Assignment 4

I followed the battle path of Colonel Abraham Hare of the USA. I could track the path of Hare from his detailed descriptions: The South pursues the Union, the North withstands continuous attack until ammunition supplies are low, the 18th and 13th infantries retreat, and the 11th retreats. This sequence occurs three times. However, the specifics of where this map is located is more difficult. The closest description to Hare’s location is “[by the] skirt of woods bordering on field.” The next information necessary for drawing a battle map is the location of the surrounding infantries—Hare provides the general location of the 13th and 18th, but it’s difficult to know what the directions were taken relative to. In a map titled “Map showing position of Union Army at Pittsburg Landing before and after the battle 6th and 7th April 1862,” some specific infantries’ starting and ending points were labeled. This source was also helpful in detailing the terrain of the surrounding areas–knowing that the 11th infantry was located near a field can help narrow down where among the Iowa infantry the 11th was located. Many maps showed the general retreat of Union soldiers on that first day; although it is hard to confirm exactly which arrow depicts Hare’s troops, it is confirmed that his strategy was documented. The map mentioned above is primary and was one of the most helpful in locating infantries, rivers and roads that battle reports mentioned. Secondary sources are great for the overall progress of the battle because they compile many battle reports, but terrain and location can be harder to capture years later. The virtual map was most helpful in my understanding of the overall movement of the Battle of Shiloh—seeing the movement of the arrows was great.  Continuing to read battle reports would increase the understanding of why certain retreats occurred and perhaps describe more landmarks to determine where infantries were located. Looking at topographical maps would also show where described hills or valleys are.


Historian Statement: As more battle reports are read, more information about the battle can be gathered; however, more information also means more contradictions and more facts to reconcile. Even the account of a battle by men in the same infantry would vary: some may focus on the enemy, others on the terrain or the wounded. Some primary sources can be unreliable depending on the state of the soldier who wrote the report. Maps may be read that were written before the battle to show planned attacks and others may have been written after to show the actual pathway of the infantry—if that distinction isn’t made in the title, it may be difficult for historians to piece together info even from the same person. With no “right answer” it would be challenging to know which information should be regarded as usable and which should be discounted.


6 thoughts on “Assignment 4”

  1. Similar to you, I found the primary maps to be very useful in finding the specific landmarks mentioned in the reports. As time passes names change as well as the landscape making newer maps somewhat harder to follow when going off a first hand report written freshly after the battle took place.

  2. I thought what you said about gathering more information was interesting- more contradictions. There are so many different ways to tell the same story. I agree with you in that it would create difficulties for historians to gather accurate information.

  3. Originally, in my blog post, I wrote that having more reports to read would be better to confirm what another report was saying, but I think you have a point that this could lead to more difficulties in tracking a unit. Even if one report contradicts another, it is hard to know which is the true account, especially when you take in factors like the condition of the solider writing the report or how long after the battle the report was written.

  4. I fully agree with your historical statement. With differing narratives within various infantries and maps not always following a single narrative as well, it is difficult to determine exactly what the “right answer” may be. This is why I find history to be more subjective rather than objective due to the fact that there are so many resources that can build upon how we view history.

  5. In your post, I think you made a very good statement that different narratives can tell different stories on the same thing. The reason is that they add some personal or subjective feelings towards the same story. Therefore, we may read different stories on the same fact. It is very difficult for us to determine who told the truth or whose stories are the most close to the truth.

  6. I think your point about how having more sources can actually lead to discrepancies is very interesting. It is often assumed that the more information we know about a topic the better but in a case like the one you suggested it would in fact hinder historians work. The physical or mental state of whoever is reporting the event is also a very important consideration.

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