The Deadly Malady of Overconfidence
Secretary of War Stanton was so optimistic about Union military prospects and victory over the south that on Thursday, April 3, 1862 he issued General Order No. 33, which stated that “the recruiting service for volunteers will be discontinued in every state from this date" (Eugene Murdock, Ohio’s Bounty System in the Civil War, Columbus: Ohio State).
Three days later, on the beautiful Sunday morning of April 6, 1862, the Confederates surprisingly and ferociously attacked the Union army encamped at Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River, near a little Methodist Episcopal Chapel called Shiloh. The ensuing two day Battle of Shiloh killed more American soldiers than the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the American-Mexican War combined. The intense fighting spirit of the Rebels shocked Union commanders, and Shiloh was the beginning of the North's realization that the Civil War would neither be civil nor short. Reversing General Order No. 33, the United States continued the recruiting service for volunteer soldiers for an additional three years. By the end of the Civil War in 1865 over 620,000 soldiers had died.
Today I stood at the Shiloh battlefield and reflected on the great battle that occurred here on April 6 and 7, 1862 and I was reminded that of all the deadly maladies we face as human beings, overconfidence might be the worst. Confidence in God sounds like "If it be His will," but confidence in ourselves sounds a great deal like Stanton's General Order No. 33.