April 6th & 7th of this year mark the 150th anniversary of the battle of Shiloh–the first major battle in the western theatre of the Civil War, and also the first of many bloody battles to come.
In the spring of 1862 the battle of Shiloh was a rude awakening for a country that assumed the war “would be over by Christmas.” In a faraway corner of southwest Tennessee 24,000 soldiers fell on a single day–more men than in all previous U. S. wars combined. This first truly “great and terrible” battle not only changed the character of the war, but left both sides with the realization that this was to be a long and bloody conflict
Here are some titles for the reader’s consideration, available within the library’s collection:
Shiloh 1862 by Winston Groom (National Geographic Society, 2012.) Just in time for the battle’s 150th anniversary is this latest title by the author of Forrest Gump. Groom, who had previously authored two other well-written and researched volumes on the Civil War–Vicksburg 1863 (2009) and Shrouds of Glory: Atlanta to Nashville : The Last Great Campaign of the Civil War (1995)–returns to familiar territory with his latest foray into non-fiction.
Shiloh (Time-Life Books, 1996). One of several entries in Time-Life’s Voices of the Civil War series which expands upon their previous multi-volume set The Civil War. This series offers in-depth coverage on the battle from the perspective of those who experienced it. Hundreds of published & unpublished sources were used to compile these accounts, including: letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, and regimental histories. Many photos of the participants (both soldiers and civilians) were located to accompany their stories, along with numerous maps and illustrations pertaining to the battle. This volume is rounded out with a useful glossary of military terms, a chronology, the order of battle (i.e. organziation of the armies for this battle) and a bibliography for further reading.
The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West by David Nevin (Time-Life Books, 1983.) Time-Life’s tradition for titles that are comprehensive yet accessible continues with this volume in their series The Civil War. As with other volumes in the series it is well-illustrated throughout with excellent maps and photographs. Only 2 of the 5 chapters in this volume are devoted to the battle of Shiloh–preceded by details of earlier battles such as Wilson’s Creek and Forts Henry & Donelson. While this is by no means an exhaustive account on Shiloh, it remains an excellent overview and introduction for the fledgling student of the war.
Shiloh: A Novel by Shelby Foote (Originally published in 1952 by The Dial Press; reprinted by Vintage Books, 1991.) After writing three Southern novels, Foote turned his attention to history to tell the tale of the bloodiest day of the war up to that point through the eyes of seven different participants–Union and Confederate. Later he expanded upon his use of historical narrative to pen his monumental achievement, the definitive 3-volume study The Civil War, A Narrative. In 1990 Foote became a minor celebrity after being featured prominently in Ken Burns’ PBS series The Civil War. Burns’ film not only introduced a new generation to the war, but also to the work of Shelby Foote.
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (Originally published in 1886; reprinted by The Library of America, 1990.) Sherman remains one of the most beloved and controversial generals of the Civil War period. His memoirs are written with the same energy and intelligence which marked his military campaigns, and are filled with anecdotes, incidents, and numerous wartime orders and reports. Sherman saw some of the worst fighting of the war, and lived to tell about it: 1st Bull Run, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattannooga, Atlanta, the March to the Sea through Georgia and the Carolinas. During the war Sherman became Grant’s most trusted subordinate, and won both his friendship and admiration.
Memoirs and Selected Letters: Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Selected Letters 1839-1865 by Ulysses S. Grant (Originally published 1885; reprinted by The Library of America, 1990.) After rising through the ranks in the west following battles at Forts Henry & Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga, Grant was promoted to general-in-chief and came east. He spent the remainder of the war opposite Robert E. Lee, where he attempted to grind down the Confederate army in a series of costly battles before laying siege to Petersburg. In the spring of 1865 Lee finally surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courhouse, effectively ending the war in the east. Yet, just twenty years after the war’s end, and following two terms as President of the United States, Grant depleted most of his savings following a world tour, while failed business ventures left him nearly destitute. To make matters worse, Grant was diagnosed at the time with throat cancer. Fighting time and an imminent death, Grant wrote his memoirs to secure his family’s financial future, and finished them only days before he succumbed to his cancer. His work remains a classic and is still highly regarded by literary critics, military historians, and the general public. This volume includes 174 letters written by Grant between 1839 and 1865 to his wife, Julia, fellow generals and government officials, which serves to supplement the narrative of Grant’s memoirs.