Conquer or Perish
Timothy B. Smith
Richard B. Harwell Award
Tennessee History Book Award
“With lucid prose, Smith has successfully bridged the frustratingly elusive gap between exhaustive scholarly research and good storytelling. . . . A well-narrated story of battle that has too often been overshadowed by the engagements that followed it. By placing it in context, Smith convincingly argues that Shiloh was one of the most critical contingency points of the war.”
—Journal of Southern History
“Smith has provided an easily accessible narrative on how the Battle of Shiloh unfolded. His balanced treatment of both days of combat and his emphasis on how the terrain impacted the proceedings presents an authoritative text valuable for both historians and Civil War enthusiasts.”
—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
“Smith’s study is unquestionably the new standard treatment of the Shiloh battle. It is very highly recommended reading.”
—On Point: The Journal of Army History
“Only the dead know Shiloh better than Tim Smith.”
—Civil War Times
“Smith’s exhaustive and uniquely complete study is the first truly great treatment and is unquestionably the new standard bearer of Shiloh battle histories.”
—Civil War Books and Authors
“One of the nation’s leading Civil War historians, Tim Smith has produced what may be his best work yet. This volume is the definitive book on the critical battle of Shiloh. Its stirring prose and exhaustive research will stir the historical imagination of scholars and the general public both.”
—John F. Marszalek, Executive Director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association’s Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University
“Well written, highly readable, and a great improvement over previous studies, this is easily the most comprehensive account yet written of the Battle of Shiloh, and it’s hard to imagine it being superseded within the next several decades. Indeed, this may still be the definitive account when the battle’s bicentennial rolls around.”
—Steven E. Woodworth, author of Shiloh: Confederate High Tide in the HeartlandSee fewer reviews...
Doughlas Southall Freeman Award
A critical moment in the Civil War, the Battle of Shiloh has been the subject of many books. However, none has told the story of Shiloh as Timothy Smith does in this volume, the first comprehensive history of the two-day battle in April 1862—a battle so fluid and confusing that its true nature has eluded a clear narrative telling until now.
Unfolding over April 6th and 7th, the Battle of Shiloh produced the most sprawling and bloody field of combat since the Napoleonic wars, with an outcome that set the Confederacy on the road to defeat. Contrary to previous histories, Smith tells us, the battle was not won or lost on the first day, but rather in the decision-making of the night that followed and in the next days fighting. Devoting unprecedented attention to the details of that second day, his book shows how the Unions triumph was far less assured, and much harder to achieve, than has been acknowledged. Smith also employs a new organization strategy to clarify the action. By breaking his analysis of both days fighting into separate phases and sectors, he makes it much easier to grasp what was happening in each combat zone, why it unfolded as it did, and how it related to the broader tactical and operational context of the entire battle.
The battlefields diverse and challenging terrain also comes in for new scrutiny. Through detailed attention to the terrains major features—most still visible at the Shiloh National Military Park—Smith is able to track their specific and considerable influence on the actions, and their consequences, over those forty-eight hours. The experience of the soldiers finally finds its place here too, as Smith lets us hear, as never before, the voices of the common man, whether combatant or local civilian, caught up in a historic battle for their lives, their land, their honor, and their homes.
We must this day conquer or perish, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston declared on the morning of April 6, 1862. His words proved prophetic, and might serve as an epitaph for the larger war, as we see fully for the first time in this unparalleled and surely definitive history of the Battle of Shiloh.