Description of the Battle
After his easy victories at Forts Henry and Donelson the preceding February, Union General Grant pressed on with his force of 60,000 inexperienced troopers south on the Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing. His goal was the vital rail junction in Corinth, Mississippi, and thence south on the Mississippi River to Vicksburg.
Confederate General Albert S. Johnston, however, had other plans. The bivouacked, inexperienced Yankee troops were a prime target for a frontal and flanking assault and an opportunity to destroy Grant’s army. Johnston struck on the morning of April 6 and quickly overran the unprepared Yankees, who had not even posted patrols. General Johnston was struck in the leg by a stray bullet and bled to death. His second in command, General Beauregard, took command, but failed to cut off the Yankee retreat to the river.
Grant and Sherman rallied, reorganized and held off the furious Confederate assault until darkness and exhaustion caused both sides to stop and rest. The following day, the Yankees surprised Beauregard with reinforcements and a furious counterattack, and Beauregard grudgingly withdrew, leaving the field to the Yankees.