Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reed: "The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged"

[The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged by David W. Reed (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2008). Cloth, photos, 4 maps on CD, tables, original notes, index. Page total:149 ISBN: 1-57233-617-X $33 ]

David W. Reed is a Shiloh institution. Veteran of the battle and first official park historian, Reed wrote the text that graces the numerous and distinctive iron tablets placed throughout Shiloh National Military Park. With an eye toward objectivity, he also penned the official historical account for the park commission. Reed's book The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged was first published in 1902, with a revised edition released in 1909 (and reprinted 4 years later). Historian Timothy B. Smith and University of Tennessee Press have now produced a fine, cloth-bound facsimile reprint of the revised edition for today's readers.

Reed's work has lost none of its impact over the years. His terrain and troop movement maps [originally available as pull outs] are highly detailed, accurate, and widely regarded as the best available representations of unit positions at various intervals of the two-day battle. In addition to his brief campaign narrative, Reed provides the reader with a history of the battle tightly organized by command level*. Brigade entries follow the progress of the battle, paying particular attention to the movements of each regiment. The Reed maps also show the position of each regiment in the battle lines. According to Smith, Reed's unit accounts are very accurate, and the minor errors that did pop up were typically ones of omission (discovered by later research not available to Reed). A veteran of the 12th Iowa, Reed was in the thick of the fighting at the Hornet's Nest, and thus it is not surprising that he attaches a great deal of importance to that part of the battlefield.

In addition to the text, Reed attached orders of battle, commanding & staff officer lists, and detailed strengths and losses tables. The Union army unit data tables are far more complete, with regimental strength figures mostly unavailable for the Confederate army. For this edition, the four 1901 maps overseen by Reed** are placed on a CD in PDF format. The scan quality is fine, and the format is well chosen for allowing easy navigation at various magnifications.

Smith does not contribute his own notations to Reed's work, but his chapter-length introduction does provide some helpful background information about D.W. Reed and his role in the establishment and interpretation efforts of the battlefield park commission. Most important is Smith's placement of Reed's book within Shiloh's shifting historiographical traditions. After 100 years, this seminal work fully retains its original historical and reference value. Much deserved thanks goes to Timothy Smith and UT Press for bringing this handsome new edition to the attention of modern readers.

* - army, division, and brigade for the Union forces; army, corps, division, and brigade for the Confederate army.
** - Map 1. The Field of Operations from Which the Armies Were Concentrated at Shiloh, March and April 1862.
Map 2. The Territory between Corinth, Miss., and Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn., Showing Positions and Route of the Confederate Army in Its Advance to Shiloh, April 3, 4, 5, & 6, 1862.
Map 3. Positions on the First Day, April 6, 1862.
Map 4. Positions on the Second Day, April 7, 1862.


  1. It's nice to see a publisher putting maps on a CD, but the choice of providing only a .ppf format is unfortunate. Rasters should be provided in GIS-compatible format such as GeoTiff, or vectored into Google Earth KML or ESRI shapefile.

  2. With such densely detailed oversize maps, a map CD is entirely appropriate for this particular book, but I don't think I would like to see a genre-wide publishing trend that relegates maps to a CD.

    Although I haven't been keeping current with document imaging formats, I always liked TIFF for viewing archival maps. PDF is certainly a comfortable choice for general computer users, so it's understandable they went with that.


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