The 1862 Battle of Shiloh was the Civil War’s first bloodletting on a scale that would later become representative of the war’s major battles. More Americans perished in the two-day conflict than in all the nation’s previous wars combined. Shiloh was the Confederacy’s first great counteroffensive in the western theater, and the battle also served as the South’s best hope to reverse the tide of battle in the west and save the Southern heartland for the Rebels. Bloody Shiloh, as it became known, occurred as the Union army was making an overland approach toward the Confederate stronghold and strategic railhead in Corinth, Mississippi. The story of how Confederate and Union commanders dealt with the rapidly evolving conflict in a highly complex and ambiguous tactical environment and how their ability (or inability) to adapt quickly and maintain adequate communications through the fluidity of the movements shaped the outcome of this costly clash. Though it was, in many ways, an inconclusive battle, both sides claimed victory on the strategic level. However, it definitively changed the Union perspective on the way the war needed to be waged in the coming months and years.
In this key battle, prominent leadership principles include monitoring organizational capability and instilling/sustaining a performance culture, supporting command decision-making with effective communications and intelligence, creating and maintaining strong mission focus and awareness of alignment with other parts of the organization, making sound decisions with unclear and incomplete information, and collaborating successfully to coordinate activity across interdependent units.