A few weeks ago I received a copy of Blaikie Hines’s The Battle of First Bull Run Manassas Campaign - July 16-22, 1861: An Illustrated Atlas and Battlefield Guide. Anything with a title like that deserves some attention from a blog with a name like this one’s, and I plan on going into deeper detail with an author interview in the future, but I just wanted to get the word out. This is a pretty nice book, even if it does have several elements that are eerily similar to something I’ve been working on myself. No, I’m not accusing anyone of espionage, and really it’s only one of many elements in this book and on a much smaller scale than what I’m thinking about. Mr. Hines gave Bull Runnings a very nice acknowledgement (no, I did not see or even hear of this one until it was finished), but I’ll use that to point out a problem with the book: the web address in the acknowledgement is wrong. He left out the “.wordpress” part of it. No, I’m not whining, but here’s why I bring it up: this book is self-published. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but a problem often seen in self-published works is weak editing. The narrative here does suffer from typos and grammatical errors that drive a Chicago Manual of Style toting geek like me to distraction. Call me pedantic, call me what you will. I’m not going to dwell on the mistakes of grammar, punctuation, or fact at this point.
OK, now that we have that out of the way, let me briefly describe this oversized, landscape oriented book. It’s paperback, and the pages are a glossy, heavy stock. That’s good for taking out onto the field, and that’s where it’s meant to be taken. The layout is a little unconventional, but Hines has touched all the bases, giving an overview of events leading up to the battle, descriptions of the players, plenty of photographs (many labeled with landmarks), various maps including some utilizing satellite imagery, orders of battle, then and now photos, narrative vignettes, descriptions of arms, equipment, and uniforms, I can go on. At first glance, here’s what I think: if you have a particular interest in First Bull Run, you really should get your hands on a copy, if you can afford it. Stay tuned here for more.