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Airmen from the T-6 squadrons on Columbus Air Force Base pose in front of Fraley Field on April 20. Fraley field was where the battle of Shiloh began, as Union soldiers came into contact with tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Stephanie Englar)
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Learning from the past

Posted 5/13/2013   Updated 5/13/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Stephanie Englar
14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

5/13/2013 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- It was early, just before dawn. There was no light over the horizon when a Union patrol group encountered 45,000 Confederate soldiers. The soldiers belonged to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, who ordered them to attack the Union forces. The Union soldiers were taken by surprise, and their forces were driven back to a small church called "Shiloh". The date was April 6, 1862.

For six months leading up to the attack, the Union soldiers had been working their way up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. They had many victories including Fort Henry in February. These victories forced Johnston to gather up remaining troops from various disbanded groups along Northern Mississippi.

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant led 42,000 Union soldiers and had intentions of joining forces with Gen. Don Carlos Buell and his 20,000 soldiers and taking over Corinth, a major rail line. Johnston never gave them that opportunity. When the Union forces were pushed back toward Shiloh, it began one of the bloodiest engagements the Civil War had seen.

Flash forward to today, and you can step foot on the Earth where many soldiers saw battle for the first time in their lives. You can see the place where fear, anguish, bravery, and even courage were felt by tens of thousands of troops.

On April 20, Airmen from the T-6 squadrons on Columbus Air Force Base visited Shiloh Battlefield to see the history of the region first hand.

"It was interesting to see the area, to see the thick brush that the soldiers fought in," said 1st Lt. Brooklynn Mauss, 14th Flying Training Wing Executive Officer, who attended the trip.

The group of over 20 Airmen were able to travel the different locations where battles were fought and experience places such as Fraley Field and the Hornet's Nest firsthand.

Fraley Field was the site where the battle began. It is the place where the Union soldiers realized that the Confederate soldiers were nearby and ready to act.

"It was interesting to see how close the Confederate Army was to the outlying camps of the Union Army the night before the two armies stumbled upon each other," said 1st Lt. Tyler Olmstead, 41st Flying Training Squadron. "Actually seeing the proximity where the two armies were encamped was very shocking. The steep ravines and thick, wooded areas where the fighting took place were also remarkable."

During the trip, the group was also able to go to the Hornet's Nest, and see first-hand how it got its name. The Hornet's Nest is the location that lies in the center of the battlefield. It was the area that saw the heaviest amount of combat. Soldiers named the location The Hornet's Nest, saying that the enemy's bullets sounded like many angry hornets.

Shiloh Battlefield is not the only Civil War location visited by Columbus AFB Airmen. Last year, the 41st Flying Training Squadron travelled to Gettysburg to learn more about the history there.

"I think it's important to study history because it's our history, American history," said Mauss. "We need to learn from it."

The squadrons sent out read-ahead material for the Airmen to look over before going.

"The interesting thing about Shiloh Battlefield is that all locations and events are verified by people who were there," said Mauss. "Our tour guide was very knowledgeable too, he did a great job."

The squadrons go on trips to nearby locations every spring to learn about different battles from our history. They find it important to learn about the historical events, and the leaders that made history.

"As volunteers in the profession of arms, it is imperative that we recognize the sacrifices of others that have gone before us," said Olmstead.

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