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.