Review: The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged by D.W. Reed

by Brett Schulte on August 20, 2008 · 6 comments

David W. Reed. The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged . Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press (May 15, 2008). 122 pages, 4 maps (on CD), notes, index. ISBN: 978-1572336179 $33.00 (Hardcover w/DJ).

How can an essential “cornerstone of Shiloh historiography” remain unavailable to the general public for so long? That’s what I kept thinking as I was reading this reprint of the 1913 edition of David W. Reed’s The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged. Reed, a veteran of the battle and the first historian of the Shiloh National Military Park, was tabbed to write the official history of the battle, and this book was the result. Reed wrote a short, concise history of the fighting and included quite a bit of other valuable information in the pages that followed. The large and impressive maps that accompanied the original text are here converted into digital format and included in a CD located within a flap at the back of the book. Author and former Shiloh Park Ranger Timothy Smith is responsible for bringing this important reference work back from obscurity. His introduction to the book also places it in the proper historical framework.

Reed’s history of the campaign and battle covers only seventeen pages and is meant to be a brief history of the subject. The detail is revealed in the rest of the book. And what detail there is!

Reed’s order of battle for Shiloh goes down to the regimental and battery level. He includes the names of the leaders of each organization where known, including whether or not these men were killed, wounded, captured, or suffered some other fate. In a touch not often seen in modern studies, the author also states the original regiment of brigade commanders. In another nice piece of detail following the order of battle, staff officers for each brigade and higher organization are listed.

The book’s main point and where it truly shines is in the section entitled “Detailed Movements of Organizations”. Reed follows each unit in their movements during the battle. Reading this section along with referring to the computerized maps gives one a solid foundation for future study of Shiloh. Forty-five pages cover the brigades of all three armies present at Shiloh. For other examples of this approach, I recommend Bradley Gottfried’s Brigades of Gettysburg and Lanny K. Smith’s book on the Union Army at Stones’ River. The latter author takes Reed’s technique to another level, following units throughout the entire Stones River Campaign! Smith promises a second volume on the Confederates as well.

Wargamers will love the “Abstract of Field Returns”. This section lists Present for Duty, engaged, and casualties for each regiment and battery in an easy to read table format. Grant’s entire Army of the Tennessee has Present for Duty strengths. Buell’s Army of the Ohio is also counted well. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi is counted less accurately, usually only going down to brigade level and many times relying only on engaged strengths. That said, buy this book if you are looking for a good reference work for help with your order of battle.

In what I believe is an unprecedented move in Civil War literature, the University of Tennessee Press made the somewhat unusual decision to include Reed’s detailed maps of the campaign and battle in a CD which is included in a plastic sleeve inside the back cover of the book. The cost of reproducing the large maps and including them as foldouts or in a pocket in the book must have been prohibitive, necessitating this interesting use of a CD. The maps were simple to view and came in a PDF format. All you’ll need is Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free program, to view these. It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit. Maps are an integral part of military history, and this solution is far better than deciding to include poor maps or no maps at all. The Read Me file that came with the CD relays the following information:

The maps contained on this CD are scans of the original oversized maps printed in the 1913 edition of D. W. Reed’s The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged. The original maps, which were in a very large format and folded out of the pages of this edition, are of varying sizes, up to 23 inches by 25 inches. They were originally created in 1901 by the Shiloh National Military Park under the direction of its historian, David W. Reed. They are the most accurate Shiloh battle maps in existence.

The maps on the CD are saved as PDF (Portable Document Format) files and can be read on any operating system (Windows, Macintosh, Linux) by utilizing Adobe Acrobat Reader. Visit http://www.adobe.com to download Acrobat Reader if you do not have it installed on your system.

Map 1. The Field of Operations from Which the Armies Were Concentrated at Shiloh, March and April 1862

Map 2. The Territory between Corinth, Miss., and Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn., Showing Positions and Route of the Confederate Army in Its Advance to Shiloh, April 3, 4, 5, & 6, 1862

Map 3. Positions on the First Day, April 6, 1862

Map 4. Positions on the Second Day, April 7, 1862

Complete captions appear on the maps.

Timothy Smith has done students of the Civil War an enormous favor by republishing this important early work on Shiloh. Relied on for generations by Park Rangers and other serious students of the battle, The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged has been resurrected for a new generation of Civil War readers. This classic reference work is an essential book for those interested in the Battle of Shiloh. Wargamers and those interested in tactical minutiae will also find Reed’s work to be a very good buy. Highly recommended to all.

Thank you to Tom Post of the University of Tennessee Press.

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Note: This is my second review for The Strategist’s Personal Libray Militaty History Reading Challenge.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

jmnlman August 20, 2008 at 2:18 pm

The maps on CD idea is intriguing. The cynic in me wonders if this is the way to help prevent people like me from picking up used copies which probably won’t have them still included.

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admin August 21, 2008 at 8:04 am

It will be VERY interesting to see the difference in price on the used book market between those books containing the CD and those who don’t. The cynic in ME wonders if some of the shadier used book stores will even point out the existence of the CD. ABEbooks has been getting very bad lately in terms of accurately describing books for sale. I’ve been burned three times in the last 6 months. Only one of those transactions turned out successfully in the end. In fact, that topic might see a blog entry soon.

Brett

Reply

Drew W. August 22, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Brett,
I would guess that many won’t, either through deliberate neglect or more likely ignorance.
Take the Bearss Manassas map study. Going through the used book listings on Amazon a while back, NONE of the used listings even mentioned the roll of maps that go with it. As they are completely separate from the book, I could easily how those could be missed by a busy bookseller; however, there would be far less excuse if the seller sees the obvious empty sleeve in the back of Reed and fails to disclose it.

I have no desire to see maps placed on a cd, except where the orig. maps are far too large to fit inside. I would hope the Reed cd will continue to be the exception. It’s too bad UTPress couldn’t replicate the pullouts, but I could see how a lesser publisher would more likely leave them out altogether.

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admin August 22, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Drew,

Good points. I too would be upset if all publishers went to a maps on CD approach. I think it worked in this particular instance. The size of the book itself isn’t large, so I can see how it would have been difficult to fit these maps into any kind of workable or affordable solution. I wonder how Savas Beatie would handle something like this.

BTW, I was burned when I purchased that Bearss Manassas map study. In fact, I still have an extra copy of the book laying around for just that reason.

Brett

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