Friday, September 19, 2008

Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged

The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged by David W. Reed
Reed was the first Shiloh park historian and this is the history of the battlefield he created. Enough said. Buy this book.

Oh wait you want more information? Okay. Reed's book is one of the single most detailed resources on Shiloh you can find. And until recently you really couldn't find it. Reed's first edition came out in 1902, followed by a revised edition in 1909 and the final revision in 1913. Very few copies of the book were printed and finding one is a rare feat. I saw one on ebay a few years ago and held one in the special collections section of a Wisconsin library many years a go. Luckily though it wasn't quite that scarce. Every (Northern) state that had a Shiloh monument commission included a copy of Reed's story in their book, so I own 3-4 copies of it and have looked at many others. But now the book is readily available to anyone.

One of the huge benefits of this edition (a copy of the 1913 version) is that the four maps are included on a CD in pdf format. In the various copies I own or have seen the maps are always in sad condition as they were usually folded many times and in a pocket at the back of the book. Folding and unfolding over the last 90 or so years has made them very brittle. Now though with the CD you'll always have a nice copy. Plus you can print them out and make notes on them, carry them into the field and generally do things you'd never have been able to do otherwise. This was a very wise decision.

If you've been to Shiloh you have read Reed's story; its on the iron tablets that dot the field. Reed wrote the text for those too. In many respects it is hard to experience Shiloh without having Reed influence what you see, read or do.

Timothy B. Smith has provided an introduction that helps explain Reed's influence on the various schools of historiography of Shiloh. In brief Reed was the first to highlight the actions in the Sunken Road and make that one of the main stories of the battle. It is no coincidence that Reed was in the Sunken Road when he fought at Shiloh. Later schools of thought have tried to shift the focus to other events but Reed's original thrust has dominated. When Smith was at the Rocky Mountain Civil War Roundtable's symposium in April he said that the Reed map on the wall of the visitor center has spots that have been touched by enough visitors as to be rubbed off. These spots are the areas Reed highlighted, Sunken Road and the Hornets' Nest, plus obviously Shiloh Church and Pittsburg Landing. Johnston's death site or Sherman's fighting at the Crossroads have not been rubbed off, though there are scholars that support those areas as key to the battle instead of the Sunken Road.

This is a wonderful book that now everyone can use to better track the movements of units around the battlefield. As I said at the beginning of this post, buy this book. You won't be disappointed.

PS: If you've ever wanted one of those old monument commission books you can find them on ebay relatively cheaply. The Pennsylvania and Ohio editions seem to be the most plentiful. I've never paid more than $50 for one and have lucked into some bargains too, I got my Pennsylvania copy for about $10. The commission books for Chickamauga are even more plentiful while I've hardly ever seen a Vicksburg copy. Of course Antietam and Gettysburg are out there too but I've never bid on those.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a relative of John Putnam and have just begun documenting our family history.
The monument of the tree which was built to replace the tree where he died and was buried under is quite moving and can be found on the NPS site for the Shiloh Battle.