I must open this review with the disclaimer that I was predisposed by my admiration for Smith’s work on the Battle of Champion Hill to be favorable to this work as well. Having said that I did find much to like about this book but also some to dislike. The opening chapters contained the necessary background information for proper understanding of the actions around Corinth but the reading was a bit tedious. Also (and this is a common complaint concerning military history books) I found a disappointing number of maps/ graphics to support the narrative. I expect that battle sequences should be accompanied by enough such material to make the written description clearer. This was not the case here. The 307 pages contained just eight such plates. Totally inadequate in my estimation for operations on such a grand scale.
With these negatives aside we can move to the things to like about this book. First and foremost some of these operations have not been covered in much detail before. The post-Shiloh campaign towards Corinth has often been described as almost glacial and without significant combat or consequences but this study reveals the command justifications, administrative details, personality conflicts, and meteorological circumstances that dictated the decision making during this period. Once thought of as a period of inaction this book reveals the true nature of a more frenetic time. While lacking in large scale combat the leadership interactions on both sides during this period make for an interesting study of command dynamics. The small action at Farmington, Mississippi also makes for interesting reading.
The Battle of Corinth (Oct 3-4, 1862) is obviously the major military action of concern but it is not the highlight of this volume. In fact given the masterful work done on Champion Hill by this author I was somewhat disappointed by the 110 pages devoted to this horrific struggle. I found the new information concerning the movement to Corinth, siege, and occupation portions that sandwich the battle sequence the real value of this effort. As an overall summation I would say Smith’s work lacks the flowing style of Sears and the exacting detail of Cozzens but is a noteworthy accomplishment nonetheless. It has broken new ground on a long ignored aspect of the war. The information on the movement to, the operations around, and occupation Corinth by Union forces should excite the interest of any Civil War enthusiast. This is a must have volume, especially those who are particularly interested in the western theater of operations.
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