Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Booknotes: Decisions at Shiloh

New Arrival:
Decisions at Shiloh: The Twenty-Two Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle by Dave Powell (UT Press, 2023).

From the description: Decisions at Shiloh "introduces readers to critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders throughout the battle. Dave Powell examines the decisions that prefigured the action and shaped the contest as it unfolded. Rather than a linear history of the battle, Powell’s discussion of the critical decisions presents readers with a vivid blueprint of the battle’s developments. Exploring the critical decisions in this way allows the reader to progress from a sense of what happened in these battles to why they happened as they did."

This is Powell's second contribution to the Command Decisions in America’s Civil War series (the first, of course, being the Chickamauga installment). Here, he evaluates 22 critical decisions spread over five time intervals: "Before the Battle"; "Morning, April 6"; Afternoon, April 6"; "Afternoon and Evening, April 6"; and "April 7 and Beyond." At this point, CWBA readers will be familiar with the general format, so there's no need to summarize it here yet again. There are eight maps included in the volume. In a departure from the series norm (though, to be honest, I don't recall if the author also did this for Chickamauga), Powell's 19-Stop guidebook section drops the lengthy official report excerpts while keeping the focus on the critical decision associations. To be honest, I rather prefer it this way.


  1. Drew: I'm interested in this one because much of what happened during April 6 was chaotic fighting where many of the "decisions" made were reactive and occurred at a smaller unit level. If anybody can sort that out the author is a highly qualified and leading candidate,

    1. I am intrigued, too, by his ability to come up with 22 critical decisions, a higher number than I would have guessed for this particular battle.


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