Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book Review--Manassas Battlefields

Adelman, Garry E. Manassas Battlefields: Then & Now Historic Photography at Bull Run.  The Center for Civil War Photography. B/W photos. 63 pages. ISBN 9780978550882, $12.95.

In November 2011 I had the pleasure of making a very short trip to the Manassas battlefield. I would love to get back and have more time on the field. A book like this would be an interesting one to carry along.

Garry Adelman, Vice President of the Center for Civil War Photography, is well positioned and more than knowledgeable enough to have put together a work such as this. His credentials can be read here.

Owing a debt of gratitude to William Frassanito, Adelman has put together a book which should be viewed and read by anybody interested in the study of Civil War photography or either of the Manassas/Bull Run battles. Adelman has accessed collections including the Library of Congress, National Archives, Army Heritage Education Center, the National Park Service, and others, allowing his book to become as he says a "then & then & then & now" presentation.

The book kicks off with a very brief history of the two battles including a series of much needed maps. A discussion of photographers and photographic styles follows. Adelman conveniently groups his chapters and thus the photos geographically allowing readers or battlefield stompers to easily keep up. For me including GPS coordinates would have been a nice addition though there is probably value in not disclosing these as the well meaning but careless could do damage to fragile locations.

For me, including photos of areas such as the 5th Alabama having carved their moniker into a railroad bridge pier, the photos of grave markers, and the photos of veterans returning to the field for monument dedications bring a humanity to these bloody battles. The ability to see the changes and in some cases destruction of the battlefield are a key to this book and show the need to preserve these sites as quickly and fully as possible.

Part of Mr. Adelman's goal in this book is to lead others to study the many photos that are still unattributed. There are locations to figure out, names to be attached to people in photos, photographers names to be attached to photos, and prior errors to be corrected. With that in mind the book closes with a brief section titled "Mysteries and Curiosities". These are photos that show the broad spectrum of work still to be done in this field.

While brief this is a book that the reader can easily find themselves immersed in for hours comparing the old and new photos. For anybody interested in Civil War era photography or those interested in either of the Manassas battles this should be in your library. Art schools with photography programs would also be advised to add this to their library. Highly recommended!

Other similar reviews:

Gettysburg: A Journey in Time

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