Shelby Foote's Shiloh Essay

Shelby Foote's Shiloh Essay

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Shelby Foote's Shiloh


In the novel Shiloh, historian and Civil War expert Shelby Foote delivers a spare, unflinching account of the battle of Shiloh, which was fought over the course of two days in April 1862. By mirroring the troops' movements through the woods of Tennessee with the activity of each soldier's mind, Foote offers the reader a broad perspective of the battle and a detailed view of the issues behind it. The battle becomes tangible as Foote interweaves the observations of Union and Confederate officers, simple foot soldiers, brave men, and cowards and describes the roar of the muskets and the haze of the gun smoke. The author's vivid storytelling creates a rich chronicle of a pivotal battle in American history.

This book is a wonderful example of his abilities and deals with the battle of Shiloh through the eyes of several men on both sides of the conflict. His characters are not the generals on the field, rather they are common soldiers ranging from privates who have never seen battle up to a colonel (Forrest) -- people that don't have all the answers, others who are still searching for the questions. The wonderful thing about Foote's writing is his ability to make you feel like you were there without bogging the story down with too many numbers and statistics, but allowing the viewer a much deeper understanding of the events of the battle by giving us a glimpse through the eyes of those who were there.

Foote is one of the great authorities on the War, and though he wrote this when pretty young it is still filled with detail and knowledge of the war. It conveys well the chaos of the fighting and how, as so often, small failures of generalship cost the battle

Shelby Foote's Shiloh is a novel about a real Civil War battle told from the point of view of a few common soldiers, both northern and southern, who fought there. Because he chose to depict the action from these points of view, he limits what can be said of the big picture. If one can ignore that big picture, the book works very well at showing the reader what the experience must have been like for individuals caught up in different parts of the fight. Yet needing to provide some of that picture, Foote has each character present background on specific generals and their actions leading up to Shiloh. This exposition is, for the most part, pretty clumsy and simply detracts from ...


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...the most horrifying part of the surgeries was the absence of anesthesia and antiseptics. Each hurt man would have to be held down as he experienced excruciating pain, but many passed out and later died of infection. Finally, I realized how much suffering two opposing forces can bring upon one country: dying soldiers, devastated country, and unbearable sadness. For example, Foote describes the mile-long lines of men from the South and North opposing each other. Each side would test the cannon's range, and, after a while, would be destroying huge groups of men and creating gaping holes in the earth. As a northern infantryman said as he watched the mini balls cut down his friends, "they died for nothing" (p.191). The front line would also shoot grapeshot that would burst into thousands of tiny pieces and destroy the other army's front line. All of Shiloh was about two sides of America fighting over slaver! y and secession. About 26, 000 men died without respect, a prayer, or a marked grave. Shiloh is a historically accurate book that would interest anyone who likes to read about the Civil War and wants to understand the pain and suffering our country went through on April 6-7, 1862.

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