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Shiloh: Confederate High Tide in the Heartland

Steven E. Woodworth, Praeger

In crafting a relatively short volume, only 65,000 words, Steve Woodworth admits that he didn’t attempt to craft a full history of the fighting in Shiloh: Confederate High Tide in the Heartland. Given his stellar analysis of the action in that crucial battle, however, it’s clear that Woodworth is at his best in this format, and that’s what really makes this new volume important.

Woodworth has entrenched himself as one of our nation’s top historians primarily by examining leadership during the Civil War. Although he has written extensively on other topics ranging from the 1840s and the coming of the war to the American odyssey as a whole, including textbooks, his particular emphasis has been on the Western Theater, with publications on various battles as well as his phenomenal history of the Army of the Tennessee. He always focuses on leadership on some level, and has also dedicated entire books to that subject, such as Jefferson Davis and His Generals and Davis and Lee at War. His views on leadership are a key part of Shiloh.

Woodworth offers a lively narrative of Shiloh’s first day. There’s much  more than just a good story here,  however, since he also comments on  the role and importance of the Hornets’  Nest, Lew Wallace’s march, P.G.T.  Beauregard’s faulty plan of battle,  the effect of Albert Sidney Johnston’s death, the importance of Don Carlos  Buell’s arrival and the debate over Beauregard’s calling off the last attacks  on the first day.  

In the book’s final chapter, Woodworth provides insightful commentary on how the leaders performed at Shiloh.  Examining theater, army and sub­army  commanders on both sides, he continues  his investigation of the often mediocre  leadership throughout the whole conflict. We can only hope he continues his  quest in many future books.


Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.