Book Review: Tom Worthington's Civil War: Shiloh, Sherman, and the Search for Vindication


by James D. Brewer

Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013. Pp. viii, 238. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $25.00 paper. ISBN: 0786473770

A Curmudgeon in Blue

Scion of a prominent Ohio family, Thomas Worthington (1807-1884), like many other West Point graduates (Class of 1827, with Napoleon B. Buford, Leonidas Polk, and Philip St. George Cooke, among others), left the army to engage in business and politics, while rising to high rank in the state militia. He did his bit in the Mexican War, and then returned to civilian life. On the outbreak of the Civil War Worthington returned to the service in command of the 46th Ohio. Unlike most of his brave and able comrades, however, Worthington was arrogant, touchy, quarrelsome, and convinced he was a better soldier than anyone else. 

Worthington’s abrasiveness, and dare we say egomania, quickly put him in conflict with many officers, including his commanders, whom he often criticized publicly. Among these was William T. Sherman, who had Worthington in his division at Shiloh. On the disastrous first day at Shiloh, Worthington did well. But in the aftermath of the battle, he made scathing criticisms of Sherman’s performance. Some of these were certainly accurate, and have been repeated by biographers and historians. Others seem rooted in Worthington’s deep conviction that higher ups, less able than he, were conspiring to keep him down. Open hostility to Sherman, and later Grant, Worthington’s repeated acts of insubordination, and episodes of drinking, led to a rather irregular court martial and his expulsion from the army. 

Worthington spent the next 20 years waging a war of pamphlets and petitions in an effort to clear his name, leveling increasingly wild charges, but never attaining vindication. Originally issued in 2001, in this book, Brewer, a former Army officer and Civil War historian, lays out the case for Worthington. While not wholly clearing the man, this is certainly worth reading by anyone interested in Shiloh, Sherman, or the opening phases of the war in the West.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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