Shiloh And The Western Campaign
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The bloody and decisive two-day battle of Shiloh (April 6-7 1862) changed the entire course of the American Civil War. The stunning Northern victory thrust Union commander Ulysses S. Grant into the national spotlight claimed the life of Confederate commander Albert S. Johnston and forever buried the notion that the Civil War would be a short conflict. The conflagration at Shiloh had its roots in the strong Union advance during the winter of 1861-1862 that resulted in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. The offensive collapsed General Albert S. Johnston advanced line in Kentucky and forced him to withdraw all the way to northern Mississippi. Anxious to attack the enemy Johnston began concentrating Southern forces at Corinth a major railroad center just below the Tennessee border. His bold plan called for his Army of the Mississippi to march north and destroy General Grant's Army of the Tennessee before it could link up with another Union army on the way to join him. On the morning of April 6 Johnston boasted to his subordinates "Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee!" They nearly did so. Johnston's sweeping attack hit the unsuspecting Federal camps at Pittsburg Landing and routed the enemy from position after position as they fell back toward the Tennessee River. Johnston's sudden death in the Peach Orchard however coupled with stubborn Federal resistance widespread confusion and Grant's dogged determination to hold the field saved the Union army from destruction. The arrival of General Don C. Buell's reinforcements that night turned the tide of battle. The next day Grant seized the initiative and attacked the Confederates driving them from the field. Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war with nearly 24 000 men killed wounded and missing. Edward Cunningham a young Ph.D. candidate studying under the legendary T. Harry Williams at Louisiana State University researched and wrote Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 in 1966. Although it remained unpublished many Shiloh experts and park rangers consider it to be the best overall examination of the battle ever written. Indeed Shiloh historiography is just now catching up with Cunningham who was decades ahead of modern scholarship. Western Civil War historians Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith have resurrected Cunningham's beautifully written and deeply researched manuscript from its undeserved obscurity. Fully edited and richly annotated with updated citations and observations original maps and a complete order of battle and table of losses Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 will be welcomed by everyone who enjoys battle history at its finest.
- Savas Beatie, June 2009
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