Book Review: Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862


by O. Edward Cunningham, edited by Guy D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith

New York: Savas Beattie, 2007. Pp. xxix, 476. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN:1932714340

Prof. O. Edward Cunningham's doctoral dissertation, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, was completed in 1966, and has long held a niche in Civil War studies as an essential read for the Shiloh campaign.  Nevertheless, and quite surprisingly, the work was not published until this 2007 edition, long after Prof. Cunnigham's death.

Dr. Cunningham's work is a highly detailed strategic and tactical analysis of events in the Western Theater during the Henry-Donelson and Shiloh Campaigns; this is operational analysis on the grand scale.  It opens with three chapters exploring the geographic, cultural, and political background, Union strategic decision making, and the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. There follow three chapters on strategy and operations to the eve of the Battle of Shiloh, then fully eight very detailed chapters on the battle itself, and then a chapter on claiming and blaming, one analyzing the results, and a final one setting the stage for what followed. The treatment is excellent, very detailed, well-reasoned, and highly readable. 

Keeping in mind that Dr. Cunningham's research was done over 40 years ago, and that he relied rather heavily on the publications of the Southern Historical Society, lending the work a generally "Southern" slant not always borne out by more recent scholarship, the editors have carefully made occasional well-labeled changes to his text, based on documents and research unavailable at the time the work was written, and often provide little "side bars" in special footnotes explaining some complex issues of fact or interpretation.

By making Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 available the editors and publisher have made a great contribution to Civil War studies.      


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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