What: Union victory
Where: Hardin County, south-western Tennessee
Why: Confederate general Johnston attacked Grant as he waited for Buell’s reinforcements.
When: April 6-7, 1862
“I would fight them if they were a million” – Albert Sidney Johnston before the battle.
In February 1862, Ulysses S Grant had captured Forts Henry and Donelson, opening up the Cumberland River, securing the state of Kentucky for the Union and earning him the nickname ‘Unconditional Surrender’ Grant. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston retreated from western Tennessee, and Grant pushed southwards, bivouacking at Pittsburg Landing at the Tennessee River to wait for Don Carlos Buell’s troops from the North. Johnston seized the chance to attack before the two Union armies merged, attacking on the morning of April 6 to great initial success. The Union lines broke in many places, but some managed to hold, especially in an area of sunken road that came to be known as the Hornet’s Nest. The battle began to turn against the Confederates – Buell’s men began to arrive, and Johnston was hit behind the knee, bleeding to death within an hour, the highest ranking casualty of the entire war. General P.G.T Beauregard assumed command, and ordered his body covered to protect morale. He also decided against a final assault that night. The second day Beauregard attacked, until he realized Buell’s reinforcements had arrived. Hopelessly outnumbered, he ordered a retreat. Grant sent William T. Sherman to reconnoitre the field and establish whether the Confederates had retreated or were merely regrouping, when 300 Confederate cavalry led by Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest charged into the heart of Sherman’s two brigades. Despite taking a bullet point blank above the hip, Forrest managed to escape, surviving the wound and covering the retreat, whilst the Union now had an almost clear path into northern Mississippi, leading to the pivotal Siege of Vicksburg a year later.