Stirring Civil War history from the author of Forest Gump.
Groom (Kearny’s March, 2011) presents Shiloh, fought on April 6-7 in western Tennessee, as a turning point in the war. The casualty count exceeded all previous American wars combined. After setting the stage, Groom takes the reader to Pittsburg Landing, the nearest town to the battle, a few days beforehand. Grant and Sherman had moved 48,000 troops into the area, and were expecting more. Against them were arrayed some 45,000 rebels commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard. But little of the commanders’ brilliance showed in the early fighting. Grant and Sherman, expecting reinforcements from Don Carlos Buell, were caught unprepared. Meanwhile, Beauregard either misinterpreted or disregarded Johnston’s battle plan, sending his troops in three consecutive waves rather than in three corps fighting abreast. Add to that the utter greenness of the troops, many of whom had never fired their guns, and the difficulty of the terrain, and it is easy to understand the chaos of the first day’s battle. Driven back in the morning, the Union lines stabilized over a sunken road to repel successive rebel assaults. When Johnston was killed, Beauregard, after more fierce action, called his men off to await the morning. But it was too late—Buell, with 17,000 reinforcements, arrived on the field, leading the Union to victory. Groom follows individual soldiers and small units as well as the larger shape of the battle, and quotes extensively from primary sources, including memoirs by Henry Stanley, Ambrose Bierce and Lew Wallace. The author also looks at the battle’s impact on civilians, some of whom remained in their farmhouses while fighting raged over their fields. The emphasis on the human element gives the book a power that sets it apart from most military histories.
Essential reading for Civil War buffs and a great overview of a key battle for neophytes.