Dr. O. Edward Cunningham, Gary D. Joiner, ed., and Timothy B. Smith, ed.
Savas Beatie, 2007, 480 pp. + 26 pp. introduction, $27.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
While a great deal of attention has been given to the eastern theater of the Civil War in 1862, there has not been as many works dedicated to the west and in particular, the Battle of Shiloh. O. Edward Cunningham worked tirelessly on this dissertation of his which, for some time, was not accessible for the people to read. Now, it has been widely published and serves a great purpose in battlefield analysis. Overall, this work, which was written some time ago, was ahead of its time in many aspects: overall battlefield analysis, narrative style and a well-documented thesis unheard of at his time. In Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, a work exists which should be considered the authority on the battle for the current and next generation to come.
O. Edward Cunningham, Ph.D. studied at Louisiana State University. While there, he studied under T. Harry Williams. He was also the author of The Port Hudson Campaign: 1862-183 which was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1963. Though this work is a milestone in study of the Battle of Shiloh, Dr. Cunningham never saw it reach publication on a mass market and died in 1997. Gary D. Joiner, one of the editors of the work, is the author of many books, most famously the award winning One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864 and is a history professor at Louisiana State University. Timothy B. Smith, the other editor of the work, has written the award winning Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg. Smith is a former Shiloh Park Ranger and teaches history at the University of Tennessee.
Throughout the narrative of this work, one thing remains clear. Dr. Cunningham grasped the concept of a clear historical battlefield narrative which was unheard of when he wrote this dissertation in 1966. At the time of the Centennial Celebration of the Civil War, many other works were filling the market, mainly works on the eastern theater of the war. What he had written seems more like a scholarly publication from the modern age instead of that style fifty years ago. But this book is not just about the Battle of Shiloh. It is about the major events and battles which led up to the combat. Dr. Cunningham takes the reader back all the way to the conflicts at both Forts Henry and Donnellson giving us a clear coherent analysis on the battle. It should be noted that the narrative is also aided by excellent maps and photographs. He goes even farther to give the reader a look into the political troubles which were fueling the Union army in the west, especially when it came to the feuds between Halleck and Grant. While there are not that many books about the Battle of Shiloh, this one evokes an understanding which I have not yet read in a book about the campaign yet. Throughout the narrative of the battle, there was never any question of what was going on or who Dr. Cunningham was talking about. This was a clear narrative that even a Civil War novice could understand.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the campaigns of the west, or even all of the Civil War campaigns in general. Dr. Cunningham, along with Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith as the editors, have presented one of the best Shiloh books I have read. It is a welcome addition to the library of any Civil War historian, especially one who wants to read more about the campaigns in the west. Not to be missed.