At the mention of Shiloh, most tend to think of two particularly bloody and crucial days in April 1862. The complete story, however, encompasses much more history than that of the battle itself. While several accounts have taken a comprehensive approach to Shiloh, significant gaps still remain in the collective understanding of the battle and battlefield. In The Untold Story of Shiloh, Timothy B. Smith fills in those gaps, looking beyond two days of battle and offering unique insight into the history of unexplored periods ...
At the mention of Shiloh, most tend to think of two particularly bloody and crucial days in April 1862. The complete story, however, encompasses much more history than that of the battle itself. While several accounts have taken a comprehensive approach to Shiloh, significant gaps still remain in the collective understanding of the battle and battlefield. In The Untold Story of Shiloh, Timothy B. Smith fills in those gaps, looking beyond two days of battle and offering unique insight into the history of unexplored periods and topics concerning the Battle of Shiloh and the Shiloh National Military Park. This collection of essays, some previously unpublished, tackles a diverse range of subjects, including Shiloh's historiography, the myths about the battle that were created, and the mindsets that were established after the battle. The book reveals neglected military aspects of the battle, such as the naval contribution, the climax of the Shiloh campaign at Corinth, and the soldiers' views of the battle. The essays also focus on the Shiloh National Military Park's establishment and continuation with particular emphasis on those who played key roles in its creation. Taken together, the essays tell the overall story of Shiloh in greater detail than ever before. General readers and historians alike will discover that The Untold Story of Shiloh is an important contribution to their understanding of this crucial episode in the Civil War. Timothy B. Smith is on staff at the Shiloh National Military Park. He is author of Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg and This Great Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park.
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The Battle of Shiloh was one of the pivotal encounters of the Civil War. Fought in a remote location in south central Tennessee, north of Corinth, Mississippi, the battle showed the nation that the Civil War would be long and difficult. The Battle of Shiloh opened up the western Confederacy to the Union invasion that would ultimately prove its undoing. And the battle resulted in the death of a high-ranking and charismatic Confederate leader, General Albert Sidney Johnston. I read this excellent collection of essays during the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, (April 6 -- 7, 1862), and it made me long to visit the Battlefield again.
Compared with other major Civil War battles, Shiloh has received little detailed attention and no collection of essays of which I am aware. This excellent collection of essays by Timothy B Smith helps to rectify the situation. Smith holds a PhD in history from Mississippi State University and is a former ranger at Shiloh National Military Park. He currently teaches at the University of Tennessee. Smith is the author of an earlier study of the establishment of Shiloh National Military Park, "This Great Battlefield of Shiloh." With this book of essays and another book, "Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862" soon to be published, Smith is establishing himself as an authority on Shiloh and its aftermath.
This collection consists of nine essays, most of which were published earlier, on various aspects of the Battle of Shiloh and its aftermath, Shiloh National Military Park, and the historiography of the battle. One of the earlier essays, "Oft-Repeated Campfire Stories" examines what Smith describes as the "Ten Greatest Myths of Shiloh." This essay is a good overview of the battle for those with some familiarity with it and with the controversies it has engendered. Other essays dealing with more specific aspects of the battle include an excellent study of the role of the Union Navy during the battle, "Gallant and Invaluable Service", a study of the frequently overlooked campaign against Corinth, Mississippi, which followed the battle, and a study of the role of Confederate General Alexander Stewart and his brigade in the chaos that was the Battle of Shiloh.
The remaining essays in the book deal with the historiography and the commemoration of the Battle of Shiloh. The first essay in the book, "Historians and the Battle of Shiloh" is an overview of the different ways historians have described the events of the battle. Smith identifies three separate views found in the literature before introducing his own view, which emphasizes the topography of the battlefield and which tends to downplay the importance previous historians have given to action at the Hornet's Nest and Sunken Road. Smith further explains his view of the battle in his soon to be published "Shiloh and the Western Campaign" which consists of the text of a PhD dissertation by Edward Cunningham setting out what is becoming an influential account of Shiloh.
Smith's essay "Shiloh Monument Dedication Speeches and the Rhetoric of Reunion" was, for me, the highlight of the collection. It it, Smith quotes extensively from speeches given by Northerners and Southerners at Shiloh from 1902 through the dedication of the Tennessee state monument in 2004. It is important to see this collection of speeches unearthed and explored. Smith emphasizes the themes of national unity and reconciliation that pervade these speeches. He points out that the United States of the present day has little of the spirit of unity that characterize these speeches and he offers thoughts on why that is the case. These speeches, and similar speeches at other Battlefields, deserve further study.
The remaining three essays in the book study the establishment and history of the Shiloh National Cemetery and the lives of two early superintendents at Shiloh: David Wilson Reed, the "Father of Shiloh National Military Park" who was responsible for the historically most influential account of the battle, and Reed's successor, DeLong Rice, whom Smith portrays as Shiloh's "Poet Preservationist".
Smith has written a thoughtful group of essays which will appeal to those readers with an interest in the Civil War and with a special fascination for the Battle of Shiloh.
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