Top 7 Shiloh Books: Shiloh Discussion Group Member Ron

The recent Civil War Bloggers Top 10 Gettysburg Books list turned out well, so well that I immediately contacted the members of the Shiloh Discussion Group to see if they would join me in creating another combined list, this time of the Top 7 Shiloh books, which will appear this August at TOCWOC on a permanent page designed for this eventSDG members have been posting their lists of the Top 7 Shiloh books over the last month with a deadline of August 1.   The following is SDG group member Ron’s list of the Top 7 Shiloh Books.

My list of the most influential books concerning the Battle of Shiloh.

1.  War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,  Series I, Volume 10, Serial 10 and 11.

This is a must read for any serious students of the battle.  I know it is a hard read but the joy of discovery of hidden tidbits of information is more then the pain.  The secret is reading the battle reports you are interested in more than twice.

2.   The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged, Major D W Reed, 1902.  This represents the origins of first person research of the battle, the thoughts of the veterans, the men who were there.  Although the book does contain some unintended errors, it remains most valuable.

3.  Shiloh, Bloody April, by Wiley Sword, 1974.  Although written after Edward Cunningham’s book (see below) it was published first and must be considered the first of the modern books about the Battle of Shiloh.  A good, well written book, it could be a easy read but at times, is confusing.  The confusion arises from the battle which itself was very confusing.  The book actually flows well through the overall narration and is a good read in most instances.  The author does a good job but more effort to explain the actions should have been made.  It leaves many questions after the book is read but still a good book.  The Order of Battle for the confederate army contained in the Appendix B contains historical errors which were not corrected.

4.  Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, O. Edward Cunningham, written in 1966 as his doctoral thesis, it was unpublished until 2007 when edited by Timothy Smith and Gary Joiner.  This book contains some independent thoughts by Dr. Cunningham which does not repeat the more traditional accounts of the battle.  He places less importance of the Hornets Nest/Sunken Road fighting and more on the Crossroads fighting near the Woolf Field, a thought I agree with.  He also questions the number of guns in Ruggles artillery line as not 62 guns but 51 guns.  I also question the number of guns in the line but estimate them to be 55 guns.  The Order of Battle of the confederate army is flawed because the historical errors contained were repeated and not edited out.

5.  Shiloh, The Battle That Changed the Civil War, Larry J Daniel, 1997.  Another well written and enjoyable book, it shares the same criticism as Swords book as it also has a confusing narration of moments of the battle.  More effort could have been taken to explain the battle situations.  Another criticism is faulty information from past reports has been repeated here with no effort to edit.  The Order of Battle for the confederate army is flawed because the historical errors contained were repeated and not edited out.  It still remains a good interesting book worth the price.

6.  An unusual book for this list is the biography of General Albert Sidney Johnston written his son, Colonel William Preston Johnston, 1879.  (Ed. Note: The book Bjorn is referring to is The Life of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston: Embracing His Services in the Armies of the United States, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States.)  Biographies may contain too much enthusiasm for the subject but this book has a good balance between actual events and a son’s desire to protect his father’s name and reputation.  A good and recommended read.

7.  Confederate Artillery at the Battle of Shiloh, April 6th and 7th, 1862 by Ron Black, unpublished because it is not finished.  A wonderful fully researched book that does much to reduce the confusion of the battle and to correct some historical errors.  It also questions the importance of the Hornets Nest/ Sunken Road fighting while placing more importance on the 2 pm attack up the River Road led by General Johnston, Governor Harris and General Breckinridge (ex-Vice President of US), General Johnston being mortally wounded in this attack.  Also corrected is the number of guns in Ruggles line of guns.  Importantly, a study of the overnight positions of the rebel army is presented and continues into the fighting of the second day of the battle.  Featured is a more complete narration of the Monday fighting which will allow the reader a greater appreciation of the role of the leaders and the fighting.   Unpublished

SPECIAL NOTE: Actually I include the last book in humor so don’t think ill of me.  It is a hard project I have been working on since 2000 and will probably never be published.  Work on this project has really improved my understanding and appreciation of the battle.  It also tought me how to read those boring, boring reports in the Official Records.


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