Thirty-two years after the battle of Shiloh Lew Wallace returned to the battlefield, mapping the route of his April 1862 march. Ulysses S. Grant, Wallace’s commander at Shiloh, expected Wallace and his Third Division to arrive early in the afternoon of April 6. Wallace and his men, however, did not arrive until nightfall, and in the aftermath of the bloodbath of Shiloh, Grant attributed Wallace’s late arrival to a failure to obey orders. By mapping the route of his march and proving how and where he had actually been that day, the sixty-seven-year-old Wallace hoped to remove the stigma of “Shiloh and its slanders.” That did not happen. Shiloh still defines Wallace’s military reputation, overshadowing the rest of his stellar military career and making it easy to forget that in April 1862 he was a rising military star, the youngest major general in the Union army.
Wallace was devoted to the Union, but he was also pursuing glory, fame, and honor when he volunteered to serve in April 1861. In Shadow of Shiloh, author Gail Stephens specifically addresses Wallace’s military career and its place in the larger context of Civil War military history. A central issue in the book is the tension between citizen-soldiers and West Pointers that occurred in the officer ranks. The general assumption in current Civil War histories is that the West Pointers were more competent at war than the citizen-soldiers. That was not true in Wallace’s case. He had a talent for battle, which he demonstrated at Fort Donelson, Monocacy, and even Shiloh. But Wallace’s disdain for military rules and protocol and his arrogance, fueled by early promotion, alienated his West Point superiors such as Grant and, especially, Henry Halleck, the general in chief of the Union armies.
Wallace was an extraordinary man—lawyer, politician, general, author, inventor, and adventurer. It is hoped that this book sheds new light on the long-standing issues surrounding Wallace’s Civil War career and puts his great service to the nation in perspective.
Stephens is a retired U.S. Department of Defense employee who serves as a volunteer at the Monocacy National Battlefield. She lectures on the Civil War, teaches courses at area colleges, and gives battlefield tours.
Shadow of Shiloh costs $27.95 and is available from the IHS's History Market.