|Friday, Apr 13, 2012|
From March 28th through April 8th, Shiloh National Military Park hosted numerous events, tours and programs in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the bloody battle of Shiloh. Park staff and volunteers presented dozens of programs, hosted the premier of the new park movie, participated in the Tennessee Sesquicentennial Commission’s signature event, led real-time historical hiking tours, and presented a "Grand Illumination" which featured 23,746 luminaries representing the casualties of the terrible battle.
The commemoration began on March 28th as volunteer reenactors began camping on the Shiloh and Corinth Battlefield sites. More than 625 living historians – Union forces at Shiloh and Confederate troops at Corinth – utilized NPS lands to assemble before marching to the national 150th reenactment site. Union forces at Shiloh representing the 15th Iowa Infantry actually landed by riverboat and marched into line per the original events.
During the weekend of the off-site reenactment, living historians representing the Union Navy camped in front of the Shiloh visitor center with numerous displays. Visitation in the visitor center from March 29th through April 1st reached 17,174, with 9,594 visiting the Union naval displays. In addition, Shiloh rangers and Eastern National Bookstore personnel manned a tent at the reenactment, promoting the park and upcoming weeklong events. Park staff talked with 2,163 people at the NPS tent during the reenactment.
On April 2nd and 3rd, park staff and volunteers led an overnight Civil War "Camp of Instruction," on the battlefield for 5th and 6th graders. During the camp, the children heard two original recruitment speeches, one for the North and one for the South, and were then divided into two companies, one Union and one Confederate, and given the name of an actual soldier who served in those units.
The students were taught the manual of arms, wrote letters back home to family members, learned about Civil War cooking, kept notes about their experience in journals, and learned about and performed Civil War songs. The kids received reproduction enlistment papers, a $50 bounty in reproduction money, and souvenir discharge papers suitable for framing. At the end of the camp, the recruits learned the fate of the soldier they represented 150 years ago. Thirty-six children attended the camp of instruction, and the following day camp, with park staff and three volunteers assisting with the program.
On April 4th and 5th, the park, in partnership with the Tennessee Civil Sesquicentennial Commission and the Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau, hosted the Tennessee State 150th signature event at Pickwick Landing State Park, 15 miles south of Shiloh. The new Shiloh orientation movie, "Shiloh - Fiery Trial," premiered April 4th at the event. More than 700 people attended, including the park staff, cast, crew, and regional staff members Carol Shively, Gordon Wissinger, and Regional Director David Vela. Following the premier, film director Chris Wheeler and Stacy Allen, the park’s chief ranger, participated in a question and answer session.
On Thursday, April 5th, Shiloh battle authors, the Civil War Trust, NPS personnel, and Tennessee State Museum personnel, presented lectures, programs, and exhibits relating to the Battle of Shiloh. Park staff presented living history programs for students in the morning to more than 240 children from nearby Tennessee school districts.
One of the most exciting episodes during the Tennessee Sesquicentennial signature event occurred when Superintendent Woody Harrell officially received 267 acres of Fallen Timbers Battlefield from the Civil War Trust. Jim Lighthizer, Governor Bill Haslam, and Harrell signed the document transferring ownership of the property to the NPS. In addition, the trust informed the crowd, which included country music star Trace Adkins, that the 491 acres known as the Greer Tract, has now been optioned by the Trust for inclusion in park property. This land saw crucial fighting in the opening hours of the Battle of Shiloh, on April 6, 1862, as Confederates from Mississippi and Tennessee, attempting to flank the end of the Union left, slammed into troops of the 54th Ohio and 55th Illinois regiments, who stubbornly held the high ground.
From April 6th through April 8th, rangers and volunteers led several real-time historic hikes on the battlefield. The most attended hike of the weekend focused on the Hornet's Nest on Friday afternoon. Almost 500 people hiked this part of the trail, where confused and savage fighting ended with the capture of almost 2,300 Union soldiers and General Benjamin Prentiss. In total, 3,204 visitors from 30 states, the District of Columbia, England, Australia, and Argentina participated in the two- to six-hour hikes.
During this period, John Walsh of Fort Donelson Relics exhibited his artifacts from the 14th Missouri Infantry, which was engaged at Shiloh. Through the three days of the display, 16,444 visitors enjoyed Walsh's exhibition featuring original artifacts, weapons, and photographs (CDVs) of the 14th Missouri.
On the evening of Friday, April 6th, renowned Civil War musician and composer Bobby Horton performed in the Shiloh visitor center auditorium. The performance drew more than 240 people. Superintendent Woody Harrell was quoted as saying, "I have never seen this much electricity in the auditorium ever before." It was a great night on the battlefield.
On Saturday evening, April 7th, the park presented a "Grand Illumination" with 23,746 luminaries placed along a 10.2 mile route around the battlefield representing the butcher's bill of the battle of Shiloh. Beginning at dusk and lasting through 11 p.m. the Shiloh staff, aided by 265 volunteers, supported the illumination. More than 2,163 volunteer hours, and untold staff hours, made this incredible display possible for the public. The park welcomed more than 25,000 visitors for the various theme related activities throughout the day of April 7th, which included the battlefield illumination.
At the conclusion of activities during the twelve days, a total of 104,266 visitors participated in commemorating the first major battle of the Civil War. According to Eastern Bookstore manager Don Todd, the total sales for Shiloh exceeded $140,000. Shiloh was aided in the commemoration by their wonderful VIPs, law enforcement support from Josh Clemons (Mammoth Cave), Jason Lichtblau (Colonial), Jim Lewis (Stones River), and a social media staff that included Jason Martz (Manassas), Nate Adams (Manassas), Matthew John (Capital Region), Will Wilson (Vicksburg), and Brent Everitt (Fort Sumter). From April 1st to April 7th, the park reached 170,821 people via Facebook alone.
For stories, pictures and videos of the Shiloh Sesquicentennial, please visit, www.facebook.com/Shilohnmp, www.flickr.com/photos/ShilohNPS 1862, http://www.twitter.com/ShilohNPS, http://www.youtube.com/shilohnpsl862.