In celebration of discovering two Civil War veterans on my family tree last year I indulged in the purchase of several books related to this turning point in American history. (Thank you to my great-grandfathers William Donar and Edward Kennedy for making yourselves known after some grueling genealogical research.)
Some of my new acquisitions relate to Abraham Lincoln, a few are directed at children (quick reads that are easy to follow and get right to the point), and two of them—by far my favorites—are comprehensive historical pictorials. I discovered those in the “bargain” section of my local chain bookstore at a cost of less than $25 each.
I remember spotting them one Sunday afternoon when I was out browsing and agonizing over which to purchase. They were both beautiful!
I sat down with my selections, spent 45 minutes perusing their pages, and reluctantly chose one to take home. It didn’t take long though, for me to head back to the store, cash in hand and simply purchase the other. (After all, I have two great-grandfathers I’m honoring, right? Surely that means I could buy a book in honor of each. Oh, what we do to justify our spending!)
So here’s my take on these two sumptuous offerings which provide both a visual feast and cerebral understanding of this crossroad in our nation’s history:
- Civil War Chronicle: 150th Anniversary by Davis, Sauers, Graham, Skoch and Johnson. Published in honor of the war’s 150th anniversary, this 450-page tome presents its offerings in easy to follow chapters supported by a day-by-day timeline that runs from chapter one (The Road to the Civil War) through chapter eight (The War’s Enduring Legacy). And the content in between–sketches, paintings, and early photographs by Matthew Brady–doesn’t disappoint either. Even the endsheets featuring Civil War battles which grace the inside covers of this richly illustrated volume are a feast for the eyes (if you can say that about a book that focuses on one of the bloodiest wars in American history.)
- An Illustrated History of the Civil War: Images of an American Tragedy by William J. Miller and Brian C. Pohanka. Equal in scope and presentation to the book mentioned above, it’s not better, just different. While text in each chapter of this history provides broad outlines for understanding this complex conflict, the details of the story are captured in the captions that accompany this book’s generous visual offerings. Early photographs of Civil War camps, pictures of artifacts (weapons, medical kits, tools, etc.) and historical maps are the visuals in this book that bring the reality of this conflict to life.
So, if you’re looking for a comprehensive, visually stunning history of the Civil War, either one of these volumes will certainly suffice. But be forewarned: there are many more Civil War histories on your booksellers’ shelves that you have to choose from as well. So hit your bookstore, grab a latte, find a comfortable chair, and indulge in the past for awhile. It definitely won’t be a short stay.
You might want to start with the “bargain” table, since Civil War books seem to be abundant in that department these days. If no luck there, move on to the store’s section on U.S. or Civil War History. You’re bound to find something that appeals.
Of course, you can also pre-shop online through any number of virtual booksellers before heading to a brick and mortar equivalent. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the offerings available—options that are likely to be around for at least three more years as America continues to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a four year event that’s had no equal in our nation’s history.
Copyright © 2012 Patricia Desmond Biallas