My first trip to Shiloh was an amazing one indeed! With fellow members of the Chickamauga study group, I made my first visit to this iconic battlefield. Rolling in on a Wednesday afternoon, I did the basic tourist option of taking the driving tour so as to familiarize myself to the park and the terrain. I was immediately impressed with Shiloh's monument and tablet system, its wooded areas with plenty of open fields, and the pristine feel of the park. Being where it is, the tourist traffic is not heavy, and the recreational users few, allowing the group to really immerse itself into all that it is Shiloh. Even the visitation on Saturday seemed to be very low. I understand that Shiloh sees only 300,000 visitors per year, so that would explain the dearth of tourists.
Our first two days of touring, led by David Powell, covered the April 6th fighting. Tour day one of April 6th was a focus on the Confederate left, with the opening at Fraley Field to the Sherman/McClernand counterattack. Tour day two started with Spain Field and ended at Dill Branch Ravine. Dave provided a fantastic tour, and his knowledge of Shiloh is top notch. Our third touring day was spent with Shiloh author Tim Smith, and we walked the Confederate defensive line for April 7th, as well as covered Lew Wallace's route from Crump to the battlefield. Tim is the epitome of a tour guide having the ability to mix details with a humorous delivery that I could listen to for days. Having him in my car for the Wallace route was grand, and he played along with our antics with gusto.
We enjoyed some meals at various places in the area. The Corner Restaurant, near the battlefield, was very good, although we overwhelmed them on Saturday and service was a bit off. Try their banana pudding! Hagy's was okay. Everyone says to go there, and we did, but I believe it is overpriced. I was told the catfish there was no better than the Corner Restaurant (I don't do catfish myself), and Hagy's is about twice the price. Smith (not Smith's, and no relation) in Corinth had great food, a cool atmosphere, a nice beer list, and terrible service (our waitress was okay, but getting our food was an adventure, and waters took about an hour to arrive at the table).
On the way home I spent over three hours walking all of Parker's Crossroads with one of the guys from the group. He had not been there before, and I had only walked about 50% of the trails on my visit there last year during a pouring rain. It is a very well interpreted, maybe over interpreted, battlefield. I say over interpreted as much of the information shared on one interpretive panel would appear on one or more other panels. But they do have about fifty panels to read so the details of the battle are definitely covered. They also have an impressive amount of artillery (some pieces from Shiloh) and a wonderful visitor's center.