Numerous factors combined to bring about the major Union victory that was Shiloh.

Timing, numbers, and leadership all combined to sway the action in definite ways, but perhaps the most dominant and least understood reason for the reversal of Confederate fortunes was the terrain on which the Battle of Shiloh took place. Understanding of the battle must be based firmly on an understanding of the field on which it was fought.

Come join us on Tuesday, Aug. 14, as Dr. Timothy B. Smith, basing his talk on his award-winning book Shiloh: Conquer or Perish, will walk us through a detailed examination of the terrain factor at Shiloh. He will explain how the ground, often described negatively as a trap for the Union forces, was set up perfectly for Union victory and Confederate defeat.

Little known features will be examined to understand more fully how the battle was
shaped and how it funneled in certain directions, leading to a major advantage for the Federal forces. Albert Sidney Johnston famously proclaimed that he must conquer or perish that day. After seeming to do the former, he and many Confederate soldiers under him did the latter at Shiloh in large part due to the terrain on which the battle was fought.

Timothy Smith

Timothy B. Smith, who holds a Ph.D. from Mississippi State University, is a veteran of the National Park Service and currently teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

In addition to numerous articles and essays, he is the author, editor, or co-editor of eighteen books, including

  • Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (2004), which won the nonfiction book award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters,
  • Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation (2012), which won the Fletcher Pratt Award and the McLemore Prize,
  • Shiloh: Conquer or Perish (2014), which won the Richard B. Harwell Award, the Tennessee History Book Award, and the Douglas Southall Freeman Award, and
  • Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson (2016), which won the Tennessee History Book Award, the Emerging Civil War Book Award, the Albert Castel Award, and the Douglas Southall Freeman Award.

His book on Grierson’s Raid, The Real Horse Soldiers, comes out in September, and he is currently writing a book on the May 19 th and 22 nd Union assaults on the Confederate lines at Vicksburg that preceded the siege and surrender of the city.

Tim lives with his wife Kelly and children Mary Kate and Leah Grace in Adamsville, Tennessee.