Editor’s Note: Today seemed to be an especially appropriate time to revisit and update the Top 7 Shiloh Books post I compiled back in 2009. In that post, Shiloh students at the Shiloh Discussion Group ranked their top 7 Shiloh books, with a first place vote garnering 7 points and a 7th place vote briging in just one point. The combined list is what I believe to be an excellent resource for those looking to further their knowledge of this famous and bloody battle. Similar lists of the Top Gettysburg Books and Best Antietam Books are also available.
Following the highly successful experiment of having a group of Civil War bloggers choose their Top 10 Gettysburg Books, I wanted to try this method again with a slight twist. Rather than asking my fellow Civil War bloggers for their opinions, I went instead to the Shiloh Discussion Group. SDG founder and admin Percy “Wrap10” Cuskey posted the event’s details, and I followed up as this event pertains to TOCWOC in the same thread. Shiloh Discussion Group members had several weeks in July 2009 to post their own Top 7 Shiloh Books list in the specified thread. The deadline was August 1, 2009.
The rankings below take the combined Top 7 Shiloh books lists of Shiloh Discussion Group members who participated in ranking their favorite books on the Battle of Shiloh. A first place vote is worth seven points, while a seventh place vote is worth one point. Some members listed less than seven books. In those cases a first place vote is still worth seven points, with each successive vote being worth one less point. In other cases voters did not have a specific order. Each book on those lists will be worth 4 points (7+6+5+4+3+2+1=28 total points awarded per list divided by 7 books in the list = 4 points per book).
Best Civil War Books on the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)
April 6-7, 1862
50 points (2 1st place votes)
- “This book is easily in the top 5 of Western Theater studies of the Civil War.” (via Chris Wehner’s Blog 4 History)
- “With their sparkling introductory essay, editors Gary Joiner and Timothy Smith give readers ample reason to want to read O. Edward Cunningham’s 1966 dissertation Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862. Among the four modern Shiloh campaign and battle histories written since David Reed’s The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged (1902), Joiner and Smith (and a host of other park historians) declare Cunningham’s work to be the best overall study.” (via Drew Wagenhoffer’s Civil War Books and Authors)
- “Probably the best way to describe his approach to the battle is “even-handed.” You don’t really come away from his book (or at least I didn’t), thinking that one aspect of the battle was somehow more important than any other. And truth be told, this is one of the major “selling points” of Cunningham’s book. His treatment of the battle is a radical departure from the decades-long version that emphasizes the Hornets Nest above all else. Cunningham does not do this, and that is noteworthy in and of itself. (via Shiloh Discussion Group founder Perry Cuskey)
48 points (2 1st place votes)
- “The strength of the book, and the reason it is regarded as a classic treatment of the Battle of Shiloh, is Sword’s ability to put the reader right in the midst of the battle amidst the noise, chaos, and violence. We vividly see how the troops were by-in-large inexperienced, the terrain was by turns rocky, swampy, flat, forest, shrub-covered, all the while split by ravines, the weather was marked by torrential rain, and the fighting was up close, personal, and particularly savage. ” (via The Tipsy Historian)
- “Sword rises to the desperately poetic seldom, except to draw his lesson: Shiloh was a morass of mistakes, misery, disillusion, disorder and, ultimately, despair. Johnston-Beauregard-Bragg-Polk planning, missing opportunities to devastate the North on one side — and Sherman-Grant-Wallace-Halleck wrangling, competing intramurally on the other. No towering heroes; no scapegoats, as in so much Civil War special pleading. This is a painstakingly researched book, drawing extensively upon letters, diaries, journals; and never jumping to hasty conclusions and second guesses about who could have been right or wrong or better or worse than whoever was the commander of the moment.” (via Kirkus Book Reviews)
- “This is my favorite book on Shiloh. Sword is the one who truly opened my eyes to the fact that there was more to the battle than the Hornets Nest. If you’re looking for a detailed account of the entire battle, you’ll be hard-pressed to do better than Wiley Sword. In fact, as Ron said earlier, I think Sword’s book can be looked on as the first truly modern treatment of the battle, and in that respect I’m not sure he’s received the credit I think he deserves for showing us Shiloh’s broader scope beyond the Hornet’s Nest. Cunningham and Daniel are both lauded for doing this, and rightly so. Sword should be as well.” (via Shiloh Discussion Group founder Perry Cuskey)
39 points (2 1st place votes)
- “While I prefer Sword’s account of the April 6 fighting, I would consider Daniel’s book the best overall treatment of the campaign and battle.” (via Civil War Books and Authors)
- “In my opinion this is the best single Shiloh book out there. It has more detail than McDonough, but not too much like Sword and Cunningham. This book also does a wonderful job of putting Shiloh in context with the other events of the war in the spring of 1862.” (via The Battle of Shiloh)
- “All in all, Larry Daniel’s book still has to rank as one of the best books available on Shiloh, and quite possibly the best at blending the details of the battle with the larger picture.” (via Shiloh Discussion Group founder Perry Cuskey)
27 points (0 1st place votes)
- “David Wilson Reed’s book just might be the most interesting title on this or any other list about Shiloh. It is strictly a tactical treatment of the battle, along with a brief overview of the preceding campaign. And within that context, it is not only an excellent book, it’s a book that any serious student of Shiloh simply has to read at some point.” (via Shiloh Discussion Group founder Perry Cuskey)
- “Deeply influential in the battle’s historical presentation, both in print and battlefield park interpretation, Reed cannot be overlooked. His book is a still-useful classic, and the large color maps [existing as pull outs in the earlier editions, but on CD in the latest] are an added resource.” (via Civil War Books and Authors)
- “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.” (via Battlefield Wanderings)
by James Lee McDonough
20 points (0 1st place votes)
by Timothy B. Smith
19 points (0 1st place votes)
by Shelby Foote
17 points (1 1st place vote)
by Albert Dillahunty
14 points (2 1st place votes)
by Timothy B. Smith
13 points (Y 1st place votes)
10. (tie) War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 10, Serial 10 and 11
by U.S. Government
10 points (1 1st place vote)
by Manning Force
10 points (0 1st place votes)
by Joseph Allan Frank and George A. Reaves
9 points (0 1st place votes)
edited by J.F. Wakefield
7 points (1 1st place vote)
by B.F. Thomas and Peter Wilson
7 points (1 1st place vote)
Note: Since a first placw vote is worth 7 points, no book past this point in the list earned a first place vote.
by J.W. Rich
by James Arnold
directed by Ira B. Likes
by F.F. Kiner
edited by Jay Luvaas, Stephen Bowman, and Leonard Fullenkamp
by Ulysses S. Grant
by Steven E. Woodworth
by Timothy T. Isbell
edited by David R. Logsdon
by Dr. Ronnie Fullwood
edited by Steven E. Woodworth
by William Preston Johnston
by Myron J. Smith
Note: The battlefield itself was cited as a resource.
26. (tie) Assorted Regimental Histories for Regiments Which Were at Shiloh
Note: Obviously I cannot link to all of the regimental histories for regiments which fought at Shiloh.
by George Witham
by Stacy Allen
by Mark Grimsley and Steven Woodworth
by David W. Reed
31. (tie) Confederate Artillery at the Battle of Shiloh, April 6th and 7th, 1862 (unpublished manuscript)
by Ron Black
Note: Unpublished manuscript of an SDG member
Group members who took part in this event are listed below along with links to each Top 7 list as it appeared on TOCWOC in early August 2009. As lists go live, SDG member names listed below will contain the link to each list.
July 30, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
***Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!
What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.
Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.