Once the Southern states had declared their independence from the United States, both the Federal government and the newly formed Confederacy spent nearly a year assembling their resources and armies for the titanic contest that was to come.
In the spring of 1862 the true magnitude of the conflict burst forth at the Battle of Shiloh, the biggest and bloodiest battle yet seen on the North American continent. To be sure, Shiloh would soon be followed by a succession of other battles—growing larger and bloodier over the next three years until the Confederacy was finally forced to succumb—but Shiloh, on April 6–7, 1862, was the first clash that shocked all Americans into realizing how desperate would be the struggle.
Now in its fourth printing, Savas Beatie’s Shiloh and the Western Campaign in 1862 has been re-released in paperback in time for the anniversary. A remarkable book by Edward Cunningham, PhD, originally written in 1966, for decades this work lay dormant as an essential analysis, known only to in-depth historians, park rangers, and battlefield guides. With its unerring finger on Civil War scholarship, however, Savas Beatie Publishers learned about the work, brought in its own team of experts for commentary and annotations on Cunningham’s firsthand research, and thus produced perhaps the best tactical examination of Shiloh ever released.
To be clear, Cunningham’s Shiloh is not for the Civil War novice. But for those who wish to know exactly what Johnston, Sherman, Cleburne, Bragg, Hardee, Grant, Polk, McLernand, Prentice, the Wallaces, Buell’s troops, Beauregard, Forrest, and others were doing in that battle it is essential reading.
Strategically, Shiloh had an impact on the Civil War that is often underestimated. With over 23,000 casualties, it not only shocked both North and South into realizing the size of the war; it also set the stage for the conflict’s future course in the western theater.