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Review: D.W. Reed's Shiloh

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  • Brett Schulte
    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),
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 20, 2008
      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

      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

      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 ***** 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 ***** Acrobat Reader. Visit http://www.*****.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.

      Brett Schulte
      TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog
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