garnered there will give visitors a much better understanding of the events leading up to the battle, and what occurred after. Secondly, the name of the film is Shiloh:Fiery Trial. It’s a common mistake. Third, all markers and monuments have trails that are on a cyclical maintenance schedule. Unlike the markers which are maintained every three years, the trails are cleaned off every winter. Each trail is marked as a dotted line on the Trailhead Map you highlighted. Conditions can be a…

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Dan Masters
Dan Masters
Aug 04, 2021

Thanks for the post Jay! I'm looking forward to making my first trip to Shiloh next month.

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The Shiloh battlefield is probably the best marked and interpreted battlefield in the world

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