Saturday, January 9, 2010
Book Review: The New Civil War Handbook
Hughes, Mark. The New Civil War Handbook: Facts and Photos For Readers of All Ages. Savas Beatie, New York. 2009, 158 pages, photos, maps. $14.95.
Mark Hughes recounts that on a visit to the Richmond battlefield he purchased the original Civil War Handbook written by William Price and that he has kept the book close by ever since. Based upon updated research and advances in technology Hughes decided to write a new and updated version. He has succeeded in writing an excellent book for those just beginning to study the war, for those of us a bit more advanced, and for those who are very knowledgeable there are still good nuggets included.
Hughes book is broken down into four parts: facts, images, figures, and miscellany. The images and captions by far take most of the book at over 70 pages. There are some very famous photos and many I had not seen before. The figures section includes estimates of the number of soldiers, numbers killed and injured, prisons, alternate battle names, and more.
There are several areas that I took particular interest in and feel are helpful for both those new and experienced. On pages 17 and 18 Hughes includes an organization of the armies. This is key information for those just starting out and who don't understand the set up of the armies. I also feel the glossary is a great help. By no means thorough at only four pages it still gives a nice overview of common terms. The Civil War Points of Interest section is broken down by state and includes website information. I'm not sure how accurate the sites are since websites are known to change. Still this is a great help overall. I particularly enjoyed the Civil War Bookshelf section. Of course everybody is going to have their own favorites and while this list did seem to be heavy on more current titles with several from SB thrown in it is still something that should be checked out especially by those looking to build a Civil War library. My favorite section however is the Civil War on the Web. Great information for researchers or those who just have an interest in learning more.
A few minor quibbles of course. On page 12 Hughes mentions the "Congressional Medal of Honor" It's really just the Medal of Honor and he does correct this later on page 122. As I was going through the images section I noticed that some but not all contained source information. I found my answers by rereading the forward and that unmarked photos are from the National Archives AND the Library of Congress. Hard to tell which however if you want to download your own copy. The figures section does not give clear reference as to where the numbers came from. Again in the preface mention is made of several resources but no specifics as to what came from where. However for a book of this type these are really small issues of minor importance. I doubt anybody will be referring to this title to figure out how many deaths there were at Point Lookout prison.
Overall this is a quick read and is a book highly recommended for anybody just starting to study the war. There is plenty here that will keep their interest and give them a good foundation.