Time-Life Books First Manassas

27 07 2007



Recently, Brian Downey featured the Antietam entry in the Time-Life Books Voices of the Civil War series over at Behind Antietam on the Web.  There are a total of 18 books in this series (I think), and I have all but the one on the Shenandoah Valley in 1864.  Of course there is one on First Bull Run.

I echo Brian’s sentiments with regard to the quality of the Antietam volume, and the same can be said about First Manassas.  This volume benefits from the text contributions of the late Brian Pohanka, David Thomson and friend Dana Shoaf of America’s Civil War magazine.

This book does suffer from what is in my mind a common distraction in most studies of the campaign, and that is the perceived need (right or wrong) to cover everything that occurred prior to the campaign itself.  Unlike other volumes in the series which usually lead into the featured battle by filling in the blanks since the previous major engagement, the first 73 pages of the 160 page First Manassas summarizes everything back to the outbreak of the rebellion.  This includes the fighting in western Virginia.  All things considered, that’s a minor complaint and I can understand the reasoning behind the decision.  The battle, even the campaign, shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum.

The book is packed with extracts from diaries, letters and memoirs, and has some nice maps.  But the photos and illustrations are what set it apart.  I wish I was as good at scanning and editing images as are some of my fellow bloggers.  I have downloaded PhotoShop Elements and hope to have some time later on in September to learn how to use it.

A note on maps: it’s difficult to believe that good maps of an area so close to the nation’s capital were hard to come by, but I’ve run across a few that show such glaring errors as the Warrenton Turnpike heading straight into Manassas Junction.  Here’s one from the August 3, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly (click on the image for a full view):