Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top Shiloh books

The folks over at the Shiloh discussion board are doing their own top Shiloh books, perhaps inspired by the recent Gettysburg blog carnival. Brett at TOWOC asked if I would be interested in participating and so here I am. Instead of a top 10 they went with a top 7.

1 Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 by O. Edward Cunningham
I'd often run into references of this manuscript as the premier study of Shiloh. Eventually I got tired of hearing about it and got a copy of the dissertation thru interlibrary loan, and I made my own copy. A few years later Tim Smith and Gary Joiner edited the dissertation for the University of Tennessee Press so now we can all get our hands on this book. And it is a great book. My fault with the dissertation was a lack of maps but that has been fixed in the UT printing.

2 Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged by DW Reed
Reed was the first historian at Shiloh and this book is really the first history of the battle. Once again UT Press has made Shiloh easier to research as they recently reprinted this book. Copies of this book were included in most of the state monument commission books so it isn't too hard to find the text. But it is now much nicer to not worry about potentially damaging a 100 year old book. The text is a little dry as Reed was more concerned with laying out facts about troop movements than weaving an interesting anecdote filled story. Reed is also responsible for the cast iron tablets on the battlefield today.

3 Shiloh: The battle that Changed the Civil War by Larry Daniel
Until Cunningham's dissertation was finally published Daniel's book was my favorite of the three modern works on the battle. It doesn't have all the detail that Sword's book (see below) has but it places the battle in the context of the war better than Sword did.

4 Seeing the Elephant: Raw Recruits and the Battle of Shiloh by Joseph Allan Frank and George A. Reaves
Shiloh is one of the few battles that has large numbers of raw soldiers seeing combat for the first time. Even in other battles, like Perryville or Stones River, that feature many new troops there were also quite a few veterans in the army. In fact outside of Bull Run I'm not sure there is another battle that features so many fresh troops without a sizable veteran contingent. Frank and Reaves sifted through the archives at the park to describe the experience Shiloh's raw troops had. Its not a blow by blow account but is a wonderful way to get the feel for the soldiers' experience.

5 Untold Story of Shiloh by Tim Smith
In this volume Smith tries to fill in some of the gaps in the story of Shiloh. Some of this involves attacking the persistent myths, some of it is simply telling the stories that got shifted to the side.

6 Shiloh, Shells and Artillery Units by George Witham
I consult this book quite often when I need information on artillery units at Shiloh. It is not a narrative but more of an encyclopedia. For every unit at the battle Witham will say what type of cannon they had, how many men were there, how many casualties they suffered, list the officers and then usually have a portion of the Official Records to explain what they did at the battle. There are also many pictures of the different types of shells as well as many pictures of cannon on the field. Some batteries get better treatment as there was more information available for Witham to use, and some entries also include pictures of the men who served the guns.

7 Shiloh: Bloody April by Wiley Sword
I was really conflicted over which book to list, Sword's or James Lee McDonough's "Shiloh: In Hell Before Night." Both are very good but in different ways. McDonough provides a good overview and deals with the battle from the brigade level on up. Sword goes down to the regimental level. I went with Sword in this spot because I've probably consulted it more often than McDonough over the years.

There are many other great Shiloh books out there. I'm fond of:
This Great Battlefield of Shiloh by Tim Smith (focuses on the formation of the park up to 1933)
Shiloh: A Novel by Shelby Foote (a great book I end up reading once a year)
Shiloh and Corinth: Sentinels of Stone by Timothy Isbell
Eyewitnesses at the Battle of Shiloh by David Logsdon
War College Guide to the Battle of Shiloh by Jay Luvaas, Steven Bowman and Leonard Fullenkamp

I also am interested in reading The Shiloh Campaign edited by Steven Woodworth. Its a collection of essays on the campaign that was published earlier this year and I still have not picked up a copy (shame on me).

1 comment:

Tammy@savasbeatie said...

Thank you for mentioning "Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1832" by Edward Cunningham.

We appreciate your adding this fine book to your list.

This title is now available in paperback. To order call us at (916)941-6896 or mail to:
Savas Beatie LLC
PO Box 4527
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

Tammy Hall
Sacramento, CA