Preview: Leigh (ed), “Co. Aytch”

29 10 2013

9781594161797_p0_v1_s260x420Philip Leigh’s edition of Sam Watkins’s Co. Aytch, Or, A Side Show to the Big Show is the fourth version of the book I have owned. The first, a small paperback which I read cover to cover, is gone. The second is a nice Morningside edition, and the third is a version revised and expanded by Watkins and edited by his great-granddaughter in 2007. Of course, the first exposure many had to Watkins’s memoir was via Ken Burns’s documentary The Civil War, in which, with Elijah Hunt Rhodes, Watkins supplied the perspective of the common soldier.

Leigh, a contributor to the New York Times Opinionator blog-like project (it’s not a blog really, but rather a series of print articles available online), has “fleshed out” Watkins’s recollections with 240 or so sometimes lengthy annotations. In addition to the color and detail it provides, Watkins’s book has long been noted for some pretty significant mis-rememberings, and some of the annotations help to identify and explain them. They also provide background on military situations, personalities, and terminology. A nice feature are numerous clear, Hal Jesperson maps which along with the annotations help put Sam’s travels in perspective, and give a clearer picture of the bigger show. Do you need this to replace whatever other edition of Co. Aytch you may own? Probably not, but if someone is considering taking a first dip into soldiers’ memoirs this may be a nice place to start.





Preview: Hopkins, “Robert E. Lee in War and Peace”

28 10 2013

Robert_LeeStaying with the picture-book theme started with the Smithsonian Collection book we have Robert E. Lee in War and Peace: The Photographic History of a Confederate and American Icon, by Donald A. Hopkins. In one volume (slim, but oversize and on good quality, glossy paper) Hopkins brings together all of the known photographs of the Marble Man. This book is cool in a Garry Adelman/Bill Frassanito photo geek way. By that I mean the very interesting, how did the images come about, how were they used, re-used, and abused kind of way, as opposed to the “Hey, I found a 100 ton rock that is AMAZINGLY still sitting in the same spot it was in 150 years ago in this Gardner photo” kind of way. You’ll likely learn more about the photographic process than you intended while grazing (yes, grazing) over these photos, and also a good bit about Lee and how he’s remembered. An endorsement from Center for Civil War Photography co-founder Bob Zeller lends instant gravitas.





Preview: “The Civil War Lover’s Guide to New York City”

18 10 2013

NYCCWLoverI attended college back in the day when the mere thought of being forced into taking a job in New York City made a business major’s skin crawl (unless of course you were from there, then you thought it was great.) And as an ACW enthusiast later, I thought that there couldn’t possibly be much to see there outside of Grant’s Tomb. In Bill Morgan’s new The Civil War Lover’s Guide to New York City, I find there is far, far more to see in the city relating to the Civil War than I had imagined, though some of the links are tenuous at best. The book is laid out geographically by borough and neighborhood, and includes many period and modern photographs. The illustrations vary in quality and descriptiveness, and sometimes the narrative is vague as to whether or not the building in question still stands. I suppose I would have preferred more of a template layout by site. But the color photos of statues and monuments are at times stunning. As with most good guidebooks, this sturdy Savas Beatie paperback is ideal for packing along as you walk the city. Just be careful that you’re not “marked” as a tourist. I’ve seen enough episodes of Barney Miller to know how that will end (I’m still living in 1978 I guess.)





Preview: “Smithsonian Civil War”

17 10 2013


Smithsonian-Civil-War-Inside-the-National-Collection-Hardcover-L9781588343895
Smithsonian Books sent me a copy of this beautiful, coffee table (without legs) book, Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection. This is an old fashioned “picture book,” the kind that has hooked thousands of kids on the Civil War (or baseball, or whatever) over the years. Mine was The American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War. As the title implies, the eye candy inside is from the Smithsonian’s Civil War collection, which has been acquired primarily via donation over the years. Photographs are grouped thematically and are accompanied with descriptive narrative often including the artifact’s journey to the collection. My copy has a slightly oily fragrance, likely a result of the process used to produce the full color images, but I imagine that will dissipate over time. I have a soft spot for books like this, as I can think back on long hours spent in libraries and on living room floors staring at those pictures. Do kids still do that? I like to think so.





Reference Library: Bibliographies

16 10 2013

Biblio

Bibliographies are handy when you want to find out more – who else has written on the topic? Some bibliographies tell you more than others, some are more comprehensive, some more specific. The problem with all of them is that by the time they’re compiled, printed, bound, and delivered to the marketplace, they’re already dated. I suspect bibliographies in hard-copy will go the way of the dodo before most other books do, likely replaced by an on-line version that can be continuously updated (will we see a reader compiled, wiki-like version some day?) and available for free. But for now, these will have to do:

 

Cole, Civil War Eyewitnesses: An Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles, 1955-1986

Cole, Civil War Eyewitnesses: An Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles, 1986-1996

Dornbusch, Military Bibliography of the Civil War (4 Volumes)

Eicher, The Civil War in Books

Sauers, The Gettysburg Campaign Bibliography

Woodworth, The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research





Preview: William Lee White, “Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale”

2 10 2013

Layout 1The most recent installment in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series is Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale: The Battle of Chickamauga, September 18-20, 1863, by William Lee White. Lee is a NPS Ranger at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and a longtime presence in the online Civil War community (I think I’ve been yaking at and with him for over ten years now), and he’s always been quick to share his extensive knowledge on the park, the battles, and the labyrinthine Confederate command structure in the Western Theater. With Bushwhacking, he offers a profusely illustrated, concise, and easy to follow narrative of the campaign in the style to which we’ve become accustomed in this series. Appendices include notes on Longstreet’s attack, Chickamauga in Memory, Civilians in the Battle (Lee and Dave Powell helped me out in this regard with my Civil War Times article on the Snodgrass cabin a few years back), and an Order of Battle. A nice touch is a recommended Chickamauga reading list. The paperback format makes this ideal for tossing in the backpack for a day of tromping the fields – once Congress and POTUS get their stuff together and open them up again.





Reference Library: Biographical

20 09 2013

I often receive inquiries regarding books – recommendations, suggestions, questions, criticisms. I don’t know if this is because I’ve published quite a few, mostly quantitative reviews/previews both here and in print, or because in some circles I’m thought to own a lot of the little rascals myself (my current count of Civil War books is just over 2,100, which is a lot to some of you, not so many to others, and just-plain-silly to most.) So I thought it might be helpful to those interested to give a little insight into what’s on my shelves – particularly my reference shelves, the ones to which I turn most often. I’ll just list them here with no comment, but know that some are better than others. If you have any comments or questions regarding these volumes, or have any suggestions for possible additions – my wife will likely hunt you down and kill you, slowly and painfully – feel free to use the comments section below. Let’s start here with Biographical Reference works:

IMG_20130920_045500_235








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