Battlefield tour tracks Civil WarA longtime interest in Civil War history combined with a family bonding experience was a unique moment for North Hudson’s Daryl Standafer.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
A longtime interest in Civil War history combined with a family bonding experience was a unique moment for North Hudson’s Daryl Standafer.
Standafer, his son Greg, 43, and grandson Jackson, a seventh-grader, of Whitehall, made a late August trip to Civil War battle sites mostly in Tennessee.
They visited places with such historic names as Shiloh, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga and Fort Donelson on a one-week whirlwind journey.
“Greg and I always had interest in the Civil War,” said Standafer during a conversation last week. “Jackson was interested because of a school project.”
“I had a great-great-grandfather who fought and was wounded at Lookout Mountain,” Standafer added.
They drove in Standafer’s truck straight throughout from western Wisconsin to Corinth, Miss., just south of the Tennessee border.
“The battle was supposed to be at Corinth, where there was a railroad crossing. Grant (Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant) had his troops at Shiloh, 22 miles north on the Tennessee River waiting for re-enforcements,” Standafer explained.
Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, however, decided to attack the Federal Camps around Shiloh Church. The battle occurred April 6-7, 1862. Bad weather delayed Johnson’s advance. A one-day march north turned into a three-day affair.
Johnston attacked some 40,000 Federal troops and gained the upper hand early at skirmishes whose names have become imbedded in history such as the Hornets’ Nest and Peach Orchard.
The Confederates had the first day advantage, but Johnson was struck by a stray bullet and bled to death. Union re-enforcement arrived overnight and forced a Confederate retreat.
Johnston was the highest ranking American military officer ever killed in action. Both sides lost a combined total of 23,746 men killed.
President Abraham Lincoln’s brother-in-law died at Shiloh fighting for the South, Standafer said.
“There were more casualties in the Battle of Shiloh than all the American wars combined up to that time,” he said.
He said Shiloh brought focus to the war that had been something of a curiosity and not taken seriously by the American people up to that point.
Standafer said he and Greg had read all the books on the history of Shiloh but standing on the battle ground was different. “When you get there you have no sense of dimension. Then you realize the battle area is huge, covering many miles.
“Jackson kept a journal and took a lot of pictures for his school project,” said Standafer. “He took the history seriously.”
“Union soldiers who died at Shiloh were buried on the spot during the battle but later placed in marked graves at a national cemetery. The Confederate troops remain buried in mass graves,” said Standafer.
He said there is only one Confederate Monument at Shiloh while there are dozens for Union troops including several units from Wisconsin.
The Standafer clan spent two days at Shiloh, then moved on to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park where a more complex battle took place in September 1863.
The Confederate Army took the early advantage at Chickamauga Creek and forced the Union soldiers to retreat to Chattanooga. The Confederates set up a blockade of the city with artillery mounted on the high ground including Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. The tide turned in November and the Confederates were forced off Lookout Mountain and retreated to Georgia.
The Standafer group moved on to Stones River National Battlefield between Nashville and Murfreesboro where Confederate and Union troops clashed before the Chattanooga campaign.
Their final stop was at Fort Donelson National Battlefield near the Kentucky border where Confederate artillery turned back a Union gunboat fleet attack in February 1862. But Grant’s army prevailed and forced a surrender of southern troops.
“Fort Donelson was where Gen. U.S. Grant got his nickname ‘Unconditional Surrender’ Grant,” Standafer said. Confederate General Simon Buckner asked Grant for the terms of surrender and the Union general was credited with saying, “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.”
The Standafers then headed home. “It was a long way home,” he said. “But it was an enjoyable trip especially with my son and grandson, three generations together.”
Standafer has three sons, five grandsons and five granddaughters. If the tradition of family bonding summer vacations continues, he is faced with quite a bit of travel planning in the future.