For all the ferocity and blood-letting of Civil War battles, the fact is that few were ever decisive. Why were victorious troops unable to achieve complete, total victories at famous battles like Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Chattanooga?
Bad luck and bad decisions played a major part.
When it came to Shiloh, the Union army was not able to achieve complete victory due to several factors. One was the fact that the Confederate army surprised the Union side with a retrenchment. It took a while for Grant to mount his own offensive and then he did not fortify his position. The South attacked at an unexpected time giving them the advantage and taking out many Union soldiers. The Confederate army was able to get a strategic advantage that hurt the Union army. It was only the arrival of reinforcements that gave the Union army the victory. Surprise moves on the part of the Confederacy prevented complete and ultimate victory.
Chancellorsville was considered one of Lee’s greatest victories for the South. Yet it would cost the South quite a bit. Most of the reasons it could not be a complete victory for Lee was disorganization that hit his troops and nature in the form of not enough daylight hours to finish the attack. Jackson’s injury also added to the reasons for not being able to achieve complete victory.
Chattanooga was a rather decisive victory for the Union army. It was not a complete victory for the Union as it took a lot from them and the Confederate army used the Chattanooga geography to help them keep a strong presence in the area. It would take quite some time for the Union army to completely take the area.
The war was far from being lopsided. The Union might have won the day in the end, but it took a lot of hits and never really was able to sweep the Confederate army under the rug. Both sides had great leaders and soldiers who fought hard for what they believed in. It showed in the many encounters that had no clear victory without costing the lives of many men.