Shiloh Campaign and Battle of Shiloh

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Shiloh Campaign and Battle of Shiloh

Shiloh Campaign Battle of Shiloh Battlefield US Army War College Study Results Analysis Civil War Battle Position Field Maps Troops Soldiers Strategy Tactics Organization Reconnaissance Attack Counterattack Defense Flank Federal Confederate Leadership Conclusion Attack Assault Lesson Plan Planning Aftermath Outcome
The Campaign and Battle of Shiloh
by Major Eben Swift
General Staff, U.S. Army War College
Lecture presented to the U.S. Army War College
February 8, 1910

Battle of Shiloh Campaign Battlefield Map
Civil War Shiloh Map of Battle.jpg
Civil War Shiloh Campaign Map : Shiloh Civil War Battle Map

FEBRUARY 1, 1862

The Federal troops were posted along the Ohio from Bird's Point to Louisville. The Confederates from Columbus, by Forts Henry and Donelson, to Bowling Green and Munfordsville.

The Confederates were commanded by Albert Sydney Johnston. The Federals were under two commands, Halleck at Cairo and Buell at Louisville.

The idea of piercing the Confederate defensive line by the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers seems to belong to Buell.


Grant captured Fort Henry on the 6th and Fort Donelson on the 16th, assisted by the fleet under Commodore Foote.

The effect was remarkable. Polk evacuated Columbus and Johnston fell back through Nashville and finally to Corinth through northern Alabama. Thus all of Kentucky and most of Tennessee fell into the hands of the Federals.

Still more decisive results might have followed if Grant had moved to the east, joined with Buell, and attacked Johnston, or if he had moved to the west against Polk, but the divided commands were probably largely responsible.

The Confederate formed a new line of defense on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad without molestation by Grant. Halleck then decided to break the Confederate line once more, this time in the vicinity of Florence. Grant was ordered to send General Sherman up the river in boats and C. E Smith to Savannah. Meanwhile Buell had been transferred to Halleck's command.


Sherman found the country flooded by the spring rains and stopped at Pittsburg Landing which was the only good landing place above water. It was a shipping point for Corinth, 22 miles to the southwest, where large forces of Confederates were known to be concentrating. Halleck ordered Buell to Savannah from Nashville.


Two divisions were camped at Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing). Buell's advanced troops reached Duck River.

Beauregard came as adviser and assistant to Johnston. Bragg's corps joined from Mobile. Van Dorn was ordered up from Arkansas.


Grant remained at Savannah with headquarters. He had one division under Lewis Wallace at Crumps Landing and four divisions under Sherman, W. H. L. Wallace, Prentiss, Hurlbut and McClernand on the Shiloh plateau, between Lick Creek and Owl Creek, at the west of the Landing.

On the other hand, the Confederate Army was scattered from Burnsville to Bethel [Tennessee].


The Confederate commander learned of the advance of Buell and that he would be at Savannah in a few days, so he planned to attack Grant before he could be reinforced. At 1 A.M. the order was issued for the concentration of the army at Mickey's, 14 miles from Corinth and 8 miles from the Landing, on the next day, so as to attack on the morning of the 5th.

As the order was very long, some 1500 words, it could not be issued before the movement began, so it was explained verbally to the 3 corps commanders who were in Corinth. The army was to concentrate on Mickey's. Two corps less 1 division were to march by the Bark Road with an interval of a half hour of time, but a third corps was to be interpolated between the two corps. After reaching Mickey's the command would be corked up, with only one outlet in the direction of the enemy.


The Confederate concentration was delayed. The 14 miles between Corinth and Mickey's were not covered. Hardee's corps left Corinth at 3 P.M., April 3 by Ridge Road; at 7:30 A.M., April 4 his corps had passed through Mickey's.

Bragg's corps did not get through Mickey's till 4:30 P.M. on the afternoon of April 5.

Polk's corps was under arms from 3 A.M. till 2 P.M. on the 5th April on the Ridge Road waiting for Bragg's column to pass.

Breckinridge marched from Burnsville to the loop in 2 days with unobstructed roads.

As a result the time for attack was postponed. During the day the army was formed in 3 lines about 1 1/2 miles from the Federal camps, on a front of 2000 yards.

At noon the leading division [Nelson's] of Buell's army reached Savannah.


The Position

The Federal army was scattered about in isolated camps. A superior enemy was known to be twenty-two miles away. There was no defensive line, no point of assembly, no proper outpost, no one to give orders in the absence of the regular commander, whose headquarters were nine miles away. The greenest troops were in the most exposed position. Sherman had three brigades on the right and one on the left, with an interval of several miles.

The Field

The field of battle was triangular in shape, consisting of between three and four thousand acres of plateau, about 80 feet above the river. The surface was broken by many deep ravines and on the south, running east and west, was a heavily wooded ridge which rose one hundred and fifty feet above the plateau. The ground was mostly covered with forest, and sometimes very thick underbrush. Not more than one-sixth was cultivated. A field of fire of six hundred yards was hard to find.

Two creeks which rise near Monterey and flow into the Tennessee, one above [Owl Creek] the other below [Lick Creek] the Landing, enclose the field of battle. At the time of which we speak they could only be crossed at a few places where bridges were maintained. In one respect, therefore, the position was excellent, as it had its flanks resting on impassible obstacles. The distance from one flank to the other was about five miles in an air line. These creeks flowed through wide, low, marshy bottoms. Within the limits of the field were several smaller creeks. They were: Shiloh Branch, Tilghman Branch and Dill Branch.

From the Landing to Corinth the road runs southwest between the two creeks. It divides about a mile from the Landing and the two come together again about five miles out. Cutting these almost at right angles are the river road, from Hamburg above to Crump's Landing below on the river, and the Purdy-Hamburg road. Along the high ridge at the south the Bark road runs east and west.

Near the junction of the Corinth and the Purdy roads was the Shiloh meeting house, which gave one of the names to the battle.


The maps used by both sides were so inaccurate that it is hard to understand how military movements could have been based on them. On the Federal side the commander of a division six miles away was not able to reinforce the army because he lost the road. Likewise the road from Grant's Headquarters to the army was unknown, which was the principal reason why another division did not reach the field till dark.

The Troops

The war had been going on for a year. Each side employed its best officers who were aided by all the resources of the country and the support of the people. Of the two the Confederate army was the best organized and the better led. In the most important positions there were thirteen graduates of the military academy, having from forty-four to fourteen years' service, of high reputation and experience in war. Among regimental commanders and staff officers were seventeen men who had served in the regular army.

In the federal army Grant and Sherman alone among the higher commanders had served in the regular army, and both had been out of the service for some years. Sherman had not served in the Mexican War. There were not more than seven officers in all who had been in the regular army.

Three divisions of Grant's army had fought at Forts Donelson and Henry and a few regiments were at Belmont. Among the others the average amount of service was about six months.

Grant had about 40,000 men including 3000 cavalry and 123 guns. The Confederate army was slightly larger.


The Confederate army was commanded by a general with another general as second in command, or chief of staff. It was organized into four [three] corps and a reserve corps, commanded by major-generals. Two corps were divided into two divisions each, commanded by major-generals and brigadiers. The other corps were not organized into divisions. These were sixteen brigades, all of which except five were commanded by brigadiers; and five were commanded by colonels. The staffs were fairly complete.

The Federal army was commanded by a major-general with a colonel as chief of staff. There were no army corps, but instead there were six divisions commanded by two major generals and four brigadiers. There were eighteen brigades, all but two of which were commanded by colonels. The staffs, as a rule, were not complete. Only one staff had a quartermaster and a commissary. The cavalry and artillery of both armies were scattered about among divisions and brigades. There was no chief of artillery and the chief of cavalry was at Halleck's headquarters far to the rear.

Outpost and Reconnaissance

The Confederate army approached unobserved by the Federals and bivouacked in several lines of battle on a front of about 2000 yards, between one and two miles in front of the Federal camps. They stood at about 22 men to a yard of front.

A single battalion constituted the main outpost of the Confederate army. It was about four hundred yards in advance.

The Federals had done some reconnaissance. General Sherman had shown his customary activity and had, a few days before [April 3], sent a force as far as Monterey. Two days before the battle his scouting party had encountered troops of the three arms but he did not give it serious consideration. With such a force, wild and alarming rumors are likely to be prevalent and the General thought it necessary to tone up his command by belittling the question of danger. It rained on the day before the battle, and General Sherman's cavalry regiment, which he would have sent out that day, happened to be moving its camp. The balance of the 3000 cavalry seems to have been doing nothing. Not a patrol left the camp, although the enemy had been very active for a week. It was scattered about in the manner habitual at that day. Prentiss sent out a patrol of infantry under a colonel on the day before the battle, but it returned after traveling as reported, five miles, without discovering the enemy which was close in front.

Many stories are told of Confederate cavalry all day watching the camps from various points in the outskirts of the camp. It is remarkable that there was not a deserter or traitor in that army to betray its position.

For the Federal army the claim has been made that one company from each regiment was placed one and a half miles out on picket and that vedettes, were still further one mile, but the Confederate line of battle was within these distances.

In Prentiss' Division there was an old soldier by the name of Major Powell who went out on the Corinth road with three compames, before daylight of the 6th. He ran into Major Hardcastle who was posted as outpost for the Confederate army, 400 yards in its front. This started the battle. Powell was killed and his story has never been told. I have always had an idea that he himself conceived the idea which he executed and that he should be considered as one of the heroes of Shiloh. This engagement of the outposts took place about 5 A.M. and lasted till about 6:30, when Powell was driven back by the advancing Confederate army.

The Battle

At 7:30 A.M. Prentiss had supported his scouting party and by 7:30 his entire force was formed in advance of his camps. Sherman's brigades formed at their camps.

Johnston had given the order to attack at daybreak. The first line consisted of Hardee's corps and Gladden's brigade of Wither's division of Bragg's corps. There were probably ten or twelve thousand men in this line. Cleburne moved towards Sherman's camp, Wood and Shaver attacked Prentiss at about 9:30 A.M.

At 8:00 A.M. Gladden and Chalmers got in position in front of Prentiss, Cleburne in front of Sherman.

At 9:30 A.M. Prentiss was attacked and driven through his camps. Cleburne attacked and his division [brigade] became dispersed. Anderson and Johnston [Johnson] came up in his rear and renewed the attack.

The second line under Bragg at 800 yards, somewhat stronger than the first was thus getting engaged. They took their places in the front line, but as the second was used to extend the line to the right and left and to fill gaps in the center, the integrity of the commands of Bragg and Hardee was destroyed at once. The same soon happened with divisions and went down to smaller commands. The higher generals then took command of any troops in sight and by common consent assigned themselves to certain parts of the field.

Sherman's advanced troops had been driven back at the same time as Prentiss. McClernand's brigades had formed but had not advanced.

At 9:00 A.M. we simply show the arrival of Russell's brigade, without other changes.

At 10:30 A.M. Sherman was being driven to the rear, along with McClernand's 3d brigade. Prentiss rallied about 500 men on a sunken road in rear of the Duncan field, wasjoined by a regiment from the Landing and by Tuttle's brigade of W. H. L. Wallace's division. Hurlbut had brought up two brigades and formed on Prentiss' left. Far on the left, Stuart was being driven from his camps. In rear of Sherman, McClernand had formed his remaining brigades; a brigade of Hurlbut's had taken position in support. Hurlbut's and Wallace's remaining troops were moving to the front. It was five hours since the firing began. The cannonade brought Grant from Savannah, nine miles away, but the troops in rear had not gotten up. Prentiss had been driven a mile and had practically lost his division. Sherman's division was about to go to pieces.

On the Confederate side Chalmers and Jackson, after the capture of Prentiss' camp, were moved to the extreme right by Johnston's order. Statham and Bowen, with the last reserves, were coming up to fill the gap. Gibson was coming up to give his four separate attacks on the Hornet's Nest. Stevens [Stephens] and Stewart had attacked in the center and Pond far on the left had made his advance. Trabue was alone in rear of the center and left.

At 11:00 A.M. the Confederate reserves were all engaged. The line of battle was four miles long, from Lick Creek to the Purdy bridge. Both flanks of the Federals were turned and the Confederates were hammering at the center, throwing brigade after brigade and regiment after regiment in unsupported, isolated attacks.

At 12:00 o'clock the flanks of the Federal army were in full retreat, but the Confederates were making no impression on the center.

At 4:00 P.M. the Federal right was bent far to the rear. The Confederate commander in chief, while personally directing Bowen's brigade, was killed, Sherman's entire division had disappeared. McClernand opposed a feeble resistance to a small force of Confederates but his line dissolved and broke to the rear.

The line did not have the continuity shown on the map. Thousands of stragglers were wandering about. Various commanders were holding small fractions of their troops at the front, and the Confederates were closing around the remains of Prentiss', Hurtbut's and Wallace's forces, which had remained together.

At 5:00 P.M. Hurlbut had been driven off. Prentiss was surrounded. Wallace was killed. About 2000 were captured. The line of battle, which at 1:00 o'clock extended four miles, is now represented by a small circle around the Hornet's Nest; Grant's fighting force is shown by the 2000 prisoners taken there. The two regiments furthest to the right and left of the attack, here joined and each captured the remnant of a regiment. Both sides were exhausted and probably little more could be done on either side.

At 6:00 P.M. Meanwhile from the Landing back to the river road a desperate effort was being made to rally a sufficient force to oppose another advance of the Confederates. A number of heavy guns were placed in position and a fragment of about 5000 [actually 18,000-20,000] men was put in line.

It made a formidable line, and would have made a strong defense. General Bragg, who, upon the death of Johnston, seems to have been the leading element of the Southern side, now made strenuous efforts to organize another attack. A half dozen remnants of brigades were gotten up, in which I wish to call attention to those of Chalmers and Jackson of Withers's division, which had made many attacks on that day, still ready for another. If you consider how some divisions were broken to pieces by one attack you will appreciate this. A feeble attack was made and orders were received from Beauregard which had been sent several hours earlier to retire for the night.

The Confederate Attack

Each subordinate commander acted as if he were fighting the battle on his own account. All rushed to the front as if afraid the battle would end before they had a chance to take a part.

The Confederate formation shows the mistake of using extended lines instead of deep formations for attack. The long lines moving forward spread out to the right and left. Gaps in the forward line were filled by portions of the lines coming up from the rear. Corps, divisions and brigades were soon mixed in hopeless confusion. Attacks were made and lost before supporting troops came up. No one knew from whom to take orders. One regiment received orders from three different corps commanders within a short time. As a result many aimless and conflicting orders were issued which unnecessarily exhausted and discouraged the troops. The highest commanders, including the adjutant general, went into the fight and devoted themselves to urging the troops forward without any plan or system. By 11 A.M., there was not a reserve on the field. Instead of feeding the fight with their own troops the corps commanders finally sought various parts of the field and took command without regard to the order of the battle. Bragg may be found at the center, at the right and then at the left. The commander-in-chief was killed at the front doing the work of a brigadier. Beauregard remained near Shiloh Church, without a reserve, and unable to exercise any influence on the battle.

The front of attack, which was at first less than 2000 yards in length, in three hours extended from the Tennessee River on the east to Owl Creek on the west, nearly four miles. Bragg's corps was right, left and center, at the same time. The attack was turning both flanks and breaking the center, all at once. The Federals, instead of being driven down the river as Johnston's intention was, were driven to the Landing where their gunboats and supplies were.

The Federal Defense

Prentiss and Sherman occupied the most advanced camps. The former held on for a short time though not attacked by a very superior force; the latter held on till 10 A.M. and repulsed numerous attacks. But Prentiss rallied a few hundred men and halted on a sunken road where they defeated many attacks and probably contributed greatly to saving the army; while Sherman's troops after the stand in the camps did little more on that day.

One division was camped about a mile from Shiloh Church and two divisions were near the Landing and at 7:30 A.M. they had information of the danger at the front. Prentiss was driven a mile before he was supported. Sherman, after holding his camps for two hours and more, was driven out of them before he received support, except by the regiments of McClernand's Division which were in the first line themselves.

These things could be explained by the absence of a commander-in-chief, or of some one to give orders for him, but General Grant says that he arrived on the field about 8 A.M. while Rawlins and McPherson were there before him.


At the close of the first day's battle both sides had fought to a standstill. The victorious troops had been demoralized by reckless attacks which were never supported and thousands of them immediately gave up the battle to pillage the camps. At 5 P.M. Grant probably had not more than 5000 in line ready to resist a further advance and they were badly shaken up as was seen by the action of McClernand's troops breaking to the rear after defeating Pond's weak attack. The balance of the fine army were killed, wounded, prisoners, but mostly stragglers. The same was true of the Confederate army, which had no greater force in line at the close of the day.

The depletion of the commands on both sides was enormous. Regiments were reduced to squads [companies], and brigades to battalions [regiments] in many cases, while a number of large commands practically disappeared from the field.

Lack of Confidence

As a result of the confusion, looseness of tactical bonds, and unfamiliarity with military service, it seemed that mutual distrust of everybody prevailed. Even while performing the most gallant work a cry of retreat was often raised and sufficient to start the troops to the rear. No man knew who gave the order, each man blamed his neighbor. The report was easily started and quickly believed that the troops on both flanks had retired and that the enemy was getting in rear. The reports quite uniformly state that the author did not retreat until forced to do so by the withdrawal of troops on the right and left. The reports of the officers on the right and left also make the identical remark, and so on. This lack of confidence is peculiar to raw troops. Later in the war these things never occurred. The best divisions in 1864 would not move an inch to the rear without orders.


Among Confederate commanders, General Jones M. Withers seems to have held a greater proportion of his command in hand than any other and fought six actions. General Sherman on the other side was able to pursue the enemy on the day after the battle with a brigade that was broken to pieces on the first day. Generals Prentiss and W. H. L. Wallace held the Hornets' Nest until surrounded by the effective strength of the entire Confederate army except a part of Pond's brigade and lost only 2200 prisoners. The character of the action is well shown here by the fact that the right and left of the Confederate army each captured prisoners at the Hornets' Nest.


It is probable that the heaviest losses occurred in retreat. Tuttle's brigade which held its position in the Hornets' Nest for five hours against repeated assaults and the fire of sixty guns lost not so many as a number of single regiments which yielded their positions.

The loss of each army was in the neighborhood of 10,000 men, or from 20 to 25 per cent of the men engaged which made it one of the bloodiest battles. About half of the regimental and higher commanders were killed, wounded and missing. The Sixth Mississippi lost 300 in killed and wounded out of 425. Cleburne's brigade lost in killed and wounded 1000 out of 2700 and other losses reduced it to 800 men in the evening.


The first day at Shiloh shows better than any other in our history the kind of work performed by a new army before it has had experience and discipline. As the result of a year of preparation it is a most instructive lesson.

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Recommended Reading: Guide to the Battle of Shiloh, by Army War College. Description: As Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman prepared their inexperienced troops for a massive offensive by an equally green Confederate army in April 1862, the outcome of the Civil War was still very much in doubt. For two of the most chaotic and ravaging days of the War, the Union forces counterattacked and fended off the Rebels. Losses were great--more than 20,000 casualties out of 100,000 Union and Confederate troops. Continued below…

But out of the struggle, Grant and Sherman forged their own union that would be a major factor in the Union Army's final victory. For the Confederates, Shiloh was a devastating disappointment. By the time the siege was over, they had lost both the battle and one of their ablest commanders, Albert Sidney Johnston. Eyewitness accounts by battle participants make these guides an invaluable resource for travelers and nontravelers who want a greater understanding of five of the most devastating yet influential years in our nation's history. Explicit directions to points of interest and maps--illustrating the action and showing the detail of troop position, roads, rivers, elevations, and tree lines as they were 130 years ago--help bring the battles to life. In the field, these guides can be used to recreate each battle's setting and proportions, giving the reader a sense of the tension and fear each soldier must have felt as he faced his enemy. This book is part of the U.S. Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series.


Recommended Reading: Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862. Review: The bloody and decisive two-day battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) changed the entire course of the American Civil War. The stunning Northern victory thrust Union commander Ulysses S. Grant into the national spotlight, claimed the life of Confederate commander Albert S. Johnston, and forever buried the notion that the Civil War would be a short conflict. The conflagration at Shiloh had its roots in the strong Union advance during the winter of 1861-1862 that resulted in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. Continued below…

The offensive collapsed General Albert S. Johnston advanced line in Kentucky and forced him to withdraw all the way to northern Mississippi. Anxious to attack the enemy, Johnston began concentrating Southern forces at Corinth, a major railroad center just below the Tennessee border. His bold plan called for his Army of the Mississippi to march north and destroy General Grant's Army of the Tennessee before it could link up with another Union army on the way to join him. On the morning of April 6, Johnston boasted to his subordinates, "Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee!" They nearly did so. Johnston's sweeping attack hit the unsuspecting Federal camps at Pittsburg Landing and routed the enemy from position after position as they fell back toward the Tennessee River. Johnston's sudden death in the Peach Orchard, however, coupled with stubborn Federal resistance, widespread confusion, and Grant's dogged determination to hold the field, saved the Union army from destruction. The arrival of General Don C. Buell's reinforcements that night turned the tide of battle. The next day, Grant seized the initiative and attacked the Confederates, driving them from the field. Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, with nearly 24,000 men killed, wounded, and missing. Edward Cunningham, a young Ph.D. candidate studying under the legendary T. Harry Williams at Louisiana State University, researched and wrote Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 in 1966. Although it remained unpublished, many Shiloh experts and park rangers consider it to be the best overall examination of the battle ever written. Indeed, Shiloh historiography is just now catching up with Cunningham, who was decades ahead of modern scholarship. Western Civil War historians Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith have resurrected Cunningham's beautifully written and deeply researched manuscript from its undeserved obscurity. Fully edited and richly annotated with updated citations and observations, original maps, and a complete order of battle and table of losses, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 will be welcomed by everyone who enjoys battle history at its finest. Edward Cunningham, Ph.D., studied under T. Harry Williams at Louisiana State University. He was the author of The Port Hudson Campaign: 1862-1863 (LSU, 1963). Dr. Cunningham died in 1997. Gary D. Joiner, Ph.D. is the author of One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864, winner of the 2004 Albert Castel Award and the 2005 A. M. Pate, Jr., Award, and Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West. He lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. About the Author: Timothy B. Smith, Ph.D., is author of Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (winner of the 2004 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Non-fiction Award), The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield, and This Great Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park. A former ranger at Shiloh, Tim teaches history at the University of Tennessee.


Recommended Reading: The Shiloh Campaign (Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland) (Hardcover). Description: Some 100,000 soldiers fought in the April 1862 battle of Shiloh, and nearly 20,000 men were killed or wounded; more Americans died on that Tennessee battlefield than had died in all the nation’s previous wars combined. In the first book in his new series, Steven E. Woodworth has brought together a group of superb historians to reassess this significant battle and provide in-depth analyses of key aspects of the campaign and its aftermath. The eight talented contributors dissect the campaign’s fundamental events, many of which have not received adequate attention before now. Continued below…

John R. Lundberg examines the role of Albert Sidney Johnston, the prized Confederate commander who recovered impressively after a less-than-stellar performance at forts Henry and Donelson only to die at Shiloh; Alexander Mendoza analyzes the crucial, and perhaps decisive, struggle to defend the Union’s left; Timothy B. Smith investigates the persistent legend that the Hornet’s Nest was the spot of the hottest fighting at Shiloh; Steven E. Woodworth follows Lew Wallace’s controversial march to the battlefield and shows why Ulysses S. Grant never forgave him; Gary D. Joiner provides the deepest analysis available of action by the Union gunboats; Grady McWhiney describes P. G. T. Beauregard’s decision to stop the first day’s attack and takes issue with his claim of victory; and Charles D. Grear shows the battle’s impact on Confederate soldiers, many of whom did not consider the battle a defeat for their side. In the final chapter, Brooks D. Simpson analyzes how command relationships—specifically the interactions among Grant, Henry Halleck, William T. Sherman, and Abraham Lincoln—affected the campaign and debunks commonly held beliefs about Grant’s reactions to Shiloh’s aftermath. The Shiloh Campaign will enhance readers’ understanding of a pivotal battle that helped unlock the western theater to Union conquest. It is sure to inspire further study of and debate about one of the American Civil War’s momentous campaigns.


Recommended Reading: Shiloh: A Novel, by Shelby Foote. Review: In the novel Shiloh, historian and Civil War expert Shelby Foote delivers a spare, unflinching account of the battle of Shiloh, which was fought over the course of two days in April 1862. By mirroring the troops' movements through the woods of Tennessee with the activity of each soldier's mind, Foote offers the reader a broad perspective of the battle and a detailed view of the issues behind it. Continued below…

The battle becomes tangible as Foote interweaves the observations of Union and Confederate officers, simple foot soldiers, brave men, and cowards and describes the roar of the muskets and the haze of the gun smoke. The author's vivid storytelling creates a rich chronicle of a pivotal battle in American history.


Recommended Reading: Shiloh--In Hell before Night. Description: James McDonough has written a good, readable and concise history of a battle that the author characterizes as one of the most important of the Civil War, and writes an interesting history of this decisive 1862 confrontation in the West. He blends first person and newspaper accounts to give the book a good balance between the general's view and the soldier's view of the battle. Continued below…

Particularly enlightening is his description of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander who was killed on the first day of the battle. McDonough makes a pretty convincing argument that Johnston fell far short of the image that many give him in contemporary and historical writings. He is usually portrayed as an experienced and decisive commander of men. This book shows that Johnston was a man of modest war and command experience, and that he rose to prominence shortly before the Civil War. His actions (or inaction) prior to the meeting at Shiloh -- offering to let his subordinate Beauregard take command for example -- reveal a man who had difficulty managing the responsibility fostered on him by his command. The author does a good job of presenting several other historical questions and problems like Johnston's reputation vs. reality that really add a lot of interest to the pages.


Recommended Reading: Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War (Simon & Schuster). From Publishers Weekly: The bloodbath at Shiloh, Tenn. (April 6-7, 1862), brought an end to any remaining innocence in the Civil War. The combined 23,000 casualties that the two armies inflicted on each other in two days shocked North and South alike. Ulysses S. Grant kept his head and managed, with reinforcements, to win a hard-fought victory. Continued below…

Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston was wounded and bled to death, leaving P.G.T. Beauregard to disengage and retreat with a dispirited gray-clad army. Daniel (Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee) has crafted a superbly researched volume that will appeal to both the beginning Civil War reader as well as those already familiar with the course of fighting in the wooded terrain bordering the Tennessee River. His impressive research includes the judicious use of contemporary newspapers and extensive collections of unpublished letters and diaries. He offers a lengthy discussion of the overall strategic situation that preceded the battle, a survey of the generals and their armies and, within the notes, sharp analyses of the many controversies that Shiloh has spawned, including assessments of previous scholarship on the battle. This first new book on Shiloh in a generation concludes with a cogent chapter on the consequences of those two fatal days of conflict.

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