Myth and Memory
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 that famed 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 ramifications.