Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Here Is Where

By Andrew Carroll

Part history book, part travel log, Andrew Carroll’s “Here is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History” crisscrosses the country from Florida to Alaska, from Maine to Hawaii, and spans four centuries of American history.  All but forgotten the incidents and places featured in Mr. Carroll’s delightful tome are little known and all are unmarked.

For instance, SS Sultana could legally carry 376 passengers and crew.  When it left Vicksburg Mississippi it carried an estimated 2,400 passengers, a large number of which had recently been released from the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia.  When it exploded and sank near Mound City, Arkansas on April 27, 1865 the official death toll was 1,547, and it is still the greatest maritime disaster in American history, surpassing even the sinking of RMS Titanic, which had 33 fewer deaths.  Overshadowed by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth, it remains today largely forgotten.  Though there are monuments dedicated to the victims and survivors of the Sultana, no monument or plaque marks the spot where remains of the ship were found in 1982.

Would you be surprised to learn Al Capone had a brother that changed his name to Richard James Hart who lived in the tiny town of Homer, Nebraska and became a Federal Prohibition Agent?

Or how about this?  Madison Grant, one of a trio of what we could call today, conservationists, responsible for founding the “Save the Redwoods League” would also write a book on eugenics that Adolph Hitler praised as his new “bible.”

Or that a fourteen year old Philo T. Farnsworth had brainstorm while plowing a field on his father’s Idaho farm that would eventually lead him to develop the first fully functional television system.

These are but a few of the stories found in Andrew Carroll’s book.  Though I would love to see a breakdown of his itinerary and budget for his cross-country journey into forgotten history, Mr. Carroll did not organize his book in the chronological sequence of his travels, but rather he has divided his book into themes:

  • Where To Begin: Starting Points
  • The World Before Us: Coming to, Exploring and Conserving America
  • This Land Is My Land: The Dark Side of Expansion and Growth
  • Landmark Cases: Crimes and Lawsuits that Changed the Nation
  • Sparks: Invention and Technological Advancements
  • Bitter Pills And Miracle Cures: Medical Pioneers and Discoveries
  • Burial Plots: Forgotten Graves, Cemeteries and Stories about the Dead
  • All Is Not Lost: Finding and Preserving History

Each of Mr. Carroll’s themed chapters are subsequently divided into their individual stories, many of which interconnect in some way, shape or form.  Histories coincidences never cease to amaze.

“Here Is Where” is well written, in a conversational style, that is at once educational, entertaining and amusing to read.  It is easily one of the most enjoyable books I have read in quite some time, and would make a great addition to anyone’s home library whether they are a self-proclaimed “history nut” or not.

ISBN 978-0307463975, Crown Archetype, © 2013, Hardcover, 512 pages, “Acknowledgements and Sources,” $25.00.  To purchase this book click HERE.

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