Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review--Testament to Union

Jacob, Kathryn Allamong and Edwin Harlan Remsberg. Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington D.C. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 1998. Index, listing of sources by monument, bibliography, b/w photos. 192 pages. ISBN 9780801890956, $25.

It is only fitting that a war that defined our country would be the home to many monuments and memorials commemorating said war. It is also only fitting that these monuments be honored and remembered in a volume that allows readers and historians to learn about them in one convenient location. Author Kathryn Jacob and photographer Edwin Remsberg have done justice to these men and women.

After a brief introduction the book is broken into 41 "chapters" each of which tells the story of an individual monument. These chapters are all brief, most being less than five pages. Each entry contains vital information such as location, the name of the sculptor, date erected, and medium. The text for each covers the history of the monument and may include information such as who commissioned and paid for it, symbolism that is incorporated, site selection, biographical information on the sculptor and more. Also included for each is a brief listing of sources for those interested in more information. Each monument receives at least one b/w photo and many have several. The book also includes three appendices: an alphabetical listing of sculptors and their monuments, an alphabetical listing of sculpture names, and a timeline of when sculptures were erected. As of the printing of this book the last sculpture was erected in 1998. It is the African-American Civil War Memorial.  Read more about the memorial and museum here.

Just a couple of minor quibbles here. I would really like to see the book updated to include GPS coordinates.  These are really a must now considering most cell phones are GPS equipped and the majority of travellers will at minimum have a GPS unit if not a smartphone. For me I also found the photos a bit inadequate. This is more a product of the printing and attempts to keep the price down and is no reflection on the photographer. Personally, I would like to see a companion volume with large color plates of the memorials. There is also no map that can help tie these sites together and make visiting several at a time more convenient. Maps are free for the asking just about anywhere in the D.C. area however.

These minor issues aside this is a must have for any Civil War historian who is visiting Washington D.C. Without this book there is little doubt travellers would miss the majority of these overlooked sites. For armchair tourists this is an excellent book as well. It can be read in short time frames and does not need to be read in any order. Much to the chagrin of my wife I will be taking this with us on our next visit to the nation's capital. Highly recommended!

No comments:

Post a Comment