After the fall of Donelson, the Confederates had gone down the river to Corinth. Here Beauregard and other commanders came with troops until there were forty thousand of them.
Grant had been closely following, and had halted at a place about twenty miles from Corinth. There had been some rumor that the Confederates were about to attack the Union soldiers, but this did not seem probable; and, hourly expecting more troops, the Union army was quietly sleeping, all unconscious of the terrible day to come. But all this time, the Confederates, forty thousand strong, were hidden in the forests all about, only waiting for daylight to begin their bloody work.
At daybreak, the Union soldiers of one camp were aroused by yells from the enemy. In a moment all was hurry and flurry. The news spread from camp to camp. Grant, who had the day before gone to a town near by for food for his army, heard the firing, and galloped to the battle grounds. Knowing that troops were coming to his aid, and could not be far away, he sent messengers post haste to hurry them up. If only they could hold out till help came, Grant was sure they yet might win.
The aim of the Confederates was to drive the Unionists down to the river, where, as there were no boats, they must either surrender or drown. Beauregard, the plucky little black-eyed general with the white hair, you remember, kept driving up and down his lines, crying, "Drive the Yankees into the river! drive the Yankees into the river!"
All day long this terrible battle raged; but when darkness fell, Beauregard gave orders for his men to rest till morning. A fortunate thing was this for the Union soldiers, for had he kept up the fight, he might indeed have driven the Yankees into the river.
Beauregard instead, however, withdrew to his tent, and there spent the night writing a full account of the brilliant victory so sure to come in the early morning.
But alas for his pretty plan! even while he was writing, the looked-for troops had arrived in Grant's camp. And when the morning sun arose, it looked upon the Union soldiers, fifty thousand strong, drawn up in battle array, ready to renew the fight.
It was plain enough what the end must be. But Beauregard was no coward. He made a brave show of fighting, although he knew he was being driven back with every charge. At noon, he ordered his forces to retreat, and soon the Union flag was waving over the "Battle-field of Shiloh."