Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862

Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 
by Edward Cunningham

Battle histories are not generally easy reads; by their very nature they are a detailed account of a specific battle. Some are more detailed than others. By and large battle histories are not, and should not be "quick reads." They do tend to be somewhat dry and tedious reading. Not so with O. Edward Cunningham's "Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862."

Written as a doctoral dissertation in the 1960's Cunningham's manuscript remained unpublished for nearly forty years, though it has not been forgotten. The manuscript, a copy of which was housed in the library of the Shiloh National Military Park, has been consulted by armature and professional historians alike. Now thanks to the efforts of editors, Timothy B. Smith and Gary D. Joiner, the manuscript has at long last been published by Savas Beatie Publishing Company.

Cunningham's writing is a joy to read, his narrative flows with ease, and as editors Smith and Joiner, only needed to step in to update new information which has come to light during the 40 years since Cunningham wrote his dissertation or to clarify points here and there where Cunningham's narrative needed a little help... needless to say those times were few and far between.

For a forty year old manuscript, Dr. Cunningham's work seems surprisingly fresh and vibrant; the writing does not date itself. The book contains many new ideas, and different approaches to interpreting and understanding this first, major, catastrophic battle of the American Civil War. For instance, Cunningham deemphasizes the importance of the fight at The Hornet's Nest while shifting the spotlight to the fighting at the crossroads on the west side of the field.

Not only is Dr. Cunningham's narrative, a history of the Battle of Shiloh, but also the whole western campaign from the Confederate Army's invasion of Kentucky & Grant's twin victories and Forts Henry & Donnellson to Shiloh, Corinth and beyond.

Mr. Joiner has drawn over 30 maps to assist the reader in following the action, and there many period photographs and even a photographic tour of the battlefield as it exists to day. Cunningham's notes are true footnotes, located at the bottom of the page, allowing you to quickly look down to see where his information came from without having to thumb to the back of the book which scores an A+ in my grade book.

Being a Savas Beatie publication, "Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862" is a quality volume, printed in a nice easy to read font, on acid free paper, and the artwork on the dust jacket is just gorgeous. This book was a great read and I am proud to list this among the titles in my collection.

No comments: