| During the morning of April 6, 1862, the thrust of the initial Confederate attack had pushed the Federal positions back toward Tennessee. Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss, whose camp the Rebels had overrun early on, was forced back a mile to a strong position along a sunken road.
Prentiss's line, which included the greenest of the Union troops, was extended to his right by brigades of Brigadier General W.H.L. Wallace, and, to his left, by regiments of Brigadiet General Stephen Hurlbut's division. For several hours, the Federals standing or crouching behind the natural bank of the road, fought off almost a dozen determined Rebel attacks on their position which was dubbed by the Rebels "The Hornet's Nest" because of the intensity of fire stirred up every time an assault was mounted on it.
By the end of the fighting in this area, there were so many dead Rebel's in the field in front of the sunken road, it was said it was possible to walk across it stepping on bodies without touching the ground.
In the early afternoon of Arpil 6th, Prentiss's Federal's were entrenched in the sunken farm road, screened in front by dense thickets. There they fought off the last of four attacks made by Colonel Randel Gibson's brigade of Major General Braxton Bragg's division. The Confederates had to advance across an open field exposed to Union artillery. As they neared the thicket, rifle fire poured into their ranks.
At about 17:00 Prentiss finally was outflanked, he surrendered with 2,200 men. However, their brave stand had forestalled the Rebel advance and inflicted heavy casualties. In fact, the Union surrender served to break the momentum of the Rebel attack, the push in this sector was halted while the transfer of prisoners was organized. By the time the Rebels resumed their offensive, Grant had formed another defensive line, which held off the Rebels until nightfall.
The Confederate soldiers at the battle of Shiloh named the area along the Sunken Road the "Hornet's Nest" because of the heavy fire they had to face there. Gen. Daniel Ruggles witnessed eleven unsuccessful attacks and then gathered all the artillary he could find - 62 cannon in all - and opened fire on the Union line. With this aid, they were successful in capturing General Prentiss.
Fascinating Fact: The 62 cannon massed at the Hornets' Nest was the largest concentration of artillery yet to be assembled in an American war. The Battle of Shiloh was the largest battle fought on American soil up to that time.