The Hornet’s NestLegacy
Almost as soon as the battle ended, key partici-pants began describing the action at theHornet’s Nest as the central event of the battle.Defenders of the area, such as Brigadier GeneralBenjamin Prentiss, openly argued that theirstand made against so many brave Confederateattacks held the Union line long enough forarmy commander Major General Ulysses S.Grant to establish a last line of defense.Eventually, a park preserved the battlefield,including the Hornet’s Nest. The area thengained tangible status when park commissionersplaced first wooden and then iron road signsmarking prominent places on the battlefield.Still standing even today, the iron road sign onthe Eastern Corinth Road marks the “Hornet’sNest: Center of Union Line.”Historians have expanded on the veteran’sremembrances and continue to argue the im-portance of the Hornet’s Nest. Almost all themajor monographs on the battle, as well asmedia presentations such as
Shiloh: Portrait of aBattle
, focus on the action that took place in thecenter of the battlefield. These works evenportray the action in the area as a series of Con-federate attacks across the open Duncan farm-land. When these attacks failed, they argue, theConfederates had to assemble the largestconcentration of artillery ever to appear onthe North American continent. In portrayingthe Hornet’s Nest as the savior of Grant’sarmy, historians made it an American icon.
The Hornet’s Nest
There is perhaps no more famous Civil Waricon than the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh. Rankingwith Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, BloodyLane at Antietam, and the Stone Wall atFredericksburg, Shiloh’s Hornet’s Nest is wellknown to even the most amateur of Civil Warbuffs.Shiloh’s Hornet’s Nest lies in the center of thebattlefield and was the scene of heavy combaton both days of the battle. On the first day,elements of three Union divisions manned theline along a little-used farm road that ranthrough the J.R. Duncan land. Duncan and hisfamily worked a small cotton field that borderedthe road to the south. With its open fields of fireand road cover, there is little wonder that theDuncan plot became one of the most importantlocalities on the battlefield.Heavy fighting raged in the area of the Hornet’sNest on the first day, with no less that eightdistinct Confederate attacks turned back by thedetermined defenders of the Sunken Road.Attesting to the fury in the area, Confederates sonamed the location because, they said, theenemy’s bullets sounded like swarms of angryhornets.
The terms “Hornet’s Nest” and “Sunken Road”are loosely used to mean the same geographicalarea. In reality, they are much different entities.The Sunken Road, meaning Duncan’s farmroad, extended for three-fifths of a mile, con-necting the Corinth Road and the River Road.The actual Hornet’s Nest, by comparison, refersto the nearly six-hundred-yard stretch of roadin the center. This position, atop a small riseand fronting an almost impenetrable under-growth, became the target of the numerousConfederate attacks on April 6. The terms didnot come into regular use until after the CivilWar, however. The name “Hornet’s Nest” pre-dates that of the “Sunken Road.” Confederatesthemselves used the term “Hornet’s Nest,” andby the 1880s, veteran groups used the nameregularly. There was even an annual “Hornet’sNest Brigade” reunion. The term “SunkenRoad” did not come into general use until afterCongress established the national military parkin 1894.
Use a “short-hand” version of the site name here (e.g. Palo AltoBattlefield not Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Site) set in29/29 B Frutiger bold.