A Quest is Finally Over

There are times when one searches for a lost bit of their childhood, an item they can’t get out of their heads. It could be a toy, a board game, or a favorite song. It may take many years before it’s found, or it may not be found at all. One can see it or hear it in their mind, yet they can’t find it anywhere.

For me, it was a booklet entitled Shiloh on Your Own.

As a young kid interested in American history, I loved to buy the small, inexpensive booklets often found in the gift shops at historic sites. (In fact, I still do!) They were among the first additions to my kid-sized library and many of them are still in my grown-up library today, ones like Casey Jones: The Brave Engineer, Shiloh National Military Park, and The Fabulous David Crockett.

But there was one booklet that was lost between childhood and adulthood that I really wanted again. It was a gift from my father, who brought it home for me when I was probably eight or nine years old. It was called Shiloh on Your Own: An Illustrated Guide to the Battlefield, a 10.5″ x 8.75″ booklet with “then” and “now” black and white photos and drawings of 14 tour stops at Shiloh National Military Park. What I remembered most was a page at the beginning with pictures of the opposing Union and Confecerate commanders during the battle. The layout reminded me of a boxing poster with photos of the opponents opposite one another. In this case, it was Ulysses S. Grant versus Albert Sidney Johnston and Don Carlos Buell versus Pierre G.T. Beauregard.

Years later, I couldn’t find the booklet my father had given me. In fact, I couldn’t remember what the title was. But I remembered the unusual size of it and what was on the cover: the Confederates charging the Union camps at the start of the battle. I looked through used bookstores hoping to find it but never did. Later, I added a search for “Shiloh Park book” on Ebay and searched the results every day for the past five years or so. Realistically, I had given up hope of ever finding it.

Then one day, there it was: an auction listing for three booklets and one was Shiloh on Your Own. When I saw the photo, I immediately recognized it. Seven days later, I won the auction; a week later, it was in my library. It was just like I remembered it, even if it’s wasn’t exactly the one my father bought me almost 30 years ago. But the fascination of learning a little more about my country’s history was still there.

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How the West was Left Out

The Civil War Interactive website recently released its list of the Top 50 Best Civil War Books. A few Civil War related bloggers have shared their thoughts on the survey, and for what their worth, here are mine. I admit that I haven’t read most of those listed.

There are many noteworthy books included, but there were only two that had anything to do with the Western Theater of the war. Granted, most of the renowned works concentrate on the Eastern Theater and it’s always been that way. Most of the books were general histories, references, biographies and autobiographies, with but a few that focused on specific battles and campaigns. I agree with most of their selections, but again: Where were the books on the West? Was not Wiley Sword’s classic Shiloh: Bloody April and James Lee McDougal’s books on Shiloh, Stones River, and Franklin worthy of inclusion? I did agree with Steven E. Woodworth’s Nothing But Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 (#27) It and Peter Cozzen’s This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga (#25) were the only Western related books on the list. (Col. Aytch could count, too.)

Book Signing March 22 Jackson, TN

I will have a book signing for Hurst’s Wurst in the Board Room of the Jackson-Madison County Public Library in Jackson, TN on Saturday, March 22nd 1:00-3:00 p.m. I hope anyone in or near Jackson will come by and see me.