I realize that not everyone grew up in a home where moral values were stressed. One of the values that was stressed greatly was that of being honest and telling the truth. I was always impressed with the need to tell the truth, though I can’t say that I always practiced it – not then, and probably, if truth be told, not today. There are just some things which call for wisdom. For example, if telling the truth were to lead to the death of an innocent person, what would be the right thing to do? Such are the questions that theologians and moralists wrestle with.
But there was a saying in the days of my childhood that I don’t hear much any more, and it goes like this: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” That stuck with me all these years. And when I saw these vines growing up the side of an old barn, I was reminded of that saying. It would be hard to untangle these vines and free the barn…and it is difficult to untangle a web of deceit to get to the truth.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1862, the Civil War exploded in the west as the armies of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston collided at Shiloh, near Pittsburgh Landing in Tennessee. The Battle of Shiloh became one of the bloodiest engagements of the war, and the level of violence shocked North and South alike.
For six months, Yankee troops had been working their way up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Kentucky was firmly in Union hands, and now the Federals controlled much of Tennessee, including the capital at Nashville. Grant scored major victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February, forcing Johnston to gather the scattered Rebel forces at Corinth in northern Mississippi. Grant brought his army, 42,000 strong, to rendezvous with General Don Carlos Buell and his 20,000 troops. Grant’s objective was Corinth, a vital rail center that if captured would give the Union total control of the region. Twenty miles away, Johnston lurked at Corinth with 45,000 soldiers.
Johnston did not wait for Grant and Buell to combine their forces. He advanced on April 3, delayed by rains and muddy roads that also slowed Buell. In the early dawn of April 6, a Yankee patrol found the Confederates poised for battle just a mile from the main Union army. Johnston attacked, driving the surprised bluecoats back near a small church called Shiloh, meaning “place of peace.” Throughout the day, the Confederates battered the Union army, driving it back towards Pittsburgh Landing and threatening to trap it against the Tennessee River. Many troops on both sides had no experience in battle. The chances for a complete Confederate victory diminished as troops from Buell’s army began arriving, and Grant’s command on the battlefield shored up the sagging Union line. In the middle of the afternoon, Johnston rode forward to direct the Confederate attack and was struck in the leg by a bullet, severing an artery and causing him to quickly bleed to death. He became the highest ranking general on either side killed during the war. General Pierre G. T. Beauregard assumed control, and he halted the advance at nightfall. The Union army was driven back two miles, but it did not break.
The arrival of additional troops from Buell’s army provided Grant with reinforcements, while the Confederates were worn out from their march. The next day, Grant pushed the Confederates back to Corinth for a major Union victory.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Artillery barrage and mines created immense noise. In 1917, explosives blowing up beneath the German lines on Messines Ridge at Ypres in Belgium could be heard in London 140 miles (220 km) away.