Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: "The Civil War: A Visual History"

By Parragon Books

There are dozens of “coffee table books” about the Civil War.  Nearly all of them contain too often published images from such noted Civil War photographers as Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan.  Many include modern photographs of Civil War artifacts housed in museums all across the country as well as artist sketches and lithographs from the Civil War era.  Often these images are accompanied by excerpts from letters, firsthand accounts, diaries and other documents.

Commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Parragon Books has published its own version of the Civil War coffee table book, “The Civil War: A Visual History.”  Yes it does follow many of the accepted conventions of this type of publication, including a few famous photographs that have become the Civil War standards that one would expect to see in this type of book, accompanied by excerpts from letters, diaries, memoirs etc, with a few museum artifacts thrown into the mix.  What separates Parrogon’s “The Civil War: A Visual History” from other Civil War books of the same genre is the large number of images between its covers which have rarely been published.

The book is divided into ten chapters covering the war’s many facets: The Conflict Begins; Battles, Fighting To Do; Front Lines; Battles, Many Brave Men; Behind The Scenes; Battles, Determined To Win; Home Front; Prisons; Battles, Fall of the Confederacy; and The Aftermath.  Each chapter is headed by brief excerpts from historical texts, often from firsthand accounts, letters or other documents.  As you turn through the following pages the images are often accompanied with more excerpts and picture captions.  Among the images collected within the covers of the book political cartoons, lithographs, battlefield sketches, playing cards, collectible cards, newspaper articles, family photos.

Is this a book for the serious student of the Civil War?  Probably not.  Is this a book for those developing an interest in the war?  Absolutely.  Could you go wrong buying “The Civil War: A Visual History” as a gift for anyone interested in the Civil War?  Absolutely Not.  Though many serious students wouldn’t necessarily buy this book for themselves I’m sure they would appreciate receiving it as a gift.

ISBN 978-1445440378, Parragon Books, © 2011, Hardcover, 10.7 x 8.3 x 0.9 inches, 224 pages, Photographs, Illustrations, Index, $14.99.  Click HERE to purchase the book.

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