The Battle of Shiloh, which took place on April 6-7, 1862, is one of the Civil War's most momentous fights, but perhaps one of the least understood. The standard story of the engagement reads that Union troops were surprised in their camps at dawn on April 6. Defeat seemed certain, but Union Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss saved the day by holding a sunken road some 3 feet deep. Thanks to the tenacious fighting in that area, it came to be known as the Hornet's Nest.
Prentiss eventually capitulated, leaving Rebel commander General Albert Sidney Johnston in a position to drive on to victory. General Johnston, however, was soon mortally wounded and replaced by General P.G.T. Beauregard, which cost the Confederates vital momentum. Beauregard made the inept decision to call off the Confederate attacks, and the next day Union counterattacks dealt Rebel hopes a crushing blow.