Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Shiloh: A Novel
Shiloh: A Novel by Shelby Foote
This is a novel but I think it is an important book to read about Shiloh. Sometimes novels are better at conveying the senses of the battle better than a battle history does. They are no substitute for learning the ebb and flow of a battle, or its context in the war, but they do provide a good way of getting a feel for what the participants thought and felt.
Foote covers the battle by using characters from Johnston's staff, 53rd Ohio, 6th Mississippi, 1st Minnesota Battery, 23rd Indiana, and Forrest's Cavalry. In this way Foote is able to tell nearly the entire stoy of the battle. His stories are pretty faithful to the historical record but there is also some fictionalization along the way. I know if we read actual accounts from these units we would get nearly the same story but there is something in Foote's telling that makes it more real.
I read this book every year, its a pretty easy read. I would never recommend it as a substitute for a battle history but I think it is a good way to add more a more human element to the story.