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Rethinking Shiloh

Myth and Memory

Timothy B. Smith

Publication Year: 2013

     Ulysses S. Grant once remarked that the Battle of Shiloh “has been perhaps
less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more persistently
misunderstood, than any other engagement . . . during the entire rebellion.”
In Rethinking Shiloh, Timothy B. Smith seeks to rectify these persistent
myths and misunderstandings, arguing that some of Shiloh’s story is either
not fully examined or has been the result of a limited and narrow collective
memory established decades ago. Continuing the work he began in The
Untold Story of Shiloh
, Smith delves even further into the story of Shiloh
and examines in detail how the battle has been treated in historiography and
public opinion.
     The nine essays in this collection uncover new details about the
battle, correct some of the myths surrounding it, and reveal new avenues of
exploration. The topics range from a compelling analysis and description of
the last hours of General Albert Sidney Johnston to the effect of the New
Deal on Shiloh National Military Park and, subsequently, our understanding
of the battle. Smith’s careful analyses and research bring attention to
the many relatively unexplored parts of Shiloh such as the terrain, the
actual route of Lew Wallace’s march, and post-battle developments that
affect currently held perceptions of thatfamed clash between Union and
Confederate armies in West Tennessee.
     Studying Shiloh should alert readers and historians to the likelihood
of misconceptions in other campaigns and wars—including today’s military
conflicts. By reevaluating aspects of the Battle of Shiloh often ignored by
military historians, Smith’s book makes significant steps toward a more
complete understanding and appreciation of the Shiloh campaign in all of its

Timothy B. Smith teaches history at the University of Tennessee, Martin. His most recent books include The Golden Age of Battlefield Preservation: The Decade of the 1890s and the Establishment of America’s First Five Military Parks, Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front, and Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press


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pp. xi-xv

Ulysses S. Grant was no doubt in a nostalgic mood as he wrote about his wartime experiences late in life, but he was more than brutally honest when he remarked that the Battle of Shiloh “has been perhaps less understood, or, to state the case more accurately, more persistently misunderstood, than any ...

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1. “Difficult and Broken Ground”: The Terrain Factor at Shiloh

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pp. 1-25

Braxton Bragg was unnerved, to say the least, about fighting a battle on ground that he did not know well. As the Confederate army moved northward in early April 1862 to attack the Federals near Shiloh Church and Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, “the commanders of divisions and brigades were ...

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2. To Conquer or Perish: The Last Hours of Albert Sidney Johnston

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pp. 27-43

A somewhat surprised Albert Sidney Johnston stood and listened to his second in command call for a withdrawal. General P. G. T. Beauregard, second in command of the Confederate Army of the Mississippi, argued that the ...

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3. Anatomy of an Icon: Shiloh’s Hornet’s Nest in Civil War Memory

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pp. 45-66

The sweat-lathered soldier, caked with black powder and grime, peered through lengthening shadows to see if they were coming again. Along with neighboring units, his regiment, the 12th Iowa Infantry, had for some six hours repelled at least seven or eight attacks on their position. Those Rebels ...

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4. A Case Study in Civil War Memory: Benjamin M. Prentissas the Hero of Shiloh

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pp. 67-83

Chaos and confusion were everywhere. The neatly aligned ranks of the Federal army at Shiloh had given way to a mass of straggling, running soldiers intent on escaping. To the defenders of the Union position known as the Hornet’s Nest, the only hope for survival lay in running the gauntlet of crossfire...

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5. Rewriting History: Locating Lew Wallace’s Route of March to Shiloh

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pp. 85-97

A variety of questions surround Lew Wallace’s march to Shiloh on April 6, 1862. Why did it take all day to reach the battlefield? Was he really lost? What exactly did those elusive written orders tell Wallace to do? What was ...

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6. Secession at Shiloh: Mississippi’s Convention Delegates and Their State’s Defense

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pp. 99-105

January 9, 1861, was a momentous day for the one hundred men gathered at the state house in Jackson, Mississippi. They were delegates to the Mississippi secession convention and were about to make a fateful decision, not just for their state but also for themselves. Some were wealthy planters who ...

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7. The Forgotten Inhabitants of Shiloh: A Case Study in a Civilian-Government Relationship

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pp. 107-125

James Wood could tell something was amiss. He lived in a small house on the Corinth Road some three miles inland from Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. There, he labored hard at his nearby cotton gin, working the fibers for the few cotton farmers who were his neighbors in the area. There ....

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8. A Case Study in Change: The New Deal’s Effect on Shiloh National Military Park

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pp. 127-147

The last week in October 1929 was calm at Shiloh National Military Park, the government reservation in West Tennessee set aside as a memorial to the great April 1862 Civil War battle. Matters had calmed down considerably since late ...

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9. History in the Making: Shiloh: Portrait of a Battle Fifty Years Later

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pp. 149-161

The elderly, white-haired woman walked out of the auditorium at the Shiloh National Military Park visitor center with a quizzical look on her face. She had just seen the park’s introductory film, ...


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pp. 163-188


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pp. 189-197

E-ISBN-13: 9781572339880
E-ISBN-10: 1572339888
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572339415
Print-ISBN-10: 1572339411

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 17 photos, 14 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1st ed.

OCLC Number: 841514903
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rethinking Shiloh

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Subject Headings

  • Shiloh, Battle of, Tenn., 1862.
  • Shiloh, Battle of, Tenn., 1862 -- Historiography.
  • Shiloh National Military Park (Tenn. and Miss.) -- History.
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