An Inexpensive Day or Weekend Trip From Sumner County, TN: Shiloh National Military Park
If you're looking for an inexpensive family outing that's less than one day's drive from Sumner County, or really from the entire Nashville area, consider Shiloh, Tennessee. The big attraction is the Shiloh Civil War National Military Park and alone would be well worth the short 2-3 hour drive and small admission fee. Not far away is The Tennessee River Museum and the $5, 7-day admission to the battlefield also covers the admission fee to the museum, truly a bargain!
Other attractions in the area include the Corinth Interpretive Center and Pickwick Landing State Park which has tent and RV campsites with water, electric and bathhouse shower availability. Pickwick Landing is located on a large, scenic lake offering substantial fishing, swimming and boating opportunities.
For this review I decided to do a weekend of tent camping at Pickwick Landings State Park, opting to tow my small boat to do some fishing at the lake. I also loaded up my 18 speed and bicycle trailer with the intention of seeing the battlefield sights by bike with my five year old daughter in tow. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip but perhaps the scheduling was a bit ambitious; we didn't get to spend the time at the battlefield needed to see everything. We did cover the main attractions of the Shiloh Battlefield in less than a day: the battlefield cemetery, The Bloody Pond, The Hornet's Nest, The Sunken Road, etc. but only because of the bicycle, if you're walking, allow at least the better portion of a full day just to cover the "must see" stops. Don't forget your camera, and binoculars are helpful also. Based on my observation, most people choose to drive the 12.7 mile, 20 stop auto tour. But if you have time I'd highly recommend walking or bicycling to experience the full impact of the beauty and awesomeness of this park.
Having visited many Civil War battlefields, on my list Shiloh ranks second only to Gettysburg, PA in terms of scope, size and quality of the presentation. In 1862, nearly 3,500 Union and Confederate soldiers died here in the space of just two days, April 6th and 7th, each man fighting for a cause, rightly or wrongly, that he believed in enough to give his life for. And when you're properly plugged in, moving at the right pace, Shiloh truly reflects and imparts a sense of the nearly unbelievable, heroic battle that occurred on these sacred grounds.
I love Civil War sites because I'm fascinated with the concept that healthy men & boys with most of their life in front of them would choose to pick up a gun or a flag and march into flying bullets rather than running; their desire to see their beliefs prevail and their support of their fellow soldiers, trumping their fear of death. Big long lines of men firing at each other, flags flying, brother against brother in some cases, sometimes even sword meeting sword with punishing, desperate blows, one mistake all that separated each opponent from moving on to the next world...
They say history repeats itself but it will never happen quite like that again, and no doubt that's a positive thing, for these conflicts between the Northern and the Southern armies were everything good and everything bad about mankind playing out on just a few acres of soil: at once majestic, magnificent, courageous, noble, fascinating, repugnant, ferocious and horrible. In the right place, and Shilo is indeed the right place, you can sense all that.
How a person could walk this battlefield, contemplate the great and horrific event that happened in the very spot they stand, and not feel a sadness and affinity for the brave men who gave their last measure of devotion to their cause, I really can't imagine.
The Civil War is what forged the United States into the great nation we became afterwards and Shilo was no small part of that. Go to this place. Walk these fields with your children. Give them a lifelong, tremendous gift that is nearly inescapable here: a deep and abiding appreciation of not only what happened at The Battle of Shiloh, but of history itself.
While a journey to Shilo would make an interesting day trip, you'd definitely need to limit the number of activities. If possible, plan your visit to coincide with the living history exhibits that are offered throughout the year. I'd recommend at least a three day minimum, more if you can, to really enjoy all this battlefield and this wonderful area has to offer!
Shilo National Military Park in Shilo, TN
Open 8 am to 5 pm daily, year round, except closed Christmas day,
A family pass for a single private vehicle is $5.00 and the pass is valid for 7 Days
An individual pass is $3.00, and also is valid for 7 Days
Tennessee River Museum in Savannah, Tn
Open daily 9 am - 5 pm except Sunday 1-5 pm
Phone: (800) 552-FUNN
The orange admission ticket to Shiloh National Military Park also provides free admission to the museum.
Pickwick Landing State Park in Pickwick Dam,TN
Campsites: $20 per night.
And after you experience Shilo, try the best of Civil War Battlefields:
Further Reading About The Civil War And Introducing History To Children:
How To Make Your Own Civil War Reenacment Scene features modules containing information about The Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburgh Address, Reeacting, and Civil War Projects for Children.