On this day in 1862, the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh, ended. Shiloh is fascinating for a host of reasons: Grant’s and Sherman’s overconfidence, followed, in short order, by their redemption; the fatal hubris of Sidney Johnston, whose desire for victory overawed his better judgment; Lew Wallace’s lost division (found, for the Union, in the nick of time); and the horrifying number of killed and wounded, 20,000 men either dead or disfigured.

If the Civil War serves as the hinge in our national narrative, Shiloh was one of the hinges — along with Antietam, the fall of Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and the fall of Atlanta — in the war. Shiloh was the moment that northerners and southerners alike learned how terrible the fighting would be. Jim McPherson, in a line that seems to have started a lasting feud with Mark Neely, writes of Shiloh that, it “launched the country onto the floodtide of total war.” I think that statement might be a bit overblown. But there’s little doubt that Shiloh’s 20,000 casualties forever buried the notion that the Civil War would be short and glorious.